Preparing for holiday travel with babies and toddlers can feel overwhelming, I know. Here are a few secrets I hope will help to ease your family’s way.
1: Rent baby gear to meet you at your destination.
You don’t have to schlep everything with you in order to have a safe crib or toddler bed at your destination–or even a baby swing to sooth your infant while you enjoy your holiday meal. Click here for my Worldwide Directory of Baby Gear Rentals to find an agency at your destination. Some will even meet you at the airport with a car seat, among other things!
2: Arrive prepared with temporary childproofing solutions.
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. Click here to see recommended helpful products for temporary childproofing.
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: Order up some great travel toys and activities to help pass the time.
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 tablet, 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: Pack up 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 vaporizer 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.
7: Flying? Make an airport parking reservation in advance.
It’s not fun looking for a second or third airport parking lot as the clock ticks toward your departure. Make sure your space will be waiting for you before the big day arrives. For discounts on off-airport parking, you can use code “THANKSGIV5” for Exclusive $5 Off for November at AirportParkingReservations.com through November 30. 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!).
8. Driving? Use the “Road Trip Emergency Checklist.”
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 Emergency 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.
9. Keep your Take-Along Travels with Baby guide handy.
Remember, you’ll have hundreds of tips at your finger tips to help with all sorts of situations along the way–soothing fussy baby on an airplane, entertaining toddlers in flight or in the car, conquering jet lag as a family, nursing on the go, changing diapers in difficult situations, and then some–when you upload Take-Along Travels with Baby to your smart phone, Kindle, or Nook.
Good luck with your preparations! And as always…
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks