How to Conquer the Fear of Traveling with Children

“My cousin’s child cried during the entire 11 hour flight to Japan,” said Marybeth, when asked about how she conquered the fear of traveling with her baby. “I thought if my cousin can get through that, so can I.”

Marybeth’s comment mirrored my own fears about airplane travel with my kids. What if they meltdown on the airplane? What if we bother other passengers? What would I do?

The Fear of Traveling With children

Marybeth and her husband traveled to Ireland with their 9 month old recently. She felt it was a little easier because her husband was along. “He’s so calm, ” she said. “My daughter did pretty well flying. My original biggest concern was her ears hurting, but she did not seem bothered.”

Simone travels frequently between the US and Germany with her 1 year old daughter.

“When I didn’t have a kid, the thing that scared me about traveling with the plane crashing. I traveled anyway because I really wanted to go see my family,” said Simone, when asked about her fears regarding traveling. “Now that I have a kid, I am still afraid of the plane crashing.”

Simone says she thinks about it at least once while preparing to travel. She realizes a plane crash is unlikely. She gives herself a pep talk and tries to put the idea in the back of her mind. “The likelihood of it happening is very slim,” she continues. “It’s a normal fear, I guess.”

Julie, of Waiting for Fireflies, frequently takes roadtrips with her 2 children (currently ages 5 and 3).

“My biggest fear,  since we always drive,  was car meltdowns.  We’re past that stage now,” she says. “My daughter would always throw up from crying, so I didn’t feel safe just riding out the screaming.”

But what about traveling with a young child?

“The other thing I’m really worried about now that I have a child, is that traveling will be even more stressful than it is when you’re alone,” she said. Between layovers and boredom on airplanes, parents worry. We worry our kid will be the kid who cries during the entire flight; we worry the other passengers are going to hate us and our child. Worse, what if we can’t keep our children calm? It is very distressing to a parent to have an inconsolable child.

For every journey that goes exceedingly well, there’s bound to be one that goes badly.

“With a kid, what freaks me out the most now, is the prospect of her freaking out and me not being able to calm her down. I’m so worried about the other passengers. I don’t want to be that mom that can’t calm her child down and every passenger on board will be like ‘oh god, kids are so annoying.’ You know, the kind of person that I used to be when I didn’t have children. And just like with a lot of things in life, you don’t really know until you have children yourself,” says Simone, with a laugh.

Along with bringing new books, toys, and many snacks, Simone says, “I’m trying to just let go, to give in to whatever happens. During the next 15 hour trip, I have to give up trying to be so much in control. I am such a control enthuist. [Traveling] is one of the situations you can’t really control anything.”

Preparing to travel with kids

Use a baby carrier. All three ladies recommend having a baby carrier along (and know how to use it) to ease the stress of travel . “Even when you’re traveling with your husband or wife, carrying a child makes it so much easier,” according to Simone. She points out that not only are your hands free to grab luggage off the carousel, but then you also have some control over what your little ones touch.

Julie adds, “I’m often by myself when [car meltdowns] happen.  So I guess that one big tip for getting out with multiple kids is a carrier. I couldn’t handle both kids and a super meltdown without it.”

Bring toys. New toys and airplane/car appropriate activities are also a great idea! My kids are old enough to have screen time and it has been very helpful on our previous trip (that included a long drive to Wisconsin).

Cut yourself some slack. This is the time to find your patience and offer your child understanding, empathy, and compassion. Offer yourself the same things. When you are highly stressed, it is an amazing lesson to model the ideals you are hoping for your child to internalize. Do your best!

“Just try to get through. And who cares, let them watch 5 movies or go through 10 boxes of crackers. Do whatever you can to make it as easy as possible,” Simone says.

A packing list.  Julie explains, “being prepared helps.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten silly stuff like diapers,  wipes,  the stroller, or extra clothes because I was hurrying.”

Most importantly

Leave your expectations at home. The travel part of traveling with kids is probably going to suck. But it might not!  It will be worth it.

Family in airport.

Freeimages.com/Ben Ullman

Last thoughts

“For me,  traveling with family would also help me conquer the fear.  That’s one reason we haven’t done a big trip with kids yet,” said Julie.

For the childless and the parents alike, Simone says of her next travel plans, “I tell myself, if this become the trip from hell, it’ll be 15 hours and then it’s over.”

What scares you most about traveling with your children? Do you travel anyway?

11 thoughts on “How to Conquer the Fear of Traveling with Children

  1. Sara Broers says:

    A great reminder of how important flexibility is when traveling with kids or in general. A great takeaway would be sure you know how to use the things you have packed. I have seen parents of little ones struggle to figure out how to use a baby carrier that they purchased the day before a trip. Practice does make things easier.

    • Natalie says:

      Yes, there are babywearing groups around the world, so it’s worth it to learn how to use a carrier well in advance of your trip. In addition, it’ll help you get conditioned yo carrying your child that way. It can be tiring after awhile!

  2. Danielle says:

    I believe many people have a fear of crashing, and yes chances are slim. As far as traveling with children…I found that taking the Red Eye (overnight flight) was the best with kids. its night time so kids will be sleepy and hopefully sleep. I was lucky, my kids loved sleeping.

    • Natalie says:

      That would be my choice, too! My friend recently flew on a red eye with her daughter and she (the mom) did not get any sleep 🙁 I’m sure as kids get a little older, it gets a little easier, too

    • Natalie says:

      That would be my choice, too! My friend recently flew on a red eye with her daughter and she (the mom) did not get any sleep 🙁 I’m sure as kids get a little older, it gets a little easier, too.

  3. Bell | Wanderlust Marriage says:

    Great thoughts on this topic, when we travel and see the family with the crying kid I really feel for them… Most of the time I just think we’re all just trying to get where somewhere and hello earplugs anyway 🙂 we as a society could be a lot more compassionate toward each other!

    • Natalie says:

      I agree that we could all be more passionate toward each other. The post from today reiterates that message, too. Thank you for being an understanding traveler!

  4. Beth | Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere says:

    I don’t have kids myself, but the idea of one day being THAT parent with THAT screaming child is awful. Then again, what can you do? In any awkward situation, I try to remind myself that it won’t last forever, and I’ll likely never see my fellow passengers again. And while I like to think my kids won’t grow up glued to the television, this is one instance where I would happily let them watch all the TV they want, ha!

    • Natalie says:

      It’s hard. Children can’t always articulate what is bothering them (especially small babies). So, yes, I’m all for making the best of a tough and confined situation. 🙂

  5. BonBon says:

    Traveling with kids is very challenging but the more you travel with them the more they get used to it. Our 1st year traveling with the babies was really hard but now even the kids can still be hard to deal sometimes but it’s a looooot easier…. they know what to expect in the plane or in the car (for road trips).

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