According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation, after Thanksgiving, the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period is among the busiest travel periods of the year. During this time of year, the number of long-distance trips increases by 23% compared to the rest of the year’s average. We can help your family have smooth travels with our ultimate guide to holiday travel with kids.
Traveling during such busy times is usually stressful, especially if you add children into the mix. Whether you’re planning a long drive to the grandparents or traveling across time zones this holiday season, these suggestions from Assist America, our emergency travel assistance partner, will keep your family safe, sound, and sane.
Apps – Make sure you download kid-friendly apps before the journey.
Toys – Coloring books, finger puppets, stacking cups, magic markers, make-believe computer or phone, and sticker books are great options.
Games – Our favorites include Bananagrams, Spot It, Mad Libs, Rubberneckers, Melissa and Doug Travel Hangman, and Travel Blurt.
Headphone Splitters – Headphones splitters allow two kids to share a device. They’re very practical in situations where it’s inappropriate to use speakers, like on a plane.
Safety and Comfort
Hand Sanitizer and Wet Wipes – Kids get dirty very easily when traveling. Eliminate these germs fast by being prepared with wipes and sanitizer, and improve your chances of avoiding a holiday bug.
Child Locator – Busy airports and train stations can quickly turn into a nightmare if your child gets lost. Many companies offer small tracking devices and smartwatches to help you locate them quickly in such a situation.
Medicine and First Aid Kit – It’s very important to be able to attend to your child quickly when they’re hurt or sick. Make sure you’re prepared before you leave by putting together a first aid kit and packing must-have medicine.
Ease Ear Pain – During takeoff and landing, give your kids a gummy candy, chewy food, chewing gum (if they’re old enough), or a drink to get their jaw moving and ease their ear pain.
Temperature – Layers are essential for the comfort of your children, especially on the plane where it can often be cold.
Passports – Keep in mind, children’s passport expiration periods are different than adult passports. Make sure you renew them 6 months before you plan to travel.
Monitor What Your Children Pack – Chances are they’ll want to bring many unnecessary things, which will make traveling uncomfortable for everyone.
Carry-On Tips – Pack at least one extra outfit for each child in case an accident happens. If you lose your luggage, the extra outfits will also help you avoid buying new clothes for the entire family. In the meantime, remember that Assist America can help you locate and retrieve your lost luggage. Finally, plan on bringing snacks like granola bars, cheerios, individual cheese and crackers packs, applesauce, or individual hummus cups.
Bring Surprises – Children love surprises and unwrapping things, and an early holiday gift could be used as a reward for good behavior.
About Assist America
Our plans include Assist America, a unique global emergency assistance program. They serve more than 40 million members worldwide. Their services include medical and non-medical services, like medical evacuations and repatriations, prescription assistance, medical referral, lost luggage assistance, and pre-trip information. Visit AssistAmerica.com or download the Assist America Mobile App on the Apple App Store or Google Play to access a wide range of travel assistance services directly from your phone.
It’s been a little while since I mentioned a move. Since then, I’ve trotted across a few more states. (Am I actually insane? Perhaps.) After about 9 months in Indiana, my boyfriend and I just made the leap to the Seattle area in June. And moving has been taxing, as always.
I’d love to say that we planned perfectly to move across the country with ease and grace. Unfortunately, when military bases are involved, like they are for my boyfriend, there isn’t always time for perfect planning.
In the span of about 2 weeks, we:
Found an apartment
Packed our old apartment
Rented a truck
Drove across the country
Bought and assembled an apartment’s worth of new IKEA furniture
It was more the whirlwind version of moving.
Moving Your Whole Life Across the Country Recommendations
Get Help Finding an Apartment
Because we were moving to a state we’d never even visited, we did some research about areas we’d like to live, and then we hired a company to help find and show us apartments in those areas.
Between not having to rent a car on our visit and saving time before and during, it more than paid for the day of him driving us around to a bunch of apartments. And he picked the place we chose in the end.
