How Different is Traveling with A Toddler?

When Mike and I found out I was pregnant, we were so excited.We couldn’t wait to show our new little person this big wide world that we loveso much.

But privately I was also kind of terrified. I knew that havinga baby changes your life radically, I just didn’t really know or understand exactlyhow. Would we still be able to travel? Would we still even enjoy it?

These fears intensified in the months after Marcella was born, when even taking a family trip to the supermarket seemed like a huge challenge. During that first year it felt like my whole world was in a weird limbo. My passport sat in a drawer, unused for months and months.

But things did improve.

Next week we are headed to Morocco. It will be my first time in Africa (my sixth continent) and Marcella’s too (her fourth continent). It will be her eighth country- number nine will be Spain in March. She’s flown across the continental US and across the Atlantic so many times I’m starting to lose count. She is an expert tiny traveler. She is 2.5 years old.

In Colombia at 11 months old

So yes, you can travel with a baby, you can travel with atoddler. It’s certainly possible.  I mustsay travel is pretty different now than it was pre-baby. It’s not just that we’rescheduling nap times instead of cocktails though. We’ve had to change ourparadigm in quite a few ways to make travel as a family work for all three ofus:


We Can’t Get Attached to Plans

YES to the beach

This is probably the biggest lesson, that I simply must keeplearning over and over again on each trip.

Mike and I have never been obsessive planners, but even wehave had to loosen up a bit to adapt to the whims of travel with a toddler. Kidsare unpredictable: they might sit quietly when you go out to eat, or they mightmake a huge scene and need to be removed from the restaurant. They might developan inexplicable fever the morning you are finally going to see the ruins inTulum you’ve been waiting your whole life to see. They might love the ocean,but be terrified of the cenotes you thought they’d be into.

NO to the Cenote.

 There’s just no tellingwhat you’re in for on any particular day, so you simply can’t get too attached toany expectations.  We try to cultivate azen kind of mindset: we will see what we see.

Instead of a list of must-dos, we try to enjoy the ambience ofa  new place.  In Mexico, we spent 6 nights in Playa delCarmen mostly just wandering around, going to the beach and eating tacos. Wedid see a few sites, but it wasn’t a priority, we just wanted to BE in Mexico.It was our most enjoyable trip to date.

Slower is Better

A week in Abruzzo= big big hit

This is an axiom we operated on before having kids, but nowit’s more rule than theory. Small kids like routine, which is part of why manyparents don’t like to travel. I’ve found that you can do a lot to createroutine even on the road, but that routine gets blown completely to hell ontravel days. So you want as few “travel days” as possible.  

Moving from place to place every other day with a smallchild is really super not fun. We now aim for a minimum of three nights in anylocation. Four or five is even better and a week is a luxurious amount of timewhere you can really feel at home somewhere new.

This is a large part of why we’ve grown to rely on apartmentrentals like AirBNBs so heavily. Hotel rooms simply will not cut it for morethan a night.  It’s much easier to feel “athome” when you have a kitchen to store your milk and snacks, a living room withspace to play in, and a bedroom where your kid can nap while you watch TV inthe other room.  

We’ve also discovered that 1 or 2 weeks is pretty much thegolden trip length time for us right now. Long enough to get immersed somewhereand make some memories, short enough to avoid travel fatigue and just longenough that you are happy to come home again at the end.

Flying… Sucks but it’sOK

Last year I went to LA by myself for a meetup with my Mom’sgroup. I could not believe how luxurious a 9 hour flight in Economy feltwithout a small child to worry about. I  had wine! I watched an inflightmovie! It was basically a spa day compared to child wrangling on a trans-Atlanticflight.

Look: nobody LIKES flying with a baby, or even worse, atoddler. It’s stressful and its hard work to keep them comfy, quiet andentertained. Something about the air pressure makes babies poop more, and ithurts their ears and they scream and cry. Toddlers hate sitting still for 6minutes much less six hours.

Marcella has been on so many flights that I’ve lost count,and we’ve got our routine down pat and you know what? It’s still nerve-wrackingand unpleasant. But, to me at least, it’s just not enough of a deterrent not togo places. Because flights are finite capsules of time that inevitably end, andthen you are somewhere new and amazing! I always forget about the discomfort minutesafter exiting the aircraft, only to be brutally reminded a new each time weboard.

There is a lot you can do to make flights go more smoothly.I promise  to write up my tips one ofthese days…

We Do Things We NeverThought We Would

Children’s Museum fun

Part of loving someone is wanting to make them happy, so Iam constantly finding new things to interest Marcella.  After all if she (somewhat begrudgingly) satwrapped in her stroller while her parents drank gluhwein in the freezing cold, thensurely she deserves the chance to run around the Vienna Children’s Museum.

Marcella loves animals more than anything (especiallyreptiles…oddly), so in Playa del Carmen I arranged for us to visit theCrocoCunZoo where you can feed and hold baby crocodiles. It’s not something Mikeand I would have cared to do on our own, but Marcella loved it! She still talksabout it, and as such it was a highlight of the entire trip.

Yes that’s a snake. No she was not scared. Actually she was mad they wouldn’t let her hold the boa constrictor.

Maybe this means ordering in takeout instead of going out toeat in the evenings, because 1. We are exhausted and 2. It’s almost babybedtime (and that shit is sacred). Maybe it means riding a merry go round inthe city park 6  times in a row. Whateverit  takes, we’re going to do it becauseit’s not just our vacation- it’s hers too.

It’s Always Changing

Loves art museums!

The confounding thing about kids is they are always growing andchanging. What worked on the last trip might not work on the next one.

The older she gets, the more she can interact with the worldaround us too. When we traveled with a 1 year old she was mostly just along forthe ride, but now, she is an active participant in our travels.

Marcella is very much an individual person with her ownlikes and dislikes. She hates sitting in the stroller for long periods of time.She LOVES train rides. She used to fear strangers but now she is mostly amusedby them.  This might all change tomorrow.

So we just keep trying to adapt too, to stay one step aheadof her, or at least not fall too far behind.

It’s Actually So MuchFun

Partying at Carnivale in Malta

When you travel a lot, like Mike and I have, you can startto feel kind of jaded. Another pretty city, another pretty sunset. Buttraveling with a kid awakens you again to the wonders of the world, because youget to see them through the eyes of this little person.

A love affair for the ages

Traveling with Marcella has enriched our travel experiencesin so many ways. Stumbling across Carnivale in Valletta was cool, but it waseven cooler watching Marcella dance alongside the parade floats. Eating tacosin Mexico is always great, but introducing them to Marcella for the first time?That was excellent.

Not everything has changed. We still eat as much local foodas we can get a hold of (Marcella luckily has inherited this passion too). Westill try to immerse ourselves in local neighborhoods and environments asopposed to big hotels and resorts. We still love to travel and thankfullyMarcella seems to too.

Our intrepid family in San Marino

Having kids is obviously not for everyone, but if you want them, it’s not a reason you have to stop traveling. Seeing the world is pretty great. Sharing the world with people you love is just beyond amazing.

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