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Stress less with these tips on holiday travel with kids

Every holiday season millions of Americans travel over the hills and through the woods to spend time with family and friends. Holiday travel is often stressful due to crowed airports, heaving traffic and winter weather. When you add children into the mix, especially young children, stress levels can skyrocket. 

Here are a few suggestions to keep you and your family healthy, happy and sane while traveling to your holiday destination. 

Plan ahead
Making a plan will help you feel more in control and hopefully reduce your stress. Don't wait until the night before you depart to pack or do laundry. Plan to wear comfortable clothing and shoes that are easy to take off if you are flying. 

Talk to your kids about the travel plans and ask them to help prepare for the trip. Even toddlers can help pack their own bags (though they might also unpack the bags). You may want to surprise them with a new backpack they can use on the trip. Talking through travel plans can be helpful for children who have anxiety or who fear new situations, such as flying.

When flying
Plan to get to the airport early. Undoubtedly, there will be long lines and you can reduce your stress by giving yourself as much extra time as possible, especially if you are bringing car seats or strollers. Many airports also offer "family lines" at security checkpoints (sometimes shorter lines).

By getting to the airport early, you can also find ways for your child to burn energy before takeoff by walking on the moving walkways (though be mindful of other travelers and other safety precautions). 

Before your flight departs, take time to stock up on snacks. You can often find healthy snacks such as apples and crackers and milk. It's a good idea to buy water for the flight to keep you and the kids hydrated. 

Pack a fun bag of travel-sized games and books to keep kids entertained during the flight. 

When traveling with kids who still take naps, you might want to try scheduling the flights close to naptime as hopefully they will fall asleep soon after the flight takes off.

When driving
Winter weather and holiday traffic can make your drive longer than usual. Since you might be on the road for longer periods, make sure to pack a lot of healthy snacks that are filling such as cheese sticks, nuts, bananas, apples or peanut butter or cheese sandwiches. Avoid sugary snacks and make sure to bring plenty of water with you. And, always make sure you have a winter driving hazard kit and extra blankets and warm winter outerwear (hats, boots, jackets, gloves) in case of any emergencies. 

As with flying, pack a bag of games and other activities that you can do together during the car ride. To keep kids entertained, you can also try a holiday-themed scavenger hunt (look for a car with a Christmas tree on top, certain holiday decorations, etc.). Look online for free printouts of car-trip bingo, color pages and other games to entertain in the car. You can also let kids make their own playlists ahead of time for everyone to listen to in the car.

When driving long distances, research ahead of time about where you will stop for meals and breaks. This can help you know where to find healthy food so you aren't scrambling to find a restaurant when everyone is hungry and cranky. Taking regular breaks can also help kids from getting too restless and give them time to move around and burn some energy. Look for roadside attractions and historic markers to add some excitement to breaks. 

No matter where you are going, I hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season with the ones you love.

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