Family Travel Hacks

By Brandy Black


Traveling during the holidays is fun, said no one, ever.  Traveling during the holidays with kids can be a downright disaster.  And yet, I love it.  I do.  Because for me, the benefits of holiday travel –Grandma’s cooking, cold snowflakes on the tongue, cookie-decorating with cousins, family traditions passed down– far outweigh the whiny, sleepy, tantrum-y chaos that might ensue.  The trick is to plan ahead with a few holiday family travel hacks like these: 

Surprise, surprise.  Pre-wrap little “surprises” that the kids can open periodically throughout the flight.  To determine how many packages that you’ll need, I suggest breaking down each flight into 15-minute increments, per child. I often build around a theme that suits our destination, and have used headphones, notepads, colored pencils/crayons, sticker books, a movie or show pre-downloaded on my tablet, kids’ magazines, wind-up toys, window clings, and easy artsy craft projects.  Sometimes the fun from each package lasts longer than the estimated 15 minutes, and I end having more than enough left over that can be used for the return flight home.

Family travel hacks

  Roll with it. If your child is old enough, let them pick out a matching backpack and suitcase on wheels, so they will be inspired to carry and roll it theirselves. When my kids roll their own suitcase, I find they are better focused on the task at hand and more patient in general with travel delays and whatnot.  Plus, what’s cuter than a preschooler pulling a mini wheeled suitcase through the airport? Fill their matching backpack with toys, books, and extras, which -bonus!- frees up the space in your personal carry-on to hold your own stuff.

Boy running through airport with suitcase

Plane games.  I have two words for parents about to travel during the holidays with little ones: Plane. Bingo.  Buy it or create it yourself…there are lots of cute card images online. It works like any other bingo.  Newspaper…laptop…sleeping man…Bingo! Be sure to bring a couple fun prizes for the winner. And hey, if you can, choose a kid-friendly airline.  We often fly Alaska Airlines who not only has scavenger hunt on their site to keep the kiddos entertained, but has been known to offer a festive, holiday punch during the flight in past years.
Games to play on airplanes

Change is good. I once forgot to pack a change of clothes for my newborn, who had a diaper blowout in the middle of a long flight. I will never make that mistake again, and always pack a change of clothes for each kid.  You never know what could happen (hello, spilled apple juice!), and keeping kids comfortable is key.  Don’t forget to pack sweaters/sweatshirts for the whole family because it tends to get chilly on the plane.  And by all means, make things easy for security check-in and have everyone wear socks and slip-on shoes!

Family travel hacks over the holidays

Location, location, location.  When booking your flight, choose your seats carefully. Be sure to avoid exit rows since young children are not permitted to sit in those.  My family prefers to take over the back row of the plane, which is close to the bathroom, allows easy access to water, snacks, and the assistance of flight attendants, and is just noisy enough to mask the loud voices of our children.

Stroll with it. The stroller is great for hanging bags, storing stuff, and keeping kids contained in a hurry.  And you can check it right at the gate, so…why not?

mad baby

Ease the Pressure. There is nothing worse than your kid screaming in pain when the air pressure reaches her ears.  Prevent that from happening by having the kids chew gum several minutes before landing and take-off.  If they are too young for gum, try gummy bears or Swedish Fish. For the baby, get that little mouth working on a bottle or pacifier ASAP!  The mechanics of chewing or nursing really help to prevent painful clogged ears.

What’s your policy? There are great savings and deals to be had, so check the policies of your airline.  For instance Alaska Airlines gives a $25.00 credit if you wait longer than 20 minutes for your luggage.  I also like to support businesses that are LGBT friendly, and Alaska has discounts for Pride or LGBT events in certain locations. 
Our policies

Wipe on, wipe off. Pack wipes. Duh! You will need them for sticky fingers, spills, and freshening up.  You will need them for everything. If you ignore all these other tips, fine, but… Pack. Wipes. 

Keep it moving.  Go for walks every 30 minutes or so.  Explore the plane, go to the bathroom, say hi to the flight attendants.  Kids need to get a little energy out of their wiggly bodies.  You can also find new items for that bingo game and scavenger hunt you started at the beginning of the flight.

With some planning and ingenuity and a healthy attitude, family travel during the holidays can be fun. Don’t be afraid.  Be safe. And enjoy your flight (and your destination!)  

Family Holiday Travel Hacks

The Next Family has partnered with Alaska Airlines for a Home for the Holidays contest.  You could win 4 roundtrip tickets to fly anywhere Alaska Airlines flies.  We can’t wait to pick our lucky winner on December 28th.


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