Holidays are special times, especially in our dreams and imaginations. With a little prep ahead of time, you have a genuine hope of those dreams becoming a reality. Plan like crazy, then enjoy the rest as much as you can with your amazing organization. Skip any efforts to be perfect. Enjoy the people you are with and the unique situations that can happen on holidays!
Something will go wrong – it always does. I’m not being negative, but if you’re ready for it, you can laugh at it. Then its a fun memory and a story for future parties.
There are some things you really can’t control – ex. flights delays – but there are lots of things that you CAN control! I want to share some super-helpful ideas for your holiday travels! I’m focusing on air-travel, but you can bend and shape them to whatever plans you have.
1. How to be sure that you have everything that you need
The best way to do this is to pick a day (well in advance!) and go through the whole day with paper and pen and write down everything that you use. Or get a box and throw in everything that you use.
Next organize this stuff in a list. This can become your Master List for future trips. To help you get started, I’m including a master list shared with me by a special mama, and she has stuff to share about packing later.
When you’re happy with your list, you can put it in a page protector and use a dry erase marker to check off what you have done. This can be really important if you are a visual person with lots of distractions – aka, a little one!
Car seat. You have two options: one, see if your family or friends can meet you at the airport with a car seat. That is one less thing for you to lug around and you won’t have to re-install it on your way home at the end of the trip. Or, two, you can use it in the seat on the plane. Check with your airline to confirm.
Are you are going somewhere with seasonal needs? For example, I once traveled with four kids, ages five and under, from Australia to Canada for Christmas. Kind family and friends found the snowsuits and boots that we needed for a few weeks. Ask for what you can, and if you can’t, just do your best!
2. Go over your stuff and take as little as you can – within reason!
You don’t need to be too sparse but, on the other hand, you don’t want to feel overwhelmed with clutter both while you are travelling and during your stay. Figure out what you really need.
What’s the laundry situation where you are going? Is it easily available for you to use? Or will you have to find a laundromat? If you have laundry available, you don’t need much more that what you would use in a few days. Take your favourite clothes – for the adults and the kids! And of course, as many changes as your kiddo averages per laundry cycle.
For some things, it doesn’t really matter if you are going for 3 days or 3 weeks – things like your toothbrush, hairbrush, and sunglasses. For other things, find the smallest containers that will hold just enough shampoo & conditioner, cleanser & moisturizer, baby stuff etc., to last for the time away. The dollar story is a good place for these things.
3. Packing your stuff.
Finding a system that will help you to find things easily has been solved with Packing Cubes. You can easily find them on Amazon. Everyone who sees them wants them, including me! They are also super useful outside of travels too.
The mama who shared her list with me also shared how she uses her packing cubes.
Her purchase decision was based on colour. Her sets each have 5 cubes and she wanted a different colour set for each person plus one grey set for general items. This is how she uses them:
- The largest cube is for bedtime including blankies, stuffies and other essentials
- Medium for clothes
- Small for outerwear
- Smallest for underwear
- Shoe bag – self-descriptive!
- The grey set for toiletries, first aid and meds, and electronics and chargers.
There are some clear benefits to this system:
- When a child or partner asks for something, you know exactly where it is and how to direct them to finding it!
- You know where each person’s stuff is because everyone has their own colour.
- Older kids can help pack: they know which cube is for their stuffies and favourite things, which one for clothes, underwear, shoes, boots, jackets. And it helps them to see how much they can bring.
- When you put those cubes in your suitcase, your packing looks like a work of art! Beautiful!
I would have loved this when my kids were little! They can be expensive, but they come in a range of prices and number of pieces per set. You could put it on your Christmas list! However, if they are not in your budget right now, I’ve seen small cubes in the dollar store and you can improvise with packaging from bags around home.
4. Include your kiddos in the process.
Little ones understand more than you expect and earlier than you think. Get in the habit of talking to your small child; tell them what is going on, where you are going, and how you are going to get there. If you have a toddler or older child, explaining what is happening and how they can fit in helps them to feel part of the story. No one wants to feel like a tag-along. Not feeling a part of what’s going on can lead to difficult behaviour, and grumpiness. Even asking them to carry their carry-on can make them feel important.
5. Boarding the plane
Some airlines will allow advance boarding – ask if they can help you. On the other hand, if your kiddo is wiggly and if the crew will let you, try staying in the tunnel (from the building to the plane) for as long as you can! Just to minimize the time that your kiddo needs to be still!
Try to see things from a small person’s perspective – literally and figuratively.
- Long, boring line-ups. Let them run and wriggle as much as they can before they have to sit still. Suggest that they run to “the window and back – three times!” Or “Jump up and down 5 times! That was great! Can you do that again?” Anything to use up some energy in advance!
