Earlier this week I boarded a train bound for my hometown in New England with my 2 year old daughter Charlotte so we could spend Thanksgiving with my family. This train ride lasted over 12 hours. Yeah, that’s right. T-w-e-l-v-e HOURS. Charlotte is actually wonderful at traveling, but 12 hours in a confined space can make even the BEST traveler crack. During the this trip, I learned a few tips and tricks I wanted to share with you to help with future holiday travels!
1. Prepare, Prepare and Prepare some more.
Long gone are those college days where you and 5 friends could pile into a truck and drive to the awesome concert two states away at a minute’s notice. I started by making lists for each family members- one for clothes, one for accessories and electronics, and one for toys and snacks. Then a few days before departure I started organizing outfits and toys so I wouldn’t be running around the night before trying to find everything.
2. Go Paperless.
There are a million and one travel apps out there- I’m sure one will fit your needs! AAA, Amtrak and every major airline has their own app where you can keep your tickets, itinerary, maps of airports and stations, FAQ and customer service contact information. Can you imagine it now? Waiting in line at security while juggling all your carry-on luggage (even though your kid promised they’d carry their own mini-backpack the whole time) and then trying to sort out all the tickets from the receipts AND keep the whole family together? I’m pretty sure that’s the beginning of Home Alone. (Not to mention that you’ll never need to re-fold a road map ever again thanks to the AAA app!)
3. Throw Rules out the Window.
Not everyone will agree with me on this, but if the family rule that kids only get 1 hour of “Screen Time” a day, it is lifted during travel. I’d much rather listen to the Secret Agent Oso theme music than deal with a cranky child in confined spaces. Same with our food rules, if a vending machine candy bar will buy my fellow travelers a bit of peace, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.
4. Time it Right
My trip was a full day event and I knew it would mess with Charlotte’s nap schedule- there was no avoiding that. But if you trip is short enough keep in mind your child’s habits. We’ve been known to take trips in the middle of the night so that we could travel with a sleeping infant.
5. Have Back Up Plans
Delayed planes, traffic, accidents and weather can throw a horrible wrench into even the most precisely calculated travel plans. Having an emergency plan in place can ease the pain of sitting in a terminal with a throng of angry travelers. If stuck in your car, plan a few extra car games in open in case of emergency bag. You could include a family favorite song sing-a-long, new books, and a trivia game. Airports are more difficult, specially during bad weather, but games like I Spy or 20 Questions can help pass the time. Don’t forget to pack emergency supplies like extra diapers, food, batteries and clothes. I had an emergency stash of Play-Doh for our trip to break out when all the other toys were no longer fun!
6. Babies need a a LOT of stuff.
This tip is special for the 12 months and under crowd! Packing for a infant during travel can be a daunting task. I’d recommend at lest 1 diaper for every three hours on the road. Unless your little one is still very new, you won’t go through that many, but I’ve found that take off and landing can make a baby’s intestines work double time. I also can’t think of anything worse than being in a gridlocked highway, 100 miles away from the nearest store and on the last diaper. For formula-fed, or finger food munching babies again I’d stick with the 1 feeding for every 3 hour rule. Older babies won’t need that much but emergencies are a thousand times worse with a hungry infant! Airports make exceptions for medical and baby needs but that also takes more time at the security check points so plan accordingly. (It cost our family about another 10 minutes in a major airport to get through the line because of extra testing they have to do, Roanoke Airport went much faster!)
7. Put the Kids to Work!
Even Charlotte at 2 years old helped pack and prepare for the trip. Older kids should be able pack their own bags by following a list, and younger kids love making a game of matching their outfits together.
9. Make Old Toys like New Again
We follow this trick even when we’re not planning a trip- store a few travel friendly toys you already own out of sight for a week or two until the big day. The toys will be twice as exciting! You can even play it up by wrapping them and giving the kids “presents” halfway through the trip. (not recommended for air travel, security isn’t always friendly to wrapped items.)
10. Take your time
Travel is stressful enough without having to run through a station or worry about making your flight on time. Leave 10-15 minutes earlier than you think you need. This gives you time for a bathroom break before boarding, taking a wrong exit on the highway and keeps your stress levels down. Remember- when parents are calm, the kids are too!
11. Buy Presents at your destination
It will save you a lot of time, stress and money to just purchase your gifts at your destination, or online and have them shipped there. With limited luggage space, and sky-rocketing fees any savings you find at your local stores will be lost.
12. Skip It
As wonderful and important as family time during the holidays can be; Family is just as important in slower, more relaxed traveling months. You can save yourself some hassle and money by visiting in October or February, or if you can wait, the summer and have Second Christmas in July!
Comment and share some of your favorite travel tips you learned this Thanksgiving!
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