It’s November! Changing leaves, Starbucks red cups, and with every passing day a step closer to the holidays, which for parents with young children brings up one terrifying image—spending hours on a plane or in the car with screaming, unhappy children on the way to visit family. But traveling with children doesn’t have to be the nightmare we all know it can be. Here are some of my tips to make your holiday travels go smoothly and leave your children with smiles on their faces!

Plan ahead to avoid rushing. Traveling can be stressful enough traveling with adults when you’re running to catch your flight or train, but including children in that mess makes it all the worse. When you leave plenty of time for your travels, your kids can enjoy stopping and checking things out in the airport, there is plenty of time for bathroom breaks or just “I’ve been in this car too long” breaks, and eliminates unnecessary stress.

Play observation games. When you make traveling, especially on longer trips, seem like a game rather than a pain, your child will be less prone to having a meltdown. Give them a camera and ask them to take pictures of all the animals they see, their favorite cloud, or a different road signs along the way. Play “I Spy” or other road trip games to keep them entertained and focused on the trip.

Plan for their comfort. Pay attention to what the weather will be, and pack anything they might need to be comfortable. Let them wear sweats or shorts (depending on the weather) so they won’t feel as fidget-y from discomfort. Basically, set all those minimalism thoughts aside, and just pack everything. But don’t let your children over-pack their own suitcases. Nothing is worse than the complaints of a child carrying a suitcase or backpack too heavy for them—and ultimately you’ll end up being the one carrying the extra weight.

Avoid sugar. It’s just not a good idea to placate an unhappy, tired child with candy from the gas station or airport kiosk. They will have too much energy to sit still, and their crash isn’t going to be fun for anyone.

These tips worked well for me over my son’s youth, and traveling became one of our favorite things to do together!

Do you have any travel tips of your own? Have you ever tried using one of these? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. Thank you to everyone who participated in my Goodreads giveaway of Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare! Winners were chosen today, and your books will be coming to you shortly!