Over the river and through the woods . . . in a one-horse open sleigh . . . On Comet on Cupid, On Donner on Blitzen. The list goes on.
Let’s face it — during the holidays, we travel in many different ways. However you do it, when you do it with a baby, especially during this time of year, travel is a challenge. So while you’re making your list and checking it twice, we’ve got some holiday travel tips to help make your holidays merry and bright.
Family First: Children respond well to things that they know, so wherever you might be going this holiday season, loop the kids in on the action. From the smallest to the tallest, get everyone involved. For your older children, give them a list – and check it twice – of items to pack, and even involve the little ones in picking out favorite toys and blankies to bring. If your children haven’t traveled before, get them excited about it! There are great books that you can find online or at your local library so that your kids understand the road trip, airplane or train you’ll be taking. Airports can be an overwhelming experience so be sure to explain so your kiddos understand. Even at a young age, they’ll enjoy the Super Hero XRay Machine, aka Security Checkpoint, the Magic Train (terminal tram) and some of the other new experiences they’ll have in an airport.
Pack Like You Won’t Be Back: We’re not really talking about suitcases so much as your carry-ons, diaper bags and whatever “on the go” bags you take along. After all, during this time of the year, travel delays aren’t just a possibility; they’re a reality. Whether you’re stuck in the airport, on a tarmac, the highway or wherever you may be, you want to be prepared. When you pack carry-ons and diaper bags, make sure you have what you need for at least one full day — including diapers, food or formula, changes of clothes, snacks and toys. Holiday delays can last a while, so be sure that your bag of tricks is full!
Early Birds: In this case, it’s not really a worm you’re after, but when traveling with children, you want to be ahead of the game. If you’re flying the friendly skies, arrive at the airport well in advance of the recommended check-in times. This allows for diaper changes, strollers through security checkpoints and everyone to get comfortable before the flight. Going by car, you want to allow extra time for potty breaks, diaper changes, feeding, or maybe just time to get out of the car seat and get some fresh air. If possible, plan your travel times when your children may be sleepy or sleeping as it makes the experience better for all.
Build in Breaks: While some families can do it, most prefer not to drive through the night or go full-steam ahead with no stopping. Rather, build in some down-time. Stop for a real meal and get out of the car, rather than doing the drive-thru and tossing fries throughout your car. Take advantage of a layover or a long delay to move around, maybe get some food. Definitely plan for the bathroom and, if you have babies or toddlers, some outfits and diaper changing, even a chance to put on PJs for the last leg. It may make your trip a bit longer, but you’ll enjoy it more and feel better when you arrive.
Attitude is Everything: Let’s face it. Traveling during the holidays is hard but when you factor in kids, “hard” can take on a completely new meaning. While planning and preparation are key, so much of a successful trip comes down to attitude. Be patient, be courteous and keep your sense of humor. That flight attendant you snarl at could be the person who offers to hold your baby; the car in front of you at the stoplight could give you a parking spot at the next restaurant. This time of the year, everyone’s trying to get somewhere and it just doesn’t pay to get yourself all worked up. Rather, relax and try to enjoy the experience. Today’s fiascos will be tomorrow’s memories – and believe me, they’ll make you smile.
Safety First: All too often, it’s easier to cut corners than to play it safe. Do you really need car seats for the rental vehicle? Can’t the baby sleep in the middle of the hotel’s double bed? Do you really need to childproof the outlets at your in-laws? It might be an extra hassle or expense but make sure your children are safe while you travel –and then when you arrive. Be extra vigilant with your children in different surroundings and settings. Simple things like a chafing dish within hands reach, full wineglasses on end tables, light-up Christmas villages and extension cords or just new stairs can be holiday hazards. So even though it’s vacation, parenting duties don’t really end!
Regardless of where you go this holiday, happy and safe travels. The lost luggage, changing diapers in the drive thru, airport delays and traffic jams will all blend together with the exciting arrivals, holiday activities and family that you enjoy. And that, my friends, is what makes the moments you’ll remember a lifetime.