I cannot recommend a service like this more when moving blindly. It made our lives so much easier.
We also loved our guide and are planning a double date with him and his girlfriend, so win-win-win.
Seriously Consider Movers
We did not seriously consider movers, and we are still a little sad about that. After loading the truck in Indiana, picking up my remaining belongings at home in Illinois, and driving over 12 hours a day for 3 days, my back was out when we got to Washington, and needless to say, it was a really rough way to unload a truck.
My mother was kind enough to come on this journey with us and help, but the 3 of us unloading our floppy king-size mattress alone was enough to make it worth hiring movers. I wish I had a video to prove to you that you should never accidentally bring this fate down upon yourselves, but alas, I do not, so instead, I like to think it looked a lot like this:
Combined with the floppiness of this:
And this small child’s linebacker skills:
Seriously, hire movers. We will next time.
Splurge and Take Extra Time Off
I only took off a few days for us to drive across the country, and then I hopped back online on Monday. I really wished I’d taken off the whole week.
Poor Matt assembled almost an entire apartment’s worth of IKEA furniture without much help from me while I was working. And it took a lot longer to have any functioning TVs or food in our fridge because I wasn’t available to help.
You will need more time than you thought you would to unpack and settle in a move across the country compared to a state or even just a few miles away. Trust me.
Plan to Grocery Shop
We didn’t plan time to grocery shop early on, and while our kitchen was the first thing unpacked, we couldn’t really use it for about 5 days. We’re lucky to have a grocery store, Starbucks, Panera, Chipotle, and more across the street, so we didn’t live off just fried food for days. But it was still not fun or good for us.
When you eat every meal out for 8 days in a row, you’ll understand that it’s expensive and exhausting. Plus, you’ll feel really gross by about day 3. So plan to be able to cook or at least throw together cereal or simple salads early.
Protect Your Skin and Hair
Even though our local water board just sent us a report about how great our water is, and I’d been living with extremely hard water in Indiana, better water might still wreak havoc on you.
I’ve had more breakouts in the last 2 months than I did at any point going through puberty or bouts of extreme all-night cramming in college. My normally happy combination skin has taken a full nose-dive into adult acne territory, and my boyfriend’s wasn’t doing too well at first either.
I know it sounds crazy, but Google it. I’m not the only one. Lots of people who have moved across the country or move regularly, like those in the military, have hit this issue.
There are many factors in a move that can take a toll. From the stress of the move, to different water, to adapting to a city without air conditioning and much more sweating than normal (no really, apartments pretty much never have air conditioning in Seattle), to a change in climate, they can all affect your skin. These changes can also be hard on your hair.
My skin’s finally starting to get used to the new digs, but you can save yourself by being prepared. Digging out my normal skincare routine and regularly sticking to it during 2 weeks of moving and unpacking wasn’t high on my list of priorities, and obviously, it should’ve been.
If you don’t take care of yourself during the move, you will regret it later. Wash your face in the morning and before bed, and be prepared to adapt your old routines. You might need a new lotion or conditioner for suddenly dry skin or hair or to change your old products while your skin and hair adapt.
Work on Patience and Understanding
While you’re moving, it’s extremely high stress, and it opens the door to fighting. My mom and I already have the tendency to bicker, but my boyfriend and I are usually very level-headed.
In a twist of fate, my mom and I did a pretty great job, and the bickering mostly bubbled up with my boyfriend, probably partially because we were trying to make serious life decisions on barely any sleep while being completely physically exhausted, all with the added bonus of an extra witness there to see us duke it out.
I’ve had some not-great relationships in the past, which at times made it feel like I had a free pass to be mean if an argument required it. But my current boyfriend is wonderful and one of my oldest friends, and he doesn’t deserve that. As a result, I’ve really had to work on my patience and understanding in the middle of arguments.
