Holiday family travel can be tiring, but it’s worth it when you make memories with your kids and spend time as a family. Here’s how to stay sane through it all.
Are you hitting the road this holiday season? Are you looking forward to it like a little kid on Christmas Eve? Or are you dreading the schlepping, the packing, and the unexpected surprises that come with holiday family travel?
For years we avoided taking our kids on the road. It was just so much easier to do all the hard stuff of parenting in the comfort of my own home instead of taking all the hard stuff on the road and having to perform it in strange quarters. Holiday family travel, in particular, is not for the faint of heart.
Yet, one of our few regrets as parents now, almost 20 years in, is that we didn’t travel more with our kids when they were much littler. Don’t be like us!
I’m thankful we started getting out and about more a few years ago. Here’s what we learned — and continue to learn — in the process of traveling as a family.
Sanity Savers for Holiday Family Travel
Embrace the adventure of holiday family travel and consider these quick and easy sanity savers:
1. Leave early.
If you’re traveling by car, leave before the crack of dawn. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes. Our most successful road trips have been those when we piled jammy-clad, sleeping children into the car, beat the traffic, and arrived at our destination without being strung-out and exhausted.
This is our plan for next Thursday. We do it every Thanksgiving and it works like a charm.
2. Gas up the car the night before.
I know you’re tired from all the packing. I know you think you’ll just find a station along the way. I know you can justify a way not to go to the gas station the night before.
I also know your future self will really appreciate NOT having to stop for gas just when the crying baby finally fell asleep. And she’ll really appreciate not getting lost in a very strange and dangerous part of St. Louis when you get scarily close to running out of gas completely.
Just saying. Been there, done that.
3. Pack snacks.
How many times have you thought you’d just grab food on the road or at the airport only to find out that it costs a small fortune and tastes gross? Yeah, that’s what we thought last Thanksgiving, too, when the only place open was a very disgusting McDonald’s. Not doing that again!
Pack a small cooler of healthy, wholesome fare that will cost just pennies compared to what you’ll find along the journey. Trust. me.
–> Grab these Make Ahead Breakfast Ideas Your Kids Will Love if you’ll be traveling in the morning hours.
4. Plan for illness.
They say to plan for the worst and hope for the best, right? Hopefully, your kids WON’T get sick on your trip, but what if they do? Do you really want to find a pharmacy in a strange place? Or do you want to open your bag of tried-and-true remedies and carry on?
I vote for the latter. Packing a few OTC meds and essential oils has saved us more times than I can count. We don’t spend money we hadn’t planned on and we can provide comfort to our kids as soon as that first cootie makes its presence known.
In my bag of tricks this year, I have the following. Consult your doctor and your own best judgement for the best remedies for your family.
- a few Microwaveable Heat Packs for upset tummies and injuries
- peppermint oil for nausea and stuffy heads
- Dramamine Kids – my girls continue to get carsick so we’re always prepared for carsickness.
- OTC cold and allergy meds and my daughter’s epi-pens
- activated charcoal and peppermint pills
- our travel first aid kit
5. Be prepared for weather and road safety.
You know this already, but it bears repeating. Be prepared for inclement weather and related and unrelated car troubles. Pack the chains even if you don’t think you’ll need them. Make sure you’ve got the jumper cables just in case. Throw in the extra coats even if the weather is supposed to be unseasonably warm in your destination.
Being stranded on the highway for hours on what is supposed to be your family vacation is no picnic. And buying new coats for everyone when they have perfectly good ones at home isn’t much fun either.
With a little planning, you can avoid some headaches.
6. Focus on your family.
Yes, there will be weird relatives, road hazards, and maybe a stomach bug or a sniffle. But, you’ll also make great memories with your kids.
As I think back to the times when things haven’t gone quite right on our family trips, I’m either overwhelmed with thankfulness — we did survive, after all! — or I can simply laugh at the mishaps. You might not feel like laughing while it’s happening, but trust me, if you keep the right attitude, it will go down in the books as a vacation to remember.
No, you won’t be able to plan for every contingency, but if you handle the big things if you focus on this list and then focus on your family while it’s all happening.
That little girl joyously playing in the snow up top? She’s now eight. The last five years went by in a heartbeat. I’m so glad that I remember that trip to the snow, that we enjoyed it together as a family, and of course, that we survived.