Over the highway and through the state, to Grandmother’s house we go. Sounds like an idyllic family jaunt, right? Increase your odds of making it there with your sanity intact with these travel tips.
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Don’t wait until the last minute
With all of the season’s hustle and bustle, you might be tempted to ditch preparation in the 11th hour and wing it. Bad idea. The well-planned trip is more likely to be a smooth one, so make your list and check it (at least) twice!
Get a full night’s sleep
While it might seem like a good idea to let your kids stay up extra late hoping they’ll sack out in the car, this can backfire and instead ruin your holidays. Instead, stick to usual bedtimes (and this means you, too!).
When traveling at the holidays and every day, keep children in the most restrictive restraint possible. Children should remain in rear-facing car seats until age 2, then a front-facing car seat (until 40 pounds), followed by a booster seat (until 57 inches tall!), then a seat belt (all in the rear seat of the car). Don’t allow children in the front seat until they are at least 13 years old.
Leave earlier – even earlier than you think
Gone (at least for now) are the days when you can grab your keys, phone, wallet and go. To avoid running around in a frenzy, aim on hitting the road at least 15 minutes earlier than you truly need to. This builds in time to find that misplaced pacifier or shoe, or to turn back when you realize you forgot to bring Great Aunt Betty’s present! If flying, build in at least an hour wiggle room.
Bring healthy noshes
Whether you’re driving or flying, plan on bringing fun (but wholesome) snacks to avoid relying on less-than-stellar rest stop or airline picks. Think: String cheese, grapes, whole-wheat crackers or fig bars, raisins or nuts. Just keep in mind that snacks need to be age-appropriate (nix seeds, whole grapes or other potential choking hazards in the under-2 set).
Don’t let the (cabin) pressure get the best of you
If your family is flying, try offering your kids milk, water or organic fruit snacks (instead of gum) during takeoff to avoid ear popping. If you’re breastfeeding, nursing during takeoff and landing will similarly ease any discomfort.
Keep essentials within reach
Whatever you can’t do without – whether it’s an extra stuffed animal or wipes for sticky hands – it won’t do you any good if it’s in the trunk (or worse, if you’re flying, in your checked luggage). Make certain you keep all must-haves at an arm’s reach.
Curb the ‘Mom, are we there yet?’
We’re all guilty of it as children. But that doesn’t make it any less annoying to hear as a parent. While there’s no way to guarantee those little words won’t come out of their mouths, try to hear it less often by packing these boredom busters: Books, sketchbooks, journals, and low-tech games such as a homemade “I spy” checklist for your route. Resist the urge to let children spent more than the recommended 2 hours max of daily screen time on electronic games or DVDs.
Manage motion sickness
Motion sickness is most common in children 2 to 12 years old (and women). To minimize or prevent it, have your child avoid reading, look at scenery in the distance, nibble on crackers or suck on a peppermint. Talk to your pediatrician about whether dimenhydrinate (Dramamine®) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) are good options for your child.
With travel, comes exposure to germs. Remind kids to practice good hygiene (washing their hands with soap and water for an entire 20 seconds – the length of singing “Happy Birthday” twice). And, if old enough, encourage them to minimize touching high-traffic surfaces such as bathroom doors by using a paper towel. If flying, also try bringing your own travel blankets and/or pillows.
Avoid pushing too hard
Sometimes, despite your best planning, delays happen. Whether yours is caused by a traffic jam, snowstorm or other unforeseen event, remember that certain factors are out of your control. To keep stress levels in check, accept what you can’t change and take deep breath instead of trying to make up for lost time by driving at an unsafe speed or skipping much-needed bathroom breaks. When possible, a simple phone call ahead to your loved ones may head off a stress level that’s headed for the stratosphere.
Do what’s necessary
In the end, you want to get to your destination safely and not completely stressed out. If that means you need to sit in the backseat with your children or sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” for 20 minutes straight to get your baby through a crying jag, go for it. Remember, the calmer you stay, the more likely you’ll be able to get them to calm down.