The first couple of times we traveled with our twin boys over the holidays, we had high expectations. We seemed to believe that if we just made lists and got organized and were vigilant about our baby schedule, it would all be just fine. We assumed that the only reason our friends complained about traveling with young kids was because they just weren’t organized enough. When this is over, we’ll have to give them some tips, we thought.
And then our theoretical travel became actual travel, and despite all of our advanced planning, it was just as rough as everyone said it would be. There was no napping on the plane. That bottle did very little for the ear-crushing altitude changes. Then there were the flight delays we didn’t plan for, and that time they took our double stroller away at baggage check, and we had to walk, holding sleeping toddlers, through the mile-long airport at Dallas. There was one flight where my husband and I were separated, so we each took a twin. While one boy and I sat and watched Yo Gabba Gabba on the iPad, my other son was watching James Bond movies with my husband. James Bond movies! My kids were only 17-months-old at the time.
Once we would get to our destination, all bets were off. We had to deal with curious toddlers exploring lightly-baby-proofed homes and rickety chairs and stone steps and fragile glass-paned windows. We had to deal with jet-lagged kids who woke up super early, or cried at all hours of the night, or just decided to skip their naps and became total demon children until bedtime. They’d also get whatever random virus was bopping around on the airplane, they wouldn’t want to eat anything, and they definitely wouldn’t want to listen to anything we said in this strange, exotic land called my in-laws’ house.
My point being, when you’re on an airplane, dealing with antsy, tired 3-year-olds who want to keep spilling crackers and kicking the seat and looking to see who’s sitting behind them, you have to just let it all go. When you’re in a new exciting place with different things for curious toddlers to explore, you have to say, “eff it!” If your kids don’t want to sleep or eat or smile, you have to just go, “oh well!”
Because traveling with kids super sucks. Some trips are better than others, but it’s just rough, despite all of your best-laid plans. So the one thing I’ve learned how to do, the only thing that’s helped me to survive it all, is to stop stressing. I barely even try to stick to any of our usual routines. I don”t worry about how much they’re sleeping or how much TV they’re watching or how many sweets they’ve consumed and if they’ve had any protein in the last three days. I don’t care if my in-laws say yes to things that I usually say no to. They’re grandparents–it’s kind of their job. It’s too hard to stick to a plan when you’re away from home and, more important, it takes all of the fun out of your family holiday time.
So if I have one piece of advice to all of those parents traveling over the holidays, it’s to go with the flow. Have a sense of humor. Stop worrying. It’s only a few days, and as hard as it may be on you, your kids are only going to remember the fun, the holiday cheer, the presents, and the special time with family and friends. And, in the meantime, there’s spiked eggnog.