With the Halloween costumes put away for the year and the children feasting on their Halloween candy haul, it’s time to begin thinking of the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s right around the corner! Thanksgiving weekend is known for being one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. According to AAA, last year 46.3 million Americans packed their bags and journeyed at least 50 miles away from home to spend the holiday with family or friends.
Thanksgiving weekend travel is already stressful due to the sheer numbers of fellow travelers, but it can be even more stressful for families with young children – especially children with special needs. So, if you’ll be among America’s travelers in a few weeks, follow these travel tips to help your family have a smooth and happy holiday trip!
- Plan Ahead – Make a detailed itinerary and make sure your children understand each leg of the journey. Rehearse parts of the trip that may give your children moments of anxiety. Take your child on short, practice runs for car trips, or visit the airport ahead of time. Walk through the airport and point out things to your child and watch some planes take off and land. When travel day arrives, the travel expectations will feel more familiar and comfortable.
- Arrive Early for Flights – Planning to arrive at the airport early will ensure that you’ll have time to make adjustments for any travel “roadblocks”. Be sure to bring enough activities to keep your children entertained for any waits or delays that may occur
- Create Realistic Expectations – Know what your children can handle and what they will not be able to handle. You may need to add extra stops into your itinerary or perhaps travel over multiple days.
- Charge Your Devices – Ensure that all your devices are charged and that you’ve brought extra chargers. You won’t want to be in a jam if the children have used up all the battery playing games just when you need your map app to get you to your next stop.
- Pack Plenty of Snacks – Pack plenty of healthy, low-sugar snacks that your children are familiar with and enjoy. You never know when a flight will be delayed or if the next restaurant is not for another 100 miles down the road. Healthy snacks will help keep kids from getting cranky due to hunger.
- Pack Your Sense of Humor – Make the trip fun for you and your kids. Laugh with your kids and tell jokes. Make up road trip games to play with your kids along the way. It will make the trip more fun, enjoyable and memorable for you and them.
- Bring or Buy Special Needs Foods – If your child has special dietary restrictions, be sure to bring things you know they can eat. Special needs foods may be harder if you don’t know the area as well as home.
- Discuss the House Rules – Make sure your children know what will be expected of them at all locations – how to behave on a plane or in a hotel or even what special rules Grandma has at her house. Knowing what is expected up front will help them to follow along with your expectations.
- Do a Safety Check – Pack a first aid kit. Make sure each child has a proper car seat. Bring all medications your children are on.
- Pack Insurance Cards – Just in case you need to visit a doctor while out of town, be sure to carry your insurance cards with you. It will make the process much easier and you’ll be able to save your concerns for your sick child.
- Visit a Local Playground – Help your kids create a memory of their adventure. Visiting a playground while on the road or in Grandma’s hometown will not only give them something fun to remember during your travels, but will also give your kids a chance to burn up some of the energy they’ve accumulated while playing 50 State License Plate Bingo in the backseat.
- Keep Your Cool! – There will always be things that happen, whether it be a speeding ticket from the highway patrol or a missed connection during a layover. Take a deep breath and go with the flow. If you don’t stress things that happen outside of your control, you’ll better enjoy your trip and so will your kids.
Remember at the end of the road is Grandma’s special turkey and dressing or pumpkin pie that you’ve been craving for months – as well as hugs and smiles and family memories. Happy Thanksgiving!