Make Holiday Travel with Kids Drama-Free

Nicole Johnson

Our-Pact-super-sponsorAlong with the harried shopping and the winter convocations at school, many families take the extended time off over the holidays to travel to see family.

I know the thoughts that are crossing your mind: images of the line to security taking up the entire queue while your little ones scream from the stroller you’re pushing while hauling bag after bag of luggage. I’m sure it makes you want to pop a Xanax to stop yourself from breaking cold sweat

I get it. Travel is tiring, and I’ve got three kids. I’ve traveled a lot. As the wife of a man who works in professional baseball, I spent the majority of his big league years hopping planes with our oldest son. We flew across the country regularly; our longest flight was from Seattle to Tampa. We lived through travel delays, a tropical storm, and one flight that was grounded for 6 hours because they thought they smelled gas on the plane, only to decide to take off again (in the same plane!) later in the day.

In addition to the crazy travel days I’ve had, I’m afraid of flying. So the popping Xanax comment, it’s the truth for me. I don’t fly without some anti-anxiety medicine.

Did I mention when I flew all the time, my son and I flew by ourselves? Without my husband. He got to fly on the private team plane while we lugged our stuff around, living it up in coach and connecting flights.

When we found out we were having twins a couple years later, I thought my travel days were over. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to get onto a flight with all three of them without help until I did.

I decided I could do it.

Last summer, I flew with all three of our kids on my own – a five-year old and twins that were one-and-a-half at the time. If I can do it, so can you, and I’ve got some tips for you to make your travel go smoothly.

1. Fly nonstop/direct. The fewer times you change planes, the higher your chances of making it on time. Every stop you make increases the probability that you will get delayed somewhere. Add in winter weather, and you’re asking for disaster. If at all possible, fly nonstop. If you can’t, try flying directly to a nearby airport and driving the rest of the way. If it’s a three hour or less drive, we usually do this rather than change planes.

2. Try to book flights at sleepy times. Naptime and bedtime are the best times to fly with kids. They get tired, and they sleep on the plane. If you have to choose between nonstop and sleepy time, though, choose the nonstop flight.

3. Bring enough diapers/ formula/ milk to last you overnight. Should you get delayed, you need to have enough of your necessities to last you through the night. You could get stuck in a city for hours with no access to the bags you checked. I know, I’ve seen it happen. Many larger airports do have diapers available in some of the shops, but they are usually larger sizes, like size four.

4. Strollers and car seats – only bring what you need. You can check either of these items at the gate, or even bring car seats onto the plane if you have purchased a seat. If you’re not going to need a stroller at your destination, though, and your child is more likely to want to get out of it than stay in it, I say leave it in the car.

5. Arrive early. Give yourself extra time, especially around the holidays. Most airlines and airports suggest you arrive two hours early for flights around the holidays. If you’re flying through an airport like Midway, that is not enough time to make it through check in and security with kids in tow without significant stress. My advice – add an hour. It’s a lot better to get to the gate early than late.

6. TSA Precheck. Look at your ticket once you’ve printed it. If it says TSA pre-check, you get to go to the shorter line, and you don’t have to take off your shoes. If you hit this jackpot, I want you to know that it’s there before you wait forever in the long security line.

7. When it comes to boarding, know your kids. I used to tell everyone that preboarding was the way to go. While I still do it for my sanity, I think that some kids are better off being the last ones on the plane. Does your child sit still well or is he or she going to be the kid getting in the way and screaming on the plane while other passengers are boarding. If your kid needs to run off some extra steam, try to get them to do that before boarding if possible.

8. For flight time, have the electronics ready. Have movies downloaded, new games and apps added, and be prepared to hand your kid your iPad or phone so they can find something that keeps them occupied. We give our son an iPad for flights, and our twin daughters have apps downloaded on old iPhones donated to us by family members after upgrades.

9. Bribery is key for takeoff and landing. I bring treats and bribe my kids into their seatbelts with it. I bribe our oldest with money to be helpful to me when we are getting on and off the plane when we are getting luggage, and when we are heading to the car.

10. Kids get hungry. Be prepared for the fact that your kids will likely need a fourth meal on any travel day. Bring some snacks (think sandwiches, granola bars, and trail mix) and be ready to stop for food as soon as you arrive. Think about how you feel after a long day of travel, and then think about how you would act if you didn’t know how to control your temper and you were hungry and tired. Keep their bellies happy for smoother travels.

With these tips, I assure you that you will be able to master your flights with ease and other parents will be amazed at how it seems that you have it all together during stressful holiday travel. Now spend less time worrying about how you will survive the flights and look forward to the time you’ll get to spend connecting with the family you don’t get to see as often. Enjoy your memories!


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10 tips to make traveling and flying with kids drama-free

This post was written by Nicole Johnson exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.

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Nicole Johnson is a blogging baseball wife and mom to three kids. She blogs at The Life of the Baseball Wife and shares her experiences traveling, raising a son with food allergies, and caring for twins while her husband travels for work. On her blog, she shares her raw emotions regarding the changes she experiences in her husband's career and her life as a wife and mother with postpartum depression.