Ask the Internet: Am I Crazy?

by Ginger on April 14, 2011

in Family, Oh Baby!

Once again, I need some advice. Here’s the deal. I have to travel this summer for family reasons. My problem is that the family wants me to bring Jackson.

This wouldn’t be so bad, but because of the timing, N.C. can’t come. That means that I would be flying from CA to TX with my toddler alone. ACK.

Also because I’ve been sick all winter (read: have used almost all my PTO & want to try and accrue some more for the holidays at the end of the year), I can’t take a lot of days off. So we’re looking at, at most, 4 days, and more likely 3. Which wouldn’t be a big deal IF it weren’t for all the travel. Here’s what the weekend is looking like it might end up being:

Friday: 5-10 hours of travel (depending on flights/layovers)
Saturday: 3-4 hours of driving.
Sunday: 3-4 hours of driving
Monday 5-10 hours of flying (depending on flights/layovers)

This makes ME tired, but the idea of dragging Jackson through this? And the wear on both of us? I just…don’t know if I have the strength to do that all on my own. And my kid is so big, rambunctious, and high-energy that I don’t know if I can manage him the whole travel part of the trip (which, as you can see, is a lot) without another adult present. The idea of the plane rides alone…

But I’m giving it as much thought and attention as I can, because as much as my first (and 2nd, and 3rd) responses are OH HELL NO–there’s the part of me that knows how much my family wants to see Jackson. And how much I want Jackson to see them. And I know this may be the only trip we can make this year, and so the only trip where Jackson could see this family.

So…uh…any advice? Tips to make that kind of travel work solo with a squirmy toddler? Input on whether this is doable, or not? General HELP??

Megan April 14, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Good lord, why all the driving?! It makes ME tired just thinking of doing that on my own. Throw Charlotte into the mix, and I might just cry.

But, you know, kids are resilient. We can be tough if we need to. And if it’s the only chance you’ll get to have Jackson spend some time with his extended family this year, it might be worth it. At least on the flights you guys can play together, read books, walk around. The car part might be miserable, especially if he’s not big on the car. But, maybe with some fun music, a TON of snacks, and maybe a speaker phone chat with Daddy, he’ll make it. Those are some of my tricks, anyway.

Ginger April 14, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Ah, I forgot to elaborate on that. The driving is because the festivities are in a small town, so the trip includes flying into one city and then driving to another town.

Now, to be fair, I won’t be driving on my own–I’d actually be hitching a ride with family, so that’s less a “by myself” thing than it is a “this is a LOT of containing a toddler” thing.

Jen April 14, 2011 at 10:35 pm

I was shocked at how well Kale travelled. Shocked. Granted, it was a 45 minute flight from Vancouver to Calgary and then a 2 hour drive… but he basically crashed out when he was sleeping and I relaxed ALL the rules about snacks / tv/ iphone use etc. I had an entire carry on bag full of fun things he had never seen before and we only got to about 3 of them. I say go for it, and when you get where you are going, you hand him off to the family and you hit the spa. 🙂

Ginger April 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm

The last time we traveled w/him, he did great at sleeping–just not on the flying days (too exciting I guess). Actually, he slept fine those nights, just no naps during the day. I think the flights are actually my biggest worry for that reason!

Lemon Gloria April 15, 2011 at 7:02 am

So, thinking about doing that with my own son all by myself makes me kind of dizzy and very oh hell no. I think the car part will be OK, or at least better, because it sounds like you will have other people there to entertain/help/apply cold compresses to your brow. The flights, ugh.

That said, people who have had kids are so understanding of how sucky it is to fly with kids. I am sure you are strong enough to handle it, and I do hope they will have strong liquor for you when you arrive.

Ginger April 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Oh, yes, if this happens they better meet me with the biggest margarita imaginable.

But you bring up a good point–other people may be understanding (and helpful? one can hope!), which would ease a lot of my worries.

Perpetual Breadcrumbs April 15, 2011 at 7:54 am

My first inclination was also HELLS NO. But the family thing is what makes me think you should give it a shot.

What about this: could you somehow arrange it with family so that they take J off your hands when you’re there? They handle meals, play, etc., so you can have a break?

As for the flights, I don’t know how to handle them or what to expect because we’ve never done it. But I do know that the one time we stayed with E in a hotel, he was perfect, slept through the night, etc., probably because he was so tired out by the activities. So a rambunctious kid might be content to just chill on your lap because the circumstances are different.

And finally, if your gut is telling you you can’t do it, don’t do it. Don’t feel guilty. Take a trip for yourself. You work HARD, lady. You deserve a break. 🙂

Ginger April 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Oh, the family will GLADLY take J for a lot of the time we’re there. I’m just not sure they’re prepared for what that exactly means with my…ahem…energetic child.

My big concern is the flights. Last time we flew with him he was bouncing off the walls–and wouldn’t nap. It took both of us to corral him, and he wasn’t even walking yet. I’m terrified of what that will mean if it’s just me. (I will say, he slept just peachy nights every time we’ve traveled with him, so I’m not so worried about that.)

tz April 15, 2011 at 9:16 am

I made an eleven hour car trip from KCK to Denver every six weeks for a year with a toddler and a baby. I’m not proud but I did buy a DVD player for the car. Also lots and lots of breaks. I would stop at rest stops and play catch with the toddler and held the baby to get him out of the car seat. Some airports have kid areas, see if the ones you have lay-overs in have them and try and get there if you have time…if not play physical silly games like mother may I down the course, if it’s not too busy, or see how many jumping jacks he can do…just to get the wiggles out between flights.

