"Travel with your kids," they say. "It’ll be easy," they say.
Oh wait – Maybe they didn’t touch on the latter. That very well may have been in my head last spring when trying to “escape” the small, desert town that we live in, to head east towards cooler temperatures, time with family, and a lavish vacation with a toddler in tow.
I am officially 26 days into a summer trip with my 2-year-old son. We are gallivanting our way around Colorado, the birth state of both my husband and myself, giving all of our family members time with our son, soaking up the glorious city life, and mostly driving ourselves BAT $h!T CRAZY!
You see, when you decide to pack up and take a month-long trip like this, there isn’t much about it that is easy. Let me share with you the realities that I have learned over the past few weeks. We'll call these:
Toddler travel truths
Truth 1: They have SO.MUCH.STUFF. Between the pack and play, car seat, stroller, stuffed animals, cups and water bottles, snacks, clothes, changes of clothes, diapers, swim diapers, books and toys, I swear every time I arrive at a new sleepover location, it takes me at least one hour to unload my car. I felt like I packed light, but the truth? Toddlers come with a lot of baggage.
Truth 2: They find a way to touch EVERYTHING. From grimy stair handles in the parking garage to old record players on display in the home of your trendy (and kidless, for now) friends, toddlers can literally not keep their hands to themselves. I suppose I knew this before we traveled, but it’s different when he is touching #allthethings that belong to other people instead of the possessions at our own house.
Truth 3: Toddlers and restaurants mix about as well as oil and water. Isn’t it funny how, as adults, we build our socialization experiences around food and beverage? Somehow, I thought we’d be able to get breakfast with one friend, lunch with another, happy hour later on and dinner after that crammed into our stay! Boy was I wrong. It seems like my son can sense deep in his tiny bones when we are walking into a coffee shop or restaurant. He sits happily in his stroller while we are just about anywhere else, but once we are blasted with the crisp, cold air conditioned breeze and smell of fresh baked bread… BOOM! He turns into a mad man.
Truth 4: Screen time limits should fly out the car window as soon as rubber hits the road. We live in a super device-driven world and that is something we should take full advantage of when traveling with kids. A little “Word Party” downloaded onto an old iPad and strapped onto the headrest of the backseat can create silence for at least 3 minutes. And by silence, I clearly mean the sweet sound of toddler nursery rhymes on repeat instead of toddler meltdowns. Now that’s a win win.
And last, but certainly not least...
Truth 5: Having the luxury of traveling with our toddler son is something that we will always remember. We will look at the pictures over and over, watch the video memories on repeat, and thank our lucky stars that this little ball of energy has been using his nonstop momentum to carry us distances, both near and far.
Brittney Stefanic is a travel-hungry pediatric sleep consultant and mother of one tagalong son. She gets that when you don't sleep, you don't function, especially when traveling. You can find out more about what she does here.
Photo courtesy of Trinity Kubassek via Stocksnap.