No lumps of coal: Tips for low-stress holiday travel with kids

Marie LeBaron is the editor of Make and Takes, a popular parenting site featuring kids’ crafts, home projects, recipes, parenting tips and more. She lives in Seattle with her family, and loves to travel.

The holidays are quickly approaching and it’s almost time to travel to see family and friends to celebrate the season. If you are traveling with children during the holidays, here are 5 tips and tricks to help everything go a little more smoothly, while making your vacation one you’ll always remember.

  1. Allow for more time. When you have children, everything seems to take longer. Pack as much as you can during the days leading up to your trip and be sure to finish packing all bags hours before you leave. There will always be more to remember, so pack ahead of time if possible. Also, leave home airport early enough to give yourself two solid hours at the airport before your flight. That gives you time to get your tickets, wait in security lines, and be ready to board the plane.
  1. Set expectations. Whenever we get ready to travel with the kids, they start to go a little crazy. They are excited for the vacation and are all abuzz. I try to sit down with them and set a few expectations before traveling. Even though we are going on a fun holiday trip, we still need to listen and be safe as we go. I ask my kids to do their best to be patient, enjoy the process, and we’ll get to Grandma’s house safely.
  1. Plan for activities while you wait. There are lots of fun games to play when kids are waiting to board the airplane. Be sure to print out this Airport Scavenger Hunt to help keep the kids busy. If you have the opportunity, take a walk around the airport. See what fun pictures and sculptures are all around – there’s quite a bit of amazing art at most airports. Play games like “I Spy” or “What Animal am I Thinking of” to help pass the time. Another fun thing we love to do is go through all the photos I have saved on my smartphone. I keep a lot of images on my phone, so it’s fun to go through them with the kids when we’re waiting around.
  1. Pack your carry on bag smartly. I have each of my children pack a small back pack for themselves. Inside each bag is an empty water bottle or sippy cup that I can fill up at the airport drinking fountain. I also pack a couple of kid protein bars and fruit snacks, and sugar-free gum for my kids to chew during the take off and landing of the airplane to help prevent their ears from popping. We have a couple pictures books and activities, listed in the next tip, as well as headphones in case we bring a movie watching device. Some Alaska airplanes come with devices you can rent to watch movies during the flight as well.
  1. Don’t forget kid-friendly games and activities for the plane. I’ve shared what to pack for the kids to play with on your travels in a fun Airplane Busy Bag. Assemble these busy bags for the kids to pull out little activities to keep them occupied at the airport or on the plane. You can also purchase or make a quiet book or play mat that has activities on it. Or bring along an electronic device for the kids to watch a movie and play games. Be sure to pack a few picture books as well, during the times when your electronics need to be stored during take-off and landing.

I hope these tips help you during your holiday travel. Have fun flying with your family during the holiday season!


  1. thanks for the tips Marie, will keep this in mind

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