Tips to Help Alleviate the Stress with Family Holiday Travel

Erika Bud

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Delicious food, sports, holiday movies, and quality time with the family are some of the highlights to look forward to during the holidays. While the holidays are enjoyed by most, the dreaded flights that many families endure during the holiday season can take away from the joy. What can be done to help eliminate the dread so families can look forward to the holidays again?

As a single mom living across the country from my family, an avid international traveler, and someone who speaks with families who travel the world with their children for a living, I’ve learned a lot of helpful tips over the years. 

Preparing for the trip

Preparing for your flight can help alleviate your stress so the entire family can enjoy the holidays, no matter what the airline gods have in store for you. 

Consider these tips at least one week prior to your departure date:

  • Don’t procrastinate with packing:  Yes, this is obvious, but for some reason, so many of us do it. Something usually comes up that we need to take care of, especially as parents. Just accept it and prevent the added stress by packing early. 
  • Use a packing list: This may sound ridiculous to some families since you know what you need, but just think about how less stressful it will be if you don’t have to try to remember everything. You have so many things on your mind already. Why not make it so you have one less thing to remember? Just search for “sample family packing list” and select from one of the many lists that others have made for you to use. 
  • Bring a camera just for the kids: Most kids love looking at pictures of themselves or taking pictures of random things. Find an old camera and let your kids use it for the entire trip. This is a fantastic way to entertain your children, especially when there is waiting time or traffic, or they are just bored.
  • Bring extra snacks/formula and empty water bottles: It’s common to be stuck on the runway for hours at a time. Don’t let this delay make the family hangry. Fill up water bottles before you get on the plane and extra snacks for everyone. Don’t be tempted to eat them until you’re on the plane and you’re in the middle of the delay. You can always be stuck on the runway at the arrival airport, and if you eat all your snacks because your plane left on time, it will defeat the purpose of bringing extra snacks.
  • Have your kids pack a bag of toys: Regardless of your kids’ ages, this bag of toys can be a lifesaver. Each child should bring his or her own bag as this is something that is all theirs. By the age of 3 years old, they can pack their own bag. The only thing you should need to do is tell them to add more toys or give them toy categories (e.g., three books, one coloring book, two dolls/action figures, etc.) Your kids should also be responsible for carrying this bag the entire trip. This teaches them responsibility, lets them know that you trust them, helps them to see how they are a contributor to the family, and gives them a sense of accomplishment that they did it all by themselves. Eventually, packing this bag gets kids immediately excited because it means they are going on a fun trip and sets the tone for the trip.
  • Pack necessities in your carryon: In case there is a delay with your luggage, make sure you have your medicines, toiletries, and one pair of clothes. Yes, you can buy new clothes and toiletries, but in case that option is not available to you before your hygiene takes a turn for the worse, be prepared. You also never know when you may need medicine or if it is available at your destination (especially if you’re going overseas).
  • If you are going overseas, get travel insurance: The last thing you want is to start your vacation stressed because the airline lost your luggage. On my way to Greece, the airlines lost my luggage. I didn’t get it for three days, but because I had travel insurance, I went on a small shopping spree knowing I would be reimbursed for it and enjoyed my new clothes for my trip. There are other reasons to get travel insurance, but this is a situation that occurs frequently.
  • Have a Plan B & C: No matter where you are traveling, delays and cancellations happen. Having multiple back up plans helps you to think about ideas before you are stressed and in the middle of the situation. For example, if your flight is delayed, can you drive to your destination faster? What hotels are nearby the airport, or can you stay at someone’s house overnight until you catch your flight? Can you fly into or out of another airport? What are the partner airlines that may be able to help you with a flight? No matter what happens, try to remember that your kids feed off your emotions. If you look at it as an adventure, it will help your kids to look at it as an adventure as well. 
  • Get the airline app: I used to be perfectly fine with paper boarding passes, until I downloaded the app and realized it is so much easier to have your boarding pass on your phone. Not only do you not have to worry about losing your boarding pass, but the app shows you updates with delays, and if there are cancellations, often you can just find another flight on your phone. Earlier this year, my flight was canceled on the way to the airport. My friend called the airline while I was looking for another flight on my phone, and I easily changed my flight on the app Before she even got through the phone prompts. 
  • Charge your phone and use it wisely: This might be obvious, but most of us assume we’ll be able to charge our phone at the airport or on the airplane. This is not always the case, so avoid the stress and come with a charged phone, don’t use all your phone battery, and make sure you have a power cord handy on your carryon.
  • Look up games to play at the airport and on the airplane: Your kids will likely have an electronic device to entertain them, but try to save that for the flight and make the most of your ability to move around the airport. Remember all those games you used to play as a kid driving for hours in the car? Now is your time to bring that creativity to the airport. How about I Spy or the Alphabet Game (find items that start with every letter of the alphabet)? Scavenger hunts are always fun. A new one I recently discovered was the America’s Top Airport Model game. Find a billboard, mimic the model, and “judge” each person’s pose. If you can’t think of any games, again, search for “games to play at the airport with kids” and you’ll be surprised with how many ways people have thought about to entertain kids at the airport. Do the same thing for games on the airplane just in case your child gets bored with their electronic device, or it stops working.
  • Let the kids help you: You don’t have to do everything on your own. You’d be surprised at how much kids will step up when you tell them you need them. Most kids feel like the “big kids” or an adult when they know you are counting on them. Just be patient, knowing they might not do things the way you want them to at the beginning. Eventually, they will become pros if you let them. Don’t forget to clearly communicate what you need from your kids to help prepare them and align expectations. For example, ask your kids to get specific things on the packing list, or if you must wake up early to catch your flight, tell them what you will need from them when they wake up and what they can expect. 

Nobody wants to start a holiday trip miserable or stressed because the flight didn’t go as planned. Try out some of these tips, and I think you’ll find your entire family will be less stressed and enjoy the holidays more.


Erika Bud is the author of the new children’s book Mission to Australiawhich is the debut book of the Travel Rangers series. Travel to the Land Down Under with a merry team of diverse kids and incredible augmented reality (AR) technology.

  • Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Climb all 1,332 steps of the Sydney Harbor Bridge
  • Get up close and personal with koalas, wombats, camels and more!

This beautiful picture book (illustrated by Sonia Sengupta) truly takes children on an adventure to learn the culture and language of Australia. From fun phrases and small differences like driving on the left to national sports seldom played in the U.S., Mission to Australia transports readers. The AR technology, created by ARtscapes, brings pages to life and creates an immersive experience the entire family will enjoy – a bit of armchair travel, mate. Just download the free app via the QR code on the cover, and scan the designated pages for a digital pop-up of both 3D creations and a real-life video background you can spend hours exploring.

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