No matter your destination, if you’re traveling during the holiday season, you’ll have lots of company.  Please don’t let terrible drivers and lines at the airport get you down. Here are some tips that just might help you survive (and enjoy) holiday travel for the family vacation. And enjoy the experience.

Do your research.  Then do some more.

A family vacation during the holidays doesn’t have to be etched in stone. You know that direct road will have bumper-to-bumper traffic. Is there a scenic route? It’s a long ride on the expressway, so do the back roads offer a few places to stop so the kids can jump out? When taking to the skies, make sure to pre-check your airline’s policies concerning carry-on luggage and fees for checked bags.

Keep in touch.

Download the latest travel apps before you leave home. Flight View gives you real-time updates on delays, baggage numbers and more; GateGuru gives you approximate times you’ll spend in security. Heading out on the road? Find the traffic tie-ups, cheapest gas and cleanest bathrooms on the road with Waze, GasBuddy and SitOrSquat, respectively

Feed their needs, literally.

Be sure to keep the kids fed and hydrated. We all know that hunger results in crabbiness for young and old alike. As you pack for the family vacation, be sure to toss in some healthy snacks so the kids have something to munch on without the risk of sugar shock. Bonus: Bringing your own food saves you time and money during holiday travel. Don’t forget the water, especially for air travel:  once you board the plane you may wait an hour before beverages are served. It’ll feel like an eternity with thirsty kids.

Pack light.

Keep the luggage to a minimum. If you must check luggage, be sure to keep your medications and important documents (and maybe a change of clothes) with you in a carry-on. As amazing as it may sound, luggage can get lost at airports.

A holiday traveler’s best friend: gift cards.

TSA suggests to ship wrapped gifts or wait until you reach your destination to wrap them, as they might have to unwrap a present to inspect it. Ship gifts ahead of time or bring the reward that can’t go wrong: gift cards to their favorite store or shopping site.

Travel off-peak. Travel early. Travel late. 

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday travel day of the year; it can be the beginning of the end when it comes to family vacations. Consider making a very early start on the “day of”; you’ll avoid the traffic and/or the long lines at the airport.

Did you know that that planes traveling earlier in the day have better on-time performance? And if anything goes wrong, you’ll find a flight later in the day.

Hitting the road? Do it while everyone else is asleep. The driver can always take a siesta once you reach the target.

Anticipate the unexpected.

Have only a half hour to run to a connecting gate? Driving to Boise for Christmas Eve? Leave extra time to deal with security and connections. For road trips, pack tire chains for snowy conditions, flashlights, and a blanket never hurt either.


Overheat on the Interstate? Wedged in the middle seat, between 2 kids, on an 8-hour flight? Just think of it as a new story to add to the dinner conversation. Stress over holiday travel and family vacations has become as much a tradition as turkey, a cozy fire and that one crazy gift.