Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Tips and Tricks for Traveling with Kids During the Holidays

Over the hills and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go


It’s the holiday season and for many that means lots of travel with busy crowds, stressed out parents, cranky kids and lots of expectations. With the right attitude and a few tricks, holiday travel can be magical. Here are some of our top tips for making your journey one that is full of merriment.


Goody Bags


Even though kids are getting lots of new presents this time of year, packing a goody bag with a few new small toys, coloring books, triangle crayons (these don’t roll when your kid drops them, making them easier to find) and a book is a surefire way to travel success. The delight of a few new items will keep children occupied for at least a minute or two. No need to spend a fortune, head to the dollar store or the dollar aisle at Target for travel toys such as surprise eggs, Legos, stickers and more.


Screen Time


Long trips in the car or on an airplane are the perfect place for screen time. Load up your favorite device with your kid’s shows and educational games. Don’t forget the headphones so everyone can enjoy their entertainment without bothering each other. A cover that allows your tablet to sit up is a great addition and allows for easier viewing.


Old Fashioned Entertainment


Introduce your kids to old school travel games like License Plate Bingo, Tic-Tac-Toe and I Spy. You can also play the alphabet game where everyone needs to find a word on a billboard, business or road sign starting with the first letter of the alphabet. Continue in alphabetical order until someone gets to Z. Get out a deck of cards and play Go Fish or Old Maid. There are tons of fun games to play while cruising along the highway.


Food, Snacks and other Goodies


In everyday life, food is not entertainment, but on a trip, it totally can be. Pack your kid’s favorite snacks (and feel free to over pack in this category) along with some special treats. Some foods like Cheerios can also be used for games or activities. If you're traveling by car, pack up a cooler with meals and cold drinks. Find a park along the way to nosh at while also giving your kids a chance to run some energy off before getting back in the car.


Bring empty water bottles if traveling by plane to the airport. Most airports offer water bottle filling stations so you can fill your bottles after heading through security. Make sure to stay hydrated as flying is dehydrating. Keeping everyone hydrated will help keep crappy moods at bay. If you're traveling with younger kids, purchase milk at any of the coffee stands inside the airport. For infants on formula, the pre-mixed bottles are great on the plane as long as your child will drink them at room temperature. Food pouches are another amazing airplane food that are easy to consume and help keep the mess down.


Pack It Up


While it is certainly tempting to pack up your entire house when traveling with children, it is not necessary and holiday travel also means less space due to presents. One way to alleviate space constraints is to ship presents ahead. You can either ship them wrapped or wrap them when you arrive. You can also arrange to rent items like high chairs or pack ‘n plays in your final location.


If you are traveling by car, you can throw in a few extra toys and luggage but you don’t want to cram the car too full. Travel by air means you’ll want to pack lightly and pay to check baggage. Give each child a small backpack for the trip. Have them fill them with toys, a change of clothing, diapers and headphones. Most kids love being able to carry their own luggage if you frame it as being a big helper and thank them for being part of the team.


For parents, carry a large purse or backpack with iPads/Kindles, wipes, wallet, snacks and your phone. Pack items that have many purposes. Instead of bringing a book, use the kindle app on your phone for reading. Also think about packing an extra outfit for yourself.


When traveling with younger kids, do bring a stroller. These are easily gate-checked and can be used to carry your travel gear even if your kids won’t ride in them. Wear babies if possible. Check car seats at the counter in car seat travel bags to avoid lugging them through the airport.  


Where to Sit


Airplane seat placement is crucial when flying with kids. Seats at the rear of the plane, near the bathroom are ideal. Your kid who you have to force to use the toilet at home will suddenly need to visit the bathroom about a million times while in-flight or your baby will inevitably have an epic blowout. The engine noises will also help drown out the sounds of your child’s suddenly loud voices. Not to mention, you’ll be closer to the flight attendant galley where you request that fourth cup of milk.


Car rides are made easier with a ZoomKit which fits over your child’s car seat and/or lap. The ZoomKit  tray also has accessories like a lunchbox, an art kit and an empty kit for kids to fill themselves. The ZoomKit means your child will have a place for all their stuff and you’ll only have to spend half your trip picking up crayons and toys from the floor.


Routine Matters


Traveling messes up everyone’s routines but keeping some of the vital parts of your schedule means you’ll have an easier time traveling. Make sure to bring along your kid’s favorite lovey, keep nap times as regular as possible and do your best to keep to your bedtime routine. You don’t have to be rigid but attempting to keep the important parts of your routine as similar as possible will help a lot.


Attitude Issues


This might be our most important tip. Embrace the chaos of holiday travel. Things will go wrong and how you react to them makes all the difference. Take a deep breath and attempt to find calmness in the midst of frazzled travelers and strained holiday excitement.

Prep your children with your travel plans and expectations.

Talk to your kids about how they are important parts of the travel team and what you need from them.

Lead by example and you’ll be surprised at how well your kids do. There will be times when kids completely go nuts and lose it. This is when it is even more crucial for you to take a deep breath and display a calm attitude. Mentally prepare yourself for travel snafus and think about what you can do in those situations.

Here’s to a jolly, happy travel season!