Traveling with children and actually relaxing!

Many of us travel over the holidays.

Some of us are traveling somewhere warmer or taking a much needed break from work.  Some of us travel to family gatherings that we may not be so excited about.  We may be excited to see our siblings but dreading the yearly argument with our well-meaning but (still!?) overly controlling parents.  Some of us have been excitedly waiting since the last holiday season for this one.

Traveling with young children

Traveling with children is so much different than traveling with adults.  You may have a very calm six month old who will happily sit on the flight with you, sleep on schedule and not utter a peep.  However, you are now carrying diapers, multiple spare sets of clothing for both of you, toys, books, baby food etc.  Getting through security now requires masterful planning!

Once you get to your destination, time zone changes, excitable relatives exciting your children, and holiday parties scheduled past the kid’s bedtimes all conspire to make your children and you grumpy!

Getting to your destination

Traveling by car

  • Schedule in breaks: schedule longer than usual breaks into your travel schedule so that everyone can get a chance to walk around, stretch and rest
  • Travel during nap times: timing the longest stretches of your travel around nap times is key
  • Make sure your child is comfortable in their car seat:  If they are too hot, too cold, sitting at an angle they don’t like, your children will let you know!
  • Have plenty of entertainment options: favorite toys and books (avoid if your child gets car sick) are important.  Consider buying a new and exciting toy for the trip.  For children old enough to be interested in nursery rhymes or children’s shows, bring a tablet.  You can attach the tablet to a headrest so they can watch it like a tv

Traveling by plane

  • Travel during sleeping times: look for flights during nap time or overnight during nighttime sleep if the flight is long enough
  • Pick your seats wisely: for young children, see if you can get a bulkhead seat and a bassinet so they sleep comfortably
  • Make sure you have the right gear: there is gear designed to make travel easier.  Search for travel strollers that fit in airline overhead containers, inflatable foot rests that allow a child to fully recline when in an economy seat, travel bassinets, travel toys that are compact and entertaining
  • Adjust your expectations: air travel can be very stressful for adults, all those lines and small spaces and crowds of people.  It is stressful for your children. Give yourself extra time and extra patience and do the same with your children.

Managing time changes

  • For long flights and big time changes, aim for an overnight flight.  The first day in the location, let the kids sleep when they need to.  Next day, wake them up on time or close to on time and get some sun.  Try to get them back on schedule but be patient if they are not hungry on time or have trouble falling asleep on time
  • For small time zone changes, you can adjust the kids schedule or just keep them on their home time zone

 Self-care and rest over the holidays

  • Keep a schedule for your children.  It is ok to keep the kids up one night or let them skip a nap but know that the more you let go of their schedule, the more likely you are to have tired, hungry and cranky kids.  Take a balanced approach.  Keep as much of their schedule as possible but allow for exceptions so you all can have fun!
  • Save some time for yourself.  It is easy to get swept up in holiday festivities.  Before you know it, you are on your way home and feeling more exhausted then when you arrived.  It is ok to say no to activities, and freinds and family members.  Make sure you get time to actually relax.  Make sure your kids have time to unwind as well.
  • Remember it is also ok to skip the trip. Did you have a crazy year?  Are you tired?  Is a stay-cation with your family all you want for your holidays?  Remember, it is ok to take a time-out for one year so you can focus on yourself and your family.  Your friends and relatives may miss you but they will understand if you tell them why.

Have fun and happy holidays!  For me personally, children have made the holiday season more exciting and more fun.  Getting to the festivities may be more stressful but the moments are better as a family.