Holiday travel tips for parents

Family with luggage at train station

Cropped image. Sigfrid Lundberg, Flickr. CC license.

Traveling during the holiday season can sometimes be scary: traffic jams, winter weather, delayed flights, and crowded airports are a few of the concerns. When you add squirming kids into the equation, you may be tempted to simply stay home. Nevertheless, millions of Americans will hit the road, looking forward to visiting relatives, reconnecting with old friends, or even taking a long-awaited vacation to a warm and sunny family resort. Exploring with your family creates wonderful memories for the future. So don’t be afraid; go and enjoy your time away!

General Travel Tips

  • Pack only what you need for the trip. Diapers, wipes, etc. can be purchased once you’re at your destination. Some equipment like strollers, pack & plays, and feeding chairs can often be rented. One site to check out for baby equipment rental is Traveling Baby Co.
  • Dress baby in comfortable clothes.
  • Keep a spare set of clothes and/or shirt packed and easily accessible in case of spills and spit ups.
  • Keep your baby’s routine the same whenever possible.
  • Be mindful of little travelers’ limits. They need to have time to rest and be quiet.
  • Provide opportunities for kids to just be kids. Do not overschedule activities.
  • Be prepared for last minute adjustments.
  • Use bottles with disposable liners so that you have less bottle washing.
  • Purchase a special gift/gifts (do not need to be expensive) to help entertain your child.
  • It’s OK to relax some of your guidelines, such as treats and screen time, when traveling long distances.

Plane Travel Tips

  • Take early morning flights whenever possible as planes tend to be more on time in the morning and flight crews are refreshed.
  • Allow for extra time at the airport.
  • If possible, book your flights during non-peak travel times, Mondays–Wednesdays. Try to book non-stop flights whenever possible.
  • Check as much luggage as possible at the front ticketing counter. Walking or running through an airport is much easier without luggage. Keep stroller to push baby and simply check it at the gate.
  • Board the airplane last so as not to have extra time sitting on the airplane. If two adults are traveling, have one board with the luggage to get it stowed in advance and have the other wait in the terminal with the baby.
  • If traveling alone with baby/child, book a window and aisle seat and hope that the middle seat will remain vacant. If it becomes occupied, the passenger will always switch with you for the aisle or window.
  • Don’t feel strapped to your seat for the entire flight, it’s OK to get up and walk around when the “fasten seat belt” light is off.
  • Consider sitting in the back of the airplane where the engines are a little noisier. It provides white noise to calm baby if baby is crying.
  • If baby is sleeping on takeoff and landing, let them sleep. If not, try feeding. Have older children chew gum or drink beverages.
  • Log on to your airline’s website to receive notifications about flight delays.
  • Websites to visit prior to flying include:

Car Travel Tips

  • Travel at night or during nap times when babies are most likely to sleep.
  • Stop and stretch every few hours. Plan for the trip to take more time than when you traveled without children.
  • Avoid rush hour in big cities.
  • Try to keep kids entertained by playing games, reading books, etc.
  • Never leave baby in car unattended.

– Lori Polakowski is an IFS coordinator for the Parenting Program. This former flight attendant traveled extensively with her children.

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