Tips for Holiday Travel with the Family - Page 2

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Airport Adventures
Once the bags are packed, your journey awaits. Oonagh Shiel, an editor with Cheapflights.com, breaks up her family's travel day into stages to make it more manageable. Planning additional time for every step of the way makes the trip less stressful, she says, whether dealing with traffic or navigating endless security lines. Here's how she tackles a typical trip:

Step One: Get to the Airport
If possible, Shiel tries to get a ride, since taking public transit can sap a family's energy before the holiday airport experience even begins.

Step Two: Get Through Security
The things that make security lines easier for adults—slip-on shoes, dressing in layers so that bulky jackets and outerwear can be removed, having neatly organized electronics and cords—go for kids, too. Shiel makes a beeline for the family lane, which often offers more breathing room, along with the company of other families. If you're traveling with two adults, Shiel suggests that one adult be in charge of the gear—the folding stroller, the car seat, the backpacks—while the other helps the kids get themselves through the scanner.

Step Three: Enjoy the Wait
Once they've made it through security, most families breathe a small sigh of relief. As well they should: Airports, though intimidating, offer a wealth of entertainment options for kids.

Shiel researches the airport in advance to find its kid-friendly offerings, which can include everything from a playground complete with a kid-sized traffic control tower, at Boston's Logan International, to a scavenger hunt, at Denver International. (Cheapflights.com has a list of diversions at a number of the country's major airports.) Shiel also signs up for airport newsletters to learn about new exhibits and events, especially during the holidays. For example, in 2010, Philadelphia International Airport hired Victorian carolers to stroll through the terminal. In San Francisco, travelers were treated to live music from everyone from bell ringers to R&B artists.

There are simple pleasures, too—from riding the airport train between terminals to just watching planes take off and land. My son was fascinated by the enormous grizzly bear on display in Missoula International Airport.

Step Four: Get on the Plane
Once your plane is boarding, take advantage of family pre-boarding to get yourself and your kids settled. If you can select your seats in advance, picking a row near—but not right next to—the restrooms can be a boon for little ones who have to go to the bathroom (right now!).

In-Flight Entertainment
By dividing the journey up into steps, Shiel says, "it seems like once you get on the plane, you're almost there."

Now's the time to start pulling out all of the goodies you've packed in your carry-on—one at a time. Lanin of Travel Mamas recommends starting with the least exciting things, and ramping up the entertainment as the journey goes on. "It's always a smart move to bring some secret hidden treats," she says, a tactic that works for car trips, too.

To soothe small ears during takeoff and landing, bring along chewing gum or hard candies for older kids; babies can nurse or take a bottle.

At the end of the flight, wait for other passengers to disembark before rounding up your crew, Shiel suggests. Bring baby wipes and a small bottle of hand sanitizer to get everyone freshened up to meet family waiting in baggage claim.

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