Holiday travel with kids: Top survival tips

Holiday travel in 2020 will look very different due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Many families will opt not to travel and have quiet celebrations at home, connecting with other family members by phone or video chat.

If you do decide to travel with the kids this holiday season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tips on how to stay safe. The CDC recommends wearing a mask when using public transportation and in populated areas, washing hands frequently, avoiding close contact with others as much as possible, especially those who are sick and avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth. The CDC also recommends getting a flu shot before the holiday season.

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Below are general tips for managing holiday travel with kids:

Pack ahead of time If you’re stressed at the start of your trip, you could be setting the tone for your entire first day. If possible, have everything packed the night before so you’re not rushed and cranky when you’re starting your trip.

Prepare some snacks Even adults can get cranky when they’re hungry, so why should kids be any different? Be prepared with snacks like cereal, pretzels, granola bars or string cheese and have them easily accessible in the car or on the plane. Water is also a good choice for a drink, since kids aren’t likely to guzzle more than they need. If you’re flying, you can pick these items up at an airport store after you’ve gone through security.

Bring some distractions Help your child pack some small, quiet toys, books, a small box of crayons, paper and a favorite stuffed animal or blanket for the trip. These will help keep them busy and offer comfort in unfamiliar places or situations.

Let kids help plan Allow children to have input on sightseeing when making travel plans. Maintaining a child’s interest can make for smoother travel. Let kids choose their own entertainment when traveling. On long road trips, try to find points of interest along the way if you have time.

On the road

Prepare for emergencies If you’re hitting the road for a long trip, have your mechanic check your car out before you go. Few things can ruin a trip faster than a breakdown along the way. While you’re at it, also pack a basic first aid kit, a flashlight and jumper cables.

Get enough sleep This advice holds true for both parents and kids. If everyone is sleep-deprived, they’re likely to be cranky. And if you’re driving, you’ll need to be as alert as possible.

Use Pull-Ups For those with very young children, you may want to use Pull-Ups even If they are potty-trained. If you’re stuck in traffic and are miles away from the nearest bathroom, they can provide an emergency back-up. The same goes for flying, during takeoff and landing when passengers are not allowed out of their seats.

Take frequent breaks Stop every couple of hours if you’re on a long road trip. This can give kids a chance to stretch their legs and burn off some energy. 

Prepare for messes Have an extra change of clothes for everyone, as well as wipes and resealable plastic bags. Traveling with kids often means dealing with a diaper blowout, car sickness or other unexpected mess.

Point out the sights Holiday travel with kids can involve some long, boring stretches, but they can often enjoy mundane sights like a funny billboard and farms with cows and horses. If it’s a long trip, your child may also enjoy seeing changes in terrain along the way.

In the air

Fly early in the morning if possible Early flights are less likely to experience delays, and they’re often less crowded. With any luck, your kids will end up napping for part of the flight. 

Dress in layers You’ll be outdoors, in the airport and in the airplane cabin, so your child can experience a wide variety of temperatures. Dressing in layers can allow him or her to add or slip off a jacket or another layer if necessary.

Make sure you’re sitting together Since computers assign seats, make sure you’re sitting together before you board the plane. Be sure to check and sort it out before boarding begins.

Board early Parents with young children are sometimes allowed to board the plane before other passengers, so you can have a minute to let your kids check out the seat, window shades and bathroom. You’ll have the chance to get settled in and not feel like you’re in such a rush.

Keep it clean Wipe down surfaces that can harbor germs, like trays. Also carry along hand sanitizer to use before eating or in other cases where germs can easily be transmitted.

Don’t pull out everything at once Don’t pull out your child’s entire stash of snacks and entertainment right when you’re seated. Most kids will find flying to be exciting at first. Once they’re been in the air a while and have become bored, then you can reach for the toys and food.

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