The holiday travel season is coming and with it a whole lot of stress. The mere thought of packing and traveling with kids can send some parents screaming into the hills. It makes others rethink staying home and forgoing the airport all together. Fear not faithful holiday travelers. Here is your survival guide for the airport and holiday travel. We’ll show you how to travel with your kids, and yes, make it through (maybe not with flying colors), but a bit of sass in your step.
Table of Contents
Packing for Holiday Travel
Whenever possible, pack as light as possible. Ship gifts to your destination if you can. Ask grandma to stack your boxes in the guest room or a corner in the living room. You can always wrap the gifts after you arrive.
Never bring wrapped gifts onto a plane. Chances are, the security agents will want to take a peek inside that wrapped box, so all of your lovely handy work will be for naught.
If you need some space savers, use packing cubes (we love these). Grab everyone in the family a separate color. This way as you move from house to house visiting friends and relatives, everyone can grab their change of clothes quickly without needing too much of your help.
Carry-on luggage is a wonderful idea, if you know how to pack light and you’re in an early boarding group. If you don’t travel often and don’t check in early, you may get a late group number. This could mean you’re forced to check your carry-on bag regardless.
For parents juggling multiple children, just check your bags. Gate check your stroller and car seat, but check the big bags so you have one less thing to worry about. Pack a change of clothing for everyone, along with your medications and important lovies, but leave the rest to the airline.
Checking In for Your Flight
Now more than ever it is important to check into your flight before you get to the airport. This can secure your spot on an overbooked flight. It can also get you a better group number (or line up spot on Southwest) for boarding.
You NEED Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is more important during the holidays than any other time of the year. Buy a multi-trip plan if you are taking more than one trip this year. Skip that add-on insurance per flight. It won’t cover medical injuries, hotel cancellations or anything else that happens on the road.
The last thing you want to do is pay for a first-class ticket out of pocket when you slip and fall on grandma’s steps and break your leg, but have to get home. It’s really hard to fly economy with a broken leg. Trust me. I had to do it with a busted knee. It would have been impossible in a cast.
Check out the costs and benefits of multi-trip insurance HERE.
Global Entry is Your Best Friend
Many people don’t realize that Global Entry lasts for five years. So, while $100 per person (U.S. citizens only) may sound steep, if you are traveling outside of the U.S. more than twice per year, it is a godsend.
You also get TSA Pre-check, which is a huge benefit and can save loads of time at the airport.
My family of four has Global Entry. Worth every penny.
Before you even get to the airport, the very first thing you want to remember is that idiots travel throughout the year, but even more so during the holidays. So do Grinches.
Many holiday travelers are not frequent fliers. You will find grumpy old men giving your children the death stare. It is not you. Your kids are fine, as are you. As long as you continue to parent your children, all will be right with the world.
Longer lines and wait times
Lines can and will be longer during the holiday travel season. Mentally prepare yourself and prepare the kids for this eventually. Here are a few tricks as you head into the security line.
- Be patient.
- Make everyone go to the bathroom before you get in line.
- Always smile at the people around you no matter how much you are screaming inside.
- Pack extra snacks.
- Bring entertainment for the kids.
Pack Your Own Snacks
We are all looking for ways to save money when we travel. Packing your own snacks is the easiest way to do that. We often get stuck in a rut of relying on the airport for food, most of which isn’t always that good or can be pricey. Grab a few bento boxes (these are great and leak-proof) and stock it with sandwiches, fruits and veggies. Just remember—no liquids. You can always supplement with things at the airport if you need to grab salad dressing, milk or yogurt.
Here are a few of our favorite things to add into a Bento Box:
- Prosciutto and Provolone pinwheels
- Tuna salad pita pockets
- Turkey and Cheddar sandwich bites
- Blueberries and grapes
- Cherry tomatoes
- Pepper and cucumber slices
Eye masks and Neck Pillows
Long gone are the days when you could bunch up your sweatshirt and lean on the window to pass out for a flight. First of all, your kid has permanently stolen the window seat (or am I the only one who gave up that fight?)
Secondly, we are getting old. Let’s just embrace the fact that we need our beauty rest and a little support when we do it. I finally invested in this crazy neck pillow for our flights. Eye masks are pretty basic. Grab one that you love and enjoy a little snooze on your way to your destination. That is if your kids will let you.
Please don’t try to nap if you have a baby traveling with you. You still need to parent!
Noise Blocking Sleepbuds and Headphones
As much as everyone complains about screaming babies on a plane, I find snoring much more annoying. I can block out babies. Maybe because I am a mom and I’m used it? Who knows? Even my husband snoring next to me drives me insane.
Bose makes a new Noise-Masking Sleepbud (check them out here) that connects to your phone to create soothing sounds and white noise. It can also block out a lot of the chaos of an airport if you are traveling solo and have to work on the plane and at the airport.
Alternately, you can grab a pair of noise cancelling headphones (like these that my husband loves) to listen to your tunes and watch movies on the plane.
Preparing for Delayed Flights at the Airport
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Holiday travel is prime time for flight delays and cancelations. Not only is the weather probably acting up, but the crew might be sick, or getting stuck at other destinations. Backups are happening on the runway, mechanical issues are popping up, and a mired of other things.
Take a deep breath. It will be OK. Your holidays will still happen one way or another, because you are together. This is also when annual trip insurance comes in handy.
For those delays, make sure you have enough activities to keep the kids entertained for a few hours. This can’t just be electronics either. You don’t want to run through your arsenal for the plane in the airport lounge.
Here are a few ideas to keep your holiday travel from going south before you even take off.
- Walk the terminal on the hunt for something green (or other “Eye Spy” items)
- Go on a food tour across the globe. There are a lot of international cuisines options. Enjoy a progressive dinner through the airport.
- Break out a deck of cards and teach your kids how to play poker.
- Have an epic UNO battle (grab a card bundle here)
- Let the kids run! Find a quiet gate and time the kids as they sprint back and forth. Get that energy out. This is not the time to make the kids sit still. There will be plenty of that on the plane.
EMBRACE YOUR MINI BOTTLES
Shhhh… parents, mini-booze are under 3oz. If you are traveling with older kids or the grandparents are with you, maybe slip one into your quart-size liquid bag to enjoy on the plane. Even better, pick up one of these travel cocktail kits to make a Gin and Tonic or Bloody Mary in the skies. Every plane carries tonic water and tomato juice after all.
You didn’t hear that from me though. It’s just a random idea I’m floating out there. You know… in case you need it.
However, the official FAA regulation states “No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage.” So, there is that. You have been officially notified.
The holidays are stressful. We all get through holiday travel the best we can, right?
Please drink responsibly. This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links I will receive a small commission.