I’m Terrified of Traveling with Kids

 In Why Travel?

Yes. It’s true. I am scared stiff to travel with my kids.

Stop scratching your head and pick up that jaw. I’ll explain.

Traveling with kids is not easy. It’s not necessarily something you wake up one morning and feel like the world is bright and rosy, and you can conquer the world. I mean really, are there any days in parenthood that feel like that? If there are you really need to tell me your secret. Traveling, like parenthood, on any level takes a leap of faith.

Before you even add kids into the equation you need to let go of your fear of getting in a bus, boat, train, car, or plane crash. You need to stop worrying about lost luggage, getting mugged, losing your wallet, running out of cash, not having cash to begin with, and going the wrong way.

Now let’s add children into the mix.

Not only do you have all of the fears you had to get over for your own personal comfort, but now you have to fear for your children. Will they get hurt? Kidnapped? Lost? Have an allergic reaction to the climate/food/grass/concrete/sheets? These are the bigger bits of anxiety parents face when they hit the road with their kids. It’s our job to worry; even if it’s not an active obsession, it is subconsciously down there to protect our children at all costs.

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After you dig your way past the major events that are terrifying to even think about when you take your kids out of the house (I won’t get into what can happen IN the house), you start to worry about the every day. How will they deal with the travel to and from your destination? Will they eat anything once you get there? Will they have fun? Will they remember? What if they scream the whole time? What if they lose their favorite bedtime friend? What if they hate the bed? What if you just spent all this money on a vacation for nothing? The list really does go on and on. Trust me. Mine is a mile and a half long.

Now let’s think this through. Given all of the personal fear involved with travel, and then the anxiety of bringing your kids along on said trip, wouldn’t you be terrified too? Of course you would! It’s what keeps us up at night, right? Now let’s bring this down to reality.

Statistically you will not die in a plane, train, bus, or boat accident. The odds are slim. Your kids may get hurt, but there are hospitals and medical professionals across the globe. If you are still worried stick close to major metropolitan areas where hospitals are more prevalent. Children do get lost. Parents do too. Prep your kids for this in case it does happen. Sadly children also get kidnapped, but again, statistically your odds are pretty low while on the road. This does not mean you don’t keep an eye on your kids. If you have a 2-year-old runner that is turning your hair white, get one of those monkey backpacks with a leash. I do not support leashing your kids like animals, but it has crossed my mind on occasion. If it is all that will give you peace of mind, do it.

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As for the little things that have you biting your nails at night, take a deep breath. Your kids don’t eat their dinner at home some nights no matter how much you cater to their tastes (and whims.) They may have a horrible flight, but then again they may surprise you and be amazing. If they aren’t, well, find the local dessert shop and go to town to get your self rebalanced and hit the ground running. Just because a child doesn’t get to your destination like a perfect angel, doesn’t mean they can’t have a fabulous time once you are there. Will they eat the local food? Maybe not. But I bet you can find one thing they will eat. My 4-year-old son generally drinks nothing but milk the first 2 days. It is his comfort food and we just go with it. As long as he is happy, I don’t push it. There is plenty of time to dive into the local cuisine once he is settled in.

Parents will be happy to know that not only will their kids remember these trips, but they will look back on them as adults quite fondly. True, they may not remember every hair-pulling moment you do, but they will remember that quality family time. In a survey released by the U.S. Travel Association, conducted by Harris Interactive, researchers found that “most adults surveyed (62 percent) said their earliest memories were of family vacations taken when they were between ages five and 10, and they remember childhood trips more clearly than school events or birthday celebrations.”

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Feeling better yet? Maybe, maybe not. As much as I travel I do admit that I have many fears and anxieties before we leave and during the planning process. I may remember that horrible first night in Switzerland when both my boys cried off and on all night while we dealt with exhaustion and jet lag. Or I’ll think back on that Lifetime Original Movie about the child prostitution ring and the number of children forced or tricked into it. These things are real, and they are scary, but I try not to live my life in fear. This is not to say I don’t have visions of what I would do if someone tried to grab my kid. Taking them out at the knees as I hurl myself through a crowd usually comes to mind first. I have even had times during our travels that I have had to ask strangers to back off, because although it is culturally OK for them to touch my child or try to pick him up out of his stroller as far as they are concerned, it made me uncomfortable. Every one of those people listened to my wishes.

