Traveling – or doing anything – with a toddler

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Toddlers. They’re an interesting breed of humans, aren’t they? These tiny, messier versions of other humans make everything in life an adventure. I had a play date with a friend of mine last week who has a son seven weeks older than our toddler, Avery.

Originally, I suggested a nice dinner out with our adorable kids, but my friend wasn’t about that life.

“We don’t go out to restaurants, right now,” she said. “It’s too hard at this stage.”

I totally get it. Avery is 15 months old and hasn’t quite grasped the concept of appropriate public behavior.

But this is where my friend and I differ. I still take Avery everywhere. Sure, other diners may not like our toddler intensely staring them down from the next booth. Other shoppers may not like her loud grunts and shrill cries for whatever happens to be just out of reach of the shopping cart. But I’m somewhat unapologetic.

Parenthood and passports - Slow Down
Avery toddling around on our last vacation.

I don’t mean to sound rude, but I kind of think everyone can get over it. Toddlers are going to cry. They’re going to misbehave. They are going to squirm, want out of their chair, then want back up in their chair. They’re going to throw food on the ground, want to pick it back up and then eat it. And they’re going to throw a fit if they don’t get their way. I feel like people should just embrace it and understand that these interesting little beings come with their own rules and codes of conduct. I don’t think parents should have to avoid public outings simply because they have a toddler.

 Our daughter, Avery, being an uncooperative toddler, and squirming to get down when we want to take a picture.
Our daughter, Avery, being an uncooperative toddler, and squirming to get down when we want to take a picture.

So even though it can be stressful, we take our toddler anywhere we go, all the time. Although she’s pretty well behaved, Avery has her moments. But how is she to learn appropriate public behavior if we avoid public places?

Now, let me be clear, we aren’t taking our daughter to quiet, sophisticated restaurants, at this time in her life, but we do take her to family-friendly ones.

We also take Avery on trains, and planes, and excursions while traveling. Not only do we refuse to avoid public places during her toddler years, we refuse to stop traveling. In fact, I am motivated to travel even more with our loud, messy, rambunctious tot.

Why you should travel with your toddler

I am that crazy parent who wants to travel more now that I have a squirmy, stubborn mini-human.

She’s a little sponge right now. She observes and absorbs everything around her. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, toddlers are learning new things every day from their environments.

Parenthood and Passports - Benefits of Traveling
Our little sponge, learning about flowers.

We have been traveling with Avery since she was two months old. Traveling with her now is a lot easier in some ways and so much harder on other ways.

Parenthood and Passports - Traveling with a toddler

When she was an infant, flying with her was a breeze. I would nurse her on take off and she would instantly fall asleep. We would go sightseeing and she would sleep in the carrier… The kid slept all the time… With one big exception. She refused to sleep at night in a hotel. She didn’t sleep through the night for the first nine months of her life, and on vacation, she slept even worse.

Now, as a toddler, Avery is finally sleeping through the night, and does pretty well in hotels. (Thanks God!) But she is mobile now. She doesn’t want to be constrained to a carrier or a stroller. She doesn’t like to sleep in the plane anymore. In fact, she wants to walk the aisles, play in the floor and does not like to sit still ever. So plane rides are a challenge. We haven’t done a long, overnight plane ride, yet. But it’s coming. In fact, it’s already booked. We will venture overseas in August for a two week trek through Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland. I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little worried about the plane ride and the jet lag, but it will be a learning experience… Not only for our little sponge, but for us, as well.

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6 comments on “Traveling – or doing anything – with a toddler”

While I don’t have children, I like your parenting style. I would want my child to see and experience a lot from the beginning. Plus, I like to travel and see things, so I’d be doing what you’re doing.

Can’t wait to hear about your upcoming trip! On our flight back from Iceland last month, there was a 22 month old toddler who couldn’t keep still. He and his dad walked up and down the aisle and although it annoyed some of the passengers, but others (like us) found it adorable. The lights weren’t off in the cabin anyway so very few people were sleeping. As long as it is safe to do so, I think it is ok to let your daughter explore the plane too! 😉

We bring LOTS of books, toys and other items to keep our little one entertained in the aisle too, but on a flight that is more than a few hours long, even I’ve got to stretch my legs from time to time. It will definitely be interesting to see how she does on the European flight. We have a few shorter flights this summer that may help prepare her for the longer one. We shall see. 🙂

For us, jet lag is the most challenging thing about traveling with a toddler, but it’s just another challenge to work through. If we let challenges stop us from doing things, we’d never do anything.

What makes it so challenging is that she will have no idea what is going on. She won’t understand why she is wide awake and ready to go at 3:00 am and you won’t be able to explain to her why it’s so important for her to stay in bed and lay in the dark trying to go back to sleep. For us, we tried to keep it low-key and not have any expectations or rigid schedules while the family was getting over jet lag. Be patient and understand that her little body will figure it out. (She will!) When she wakes up at 3:00 and is wide awake, it will likely be the same time that you’re awake anyway. Just make the most of it. Use the 3:00 am awake-time to unpack or something. And try to keep her awake as much as you can during the day and eventually her body will figure it out. It usually takes my own kids about a week to switch their days and nights back around to comfortably be sleeping thought the night again when we travel between the US and Asia.

I look forward to hearing about your trip.

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