There really is nothing better than the feeling the holidays bring. You know how the song goes, “all is calm, all is bright.” Yet, such calm usually goes out the window when the holidays involve travel plans. Having lived far from home most of my adult life, I never really thought of anything different. Often it was the trip I most looked forward to each year, as it was a chance to unwind with family. The office was usually quiet this time of year meaning greater assurance that the days could be spent lazily enjoying the season.
MSP had a place written in permanent ink on our December calendar. Early into our relationship my husband and I opted to take some of the guesswork out of the holiday. Rather than waffle back and forth each Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter on which family we would spend the holiday with, we made a firm decision. We would stay local to MN for Thanksgiving and Easter, and fly back East for Christmas. It was an easy decision for us given the amount of time spent with each family. Then came kids…
Suddenly, it was not so easy to pack up and leave town for the holidays. First, packing seemed to involve weeks of preparation, especially in infant years. We were lucky that my parents purchased or could borrow many of the big gear items, but it still felt like we were dragging half her nursery across the country to ensure no detail was left behind. That was before we packed any presents for our beloved family.
If you are traveling by air with little ones, here are my tips:
1) Make a list – outline what gear and clothing are needed for each day
2) Pack each person in color-coded or labeled bags for easy unpacking upon arrival
3) Keep your expectations in check – it will be hectic
4) Arrive at the airport early so that the long security lines are less stressful (some airports have a family security line if you know where to look; or ask)
5) Pack snacks, lots and lots of snacks
6) Put a new toy/activity in your carry-on to keep little ones entertained
7) Buy online and have presents shipped to your destination when possible
Point number three above is by far the most important, and for me often the hardest to follow. I usually am so excited about the holidays, that travel heightens my stress level. Getting in the right mindset has done wonders, and at times leaves me pleasantly surprised when things go to plan. More so, practice patience when dealing with airline workers. Spreading a little holiday cheer goes a long way towards helping things run smoothly. Many workers have gone out of their way to help us when the kids reached their boiling point at 10,000 feet. That was often most possible when we traveled during slower times of day.
There are probably a dozen other tips parents could add to make airline travel run smoothly. Not to mention unique ideas to help pass time during those long car rides. Please share, as I am sure we are all in search of new ideas! Unfortunately, I will not be adding to the list from personal experience this year. Travel during the holidays has lost its appeal for us for more than just the crowds. Our oldest daughter now wants Santa to come down her own Chimney. When she was a baby, she did not comprehend that Santa had to find her at a new address. Come four years old, the questions started on how Santa would find her. My canned answer including lots of Santa magic fell on flat ears. The health complications of our youngest then made the decision simple for us.
We would no longer travel, instead we would host. I will admit that there was a tinge of disappointment when the decision was made. It was the beginning of a new era, as Christmas would look different going forward. It was no longer about the magical Christmas that being at my parents’ home held for me, it was about the traditions we will make with our girls.
Traveling or not, the holidays are about family. They are what bring the spirit of the season. So those that do find themselves on the road or in the air, safe travels!