Whether you’re going by plane, train or automobile – traveling with kiddos is no easy feat. The holidays often mean lots of schlepping – and, in some cases, it means traveling two months in a row. The best thing you can do is be prepared…and take heed of these 7 tips from travel-scarred parenting experts.

7 Tips to Keep You (and your kids) Sane During Holiday Travels

  1. Try to build positive anticipation. Traveling might be fun for toddlers and little ones, but it’s also a little scary. There are tons of new experiences, lots of sensory input, and their spongy beings will absorb any negative anticipation or tension they sense from you. Be careful about the travel language you use with other adults when little ones are in the room. If you feign excitement with Tommy, but then Tommy hears you say, “Argh! We’re about to embark on the nightmare of an airplane with three kids…” to your sister-in-law, the cat’s out of the bag and all Tommy just took in was “nightmare,” “airplane,” and “kids,” which can add stress and worry.Family with kids at airport
  2. Let them pick one favorite in each category. Some of the fun of it for the kids is getting to decide which of their favorite books/toys/etc. they will bring. Let this be a part of the week leading up to the trip so they have ample time to change their mind, add and subtract, until “The Big Day.” Then all decisions are final and you aren’t having to deal with an argument and/or meltdown before you leave for the airport or into the car.
  3. Purchase a novelty item or two. Keep a novelty item or two in your own bags and let the element of surprise eat up some time once you are in place – on a plane, train or in the car. Wait until you need a distraction before bringing it out. Sometimes, toddlers will stay pretty interested in the people and things going on around them on a plane or train so let them entertain themselves and only bring the big guns when you need them.
  4. Let them pack their own stuff. If your toddlers are old enough, let them carry some of their own stuff – including the diapers and wipes needed for the plane or train ride. Pack an extra set of clothes for each kid and stash plenty of plastic bags. If, worst case scenario, they get sick, you’ll have an emergency back-up plan. Be wary of those small rolling bags. They look great at first glance – but they are tippy and until your little one is older, you might find you have to take over. The good old-fashioned backpack is the best way to go.
  5. Show them pictures. If you are staying in a hotel, show your kids pictures online of what the hotel, room and grounds look like. Explain what “staying in a hotel” means. If they are meeting new relatives, go on Facebook or through your photos and show them who’s who. The more prepared they are – and familiar they feel – with their surroundings when they get there, the less stressful it will be. The less stressed they are, the fewer outbursts you’ll have to contend with.
  6. Be snack ready. Meals might be an impossibility for your child(ren) to manage because of all the distractions they are faced with. And, if there’s anything worse than a cranky child, it’s a hungry, cranky child. Be very snack ready – armed with their favorites and maybe a few treats. While you don’t want to give them a sugar high, this a good time to release a few of those more stringent food rules you stick to. Let them have some of the treats they don’t typically have access to – like drinkable yogurts, fruit snacks or fruit roll ups and so on. There are plenty of healthy, organic versions, make with real juice and ingredients, and your child’s complacency will be worth a little bending of the rules.
  7. Give your kids a camera. Splurge and buy a disposable camera for each of your kids. Even the toddlers will get a kick out of it and you’ll be very entertained when you get to see the finished products – the world as your child sees it, including what he or she feels is important. Some kids are entertained for long periods of time, and really little ones don’t figure out they’ve run out of pictures!

What are some of your go-to tips for traveling with your children for the holidays? Share them with the Overlake followers in our comment box below.