Traveling With Kids During the Holidays: A Survival Guide

Traveling with kids is a challenge. Brace yourselves for the “Are we there yet” chorus to start just as you pull out of the driveway! Planning lodging logistics and keeping them entertained in transit can be a headache.

But with the holidays upon us, it’s time to start thinking about it again and making plans. Whether traveling far or near, visiting family and friends, or simply going on vacation, chances are your upcoming holidays involve at least a couple of hours in transit with the whole family.

This year’s travel plans are that much more special (and complicated) on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people may just be seeing their loved ones for the first time in a year or two. Not to mention that the pandemic is still actively underway in many regions of the world. With all the rules and restrictions in place, how can you get your family there and back again in one piece? Plan, plan, and plan some more.

Flying with Infants, Toddlers, and Kids Under 5

When planning your flights, be realistic about timing. Getting through TSA with an infant or toddler entails setting aside some extra time, and then keeping them still and calm on a packed plane is a feat in itself. With that consideration in mind, look for flights on days with less traffic. Avoid flying on “hot days” like the day immediately before and after Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the airport is packed and you will likely have to wait over an hour just to get through security. Flying on a quieter day will reduce both you and your little one’s stress.

Also, pack strategically! Clothes, bottles, blankets, toys, snacks, diapers—young children come with a lot of accessories. If you’re bringing a carry-on, be sure to use that bag for the essentials you might need in transit. After all, you don’t want to be in the air when you realize your child’s bottle or favorite toy is locked away in checked luggage.

Popping ears can cause a lot of pain and tears on a flight. Sucking a bottle or pacifier when a flight takes off and lands can help to prevent these sore ears. For older kids, lollipops and chewing gum work well (the sugar-free versions are a good idea for these trips)!

Traveling With Kids by Airplane

Flying With Kids 5 and Up

The considerations above apply to all kids to some degree, but there are some special notes to remember when it comes to traveling with kids older than five.

For example, late-night and overnight flights can be challenging for families with young-yet-independent kids. When these flights fall outside of a child’s nighttime routine, it disrupts their whole trip going forward (and yours). In addition, other passengers may get irritated by an antsy child when they are trying to sleep.

Book your seats strategically. For a longer flight, try to sit near a restroom, so it’s easy for your kids to get up and go. Likewise, arranging an aisle seat may be a good idea if you know your child will need to take several trips. Reserving seats is worth the extra buck, so everyone will be more comfortable. Knowing your seats are secured also relieves some of the stress that comes from navigating a busy airport.

Finally, choose your entertainment accordingly! Considering the crammed quarters, quiet activities are better. Books, dolls, and video games (with headphones) are the way to go to keep them occupied on the plane.

Road Tripping with Kids

Traveling with kids by car provides an entirely new set of challenges. Long hours in the car need to be approached differently from a day in the airport.

For starters, unlike with flying, the best time to do a long drive with the kids is at night. This way they can sleep during the journey, and just wake up in a new place! Alternatively, consider leaving early in the morning when they are full of energy and excitement.

Plot your trip well before you leave, and highlight the different stops you can use for breaks. It may be tempting to drive straight through, but you will need breaks, if only to stretch the legs and get the wiggles out.

Snacks are essential. The only thing harder to deal with than an irritable kid is an irritable, hungry kid! Remember to choose snacks with lower sugar content so they don’t get wound up while traveling.

Crafts are a great way to manage time while in the car. Wardrobe shoe organizers make excellent travel buddies for holding all their toys, also. Hook one of these onto the back of each front seat and fill the pouches with different activities and tools for your kids. Playing cards, toys, and crafting goodies can all be tucked in the various pouches. They’ll be in easy reaching distance for your kids, but still organized and easy to manage.

Car Travel With Kids

Tips for Traveling With Kids by Train

For a fun and relatively easy traveling experience with the kids, consider taking a train. With nobody focused on driving and a bit of space to yourselves, you can plan some great traveling activities.

While all the same basic rules apply (travel light, pack snacks, book ahead to reserve your space), trains offer more options, given the space and time. Buy a journal and a map for your kids. Help them highlight the route you will be taking, mark off the different stops, and research those places with them. You can all learn a thing or two together!

Include a Sitter in Your Trip Planning

The holidays are a chance to travel and be with family and friends. With a few handy tips filed away, you can travel with the kids and make it back in one piece. But a vacation is also a chance for you to enjoy some downtime. Once you get to your destination and are all settled in, consider getting a sitter for a few hours so you can unwind too! After spending a day or more crammed together in the car or the plane, a few hours of alone time helps everyone out—both you and your kids.

Whatever your needs, Nanno can help you find the perfect babysitter. The app specializes in babysitter and nanny services on demand, with caregivers available in most U.S. metro areas. With a rigorous four-step vetting process, you can be assured that your child is always safe and sound with a Nanno sitter. Sign up today and get started on this crucial part of navigating your holiday journey!

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New York, NY
Stacy is a former nanny and currently director of user success at Nanno. She loves to find fun new solutions to complicated problems. Fun facts about Stacy: She is the oldest of 8 children.