It doesn’t matter how many chakras you balanced at that last yoga class; traveling with the family during the busy holiday season can be stressful.
Crowded airports! Pushy travelers! Extra luggage filled with presents! All of these factors can take what is normally a manageable family travel experience and turn it into something worth drinking over.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to make vacations with kids easier this holiday season.
Be flexible with scheduling
The Friday before Christmas this year is expected to be one of the busiest travel days of the year. One way you can beat the craziness: Be wise about when you fly. Pick early-morning or late-night flights that other travelers likely wouldn’t select. If you can, go one step further and rearrange your schedule to fly on the actual holiday (Dec. 25 or Dec. 31); flights on those days are notoriously empty, making it an easy day to schlep the kids. They’re also cheaper.
Get ready for security
The most stressful part of the experience is the security checkpoint. There are a number of ways to simplify this part of the journey. I offered up some general suggestions earlier this year; two other biggies during holiday season are 1) Pack your themed jewelry so as not to set off the metal detector and 2) Don’t wrap presents because TSA agents may have to unwrap them. (I learned that last one the hard way.)
Go easy on the toys
Most kids need toys to get through a flight, but it’s important to be smart about which ones you bring. Abigail Valencia, a family travel expert and flight attendant for JetBlue, suggests leaving clunky toys at home and bringing the portable stuff instead. “Small doll play sets, magnetic play sets, tablets and art materials are the best toys for travel and won't take up too much space,” she wrote in a recent press release. I couldn’t agree more.
Ship stuff home
If your family is like my family, it’s likely you’ll get lots of presents for the holiday. Instead of schlepping all of these gifts with you on the return flight, consider shipping them home through the U.S. Postal Service or other carriers. Yes, these services will cost you extra. But in some cases—at most locations of The UPS Store, for instance—customer service agents will go so far as to box stuff up for you, giving you a return on your investment with peace of mind.
Do you have any suggestions for making family travel easier during this time of year? If so, leave a comment and let us know.