How to Survive Family Travel for the Holidays

Survive your family travel this holiday season

There’s no time like the holidays for family travel.  Maybe you are taking advantage of the kids being off school to take a family vacation, or perhaps you are flying to visit family out of town.  Either way, it can be stressful!  The winter holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for travel.  Crowded airports, long lines, and flight delays due to winter weather can make traveling with kids even more challenging.  Today, we’ll offer our top tips to make your family holiday travel a treat!

Tip 1: Make Sure Everyone Has ID

Whether you are flying internationally or domestically, you will need to show identification when you pass through airport security.  For international air travel, everyone in your family will need to have their own valid passport.  (Yes, even the baby!  There’s no such thing as being too young to need a passport.)  If you are flying domestically, you can get away with not having identification for your young children, but we don’t recommend it!    Families who do have identification for their children have a much faster and easier time of getting through airport security.  We particularly like passport cards for children for this reason.

If you are flying with a baby or toddler under age 2, you will likely be asked for proof of the child’s age.  You can carry your child’s birth certificate if you don’t have a passport card or other official ID for your baby.

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Tip 2: Go Ahead and Bring the Stroller

You might be wondering whether it’s worth it to bring a stroller on your plane trip.  If you are a dedicated babywearer or if you have a preschooler who usually prefers to walk, a stroller may seem like it’s not worth the hassle.  But consider this — your stroller does not count as baggage on your airline.  You can roll your stroller right up to the door of the plane and gate-check it for free.  When your flight lands, your stroller will be brought to you while you wait in the jetway.Travel strollers

The best types of strollers for travel are sturdy umbrella strollers like those made by Maclaren, Chicco, or Joovy.  You want something that will stand up to the rigors of being tossed into and out of a plane’s cargo hold!  Your travel stroller should also be easy to fold, because you’ll be folding and unfolding it frequently as you traverse the airport.

Trust us, you’ll be glad to have the stroller.  You’ll be able to haul your gear and have a place to deposit your overtired toddler.

Tip 3: Pack Your Carry-Ons Wisely

The bags you bring on the plane are your primary defense against all in-flight disasters!  We recommend you bring items like…

  • Snacks. Lots and lots of snacks.  Bring what seems like an unreasonable amount of snacks.  You’ll be amazed how many snacks your kids can plow through during the course of a flight.
  • Sippy cups or spill-proof water bottles. You’ll save yourself a lot of money in the airport if you bring your own reusable water bottles for the kids. Bring empty sippy cups or bottles and then fill them from the water fountain after you get through security.
  • Ear-pressure soothers.  The air pressure during takeoff and landing can be hard on little ears!  If you are traveling with a baby, nurse or offer a bottle during takeoff and landing.  Older children can be given hard candies, lollipops, or gum.
  • Change of clothing.  Pack a clean outfit for both you and your child!  Airsickness, a spilled Coke, or an ill-timed diaper explosion can mean that both parents and kids need fresh duds.  Pack your clean outfits inside a plastic bag — you’ll be glad to have that bag for the soiled clothes.
  • Entertainment.  Download movies or episodes of your child’s favorite show onto your tablet, and load your phone with a few new educational games.  Don’t worry about limiting screen time during the flight… just for today, you are all about limiting scream time!  For older kids, bring coloring books and pencils, Legos, cards, and other small toys.

Bonus tip: on most airlines, your diaper bag doesn’t count as part of your carry-on allowance.  Load it up!

Tip 4: Should You Pre-Board?

Many airlines will allow families with babies and young children to board the flight early.  You may or may not want to take advantage of this!

Kids on airplanes love the window seatIf your airline does not have assigned seating, you should absolutely go for the pre-boarding option if available.  You’ll want to make sure that your family can get seats together, rather than having Junior squished between two strangers a few rows behind you!

If your seats have already been assigned, the benefit of being able to get yourself situated early may be outweighed by the disadvantage of having your kids confined in a seat for longer.  If you are traveling with more than one adult, ask the gate agent if one of you can board early with the carry-on bags, while the other adult boards at the last minute with the children.

Tip 5: Keep Smiling and Keep Breathing!

Your kids will respond to your attitude, so do your best to stay chill during your holiday travel.  Far more of your fellow travelers are going to be sympathetic to the difficulty of flying with kids than will be nasty about it.  And even if things go horribly wrong — if your son leaves one shoe at security and your daughter gets airsick in your lap and the baby has an epic meltdown — just consider what a funny story it will make to share over Christmas dinner!

Happy holidays from all of us at!


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