Family trip by car. Dad, mom, son and daughter ride a vehicle on

(© tynyuk -

NEW YORK — Buckle up: the holiday season is a joyous time for many families — but it’s also the most stressful time of year to hit the road with kids.

A survey of 2,000 American parents of children younger than five finds 71 percent think the holiday season is the most challenging time of year to plan family trips. Most of this is due to winter weather (54%), increased traffic (51%), and increased travel costs (51%).

Holiday headaches hit the road

holiday travelSafety is the top priority for 58 percent of families when planning a holiday trip, with comfort (56%) and convenience (48%) following closely behind. In fact, 83 percent of parents prioritize their kids’ safety and comfort over their own when they travel. Nearly as many (79%) also drive slower when traveling with their children.

Roughly half are also extra cautious during holiday travel. Parents make sure their kids are properly secured by a car seat or booster seat (56%), are careful when driving through the snow (47%), and make sure to have the right directions when they hit the road (45%).

Commissioned by Britax Child Safety, Inc. and conducted by OnePoll, the study reveals nearly three-quarters (74%) of families are planning to travel this holiday season.

When traveling with kids, a large majority of respondents claim cars are the easiest mode of transportation (52%) — over airplanes (13%), buses (11%), and trains (10%). Americans also believe traveling by car allows them to travel whenever they want, on their timeline (65%), with more control over safety (55%), and more control over comfort (50%).

Four in five (80%) plan out every little detail of their family’s trip before leaving home. They especially consider factors like packing extra things for the trip (58%), when to travel for maximum comfort (52%), and check the car seat installation (47%).

Seventy-two percent of parents believe the holidays are more memorable when it involves traveling with their kids. However, 74 percent admit where they go as a family is different than before having kids.

Kid-friendly vacation spots

holiday travelWith kids present, 80 percent of parents want their vacation destinations to be “kid-friendly” — offering special activities for kids (70%), a kid-friendly menu (58%), amusement rides (57%), and high-chair or booster seats (55%). More than two-thirds of families (69%) prefer to travel to warmer areas during holiday vacations.

Nearly eight in 10 (78%) have had travel distances impacted by winter travel advisories. If it’s snowing heavily, the average family won’t travel more than an average of 102 miles and 12 percent of families won’t travel at all if it starts snowing.

“Studies have shown that nearly half of all car seats are installed wrong, but a properly installed and correctly used car seat is truly the best way to protect your child in the event of a crash,” says Sarah Tilton, Britax’s director of consumer advocacy and child passenger safety technician-instructor, in a statement.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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