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Before I became a mother, traveling was admittedly a lot different. My husband and I would go 90 miles an hour, trying to cram a million things into a day, then stop for beers at a local pub, stay for a few hours then drag our exhausted butts back to the hotel and crash. The next day, we would wake up whenever our bodies told us they had gotten enough sleep and start the process over. That was pre-kids. In the last year and a half traveling with my daughter, Avery, a lot has changed. Our entire traveling style has changed. Kids have a way of taking your schedule and ripping it in pieces. But I’ve come to realize some of the most valuable lessons about traveling, my toddler taught me.
What my Toddler Taught Me about Traveling
Wake up early
This may be the most valuable lesson my toddler has taught me about traveling…. and it was completely on accident. My daughter sucks at sleeping. She always has, I’ve written about it several times. When we are traveling sleep becomes her biggest foe. Needless to say, we wake up early… like really early. Sunrise early. At first, I thought this was miserable. But as it turns out, rolling out of bed with the slightest crack of sunlight, actually works out in our favor. We are dressed, ready, and the first to the breakfast buffet each morning. Then we are out the door before most of the tourist sites even open. We’ve gotten some amazing photos of places and landmarks that are usually crawling with tourists by 10am.
Empty plazas and churches, no lines, great lighting for photos… Getting up early is the best advice I could give to travelers. It also means we can fit much more into our day without having to rush, because we aren’t wasting time in long lines or queues. Besides, we aren’t really as tired when we wake up early as I thought we’d be. Traveling with a toddler means we also go to bed much earlier now.
Traveling with kids forces you to slow down. (Like I sometimes wish time would.) But I’ve found that it’s actually a good thing. You learn more about a place when you spend a little extra time there. Nowadays, when we travel, we pad a few more days onto our itinerary. We travel slower, see less but experience more. We find playgrounds and watch our daughter interact with other children who don’t even speak the same language. And when we look around the playground, we find the other parents are just as excited to see their little ones playing with our “foreign” kid as we are to see Avery play with theirs.
Enjoy the little things
My daughter’s favorite word is currently ice cream. (That’s technically two words, but you know what I mean.) It’s also her favorite food. (Go ahead, judge me.) Her first time trying ice cream was this summer in Europe. I swear there was an ice cream shop on every corner, and I think we stopped at each one of them. It was fun. It was relaxing. And sometimes it’s the little things about a trip that are most memorable.
I’m sure throughout our years of traveling together, she’ll teach me a few more things. I only hope that I can teach her lessons that are just as valuable as the ones she has taught me.