Your baby could slide into toddler age at any time from nine months to 18 months (maybe later) It’s the time when they find their legs, and you rediscover yours.
I’ve written previously how I find toddler travel the worst age to travel with kids. From when they start to find their legs to about the age of three when they finally settle into them, you’re going to be on hyper alert and constantly chasing them.
Toddler stage wiped me out, but I was not some person who could stay sane foregoing the adventures either to keep them home.
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sharing posts on the pros and cons of traveling with kids at various ages.
I’ve called on some family travel experts to offer some extra insights and tips to fill in the gaps.
- Tips for traveling with a baby
- Tips for traveling with a school aged kids
- Tips for traveling with a teen
We believe parenting is hard no matter the age, nor where you are, so you might as well travel and fill up the moments in between with meaningful memories.
Tips for toddler travel
That’s an intense amount of time to spend with a transitioning toddler. I’ve just realised how insane I am!
Choose your destination carefully
We soon ditched our plans to travel Southeast Asia when we took a two-week holiday to Thailand when Savannah was 17 months. Travelling with her in cars and mini-vans that had no seat belts was a nightmare! She would not keep still and wanted to climb over all the seats and run around.
On the chaotic streets of Bangkok keeping an eye on her was exhausting, and our boat cruise was a nightmare with the lack of child safety requirements.
We decided to evaluate and consider what would be the least stressful adventure, considering the toddler age – hello 18-month road trip around Australia.
Although 15 minutes after leaving for it, Savannah was trying to climb out of her car seat whilst throwing vegemite sandwiches at my head.
Think about your style of family travel
Again, we feel you can’t beat a road trip during the toddler ages. Even if your child isn’t a great car traveller, you can make it work.
Savannah soon adapted to the car and learned to love the experience. She still gets car sick every now and then, especially on windy roads, but we can pick the signs now, prepare for it better, and can easily pull over. It’s much harder to do that on a plane.
The flexibility of road trips, the slower travel, and the ability to carry more luggage makes this a winner for toddler travel. As you’ll see from our family travel experts, the biggest con to toddler travel is flights! So travel without them.
Read More: The Ultimate Family Road Trip Survival Guide
What about luggage when traveling with toddlers?
Toddlers are still at that stage where they require more luggage: prams, car seats, nappies,
What can you do without? Perhaps you can rent car seats or prams at special attractions. It might be a good idea to travel once they’re toilet trained.
You can get away with smaller amounts of clothes and toys – they’ll be more than happy to interact with the world around them, including sticks, stones, and cutlery.
Want help with planning a travel experience the whole family will love? Click here for immediate and free access to the toolkit.
Pros of toddler travel
- Depending on their personality, toddlers can be great fliers. Kalyra has always been awesome. I’ll never forget her first flight to the USA when she was nine months old, standing in her bassinet waving to the entire plan and then walking down the aisles to meet everyone. She’s only ever had one meltdown on a plane flying to Atlanta from Raleigh at 6am. She refused to put the seat belt on and screamed the plane down. Sorry morning commuters! Savannah is a different story and made toddler plane travel a little more challenging. (watch the video below in the cons section)
- Toddlers still use a pram so you can push them around and let them nap. (umbrella strollers work best from a luggage perspective). (Although Savannah soon got sick of the pram and wanted to be carried instead, or push the pram herself, which meant it would take half an hour to walk 100 metres with all the side adventures she’d go on. We ended up turfing the pram and just carrying her.)
- A toddler still interacts with the world and other people with such pure innocence. It humbles you and helps you believe in magic again. You’ll delight in their curiosity, their playfulness, their friendliness, and willingness to explore.
- Hiking is much easier with toddlers. You can throw them in a hiking backpack (
our favourite is here) and still have a fabulous time. The older toddlers will be able to even take short hikes with you. Savannah amazed us with her mammoth barefoot 4km return walk to the Pinnacles in Grampians National Park. (Update. She’s just completed a 15 mile hike, with an elevation gain of 4,000 ft in the North Cascades National Park at 8 years of age)
- Toddler travel can still be cheap as they’ll often still get free admission for many places.
- Toddlers get used to travelling. Starting them young means they’ll adapt and grow into better travelers. Both our girls are excellent travelers and very independent (see video below). Overcoming the challenges through the toddler stages will help you later on.
- Toddlers grow so quickly. It’s joyful to create such precious memories with them through travel. I feel very close to my children and like I know them so well. You get so many cuddles and toddler love. Plus, if they have siblings, it’s a beautiful bonding experience. They are so playful and fun to be around.
Cons of toddler travel
- Toddler stage is full of big transitions. They’re learning to walk, they’re learning to use the toilet, they’re learning to give up dummies, they’re learning to move from cot to big bed. They’re learning what emotions are. It’s a huge period of emotional, physical and social development, which can be overwhelming and stressful to parents and child. Kalyra’s big meltdown in the most important temple in Thailand was a doozie. Trying to potty train Savannah on our road trip was a nightmare. She nailed number ones, but it took months to get her out of hiding under the table to do number twos sans underwear. Also, she moved from cot straight to open bed in the tent and then camper trailer. Getting her still and calm at night was a disaster – we’re still trying.
- You’ve got to watch toddlers so carefully. Savannah escaped from our hotel room in Melbourne – we found her sitting at the reception drinking orange juice, and fell off the top bunk after I was distracted unpacking and she snuck up the ladder.
- You’re possibly working around nap times still. Kalyra could sleep anywhere, so she was fine to put in the pram. That did restrict our movements and activities. Savannah gave up day time naps when she was almost two, so working around this was rarely a concern. Sadly, Mum and Dad required naps from the drain. It did mean early nights were important as Savannah was well and truly done by 6pm.
- Managing the logistics of travel with a toddler demanding your attention is hard. There’s nothing like trying to check into your hotel or board a plane with a tantrummy toddler.
- They do want to be carried a lot, and can only walk short distances. This means extra visits to the chiropractor for you.
- Having conversations with anyone can be a challenge. Your toddler will want to pull you away, lift up your skirt, pull at your ears, cover your mouth with their hand, and interject with random “poo” and giggles.
- Eating out can also be unenjoyable, especially dinner.
I know I’ve shared with you many horror stories of our Savannah in this post! We love to keep it real for ya. It goes to show, if you desire it enough, you can withstand any challenging toddler to make family travel fit into your lifestyle in some way.
We wouldn’t have it any other way. Savannah is a delightful child with a strong, crazy personality we love. She’s a definite mover and shaker of the world and has been here before as she loves to tell me with her past lives stories. Usually following a stamp of her foot and a “you’re not the boss of me.”!!
Don’t I know it!
Read More Family Travel Tips
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I’d love to hear your toddler travel tips and experience. Do you love it or hate it?