7 Sanity Savers for Holiday Travel
Holidays and travel are two words that can strike fear into the bravest of hearts. Put them together and you might be tempted to find a dark corner to lay down in the fetal position. With some good strategies and planning, family holiday travel doesn’t have to be scary. Here are 7 tips to make holiday travel with your family less stressful, more rewarding, and (dare I say) fun.
Get your papers in order
Did you know that to fly internationally (including Mexico, most of the Caribbean, and Canada) everyone in your party needs a passport book, including infants. Processing time for passports is currently taking about four to six weeks, so be sure and plan ahead. To expedite your entry back into the U.S., be sure and download the Mobile Passport app from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Yes! There is an app for that! It can be used at 24 major US airports. Bonus, if you are cruising, Mobile Passport can be used at Port Everglades, too.
Adjust your speed
Whether you are vacationing with your two-year-old child or your 82-year-old grandparent, remember that your group will go at the speed of your slowest member and that’s ok! Set proper expectations and everyone in your party will be much happier. Don’t try to squeeze too many activities or sightseeing into each day. Be sure to build nap/quiet time into each day. Go out in the morning for your big adventure or activity then go back to the hotel or villa, to relax and recharge for a bit. Then later in the afternoon you will be ready for more fun!
Play it safe
Book early to ensure you get just what you want. This isn’t the time to wing it. Make your reservations well in advance and pick your flights carefully! If you have to connect, try to pick a connecting airport where the weather might cooperate a little better. In December, ALWAYS choose a connection in Dallas or Atlanta over Chicago or Minneapolis! It's just smart! Be sure to make your seat assignments at the same time you buy your ticket if the airline's policy allows. This is a time when spending a little bit extra to have pre-assigned seating is worth the investment.
Packing light is liberating in itself, but over the holidays it becomes even more important. The less you have to worry about dragging your children AND your bags through crowded airports, the better. Plus, you can save huge amounts of time, money, and stress by fitting your things into one or, at most two, bags. Checked bag fees continue to rise. In September, American Airlines increased their checked bag from $25 to $30 for the first bag and from $35 to $40 for the second bag. Remember, if you do check luggage, be sure to keep the essentials like medications and important documents with you - just in case!
Make room for baby (or grandma)
Make sure you pick the right accommodations. Where you stay can have a huge effect on your vacation, especially when you are traveling with children or extended family. Chose a resort or villa with at least one bedroom so that you have a living space and a sleeping space, if possible. Consider this: if everyone is piled into the same room you have to sleep when the kids sleep, watch what the kids want to watch on TV, etc. Think about how nice it is to go back to your hotel or resort, put the kids to bed and watch TV, have a drink, watch a movie, or have a conversation in your own space.
Let everyone have their own way…at least once
Don’t just bring your kids on YOUR vacation, make it a true family vacation by allowing each child to pick an activity or excursion, something that excites them, within reason, of course. All too often, parents plan the vacation with the kids in mind, but don’t give their children a voice in the planning process. Allowing your child to plan an activity or even an entire day gives them ownership of the vacation which can lead to more cooperative kids. Many times, the things that your kids plan become the best and most memorable part of the vacation.
It’s all going to go sideways at some point, but don’t let it get to you. The chatty neighbor on the airplane who takes up your armrest, the cancelled and delayed flights and the luggage that disappeared between airports will all make for great stories over dinner when you finally make it to your destination. Just breathe, keep your sense of humor and try to let the frustration go....