One of the best rules I can recommend is don’t fight while you’re exhausted, hungry, or triggered by something else, like work. But when you’re exhausted, hungry, and triggered by moving, which you’re doing all of together, some fights have to bubble up. It’s fate.
Tips to Be More Patient for a Fair Fight
What you can do is be ready. Try to practice patience with some deep breaths, some gratitude for the other person, and maybe just by embracing the uncomfortableness of what’s going on together.
Then, when you can’t avoid that fight, fight fair:
Recognize the other person’s concerns and feelings.
Listen, listen, listen.
Never mix meanness for the sake of meanness or other issues in your relationship into an argument they don’t belong in.
Don’t say things like ultimatums you don’t mean. If what you’re arguing over isn’t a relationship deal breaker, don’t taunt that it is in the heat of the moment.
Know your own and each other’s limits. My boyfriend likes to talk things out right away. I like time to cool off so I don’t lash out. We both know that about each other and try to make arguing work for both of us, even when that’s hard to do.
Pick your battles carefully and get comfortable with compromise. Instead of arguing over a soap dispenser, wait and find one you agree on because it’s just a soap dispenser. If you don’t really care what color that side table is, but your partner really cares, give them the win. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did after the 800th snap decision you have to make in the middle of IKEA.
Always bring it back to a place of love and respect, even while you’re arguing. Never forget that you’re partners in this, even if (when) they’re driving you crazy.
Forgive easily. Moving is too stressful to hold every meltdown against the other person, and with a huge move, there will definitely be some meltdowns.
Take Time to Relax
Luckily for us, we got our big move in right before a big vacation to Hawaii, so we had a built-in break about a month after the move.
Hawaii was gorgeous, and having never been that close to the equator before, a great reminder of the value of sunscreen.
But you should plan time to explore your new home or get away if you need to, even if it’s only for a date night, a weekend, or a massage.
And don’t beat yourself up over the occasional splurge during this time. If there were ever a time to have some real ice cream or a steak, it’s when you’ve just picked up your whole life and dropped it nearly 5,000 miles away.
And for fun, because, Hawaii…
Appreciate Your New Home
After about a month of craziness, hopefully your new home will be in decent shape. At which point, you need to take a step back and give yourselves a big pat on the back.
This will be the second time I’ve moved across the country blindly, once with nothing but a couple suitcases, and this time with everything I own. It’s scary, and stressful, and so worth it. Don’t forget to appreciate what you’ve built.
I’m finally taking a second to admire my gorgeous apartment in a brand-new building, my wonderful puppies, our gorgeous surroundings, my boyfriend who calmly spent about 10 hours in an IKEA with my mom and I and built like 15 pieces of furniture, and the awesome job that let me move across the country and keep working for them remotely, saving me from a frantic job search at the same time. #Blessed, am I right?
And I live about 25 minutes away from this. Seriously, how can you stay burnt out living anywhere this gorgeous!
The end of April and beginning of May might be the craziest month-long stretch I’ve ever planned for myself. I will be battling traveling stress each week with almost no downtime in between.
First, I spent a weekend with loved ones around Indy, going to the zoo and shopping. Then, my mom, sister-in-law, and I went on a big weekend trip to New York City to see a Broadway show. The next weekend, I’m headed to Chicago to visit some old friends. The 2 weekends after that, I’m driving home for events, and then the weekend after that, I’m off to Seattle.
No matter what, traveling is stressful, so to get through it, I’m trying to plan ahead, stay on top of things, make the healthiest decisions I can on the go, and enjoy the moments of fun that are the whole point of traveling in the first place.
Planning Ahead to Avoid Traveling Stress
While tickets and such have been booked ahead of time, the planning never ends there.
First, I spring-cleaned my apartment like crazy so that it could survive the coming month without looking like a wasteland.
I pulled tons of great tips to make this list from the helpful resources we shared in our Spring Cleaning for National Cleaning Week post, like using rubber gloves to wipe dog hair off my furniture, freshening up my garbage disposal, and more.
