There are so many amazing things about having children. I know that as a new parent, you can feel a bit overwhelmed by all the changes that come with childrearing. From the super fun nursery to the cute outfits and all the new toys to the new routines and sleep schedules to the biggest challenge of all: disciplining your child. But as a new mom it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the feeling you have to deal with as a parent.
While I am not a mother of a toddler, I am a mother of a young child. As a result, I have had extensive travel with my son. I have been through the frustrations of having a very active toddler and a toddler who needs to sleep, and I have triumphed through the joy of being a traveling mama with my son.
Traveling with a baby is a big adjustment. These days, the only thing that gets easier is the packing. If you’re traveling with a toddler, the only thing that gets easier is the packing. If you’re traveling with a toddler and a baby, the packing part is basically taken care of. If you’re traveling with a toddler and a baby and you’re a parent to a toddler, the packing part is basically taken care of. If you’re traveling with a toddler and a baby and you’re a parent to a toddler and a baby, well, we’re just not sure what to tell you.
Karen and Ross, our friends, have recently returned from a fantastic European vacation with their toddler son, Laz. I asked her to share their experience traveling with a noisy one-year-old, as I was skeptical that a vacation with a loud one-year-old could be pleasant. I really hope you like it as much as I do.
Yes, traveling across the globe with a child is more enjoyable.
I published an article on this blog about a year ago about traveling abroad with a newborn. I boldly asserted that, far from being a burden, having the infant really enhanced our vacation experience, much to my surprise. I thought the window of pleasant family travel was quickly passing since my kid was only 8 months old at the time, yet here I am, 10 months later, making a second bold claim: traveling abroad with a toddler is better.
We recently returned from a two-and-a-half-week trip to Switzerland and Italy with our 18-month-old. To raise the ante, let me now disclose that we traveled with not one, but TWO toddlers on this particular vacation, as we caught up with my in-laws and their 1-year-old daughter halfway through the journey. That’s right: two car seats, two high chairs, two distinct but equally annoying screams, two individuals who walk like drunken monkeys and fall down all the time, two times the poopy diapers and mealtime messes, all traversing strange countries at the same time.
We had a wonderful time, too. Let me clarify by contrasting it with my experiences traveling with a baby (including how it’s even better!) and giving my best travel advice for those of you who wish to do the same!
It’s just as enjoyable to travel with a toddler as it is with a newborn.
You may still interact with the locals.
We were astounded by the number of individuals we met when we took our infant to Asia last year. Who knew a baby could be such a great icebreaker? Toddlers may be even better at this since they actively seek out individuals to engage with. My kid, if left to his own devices, would wander a piazza looking for a new buddy or admirer every time.
Our kids were looking for sand toys at the beach one day when they stumbled (literally) upon a pair of twins who had a large pile of buckets and shovels to share. We ended up spending time with the family and received excellent local suggestions and information.
You can (still) spend quality time with your family without interruption.
On our last trip, I stated that one of my favorite aspects of family travel is the amount of time we get to spend together as a family without the distractions of chores, appointments, emails, and other obligations.
Whether you have a newborn, a toddler, or a child of any age, this is true. It’s such a pleasure to spend days with everyone gazing at each other rather than at their phones!
You can still cut in line if you want to.
Toddlers have just as much of a pull as newborns when it comes to getting special attention in foreign airports, railway stations, trams, and other places.
Even in the United States, foreign flights typically have a security line set up for families, and many airlines allow international travelers to pre-board.
Many other nations treat families like kings, escorting them to a separate passport window, rushing them to the head of the line, or providing other conveniences. It’s all because you’re carrying a kid around.
There are a few more advantages to traveling with a toddler…
You have a lot more time to calm down and say “yes.”
What a treat it is to have no obligations, no plans, and no courses to attend. Do you want to have some fun in this fountain? We are not in a hurry, so it sounds fine. For a change. Do you feel like taking a nap? Yes, I agree! What a pleasure it will be to accomplish it together. That is something we never do at home.
Do you want to spend more time at the beach? We don’t have to be somewhere at a certain time since we’re on vacation, so no issue. Do you want to spend a few hours playing with a hose? I’ll have another drink on the terrace if that’s okay with you. I loved not having to yell “hurry up!” or “we’re going to be late!” to my clingy child for two weeks.
You can see things that you normally wouldn’t have seen.
At the risk of sounding corny, seeing things through the eyes of a toddler is very different, and it may help you notice things more. I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at the Alpine cows if it hadn’t been for my kid chasing them down and mooing in their approximate vicinity.
I paid attention to them and enjoyed the straight-out-of-Heidi scenario they created. I would have missed the intricacies of some class-A fountains, lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and puddles if he wasn’t fascinated with “agua.” And having him run free in pedestrian plazas allowed me to conduct a lot more in-depth people watching than if I were alone, dashing from place to place.
You may expose your children to fresh experiences.
Did you know that octopus carpaccio with balsamic vinegar and sea salt is a favorite of my son’s? I didn’t know either till he tasted some on our vacation. I like the daily chances to mix up the pattern and explore what he may prefer instead of the unending supply of Cheerios.
Trying out new foods and beverages? It’s worth a shot. Do you want to go swimming in the sea? It was a little too chilly for me, but he enjoyed it. I find myself immediately assuming “my kid won’t eat/like/want/do that” about a variety of things without even giving him the opportunity to try. He often surprises me, and all of the new experiences I’ve had on vacation have given me plenty of opportunities to go beyond my comfort zone and switch off my negative filter.
Then there’s the bad news…
The flight may be difficult.
