Guest written by Jamie Engelman.

With the holidays approaching, many parents may begin to worry about traveling with their little ones. This is a totally valid concern; traveling can be stressful for everyone and wrangling kiddos in airports and at rest stops can seem daunting. But there are a few things you can do to prepare for your holiday travels and maintain a stress-reduced trip.

If you’re driving:

If you’re driving somewhere, you might have more flexibility in terms of breaking up the trip, but you also may have a much longer road ahead of you.

  • Plan to be in the car around baby’s nap time. Car naps are not ideal as the best quality sleep is back home, but it’s better than the alternative of no naps. If at all possible, plan to hop in the car right around the time your little one is scheduled for their nap and let the car soothe them into slumber. Please make sure to always monitor your child when they are sleeping anywhere not meant for sleep!
  • If you’re really committed and have the time, you might even look for some parks, tourist attractions, or other outdoor activities that are on your route where you can stop when baby is awake. It’s a great chance to get out into the sunshine and fresh air, which will make that next nap that much easier.
  • Use the iPad to your advantage. Download new movies to keep your little ones occupied or have a family sing-along with a YouTube playlist.
  • Buy new car toys. If you have a younger infant, car mirrors, and objects featuring contrasting, bold, colors are helpful to engage attention. For an older infant, soft books and teething rings make great distractions.

If you’re flying:

If you’re flying, you might have a more difficult time managing your child’s schedule. Whether it’s your first or fifth time flying with your child, there are a few things you can do prior to take-off to help ease the stress.

  • Call the airline and ask what regulations are in place. Do you have you buy them their own seat? Do they charge for gate-checking baby equipment? Do they allow pre-boarding?
  • Be prepared for leaky diapers and baby spit-up on the airplane: Tuck an extra outfit or two for your baby – and an extra shirt for you – into your carry-on bag.
  • Overpack diapers, wipes, and snacks – this way, you’ll be prepared for anything, including long runway delays.
  • Take the phone number/email address for your child’s healthcare provider in case you have questions while you’re on the road.
  • Get to the airport early. As you well know, everything takes longer with little ones!

To ease the burden on yourself (and your seat-mates) during the actual flight, I’d recommend doing whatever you need to get through the flight with a minimal amount of fuss.

  • Allow your child to sleep however he will sleep, be that in your arms, in the front carrier, on your lap, etc.
  • Do the best you can on the plane to keep your child comfortable and happy in order to save your sanity and the sanity of those around you.
  • If you have a toddler, consider packing them a “plane bag” with special snacks, toys, and projects for the flight to keep them occupied.

Above all else, take care of yourself. Travel can be stressful but is meant to be enjoyable. Plan for challenges and accept that your little one’s schedule may be derailed. But the calmer you are, the better you’ll manage!

Jamie Engelman, owner of Oh Baby Consulting, holds a BA in psychology, an MS in child development and has spent many years providing personal, in-home support to new moms and families with young children. She is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist. For more information visit www.ohbabyconsulting.com.