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Preparing Children for Holiday Travel

With the holidays approaching, many of you may be preparing to travel across the country or overseas to spend the holidays with family. The holidays are about coming together; however, travel can be an expensive, time-consuming, stress-inducing exercise without proper preparation. When planning to travel over the holidays with your children, it’s important to include them in the planning and preparation early on, as well as throughout the vacation.

Tips for Preparing Children for Holiday Travel

  • Involve your children early on. Help children feel invested in your holiday travel planning. If you’ll be visiting family for a while, offer your children five possibilities of activities to do while you are there or places you want to visit in town, and then let them choose from those structured, pre-approved choices. Maybe there’s a children’s museum by your parents’ house that would be a good afternoon outing, or a large holiday light display that would be fun to see with the whole family. Select at least one activity from each child’s wish list, depending on your time and budget.
  • Let your children know the rules. Discuss appropriate travel behavior well in advance. Explain how the house rules at your parents’ house or their aunt Jenny’s house might be different from your home, but that they are still expected to mind their manners.
  • If traveling on a plane, try to schedule overnight flights so that your children are more likely to sleep the flight away.
  • Bring a variety of familiar favorites on flights. Help create a comfort zone for your kids on the plane and keep them busy by bringing along their favorite snacks, favorite quiet toys, favorite books, and favorite blanket.
  • Have reasonable expectations. Children get cranky and tired; don’t let their mood swings discourage you.
  • Plan well, but pack a go-with-the-flow attitude. Schedule as much as you can beforehand, but once your travels are underway, come to expect the unexpected – a suddenly tired child, transportation delays, unplanned but exciting detours — and go with the flow. Flexibility, along with a positive attitude, can go a long way.
  • Don’t overdo it. The holidays can be a busy time, especially when you are visiting family and trying to make plans with friends and relatives while you are in town visiting. Be sure to plan enough rest and relaxation time during your holiday travels, as well as time to recover from any jet lag. And remember that while you may be familiar with many of the faces you will see during your trip, to your children, these friends and relatives may be strangers. Holiday travels can be a lot for children to take in all at once, so watch their cues and give them lots of downtime during the holidays.