Everyday Home Blog: Holiday travel with children

By: Sonya McDaniel, Extension Educator, FCS/CED OSU Extension Center
The key to traveling with small children is to manage your expectations. Don't expect a family vacation to be the same as traveling as a couple.

The holiday season is now upon us, and many will be traveling to see family and friends this year.  Before you hit the road or take to the sky, it is important to plan ahead so the trip will be less stressful for your family. 

Holidays represent a time for seeing family and friends, and for many this also means traveling a long distance.  Traveling can be a stressful event anytime, but especially if children are involved. 

To help cut down on stress, proper planning can determine the difference between a joy to remember and a bad traveling experience.

Try these ideas when traveling by vehicle to assist in making the venture less hectic:

-         Pack the car the night before.  Early in the morning, carry your children from their beds to the car.  They usually will snooze through the first gas-station stop and allow you to get some serious mileage before breakfast.

-         Have each child pack one bag and allow them to put what they want in it, but they must be responsible for carrying and keeping track of the contents.

-         Make flexible seating assignments to keep peace in the car.  Separate sides with a suitcase, box or bag in between the children.  Be sure to stop often to stretch, run around and play games.

-         For children who are still in car seats, put a diaper bag or duffel bag full of toys and books next to the seat where they can reach it easily.   

-         Keep the music eclectic.  It is best to keep the music neutral and compromise to find music everyone enjoys listening to.

-         Give each child his or her own map so they can see the path they are taking and can highlight the route.

If getting to your holiday destination requires flying, keep these things in mind:

-         Pack food and toys.  Try to pack favorite toys and snacks your children enjoy, to make up for the lack of options.

-         Put identification on your children.  Sometimes in a crowded and chaotic airport, it is possible to lose sight of a child.  Write your name or stash a business card inside each child’s travel pack or jacket.  Inform your child to ask a police officer or uniformed airline employee for assistance and show the card, just in case of separation.

-      Make sure you are up-to-date on flying restrictions and what the airline allows to be

 brought on board.

When traveling with family, it is important to be ready and willing to amuse children for a period of time.  Bringing items to play with will assist in occupying them and aid in distractions.

A travel backpack or “go bag” can be filled with many items that your child enjoys playing with and are small and easy to pack.  Some suggestions are:

-         Crayons and/or colored pencils.  A zip-top plastic bag make an excellent carrying case.  Be sure to bring white paper and coloring books.

-         Stuffed animals are a necessity, but do not pack your child’s favorite.  Suggest toys that may not be as special just in case it is left behind.

-         Download audio picture books to a tablet or phone.  Have headphones for children so they can follow along with their favorite book. 

Holidays should be enjoyed and taking away the added stresses will allow your family to have a pleasant holiday traveling season.