Tried and true parenting hacks for holiday travel

Wellness | Safety | November 15, 2018
young traveler is ready to go
PeaceHealth caregivers share their tips for traveling with kids

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Except for that part where you’re stuck in the car or on the plane for hours with your kids, who are continuously letting you know they don’t want to be there.

The experience can be trying for both the parents and the children. It can leave both feeling frustrated and unhappy. But there is good news! Many parents have discovered some tips and tricks that can help bring back the fun and cheer to your family adventure.

Before you go

  • Talk about the trip before you go. If this is the first time your child is traveling, talk about what will happen before you go to help alleviate any fears. Bring a favorite stuffed animal or blankie to help your child feel secure and comfortable.
  • If you’re changing time zones, help your kids (and you!) adjust by going to bed or waking up at the new time. Do this for a few days before you leave.
  • Let the child make the choice. Find opportunities to let the kids make the decision. Maybe it’s a choice between two restaurants to eat at or what type of music to listen to in the car. This will help them feel like they have some control over an unfamiliar environment and are included in the planning of the adventure.mom and toddler about to fly at airport

Driving or flying

  • Pack a bag of fun! Let your child pick out a new backpack or carry-on luggage, and then help them fill it with things they want to do on the trip. You can also pack a few surprises like a new book, game or toy. Surprise or blind bags can also be fun and create excitement about what might be inside. Be sure to leave home the games and toys with lots of small pieces that could get lost (that’s a guaranteed recipe for a meltdown).
  • No-supplies-needed family games. Verbal games like ‘I spy’ and ’20 questions’ are great because they travel anywhere! If you’re driving, be sure to pick out items that are a distance ahead so you don’t pass them before your child has a chance to guess. If you’re flying, look at the clouds and see what shapes or animals your child might recognize in them. Window gel clings are also fun entertainment!
  • Painter’s tape. This has a dual purpose! You can use it while traveling to create Tic-Tac-Toe boards the family can play on. When you get to your destination, use it to cover outlets if you need to baby-proof a room.
  • Emergency supplies. Accidents happen. Pack a bag of supplies that includes a change of clothes, some baby wipes, some band aids and a towel. Be sure to bring any medications your kids may need and the phone number to your pediatrician. You may also want to include some extra snacks in case your plane is delayed or you get stuck in traffic.

Flying

  • Empty water bottle. Bring an empty water bottle for every member of your family to help them stay hydrated. Once you pass through security, you can fill it up before the flight. Many airports now have water bottle filling stations attached to their water fountains.
  • Don’t board early. Even though families may be allowed to board early, it’s not always a good idea (unless you don’t have assigned seats). It means extra time that you have to keep them entertained in their seats. Instead, wait until boarding is almost over to allow the kids more time to stretch their legs in the waiting area. Alternatively, if you’re traveling with two parents, have one board early to stow the carry-ons and get your seats kid-ready, then have the second parent board with the kids closer to take-off time.
  • Warm bottle or gum. Depending on the age of your child, have a warm bottle or gum for them to use during take-off. It’ll help keep their ears from popping. Ask the flight attendant to fill the bottle with half hot and half cold water so it’s not too hot.boys riding in a car
  • Goodie bags for your neighbors. If you’re traveling with a baby, bring a gesture of goodwill for your fellow fliers. Put some ear plugs and candy in Ziploc bags. Then, pass them around if your baby starts crying hysterically.

Driving

  • Plan to stop. If you’re driving for hours, plan a few stops along the way. This will let the family see some new sights and let the kids burn off some energy. Pack recreational toys like a frisbee or ball so the kids have something to play with outdoors.
  • Go when you can. If your kids are young, encourage them to use the potty whenever you stop. Even if they say they don’t need to, ask them to try. This will help prevent an unexpected stop as soon as you get back on the road.
  • Neck pillow. They’re often used by adults on a plane, but they’re great for the car, too! If you don’t have a lot of space, look for an inflatable one. The kids can use them while they sleep to keep their heads from bobbing around.

If you’d like some more tips, the American Academy of Pediatrics has safety tips for flying and traveling during the holidays.