5 Tips for Stress-less Holiday Travel
It’s beginning to look a lot like the holiday season.
This also goes for the airports and highways.
In this post I’m going to share 3 personal stories. One I’ll share here, and the other 2 I’ll share in a bit–keep on reading.
Story #1: Every year, usually around October, my husband and I have the same argument: he wants to take a family trip during Thanksgiving, and I don’t. The way he sees it, since he’s able to swing the time off from work he’d like to use that time to get away. The way I see it, the only reason to be traveling on Thanksgiving is to to get to family—unless your family’s all coming with you, then that’s a different story. But our family is all here in Michigan celebrating Thanksgiving together. I don’t like our kids missing out on family events/occasions if it can be helped. So once again, I win this year and here we stay. And this year we’re also hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and I’m making my first turkey whom my kids have lovingly named Olaf Jr.
So while my husband, kids, and I have never traveled during the busiest travel week of the year yet (Rana—5, Hubby—0), aka Thanksgiving, my family and I used to road trip all the time to be with family on Thanskgiving as a kid. And hubby, kids, and I have traveled during other Holiday weeks as well. And oh what fun it is (not).
We’ve developed a few tips/tricks along the way to make it easier, especially with the kids, which I gladly share with you now.
- Give yourself extra time. Get to the airport or highway as early as you possibly can. Obviously not 6 hours early, but a general rule we follow is 3 hours for international trips and 2 hours for domestic. During Holiday travel, we add an hour to each of these. I’d rather be sitting with my kids at a gate ruining their brains (and being silently mom-shamed) with an hour of extra screen-time, than running to catch a flight like the Mcallister family in Home Alone.
- Be prepared. (Suddenly I have Scar’s song from The Lion King going through my mind.) What I mean by this is don’t wing it for anything if you can help it. Don’t plan to stop to buy snacks for your kids, just have them ready in your bag. Don’t stop to buy water bottles, have refillable ones a flight attendant can fill onboard. And another rule I follow is any kid 3 and under who was recently potty trained in the last year wears a pull-up. Because I’ve been in situations of highway traffic jams, or a seatbelt sign remaining on far too long, where my preschooler has to use the potty and is unable to. Well, crisis averted. And no, I’ve done this with two kids and have never had a potty-trained kid regress. They just know now that pull-ups are for travel. I also always bring my stroller for the tiy
- Avoid connecting flights, if possible. Story #2: Before we had kids we booked a return flight from Mexico on Easter Sunday, and since we were sans children, we figured connecting flight are cheaper, and we’re adults so we can handle it. Well we missed our connecting flight since we weren’t the only ones flying out of Mexico that day, and had to manage the chaotic crowds at the airport. So we sat for about 4 hours in the airport waiting for a return flight home. Since then, we try and avoid connecting flights during holiday weeks if it’s at all possible.
- Book Sky Priority, if possible. Story #3: We were returning from a trip with the kids in the Dominican Republic, and we gave ourselves the usual extra hour knowing it was New Year’s week and people were traveling all over, just like us. We were completely unprepared for the wraparound line that was at the check-in counter when we got there. Even with our extra time, had we not been Sky Priority on that flight, we would have missed it for sure. Sky Priority is usually much more expensive, but if you book early enough knowing you’re flying during a busy time, you might get a good deal, which we’ve had happen. Also, many credit card companies offer Sky Priority or perks of some sort as part of their partnership with airlines, so check to see if your card and plan qualify.
- Check in ahead of time: In this online day and age, most of us always check-in to flights ahead of time. With kids, and especially during Holiday travel, this is even more helpful. Print your boarding pass ahead of time, have your passport and ID’s in a place you can easily find them. My husband has a hideous fanny pack he wears every time we travel, and though it makes me cringe, the organization and efficiency of it is amazing. Our boarding passes and all our information is stored in there, and wherever we go he’s in charge of handing them to agents, so we’re both not scrambling in bags. And if you can check in luggage ahead of time, even better as it saves even more time and hassle during travel hour.