Flying or Driving

Updated on May 03, 2012
J.D. asks from Mount Laurel, NJ
18 answers

so summer vacation is coming up and my family has offered to pay for me and my girls to come down to visit them for 2 weeks. My mom wants us to fly but since im by myself with a 5 yr old and 4 yr old and 1 yr old I am against it as car seats, suitcases, toys, and bottles and stuff like that is going to be a big hassle.
My mom doesnt want us driving the 13 hrs as she is worried about me and the kids getting into an accident (i am a safe driver) and she is worried about the kids getting antsy.
I explained I take the kids everywhere around town and sometimes we are in the car a lot but we will stop at rest areas on our trip and make sure the kids get some run around time while at the rest stops.
I have done the drive before but with just 2 children instead of 3.
My mom insists we fly and i insist we drive... how should i handle this as I want to see my family but i dont have the money to go down there.
I would love to fly but with only 2 hands and 3 kids and all the stuff i have to bring for 2 weeks im concerned about being too overwhelmed.

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answers from Washington DC on

I'd drive, I've done NC to Chicago many times when the kids were little, hubby was always deployed. I stay at Hamptons or Hoilday Inn Express and do it in two days.
From VA we also drive, we do it straight through, but I have two other drivers now.

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answers from Washington DC on

Your family would pay for the flight for all four of you? Fly, for sure.

Think of this: You can tell your mom what bottles etc. to purchase and have ready down there; you don't need to carry many toys, or tell mom you'll ship some. As for car seats -- the kids should be flyiing IN those, strapped into their airline seats, anyway. Call the airline and say you will need priority boarding and help with three car seats (or two, if the five-year-old is large enough to fly without one) both getting on and off the plane.

Do not have a "lap baby" or you will be exhausted by holding a wiggly kid. Get each child a seat on the plane and use the car seats in them. It will indeed seem like a hassle for the time you are in the airports, but it will be over much faster than if you drive and must listen to crying or "I'm hungry" for hours.

There is a world of difference between going all around town all day in the car and doing a 13-hour drive with three small kids. Plus, statistically, you and they are safer flying than driving. If you do not have another adult to share the driving -- you will be driving tired, with no one to help out. Dangerous. And we just returned from a long road trip, and other drivers, especially truckers, drove like maniacs on the highways. Do you want 13 hours of that, alone?

Reconsider all the stuff you think you need for two weeks. Other than car seats, take only the most basic clothing etc. You can wash while you're there-- no need for a lot of clothes. Even consider shipping clothes ahead etc. Strip down you list of "musts" and tell your mom what you need her to get or what you will send on ahead.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

No way would I drive by myself that long w/2 kids.
What if you break down? Potty breaks?

I would rather fly any day!

I say pack light & have your mom purchase things you need that are bigger to have ready for you when you arrive.

Pack light.

In an airport you can use your stroller to get around long distances quickly & you can always ask someone for help!

Also, bring new toys the kids have never seen to occupy them on the flight. Make sure they are "quiet" toys.

The convenience & safety are worth the extra expense to fly.
Have a fun, safe trip!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would fly and rent or borrow car seats on that end. Pack a little rolling suit case for each kid with stuff to do on the plane (we got ours from Target). We flew when our kids were 2, 4, and 6 and this worked perfectly.

The 4 and 5 year old should be able to stay with you, no problems. The 1 year old will be more work, but that's normal at that age, so you've got to be used to it already.

I'd fly.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

can your husband go to the airport to see you off??? if he can or maybe a friend can what you do is get a gate pass. then they go to the gate with you to help. then on the trip home have your mom go with you to help. suitcases, 1 for you and 1 for kids......wash clothes while there. each kid gets a backpack with some toys or books. diaper bag for baby with 2 or 3 bottles. wash them right away. good luck

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

fly. hands down, fly.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

You gave the ages of two the other O. older?

Personally speaking, I'd rather have a short, chaotic trip than 13 LONG hours in the car with 3 kids.

