How I Dealt with My Family Travel Anxiety

written by Katie McMinn December 7, 2018
Mexcio Trip

It started the week before our first international family trip. I’d think about packing and my stomach would start swirling; then I’d think about my boys running around and screaming in the airport. Pretty sure I’m about to throw up at any moment. Oh God, the plane ride. What if Jaxson has a blowout? What if one of the boys has a tantrum? Jaxson does have that high-pitched, blood-curdling scream when he gets mad. Ok, I need to sit down. Breath in through my nose, our through my mouth.

Sound familiar? After the anxiety passed, I went to clean my kitchen. Shortly after I started scrubbing my stove, Thomas came up to me and asked if I needed help with anything. I turned to him and said, “I need you to calm me down. I feel so damn anxiety about this trip.”

“Why do you feel anxious? Everything will be fine. We will deal with things as they happen.” He kindly told me.

“Just keep telling me that.” I said into his chest.

Then I kissed him and returned to cleaning the stove. “How much longer can I put off packing and preparing for this family trip?” I wondered. I kept telling myself that the reaction to my kids’ first plane ride was normal. I felt anxious the days leading up to the trip. I kept telling myself, “Don’t worry about what will happen, until it happens.” With that in mind, I did try to plan for every possible outcome: again blowouts, tantrums, boredom, etc.

I packed the boys suitcase on Black Friday, the day before we traveled to Mexico. On my office floor, I spread out their clothes, swimming suits and floaties; the games and crafts I would use on the plane ride home; treats and snacks; first aid kit and all the toiletries I deemed necessary. I needed to see everything in its entirety before I strategically packed up their suitcase. I felt good about the items I packed.

I moved on to pack my suitcase, which was a breeze, swimming suits and maxi dresses. I laid in bed that night feeling good about the situation and I was grateful anxiety was not filling my belly. That morning I was up early, got dressed and packed my final toiletries; then carried our suitcases down to the kitchen. I turned around to see my perfect boys dressed and excited to get on their first airplane.

Mexico Trip

We made it to the airport, thankfully my friend Holly dropped us off so we didn’t have to park our car for a week. I was filled with excitement as I watched Jaxson riding Thomas’s suitcase. I’m happy to report I felt no anxiety. As Liam and I caught up to suitcase brigade, I could see Thomas was anxious. He looked worried and declared, “We may miss our flight. The line is so long, I told you we needed to be here sooner.”

McMinn's Mexico Trip

McMinn's Mexico Trip

He repeated this statement three times, as we made our way passed the Delta check-in down to the baggage claim. Yes, the line was extremely long. In all my travels, I had never seen the airport like this. As we stood in line, Thomas asked me to go see if the curbside check-in line was shorter. The moment I left, I heard him calling my name. I turned to face him, and he motioned me back.

“I think it may go quicker than we think.” He said to me as I rolled my suitcase up to my side. I placed my hand on his arm and said, “Everything is fine. We can’t change anything now. We’ll get checked-in and everything will work out. Try not to worry.”

I thought it was funny during the days leading up to this trip I was the anxious one and now, as we are starting our adventure, he had the anxiety. As we finally got up to the check-in desk the attendant said, “You are lucky. Your check-in window closes in two minutes.”

I had no idea there was a check-in window. Thomas and I looked at each other in surprise. “See everything works out fine. We made the check-in window and we will make it to the plane in time too.” I said to him with a smile.

We checked in our luggage and made our way through the airport. Before I knew it, I was sitting on the airplane in between my boys. The boys did great during the flight. They watched movies and ate almost all the snacks I had packed.

Mexico Trip

As we made our way through the Mexican airport, my anxiety was there but not bad. We ran into Thomas’s Dad and step-mom (funny enough) and together grabbed a shuttle to the resort. We arrived at the resort lobby at about 4 pm and I felt off. I had a bad headache and I was a little anxious of the unexpected. We checked-in to our room and met up with Thomas’s parents and stepbrother’s family for dinner. We were a group of ten, six adults and four kids.

