Traveling with Toddlers

Traveling as a Litmus Test

I just returned from Flagstaff, where I visited our oldest child at school. It was a glorious experience, but that’s not what I am writing about today.

Having traveled, coast to coast, numerous times with all five of my children when they were young, I consider myself to be tolerant, patient and accepting of how difficult it can be to travel in a confined area with wiggly toddlers.

But when three out of the four stewardesses suggest that Benadryl might be in order, you know it’s bad.

As it turns out, it wasn’t just one very rowdy, loud three-year-old—it was twins.
I could tell you all about their antics, but you either have a child that has left you breathless, exhausted and at times mortified at his/her behavior or you have witnessed such a performance firsthand, so the details of the story really aren’t what’s important.

What’s important is, if you think for one minute that your little terrors will magically turn into darlings because you brought them out in public, do yourself a favor and

  1. Face the fact that you have been indulging your children at home and they will expect the same when you travel with them—and more.
  2. You have been controlling them and they are smart enough, even at three, to figure out that you can’t and you won’t control them while you are in public, so this is their chance to exact revenge on you.
  3. They will continue to do MORE of what they do at home, with more intensity, perseverance and volume than even you can imagine.

At one point, I looked around and watched a few of the other passengers and realized that most of them were giving the “hairy eyeball” to the boys. If anyone deserves the “hairy eyeball,” it’s the parents.
So, who cares right? Here is my point:

  • Imagine these three-year-old boys as nine-year-olds and you begin to wonder: Will anyone, including their peers, tolerate their selfish, demanding, uncooperative behavior?
  • Parents may get by on these road trips by giving in and bribing, but at the end of the day, it is the kids who really pay the price.
  • Kids don’t grow out of, they grow into—confirmed to me by a 13-year-old on the same plane who was behaving just as badly as these twin three-year-olds.

The bottom line—choose not to be those parents on the plane. Have the courage to find out what your children need to learn in order to travel calmly, agreeably and respectfully towards other passengers. And then, train them.

You can start by taking a two-hour ride on a bus, a train or a plane and find out firsthand how much training you still have to do in order to feel confident, excited and relaxed about traveling longer distances with your children. This “research trip” will give you a starting place on which to base your training.

Once you have a starting place you can:

  • Begin to build a Parenting Roadmap. (Not familiar with this concept? Check out Chapter Five, in the Parenting On Track™ Home Program.) This Parenting Roadmap will allow you to clearly
  1. Identify a starting place;
  2. Identify a destination; and
  3. Plan for the distance in between.
  • By following your Parenting Roadmap, you will be able to track your progress, keep things in perspective, and enjoy the process of training (rather than worrying about it.)
  • By taking the time to train (further discussed in Chapter three, in the Parenting On Track™ Home Program), you will be able to recognize and celebrate small victories on your way to your final destination.

Check out these and other strategies, so that you can look forward to having those cute children that everyone smiles at (and continues to smile at) during your travels.

1 thought on “Traveling with Toddlers

  1. Travelling with young ones can be exhausting and frustrating. If you are not up for a challenge, think again before buying those non-refundable tickets. After travelling with my two small children at least 35 times already (and the oldest is not yet 6), I can say that I read this advice with some degree of skepticism.

    In my opinion it is less about training and more about realism and preparedness. You must be realistic and by all means do not overreact to your childrens’ excitement or that of your fellow passenger. Be prepared with age- and travel-appropriate activies and be a calm model for your kids. They are watching you and learning how to adapt based on how you cope with unexpected delays. Remeber that they no longer serve meals on board, rest rooms are not always instantly available, and that being stuck waiting for a flight for more than 6 hours is not unheard of.

    One more thing: Ignore the nasty looks and be prepared to make quick decisions! Unless your kids are way out of line, remember that it is not “normal” for small children to sit placidly for hours on end if they are bored, underfed, or given juice and cookies one too many times by the oh-so-helpful flight staff. Smile back at the unfriendly shocked passengers, say “no thanks” to those trying to help sweeten your kids with “treats” before the kids hear the, “would you like some ___ (junk food) and coke?” and stay calm. If you do, your kids will too.

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