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By Jackie Burrell
Saturday, December 13th, 2008 at 7:30 am in Family Travel.

Airline gameTraveling for the holidays? We’ve got great advice for you from Donna Airoldi at TravelMuse, in answer to questions you guys sent in.

Q: When are the best dates to fly around the holidays, especially with younger children? And what are some tricks for maintaining sanity if you are delayed? Does SFO or Oakland airport offer something to keep the little ones occupied?
— Walnut Creek mom of triplets

A: The holidays are always busy times, with the day before any holiday usually being the busiest—although this year the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was surprisingly easygoing for most travelers. If you can fly a couple days before the majority of holiday fliers take off, that would be ideal. Next best is the day of the holiday, such as the morning of Dec. 25, if being somewhere for Christmas Eve isn’t that important.

Try to book your return a few days after the holiday ends, again to avoid the rush the day after the holiday. Another option is if you arrive several days prior to the holiday, depart the night of the big day, such as Dec. 25. Again, there won’t be as many travelers on the day of the main holiday. An exception to this is New Year’s Day, when many people who travel for the event return home, hangovers and all.

Tricks for delays: Make sure you have with you a few toys, books and activity options for the kids, but don’t bring them out all at once as you’ll want to pace their introduction. Remember, you’ll need to kept the kids occupied on the plane too once you eventually take off. Also be sure to bring a stash of their favorite snacks.

There are plenty of diversions for families at SFO, including an aquarium, located in Terminal 1 before you go through security, and SFO Kids’ Spot, featuring weather-related exhibitions from the Exploratorium of San Francisco. It’s located in Terminal 3, post-security near Gate 87A. Parents also can rent portable DVD players and movies at InMotion shops, located in Terminal 3 and in the main hall of the International Terminal. For parents with infants, nurseries are located in Terminals 1 and 3. Click here for more information on family services at SFO.

Unfortunately, there aren’t as many options at Oakland International Airport. There are a few spots in Terminal 2 for viewing public art and a couple shops for children’s items. Otherwise, you can try to stretch the time by taking them to a family-friendly restaurant.

Come back on Wednesday, when our travel guru answers questions about 2009 travel, including how to get to Hawaii without going broke.

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