Organize, Organize, Organize
I’ve been making a list of all the things I need to do before each trip, so I don’t do something silly and forgetful, like making myself late by forgetting to put gas in my car before driving to the airport.
And this list doesn’t just include the things I need to pack but also the things I need to do around the house and the errands I need to run first.
This helps me stay on track and not forget all the little things that have to be pulled together at the last minute.
I try to pack as much as I can ahead. The key to-do’s I can mark off in advance:
Buy or organize travel liquids if I’m flying.
Check the weather forecast.
Plan versatile outfits, like things that can mix and match and fit the weather and planned activities, including shoes because I get blisters easily.
Organize or switch to a purse better for travel.
Never forget essentials, like headphones, a book, sunscreen, bandaids, gas in the car, and meds.
Plan driving times and routes.
Then, at the last minute, I can just add in the things I’m still using, like my makeup bag, toothbrush, and phone charger, and avoid all that last-minute packing stress.
Planning for Work
Another important key to planning ahead is making sure work is ready for me to be completely unavailable.
Usually that just means talking to my co-workers in advance and making sure anything that takes place on the weekends, like social media for the next week, is done early.
One of the easiest ways to ruin your vacation is to have to drop everything for work, so make sure you’ve talked to your co-workers and set boundaries for when you’ll be available.
Then, stick to those boundaries because vacations are an important part of avoiding burnout. If you’re only going to check email once a day, stick to that and do it at a time when it won’t ruin your day.
Staying on Top of Things to Avoid Traveling Stress
No matter how much planning you do, it can all fall apart while you’re there if you focused on the wrong thing.
I like to make plans for each day with loose free time around them. You never want to have to be too many places in one day, so one meal with reservations and one event or activity that requires tickets in advance per day is probably plenty. You can munch or discover something new when you’re actually hungry the rest of the time, which can help you avoid overeating on a trip. And you’ll have more time to focus on something you love instead of rushing off to your next activity.
I also like to have extra time planned in so that if I’m exhausted, I can take a nap, shower after a hot outdoor activity, or simply enjoy downtime by watching a movie or grabbing an appetizer with my loved ones.
Get Your Bearings
Another key can be knowing your location and how to get around. I’ve lived in New York and Chicago, so I know my way around the neighborhoods and how the subways work, and pulling up a location on my phone is more than enough for me to find my way in either place.
However, I’ve never been to Seattle, so looking at maps and familiarizing myself with what’s where will be a much more important part of planning that trip so I don’t end up lost when I get there.
Identify what you need to focus on in preparation for each trip for a smooth journey to avoid hiccups in the moment.
Start the Day Off Right
Each morning of your trip, it’s a good idea to review your plans with everyone. Not only will it put you all on the same page, but it will help you remember which important tickets, confirmation numbers, or reservation details you need to bring along that day for your planned activities.
Making Healthy Choices to Avoid Traveling Stress
Traveling stress skyrockets for me when I feel guilty about it, so I’m trying to make healthy choices wherever I go.
A few weeks ago, I bought a Ringly ring. Ringly is a fitness tracker that syncs to your phone but looks like jewelry. I’d been wanting a tracker for a while, and the design of these adorable pieces made me finally get on board.
You charge it in a ring box and manage it from an app on your phone, and no one would ever know from looking at it that it’s a tracker.
Because of this new tracker, I can see how much walking I’m doing each weekend. The weekend in Indy, I walked 9.2 miles. And in NYC, we planned in time to walk the High Line and the bottom half of Central Park. We ended up walking 25.5 miles total!
I also try to choose healthier food choices most of the time without sacrificing the experience.
Enjoying the Moment to Avoid Traveling Stress
Finally, the stress-busting key for me is enjoying the fun parts of traveling. Those moments have to outweigh the stress, or it’s not worth it!
