Our friends, Karen and Ross, just returned from an amazing European escape with their toddler son, Laz. Skeptical that a trip with a rowdy one-year old could be relaxing, I asked her to share their story with us. I hope you like it as much as I do.
Almost a year ago, I wrote a post on this site about traveling internationally with a baby. I made the audacious claim that far from being a hassle, and much to my surprise, bringing the baby actually improved our travel experience. Since my son was only 8 months old at the time, I feared the window of pleasant family travel was rapidly closing, but here I am, 10 months later, and I am now making a second audacious claim: traveling internationally is better with a toddler.
We just got back from 2 1/2 weeks in Switzerland and Italy with our 18-month-old. To up the ante, let me now reveal that on this particular trip, we traveled with not one, but TWO toddlers, since we met up with my in-laws and their 1-year-old daughter halfway through the trip. That’s right: 2 carseats, 2 high chairs, 2 different yet equally irritating cries, 2 people who walk like drunken monkeys and fall down constantly, 2 times the poopy diapers and mealtime messes, all treading foreign lands together.
And we had a great time. Let me explain, by way of comparing and contrasting it to my experiences traveling with baby (including how it’s even better!) and offering my best travel tips for those of you who want to do this too!
Just as good as travel with a baby
You can (still) meet the locals
When we brought our baby to Asia last year, we were amazed at how many people we met. Who knew a baby was the ultimate ice-breaker? Toddlers are perhaps even better for this, as they may actively seek people out to interact with. Left to his own devices, my son will roam a piazza in search of a new friend or admirer every time. One day at the beach, our toddlers went in search of sand toys and stumbled (literally) across a set of twins with a sizable pile of buckets and shovels to share. We ended up hanging out with the family and got great local recommendations and insight on the area.
You can (still) spend uninterrupted quality time with your family
On our previous adventure, I mentioned that one of my favorite things about family travel is all of the family time we get together, without the chores, appointments, emails, and all that to butt in. That is true whether you have a little baby, a toddler, or a kid of any age. It is such a treat to spend whole days where everyone is looking at each other instead of an iPhone!
You can (still) cut in line
Toddlers have just as much pull as babies for slightly special treatment in foreign airports, train stations, trams, and the like.
Some additional benefits of toddler travel…
You can slow down and say “yes” a lot more
What a luxury to have no set schedule, no plans, no classes to attend. Want to play in this fountain? Sounds good, we are not in a rush. For once. Want to take a nap? Me too! Let’s do it together – what a treat. We never do that at home. Want to stay longer at the beach? No problem – we don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time because we’re on vacation. Want to play with a hose for a few hours? Fine by me, I’ll have another beer on the terrace. I LOVED having 2 weeks during which I didn’t have to say “hurry up!” or “we’re going to be late!” to my poky toddler.