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2023 Dec

Prep for Holiday Travel

Plan ahead to make children’s time with loved ones safe and happy.

With the upcoming holidays, many of us are looking forward to visits from families and friends. Whether you are traveling or hosting, please consider children when it comes to holiday events. Plan ahead to make children’s time with loved ones safe and happy.


When traveling with children, pack plenty of snacks and patience. If you are flying, you may pre-board to give your child time to get settled. It will help infants to nurse, take a bottle, or use a pacifier on ascent and descent to clear their ears from pressure changes. Toddlers may benefit from taking drinks from their sippy cup. School-age children may enjoy chewing gum to help with ear pressure. Car rides are improved with pre-planned breaks for walking and play. Sometimes, taking two days to travel is optimal to forcing one long drive and listening to children cry. Games, movies, and songs are a welcome distraction. These may end up being memories you cherish.


Comfort items may help to ease any discomfort for kids. Infants may want their pacifier. Toddlers may want their “lovie.” School-age children may want a toy. Teens may want their favorite pillow or video game. Bringing their favorite toy or stuffed animal will help your child feel a bit more comfortable when going to new surroundings. Having their “lovie” provides a sense of comfort, which can be reassuring.

Explaining the day’s events will help your child as well. Children like to know what comes next. “First, we will have breakfast at Grandma’s house, and then we will go to see Auntie Jo. Tonight we will see holiday lights.” Allow the children to be as involved in the decision-making as possible. “Would you rather help make cookies or take a walk?” Giving children a voice helps them feel a sense of belonging and importance.


Children are often sent to play while grown-ups visit. Be aware that others’ homes are likely not “child-proof.” Ask your hosts if they can store the dishwasher pods and the laundry pods out of reach, as these look like candy to young children. Beware that grandmother’s purse (often set within reach of little hands) often contains medication that can be dangerous for children. Stairs without gates can be a fall hazard. Fire pits may be warm and inviting, but children can get burned. Bodies of water such as pools, ponds, toilets, and bathtubs are drowning risks. Cigarettes may be toxic if ingested. Be sure that guns are stored and locked. Proper supervision is key. Safety first.


Discuss the pet situation with your host. Introduce your child carefully to any pet. Some children love pets and may be overly aggressive while others may be afraid. Keep in mind that a toddler’s height puts their face in line with many pets which can lead to bites to the face. Teach your child caution and respect around animals. If your child is afraid, do not force the interaction. Feel free to ask your hosts to leash or contain their animal. An unwanted attack will not make the holidays merry.


Children may be shy at first around family members. Give them time to “warm up” as they meet and greet everyone. Never force a child to hug or kiss someone they do not know. Allow them to learn to feel comfortable choosing who they share affection with. Teach children that they do not have to keep secrets or go with someone that they do not feel comfortable with. Large crowds of folks, even loving family folks, can make children feel overwhelmed. Give them some time away from the chaos. “Let’s take a break and go read a book in the den where it’s quiet.”


Prepare yourself for a few restless nights of “getting settled.” No one sleeps well in a new place, especially children. Talk about where you will sleep. If possible, take a portable crib for the baby. Having her own pillow and blanket may comfort a younger child. School-age kids and teens may like to take their favorite comic or book to read before bed. Pack a night-light. Try to keep bedtimes and wake times similar to your regular routine. Bedtime routines (bath, book, bed) may help your child understand that it’s bedtime.

A bit of planning and some caution can keep any holiday gathering merry and bright. Happy holidays, everyone!

Melanie J. Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP

Dr. Melanie J. Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP, is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner as well as core faculty member at Walden University. Her book, Raising Today’s Baby: Second Edition, is available on


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