Let Them Help: "Moms take on the burden of all the planning," says Samantha Brown, host of Great Weekends on the Travel Channel. She says that as soon as kids can talk, they can tell you what they want out of a vacation. (Yes, "I want to play princess!" is a valid wish.) The older they get, the more fact-finding they can do. Ask your tweens (and younger kids, teamed up with your husband) to plan activities, pick a restaurant, decide between the scenic route and the fast way. The more involved they are, the more they'll get out of the trip. Just keep in mind that if the kids are tired, nobody's happy, so follow Brown's rule: Plan only one thing per day.
Time It Right: Got preschoolers? Find the school calendar on your district's website, and travel when class is in session to dodge the holiday crush. And book the first flight of the day. It's almost never delayed because the plane has been at the gate all night.
Make the Wait Great: A secret weapon for the flight or car is free storybook podcasts from iTunes. For two kids, try a headphone-jack splitter, about $5 at electronics stores.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, don't eat before you leave for the airport. Surveying all the different options and then sitting down for a meal will occupy them for a good 45 minutes.
Bring a Bit of Home With You: Do you each pick one present to open on Christmas Eve? Read a special story or break out new pajamas the night before the holiday? Take your best tradition along.