In Praise of Toddler Travel

Hey all, Tyler back again for another guest post.  The last time I wrote, I was discussing what the best age to travel with kids is.  You can read my full answer here, but my position in a nutshell was ‘every age – just go.’  That post dealt mostly with our experiences traveling with Henry as an infant, but for this post, I want to share some thoughts on traveling with kids as they move into the toddler stage.

When Henry was 16 months old, we found out that Jessica was pregnant again and we wanted to take one more trip that was just with Henry, before the next baby arrived.  Jessica found the MacDonald Aviemore Hotel and Resort in the Scottish Highlands, and we both felt that it was a really great fit for a toddler focused trip.

Click here to check out Aviemore Resort in the Scottish Highlands

While that holiday was shorter than our usual adventures (only 10 days) and was focused on getting in some great quality time with Henry at that fun toddler stage (walking, but still wobbly, and just starting to realize that there is an entire world to explore), it felt like a trip we would have done and enjoyed before we had kids, as well.

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A slow morning in the park.  We let Henry lead the way and took our time here.

Here are the perks we discovered traveling with a little one that wasn’t quite 18 months old yet.

Toddler Engagement.  Traveling with an infant may be easier in some regards, but it is also not unlike traveling with a sack of potatoes that sometimes cries.  Sure, your infant is there, but he/she is also largely indifferent to the locale or specific experiences.  A toddler however, has (usually quite strong) opinions.  And reactions. And likes and dislikes…and all of that comes out when traveling.  Henry loved exploring the airport, riding the escalator, interacting with the flight crew, and chatting to the car rental man.  Even the bits of travel that can be on the more mundane end of the spectrum like those listed above, seem exciting and engaging to a toddler, and then in turn, to you as well.

Free(ish) Flights.  While your little one is under 24 months, you’ll only be paying the taxes for their flights.  At 16 months, Henry still fit comfortably in my lap for the flight.

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A little tip we love to share is to splurge on the front row in economy.  It usually runs an extra $100 per seat but on a long flight with kids it is worth it.  If you have an infant, a bassinet is delivered to you after take off that clicks into the wall in front of you.  If you have a toddler, the floor space is perfect for spreading out and playing.

Nap Time.  At this stage Henry had gone from two naps down to one much longer nap.  At home, this is the time to mad dash and get things done – prep dinner, do a load of laundry (or seven), tidy the house, cut the grass, sort the mail and on and on.  However, on vacation, when your toddler sleeps, it really is choose your own adventure.  Is one of you off to the spa?  The pool?  A quiet coffee at the restaurant?  Maybe you just want to sit on the balcony (always spring for the balcony if it’s a possibility) and read a book.  Remember books?  Or maybe you even want to also nap.  By this point in your little one’s life, you are likely a few hundred hours sleep deprived, so go ahead, tuck into that bed.

Enjoying Their Joy.  Henry was so happy in Scotland.  And why not?  Both his parents were there together, both focused on him (as well as each other).  Every day was a literal walk in the meadows.  We played in the grass, we played in the pool, we played in the park, and he loved every minute of it.

Seeing the World Through Little Eyes.  This perk is related to the previous point, but Jessica and I both noticed how much we enjoyed doing things that we had planned ‘for’ Henry.  We did a hike in the Cairngorms to visit a free roaming reindeer reserve and really had a wonderful afternoon.

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Hiking backpack was a rental. Want to know more?

Cairngorm Reindeer Centre

I wore Henry in a loaned toddler hiking backpack and he enjoyed being up high, seeing the reindeer up (very, very) close and personal.  Jessica and I would not have pursued something like that pre-kids, but the three of us really enjoyed it and talk about it fondly from time to time.  Same story, but different location with the Glasgow Science Centre.

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Henry loved the toddler area of the Glasgow Science Centre, and so did we.  They had this wind tunnel with kites, and right next to it a set of water locks that you could open and close.  Hours of fun.

Glasgow Science Centre

This centre had such a great toddler area that we left for Henry’s nap and returned again afterward because he just loved it so much.

So, that’s it.  That’s my case for traveling with your toddler.  Are there challenges?  Sure, but most of them have to do with toddlerhood in general, and not specifically about travel.  Jet lag can be rough, but you can always travel north or south in your time zone, or maybe not even wander that far from home, but still get away.

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Jessica noticed a few weeks ago the outrageously high proportion of photos in which she is holding a coffee.  Now I always look for it.

I look back on our trip to Scotland with Henry so fondly and I am so glad we opted to do it.  If you’ve got a toddler under two and you are thinking about getting away, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so; you’ll make memories to last a lifetime.

Tyler

p.s. If you’ve read this and thought at any point, “Yeah, but they won’t remember it” then stay tuned for a future blog post discussing this very opinion.

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