Thanksgiving Travel Tips with Kids | Ciao Bambino!

Turkey Time Travel Tips

Thanksgiving is coming.

I know what you’re thinking.We haven’t even hit Halloween yet. (Are your kids’ costumes finished?) The calendar will turn to November first and Halloween will be a distant memory. There will be very little time to catch your breath before you’re packing a suitcase to head to Grandma’s house.

Traveling with kids is challenging enough. Throw the busiest travel days of the year into the mix and you can have a recipe for disaster. But a little bit of planning and organization can make the holidays with family feel like an actual vacation. You won’t come home feeling like you’ve been on a European vacation with the kids, but you will come home happy.

Holiday Travel Tips

When To Go and When To Come Home

I’m a firm believer travelling provides an education in its own right, and have never hesitated to pull my kids from school when necessary. That said, I now have a middle school student and the last time she missed class for a trip, her stress was a new element to reckon with. But Thanksgiving week, timing is everything. Try and stay away from the crazy travel days, even if it means missing a day or two of school. A majority of folks fly on Wednesday and Sunday. Try leaving on Tuesday, and coming home on Saturday. Being home a day early gives the whole family a day to decompress and get back into routine before heading back to school and work.

If that doesn’t work for your family, how about flying on Thanksgiving Day? Depending on how far you have to go, you can probably make it just in time for turkey and avoid all the pre-meal hullabaloo. Take the following Monday and maybe even Tuesday off, and you’ve still got enough time for a nice visit. An added perk, the price of flying might also be nicer on your wallet.

Pack Light

Luggage fees for a family add up fast. Do you really have to check bags? Think about it. Packing light is not impossible (see my family travel packing tips). If you’ve got school age kids, there’s no reason they can’t handle a rolling carry-on. This is not the time to spoil them. Grandma has a washing machine, so don’t pack the whole closet and limit the shoes. The pair you’re wearing on the plane and another for good measure is a good rule of thumb. And don’t lug things like diapers and wipes. I’d be willing to bet there’s a Target or Walmart wherever you’re going. Get what you need when you arrive, and use it before you head home.If you just can’t seem to lighten the load, consider shipping a box before you go.The mail is usually cheaper and easier than the sometimes un-friendly skies.

Not checking luggage has an additional, often overlooked benefit. You can skip another line and walk right past the luggage carousel. This is usually about the time kids (and parents) are tired and ready to hit the wall, so by-passing the wait and the possibility your luggage has gone to Italy instead of Ithaca, can give you good reason to smile.

Get Online

It has never been simpler to handle all the paperwork that typically comes along with flying. Check in for your flight online, in the comfort of your own home and print your boarding passes. When you hit the airport, you can head right to security with your carry-ons. If you’re carrying any liquids remember they must be 3 ounces or less and fit into a quart size plastic bag. Put you baggie in an exterior pocket, so it’s easy to find when you go through security.

Ponder Parking

Think about parking your car, when you purchase your plane ticket. If you have a friend that can give you and your family a lift to the airport, take advantage of their generosity. It’s not essential by any means, but not having to deal with parking can make the traffic rush all the easier. For those of us who don’t have saints for friends, reserve parking ahead of time. This isn’t a trip to Las Vegas, don’t depend on good luck. Planning parking is a win-win situation. You’re guaranteed a spot and many times, you’ll get a better rate, so you can save money for the next adventure. If you don’t want to deal with loading the kids on and off the parking lot shuttle, divide and conquer. Drop the kids and one parent off at the airport, while the other parks the car. It gives the kids plenty of time to stretch their legs and go to the restroom before making the trek through security.

Give Yourself Some Extra Time

Anything can happen on the way to the airport, and it usually does. Traffic jams, bridge closures, emergency bathroom breaks — get the idea?Know the toll-free number for your airline. Program it into your cell phone. Hopefully, you won’t need it. But if you do, you’ll be happy you don’t have to waste time dialing information.

And it just stings when you finally arrive at the airport only to find the line to make it through security looks like the most popular ride at Disney World. Take a deep breath. If you gave yourself extra time, it doesn’t matter. When you get to the gate early, relax and think about all the turkey and stuffing in your future. That’ll probably make you hungry, and even if you’re not hungry, I guarantee by this point the kids are.

Pack Snacks

Snacks and kids go hand in hand, and airport food can often leave a lot to be desired. Don’t be afraid to pack food. As long as you’re not carrying liquids, security won’t have any problem with it. If you’re lucky enough to have made it to the gate early, you can have a picnic. It’s a fun way to pass the time at the gate or on the plane. And just think of how jealous the person sitting across from you will be …


Don’t count on the in-flight movie.Take some time when you help your child pack their carry-on bag (see my packing travel tips for carry-on luggage). Think of the things you and your kids use on a daily basis, that’s what you want to take on the plane. For my kids, most of the must haves already live in my purse. There’s the iPad or iTouch, cell phone with camera, and depending on my deadline, my netbook. Hours of entertainment for the travelling kid and hopefully not too weary, traveling parent. Need entertainment ideas? See our posts on travel related holiday gift ideas for kids and long list of travel activities for kids.

Relevant Links:

10 holiday travel tips

Fall travel, favorite leaf peeping experiences

10 great fall family getaways

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