I've written about traveling with kids before, but wanted to specifically touch on holiday travel with kids because it can be even more stressful than usual. The airport is a fucking nightmare, (as well as train stations) and the heightened frantic mood can rub off on you and your kids, making the situation unbearable. Here are some little things that you can do to help.
Pack as lightly as possible. That means ditching as many accessories as you can. This may not always be feasible, but before you go visit family, see if they can help you out with anything before you arrive. Can they borrow a friend's travel crib and have it set up before you get there? Can they rent or borrow a car seat? A stroller? Do you really need a stroller for your extended weekend away or can you get away with just using your baby sling/carrier? Eliminate as much of the heavy baby gear as possible so that you don't have to deal with the insanity of taking a kid out of a stroller through security, putting them back in it after, checking it at the gate, etc. Anything you can do to make your life easier, just do it. If your kids are small, just sling them. It will help keep your arms free during the flight if you need to pace up and down the airplane aisle with them, or if they fall asleep on you. I think you'll be surprised to find how eager people are to help, and to loan out things they don't need. I have a lot of small baby cousins that visit my mom from Mexico, and she is always able to borrow a carseat or a crib from her friends or former students. If you are staying at a hotel, call ahead and see if they have a travel crib or a stroller you can use. Many of them do!
- Snacks, snacks, snacks - Water, water, water. If you have to stop every five minutes to buy an insanely expensive snack or drink for your kids when you're weaving your way through the airport, you're gonna go insane. If your kids are old enough, pack their backpacks with a healthy, not messy, and portable treat along with an empty reusable water bottle that you can fill once you get past security. Treats I love on airplanes: apples, small turkey sandwich, goldfish crackers, pretzels, dates (already pitted), slices of hard cheese, grapes. Note that I have omitted treats that are smelly (bananas, I love them in general, but they make me nauseous in confined spaces. Just me?) or messy (yogurt, raspberries/blueberries that little fingers like to squish).
- Coloring books. A fresh new coloring books and pencils will entertain a little guy for a long time. I am in the market for a coloring book myself for my upcoming trip, I've been eyeing this one.
- Arrive to airport way earlier than you normally would. Not only are the TSA lines going to be a fucking zoo, but your blood pressure will skyrocket if you are even remotely pressed for time. This is not the moment to wing it and hope you just fly through the airport, praying that it all goes smoothly. You want time for your kids to walk around, eat, go to the bathroom, address any issues that may come up (i.e. diaper explosions) before you get on the plane.
- Schedule flight during naps. I've mentioned before, but seriously, it works.
- Get them into musical theater young, and let them listen to soundtracks on the plane. I know this is ridiculous, but HEAR ME OUT. I swear, this saved my parents on our long road trips. We were all obsessed with Les Mis, so my parents would pop the soundtrack in and we'd happily listen and sing along all 3 hours. Musicals are LONG, you guys. And if you can get your kids hooked on them, you'll buy yourself hours of peace, and save yourself the hassle of having to watch a hideous children's movie.
- Remain Calm!!!! The most important one of all, and the most difficult. Believe me, I know how hard this is because I travel just with my dog and I freak out on 80% of flights. Airports suck and incite complete meltdowns. But if you're able to give yourself time, minimize your load, and take a breath, your kids will feed off your energy and remain calm as well.