Both my husband and I grew up traveling. And now as parents, we are committed to exposing our two-year-old daughter to as many cultures as possible so that she has a broad view of the world and is never afraid to try new things.
With my husband being British, we spend time with family in England and Wales, but have also taken her to France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Holland, Canada and the Caribbean. It is amazing to see her immersed in a foreign culture where other languages are spoken. She picks up basic words in other languages so quickly. On our recent trip to Quebec, she instantly remembered bonjour and merci from our trip to Alsace in northeastern France earlier this year.
However, there are challenges to traveling with a toddler (they call it the terrible twos for a reason). So here are my top tips for traveling with a toddler and still having it feel like a vacation.
Planning ahead is key for traveling with a toddler — especially for the in-transit phases of a vacation. Bring as many items to entertain them as you can possibly think of, as you will likely end up on Plan Z by the end of your journey. Pack figurines, mini cars, snacks, their favorite educational shows and movies (download in advance), books, magazines, stickers … even adhesive bandages (as an alternative to stickers), and plenty of snacks. Bring your own go-to medical supplies, too.
Pizza in Positano, French onion soup in Paris, stroopwafel in Amsterdam and afternoon tea in London. My favorite part of traveling is the food. For toddlers this shouldn’t be any different. Yes, there have been times when we have requested spaghetti with butter, nuggets and fries and other non-local food items. However, as much as possible, we try to have our daughter eat cuisine native to wherever we are. This is a great way to introduce new foods, while in a new environment and we discover things she loves that we would never have thought of. In some places it is also a necessity, as numerous restaurants we have been to on our travels did not have a children’s menu.
Break the habit
If your toddler has a habit you would like to break, traveling is the time to do it. For us, this was our daughter’s sleeping arrangement. From a young age our daughter has slept in a portable baby lounger, which also took up a significant amount of suitcase space. Midway through a recent trip we realized she was so tired from our adventures she would probably sleep anywhere. So, we left the lounger at home and have never looked back. We also used traveling to break her away from using a baby bottle to drink her milk.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a stroller
Traveling is tiring, and keeping to your child’s sleeping routine is important in avoiding those tantrums. So, a good stroller she can lie down in — where she can squeeze in a midday nap without forcing you to return to the hotel or rental accommodation in the middle of the day — is key.
Make a plan, but be prepared to break it
I get it, not the most specific of recommendations, but planning is key to a successful trip with a toddler. For example, are you going somewhere that is stroller friendly? For example, if you’ve always wanted to see a specific site, but know there are lots of steps, don’t bring the stroller. Do you have to drive on mountainous, car-sickness-inducing roads? Would traveling by boat or train be possible and give your toddler more freedom? Where are we eating tonight? Is there a kids club where you are and what ages do they take and for how long? There are so many little parts to plan.
And the last thing you want is your toddler getting HANGRY! You should have a plan for all their meals, so you’re not wandering around aimlessly. If you find a hidden gem of a restaurant on your way to Plan A, then break that plan.
Travelling is an amazing way to broaden the mind, and refresh and reinvigorate the spirit. For children, it is a wonderful way to challenge them to try new things and push them a bit out of their comfort zones, whilst educating them about the wonders of other countries and cultures. Whether crossing time zones or taking a quick drive out to the countryside, just take the opportunity and don’t look back.
Carolina Fryer is married to her best friend, Thomas, and they welcomed a sweet little girl, Jayne Scarlett, on New Year's Day 2016. She has always loved all things fashion, travel, beauty and family, which she shares with her audience — along with personal style, motherhood tips and travel experiences.
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