Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: 16 Ways to Make Holiday Travel Easier

posted: 11/25/15
by: Katie Morton
Chicago O'Hare Airport during Summer Travel Season

Holiday travel: Those two words can send the most even-keeled person's blood pressure skyrocketing. Marathon lines, unpredictable weather, crowds--it's no day at the beach. Here are some tips to keep you sane during this busy time of year.

1. Reduce the hassle factor

The first big decision is how you'll get there. Flights are a big ticket item, while travel by car or train may be cheaper. Crunch the numbers, but don't overlook the hassle factor. Consider the time it takes to get there and the relative ease of each mode of transport when making your decision.

2. Pack entertainment

As you're packing up, don't forget ways to keep the number of times you hear the dreaded, "Are we there yet?" to a minimum. Think snacks, games, and pillows to keep both kids and parents happy. Does your child have a special stuffed friend or blanket? If so, double check that it's packed, and then check one more time, just to be safe!

"I'm booooreed!" is the other favorite refrain of small ones on a trip. An iPod, Kindle, smartphone, or a portable DVD player can beat travel doldrums. You get bonus points for packing headphones so kids can listen to their own entertainment while you enjoy an adult conversation.

3. Best travel apps

Research alternate routes in case of weather or an accident. The Waze GPS App can help navigate around trouble spots with real time updates on traffic jams, report speed traps, and point you toward the cheapest gas.

SitOrSquat is another valuable roadtrip app. It directs you to the cleanest roadside bathrooms, a boon for handsy youngsters. That said, packing a travel bag for the kids with the essentials--including wipes or sanitizer for messes or after rest stop visits--will help with the ick factor.

4. Speaking of travel bags...

It's Murphy's Law that kiddos will have a disgusting diaper or exploding juice box while trapped in a car or plane. Aside from what you normally pack in a travel bag, keep an entire change of clothes in easy reach, preferably in a sealed plastic bag to protect the fresh outfit from spills.

Tips for Plane Travel With Kids

Dealing with a long security line by yourself is tough enough, but it can really test the patience of parents with young kids in tow. Here are some tips make airline travel smoother.

When Booking Your Flight

5. Try to avoid red eye or "witching hour" (early evening) flight times when children are tired and cranky.

6. If possible, fly in the morning. The best time to fly is between 6 and 7 am, according to data from FiveThirtyEight.com. Flights scheduled to depart in that hour arrived just 8.6 minutes late on average. Flights leaving before 6, or between 7 and 8, are almost as punctual. And who doesn't want to spend less time in the airport?

7. Depending on how potty-trained your child is, you might want to sit near the back of the plane for easy access to the bathroom.

On the Day of Travel

8. Don't wrap your gifts! They may get unwrapped by security, especially if they see foil-type gift wrap.

9. As always, don't forget to put liquids in a single see-through, one-quart bag per passenger. (And make sure your kids know about the liquid rule so they don't try to sneak anything past security!)

10. Technology can be your airport friend: Flight Status gives you real-time updates on delays and GateGuru gives you approximate security wait times so you can leave plenty of time to get to the airport and to your gate.

11. If you're lucky enough to travel with a second adult, one of you should head through the security line first; the second adult should bring up the rear to keep everyone together.

12. Along with your baggie of liquids, take out your laptop and electronics and place them on the belt along with your shoes before proceeding through the metal detectors.

13. According to the TSA, Children 12 and under can wear shoes, light jackets, and hats during screening.

14. All kids' travel gear, such as strollers, carriers, car seats, and the like must go on the x-ray belt for screening. Don't worry--per TSA rules, kids won't be separated from their guardian. You can carry a baby or small child through the metal detector.

15. In case you get stopped at security for an extra check, make sure your kids know ahead of time that you all need to wait for each other so they don't wander off. Plan to regroup and reassemble your gear after you get through the security check so that all members of your party and their belongings are accounted for before you continue on to your gate.

16. For all kids, think ahead at take-off and landing to ease pressure changes on their ears. Offer baby a breast or bottle; older kids can chew gum or gummy candies.