Mom Shares Tips after Spending 19 Months Traveling with Her Toddler

Mom Shares Tips after Spending 19 Months Traveling with Her Toddler

You don’t have to pack loads of toys or hundreds of diapers

Traveling with a small child can seem daunting, more work than staying home, and generally…not worth it. You have to cart this often-cranky person and their gear around while your plans of spending an afternoon relaxing on the beach take a back seat to naptimes and tantrums.

I get it. My husband and I spent over a year and a half traveling full-time to 20 countries with our toddler son and actually came to enjoy it after we adjusted our expectations a bit and slowed everything down. Here are some of our top tips for how to actually enjoy traveling with a toddler.

Manage your expectations

While we’re firm believers that you can successfully travel as a family without exclusively visiting theme parks and children’s museums for the next 18 years, you will need to manage your expectations. Pick a reasonable amount of activities per day (we like a morning and afternoon activity with time for nap/quiet time in between) and consider the rest a bonus. Visiting a museum in the morning? Opt for a more casual stroll around a neighborhood + a visit to a local playground in the afternoon. And you know this already, but life with a kid means things take approximately 50% more time than you estimate that they will, so if Google Maps tells you it will take 20 minutes to get somewhere, allow 30.


Be prepared, but not over-prepared

Most everything that’s truly a necessity can be purchased anywhere in the world. Pack enough that you’re not stressed, but not so much that you’re carting around anything more than the essentials. For us, that means tossing a few diapers into a tote, along with a water bottle, and a couple of toy cars. It can be fun finding other things that you need while on the go, for instance, trying a new local snack, or letting your kid pick out a small toy at a local toy shop.


Determine what’s important to you and focus on those details

Everyone has different travel styles and when you add kids to the mix, that expands exponentially.

Establish what matters most to you and plan that, and remain flexible on the rest. If space to decompress is important, book an Airbnb with a large living room or an outdoor space. If convenience is your number one, sacrifice space for location. If you hate having to make game-time decisions, pre-book a few museum slots. Spending time establishing and communicating your priorities (and potential stressors) will free up time to enjoy the trip when it comes around.


Don’t stress about the small stuff

Easier said than done, but if there’s one constant to traveling with children it is that things will go wrong. Stuff that happens at home will happen on the road. Tantrums, picky eating, bad moods—these will happen. Focus on the things that go smoothly and the memories you’re creating as a family. Attitude is everything.


Lean into the little things

It’s easy to get lost in planning all of the activities and museums, but don’t forget the extremely likely scenario that your child might be more interested in the gravel path outside the museum than the dinosaur fossils inside it. As frustrating as this may be, it can be helpful to view each component of your day as an opportunity for your child to find something they love. The public bus or metro ride to a destination could be as exciting as the destination itself, and that’s ok.


Don’t make too many sacrifices

This might seem counterintuitive, but if you’re thinking about traveling with a child, travel is probably something you enjoyed before you became a parent or caregiver. Sure…you have to travel differently now, but it’s possible to still do the things you enjoyed before your little one was even a twinkle in your eye. We like to strike a balance between catering to our son and inserting him into our plans. Contemporary art museums? Full of flashy exhibits that kids will love! Long train rides? Perfect for on-the-go naps and much-needed downtime. Need an adult beverage? Breweries are super-kid friendly and many have outside spaces for your little one to burn off some energy. Balancing some dedicated children’s activities with things you enjoy too is totally fine and will help you enjoy your time together.


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