I HAVE a two-year-old who is in the prime of her toddlerhood and a lot of fun to travel with. This past January she, her father, and I drove from Maine to Florida with very few stops along the way. You would think that traveling that far with a little person would be awful, but it wasn’t. Sure, there is an ugly side (hello, tantrums) but for the most part, toddler travel is pretty great. Here’s why.
1. They still take naps.
I found this nap-taking essential to my plans. Especially when we were on a long drive (or flight). If toddlers get tired, they may cry a bit until BAM they’re asleep. If you’re at your destination and having a busy day, it’s really nice to take some time out to rest. When I traveled solo I was always exhausted after my trips because I wanted to fit everything in and see and do as much as I could. Now that I travel with my toddler I have to take timeouts of my own. I’m still exhausted, but that’s just because I’m a parent.
2. They slow you down.
As most people who have interacted with a toddler know, toddlers are really into “ME DO.” This little perk is cute to outsiders, but as a parent, it can be completely maddening. On a trip though, it’s pretty nice. Your toddler wants to walk around the river and by walk, I mean gambol around like a 6-month-old puppy. Previously you would have snapped the perfect Instagram, admired the river and then left. Now you’ve got to stop and enjoy (or at least slightly enjoy). With a toddler, you can’t just speed through your trip going from thing to thing.
3. They usually get in free.
Enjoy it now because once that toddler becomes a kid, things get a lot more expensive.
4. Kid-friendly activities are a lot of fun.
We just went to a nature center that had a matching game for toddlers, which we played approximately a thousand times. At first, I thought my brain was going to leak from my ears of boredom but seeing my daughter so into it inspired me. Plus the cards had facts about the local animals on them and now I know a lot more about mollusks.
5. Toddlers need potty breaks.
You’re laughing, I can hear you, but I’m dead serious. I always waited until the last minute to use the bathroom whenever I traveled before. That’s just not good for bladder health. My toddler is learning how to use the potty and therefore when she has to go, SHE HAS TO GO. All those extra breaks can be pretty awesome. Unless she’s doing that thing where she says she has to go, and then doesn’t and tries to crawl under the stall to visit the other person in the bathroom instead. That’s not so great.
6. You take a lot more photos.
Awhile back, my friend wrote an article about taking self-portraits while traveling instead of just the landscape. I really liked that idea and I’ve found that, with my toddler, I take about a million more photos. And she’s usually in them. As a result, my husband and I are also beginning to appear in more photos. I look at all the photos I took when I traveled single and I have some beautiful shots, but not a whole lot of me. It doesn’t help me remember what I was doing. When I look at pictures of my toddler, and dog, and husband, I can remember exactly where we were and what was going on.
7. You wind up with neat souvenirs.
Sure your toddler wants the stuffed animal that’s been embroidered with the name of the place you’re at. Or that $2 plastic thing. But they also pick up cool rocks and shells, brochures and pamphlets and all sorts of this and that. Cleaning out your pockets and bags after a trip is an adventure in itself thanks to little hands.
8. You learn a lot more with a toddler.
Toddlers love learning. After all, that’s what being a human is about. They’re interested in just about everything they see and then need to know everything about it — meaning you have to know everything about it. Or at least find out. You’ll be shocked of all the interesting questions your toddler asks when you’re on a trip. Traveling with them means you look at everything differently and have to learn more about your surroundings. Thank God for Google.
9. You’re a bit more scheduled.
As a solo traveler, you can basically do whatever you want, whenever you want. With a toddler, you’re a bit more boxed in. You can do whatever, whenever, but by God, you have to eat lunch and have a snack and a nap somewhere during the day or else why bother existing? Having a schedule may not be your style, but it’s really helpful for me. Even if it’s just: Breakfast, fun, snack, more fun, lunch, some fun and maybe a nap, dinner, calm activities and then bed.
10. You’re also a bit cleaner.
Whether you’re camping or staying somewhere, toddlers are messy, messy creatures. Previously if you spilled ketchup all over yourself, you’d rinse your shirt in the bathroom, throw it in a bag and forget about it. There is no “if” on a toddler spilling ketchup — it’s more a matter of “when” and “how much.” If there is dirt around, toddlers attract it. And if you’re on a quick trip, you can totally rinse out their clothes and stash them in a bag. But if you’re on a long trip you’re going to seek out a laundromat and wash those disgusting things immediately. (You also tend to clean up a lot more with a toddler around. It’s an ingrained habit.)
11. Toddlers don’t go to school.
When you travel with a kid, they usually have to be back at a certain time for school. And they’ll probably have homework or a project. With a toddler, you can basically be gone as long as you want and feel no rush to get back.
12. Toddler travel preps them for the rest of their life travel.
Even though it might seem like they’re not going to remember, they’ll most likely gain a lot from all the travel you’ve done, like how to pack, and plan, and prepare.
13. The memories.
Let’s get sappy. Traveling with a toddler can be messy and stressful at times, but on the whole, it’s usually a beautiful experience.