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. (check out the last one on traveling with a baby)
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
We have a lot of experience with toddler travel – more so than any age. We did several trips in the US, Puerto Rico, and Australia when Kalyra was a toddler.
We travelled with Savannah to Thailand not long after she found her legs and we started our Australian road trip when she was two and finished when she was three and a half. 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 South East 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 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.
What about luggage?
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 the image 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.
- 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 travellers. Both our girls are excellent travellers 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.
Toddler travel pros from our family travel experts
- With younger toddlers etc, we found we could still do a fair bit of adult activities like museums. Their amazement in the world around them is a pleasure to watch. Sharon wheressharon.com
- They are happy to look at anything colourful or go anywhere that they can run and climb. We went to a lot of museums, parks and playgrounds on our trips with a toddler. Christine adventurebaby.org
- Toddlers still like to be held and with a backpack carrier you can keep them contained and they will be occupied looking at all the exciting, cool, and new things you see on your travels. Plus a toddler will help you slow down on your travels and stop and smell the roses, literally. Bryanna www.crazyfamilyadventure.com
- They’re very interested in the world at this age and happy to do just about anything as long as mum and dad are around. Plus smaller toddlers are still quite portable and easy to carry about. Aleney www.boyeatsworld.com.au
- They nap. It’s great for forcing downtown for a parent on vacation or to have a nap yourself. Erin travelwithbender.com
- Toddlers love to explore and play. We found that we looked at travel in a new way once our sons started to explore. We noticed more, and appreciated the little things. I still remember something as simple as ice cream on the boardwalk in Santa Monica. Nicole http://travelingcanucks.com/2013/08/why-travel-with-a-toddler/
- My children liked to walk about. When they got tired, they’d sit in the stroller and we could carry on sightseeing. justgoplacesblog.com
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’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 tantrumming 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.
Read More: 17 tips for flying with kids
The cons of toddler travel from our family travel experts
This is how we roll. Cape Byron lighthouse walk
- With 1-year-olds especially, flights can be HARD. They don’t understand and don’t want to keep still. Younger toddlers can also need a lot of gear like strollers, travel cot, etc. If you have a fussy eater, food can be hard. Working around nap times is annoying if they don’t sleep when out and about – I was so happy when we were finally able to go out all day again Sharon wheressharon.com
- Flights were the hardest at this age as they are too young to watch a screen and to old to lie or sit still, and also struggle to sleep on planes. We spent a 12-hour flight to Hawaii chasing our 1 yr old up and down the aisle – no naps! We found disruption to nap/sleep routine and jetlag was worst at this age adventurebaby.org
- Even the most placid and well-behaved toddler can struggle to sit still for extended periods. Needless to say, long haul flights can quickly degenerate into hours of boredom interrupted only by intermittent whining and fidgeting. Aleney www.boyeatsworld.com.au
- Very difficult to get a recalcitrant toddler to sit still especially when the seatbelt sign is on and they just don’t want to sit down. www.justgoplacesblog.com
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!
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I’d love to hear your toddler travel tips and experience. Do you love it or hate it?