Travel Anxiety

Dealing with Anxiety about Traveling with Kids

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If you have kids, chances are you worry about them…sometimes…all the time. It’s easy to have a bit (or a lot) of anxiety when you’re responsible for keeping someone else alive. Not just that, but you’re generally expected to raise happy, healthy, functional human beings as a parent. No pressure.

Throw some travel into the mix and it just gets worse. It’s also pretty easy to have some anxiety about travel. Sure, you see all those travel pros on Instagram or Facebook, zipping around the world, doing all the things, and taking all the stellar photos. But you can bet that sometimes they freak out a little bit if they can’t find their passports at the last minute or they realize they forgot something and there’s no time to go get more. Pictures lie. I’m convinced everyone in the modern world has anxiety to some extent because who wants to have to juggle work, kids, meals, keeping everyone moderately happy, looking spiffy on social media, etc, etc, etc all the time? Yet we all have to.

But anyhoo…

My point is that it’s totally normal and acceptable to have anxiety when you’re traveling with kids. It’s okay. Don’t let all those shiny Instagram families fool you. Whether that anxiety is focused on packing, not forgetting things, your kids’ behavior or even if you have anxiety about your kids’ anxiety (anxiety inception?), flying, or something else…it’s probably there.

And unfortunately this isn’t a tips article on how to manage anxiety because other than putting one foot in front of the other…that’s all I’ve got.

Anxiety and I have had a long relationship. These days, we aren’t as good of friends as we used to be, and yet it’s still something I have to factor into travel plans. For me, it’s flying. Flying makes me nervous. It just does. I’ve been flying practically since I was born, but I’m still iffy on the whole hurtling through the stratosphere in a metal tube thing. And yet I like going other places so hurtle I must. My approach to anxiety has always been to accept it’s there and do what I want to do anyway. I feel like if I give into it, it’s going to grow and I’ll end up never leaving my house and living off of chips and salsa that I ordered delivered to my doorstep (actually…that doesn’t sound half bad).

But it’s different with a child, at least it is for me. Before my little monster came along, I was pretty sure we’d be flying around the world while she was still tiny – getting all that free lap infant airfare, having her nap on me in the air, hitting the ground running like we always have. But that hasn’t happened. I haven’t flown with my little monster yet. It’s not all anxiety based. Some of it is just her – she doesn’t nap if there’s stuff going on around her, she doesn’t nap well in cars at all so pretty sure there will be no mile-high naps, she’s also not distracted for long by movies, she doesn’t like candy and isn’t hugely impressed by snacks for more than a minute or two. I just haven’t been sufficiently convinced that all the little difficulties won’t add up to a big huge expensive not-worth-it experience. Instead, we’ve opted to stick to driving-based travel because she does great in the car.

But some of it is anxiety based. Flying has always made me nervous and however nervous I get for myself, it’s worse with this little wonderful person in my care (I call her a monster for the sake of consistency, but she’s a little sweetie pie…but Travel with Sweetie Pies just doesn’t have the same ring to it). My mind instantly goes to the worst places it can go. And I’m pretty creative. My dreams also jump into the ring and add an extra layer of horror as I then I have to review my beliefs about whether dreams are portending or just brain dumps. Good times.

We have road tripped several times with Little Monster, but the time is coming to go farther afoot. We miss the world. We miss vacations.

So I’m working on it. I’ve got myself a new travel rewards credit card with some free mileage and I’m ready to use it.

Now we have to pick a destination and with that comes – admittedly – another round of anxiety. Where can we go where naps can still happen relatively on schedule? Do we bring a Pack n Play (not sure she even still fits in one of those)? Where can I warm up Dino nuggets on the go??

Where I used to lean toward locations and itineraries that involved a lot of nonstop go go go, I’m thinking some place with a pool and nothing else in particular sounds nice to start. Maybe we’ll visit grandma. See how it goes. Test out Little Monster’s flight tolerance and then go from there. Just like with those shiny Instagram families, you’ll also see a lot of intrepid mom travelers out there (Suzi, I’m looking at you hoofing three boys to Costa Rica). If your speed is more flying to grandma’s house and eating cookies and sitting in the pool for a week – no shame!

My point with all of this rambling is that sometimes traveling with a baby or young toddler does set off waves of anxiety or – at the very least – lists of things to consider, but don’t let it stop you if you want to go somewhere. And I say that as much to whoever has made it this far in this piece as I do myself.