We tend to pack REALLY light when we fly.
You really need a lot less than you might think.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Fly, so much easier and safer for you.

Just because you are a safe driver does not mean you are safer driving. You have to watch out for the other person and going through other areas which you are not used to can get confusing, especially with antsy children. Rest stops are far from safe.

That said, if it is more than a 2 hr drive for us, we fly. Always have and always will. It is just safer.

My cousin in England flies over here all the time with her 4 children (3, 6, 8, 10 now) alone and has since the oldest was 6 weeks old. The youngest is 3 now but she was towing them all when having an infant as well. It can be done.

Make it an adventure for your 4 and 5 yr old. They are not helpless and they can be responsible for their own carry on with "fun things" to do during the flight.

Don't pack diapers, and basic things you use daily. Buy it when you get there. Pack minimal and do laundry while you are there.

You can do it.. take your mom up on this and have fun.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I would fly and rent car seats at your mom's end. The 4 and 5 year olds can absolutely keep up at the airport and you can wear the one year old. The last time I used a stroller at the airport, my son was 18 months old. He knows to pick out a few small toys. I can fit my stuff and his stuff together into a carry on for 6 days when we travel in the summer (winter stuff is bulkier). He has also pulled his own carry on since he was 4 so I think your 5 year old could absolutely help at the airport.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would fly. I would also do one of two things.
1. Have Mom fly in the day before and fly back with you.

2. Check all luggage and any carseats at the curb-side check-in. Stay in the open part of the airport until an hour before takeoff. That way hubby or a friend can help entertain. Allow and hour for security, although you hopefully won't need it. Pack 1 backpack for the older kids to each carry. That way you are only carrying the diaper bag and baby. You can actually use your stroller all the way up to gate checkin.

As for seating, pay to preselect your seats so that you can make sure that you are all sitting together. in a 2by2 section or 3 across.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Either trip has the potential to be hell. One will just be hell for a LOT longer than the other. I'd fly. A 13 hour drive with 3 small kiddos will turn into 2 long days of driving.

Re: flying. The 4 and 5 yo should be easy-peasy. Especially if you get them a portable dvd. And if you get them a small roller bag, they can pack their own toys and some clothes in their bag and roll them themselves. At that point, you really only have to worry about the 1yo.

Also, I would bring booster seats for the 4 and 5 yo, instead of lugging a big old car seat for them. Only bring the car seat for the 1yo.

Good luck, don't stress too much, and have fun (when you get there).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Can your Mom fly up the night before and then fly back down with you to give you a hand? And then reverse it on the trip back?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I have done both...with 4 kids alone...many times.

For a 13 hour trip...I would drive. There is no question about it...with all the stuff you need for 2 weeks....and then having to rent a car to fit the entire family in...its not worth it!

One word for the car ride...DVD player. I took my 4 kids, and myself (no husband) on a 3 week road trip this past summer from AZ to CO to NE to IL to WI to AR back to AZ. It was not bad at all (but I do have a few older kids). They were great in the car, I never felt unsafe and it was SO much easier to have everything we needed right in the car, with our car seats and our car.

Sounds like you want to drive...and I agree with you. You can do it!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Allentown on