I know I’m going to have bad days. I know that there are horrible people in the world, but I also know there are so many good people out there too.

Grandmothers in every country are just waiting to tell me that my babies are adorable and that I dress them too warmly for their climate. Young mothers across the globe are sneaking smiles at each other as we all share this common bond of sleepless nights and too early mornings with toddlers begging for something when we are just trying to squeeze in 2 more minutes of sleep before the sun comes up. Fathers are kicking soccer balls with their boys in backyards, against old stone churches, and through fields as they walk to work and school. Life goes on no matter where you are. The important thing is to know you are not alone and not everyone is out to get you. Things will go right. Things will be fun, fantastic, and amazing beyond your wildest dreams. At least they have for us.

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I’ve had to deal with falls, bumps, and bruises. I’ve had to turn to my husband and ask, “do you think that needs stitches?” more than once. I’ve thrown up my hands in frustration when the baby won’t sleep anywhere but on top of me. I have also laid my head down after another tireless meal where no one wanted to eat what we had ordered. The thing is, this all happens at home too. I’m constantly battling the food war, patching up scrapped knees and banged up elbows. I don’t stop being a mom just because I travel, and my kids don’t stop being kids just because we don’t go anywhere. I have had to consciously push aside the fear, jump in the car, and say “I will do this, because I can.”

Some days you really do just need to forget about being afraid, take that leap of faith, and decide where you want your good and bad days to occur. I’ve chosen to mix up my life with travel. After all, if my kids are going to throw a tantrum, I’d rather be gazing at the Roman Coliseum than my kitchen sink while they do it.

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Showing 19 comments
  • Beth @ Cloud Surfing Kids

    Great post and so true! You know, sometimes it takes that same leap of faith just to get out the door and go to the playground. I love your honesty because it’s so easy to read about all your travels and think it’s so easy. Nothing with kids is easy but it’s always worth doing.

    • Keryn @ Walking On Travels

      Beth nothing with kids is ever easy, but as you know, it’s all about where you want to fight your battles and when. If I’m going to have to go out the door anyway, we might as well see something cool!

  • tripsbylance

    All kids are created differently, meaning some travel better than others. We have one, but we’ve always traveled with him minus the couples getaways that are a necessity. I wish more parents would realize that traveling with children is so important, not just for the child’s education of the real world but for mom and dad’s enjoyment of life.

    • Keryn @ Walking On Travels

      Lance – oh boy are you telling me kids are different. My oldest is a dream traveler. Yes, he has his meltdowns and food tantrums, but compared to his baby brother he is easy. Baby boy doesn’t like anywhere but his bed. We have worked hard to get him to sleep in ONE travel crib we bring everywhere. I can’t use the hotel cribs, it has to be THIS crib or no one sleeps. It’s a pain, but it will only last so long till he is in a bed. Hopefully he will get a bit better about the sleep thing by then. Either way it is worth the headache if we get to explore with each other, which he does love.

  • Travel Mother

    Well said! Before coming to Central America, I envisioned snakes, poisonous bugs, kidnappers, etc… All those fears vanished once we actually started living here. Like you said, bad things can happen anywhere (like the most common “bad thing”–tantrums), and we might as well be surrounded with a beautiful view..that way, we don’t have to shut our eyes and go to a “happy place.” We’re already there.

    • Keryn @ Walking On Travels

      Travel Mother- I love that “we don’t have to shut our eyes and go to a “happy place.” We’re already there.” Isn’t that the truth and why we do it. I want my kids to find their happy place along with me as we discover new places across the globe.

  • Robin

    I loved reading this. Its a good reminder that life goes on and the issues you have on the road could come up at home as well. And I agree, if I have to deal with dirty diapers, tantrums and food fights, I’d rather be doing it at an interesting location than at home. And on the reverse end, if I am seeing someplace magical, I want to see it through their eyes just as much as I want to see it through my own.

