Cross Country Traveling, With my Spirited Four-Year-Old, Autism, and No Stroller! What was I Thinking?

Well, I’ll tell you what I was thinking. Make sure to pack my anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds! I kid… but not really.  I was thinking that when my husband said, “I have something terrible to bring up. The stroller won’t fit in the car with all our luggage,” that we would somehow make this work. Just like we always make things work. But, I’ll tell you how it actually went down. I spent a lot of time chasing, yelling, bribing, pinning down my autistic son at numerous locations throughout the trip, crying, regretting, asking myself was this worth it? Do I ever want to travel again with this boy? The short answer is yes. I love him dearly. For the long answer… keep reading, as I provide some information on what did, and what did not, work well for us.

Looks Can Be Deceiving.


Oh, don’t let these sweet innocent faces fool you from believing what they are capable of! Things can go from harmony to anarchy in less than 10 seconds…

I’ll admit, things started out simple enough. We entered the airport with two excited kids, and a husband carrying way more luggage and car seats than one might think humanly possible.  It wasn’t perfect, but we were determined. I quickly ran through my to-do list in my head.  Review the visual schedule with my son with autism. CHECK.  Snacks, IPADs, chargers, pullups, bribing candies all packed. CHECK!  Any liquids placed in easy to find zip-locks, meeting all TSA requirements. CHECK.

Uncontrollable autism behaviors going to happen regardless? YOU BET.

I had done everything I could to prepare him. I had presented Lucas with drawings and cartoons of children waiting on line, holding hands with their mom and dad, walking and not running, flying happily in an airplane after waiting in the terminal. But seriously, self control in a spacious airport while not restrained in a stroller? Think again. There was a point while trying to walk through the security gate, where I literally thought to myself, “I will never do this again.” Every. Single. Task… is much harder when traveling with said autistic child. Now of course, he is part of our family, and I will move mountains for him if I could. But truth is truth. When you are standing in line, wearing both a maximally filled book bag and diaper bag, pulling a large rolling luggage with a car seat attached, while pinning a screaming, curious, defiant, and kicking autistic preschooler under one arm at the same time, you ask yourself some questions. You rethink ever planning this trip in the first place.  You look around in that moment, and although you don’t want to, you wonder, is all of this worth it?  We convince ourselves, that “sure, it is!” And, we move on through the next challenge.

Check in your Luggage.

Why did we think we should not check in more luggage?!

We thought we could cut some financial corners. But, heaven knows, it would have been much easier if we had checked in additional luggage. My advice: pay the extra fee. Having eight carry-on bags, with only two adults able to carry these bags, and no stroller, while simultaneously trying to manage a vivacious sensory seeking, runner, escape artist youngster, or any toddler/preschooler for that matter, also on the trip, will test your sanity and ability to parent well under pressure. With what free hand were we supposed to catch this little guy, who is also an expert at dropping to his knees once grabbed, every time he tried to flee, explore, dip under waiting line belts and ropes, or follow random shape patterns he found interesting along the floor?  Bright side? We saved money not checking in luggage! Score!

A Family that Sticks Together Gets on the Same Train Together.


This might sound a little obvious or strange. But a word of advice? Keep your entire family closely at your side when you board an airport shuttle service train! After a long delay and flight, we were finally on land and ready to board the train to our rental car. But, guess what? Those doors close amazingly fast! Thankfully, all the kids were safely with Mom on one side of those closing doors! We were able to meet my husband at the destination. It just meant a lot more fun for me to try to balance all the luggage (on wheels) and two exhausted, but still very energetic kids, on a moving, but frequently stopping, train. We survived! What is life without adventure? We laugh often to embrace the joy in most of our challenging situations.

Simple Things are not Simple for Us.

Church? I will spare you the media, but he crawled under the pews and reached between the seat and wall and pulled out a sticky mouse trap! Ahh! All the while I am keeping things quiet and discreet less anybody realize the horror!



Restaurant? He will sit under his seat and watch his favorite movie. Bonus? He created his very own border, to prevent easy escaping, without even realizing!


Visiting family? Get that vestibular system going to help keep him regulated!


Why Persevere? Because, Good Friends and Family are Everything!

“Happy is the home that welcomes a friend.”


So, was it all worth it? Absolutely! I wouldn’t have given up the chance to spend time with some fabulous people. Some of who did their absolute best to ease the emotional and physical challenges of the trip! And, there are very few things that a homemade slice of some amazing chocolate cake and a cappuccino with cinnamon on top can’t make, at least a little, better.


To all who welcomed us, loved us, and helped us, we thank you from the very bottom of our exhausted, but filled, hearts!

We will see you all again… many years from now… just kidding… We hope to see you all again soon!

Was traveling and autism hard? Yes! Was it all worth it? Absolutely.


In the meantime, we are home safe, and Lucas has got a few new buddies to keep him company, important treasures and memories that he gathered along the trip.

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I am just a mom on a journey. Trying my best to do it right. Making lots of mistakes along the way. Enjoying having a community that gets it, to share it all with.

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