I would fly. I am a single Mom with two kids not 3 tho. I flew last year when my kids were 3 and 5. I packed a rolling backpack for each of them, that they were able to pull. On the way there I took the carseats with me thru the airport and put them on the plane. Big, big mistake! They gave me a big roller cart to fit everything on, but the worst part was trying to get the seats in the plane seats with kids who were already antsy. Once they were in tho and the kids all buckled in it went great. Again a hassle getting them off the plane, although the stewardesses helped, it was still difficult. On the way home, I checked the carseats and luggage at the curb checking, and wow, what a difference. All I had was my purse and carry-on and the kids each had their backpacks, and boarding was so easy. If you have a stroller for the baby you can use that for the diaper bag and baby until you actually are on the plane, at which point they will check the stroller and have it ready for you to get off the plane. Honestly I would fly, driving alone with 3 kids is torture for that long, even if split into two days. I can do about 3 to 4 hours at a shot, but flying was still easier. If your Mom has the money have her fly up to meet you and fly back with you. You will definitely need to get seats together. I would opt for a row of 3 seats and hold the baby on your lap. But you could get two rows of two seats, and put the older kids in front of you. Take sippy cups for the older kids and a bottle for the baby. Pack other bottles in the checked suitcases, and don't pack things like diapers, that you can buy there. Only put in the diaper bag what you normally would for a day trip out. Security will be the biggest hassle tho we did it pretty well. Just explain to kiddos they will need to put their backpacks on the table. Make sure any liquid is sealed inside baggies and is under the 3 oz limit. Explain to them they need to take shoes off ahead of time. And ask a clerk there for help if you need it, also other people going through may help. But if by chance your Mom can fly back to help you, it should be very easy, as she can direct the older kids while you get the baby and you thru. If not, that will honestly be the biggest hassle for flying as long as you check those carseats. Now you will have to rent a car on the other side, but even that went pretty smoothly, and installing the seats with the kids there was easier. More room, and kids used to a car as opposed to a plane. Now the only thing you may want to do it take the infant seat. The baby may be more comfortable sitting in that, and only one seat to install should be easier. Especially if it is one that snaps into the stroller. They also board all families with kids first so you can get the kids settled before other passengers start boarding. That way there are seats for the kids to sit on while you get their seats ready and no one in the way. They are really good with families. I don't think safety for the trip a super concern either way, of course flying is typically safer, but likely you would get there driving without any mishaps. Overall, a trip like this is going to be difficult. Which is why I would opt for the quicker option of flying. Either way will be hard for the kids. If you are really prepared tho, flying will be easier for you.



answers from Chicago on

I am doing a similar trip with my three kids from Chicago to D.C. this summer. I am driving w/o my hubby, because he can't take off that much time from work. He is also nervous about me driving by myself, but I am supremely confident that this will be a fun road trip. We are doing it over two days though. And I have mapped out our route including stops at malls/stores/restaurants.

Can you break it into two days? It will eat into precious "Granny time" and add hotel and food costs, but maybe it will make your mom feel better.



answers from Detroit on

I think you could fly if you plan it well. A 13 hour car ride would be very hard on your toddler.

Would the one year old be on your lap so you can all fit in one row? Can you fly out of a smaller regional airport, even if it means connecting in a larger one? Pack light - do laundry at your mom's, buy baby food and diapers there so you don't have to pack them. The older two can carry backpacks through the airport and you can check the stroller at the gate. If you have a 'runner', get one of those leash things. Have everyone wear the same color shirt to make it easy to find each other and take their picture that day with your phone just in case.



answers from Kansas City on

I've done both with 3 kids. Do you have to change planes? If you can fly direct, I would fly. If you have to change planes, then just drive! Also, does someone on the other end have a vehicle big enough to accommodate 3 car seats? If you have to rent a van when you get there, just drive! A 13 hour drive is not that bad--really:)


answers from Lakeland on

You can ship some of the items you will need to your parents’ home so you won’t have to drag it through the airport (including car seats).

My daughter and I (5yo) sometimes drive to PA and sometimes we fly. The last flight I shipped her clothes and booster seat (an extra one) so I wouldn't have to carry extra stuff. When she and I drive we only travel during the day and stop halfway at a motel for the night. I don't like stopping for potty breaks and/or gas at night with just the two of us. Even some of the rest areas on I-95 are not lit well.

My daughter has always done well on long car trips so it’s not a problem for us. We also have the convenience of cell phones to check in now and then. For us it is more relaxing to drive then go through the hassle of getting through security, waiting for the plane (and hoping it’s not delayed) and then feeling like a sardine for a few hours. You can easily spend close to the same amount of time flying that you would if you were driving.

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