Since my daughter was born 2 years ago, we have been fortunate enough to take her on 10 trips (travel for work, road trips, out of town weddings, and vacation), 5 of which required travel by air. She even took 2 or 3 trips with me in my tummy before she was born, so she has definitely earned the title of a jet-set baby! I worked in the travel industry for 5 years, grew up vacationing a lot with my family, and my husband has been traveling the world for break dancing since he was 18. So when we became a party of 3, we weren’t going to let that stop us from doing something that’s such a valuable part of our lives. I have many friends who haven’t traveled since they had a baby or very seldom do. The sheer thought of trying to manage all of the variables and “unknowns” is too much stress in their eyes, for a trip to even be worth it. I completely understand why they feel this way. Even though we’ve traveled a lot with our daughter, it has never been easy. But has it been worth it? Yes!
I’ve now had the opportunity to travel with my daughter through many different stages – helpless infant, squirmy baby, standing baby, walking toddler, and running toddler. It has forced me to adapt each time and has taught me how to better prepare for the next trip. With 2 years of experience, I finally feel pretty confident in my traveling-with-a-small-baby-or-toddler skills. I also think that my daughter is a better traveler because we have exposed her to so much travel at such a young age.
Our last trip was to Maui, Hawaii and it was likely the last time our daughter will fly as a “lap infant” because she’s turning 2 next month, and that’s the age that the airlines start requiring her to have her own seat (which quite frankly will make everything a lot easier, except for our budget). The fun part about our last trip though was that the travel experience was finally familiar to her! She could remember what it was like to go on “vacation” before, and she was excited for several days prior, as we packed our suitcases and talked about swimming at the beach. She knew that going to the airport meant that we would be getting on an airplane and flying somewhere. Once on the plane, she was delighted by all of the airplanes and people she could see out the window on the runway, and there were many joyful exclamations of “Whoaaa” as she saw the land and ocean below from way up in the sky.
Even though it was her first time to Maui, it wasn’t her first time in a new car, sleeping in a hotel room, or having to wait for breakfast at a restaurant. Babies and toddlers thrive on routine, and many toddlers get set in their ways of how they think things should be, or look, or go, but because we had taken her on so many trips before, it was much easier for her to adapt to vacation, where everything was different. Some of you right now are probably thinking, See, we’re too late! Our toddler has never traveled, and now we have to wait until he’s 6 because otherwise he’ll freak out and make our trip miserable. Stop the negative thoughts! You never know how something is going to go until you try it, and usually once you do, you retract all of the reasons why you tried to convince yourself not to in the first place.
It’s never too late to start traveling with your toddler. They’re going to need to learn how to adapt to new situations and surroundings, and how will you ever know if they’re obsessed with sand or if the sight of a cactus makes them laugh? The evidenced wonderment, joy, curiosity, and surprise are worth every dreaded plane ride or sleepless night in a hotel. I swear, every time we come back from a vacation I feel like our daughter is a whole new little person. It’s like she learned so much and had so much self-discovery while away that her world is just that much bigger once she returns to the four walls of our house.
So how do we prepare for traveling with our toddler? What’s the trick to making sure she isn’t that kid who’s screaming for the entire plane ride – you know, the one you used to pray you sat far, far away from when you were single? Well, I’m going to share my best tips with you in Part 2 of this post! I’m totally OCD, so trust me, I’ve thought of everything; it won’t be a list of tips you can already find at the top of Google results (although those tips are helpful too).