It’s January 18th, and I don’t have the summer planned out, and I am freaking out a little bit. Before I had kids, planning a trip was easy. I would jump in my car, pack a bag and be on my way to a quick vacation or off to visit family. Now, it takes me months to plan trips, figuring out whether we will drive or fly. Budgeting, making packing lists, etc. Honestly, I sometimes wonder if the trips are worth it. And then I get to see how excited my kids are, that I know it was.
So let’s talk summer planning. Both of my kids are still in daycare, so dealing with school schedules has never been an issue for us. We have only had to take into account my partners work and military training schedule, and my work schedule. But my daughter M is becoming a big kid, and starting early fives this fall. (Yes, I am a little nervous). That being said, we are now very restricted on when ‘summer’ ends, as she will start the day after labor day. My work schedule is crazy until the middle of May, and my partner has training in August. So we are looking at June and July for our family trip.
So now the real decision maker… do we fly or drive? There are major pro’s and con’s to both.
With the age of our kids 1 and 4, being in a car for 16 hours to get to our destination is literally a form of torture for all included. Check out Misadventures with Megan’s blog Road Trip from Hell to learn about some of the fun adventures that come with driving with kids. But flying with a 1 and 4 can also result in torturing a plane of 350 some people. (Yes, planes fit a lot more than you think, I had to look this up but actually found out some cool facts, check it out!)
Deciding between driving and a flying first depends on where you are heading. If your heading to a destination within 6 hours of your home location, I would vote for driving. The reasoning behind this is with kids you have to show up to the airport at least two hour before a domestic flight. Depending on the length of your flight, let’s say 1 hour, plus picking up your bags, renting a car (1 hour). You are looking at 5 hours spent in an airport and arriving at a destination where you will have to pay the additional rental car service or rely on someone to chauffeur you and your family around. Plus you need to calculate in the extra baggage fees to bring carseats and the kids supplies.
If you location is over six hours away, then flying may be a better option. Last year we drove to Ohio, and the location was six hours away. I did the math I illustrated above and decided that it made the most sense to drive versus flying. My kids were 6 months and 3 years old at the time. The first couple hours were OK, they took naps, our 3 year old watched a movie, but then it slowly started falling apart. Within a two hour period we had to stop twice and ended up stopping for dinner at hour 7 when we were still 2 hours from our destination. It ended up taking us 9 hours to get through a 6 hour drive, and by the time we arrived at 10:00 p.m. at night, our kids were grumpy and the parents were well past grumpy as well.
The pro’s of driving with kids is you control the time you leave versus having to work with airline schedules. It’s cheaper, you normally will spend a lot less in gas and vehicle wear then you will on airline tickets. You are able to pull off at rest stops and have a long meal and let the kids stretch and run around. When you reach your destination, you have your vehicle with you and your kids car seats. You can bring a lot more items by not being limited by packing into luggage.
The con’s of driving with kids is it takes a lot longer depending on where you are heading. You may end up with kids crying at you while your driving in horrible traffic, weather, or just stuck in traffic with no where to go and no potty stations anywhere close.
The pro’s of flying with kids is you get to your destination quicker, depending on how far away it is from your home. Planes are fun, I know my daughter is ecstatic by the idea of getting to fly in the air (but kids could also be scared or get ear aches- pack bubble gum). Another advantage of flying when kids are young, are lap kids. For children under 2 (need to check with specific airlines) the child can ride in your lap and you don’t have to pay the extra fees.
The con’s of flying with kids is the money. Unless your in the Spirit $99 fare, or have some other secret airline tips up your sleeve, then you are looking at forking out a good amount of money to get to your destination. Another con, is your have to arrive to the airport two hours before your flight. So depending on your drive to the airport, then you may be looking at up to three hours in the car and in the airport before your flight even departs. This could result in some very grumpy kids and some exhausted parents. Packing for a flight with kids can also be stressful, if your like me, your going to try to limit what you are going to take to reduce the number of bags. But you also have to make sure you have everything you need for the little people. And the more baggage you have, the higher the cost will be. So keep this in mind when selecting your airline and looking at costs. A final con is TSA, as an adult I hate going through security (I am glad we have it, it’s just a pain). But this can be a real pain especially with kids. I highly recommend TSA Precheck for those who are traveling frequently. You can use your TSA Precheck with kids and take them through with you!