Five Tips For Holiday Family Travel Bliss. No, Really.

AK Fam has been there. We know the stomach-tightening, teeth-clenching feeling of packing up kids and kaboodle and heading out for the holidays. Be it across the state or across the country (or further than that), holiday travel has morphed into a frenzied flash mob that officially begins today.

If you are one of the fortunate to already be at your destination, good for you! If you are still standing before open suitcases or unwashed piles of clothes, waiting for the packing fairy to arrive and save you, know this; we’re here. Sit down, take a cleansing breath, and read along for the latest news on the family travel front lines…and do follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our real-time, real-life travel adventures. Or, misadventures.

Playin' it cool at the airport.

1) Plan. Plan. Oh, and plan. Who will take you to the airport? Who will pick you up? Which kid will be managed by which parent? Who will board first with the car seat? These are important questions that should be addressed ahead of time. Think I’m kidding? Last week on my return flight from Portland, I actually listened to a couple arguing in front of me in the ticketing line. Dad said “I thought you called the shuttle service to pick us up!” Mom said, “What, are you nuts?!”(she didn’t actually say ‘nuts’) “I had three kids to pack for, you big bazonga!” (No, she didn’t say ‘bazonga’ either). Point is, assign jobs to your significant other, your older kids, and everyone else in the party who is old enough to read and understand a job and your language of choice.

Look mom, I have shoes on! New TSA rules state Kids under 12 can now do this.

2) Embrace the TSA. Not really, because I still think they are one of our most inefficient governmental agencies, which is not saying much. But, in a fit of almost-intelligence last month, TSA instituted the Brilliant Announcement that KIDS CAN KEEP THEIR SHOES ON. Wow. Whoopee. But there it is. Kids under 12 can now keep their shoes on during the security process to, get this: save time. But see the photo above? That is AK Kid showing off his “on-shoes,” before we hit the screening area last week, and how excited were we that it would take less time through security? Way. See the photo below? That’s AK Kid, waiting, waiting, and waiting some more for Mom and Dad to finish their security screenings, whereby both of us adults had to practically undress neked before it was discovered that the Holy Screening Machine was broken. Right. Anyway, you get my point, and kids can leave their shoes on. Good to know, now. We’d hate to have TSA get cranky at you for following the rules.

AK Kid waits for us. And waits, and waits, and waits. Nobody can look bored, better.

3) Pack it in, and out. We’re backpackers, and a well-known mantra among our cadre is the “Pack it out” rule. When traveling with kids, we add the “Pack it in” rule, too. You’ve heard about it a lot lately, in fact. Moms asking for milk on crowded flights, babies running out of diapers, older children losing battery power for the DS. Mercy, it’s mayhem, all right. So, bring extra snacks, drinks (if flying, do read TSA’s requirements, please), power cords, cell phones, books, quiet toys, and other activities for kids. Driving? Get an in-car charger; I’ve been saved by mine more than once, ironically on what should have been “short drives” that turned into marathon traffic jams. Eek. Carry gallon zip-type bags for trash and/or wet stuff (because it will happen, guaranteed, if you don’t bring them), and cups or bottles with sippy lids, even for the big kids. Ever been on a turbulent flight? That’s why I started bringing zipper bags; an entire cup of bright, red cranberry juice spilled by my own child ended up staining my white shirt last week. Uh huh, they’re never too old for a sippy.

Not everything will fit in the overhead bins. Be prudent this holiday season.

4) Check it. God almighty, have you seen the “carry-on” bags people are trying to bring aboard airplanes these days? Let me ‘splain it to you, Lucy: Baggage fees are going up and up, people want to carry on as much as they can, luggage companies respond by making bags that, you buy. Then, you and 200 other smart airline consumers try to squeeze those bags into overhead bins not designed to hold 201 barely-legal bags. We parents compound the problem with our very-required car seats, and all the equipment I mentioned above. I know, I’m sorry, but I think we should check our bags. Alaska Airlines Club 49 members now receive two free checked bags per member, and many airlines also offer free “at the gate” checking for carry-on luggage on full flights (which seems to be all of them). The whole thing stinks more than old cheese, but during the holidays, sometimes we just need to suck it up. Don’t hate me for saying that.

A little downtime can help promote more cheer among young family members.

5) Keep cool. Flying late at night? Try, try, to have everyone packed and fed and rested hours before you leave the house. Set out a quiet craft or project at home and let the kids have at it while you sip a cup of tea and relax, a bit. Flying early in the morning? Send everyone to baths and bed early; even if they are excited, at least they are corralled. Get to the airport two hours early. Just do it. Don’t argue with me. Take that holiday bonus and go out for a meal at the terminal, or at least pass out Christmas cookies to the kids. Read the paper, walk down the different gate areas, or, hey, get a massage at one of those crazy stations scattered around the airport. If driving, take the least-traveled route, and make a surprise stop at a roadside attraction, or have a meal together at a local diner. When was the last time you all sat down together to eat, anyway?

The whole point is to create a concept of “joyful journeying,” and the more effort we parents put out, the greater liklihood our kiddos will respond in kind. And that, my friends, could be the greatest gift of all.

Hey, visit my Alaska Travelgram Radio co-host’s website, too, for more ideas on stress-free holiday travel. Scott McMurren is a travel guru, and sometimes he really knows what he’s talking about.

Happy holidays!

Posted in General Travel Info, Logistics With Kids and tagged , , , .