In NYC, we:
Ate at Bobby Flay’s Gato
Saw the new show Amélie
Spent a day at Chelsea Market
Walked the High Line
Had a ball at Waitress, including the perfect-serving-size, tiny Key Lime and Marshmallow Pies at intermission (And they raised $20,000 dollars in a little auction at the end of the show for charity!)
Indulged in the special Easter brunch menu at Tom Colicchio’s Craft
Explored Central Park
With more crazy weekends ahead of me, I hope my planning helps me stay sane!
Tips for Your Travels
If you need more tips to make it through your next trip and traveling stress, these can help:
This last year has been a long and busy one, and I’m going to be pretty honest when I say I’m exhausted, filled with stress, and not feeling very healthy. The good news is that while I feel that way, it’s not entirely true.
I started working a lot of overtime last May, and it didn’t end until December. And even when I stopped working extra, I was still very busy when I was on the clock.
More than 46% of Americans’ workplace stress is caused by their workload, so I know I’m not alone in putting stress on myself to get things done. And when your levels of this kind of stress get too high, you’re more likely to develop high blood pressure, heart attacks, and other disorders, according to The American Institute of Stress.
Then, in February, I started packing to move again. I tried my best to declutter my stuff. (I donated a lot of old clothes and tossed any traces of college notebooks and many unnecessary knick-knacks. And after moving all my books, I’m once again wondering if a Kindle is the way to go, but you just can’t replace the smell of physical books!)
From there, my pup and I moved into my friend’s apartment, where we’ve gained the company of this gorgeous (and crazy) puppy.
So you could say that I’m probably suffering from one problem that’s causing that exhaustion: stress, stress, and more stress.
The good news is I’ve been taking steps to fight it.
First, my boss and I worked out an arrangement where I get to work from home on some days. Not only does this make eating healthy easier (I don’t have to be as prepared in advance) and allows me to document my food on our Instagram any day of the week, but it also lets me have a few days a week that I know will be calm(er). No matter how crazy things online get, I’m sitting in my own bed with my best stress-buster, Tootsie, by my side.
I mean, just look at that face.
My friend is also a certified physical trainer, so, now hold your breath on this one… I’ve also been going to the gym! *gasp*
I know, it’s been building to this for over a year, and finally, I’m a pretty regular gym-goer.
The first day, I was shocked by how weak I’d really become (doing 10 real pushups was really hard), and I’ve had a number of realizations about how pullups make me hate everything. The first few weeks, I was so sore I could barely stand.
But I’ve finally hit a groove. Some days I run, others I’ve been focusing on simple weight training, mostly using body-weight exercises. And, I’m not sore all the time anymore, so we’re making progress!
As spring has rolled in, I’ve also been getting out with those lovely dogs more often to the park across the street. And even better, I’ve been taking full advantage of all that spring produce starting to show up at the grocery store.
Rally, our online wellness tool, has a mission that has you focus on fruits and veggies, which I’ve been working toward accomplishing. Essentially, you try to cover at least half of your plate with fruits or veggies at least twice a day. (Follow me on Instagram to see how I’m trying to work in more fruits and veggies.)
And most importantly, I took a short break. The American Psychological Association has some great ideas to help you bust up your workplace stress, including taking time to recharge.
My roommate just got a big job promotion and skipped town on me, which means that while I am thrilled for her, it’s time to move again.
I have moved 13 times since I started college in 2008. I went to school in Chicago, and so each year, I moved all my belongings up in the fall and then back down in the summer. Then my senior year, I moved to Manhattan… and then back to Chicago. And since I’ve been back in Central Illinois, it hasn’t been much better.
So you would think I would be a pro at the nomadic life, right? Wrong.
Moving still stresses me out. They say moving ranks high on the list of life events that cause the most stress, among things like death of a family member and divorce. I don’t know if that’s true, but by the time you get to lucky move number 13, it definitely starts to feel like it.
I’ve already signed a new lease and have until April to get everything out, which puts me in a pretty good situation. But I can feel it hanging over me like a storm cloud.
