With the holidays approaching, many families will travel with their children. Traveling with children can be exciting and stressful at the same time. Here are some tips for traveling with kids.

Plan, plan, plan!

Planning on many levels reduces stress. Make packing and to-do lists and share them with a spouse, partner, or other family member to divide the chores. If your children are old enough (ages 4 and above, but even younger for small tasks), include them! Give them a list of things to put together to pack. 

If possible, arrange travel times when it works best for kids

This isn’t always an option, but when it’s possible take your child’s needs into consideration when making travel plans. For example, do they sleep well on airplanes or in the car? If so, try to plan to travel during nap time so that the time passes more quickly for them. Or, are they a bad sleeper on the road? Avoid traveling during naptimes or you will have a cranky, unhappy traveler!

Keep routines when possible

Kids operate best when they know what to expect and maintain some routine. Routines will be disrupted during travel and the holidays, but anything that can be kept constant should. This may mean that you do as much of the typical bedtime routine as possible, or serve the usual breakfast or keep naptimes consistent. Anything you are able to manage easily, try to keep as routine as possible.

Be prepared!

Sometimes in my family, I feel like I have packed enough to be comfortably stranded on a deserted island for four weeks. However, I appreciate being prepared. That means I bring plenty of healthy, non-perishable, easy-to-eat foods that I know my kids will eat. This avoids the problem of having to find something healthy when they get hungry. I also bring portable toys or games to keep them busy. No need to buy anything fancy or expensive – think about even making a scavenger hunt or travel bingo! All it takes is some preparation and paper. Have them look for certain road signs, trucks, license plates, airport items, etc. This can keep them occupied for a long time. 

Last minute checklist

Also make sure you have everything you need for them to be safe:

  • Take car seats or booster seats, if your children need them
  • Have hand sanitizer or wipes readily available
  • Make sure you have any medications your family might need
  • An extra change of clothes can also come in handy

Above all, try to have fun! Traveling is exciting for kids, so help them get ready by telling them ahead of time what the plan is and building their anticipation. Happy holidays!


Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two girls.

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