My two-year-old daughter is my number one traveling companion. Needless to say, she and I have both had to learn a lot about traveling and what it takes. It’s been a challenge and one that is undoubtedly worth it.
Here are the 6 uncomfortable truths about traveling with a toddler.
1. It’s kind of scary.
Travelling with a toddler(s) adds a whole new level of stress and dimensions of fear to travel. Despite the fact that toddlers are usually under 3’ tall, can’t read and have their shoes on the wrong feet, they are fast and sneaky. Going to new places, getting on new forms of public transport, and navigating strangers is unnerving not only to you but also your little one. Also, one of the most difficult elements about traveling with someone so young is that they cannot communicate. If they get ill, have allergies, you name it — you need to learn to read the signs under very unusual circumstances. Personally, I think it makes your toddler and yourself stronger emotionally, physically, and strengthens your bond.
2. You have to travel with a miniature dictator.
“YOU DON’T TELL ME.” Is currently my toddler’s favorite thing to yell when I ask her to do something. That and “NO”. Having a planned itinerary full of activities for the family, you need to be prepared for the truth that your toddler might not be interested in any of those things or change their mind rapidly. Just as this phase in their life has a shelf life, so does the tantrum that will follow if you attempt to overturn their tyrant. Be flexible and be prepared to need refunds, or change reservations or venues completely!
3. Forget packing light.
Babies take a lot of gear, we know, but at least it’s all kind of smallish and portable. Not so much with a toddler. Especially bulky and heavy car seats. Also due to potty training you need at least two extra pairs of pants per day of travel, a blanket, lots of snacks, and those tiny little figurines they absolutely love because they fit perfectly in their hand (they’ll get left somewhere). In fact, you’ll do such a good job packing for the little darling you’ll more than likely forget to pack for yourself.
4. You’re will lose something… and it’s probably valuable.
Pre-toddler, I have to admit I had a tendency to lose things like sunglasses and my wallet, but now with the constant distraction, I lose everything. Chuck travel into the mix and expect to rack up a hefty list: an earring, your phone, at least two pairs of toddler socks, your temper, and your toddler at least once. It’s okay, a lot of that stuff is replaceable and you’ll find your toddler (they are probably doing something gross).
5. They’re going to wet their pants. A lot.
Something about traveling and being in a new place makes my daughter forget that toilets exist. I try to play it cool and be calm but most of the time I feel a twitch developing in my eye as I stare at the puddle of urine around her feet as other toddlers, probably also traveling, are urine free. New routines and environments can disrupt even the most down-pat potty training. Keep in mind there will be a sink where you can rinse them off and no one knows you, so peeing outside is an option.
6. You aren’t cool anymore.
This may sound selfish but after becoming a parent I’ve really wrestled with this. Pre-toddler travel, you felt like a bad ass. I’d show up with a backpack, travel documents, maybe a water bottle, and I was set. You show up for the same trip with your toddler you have at least two backpacks and a tote bag, your toddler, their favorite toy (that you’re going to wind up carrying), and probably a cooler/lunchbox. Those sexy outfits you used to wear out while traveling are now in the back of your drawer behind sturdy leggings and the mom-jeans. Those invitations to weekends hiking in a new place don’t come as often because you’ve got two little legs to bring with you. You’re in a new phase of life. Keep in mind the compensation is great. Now you have the best travel partner and you may not be hitting up all the bars in town, but you will have a wonderful experience and one that you will actually remember.