Even though you’d think the most stressful part of the process would be finding a new home, the truth is for me, that physically moving all my stuff is what I dread the most.
So here it is.
My Plan to Stay Sane for My ONLY Move in 2015
(No, really, I mean it. I refuse to move again until 2016.):
1. Make a list.
I’ll make the biggest list you’ve ever seen, so I don’t forget anything. I’m going to make a schedule, so I know which days I need to pack which rooms. Plus, this will remind me to set aside time for things like setting up my electricity, water, and renter’s insurance.
2. Do a little every day.
I’m going to plan it just right so that I get a load of stuff moved in each day when I commute before the big final furniture push. Because moving one load a day sounds totally doable, right?
3. I’m going to burn all my books…
That’s a lie. I love my books. But moving them for the 13th time will make me reconsider my life choices the next time I’m having trouble leaving Barnes & Noble without 6 new hardcovers. It’ll be great for my wallet! Positives people, focus on the positives.
4. Take my time.
I have two and a half weeks to make the switch, no need to go crazy trying to do it all the first weekend.
5. Clear out the clutter.
Each time I move, I swear I eliminate at least 3 boxes of stuff when I realize that half of the things I move, I WILL NEVER NEED AGAIN. What will go this time?! Round and round it goes! Where it lands, nobody knows…. DingDingDing! We have a winner! It’s time for those college notebooks to GO! (It’s wise to do this before physically moving them to the new place and discovering you don’t have anywhere to put any of it, trust me.)
6. Get help.
I’m going to wrangle every innocent passerby into helping me with the offer of cookies and all of the FREE things that I was planning to throw away or donate! Okay, not really. (Warning: Don’t actually welcome total strangers into your new home.) But I will torture all the family members who are still talking to me 13 moves in.
7. Stay fueled.
I’m going to get plenty of sleep and eat well. This means I will not binge on TV shows instead of sleeping. (Must not start House of Cards. Must not start House of Cards…) And I will eat a proper number of (preferably) healthy calories. Then I will have enough energy to move without replacing all bodily fluids with coffee, as I have in past moves.
8. Don’t fight the elements.
I will pay close attention to the weather, which I’m usually really bad about, so that I don’t try to move my mattress in a snowstorm and so that I do not fall on ice and break my hip.
9. Stay safe.
I will protect my back by packing correctly (heavy items in the right size boxes and on the bottom, not overpacking, etc, etc.), not falling on the ice from #8, wearing a brace when needed, and lifting with my knees. Also by having very little furniture.
10. Control myself.
I will not unpack EVERYTHING the first day I get there. My more obsessive habits usually take over, and I must have everything perfect before I will sit down. It’s exhausting. I will not do this.
11. Focus on the positives.
My, what a wonderful, long workout this is! My new apartment is newer and nicer and will therefore be much warmer than the older house I’ve been in, (my feet will finally thaw!). My complex has a gym! And pools! It is about five minutes from my work, getting rid of my long commute, wasted gas, and added miles on my car. And because I have almost no furniture, this is a wonderful opportunity to reinvent my home. Would I like to pretend I live on the beach? In a Frank Lloyd Wright house? The future? Or perhaps Downton Abbey? The options are endless! (Or, you know, whatever’s cheapest.)
12. Treat myself.
This means that I am buying ice cream post-move. Oh, and a terrarium. What is a terrarium you ask? They’re these awesome little plant ecosystems that you keep in glass jars and bowls in your house that look kind of like this:
They’re adorable, they never grow too big, and you only have to water them like every two weeks. Much better than a houseplant.
13. Find my normal.
Then I will resume my schedule of working/eating/cuddling my dog in bed to Netflix/sleeping. And then I can focus on my 2015 goals of finishing my novel, getting fit, and actually watching every Oscar-nominated movie of 2015 (and 2014… and 2013…)
So there you have it, the perfect plan, ready to go for your next (now) stress-free move! You’re welcome.