- Imagine what walking down a crowded airplane isle looks like from their height. It looks pretty chaotic to me from an adult height! Remember that they haven’t seen this before.
- “Why can’t I sit where I want???” You can explain the concept of seat assignment in advance and then remind them just before you get on the plane.
6. What time is it???
If you are crossing time zones, it can be easy to lose a sense of time. This can be important where little tummies and nap/bedtimes (see below) can take you by surprise.
For a very long trip, and if you are travelling with a partner, one of you can keep track of the time where you are or where you are going, and one of you can stay on “home” time.
If it seems worth it to you, you can keep your littlies on home time for the whole trip. Sometimes this can work and sometimes not – it depends which direction you are travelling in, how long you will be away and how well you can make their home-time schedule fit with your holiday time-zone.
We all get grumpy when we are short of sleep, no matter how fun the destination is. You can minimize this by keeping your little one as close to their home schedule, timing, and routines as possible.
Do you have a long flight that will overlap with bedtime or naptime? Pack your child’s sleep aids in your carry-on. It’s worth it!
If you normally start bedtime after your evening meal, you can do that on the plane too. You can be talking to them about bedtime on the plane at bedtimes in the days leading up to the trip.
- A “sponge bath” – bring a face cloth in a baggie to have an airplane “bath.”
- Brush their teeth – you can do this right at their seat, maybe skip the toothpaste!
- Read a story – their smallest favourite book!
- Snuggle them into their seat with their special bedtime stuffies or blankies that fit into the carry-on. Explain as you have been for days, “This is your airplane bed tonight – isn’t it fun!”
- Do whatever you need to do next to help them transition into sleep!
8. Awake time
What’s to be said? Favourite toys, new toys, screen time. Anything that works is acceptable, lol! Bring some familiar food and snacks in case the food offered doesn’t measure up! (It probably won’t!) Sometimes, just sometimes, if it is a long flight, someone might offer to read to your little one. Ask for permission to walk up and down the isles every so often, just to stretch their legs and find new faces to smile at.
Getting off the plane can feel just as confusing as getting on to a child! Only now, no one is feeling as fresh as they were at the start of the day.
When you start to descend, explain what you know about the landing, and that they might need to swallow a lot (forgot to mention that with take-off) to relieve ear pressure. Tell them about everyone standing up at once! They might even think it is funny.
If you need to catch a connecting flight, speak to the flight attendants as soon as you board. Ask for their help in getting off the plane faster. Sometimes, they will ask everyone who does not have to catch another flight to remain seated until those who do can leave.
If you’re not in a rush, it might be less stressful to wait until the traffic in the isle dies down. At least you don’t need to wear the seatbelt anymore, and your kiddo can stand on the seat to watch what’s going on.
If someone special is meeting you at the airport, there could be a lot of excitement! And your little one might feel bewildered and over-stimulated already. That last bit on the plane after you’ve landed could be a time without seatbelts to recharge their internal battery with hugs or a story. On the plane, talk to your little person. Tell them who will be at the airport and that they might want to hug them. Tell them about getting your suitcases, and then going for a car ride.
Sometimes, there is still a long drive from the airport to your final destination. Try to find somewhere for your kiddo to run, run, run before you get in the car! Pause for a food and drink recharge. Don’t forget to allow a bathroom break and freshening up for you – so that you feel better! When you feel better, you can manage your kiddo with more grace and gentleness.
10. Finally! You have arrived. But its not over.
Satisfy their curiosity. Kiddos will always want to explore what they shouldn’t. It seems to be human nature! Ask them if they would like to see the house and while you are doing that, you can talk to them about no-go & don’t-touch zones. This is also a good opportunity to tell them what they can do and what they can touch!
Show them their space. Your child will likely settle better if you can set up their own little space asap. Seeing their sleep-space with their own special things, all ready for bedtime when it comes, can make them feel happy.
For tiny introverts, you can explain to them that this is their safe place when they want to be alone. Knowing this can help them to cope with all of the new people and new sensations.
Protect their time with you. If your little one is used to having time just with you, they are more likely to be their better self if that still happens while you are on holiday. It could be playing with cars – just the two of you – or having a tea party, or reading together, or each of you doing your own things but in the same space.
Stick with normal routine for physical things as much as possible. Their needs for food and sleep will be the same, wherever you are. Again, you can decide if you want to keep on home time or holiday time.
11. Going home!
Hey, you get to do it all again – in reverse!
Packing up and your amazing master list! When it’s time to pack up to go home, guess what? That master list is your best friend for half a day! Not only do you not have to remember everything that you brought, you are less likely to leave things behind!
Prepare kids with countdown that is meaningful for them. They might be looking forward to going home or want the holiday to last forever. Either way, mental and emotional preparation is the key to the upcoming transition from vacation to home.
Happy Planning! Happy Travels! Happy Holidays!
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