It's that time of year again. Time to pack up the kids, hit the road, book the plane tickets and travel the friendly road and skies. As a parent, traveling during the holidays can be a migraine-sized nightmare if you don't plan appropriately. So let's look at a few things you can do to make that migraine turn into an annoying nag that a cup of hot cocoa can easily fix.
Research: If you are driving, take the time to map out a few different routes in case you hit traffic. Also, consider driving on the actual holiday day. Thanksgiving Day can be less crowded than the Wednesday before, which sees some of the highest driving traffic every year. The same goes with flights. Look for flights on or even after the actual holiday.
Budget:Travel can strain your credit card under normal circumstances, but flights and hotel prices go up during the holidays, and it is harder to find good deals. Flying on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day can save you a bit of cash in the lead-up to the holiday. Don't be afraid of a last-minute decision to fly either. Bargains can still be found as airlines scramble to fill every seat. You also want to add a little padding to your budget in case of delays or cancelled flights due to weather. Knowing you have a few hundred dollars to stay in a hotel with the kids, instead of the airport for the night, will give you peace of mind.
Pack: If you are driving, packing is no issue as long as you can fit it in the car. If you are flying, you will want to ship as many gifts as possible directly to your destination. Or just give gift cards. Pack as light as possible so you can travel with only a carry-on. If this isn't possible (trust me I get it. I am not a light packer either), make sure you pack an extra outfit and your toothbrush in your carry-on bag. The holidays see more people traveling, which means more people's luggage gets lost.
Flights get cancelled and traffic jams happen. This is just part of holiday travel. Take a deep breath when the flight attendants announce that you will be sitting on the tarmac for the next hour waiting to take off.
Eat: Traveling can take more time during the holidays, so make sure you pack plenty of snacks for you and the kids. Don't pack sugar-filled snacks, although definitely have a few special treats stashed in there. Grab snacks packed with protein like cheese sticks, nuts and yogurt. Bananas and apples travel easily, as do sandwich fixings if you have the space for a bag of ham, cheese and a few slices of bread. Pick up a few mustard packets at the airport so you don't get stuck at security with liquids. A full and happy belly can see you through more than one delay you may hit up against.
Breathe: Flights get cancelled and traffic jams happen. This is just part of holiday travel. Take a deep breath when the flight attendants announce that you will be sitting on the tarmac for the next hour waiting to take off. Don't be the angry passenger or road-rage warrior. Slap on a smile, pop an audiobook in the car stereo, or fire up another movie on the tablet for the kids while they wait on the flight. Put on Closed Captioning if you want to make friends with your airplane seat-mates. They may not be able to hear, but at least while they watch over your shoulder, they can read the movie along with you. That way everyone stays entertained, calm and cool.
The holidays don't have to be stressful, as long as you stay flexible and accept that you may not make it to your destination on time. If you are worried about missing the holidays, leave a few days earlier. And always remember that the holidays, no matter if you celebrate in the airport or at grandma's, are still the holidays — as long as your family is with you.