Flying with a child? You’re referring to this little person that can be easily soothed with a bottle or breast, takes up very little room, and can hardly move? Sure, it’s not a huge issue. Taking a flight with a toddler? It may be a rough journey, so hold on to your tray table. A lengthy flight with a child may be either enjoyable or dreadful. It will assist if you have a lot of toys, food, and patience.
Flight Tip 1: Visit a Dollar Store and purchase a variety of tiny, unique toys that your child has never seen before. As required, take them out one at a time. If he’s a thrower like mine, wrap a ribbon around the toy and grasp one end to keep the toys from flying away.
2nd Flight Tip: Bring a variety of food in compact zipper bags or containers. When the aircraft takes off, the child who is crazy about Goldfish may become bored of them over Greenland, so having a variety of choices is a smart idea.
3rd Flight Tip: Request a bulkhead seat. The emergency escape row is out since you have a child, but the front bulkhead seat is an excellent choice because your child can stand up and roam about more freely.
Flight Tip #4: Discuss your expectations for the flight with your partner (if you’re traveling together). My husband and I have an understanding that if one of us is taking care of the child and everything is going well, the other may watch a movie, read, sleep, or eat. The kid-watcher, on the other hand, is free to contact the second parent at any moment for any reason. This method worked for us, but it may not work for you. In any case, discussing expectations in advance is simpler than arguing about them at 30,000 feet.
Flight Tip #5: Look for yourself, or everyone will be unhappy. Everything your kid does will be that much more irritating if you are hungry, thirsty, or sad. Make sure to bring energy-boosting snacks with you, such as Clif bars, and drink plenty of water.
Flight Tip 6: Even though most aircraft have milk on available for bottles, you may get unfortunate if your child is calmed by milk. To be cautious, bring a zipper bag of powdered milk with you in case you run out.
[See also 10 Ways to Keep a Toddler Amused on a Plane]
The jetlag… the jetlag, oh, the jetlag.
You can’t plan or prepare too much for jetlag since you never know how it will affect you – yet it may be devastating. We experienced two days of midnight wakeups upon arriving on our vacation, but because we were all in the same boat, it wasn’t too terrible. We only had one night of being out of sync after returning home. Reentry took more than a week the last time I did it. I don’t have any advice other than to stay in there and try to go back to some sort of normalcy as soon as possible.
My greatest advice for traveling across the globe with a toddler
Of course, there will be times of craziness, but there are many things you can do to reduce the difficult portions and increase the enjoyable ones. Here are some of my greatest suggestions for making international travel with your toddler(s) as enjoyable and simple as possible:
Travel Tip #1: Instead of staying in a hotel, consider renting an apartment. In many instances, it’ll be less expensive, and you’ll have more room, a fridge for milk and yogurt, and the ability to prepare a few meals at home so you don’t have to take your child to a restaurant three times a day. VRBO and HomeAway are excellent places to start.
Travel Tip #2: Consider vacationing with a family with children of comparable ages. You’ll be able to swap off babysitting as often as you’d like, making it simpler to squeeze in a kid-free activity or night out now and again. Toys, food, and equipment may also be shared.
Travel Tip #3: Hire a babysitter, even if it’s just for one night. We stayed at a little hotel in a small town at one point, and the proprietor said that he had a 2-year-old, so we asked if he could arrange for a babysitter so that we could go out for the night. We were totally at ease doing it since it was a quiet, safe town and the restaurant was just 2 streets away. Most bigger hotels have babysitting services, and if you’re worried, just dine in the hotel restaurant to be near by. It’s fantastic to have even one night dedicated to adults only!
Travel Tip #4: Make a mental picture of how you’ll spend your days and nights so you can pack appropriately. We intended on doing a lot of trekking and spending time in ancient towns with rocky cobblestone streets, so we brought a backpack carrier instead of a stroller. For the things we had planned, it was the best option. My sister-in-law thought ahead and brought a tiny, soft, folding high chair seat, which turned out to be a wonderful idea since some places either offered one high chair or none at all.
Travel Tip #5: Decide what you’ll do with the car seats. We didn’t bring our own car seats; instead, we leased them along with our rental vehicles. (I had been told that they may not be of good quality, but they were really newer and better than our home car seat.) Before you travel, you should check into local car seat rules. Because we didn’t have a carseat, we were turned down for a 5-minute taxi trip in Zurich. We were able to catch a bus and everything worked out well, but I can imagine it being a major problem in other circumstances. If you need to carry a car seat, look into one of these car seat wheelie carts or, for heavier kids, an inflatable booster or portable travel harness (editor note: whoa!). I’ve never seen anything like it!) so you’re not transporting a massive carseat halfway across the globe for a few short trips.
So that’s how I see things. Even with an active toddler, I’m still optimistic about family travel to far-flung destinations. The only remaining question is: where should we go next?
Karen, you’re amazing! Is it too late for you to adopt me? Thank you for sharing your most recent trip!
- International travel is more enjoyable with a BABY.
- Traveling the world with children (for months at a time!) is a challenge.
- 10 Ways to Make Flying with Kids Easier
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best age to travel with a child?
The best age to travel with a child is when they are old enough to understand the concept of traveling. This means that they will be able to understand the process of getting on and off a plane, what happens during takeoff and landing, what its like in an airport, etc.
What do you need when traveling with a toddler?
You will need a stroller, car seat, and diaper bag.
How do you fly long haul with a toddler?
It is very difficult to fly with a toddler. You will need to find someone who can watch your child while you are flying long haul.
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