Holiday travel with kids: 5 tricks for an easier time

I leave this afternoon for an early holiday visit with my grandsons. I've got my grandma bag packed with lots of festive fun, and I shipped my Christmas gifts via UPS yesterday to arrive at Bubby and Mac's house tomorrow. No sense lugging them in my luggage when I could ship them for basically the same price—and be able to wrap them beforehand, with no complaints (or tearing open) by TSA.

I'm excited and all set to go. The only thing that will be missing from the trip is PawDad. This will be a solo trip for me to see our grandsons as the primary reason for heading to the desert is to cover childcare while Megan and Preston cover their seasonal obligations and celebrate their birthdays (Preston's was yesterday, Megan's is Friday).

Mac and Gramma 2011It's pretty easy for a grandma to get up and go for a holiday visit to the grandsons. It's not so easy to do the celebrating the other way around, with the grandsons and family traveling to Grandma's. Megan and Preston know that for a fact, as that's what they did last year—traveled over the river and through the woods to Gramma and PawDad's house.

I naturally had no trouble at all welcoming my grandsons and their parents to my home Christmas Day last year. For Megan and Preston, though, the trip was rough, and they've sworn to not travel again at Christmas—at least not while the boys are young and restless.

Bubby at Gramma's 2011I would love nothing more than to have my entire family together for Christmas celebrations, but I get it: Traveling with young kids is hell challenging.

That said, there are some tricks for making an easier time of it. Claire Haas, mom of two and Vice President of Education for Kiddie Academy, offers the following tips for handling holiday travel with kids. Share her ideas with the moms and dads heading your way with your precious grandkids in tow, ripe and ready for seasonal spoiling by Grandma and Grandpa:

•• Consider traveling at off-peak hours. Start the trip at 9 p.m. instead of 9 a.m. Doing so will avoid traffic, and the kids may just sleep for part of the trip. Increase the chances for sleep by an extended playground trip to burn off energy before buckling them in the car seats.

Courtesy Kiddie Academy• •A dollar store cookie sheet with magnets works great as a lap desk for the car or on a plane. The raised edge can help prevent crayons and cars from landing on the floor.

• •If facing a long car ride with the kids, pack each a "travel activity bag" with new games and activities to keep them busy. Keep the bag in the front seat and dole out a new item each hour. For example, a printed map for playing the license plate game or bubbles to blow out the car window.

• •Consider relaxing any restrictions on daily screen time. Video games, iPads and laptops can be true lifesavers when dealing with kids facing hours in close proximity to their siblings.

•• You have two choices on bedtime disruptions during holiday travel—stick to the routine while away from home, or just accept that rules are out the window and make the best of it. For some children, staying up past bedtime during the holidays is a special treat they'll remember fondly. Do what will work best for your family, and shrug off raised eyebrows from a great aunt or other relative because kids are allowed to stay up late or required to stay on schedule.

Today's question:

Would you rather travel to visit family at the holidays or host the family at your place?