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Tips for Traveling With Kids This Holiday Season

With more than 3 million Southern Californians expected to take trips during the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, here are some handy tips when it comes to traveling with children.   

Tips When Traveling by Car:

Expect the Unexpected

* The DVD players will break, kids will get bored with the “cool toy” in 5 minutes, so pack extra activities, click herehere and here for ideas. 


* Baby Wipes (even if your kids are done with diapers)

* Hand Sanitizer (you’ll be thankful for this one after you see some of the restrooms along the way)

* Lots of small bottles of water

Strategically load the car

* Snacks, medicines, etc. closest to the lift gate

* Use the back pockets of the seats for kids activities

* Be sure the spare tire is accessible (no one wants to unload the car on the highway. Changing a tire in an unknown locale is stressful enough!)

Consider buying/bringing

* Car Seat Tray Tables

* Portable DVD player

* Sea-Bands

* A nightlight for the hotel room

* A list of Dunkin’ Donut locations (there’s an app for that and you’ll be surprised how much you’ll miss a good cup of coffee!)

* Always have a plastic bag and change of clothes accessible (this is one tip not to take lightly).

Traveling by Car Don’ts:

* Do not expect your kids to keep their regular sleep patterns, especially at hotels.

* Do not expect the kids to behave—travel is exciting for all of us, and even more so for children. They are on sensory overload and they will show it. If you anticipate this everyone will be better off!

* Do not allow your kids to ride unbuckled; they will adjust to sleeping in the car.

* Do not bother getting shoulder strap pillows; neck travel pillows are best.

Tips When Traveling By Air:

Carry-On Luggage

* Verify permitted items on the TSA website.

* Invest in quart size, zip-top clear bags for all carry on liquids (click here for more TSA specifications as well as the protocol for formula, breast milk and liquid medications).

* Pack only what you know you’ll need in flight (toys, snacks, diapers)

* Pack what you cannot survive without at your destination (your child’s inhaler, passport, money, etc.) in case your checked luggage is lost.

Airport Screening

* Wear flip-flops or step in shoes

* Remove young children from strollers in advance

* Take electronics out of their bags as soon as possible to expedite the screening process

On the Plane

* Bring gum to relieve ear pressure during take off and decent (pacifiers work well for babies and toddlers)

* When in doubt, break out the snacks. Pack lots of snacks, snacks and more snacks. Kids will love to munch, you’ll love the 5 seconds of quiet, and snacks also aid in reducing ear pressure.

* Always have a few extra activities up your sleeve; click here for ideas. 

Misc. Tips

* Walk the kids through the steps of air travel; kids always do better when they can anticipate what will happen next. 

* For preschoolers, you can create a quick visual checklist for them to check off as they go.

* If your child has the sniffles, be sure to give them a dose of decongestant about 15 minutes before take off—this will ensure their congestion does not become a factor.

* Be sure to make a “potty run” right before take-off!

Air Travel Don’ts:

* Don’t bother bringing questionable items since they will get tossed if TSA deems inappropriate. 

* Don’t bring half full bottles that are bigger than 3.4 oz., regardless of them only containing that amount. They will be thrown away.

* Don’t think that the kids will have the self-control to sit for the entire flight (even if it is just an hour).

* Don’t expect your kids to keep their regular sleep patterns, especially at hotels.

* Don’t expect the kids to behave, travel is exciting for all of us, and even more so for children. They are on sensory overload and they will show it. If you anticipate this everyone will be better off!

* Above all, don’t expect other passengers to be sympathetic to your traveling with kids. Remember, that no matter how many sighs or scowls you receive, that you will never see these people again so let them be as impatient as they would like! 

Some additional resources:

Tips to Keep the Kids, and You, Happy While Traveling:

A list of items that help keep the kids busy and smiling on that holiday trip:

  • Batteries – Always have a baggie full of different sized batteries available.  These have come in handy for DVD players or cameras that suddenly need a rechargel. And don’t forget chargers for handheld game systems like the Nintendo DS and other electronic devices. 
  • Rent DVD’s – Netflix, the library, video stores, offer a great selection to keep the kids occupied. You can even try swapping a few flicks with friends before the big trip. 
  • Burn a Family CD – Kids love music so try to create a family CD that includes a mixture of songs the whole family likes, but don’t a few forget the kiddie favorites.  
  • Sticker Books – You can pick these up everywhere these days. They are also great to use when eating out. Check out a wide selection of stickers at 
  • Reading/Picture Books – Books, whether the child can read yet or not, are the best items to bring on trips. Drop by the library and grab a variety of books to keep the kids busy on the road. 
  • Small Wrapped Surprises – Buy a special book or new crayons and coloring book for each child. Or buy a little figure that they can play with on the car/plane ride. The kids get the excitement of getting in the car and seeing a bag filled with their favorite things and an item hidden inside for them to discover. It makes traveling to the desired destination even more exciting. 
  • Books on Tape – You can rent, buy or borrow these just like the DVD’s. Again, the library has great choices. Older children can listen to their own stories on a CD player with earphones.  There is something for everyone.
  • Make a Family “To Do” List – Write down everything from places to go one day, future trips/vacations, best rides at Disneyland to each child’s personal “favorites” – i.e., color, movie, game, book, etc. The kids like making these lists and we all get to find out things we may have not known about each other. 
  • Download Free Pages – Coloring pages, travel games, word finds, hidden pictures and silly joke, to name just a few, are available on the Internet. Try to make a folder for each child filled with downloaded pages of things to do so they can work on them whenever they want. 
  • Simple Crafts – Pick up easy crafts at craft stores for those kids who love to make things. These kits can often be found for about $1 at your local crafts store and are well worth it.  They have styles for boys and girls.
  • Flashlights – These are great for night travel, especially if you are traveling with kids at different ages.
  • “Find-it” Games – People of all ages will enjoy the hunt for the hidden objects buried within the layer of recycled plastic pellets:  

If you have any great tips for traveling with kids, post your ideas in our comment box. And of course, Happy and safe travels this holiday season!

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