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To Grandmother’s House We Go! 12 Tips to Ease Your Family Travel

I love everything about planning and organizing our family on any trips we take – whether by plane, car, train, boat (granted, water travel doesn’t happen too often in Northern Colorado). I don’t consider myself to be a travel expert, but my husband says I am. (Thanks honey).   

plane travel

On our first flight with Evie as a baby, we made the mistake of not replenishing the diaper bag before an evening flight out of Portland and were left with a 7-month old who was bare bottomed in her onesie, peeing all over her Daddy’s hands and Concourse A.

As our flight was boarding, we frantically searched for anything resembling a diaper. Finally, we found the only two-pack of diapers available, which happened to be 3 sizes bigger than what she wore. We spent the entire flight living in fear of her having a blow-out and cruising through the only extra diaper we had. It was late, we were unprepared and exhausted with a wiggly baby.

Diapers, we learned, are not readily available in airports and definitely not carried on airplanes. Who knew?

Since then, we have picked up a few tips and tricks and are sharing them with you in hopes they will ease your holiday travel and leave you feeling prepared to tackle a flight with your family!

Before you leave

1. Create a packing list

Depending on your destination, and how much time you have in your schedule, plan accordingly and determine ahead of time how long it will take you to pack. There are a variety of packing lists on Pinterest – I loved using this one from Wit and Wander’s blog as a guide.

2. Prep your entertainment arsenal

Any new toy or snack, coloring book, or  activity is pretty much guaranteed to hold your child’s attention. For younger kids, the Dollar Store is great for purchasing things like window clings, mini puzzles or games, coloring books and more. It won’t break the bank and you can toss it if it doesn’t hold up past the first flight!

We also love the reusable sticker books made by Usborne. Evie spent an entire hour placing stickers on a recent flight and it was a life saver!

And of course – load your tablet with some movies or shows and peruse your airline’s movie/show selection ahead of time. Intentionally depriving them of technology leading up to the trip will help hold their attention longer! 

3. Set expectations

A wonderful, well-traveled friend of mine (thanks, Shelley!) suggested preparing your child for how long it will take to get to your destination.

She suggested using distances that your child can relate to: “It will be three times to Granny and Papa’s house, then we’ll be there,” or, “California is just a little further than when we flew to Arizona and that wasn’t too bad.”  Set the expectation and behavior that is acceptable while traveling ahead of time.

4. Save the wrapping paper

Bring along your gift bags or wrapping paper and settle in with a holiday flick once you arrive at your destination to wrap your gifts!  TSA reserves the right to unwrap your presents so save time, money and headache and wait to wrap.

Day of Travel

5. Confirm flight status

If traveling during the holidays, always give yourself at least two extra hours. Last year we flew the day before Thanksgiving (the busiest travel day of the year) and the security line at DIA was nearly out the door it was so backed up.

travel delays

Visit if your departing airport is Denver International Airport; if departing elsewhere in CO, check your airport’s status.

As of late September, there has been construction in and around the airport that caused delays (the airport even has these cheeky signs up acknowledging the work being done). 

Bonus – if traveling with children, you do not need to remove your kiddo’s shoes AND you are routed through different security screening.

For those of us who do not have TSA Pre-Check or are CLEAR members, be sure to read up on the current security protocol to keep things moving!

6. Don’t dump your bottles

Breast milk does not have to be in containers 3 ounces or less when passing through security.  TSA will likely test your milk with special strips to confirm that it is indeed your liquid gold and not a dangerous substance, but no need to dump it or stress about dividing into smaller containers.  Likewise, chances are good TSA won’t make you dump bottles your babe is in the process of drinking.  

7. Nursing Rooms

Hallelujah, the days of pumping in the family restroom or plugged into an outlet at your gate are over! At least at DIA, that is (although they are popping up in airports across the country so do a little research prior to traveling).

Having pumped in many an airport bathroom, I can’t tell you how excited I am for all you nursing mamas that DIA now has NURSING ROOMS: one in each concourse, just past the security checkpoints. Visit this link for information on where you can settle in with your babe or comfortably plug in to pump.

8. Delayed flight  

train travel

Ride the trains!  It’s free, easy entertainment for little ones.

On the Plane

9. Relieve the pressure

Take-off and landing can be rough on your little one’s ears (and ours too, who are we kidding). Since you can’t hand your young kiddo a piece of gum or teach them how to pop their ears, try these strategies:  

For breast or bottle-fed babies, try to time their feeding during take off or landing. The sucking motion will help relieve their little ears and keep you, your babe, and fellow passengers happy. Likewise, use pacifiers or even lollipops for older kiddos to create the same “sucking” effect.  

10. Clorox wipes & hand-sanitizing gel

Bring them. Everywhere. A recent People Magazine article cited the germy-est places in an airport are the bins at security and the seat belt buckles on the airplanes (coming in third were the seat-back trays). Did you know aisle seats hold more germs?  [Shudder].  

11. Bring extra clothes and dress in layers

This one’s for YOU and your kiddo!  With so many chances for spills and accidents and varying cabin temperature, you’ll be thankful you’re prepared.

12. Potty trips before departure

My sister recently flew with her 2 and 5 year old and we had a good laugh hearing her tell us about cramming all three of them into an airplane bathroom.  

What are your favorite tips for traveling with kids? Let us know in the comments below!  

Happy Travels!

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