Spending time during the holidays with your far-off loved ones can be a great opportunity to create cherished memories.
However, while getting to your destination can be a challenge in any situation, traveling with a young child has the potential to throw your stress level into overdrive. Between your child's disrupted schedule, fear of new places and overtired tantrums, the most wonderful time of the year can quickly become one of the worst.
Fortunately, some planning and smart strategies can be the difference between a nightmare trip and a calm one.
Here are a few ideas to try this holiday season.
If possible, avoid scheduling your trip on peak travel days. The Thanksgiving crowds typically begin the day before Thanksgiving and continue through the following Sunday. December 22nd, 23rd and 24th tend to be the peak Christmas travel days, and the New Year's rush usually hits December 29th through January 2nd.
In the same vein as the previous point, doing the bulk of your traveling during the overnight hours can also help you avoid crowds. Additionally, your child will probably sleep for the majority of a red-eye trip, and you may be able to sneak in a little extra rest yourself.
Most people either drive or fly to their destinations, but other forms of transportation might offer you some extra space along the way and also be a fun experience at the same time.
If your travels take you over land, consider taking a bus or train. If your route has some water distance to cover, you may want to think about a boat trip.
While having your everyday convenience items may be a nice thought, you don't want to be wrestling with any unnecessary pieces in tight spaces while also trying to keep track of your child.
Pack only the essential items. This list includes clothing, snacks, diapers and wet wipes. Make sure to have enough formula for your baby to eat during your trip, or carry breastmilk in a cooler bag. Depending on your child's age, a baby carrier or lightweight travel stroller can also be a lifesaver.
Life with a young child often means that a diaper blowout, temper tantrum or other crisis lurks on the horizon, and figuring in some extra time for your trip can help you avoid undue stress.
On your road trip, allow at least one to two extra additional hours for feeding, diaper changes or potty breaks. Plan to get to the airport at least two hours early to have plenty of time to make it through security and arrive at your gate without having to rush.
Expecting a child to sit quietly and contentedly through a long flight or drive is unrealistic and a recipe for disaster. Bring along some engaging books and toys, and don't feel bad if you have to break out the tablet or smartphone to keep your child quiet and entertained.
The benefits of snacks can be twofold: They can keep hungry tantrums at bay and also give your child something to focus on if restlessness sets in. Keep safe, appetizing snacks at the ready in your carry-on or diaper bag.
Stretching out the happy snack time for as long as possible is a good idea, and small items like cereal pieces or crackers usually require more time for your child to consume than a pouch they can drain in seconds.
Stretchy materials and low shoes will be your best options for comfortably spending time in a confined space and meeting your child's needs. Dressing in layers can also help you deal with any temperature fluctuations in a plane or car.
You don't have to dread traveling with your child this holiday season. With thoughtful planning, the right perspective, and proper equipment, your travel time can be an enjoyable experience rather than one you simply have to suffer through.