Holiday Traveling Tips with Young Children
And just like that, it’s that time of the year again! The holidays are in full swing, and family time is being planned, coordinated, and anxiously anticipated. A lot of energy goes into the holidays, and to add traveling with little ones on top of that can easily get stressful and cloud the joy of the holiday season. That’s why we are sharing some parenting tips for this year’s holiday travel, to help make the trips go smoothly and, most importantly, let your family really enjoy this wonderful time of year together.
Prep for the Road
Some long car rides may be in store for your family – our first parenting tip is to make sure the necessities are packed up in the car before you head out. Snacks, games and fidgets, electronics, headphones, whatever you and your little one need for a stress-free holiday travel day. Here are some other items to pack up ahead of time:
- Comfy Clothes: Holiday outfits are incredibly precious, but some of them can be made of fabrics little ones may find uncomfy, especially when being stuck in a car seat for longer than 30 minutes. Look for holiday-wear made out of softer fabrics that little ones can be comfortable sitting and sleeping in – this can also make for a more peaceful ride to your destination. If your heart is set on a particular outfit you know will not be worn for long, dress your little one in comfy clothes for the ride and change them for the event or pictures. Then, whenever they start to get fussy, change the clothes back so they can be comfy and happy.
- Snacks: Food is fuel, for grown-ups and little ones! Even if you’re looking forward to a big meal and appetizers wherever you’re traveling to, eating something during the car ride can be instrumental in keeping everyone energized. Pack some mess-free snacks for your family so you’re not desperate for food when getting out of the car. Dry snacks like pretzels or cheddar bunnies, or something with a little protein like a cheese stick, are great choices.
- Activities: A car ride can be a good time for screen time, especially if you want your little one off of screens while at the event you’re heading to. There are also great car games and activities that you all can play together, like “I Spy,” that will have you working and laughing together. Music is also a great way to get people in the mood for the holidays – find or make a playlist that has some of everyone’s favorite tunes! Listening to holiday books or watching holiday movies are also a great way to pass the time together during your holiday travel time.
Typically the most exciting table at the party is the Kids Table. So exciting, that sometimes our little ones don’t want to take their seats. Here are a few parenting tips for activities at the kids table that will keep them busy and engaged throughout your stay:
- Crayons and Paper Table Cloth: This is an old favorite of mine. I remember playing tic-tac-toe, learning different games, and just drawing to my heart’s content on a big paper table cloth. You can also use placemats, but a full table runner or cloth can avoid accidental marks on the table itself and gives little ones unlimited space to create!
- Holiday-Themed Crafts: These can be as easy as cutting out paper snowflakes, printing out some free holiday cards to color in, following directions for some easy DIY crafts, or simply picking up some holiday slime or fidget toys from the dollar section. Keeping hands busy at the kids table will have little ones sitting and engaged for longer periods of time.
- Time Outside: If the weather permits, and you’re a willing grown-up, volunteer with someone to take the little ones outside to get some wiggles out. Sometimes all they need is to run around to get out some energy before sitting down for a big meal.
Especially after experiencing lockdown, a lot of families do not see extended family if they live far away. This means little ones may not know these people very well and might get shy or anxious around new faces. There are ways to prepare them for seeing unfamiliar family members, but at the end of the day, the best parenting tip is to make sure that, if they are not comfortable, don’t force them to do anything they may not want to do. Here are some extra parenting tips to help prepare them for extended family time:
- Tell Stories and Share Photos: Sit down with your little one before your big holiday travel and show them pictures or videos of family members they can expect to see over the holidays. Share stories and interesting facts about each person so your little one doesn’t feel like they are meeting a total stranger.
- Introductions: Talk to your little one about meeting these family members and how they may want to say “hello.” Especially with children who are sensitive about physical touch, it’s important to help your little one set boundaries and support them when meeting these new people. Maybe your little one is not comfortable giving hugs but wants to high-five; that’s great! Have their back if a family member tries for more than that – stand by your little one and enforce their boundary, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
- Reasonable Expectations: Holiday events can get busy with reunions and cooking and catching up — let your child know about your responsibilities at the event. There will be times you are talking for long periods of time to people you have not seen in a while, so your little one may need to expect to share your attention. You can talk about checking-in with each other, you may even need a little break with each other from the party. Remind them to practice patience while you have grown-up conversations, and even encourage them to play with other kids while they wait. When they do practice patience, make sure to show gratitude to them for being able to wait.
We can be as prepared as we want, and still we forget snacks on the counter or someone’s favorite blanket or food we prepared in the fridge. It’s the holidays; it happens! And sometimes, that’s how the best memories are made. Hopefully with these parenting tips, you can move through this holiday season with grace and gratitude, for you and your family.
Have safe holiday travels and a magical holiday season!