If you’re gearing up for holiday travel with kids—especially the under 5 set—here’s a list I’ve put together to help make sure your family will be ready for the smoothest, safest holiday travels possible. Know anyone who could use this list? I love it when you share! Buttons below. 😉
Also, if you’re on Twitter, I’ll be tweeting more helpful holiday travel with kids tips, reminders, and helpful links throughout the season: @travelswithbaby. Now, what do you need to check off this list first—and what can you get done this weekend?
1: Reserve your baby gear rentals now.
It’s not uncommon for baby gear rental agencies to fully book their most popular gear items during peak holiday season, so make your selections and get your reservation secured ASAP, so you can relax knowing that car seat, stroller, or crib will be where you need it this holiday season. Click here for my Worldwide Directory of Baby Gear Rentals to find an agency at your destination.
2: Think through your travel childproofing needs and act now.
One advantage of holiday travel is that you’re often already familiar with where you’ll be staying—in someone else’s home. That can, however, have its drawbacks where childproofing is concerned. For help heading off safety issues before arrival, read through the Staying (Safe and Sane) with Friends and Family section of Travels with Baby and be sure to use the Checking-In Safety Checklist in Take-Along Travels with Baby when you arrive (travels especially easily as the eBook). For helpful babyproofing and childproofing products for travel, see my recommendations here, and you can also browse more posts on child safety during travel here.
3: Do as much of your holiday shopping online as you can.
Not only will it save you some serious suitcase space or room in the trunk, it will save you loads of time looking for parking and standing in lines at the stores this holiday season (possibly with cranky kids). Amazon.com is an easy place to knock out some shopping, often with free shipping. Personally, I like to do my online holiday shopping through the AAdvantage E-shopping Mall, where I can earn multiple miles for every dollar I spend (and you don’t have to use an AA credit card to do this). Don’t forget to click through your frequent-flyer shopping portal! Just remember, anything you ship ahead for the little (and big) people in your house, you will have to haul home afterward.
4: Ship everything else you can ahead of you, too.
In addition to myriad gifts, those diapers and wipes or pull-ups, baby food, trusted snacks, children’s nighttime cold & cough medicine just in case can pretty much all be purchased at Amazon.com. Remember, running to the grocery store on arrival during the holidays could take WAY longer than you bargain for, so arrive prepared. If you have small, heavy items, such as baby food, consider using the large, square UPS flat-rate priority boxes, in which you can use extra changes of clothing or diapers as cushioning. You can also print the shipping at home and schedule your mailman to pick it up free off your porch or have it ready to walk to the counter of your Post Office, bypassing the line.
5: Plan your children’s in-flight, back seat, or rail car entertainment.
Grab some FREE children’s ebooks for your Kindle (see a list of the best free Kindle ebooks for children here on GoodReads) or some movies and shows for your iGadget or eGadget, and remember our Screen-free Favorites for Long Flights with Kids. You can browse more travel toy ideas here, and don’t forget the dozens of Entertainment On the Go ideas (including those song lyrics you can never remember for the drive) in Take-Along Travels with Baby.
6: Have that talk about prescription drug, vitamin, and medication safety before you arrive.
Not all grandparents realize those fluorescent orange, yellow, purple, or even plain white pills may look like candy to little ones, especially if nicely arranged in daily organizers that look like glorified Pez dispensers. Beware: many prescription drugs are also now available in easy-open containers for arthritic hands. And don’t forget to take care with any medications or vitamins you’ll be bringing in your suitcase as well that will need to be kept up and out of sight. More help on this topic in my post here.
7: Schedule your mail hold for while you’re away.
You can hop onto www.USPS.com and schedule your mail hold as soon as you know your travel dates and check it off the list. The mailman will bring all your bundled correspondence on the day that you designate, or you can opt to pick it up at your local Post Office.
8: Schedule your pet-sitter or pet boarding.
It will soon be peak pet boarding season and if you haven’t already made your reservation for Fido, you’d better get on it before your dates are full. Pet sitters also sometimes go on vacation, so if you’ve been assuming you’ve got the cat covered, it’s time to make sure. If you need help finding a pet sitter for your vacation, both SitterCity.com and Care.com now have dedicated sections for pet sitters as well as babysitters.
9: Update your Child’s Travel Kit.
Revisit Chapter 3 in Travels with Baby to make sure you’ve got everything you’ll want for this trip in your Child’s Travel Kit. Also, pack along those extra things that could make a big difference in case your child catches cold during your travels, eg. a mini waterless vaporizor and children’s nighttime cough & cold medicine that’s safe for kids 2 years+. If you’ll be flying, create your cabin-friendly Child’s Travel Kit for air travel (shown here).
10: If you’ll be flying:
Don’t forget to contact the airline if you’ll be flying with a lap child and/or a car seat and/or airplane bassinet to make sure you’ll have suitable seating assignments (if pre-assigned) and you’ll be aware of any requirements the airline may have for using these. Make your airport parking reservation now or schedule your shuttle service. For discounts on off-airport parking, you can try www.longtermparking.com, or www.discountairportparking.net, or do an online search for “discount” or “coupon” with your home airport. And don’t forget the index of online tips for flying with baby and toddler you’ll find here (and the 50 pages of air travel help in your copy of Travels with Baby!).
11. If you’ll be driving:
Get that oil change and fluid level check you’re due for (schedule an appointment if you can, it gets busy this time of year!), and be sure to go through the Road Trip Safety Checklist of items no family should leave home—in their car—without. And don’t forget the index of online tips for road trips and travel with car seats here.
12. Don’t forget that thoughtful gift for your hosts.
As I always say, ear plugs make a thoughtful (and humorous) hostess gift. Flameless candles can also make a nice gift from the newest grandchild and may be far more useful during his visit than the old-fashioned variety.
Well, according to my family, I have now officially spent way too long working on this blog post. I’m sure I’ll still think of more things, to add, too, but if you beat me to it, please share in a comment below. 😉 Good luck with your preparations! And as always…
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks