Thanksgiving Travel Tips for Families with Children

Posted by Shannon on Nov 13th 2023

NOVEMBER 13, 2023

Tips for traveling with children, especially those with sensory needs, during
Thanksgiving weekend

Thanksgiving weekend is known for being one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. Experts predicted 54.6 million Americans packed their bags last year to spend the holiday with family or friends. This year the predictions are even higher.

kids holding suitcase outside of car in the fall

Thanksgiving weekend travel is already stressful due to the sheer numbers of fellow travelers, but it can be even more stressful for families with young children—especially children with special needs. So, if you’ll be among America’s travelers during Thanksgiving, follow these travel tips to help your family have a smooth and happy holiday trip!

Travel Planning

mom putting coat on little girl

Plan Ahead of Time

Make a detailed itinerary and make sure your children understand each leg of the journey. For children that have anxiety, it may help to rehearse parts of the trip. Take some short practice runs in the car to help the child become accustomed to entertaining themselves in the car. Visit the airport in advance and point things out to your children. Watch planes land and take off. When your trip arrives, the travel expectations you have for your children will feel more familiar and comfortable.

Give Yourself Extra Time

If flying, be sure to arrive at the airport well in advance. Although, it does mean extra time at the airport, it will ensure that you have time to make any necessary adjustments. If you are driving, leave extra early so you can plan to stop several times along the way to stretch your legs or even visit interesting sites on the road. If you are not in a hurry, the trip will be more enjoyable for all.

Travel with Help

If possible, you should plan on at least two adults traveling with your party, especially if you are bringing more than one child, or a special needs child. When things get rough, an extra person who can help with baggage, check-ins or even truck-stop bathroom breaks will help things go more smoothly.

Accommodations for Children

If you are using commercial transportation, call ahead to see what accommodations are in place for children. Take advantage of anything that may be helpful in keeping your children comfortable and entertained.

Travel During Sleep Times

Many children have an easier time traveling while they sleep. If possible, plan to leave at night or when your kids are used to taking naps.

What to Pack

kid playing on an electronic device while on the plane

Electronic Devices

Tablets, phones or other electronic devices provide touch, visual and audio input for hildren. Remember a set of headphones and a pair of sunglasses to help those sensitive to bright light. Download age-appropriate games ahead of time, or make sure your data plan will be sufficient for your entire trip. You can also bring a data hotspot. Ensure that all your devices are charged and that you’ve brought extra chargers, especially if you are sharing devices with your children. You won’t want to be in a jam if the kids used up all the battery playing games just when you need your map app to get you to your next stop.


Pack plenty of healthy, low-sugar snacks that your children are familiar with and enjoy. Chewable and high-protein snacks are great choices, as well as things that do not need a lot of prep and can easily be eaten on the go. You never know when a flight will be delayed or if the next restaurant is not for another 100 miles down the road.

Special Needs Foods

Halloween should be a fun time for all who want to participate. Hopefully, these tips will help you to create a fun, sensory-safe holiday for your family.

Insurance Cards

Just in case you need to visit a doctor while out of town, be sure to carry your insurance cards with you. It will make the process much easier, and you’ll be able to save your concerns for your sick child.

Bring Extra Clothes

Most likely, if flying, you’ll need to check bags. Or, if driving, you may have a very packed trunk with multiple bags. Easy access to an extra set of clothes for each child will make getting through any mishaps easier and stress free. Socks tend to disappear easily, so
on’t forget a few extra pairs of SmartKnitKIDS Socks, too.


Deep pressure input like what is found in SmartKnitKIDS Compresso-T has a calming effect on children. This can be especially helpful when traveling, as travel tends to cause elevated levels of anxiety. A compression shirt helps to regulate the senses and keep children feeling calm and in control, making getting from point A to point B that much easier.


Pack several small sensory input toys that will keep your children’s attention for longer periods of time. Choose things that are easy to pack and pick up, but also things that your children already enjoy. Good examples are Rubix Cubes, rubber band balls and Play-Doh. You may want to have a few things to play with in the hotel, as well, for down time.


Pack a first aid kit. Make sure each child has a proper car seat. Bring all medications your children take daily.

Make Memories

kids at an aquarium

Pack Your Sense of Humor

Make the trip fun for you and your kids. Laugh with your kids and tell jokes. Make up road trip games to play together along the way. It will make the trip more fun, enjoyable and memorable for you and your kids

Visit a Local Site for Children

Help your kids create a memory of their adventure. Visiting a playground, children’s museum or other children’s attractions while on the road will not only give them something fun to remember during your travels, but it will also give your kids a chance to burn up some energy they’ve accumulated along the way.

Stay Calm and Expect Changes of Plans

kids looking out window in a plane

Remain Calm

Don’t let yourself get discouraged with minor setbacks. There will always be things that happen—a speeding ticket or a missed connection during a layover. Take each day in stride and enjoy your trip as best as you can.

Expect Changes in Plans

It’s okay if things don’t go exactly according to plans. If you stay calm and continue to have fun, your kids will build happy memories of your travels. If you stress about changes, they may, too, and that’s what they’ll remember about your trip.

Remember at the end of the road is Grandma’s special turkey and dressing or pumpkin pie that you’ve been craving for months—as well as hugs and smiles and family memories.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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