Holiday Travel Tips for Parents

kid pulling sled

All is not calm and bright as your family makes their way to Grandma’s house. The toddler has a candy cane stuck in his hair, and the music blaring from your teenager’s headphones is certainly no carol of angels. By this point, over the river and through the woods feels more like a dangerous trek across a frozen wasteland.

Whether by plane, car, or sleigh, families can cash in on those miles with these tips from Patti Freeman, chair of the Marriott School Department of Recreation Management, on how to turn travel time into quality time.

  1. Try not to complicate it. Instead of loading the car with lots of things to keep the kids entertained, have them pick two or three things they will really use on the trip. This way, the car is less cluttered and requires fewer trips to load it.
  2. If you’re going to be popping in a DVD, make sure everyone can hear. A parent who is not driving can occasionally hit pause and talk about the story. Use it as a brief teaching moment and then get back to the movie.
  3. It’s hard to talk with earbuds in and everyone scrolling through their phone. Try having everyone unplug for a period of time—mom and dad too. Or create a culture of wearing only one earbud in the car so that people can hear and respond as needed.
  4. If your family is having a hard time letting go of technology, think of ways to connect through it. Using electronic devices to play interactive games can be your ticket to some lively dialogue.
  5. Have confidence in your ability as a parent to talk with your kids. The car can be a great place for conversation. Since mom and dad are in the front seat, kids may end up being more open because parental eyes aren’t piercing their souls.

Though Christmas cheer may make parents eager to connect, Freeman suggests taking it slowly: “If a family isn’t used to unplugging and connecting, the above tips will probably cause frustration and not connection. So start small.” She recommends picking one or two things to try at first.

Parents can also start by examining their own choices. “For many parents it is just as hard to unplug and connect as it is for kids, especially once they are at the destination,” Freeman says. “How much time is spent by parents doing work with the laptop, tablet, or phone open?” According to Freeman, these are important behaviors to reflect on and be honest about as a parent.

For more family time tips that extend beyond the yuletide season, check out “The Play Off Play Off” in our fall 2013 issue.