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5 Hacks to Make Holiday Travel More Bearable

Updated on June 3, 2016
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We all want to create wonderful memories that our kids will take with them into adulthood, and family vacations are one of the best ways to do so. In the weeks leading up to the big trip, our heads are filled with high hopes as we plan the trip, consider different excursions and dream about how much bonding we’re all going to do.

But then the day finally comes and everything is going wrong. We’re stressing so hard we just want to call the whole thing off and curl up on the couch with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Here are five tips to help you get through your next holiday vacation with your family and your sanity intact. And who knows, you might even save a little money in the process.

1. Let the Teenagers Tune Out a Little

I remember when we bought our first iPad. It was the day before setting out on a week-long family summer vacation. And actually, we bought three: one regular iPad and two minis.

Why the big splurge on gadgets?

Two words…

Road trip.

Okay, actually it’s more like four words…

Road trip with teenagers.

Long trips – whether traveling to Grandma’s house by car or to the tropics by jumbo jet – can be boring, especially for teenagers, so it might not hurt to compromise a little. They get to retreat into their own world for a little while, and you get to enjoy the ride and keep your sanity intact.

But this is 2016, so your kids probably already have smart phones and/or tablets, not to mention other handheld devices like Gameboys and laptops. Let them have their fun. And let them put their earphones on for the trip. Don’t try to force them to have a completely electronics-free summer vacation. Trust me, you won’t be doing them or yourself any favors.

Trying to win every battle is a sure way to put a damper on your family vacation, so pick your battles. Let the kids have their video games, headphones and Youtube time while traveling on Day 1 and on the return trip (and here and there in between) in exchange for an electronics-free activity or two with the rest of the family on Days 2 and 3.

The bottom line: when you let your kids have their space and let them make some decisions themselves, everybody wins.

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2. Compare In-Flight Comforts on SeatGuru

Most economy-class airline flights are going to offer similar experiences and discomforts, but there are some subtle differences that can make a difference when you’re on a long flight with children in tow. Some airlines offer slightly wider seats, more legroom and cheaper entertainment amenities than other airlines in the same price range.

Check out SeatGuru.com to see how the different airlines stack up.

3. Let Your Kids Plan a Day

Young kids will love being able to play the grownup and make all the decisions for activities and eating out for the day (or even just part of the day).

It can be a little trickier with teens, but for them the key is to throw the idea out there a week or so in advance and casually chat about the possibilities here and there. They might not want to choose anything at first, but over time they might start warming up and offer some feedback.

And of course, your kids just might surprise you and run with it from the very start.

4. Make it a Shopping Vacation

Try to avoid buying new school clothes and Christmas presents for your spouse or kids in the months leading up to the trip. Instead, everybody hits the mall after you land and gets to choose new clothes to wear for the rest of the vacation.

Pack nothing except your carry-ons with limited toiletries and a change of clothes for the first couple of days. Once everyone is up and awake on Day 2 – it’s shopping time! The money you saved on checked baggage fees and the large-size taxi upgrade on the way to the airport will probably pay for half or more of your shopping expenses. Plus, traveling light on the way down will make the trip so much faster and less stressful. If you’ve never flown or taken a long road trip with minimal baggage, well – it’s exhilarating – we’re talking about 17x less stress than usual.

Also, don’t waste precious dollars on purchasing luggage for the return trip. Cardboard boxes work just fine. They’re lighter and much cheaper than luggage, so that means you can have more money left over to fill them up! And they’re SO EASY to spot at the baggage claim!

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5. Beat the Baggage Claim Game

I found this great travel tip on CountryHabit. When checking your luggage, have the staff label it as “FRAGILE”. That way, it will be stored on top of the luggage pile in the plane’s hold and will be first to come down the chute at your destination.

Don’t put anything fragile in them though.

That’s just crazy.

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