Craig and I were contemplating a possible year long adventure through South East Asia.
It’s our favourite region, brings much cheaper travel, and we thought it would be a good base to travel slowly so we could work on our business at the same time.
After our two week trip to Thailand we have almost completely scrapped the idea.
For the amount of effort that is required on our behalf business wise, the pressures of travelling with small children through South East Asia proved too much.
Our girls are 5 and 18 months. Kalyra is a pretty good age to travel with, although she can get tired easily and likes to complain.
Savannah on the other hand, is a toddler, hell bent on exploring the world with the energy of an every ready bunny.
The Worst Age to Travel with Kids
The Toddler Age, in my opinion, is the worst age to travel with kids.
On our Thailand trip there was absolutely zero time to relax or to absorb anything around me. I felt stressed, overburdened, and highly anxious. We should be travelling to experience lightness and joy, not heaviness and stress.
Until she is near 3, when it gets so much easier, we will be looking more to road trip travel through Australia, Europe and America.
At times I feel like a bit of a cop out—you know when the going gets tough, the fake and softies fall apart.
We like to share with you the truth about travel on our blog. It can be very tough and full of challenges. Never be afraid to change direction or style to whatever brings you the most comfort and joy.
It never matters how you travel, all that matters is you travel more and create better memories.
The Challenges of Toddler Travel
Here’s why we feel Toddler Ville is the WORST age to travel and how we found it extra burdensome in South East Asia.
Toddlers Can’t Sit Still
They’ve just learned to walk; they’ve got to practice this new skill. The legs won’t stop moving and if you hold them in your arms for a moments rest, the battle of the wriggles will begin.
Try having a conversation or listening to a tour guide when that happens.
Plus the roads in South East Asia are chaos, it’s a lot more challenging to let them walk on the sidewalk, or even in a wider spaced area, the trouble they can get themselves into are more prevalent.
On our balcony at the Hilton in Phuket, was a large gap Savannah could possibly have stuck her body through (not 100% sure as we didn’t test it) and crashed to the pavement below. We couldn’t sit and relax on the balcony.
When we took a boat trip to Phang Ngha Bay (probably a stupid decision on our behalf) I almost had an anxiety attack and felt like I was going to vomit. There were far too many places she could climb and fall overboard.
The life jacket was on her and I battled with the wriggles for the journey, not able to enjoy the scenery much at all.
Plane Journeys are Taxing with Toddlers
Long Flights are Not Good with a Toddler; they will hate the restricted space.
They have trouble sleeping and if they get upset and start crying you worry so much about disturbing the peace of the other passengers that your chest and stomach becomes tightly wound and your blood pressure shoots up.
You are all so exhausted by the end of it.
If it is a long flight to another time zone, you might be dealing with your energetic toddler from 4am when they spring out of bed ready to go. (Read: Why we will never fly with Air Asia long haul again)
Toddlers Need Car Seats
This was probably one of the most stressful experiences in Thailand.
Usually when we are driving at home, the girls are strapped in and you can have down time. It’s one of the only places you can as a parent.
Not in South East Asia, they don’t have car seats, half the time they don’t have seat belts. We were driven around a lot, for hours at a time. Trying to keep Savannah still and wrapped in our arms was simply awful. Once they get to the age of around 2 they start to learn how to sit still.
Toddlers Need Nappies
A headache to carry around, to change and a lot of the time to find rubbish bins to put them in.
Toddlers May Still Need Bottles
Holy crap this is a logistical nightmare!
First you have to carry the bottles and the formula and then you have to figure out a way to wash the bottles each day. You can’t use tap water as it is not safe for drinking. Depending on where you stay you may not even have facilities to wash them.
We had a kettle in our Bangkok Hotel and the Hilton, so we filled up the sink with boiling water and detergent and washed them that way.
Our accommodation in Bangtao Bay, thankfully, had lovely workers in the kitchen who would wash them for us. Apartment stays are way better with small children.
Toddlers Need a Pram
Prams are helpful for getting around and naps when you are out. It’s also a gigantic pain in the arse to haul this extra luggage and to navigate crooked Thai streets and busy Sky trains.
Toddlers Need Naps
This can be a good thing, if you can get them to sleep because it will give you a break.
But, their routine will be different and they could be overstimulated. If you don’t get them to sleep during the day, once 5pm comes you’ll be reaching for something stronger than a glass of wine.
Also, for night time sleeping, they need a cot. In Thailand this was hard to come by. We had four nights in a hotel, where Savannah did not have a cot. It’s always fun to chase them around a room at 3am.
Meal Time is a Nightmare
Usually toddlers are pretty fussy eaters. Changing to new food can prove a headache as they refuse to try new things and you have to resort to fries and cheese sandwiches, which cost more.
Judging by the throwing up Savannah did the day after the sandwich, perhaps the more dodgy option too.
Because toddlers like to wriggle and move, give up the idea of sitting down to enjoy a meal. You’re up down up down, getting indigestion as a result and perfecting the parent 5 min food throw down.
As a parent, pay attention to how quickly you eat—it’s a very common happening. A lot of the restaurants in Thailand are on busy main roads. Panic attacks. Again apartment stays where you can cook your own food while the kids run around are best.
Toddlers Can’t Talk
They can’t tell you what they want or what they need. They can’t tell you when they are sick or where.
Savannah grunts and whines a lot. We soon discovered why it had escalated when she projectile vomited driving with a van full of people. We were stressed for days as we did not know if it was food poisoning, car sickness, or something worse.
Toddlers Can’t Really Entertain Themselves
This is not me saying I don’t want to play with my kids or give them attention, I just find it draining to do it every minute of every hour.
Even Kalyra is not great at entertaining herself. We couldn’t’ have a conversation with anyone without her pulling at our attention. When you are dealing with the challenges of travel this extra on demand attention can nearly break you. Sometimes you just need five minutes of quiet.
Toddlers are Teething
This was the moment for the first time in my life I actually wanted to go home.
We had Savannah sick for a couple of days and then the teething hit. The eye teeth – notoriously known as the most painful. She screamed for a day and two nights.
Our plans to relax on the beach for our last three days ended with the fist vomit.
They’re Too Young for Kids Clubs
Not that we ever really have time to make use of Kid’s Clubs, they are a great way to get a break.
Kalyra also loves them and begs us to go. We managed to squeeze in a two hour visit for her at the Hilton. The starting age for most Kids Clubs is from 2-4 years of age.
Now, all of this is not meant to put you off travelling with your toddler.
Part of our inability to deal with this also came with the fact we are “travel bloggers” and were on a work trip and had certain things we needed to do.
And of course to add to this stress, I was sick for a week, Craig ended up sick for a day, and our web site had major issues.
So when the kids were in bed and we were up late at night to catch up on work, we weren’t working we were dealing with the stress of trying to troubleshoot our website. We are now weeks behind with work.
The combination of all these things did us in.
We learned a lot, especially about how we really want to travel for the next couple of years. With the nature of what we do we have to simplify and make it a little easier for us and the girls.
But for you, you might have less going on and it’s “just a holiday” and not so much as a “business trip” so more able to deal with the challenges.
We ALWAYS recommend travelling with your children no matter what their age.
The rewards are worth overcoming the challenges. We recommend that you think more about the following:
- Road trips
- Apartment stays
- Slow travel
- Staying in just one region and one hotel
- Resorts where there are many conveniences on hand
- Bringing help (where was the nanny!!)