At eleven and eight now, I still do that with the kiddos when we have long trips (we’ve flown to Spain and Hawaii with them….it’s all doable 😀 — you wonder later how you did it)

I like the idea of the last commenter of maybe getting a family member to give you a break while you’re there.

Ginger April 15, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I definitely think the dvd player would happen if we do this. I’m not proud, I’ll blast Yo Gabba Gabba if it means he’ll sit still for a few minutes!

You’ve got some great tips in there–good ideas to help get the wiggles out. You also give me a little hope that I might be able to do it!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks April 15, 2011 at 10:16 am

Two things come to mind …

First, does your family really have a concept of what traveling with a toddler means? Have you laid out the basic facts (like a 3-4 hour car drive might be 5 hours with a toddler?). Maybe explaining to them exactly what it’s going to entail will help them help you come to the best decision for that weekend.

Second, will you have family willing to help. And I don’t just mean loading your bags in the car. I mean, helping you to wrangle Jackson. To entertain him. To put up with him when he gets crabby and you’re all stuck in a car? Again, related to the first question.

If everyone is educated on what the weekend will entail and are really willing to help, then maybe it’s worth bringing Jackson. But, if your family begins to understand what a huge undertaking it’s going to be, maybe they will come to the conclusion (for you) that this isn’t the best circumstances under which to bring Jackson.

Ginger April 15, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I think they *think* they understand. But I don’t think they understand in the context of MY kid. Maybe that’s just me being the over-protective mom, but I really do think Jackson is a bit more of a handful than they’re expecting–and while I think they chalk my stories up to “inexperienced first time mom” sometimes, I don’t believe that’s all it is.
They’re willing to help, I just think they’re in for a surprise on what that means.

clara April 15, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Further to what the person up above me said, is Jackson the kind of kid who will go to your family and *let them* entertain him / take him off your hands?

Because here’s the thing with my kids: I always justify the traveling or visiting with “but I’ll get a break because there will be 80 uncles and aunts and grammas” except:

– they kid is out of sorts b/c he’s out of routine
– too much going place to place, not enough stability (this was big issue w/our driving trip last year – a different bed every night. this messes kids up bigtime)
– The only stable thing is YOU. Therefore, the kid doesn’t want to let you out of his sight. My kid would not walk 2 blocks to go to the playground with his grandad last summer. Grandad was sad. I was sad (I needed a nap).
– no break. And then resentment about not getting a break. And then … the trip home.

That is what messes up the vacation – not the traveling part, which is manageable with snacks / toys / movies / drugs / whatever – but the unpredictability of kids + far away family…and the expectation that the traveling is the hard part and the visiting is the easy part. IT ISN’T.

I don’t want to be a downer, but I always forget this when I’m planning, and I say “oh what the hell it’ll be finnnnnne” and then I’m surprised when it’s stressful. Managing the needs of a needy kid and a family desperate to cram in every minute of that precious time…it’s hard.

But OTOH, your kid is not mine. If he is the kind of kid who will go “oh hey! New people to love and play with!” and if your family is good with and understands small kids, then yes.

Ginger April 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Yeah, I uh, don’t think it’ll be so much of a break. Not because they aren’t willing to help, and not (entirely) that Jackson won’t go with them (he may take a little bit to warm up, but so far he’s had no problem running off and playing with other grownups), but more because…well, he’s more of a handful than I think they’re prepared for. Which is part of why I AM stressed about it–I don’t think it’ll be a case where I can just say “oh go hang out with granddad”. I’ll still have to be on high alert.

Or at least, that’s how I assume it will go based on a)my kid and b)previous experience. I could be surprised the other way.

Cloud April 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Both of my kids have turned out to be surprisingly good travelers. I think the newness of it all means that they are too busy taking it all in to misbehave. We flew from CA to Wichita for a weekend (friend’s wedding) with them and it was great. We took them to Zion for a long weekend and that was also great. So I guess I’m saying go for it.

One practical tip: those markers that only color on special paper are a great way to distract a toddler during a flight.

Ginger April 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Oh, those markers are a good idea!

Hannah April 17, 2011 at 6:12 am

I’m new here, but my 2 cents:

1. Take a one day vacation AFTER the vacation. A little decompression day.
2. Rely on your family to help with what they can, and trust that he’ll warm up to them when he sees how you react to them. If he doesn’t warm up at all, he’ll at least be primed for the next go-round. Hopefully the little guy will be so exhausted from the excitement of seeing his relatives that he’ll be peachy on the flight home. For the flight out, maybe just grin and bear it and think about how it’s definitely worth it for him to spend time with the relatives.

Ginger April 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm

I will have to rely on them if we do it. I’m counting on the “OH THE BABY” responses to give me a break!

And we can only hope that he’ll be so worn out from all the excitement that he’ll crash out hard on the flight home. *fingers, toes, legs crossed!*

Hannah April 17, 2011 at 11:24 pm

I’ll hold my thumbs as well, as they do here in Sweden for luck 😉

Uncle Chuck April 20, 2011 at 7:47 pm

I know it is difficult and maybe almost impossible BUT bring him anyway. Several things come to mind: 1) He is a part a the family and the family will be incomplete without him. He is a vitally part of this family. 2) You chose to live where you live, so far away from family. With that choice comes some inconvienence in order to be a part of the family. One of those inconveniences is travel with a child. 3) Selfishly, I WANT TO SEE HIM!

Enough said,
Uncle Chuck

Elizabeth May 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I’m guessing you don’t mean San Antonio if you’re talking about a drive, but if you do, I (selfishly) say come on down! Hannah’s still really portable, but I’m committed to making her a seasoned traveler at all ages, so if you do travel with him, I’d love your tips!

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