Going over the river and through the woods in a horse-drawn sleigh sounds like all sorts of fun, and I’m sure was. But you can be sure those holiday trips involved plenty of planning and preparation. Today’s holiday travel is much faster and more comfortable, but it still requires all sorts of forethought and preparation. Here are a few tips that may help your next trip go a little more smoothly.
Traveling by Car
Consider alternate routes. Remember that you’ll be on the road with a whole lot of other people with the same destination—home for the holidays. Plan ahead and decide on alternate routes if your preferred route feels a little too crowded. You’ll be surprised at the beauty you’ll find on the back roads.
Find fun places to stop. You’re sure to find rest areas and gas stations along the way to grandma’s house, but with a little planning, you may find a park, historical monument, or scenic byway that will add a little more interest for both you and the kids.
Pack snacks and games. It’s hard for kids to sit in a car for more than a few minutes. Sometimes they’ll start saying, “Are we there yet?” even before you get out of town. Give them music, games, and snacks to keep them entertained along the way. You can also play a few games while you travel—like seeing who can find all the letters in the alphabet by looking at road signs and license plates. (It’s a good way to pass about 20 miles.)
Travel at night. If you load the kids into the car late in the evening with a pillow and their favorite snuggly friend, there’s a great chance they’ll fall asleep long before you get to your destination. It’s the best shortcut you’ll find. Once they’re asleep you can drive straight through without as many potty breaks.
Prepare the car. Before you go, be sure your tires are properly inflated and get your battery checked so you can reduce your chances of being stranded along the way. Also make sure you have a good spare tire, lug wrench, and a jack so you can change a flat and keep moving ahead. Be sure to pack a winter emergency kit as well. Keep it stocked with plenty of blankets, food, and road flares or flashing lights just in case you find that you need to wait things out for a while.
Traveling by Plane
Avoid surprises and overage fees. Be sure to check the airline’s restrictions on carry-on luggage and fees for checked bags ahead of time.
Pack light. Avoid checking bags altogether if you can. Keeping it all in your carry-on means you won’t have to check luggage, wait for bags at the conveyor belt, or worry about lost luggage. If you do have to check a bag, be sure you have all your medications, important documents, and at least one change of clothes in your carry-on unless your luggage gets lost.
Pack earplugs. Many people don’t think of this one, but it’s a great way to reduce the noise in an airplane so you can tune out.
Chew gum. Chewing gum often helps when your plane is ascending or descending. It helps you keep the pressure in your ears from causing pain. It’s also a good idea to give the baby a little bottle during these critical times to keep them from getting fussy.
If you can, book your flight at the wrong time. Most people travel on the day before the holiday. In fact, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year. But if you wait a few hours and catch an early morning flight on Thanksgiving Day, you can avoid a lot of that mess. It may feel counterintuitive, but it may prove to be even more relaxing to wait, and you’ll still arrive at your destination in time for food. After all, planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time performance than planes scheduled later in the day.
Ship your gifts ahead of time. Mailing your packages early will save you all sorts of room in your luggage, hassles at the TSA checkpoints, and overage fees. It may require some planning and a little more money for shipping, but you won’t have to worry about them being unwrapped by security in the airport.
Smile. Remember that the joys and challenges of your holiday travel will make for some good conversation around the dinner table. After all, the journey over the river and through the woods is as much of a holiday tradition as pumpkin pie and classic holiday movies.