6 Lessons Learned from our First Trip with a Baby + Toddler
Not to toot my own horn, but I’d have thought we’d have become experts on traveling with kids by now.
Well let me tell you, our first foray into travel as a family of 4 proved we have so much to learn!
We’ve traveled extensively with a baby. And we’ve traveled extensively with a toddler. So why, when you throw the two together, does it get so much more difficult?!
It was probably good for us to get this little test run out of the way. We took a 6 hour road trip up to Minnesota last weekend, and I quickly realized once again that we’re in need of a strategy update if we are going to stay sane and enjoy any amount of our travels.
Here are 6 important lessons we learned from our first travel experience with a baby and toddler:
1. Don’t Rush into Your First Trip
I know there are plenty of people (self included) who will tell you that babies are some of the easiest kids to travel with. They sleep a lot, they don’t care where you go, and they eat what you give them so long as it’s on a schedule.
But what they don’t tell you is that some babies are more difficult than others. Some might have health issues or sleep issues that you’re still working out. Some may like to cry at all hours of the day (hello, reflux!). And especially for first-time moms, just plain getting into a routine with your new baby can be super difficult and frustrating.
So unless you’re feeling super duper confident, wait until baby is born before planning that first big trip. I’d recommend at least 2-3 months before you go jetting off into the sunset. You never what kind of stresses you might face, so it’s better to have an idea of what you can handle before you jump all in. Besides, you want to be able to enjoy your trip, and being stressed out with a newborn doesn’t exactly spell fun.[irp]
2. Everything Takes Longer
Shocker, I know. I thought one kid was bad. How much more work could two be? Turns out, a lot.
It’s packing two bags before you leave the house. Buckling two car seats instead of one. It’s two stops for potty breaks and diaper changes. And two kids to feed before you can feed yourself at the restaurant. (Am I making family travel sound glamorous enough for you yet?)
While these sacrifices certainly haven’t deterred us from traveling with kids, it definitely has brought about an even greater desire for ‘slow travel’; that is, spending weeks or months at a time in a single destination. It’s easy to get burnt out quick in a new place with two little ones. We’ve quickly realized fast-paced weekend trips aren’t going to work for us the way they did with Evelyn. So we’ll be working on planning longer, slower-paced travel in the future.
3. Packing Light Has Never Been More Important
How could I forget how much stuff one little baby can require? (our not-yet-potty-trained 2 and a half year old certainly isn’t making things any easier on us!)
Two sets of diapers, twice the wipes, Evelyn’s snacks, Sophie’s medicines. It all adds up. Why oh why was I so naive to think, “well, we’ll have a stroller, we can just throw it all in there, right?”
Carrying all that stuff while we’re traveling totally stresses me out, so my goal for our next trip is to focus on how we can lighten the load as much as possible, still keeping stock of everything we truly need. This includes switching from the stroller to carriers, putting medicines and snacks in smaller portioned containers, and switching to a diaper backpack to get back to being hands-free!
We already have 2 kids to keep track of. We don’t need multiple bags of stuff too.[irp]
4. Warm Weather Destinations Are Your Friend
Why, oh why, did we choose Minnesota in March for our first test run?
“It’ll be spring!” I thought to myself. Except I forgot “spring” in the upper Midwest only means “slightly less winter”.
Being somewhere warm simplifies travel for so many reasons. For one, it’s a heck of a lot easier to stay positive when the sun is shining! And there’s less to pack and carry around without the need for bulky shoes, coats, and hats.
But beyond that, having the option to go outside when things get rough is essential. Baby crying in the restaurant? Take her outside. Toddler being naughty? Time out outside. Have some time to kill between activities? Go for a walk outside.
We’ll be heading strictly south from now ’til June.
5. Don’t Give Up Too Easily
Juggling two young kids while you’re trying to see the world ain’t easy.
And it can be so tempting to throw in the towel when things aren’t going as planned. When the baby won’t stop crying and the toddler’s throwing a fit, all I want to do is say “forget it!” and hole myself up in our Airbnb.
But if I just give it 15 minutes, suddenly everything changes. The toddler is happy again. The baby just needed some quiet. And I remember just how moody these young kids can be, with attitudes easily manipulated and changing all the time.
Hey, sometimes that’s a bad thing, but a lot of times, it’s good.[irp]
6. But Know When to Quit
All that said, there are some days where things just don’t work. There are some moods that only a good night’s rest and a fresh start can fix. And on those days, we have to know when to cut our losses and try again tomorrow.
This only strengthens my desire for slow travel. Simply having the time to say “forget it” is a luxury most American families sadly don’t have. We’ve got vacation days to fill and only so many to take. At the very least, as you’re planning your next trip, leave a little extra time open for the ‘what if’s’. You’ll almost certainly need it.
Have you successfully travelled with a baby and toddler? Tell me, how did you get through it??
Read Next: Flying with Baby: Everything You Need to Know
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Sharee (Inspire Family Travel) says
Great advice Laura! It can be tricky managing a toddler & new baby at home, let alone outside in a foreign place. I especially like your last part about cutting your losses. We have chosen to do this on occasions. Each day is a new day! 😊
Seems like we’re doing that way more than ever these days! I’m sure things will get much easier with time too – for now we’re just celebrating the little victories!