McMinn's Mexico Trip

After dinner, we made our way to a sandy patio, where a Mexican Fiesta ensued. The kids played fun carnival type games until we made our way to the end of the patio, where we watched the kids run around and listened to a Mariachi band perform. I sat there feeling exhausted and a tad anxious as my head pounded. I probably should have gone to the room and laid down, but I suffer from FOMO.

As I sat there feeling awful in such beautiful surroundings, I knew I needed an overhaul. I was hoping to feel better after I slept. After the fiesta was over, we made our way back to our room. I was grateful as I laid my head down on my pillow. I woke up the next morning feeling fine. Much like the airport situation, Thomas was not fine. As I brushed my teeth, Thomas came up me and asked, “How are you feeling?”

“Fine. How are you?” I asked back.

“I’m ok. You seemed off last night. Just want to make sure you’re ok.” He said kindly.

“Ya. I had a bad headache and I was feeling a bit anxious actually.” I said with a kind of chuckle. How much anxiety would I feel during this trip? “I just needed to sleep and hopefully as we get into the routine of this trip I will feel better.”

He replied with, “Ok. Just so you know I feel a bit of that myself. Let’s promise to keep talking to one another about what we need from each other.”

“Deal.” I said as I put a hand out to give him a promise handshake. I’d like to say the rest of the trip was anxiety-free, but it crept in from time to time. I’d feel it if the boys would run ahead of us to the point where I couldn’t see them. They’d run around corners and down halls and I’d feel my stomach start to turn. Whenever I would start to feel that pit in my stomach I’d tell Thomas, “Please go get them.”

He and I kept the communication open and that really helped me feel less stressed. In spite of the slight anxiety moments we encountered, we had a blast in Mexico. We spent our mornings at the beach, afternoons at the pool, and evenings at kid events at the resort. Like our first evening there, the resort continued to have kid events. In addition to the Mexican Fiesta, there was a pirate dance-off, Coco carnival, and a dance disco. We were having the time of our lives.

McMinn's Mexico Trip

McMinn's Mexico Trip

McMinn's Mexico Trip

Katie McMinn holding her sleeping son in Mexico

McMinn's Mexico Trip

The second day of our trip, my sister-in-law Mariya keep hassling me to workout with her at the gym. Now I have to mention, our family was sick for weeks leading up to this trip. Thomas had pneumonia and strep, Jax had croup, and Liam and I both caught a virus. My point is that Thomas and I were barely hitting the gym once a week. In other words, we were not in Spartan Beast shape. The tiny, fit voice in my head kept telling me to go join Mariya at the gym. So… I agreed to go with her the following morning. I hardly slept that night because I was so worried about sleeping through my alarm (we haven’t set an alarm since Liam was born). I got up early that morning and made my way to the gym. Can I just say? Kuddos to those of you, like Mariya, that can work out in the morning. I am not one of those people. As I was lifting my weights and doing my pull ups, all I could think about was how hungry I was. Yes, I was secretly curse my sister-in-law as I watched her kicking ass cycling on a bike. After our work out we made our way to the buffet and I found myself please that I had gone to the gym. I was grateful Mariya had pushed me to go because I had not realized how tight my muscles were and how badly I needed to build up some endorphins.

I worked out once more after that day, not in the morning though. I went down randomly after a day in the sun and went for a quick 3-mile run. I grabbed a yoga mat and went to stretch. Low and behold, there was Mariya. We laughed about being there at the same time and chatted during our stretch time.

Mexico Trip Gym

I am so grateful that she pushed me to work out; I think it helped with my anxiety level. I always feel more relaxed after a good work out. I noticed a difference in how my body felt and found myself having more patience as my boys were running around the resort.

Thomas helped me the most on this trip. Knowing he also felt anxious at times, made me feel better. The fact that he encouraged the communication between us opened the door for each of us to express when we were feeling overwhelmed. We were then able to step up and take the reins from each other. I am so grateful for the communication I have with Thomas and his ability to care of me when I need it.

Thomas and Katie McMinn in Mexico

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