    • Keryn @ Walking On Travels

      Robin I love watching my kids when we enter a new place. Are they impressed? Are they overwhelmed, dwarfed by a monument, or just plain bored. You just never know. One may be all for it, while the other wants to check out that rock across the street. We found out my oldest loves greek and roman ruins. I mean really, what’s not to love. Big old rocks! Our kids have shaped our travels in the best way. We see so much more than we would on our own. They push us out of our comfort zone and into a magical world we never knew about.

  • Cam @ Traveling Canucks

    Totally feel the same way. Traveling with kids adds a whole other layer of fear… it’s so worth it… but it’s always scary when another life is in your hands.

    • Keryn @ Walking On Travels

      Cam- it’s scary when we get married and suddenly have someone else depending us. Then it becomes terrifying when we are handed this helpless little bundle who depends on us for everything to survive. The fear is totally worth it, and honestly I think I have more worries at home than most places we travel (we live on a very busy road that the baby loves to walk out to), but you just can’t leave those mama and papa bear instincts to protect behind just because you are traveling.

  • Sally@Toddlers on tour

    All valid points and I smile as you mention the food war. One I am all to familiar with. On holidays I just give up it’s not worth ruining my 2 weeks away if all my son will eat is french fries and pizza.

    I re-start my nazi tactics with food upon our return home.

    • Keryn @ Walking On Travels

      Sally it is definitely a battle, and one we have to choose when and where we will fight it. Traveling is when I fight the least battles these days. As long as they put one foot in front of the other while we explore I’m good. If they last the entire day I’m shocked, but that is when the stroller comes out to help.

  • Lisa | LLworldtour

    Nice honest post as always! Phew! Well, as you know I’ve just completed my 1st trip with kids (not my own mind you). They came on vacation and stayed with me last year in CHicago, but I guess that doesn’t count. Now, I have to admit, i wasn’t scared at all of crashes or prostitution rings (in Colorado), but there certainly was yelling and crying and pouting and sulking (and that was just me…ba-dum-bum). The food thing is surely a daily battle! It’s hard for this foodie to deal with 3 boys (2 kids and my boyfriend) who are all picky eaters. It drives me mad. Actually, the little one is probably the best. The 9 year old, forget it. You are right about tastes AND whims. He’ll occasionally surprise me and try something and say it’s okay (of course the next day he won’t want it). But he’ll also suddenly decide he doesn’t like pizza or mac and cheese or a certain ‘kind’ of pasta! I want them to try so much and grow up exposed to so much, but their not there…yet!

    • Keryn @ Walking On Travels

      Lisa my only consolation in the food category is that I was a picky eater who wasn’t exposed to nearly as much as my kids are now. I seem to have turned out OK and eat a very wide range of foods, even more so than my own parents do. I guess we just have to tough it out till they grow up a bit more and want to prove to their friends all the gross (aka cool!) things they have eaten. Ha! As for pasta, well we are off the finger noodles (Penne) and are only allowed to serve string noodles (angel hair) at the moment. At this point I just don’t care as long as he eats SOMETHING 🙂

  • wanderingeducators

    i’ve not ever been terrified of traveling with kids – then again, we only have one kid, and she LOVES traveling, always has. i am lucky!

  • Malaysian Meanders

    My father-in-law once told my mother-in-law that she could hold the crying, colicky baby (hubby’s older brother, now an accountant) in their rental Vail ski condo just as well as she could hold him at home. Hubby’s family hasn’t used kids as an excuse not to travel since way before he was born. Yes, I get terrified of traveling with kids. I’m also somewhat terrified of the guy who jerks off in front of kids walking to school, and yet, we still walk.

  • Laurel- Capturing la Vita

    The way I see it, we are going to have trials and tribulations no matter where we are- it might as well be somewhere cool!

    • Keryn @ Walking On Travels

      Lately I keep thinking- well, the baby is teething and we are all miserable. OK, well, at least we can all deal with the teething in Spain pretty soon! Maybe some tapas will make him feel better 😉

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