Traveling with children is stressful enough, but add holidays to the mix, and you have some serious crazy-making potential. It doesn’t have to be that way if you follow some basic tips.
Here are some ways to ease the stress of holiday travel:
1. Make reservations. If you have to stay in a hotel overnight, don’t leave anything to chance. With so many people on the road during this busy time of year, you don’t want to be in the position of not finding a room while your tired and cranky kids scream in the car.
2. Have snacks. Pack enough snacks to get you through from one meal stop to the next. There’s something about sitting in the car for long periods of time that makes kids hungry. Cut back on sweets during the trip. The more candy your children eat the squirmier they will become.
3. Pack wipes. Even after your children are out of diapers, wet wipes are one of the most important things you can bring. Use them for wiping the salty snacks off their hands and for wiping toilet seats in public restrooms.
4. Have games. Stop off at your local discount store and pick up a few car games to keep your little ones from being bored. You can also play some of the tried-and-true games from your own childhood, such as “I Spy with my Little Eye,” and the alphabet game that involves finding every letter in the alphabet on billboards and road signs.
5. Sing songs. Whether you sing all the verses of “Over the River and Through the Woods” or any of your other favorites, a family that sings together is more likely to get along during a long car trip.
6. Embrace technology. You might have a policy against using a tablet for more than an hour at home but put that rule aside during a long car trip. Download some fun and age-appropriate apps and let the little ones play to their hearts’ content.
7. Pack light but smart. You don’t need dozens of outfits for a three- or four-night stay. Have enough clothing for one outfit per day and add a couple of items for layering. Make sure you check the weather forecast ahead of time and be prepared for unpredictable temperature fluctuations.
8. Mail the gifts ahead of time. If you are visiting someone during the holidays, send the gifts in advance. That way, they’ll arrive safely, and you won’t have to wedge them between a car seat and a squirmy child.
9. Expect the unexpected. Allow some extra time for whatever surprises arise. Whether you have to make an extra restroom stop or wait in a long line for gas, cutting it close on time only adds to the holiday stress.
10. Don’t forget first aid items. Pack the children’s prescriptions, medication for fevers, antiseptic ointment, and bandages in a container that is labeled and easy to reach.
As you travel, you’ll probably think of something you’ll wish you had. Jot it down for your next trip, but in the meantime, try to relax and have fun.