If you followed my recent travels through Spain on Instagram Stories you probably noticed a lot of sunsets, boat rides and a smiling toddler. Some of you even wrote me messages to the effect of “Your life is paradise!” or “He’s the perfect kid.” Those messages broke my heart a little, because I’d hate to think that I’m part of this social media culture where we only share the filtered parts of our lives. When I scroll through Instagram, I’m so quick to play the comparison game — that someone else is thinner, prettier, richer, smarter or more traveled. I’m especially vulnerable to photos of seemingly perfect-looking kids and wondering “What am I doing wrong?”
I certainly don’t want to be another source of that kind of anxiety! Here’s what goes on “behind the scenes” when it comes to my feed.
When I took the photo above, we’d been on a boat for two hours. Our toddler wasn’t allowed to run around, so we were trying to keep him busy with anything we could get our hands on — toys, chips, plastic cups, a spoon, our iPhones — anything! Meanwhile he was cutting two new molars and… Losing. His. Mind. Eventually, he passed out and we got 20 minutes of peace. I snapped the photo.
Traveling with a toddler is tough. It requires patience, creativity, advance planning and coordination. We live within an hour or two of most European countries, so we’re rarely on a long flight. It’s relatively easy and inexpensive for us to book a weekend in Paris or Barcelona. We also live in an apartment, so we allocate our time and money to travel instead of taking care of a home or pets. Right now, our family is geared towards traveling as much as we can before our son is enrolled in school.
We think the reward is worth the hassle, but I sometimes have my doubts. Here are some of my recent findings when it comes to traveling with a toddler:
Stay near a park. We always check the location of our hotel or rental home before booking to make sure that we are either near a park or playground for running around. We also map out playground breaks when we’re exploring a new city so that there are outlets for him between the museums, churches and restaurants.
Make kid-friendly reservations. You can always cancel a reservation, but you can’t always find a restaurant with a high chair when your toddler is having a hunger meltdown. I make reservations at restaurants that other travel bloggers have recommended. If we end up eating street food for dinner at 5 o’clock, we call and cancel.
Take turns parenting. My husband and I make a point every trip to do at least one thing sans bébé, while the other one puts our son down for a nap. In Barcelona, I visited Park Güell. In Menorca, I simply wanted to have lunch alone and read a book. Sometimes, I need to go down for a nap myself.
Don’t overpack. Buy the diapers, wipes and baby food at your destination. Book a hotel with a crib. Rent a car with a carseat. Pack the things you really need (for us, it’s this white noise machine), but do everything you can to limit what you have to lug through the airport.
Break the rules. When we’re at home, we try to limit screens and junk food. When we’re on the road, we make big concessions. I always pack reusable sticker books, balloons, a couple of new cars and lollipops. We also have an iPad stocked with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Peppa Pig, Peekaboo Barn and MarcoPolo Ocean.
Do you travel with little ones? What advice do you have?
I strive to be genuine in this space, so I’ll try to take more photos of the “real stuff” in the future. You’ve been warned. Meanwhile, here are few more links for your week: