Toddler playing in Lake Crescent at Olympic National Park travel with small children

Why You Should (Continue to) Travel with Small Children

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The question for me is not would I travel with my baby or toddler but why wouldn’t I travel with my baby or toddler? I travel for me because *I* need to travel, so why wouldn’t I bring my small child along? There is a common refrain out there that travel with small children is too hard, not worth it, and a waste of money. Sure it can be trying at times and pushes me outside of my comfort zone; but how many 100’s of things do you do in your life despite them being difficult or new?

When my husband and I had our son one of the things that we vowed not to change was our love of travel. Now that we have a 2-year-old, travel may look and feel different than it did, but that’s ok. Travel with small children doesn’t have to be overwhelming, expensive, or a worthless experience. In fact, it can be an immensely rewarding and fulfilling experience for both you and your baby or toddler!

Travel is (Still) Good For Your Soul

You started traveling because it fulfilled something in your soul. Maybe you traveled in college, maybe you took some time off to travel after college but before you got a job. Maybe you travel a few weeks or a few weekends a year. Whatever the reasons you had for traveling pre-kids are still there post-kids. Whatever need that traveling fulfilled can still be fulfilled. Maybe your trips will look different now-maybe they are shorter-maybe they are closer to home. Or maybe they are just as long and just as far-flung but they are slower. But whatever your travel looks like now, travel with small children can STILL feed your soul.

It only takes about ~4-5 weeks after I’ve returned from a trip, for the travel itch to set in again. There is something in me that drives me to get outside and go see the world, get out of my comfort zone, explore other cultures, areas, and topographies. Travel is still good for my soul; in fact, it feeds my soul. And that didn’t change just because I had a kid.

Traveling with Small Children Doesn’t Cost Extra

Traveling with small children doesn’t cost a whole lot extra. And it definitely doesn’t cost as much as traveling with tweens or teenagers.

Accommodations do not typically charge extra for additional bodies and those that do typically do not charge for children under two or three.

Babies and Toddlers can fly as lap-infants, so long as they are under two. This alone makes airplane travel worth it while children are small. It may cost you a little bit of your dignity (j/k) and some additional taxes or fees, but not a whole plane ticket!

Eating out will cost you a little extra if you buy kiddie meals. Alternatively, you could have your toddler share your meal or book an accommodation with a kitchen and cook at ‘home.’

Additional costs for attractions are also going to be cheapest while kids are small. Many attractions do not charge for small children or they do so at a reduced rate.

Traveling Early Normalizes Travel for Small Children

When you start traveling early its like its always been there. As they get older they’ll be used to flying, road-trips, packing, re-packing, staying in new places, being in new environments. Traveling early will give your kids exposure to new environments, people and cultures. It will normalize these things, from an early age, for them.

The sleeping in new places, flying, and packing, makes you more malleable as a person. It makes you more flexible. When you are at home life is predictable, there is a pattern to it. As soon as you go traveling things are more spontaneous and you have to improvise.

When your children watch you from an early age deal with a delayed or canceled flight, or see your (measured) response to other issues that may pop up- this helps to normalize problem-solving and to help them maneuver through life outside of their comfort zones.

Uninterrupted Family Time

I don’t know about you but when I am at home with my husband and son there is rarely a time when we are all just doing nothing. Even if we are all hanging out then one of the many to-do lists are usually calling our names.

It’s just hard to decompress at home. You have the pull of work, or school, chores, dinner, friends, family, the list goes on. On vacation, there is none of that (well, less of that). Or there can be none of that if you chose. You can turn off your phones, you don’t have the dishes calling your name, and you can just spend some quality time with those on vacation with you.

Having a small child has been one of the most stressful and trying times of my life. Life is different, it’s hectic, we are all in a state of change- now more than any other time in our lives we need to get away from it all! So why not do that? Just get away. Find a good deal on a Groupon and just get away for the weekend.

Babies & Toddlers are Still Small Enough to Be Carried

You can throw a baby or a toddler on your back or front, in a baby carrier, backpack, sling, whatever. They are still light enough to be carried around all day. Once they hit ~5-8, they are getting too big to be carried for long periods of time but they may be unable to walk for long periods of time. Travel with small children affords you the luxury of still being able to go where you want, with your kid strapped to you, and not dragging them behind you.

No School to Contend With

This one is pretty self-explanatory. When you travel with small children you do not have mandatory school to contend with. Once your kid is enrolled in kindergarten your travel times are constrained by the school calendar. You’ve basically got summer, spring, and Christmas breaks. And a smattering of three day weekends. Maybe your district is fancy and has a fall break. But you get my point.

With babies and toddlers there are none of those constraints. If your child is in day-care or pre-school, you can take them out whenever you want! You don’t have to answer to anyone. And if your child stays at home with you or another caregiver then that’s even easier.

Travel with Small Children is Not As Stressful as You Might Think

Ok, full disclosure, at first I found flying with my son extremely stressful. But it never occurred to me not to do it. I hoped and prayed that it would get easier, more manageable, and it did. It’s like any skill or muscle, the more you work at it the better you get at it.

Also, I wouldn’t say that vacationing with a baby or a toddler is that stressful, its the preparing, packing, and actual traveling that has the potential to be the most stressful. You have to manage your lead-in time, don’t leave packing until the last minute, you can’t rush with a 9-month-old hanging off of you. But with a little bit of expectation management and preparedness its not that bad and it gets better and easier with time. I promise!

There are also some perks to traveling with small children that actually make traveling easier. First, you get to board quicker. You get to get on the plane either before or right after all of the fancy passengers and you can get a good overhead bin, and get settled! Sometimes the TSA employees will let you cut in line for screening. I’d say this happens 25% of the time, but when it does its awesome!

Slow Travel

I am all about ‘fast-travel.’ Land in Rome, see EVERYTHING that you can see in a week, and move on. My husband and I spent a month in New Zealand for our honeymoon and the itinerary for that was jam-packed.

That’s just not feasible with small children. Travel with small children is such a unique and fleeting experience that I wish I could hang on to forever. You have to slow down, you cannot make grand-plans and expect to hit all the sights. You have to plan for naps, downtime, playing in pools of water, skipping rocks, smelling flowers, and chasing squirrels. I never would have traveled like this pre-kid.

One question you might ask is, ‘well couldn’t I just do those things at home?’ You could. Or you could do them with the St. Louis Arch, Olympic National Park, the great Rocky Mountain Range, Glendalough, or the Colosseum as the back-drop. You can do these simple things in between exploring the wonders of the world and while spending uninterrupted time together as a family.

Push Yourself Out Of Your Comfort Zone

I was uncomfortable the first time I flew with my son on a trans-Atlantic flight; he was eight months old. I flew solo with my son, at 13 months, on a trans-Atlantic flight, that was nerve-wracking. On that same flight my kid screamed for 5 hours so I bounced him in the aisle so as not to wake the entire plane or the other (sleeping) baby. I lived to tell about that one.

Another terrifying first was when I arrived at the normally empty bulk-head, bassinet row to find it jammed with three other ADULTS. (normally this row if full, is full of other parents and a baby). I needed to breast-feed my son on take-off and I did!! Jammed in between a grown man and a woman. And I lived to tell all of these stories. Was I sweating, yes, lol!! At the time were they heart-pounding experiences-yes. Did I worry that I was being judged the entire time-yes. But the reality was that no one but me cared. And if they did, well…

I share these stories not so that you’ll run off screaming, but to illustrate a point. These are snippets in time. Those flights were 6-8 hours long. The vacations were 2 weeks long. The flights and those experiences (although terrifying at the time) were totally worth it. And I am a stronger person, mother, and woman for having gone through them .

I HAVE to push myself; so that I don’t feel stagnant. Everyone has different limits but I would encourage you to push yours, whatever they are. When my son was first born, my limit in traveling was going to Panera. Seriously. That was terrifying to me but I found that I could not sit around the house all day. I also challenged myself to breast-feed at Panera and I was proud of myself for doing that.

Just push yourself a little out of your comfort zone, and over time you will be doing things and challenging yourself in ways that you’ve never imagined!

I hope that I’ve convinced you that travel with small children is worth it. Or at a minimum got you thinking that maybe it’s possible!

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