3 Easy Ways to Improve Holiday Travel With Kids
Holiday Travel. There’s so much in it to look forward to, but so many logistics, hassles and landmines to navigate to get to the good stuff. Here are some nuggets of advice I’ve gathered from friends who live far from their families and have their holiday-travel-with-kids routine down to a science.
Unless You’re Santa Claus…Don’t Fly With Presents
There are so many reasons this is not a good idea. You’ll have to carry bigger, heavier bags, definitely checking bags (fee) and hitting weight restrictions (more fees). It’s not hard to do. Traveling to visit friends overseas, a Junior’s cheesecake and two bottles of champagne pushed my bag over.
Also, with the airlines and airports stretched to the max at the holiday season, the odds are greater than usual that something will get broken or your bag will be delayed or misplaced. If this is normally a drag it’s even more stressful when you have a bag full of gifts that’s lost.
Shop online, say holiday travel veterans. Pick a site with enough variety (Amazon? Target? Macy’s?), and you can take care of everyone in a single box that you have shipped to the relatives you are visiting. Pick up some wrapping paper when you arrive and you’re ready.
Have Your Holiday At Home…Whenever You Want To
Any parent who routinely does holiday travel worries that at some point that their kids won’t have any holiday memories in their home.
I have one friend who handled this when her daughter was younger by having a talk with Santa and asking him to deliver her daughter’s presents a few days early. They have a full-blown Christmas morning with a tree, presents and pancakes the weekend before Christmas. Then they head out to be with extended family for the actual day.
I have to say this is easier when kids are smaller. When Tiny Traveler was 7 we spent the winter in Lake Placid, NY. Santa brought a stocking full of small toys and a note promising he left more at home. She went with it, but made it clear that next year she wanted to be home for Christmas. So we decided to put off being away on the day for a few years.
That brings me to an alternative strategy: Stay home for Christmas day and let your family know you will gladly spend Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve or any day in between with them. It’s up to them whether they want to delay Christmas festivities until you arrive or have multiple celebrations.
Bonus: you also get to avoid peak travel days.
Overscheduled = Overwhelmed
A friend took her then 2-year-old back to England from New York City for the holidays two years ago. They had a schedule that was packed with friends and relatives who were clamoring for a rare chance to see the toddler. But plans fell apart when, after three or four days of heavy socializing the toddler burst into tears and pleaded, “Please mummy, no more people!”
It’s hard to say no to people you genuinely want to see, but there are ways to pace yourselves so you don’t burn out.
• Visit with groups of friends or relatives as much as you can so you have time to do things besides visit people. Tell friends (even those who don’t know each other) you’ll be at a Chuck E. Cheese, the ice skating rink, a really great playground, kid-friendly restaurant or large Starbucks at a certain time and that this is your chance to get together.
Whether or not these friends have kids, pick a place where your kids will be entertained while the grown-ups catch up. The home of a generous friend with a large playroom could be the best option. Just tell your friend you’ll handle the snacks and drinks (either by bringing them yourself or asking everyone to pitch in).
• If your budget allows, splurge for a hotel room or rent someone else’s home through a site like AirBnB or Homeaway.com. You’ll have your mornings and evenings to yourselves. Not having to socialize the moment you wake up in the morning will lower the intensity of your visit considerably and make it easier for the kids to roll with whatever socializing you need to
foist on them enjoy with them. It also makes your holiday travel feel more like an actual vacation.
• Carve out “family time” about every third day. This is a morning, afternoon or full day where the kids have their parents to themselves. It could be a day you do an activity on your own or just a morning in your pajamas reading books, play with new toys or watching videos together. A little goes a long way and these small rituals can create the best memories.
• Despite the pressure from aunts, cousins and grandparents to stay a little bit longer or skip the baby’s nap just this once, keep very little kids to their routines as much as you can. Babies and toddlers who have their more-or-less usual meal, nap and bedtimes are much better able to roll with things and keep smiling. (and you will be, too).
What Works For You?
How do make sure your holidays on the road are more Meet Me in St Louis and less Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Share your tips (and lessons learned) below!
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