6 tips for traveling with a toddler that every parent needs

Traveling with a toddler can seem like a daunting scenario for any parent.

Even the most savvy parent on vacation can shudder at the thought of boarding a flight or packing a car with young children, but having a toddler isn’t the end of the road for globetrotters. -trotters.

Katie Brown, an independent family travel consultant with Ciao Bambino and a mum, told TODAY Parents that parents wanting to travel with a toddler “absolutely” can.

“There are a ton of articles meant to be funny about the misery of traveling with young children, but I’ve found traveling with a toddler to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in as a mother, and I find my clients feel the same,” Brown said.

Benefits of traveling with a toddler

Brown said the benefit of traveling with a toddler is that parents eliminate all distractions from their day and can just enjoy watching their toddler explore and learn in a new environment.

“They’re still young enough for parents to dictate most activities, but old enough to pack and move more easily than with a baby,” she said.

For parents hitting the road or the open skies, Brown offered six important tips.

Related: The best family vacation destinations to get away from it all

6 tips for traveling with a toddler

Choose the right location.

If you’re not someone who likes to spend a lot of time in a busy city, vacationing in Paris with a toddler will likely make you more stressed. If you’ve never been one to enjoy the logistics and cleanup of going to the beach, spending your vacation trying to keep a 1-year-old from eating sand won’t be relaxing.

“I recommend picking a location on what’s fun for adults and/or older kids in the family who are traveling,” Brown told TODAY Parents. “You can turn any place into a fun vacation with the little ones, but it has to be fun for the adults too.”

Choose a length that makes sense for the preferred location.

If you’re traveling from Phoenix to Japan with a 2-year-old and only have a week’s vacation, you’re going to spend much of that week adjusting to the new time zone and schedule and you’re not You probably won’t feel like you’ve had the chance to really enjoy the destination or the time together.

If you only have a long weekend to travel with the 3-and-under crowd, choose something that can be done in a short drive or plane.

“If you have more time to spend in a new place, going the longest distance won’t feel so daunting,” Brown said.

Find the right accommodation.

Brown said finding the right accommodation makes a huge difference in the quality of vacations with toddlers.

“Ideally choose a property that has some level of separation between where your toddler sleeps and where you hang out during naptime or bedtime,” she said. “No matter how beautiful the hotel is, if you’re sitting on the bathroom floor every afternoon during siesta, the experience is a little less relaxing.”

If the budget doesn’t allow for a multi-bedroom accommodation or suite, Brown shared that, in her experience, she’s found respite with a balcony or terrace.

“A villa or an apartment can be a good solution, but keep in mind that it can affect the mood of the trip, mainly for the person in the family who normally cooks breakfast,” she said. .

If the purpose of the trip is to explore a new area or visit family, an apartment may make more sense.

If the goal is to break away from your routine and enjoy a vacation without doing the dishes, a hotel with a great breakfast and a pool will likely feel more in line with the vacation vision.

Choose the right activities.

The nature of these “good activities” will vary according to family preferences.

“What I’ve found most successful is choosing activities parents or older children would enjoy, but finding ways to engage your toddler with them,” Brown told TODAY Parents. .

She continued, “It can be like choosing a cooking class in Tuscany over a agritourism with animals and a play area, rather than in a professional chef’s kitchen. If parents love art, perhaps you can combine a short visit to the Musée d’Orsay with a hands-on crafts experience where the kids can get a little dirty and play.”

Brown shared that when she traveled to Portugal with her baby girl, “it was as easy as bringing a balloon with us. We could enjoy a great lunch alfresco on a terrace, and when our daughter felt nervous, one of the adults chased her as she chased a ball around a pedestrian square while the other adult finished her wine.”

Related: The 14 best places to go on vacation with a baby or toddler

Be aware of the schedule that works for you.

“I hate to break it to you, but your little one isn’t going to sleep on vacation just because you’re at the beach — or maybe you have a unicorn,” Brown said. “If you have a kid who turns into an imp after 7 p.m., long late dinners just won’t make your trip feel like a vacation.”

Choose a good breakfast or a fun lunch spot instead, and for dinner get some good local takeaways instead to enjoy on your balcony watching the sunset.

The reverse is also true.

“If you have a night owl, or you’re traveling east and changing time zones, filling your day with early morning activities just won’t be fun,” Brown said. “In that case, find ways to enjoy the evening. Obviously, it won’t hurt to deviate from the schedule you have at home, but you should also be aware that tired toddlers and hungry are no fun to be around.”

Manage your expectations.

Brown said that might be the most important piece of advice.

“If you try to force your dream pre-kid travel schedule on a 2-year-old, you’ll go through your vacation frustrated and exhausted,” she said. “If you go on a trip knowing that your days probably won’t turn out the way you perfectly planned, but knowing that you’ll have fun in the chaos, you’ll find more relaxation and happiness traveling with toddlers .”

How is traveling with a toddler different from traveling with a baby?

Brown said that when parents travel with a baby, the babies are still a big part of the adult’s schedule, just with more gear.

“As they become mobile, it becomes important and fun to slow down during the holidays and include time for your child to play,” she said.

What kinds of trips work best for toddlers?

It all depends on the family. Brown told TODAY Parents that any trip can work well for toddlers as long as you tailor it to the family.

“What I see as the biggest trend with toddlers is to incorporate city or ‘busier’ time with an area where there’s more space to play,” he said. she declared. “As with most travel, there is no one perfect formula, so it is essential to ask an advisor to help you sort through the options or to research the destinations to see what accommodations and activities are available. offered.”

Traveling with a toddler

Before having children, Brown read many well-meaning articles about the stress of having children, pointing out how you lose a part of yourself, how vacations are now “trips” and you won’t have never again have time to do what you love.

“I loved traveling toddlers and was terrified of having kids because of these ‘funny’ anecdotes,” Brown told TODAY Parents. “If I could go back to my new mum myself who was so worried the trip was stressful because of my toddler, I would tell her that while it’s a different experience to travel without kids, it’s also an incredibly beautiful experience.”

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