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Holiday Travel with Kids
Holiday Travel with Kids

Christmas in Bolzano, Italy

Photo by Alfredo De Simone

A few years ago an article on holiday travel with kids would have focused on survival. Just the thought of tolerating Aunt Bertha and Uncle Fred even if just for one day made navigating airports and keeping the kids entertained on the five hour road trip to Grandma's that much more stressful. And while many of us will visit family at some point during the holidays, we are taking advantage of the school break to embark on a family vacation. This year, the holiday meal is just a small part of the trip, the main objective is to spend time with the kids and introduce them to something new.

Where are we heading? Big cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Paris, Barcelona and Rome top the list. Beach vacation destinations from Florida to the Maldives aren't far behind and far away places like Vietnam, South Africa and the Galapagos are just as popular. What's more, family holiday travel is no longer rigorously associated with Thanksgiving, a U.S. holiday. Families around the world are traveling in record numbers from Christmas through the Epiphany.

All that movement translates into higher airfare, crowded tourist attractions and sold out events. Parents that have yet to finalize their holiday travel plans will want to do so, fast. Plan to travel when others are less likely to do so, for example, the two days before and after Christmas may be less crowded and quite possibly less expensive than the two days before and after New Years. And carefully plan your entire trip: family travel planning during the holiday season goes beyond booking airfare and securing a room at your desired hotel.

Plan your itinerary to beat the crowds. Visit popular tourist attractions from major landmarks to museums at off-peak such as lunchtime or the hour or two prior to closing. Choose smaller museums. In Paris, head to the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art instead of the Louvre. Take your kids to the theater on a Tuesday night rather than the Saturday matinee.

Avoid disappointment and snaking queues. If you can buy tickets to an event beforehand, do it. For a small fee, online reservations are available for everything from movies to museums in major tourist destinations around the world.

Introduce the kids to your family travel destination before depart. Help them research your destination on the internet and select age-appropriate books and travel guides. Have a 'Mexican' night out before traveling to the Yucatan and make bruschetta at home before heading off to Tuscany. Teach them a few keywords and phrases in the local language and they will hit the ground running.

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