1. Book early. Chances are you will have better flight options, seat selection and lower prices if you commit soon. It can be difficult to travel light during the holidays. Southwest and JetBlue are the only carriers currently offering free checked bags, but some airline credit cards and frequent flier programs offer complimentary checked luggage for members. Mailing clothing, gear and gifts ahead might save time, money and the stress that comes with managing your brood and heavy bags. Contact: farecompare; southwest.com; jetblue.com
2. Travel in comfort. Delayed flights, cool cabins and changing climates make dressing for flight time a challenge. Sweatshirts double as a pillow. A pashmina shawl serves as a lightweight blanket. Stow extra clothes to ensure warmth and comfort should original outfits be unsuitable. Suggest slip-on shoes and minimal jewelry to ease the stress of moving through security lines. Layers are a good strategy.
3. Plan entertainment. The youngest travelers will find comfort in familiar toys and games amid the holiday travel chaos. Remind older kids to pack their favorite cards, games and tech toys and to plan for the possibility of flight delays. E-readers or tablet computers enable a wealth of engaging entertainment without extra weight.
4. Eat, drink and be merry. Hungry and thirsty travelers get cranky in a hurry. On-board options are limited, if even available. Further, airport dining during the busy holiday stretch can be expensive both in terms of time and money. Your safest bet is to pack healthy options that will appeal to your band of travelers. Include easy-to-eat snacks such as carrot sticks, nuts, apples, cheese and granola bars. Consider bringing empty water bottles through security and filling them near your gate.
5. Stay healthy. Be sure to pack all medications in your carry-on and keep items you’ll require on board at the ready.
Ask your doctor well in advance for suggestions on keeping childhood motion sickness at bay and for tips about maintaining clear ears in flight. Eye drops can ease discomfort caused by dry in-flight air. Pack antibacterial wipes and use them often to clean hands as well as seat handles and tray tables.