Don't let the crowds and chaos overwhelm you this year. With the help of our readers, we've compiled a list of tips to ensure a smooth ride to grandma's house... and back.

Plan in Advance

Have you secured your airline seats so the entire family can sit together? If not, do so now. Also, if you're planning to park your car at the airport for the duration of your trip, reserve a spot in advance, as spaces quickly book up around the holidays.

If you're driving, research rest stops along your route, which might even include kid-friendly attractions, and plan which ones you'll visit. Knowing this might even give you something to tell the kids when they ask the inevitable "are we there yet?" question. Also, be aware of detours and map your road trip accordingly.

Download Travel Apps

Part of smart planning means downloading useful travel apps. These are a few of our favorites:

Gas Buddy: While it seems impossible to save money on gas -- despite plummeting prices -- Gas Buddy manages to locate the least expensive gas station wherever you are.

TSAwait: Using statistics from TSA, this handy app calculates how much time you'll spend at airport security, on average. Though average numbers vary based on weather and holidays, you'll still get a good idea of how long the wait will be.

GateGuru: Once you and the kids clear security and get your shoes and coats back on, tap in to GateGuru, which will tell you where the nearest restaurant is located, or where you can find a shop to replace items you may have forgotten. This app also provides real-time user reviews and ratings.

Road Warriors: On our list of Apps to Make Holiday Travel Easier, this app points out the best local attractions along your route, and provides a built-in GPS, too.

Pack Snacks

Low blood sugar is a sure-fire way to make anyone miserable. Stock up on sustainable snacks like granola bars, fruit and nuts. Family Vacation Critic readers also swear by lollipops! Some domestic carriers provide small snacks (think miniature bags of pretzels and chips), plus meals (additional fees apply), but your best bet is to stock up at a store in the airport.

Bring Entertainment

Next to food, entertainment is most important. Pack coloring books and crayons, iPods and DVDs, and don't forget the Nintendo DSi! Family Vacation Critic reader Trisha Evans Williams also suggests preparing activity bags for each of your children. "On road trips, I prepare the kids their own special bags. Inside are new crayons, coloring books, stickers, pipe cleaners, joke books and other entertaining crafts. I also include a journal for them to draw and write about our trip as we go. It helps them remember and appreciate the trip more."

Jeff Sechler, another Family Vacation Critic reader, created a book called "Are We There Yet? Games, Riddles and Tongue Twisters for Traveling Fun," which requires nothing more than a pen and paper!

... And Don't Forget Gear

Family Vacation Critic reader Laetitia Shelton says it's all about the gear! "Bring an inflatable lap tray, favorite pillow and sleep sack for the plane." She also packs her children's staple items, which include a stuffed animal and favorite blanket.

Other gear essentials include a vaporizer, ergonomic digital scale and a multi-purpose power charger, specifically a portable one that don't require an outlet -- it's a great investment.

Take Snapshots

Consider buying digital cameras for your kids - the Fisher Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera runs about $40 at Toys 'R Us. They'll enjoy taking pictures at stops and making movies of each other in the car.

More From Family Vacation Critic:
8 Extreme Santa Sightings for Kids
10 Magical Hotels for the Holiday Season

Written by Amanda Geronikos

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