As my kids are still young, my tips focus on traveling with smaller ones (under age 7).
First, timing your flights. If flying for Thanksgiving, I’m a big fan of flying out Thursday morning and coming back Monday. Aside from saving on airfare, you’ll avoid the huge holiday crowds in the airports and the long lines and your kids will be better, more cooperative travelers as a result.
Not to mention, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding flight delays on Wednesday and Sunday — two of the busiest travel days of the year. Flight delays, long lines and crowded airports spell stress for parents and meltdowns for kids -– not a good combination.
Find out what’s in the airport for kids. Spend a few minutes online checking out your home airport or one where you’re making a connection. Many have some pretty nice kids’ areas, including things like an interactive airport play area for kids at O’Hare in Chicago, which is an extension of the Children’s Museum in the city. These types of things are great –- but you have to know where they are. You can always ask someone in the airport too.
Teamwork. Holiday time is family time, but splitting up the duties with the kids while en route can make life a lot easier. For instance, rather than hauling your kids to rental car lots, remote lots and getting on and off of shuttle buses with kids and bags, take advantage of opportunities to drop them off, pick them up, etc. Don’t take them places they don’t absolutely need to go. Or consider spending a few extra dollars to take a cab, which can drop you off right at the terminal and pick you up at bag claim rather than hassling with parking. Again, this one can be a cost issue, just something to consider.
Boarding the plane. Some people think it’s wonderful to pre-board with kids. I think it’s crazy. What, pre-board so your kids can sit there even longer? No thanks. I let my wife pre-board with the carry on bags (at least the big ones). I let the kids run around until the final boarding call, then bring them on the plane. And guess what -– they’ve had more time to run, and spend less time sitting waiting for the plane to pull away from the gate. Win/win.
Don’t overschedule. As parents, we all know that an over-tired kid can be a nightmare. They all need downtime. Make sure on travel days there’s some R and R built in somewhere. If we’re driving, I’ll gladly go 10 minutes out of my way to hit a park where the kids can run. And while my wife and I aren’t fans of McDonald’s, we’ll even bite the bullet and go to one if it has a play area.
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When Jim Cohn is not running drills with his wife and kids, he can be found at Wrigley Field watching his beloved Cubbies, coaching t-ball or chasing his other passion, a little white ball on the golf course.