The kids are all about to get out of school and like us, many of you will be traveling this holiday season with the backseat terrorists in tow. I kid, but traveling with children can be a challenge, and during the holidays when the roads are packed, the weather is unpredictable (you know, like snow in south and central Texas last week), and your schedule overflowing with holiday fun, it can go downhill fast. With my family living out of town, we have grown accustomed to family travel during the holidays, and we’ve got it almost perfected. I attribute our successful holiday travels to four family rules we stick to every single time we travel with kids. The Water Man and I are sticklers about these holiday travel rules because we want to enjoy ourselves and you can too!
Don’t Over Pack Your Schedule
Many of my family and friends live in Houston, so we always have a lot of people to see. We used to try and squeeze in seeing all of our friends and every family member every time we went to Houston. During the holidays we would attempt to drag the little people to every party, gathering, dinner, train ride, or event to get to do all the things and we all paid the price for that dearly. We paid in tantrums and long nights and car rides that would give you nightmares. It was exhausting, it was no fun, and it made us dread traveling during the holidays. Then one day we had enough.
Say no, y’all. If you over pack your schedule with kids, you will live to regret it. We have to choose what party or event each day works best for us, and if we find ourselves in a situation that is too much for our family, we bail. Kids give you a perfect excuse every time. Some people don’t understand why we can’t do everything, but we have learned to stand firm because guess who will pay the price for running your family into the ground… I’ll give you a hint, and it’s not your grandmother or your cousin or your in-laws, friend. Don’t let pressure from other people derail your plan of doing what’s best for your family. It’s not selfish or inconsiderate to want to enjoy your holidays.
Go to Bed on Time
Get those little humans to bed on time. This is non-negotiable. Do not stay out late every night and expect everyone to sleep well and be in festive moods the next day. If you want happy people, get them to bed on time because we all know putting kids to bed late does not mean they will sleep in the next day, in fact, you can almost guarantee they will wake up earlier. Children will show their very worst side when they’re tired so do everyone a favor and leave the parties early and get them to bed. Make a plan with your spouse before going into an evening event or dinner for when and how you will leave so that there are no excuses later.
If you can manage to get your people to bed on time while traveling, they still might not sleep as well away from home, so stay where your family will be most comfortable and bring what you need to accommodate peaceful sleep. If you need to stay in a hotel to do your nightly routines, then turn down Aunt Martha’s invitation to stay at her house, remember sleep is non-negotiable.
Then go ahead and pack everything your kids might need to sleep. Pack the sound machine, the special snuggle pillow, the pack ‘n play, bouncer or sleeping bags. I tend to be an over-packer anyway, but I never, ever regret packing what we need to sleep comfortably. If I can get an extra 30 minutes out of my sleeping babies, that may mean the difference between a meltdown and sanity. Two words for that, WORTH IT.
Just Say No
Have you ever been to a party and didn’t supervise your kids on the what treats they were consuming and before you knew it they’ve inhaled half of a candy jar, a dozen cookies and three helpings of hot chocolate? Raises hand… and how did that turn out for you? Sugar crashes, up until midnight, stomach aching fun? Just say no to the sugar.
I know, I’m the mean mom, but if we don’t monitor the sugar intake during the celebrations, we are done. Every event we attend is full of holiday desserts, so I allow my kids to choose one item from each place we go only after they have eaten a meal. On a regular basis, I would say one sweet treat a day, so if you use it on donuts in the morning, that’s it. But again, I’m not the Grinch, and we are celebrating, so I make an exception. But I do not bend past that because, our goal is fun without the drama. Don’t family gatherings have enough drama!
Talk these rules over with your hubby and make a plan to keep your schedule realistic for children. Make a smart choice for your sleeping accommodations, don’t hesitate to bring what you all need for good rest and discuss your sugar expectations with your kids in advance, then mamas, enjoy your holidays!
Travel with the peace of mind that you are doing what is best for yourself and your family. I can’t guarantee you won’t be greeted with an unexpected stomach bug or the flu that is already circulating, but if you follow these travel rules and your kids aren’t overdosed on fun or sugar and are eating real meals and getting sleep, you lessen the chances of any of you getting sick. So stay strong, enjoy traveling with your kids this holiday season and have a very Merry Christmas!