Tales of the Traveling Toddler: Why We Brave the Journey

From my perspective, our kiddo is pretty well traveled for a 19-month-old. We’re not talking jetting to Japan or jaunting to Jarkata, but he has been in more planes, trains, and automobiles around the United States than most his age. And that’s by choice.

Yes, there are MANY challenges that come with traveling with a toddler. MANY. And if you’ve tried it once or twice, you’re familiar with what can happen with toddlers on a plane (arguably scarier than snakes on a plane). Add to that changing time zones, disrupting regular nap times, new people and places, sleeping in a hotel crib or pack n’ play, unfamiliar foods, and on and on.tales-of-the-traveling-toddler

But like crazy people with no regard for common sense or a desire to sleep soundly, we do it anyway.

Here’s why:

We Value Travel

My husband and I were big fans of travel before we had a child, and it remains a strong value for us. Before our son came along, we were the kind of people who dreamed of (and pursued) our travel adventures with the freedom and carefree spirit that can only come with being kid-free. During my husband’s vows, he even talked about how we would roam the globe with our baby strapped to our back, and I swooned! Enter reality. We are holding off on the international travel for now, but in lieu of that we choose to travel with our toddler because it’s an important part of who we are as a couple. And, as he grows older, we hope to have the resources to continue that practice on a broader scale.

The Sights, the Sounds, the People!

Overstimulation be darned! We have been graced with an outgoing child who seems charged by new people. Of course, now that I’ve said that, I’ve probably jinxed myself. But, even for the more shy or sensitive, there are usually lots of ways to explore new places and cultures in the right travel destinations. The point of traveling for us is to be able to experience new people, places, cultures, sights, foods, and music in person. And while there is strong value in creating predictable and structured environments for children, there is also value in learning to adapt to changes in safe ways.

Kids and Curiosity Mix Well

Like most toddlers, mine is into everything. While his curiosity runs me ragged most days, I love seeing him interact with the world and experience new things. When I’m not cleaning up the tornado that follows him or making sure he doesn’t electrocute himself, it’s almost like being a kid again myself. Traveling provides opportunities for the curious mind beyond what our locales alone can offer. I want to encourage that curiosity with gusto, in spite of the fact that my “vacation” now barely resembles how I used to define it. It’s not relaxing. Actually, there are more stressors (see “toddlers on a plane” above). But it’s worth the stress to us.

img_1351Practicing Flexibility

I find that when traveling with my little guy, I cannot expect things to go smoothly. Rather, I plan for the worst and am pleasantly surprised and proud when it (usually) doesn’t go that way. Traveling with or without kids requires flexibility in every sense of the word. Flexible expectations, flexible plans, flexible rules, even flexible limbs at times! For example, in the absence of his normal toys, the hotel phone (a real live phone with a curly old-school cord) is quickly becoming a favorite plaything. I’ve noticed that the moments I get the most stressed and aggravated while traveling, particularly with my kiddo, are the moments when I am trying to force the situation to fit my expectations instead of just going with the flow. Travel often requires living in the moment. And living in the moment with my son is one of the sweetest places I’ve ever been.

We Get to See Friends in Far Off Lands (i.e. New Jersey)

Like many others, my husband and I have lots of friends and family scattered across the country. While I’d love it if all of them could make a trip to Fort Worth, sometimes that’s simply not possible, or it would be more convenient to visit many of them in the same place. Travel allows us to see those loved ones without having to wait until our son is old enough to behave like a reasonable human being. You know what I mean!

Do you dare travel with your toddler? Are we brave or just crazy?

Graduate school brought Laura from her beloved home state of Colorado to Texas (hard to beat the Rocky Mountains!), and meeting her beloved husband Jonathan convinced her to settle here. Now the two are overjoyed and exhausted parents to sweet Christopher (2015) and a little girl on the way (2017). In addition to her role as a mama, she also works full time as a clinical psychologist working with military veterans who continue to amaze her with their strength and humor. When she’s not busy juggling career and parenthood, you can find her cycling, enjoying local culture (and food!), baking, “hiking,” and embracing her love of travel.


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