Traveling With A Toddler: 9 Things I Learned From Our First Vacation

The thought of traveling with a toddler is both exciting and daunting. To ensure a delightful trip, I did my part and researched for our toddler’s first vacation. Sure enough, there were more clothes to pack, snacks to bring, and things to consider when there was a small human in tow.

We were intrigued by how our 1 year old will find this vacation and how we (Kael and I) will handle the adventure.

Our first family trip went well (albeit the lack of beach swimming) and I had been keeping notes of what I noticed — around us and within me.

Photo by Elina Sazonova

1. It gets you off your phone

Vacations used to mean beaches and having a break from everyday life. But hello internet, everyone is glued to their phones wherever they go. While having breakfast at the hotel restaurant where we were staying, I looked around and almost everyone — teens mostly — has their phones in front of their faces.

Me? I have my phone in my pocket because I’m holding my mobile tot and the glass plate he’s unwittingly trying to push off the table.

Being outside with a toddler forces you to stay present. Because sometimes when you zone out even for just a few seconds, you can find their mouths already filled with inedible items, or they can be at the edge of someplace considered dangerous for them.

2. You get mellow to those who travel with kids

I used to be one of those people who hope to never have to sit near children on a plane. The patience for a screaming kid I might have but the tolerance for those who kick seats? Please don’t try me.

Now, I have nothing but applause for those who travel with toddlers. Those who look like a clothes rack with all their bags hanging strategically on their bodies. Those who try to move fast as they stuff items from their pockets to their luggage during security checks — all while carrying or looking after their tots.

Those whose kids scream and cry that you can almost see their parents’ brains working on how to mitigate the scene. I want to pat them on the back and say they are still doing a good job.

3. It makes you grateful for entertainers and understanding people

Thank you so much to the people who smile at my son. Those who say “hi!” Those who play peek-a-boo even distantly. Those who start or take him on a challenge of pretty eyes.

Those hotel staff who greeted him and asked us whether the toddler wants some hot chocolate. Those who take priority lanes seriously and will even campaign for it.

I am especially grateful to those who understand that toddlers live purely in the moment. That they may shriek just because they find things exciting, or bawl when they don’t get what they want instantly.

4. It made me appreciate the times I traveled while I was single

The trips where I only bring what I need — packing light as much as I can. I could choose the cheapest flight no matter what time it falls. I could just sit wherever the roulette assigned me to. Reading or writing or listening to music while in transit. Sleeping just because I can.

May it be a planned tour or a wherever-this-takes-us kind of day, I can drag myself and enjoy even when I was sapped of energy.

Now there’s a lot to think about, traveling with a toddler. It’s not a bummer but it makes pre-baby travel freeing.

5. It reminds you to rest

After taking on an afternoon land tour in Boracay, I found myself tired, my body sore for who knows why. I wanted to lie down, only I don’t want to waste time resting. My husband talked me through taking it easy, reminding me that if I’m exhausted, our son probably was too. And if he needs rest, we give it.

6. Convenience and comfort are worth it

If budget permits, spend money on things that make life easier. Pre-ordered food, island transfers, porters. Take advantage of shortcuts as waiting games are not for all kids. Patience isn’t their strong suit.

7. You don’t have to bring that much

Almost all the articles on the internet say I should bring lots of toys and food. But upon flying, I learned that this depends on many other factors such as a toddler’s age, temperament, where you’ll go, and how long you’ll be there.

I brought a number of toys and it turns out our son is pretty chill and would rather babble and play with us. Children can entertain themselves too. Just make sure they are well fed and not sleep-deprived.

8. Flexibility is key

Before we traveled, I told myself to be flexible and relaxed when it comes to our toddler’s food. Come vacation, our toddler only ate corn flakes and watermelon cubes for breakfast for the whole three days.

We ordered food he might like based on what he eats at home. Not so much of a surprise that he completely snubbed it.

Adjusting isn’t just for what to eat. You may be eager to hit the beach but finds out your toddler is against it. 🙃 So you try to find other activities and hope it gets the reaction you are hoping for.

9. You will likely just stay in the hotel

So pick a good accommodation. Because toddlers require naps (or you’ll risk having cranky company), we had to plan our activities around his nap time. Sometimes getting toddlers to sleep is a battle that your planned schedule will get thrown out the window. You may also adjust your plans based on whether he might or might not poop today.

Once I caught myself thinking why are we still here again in the hotel, because not being outside felt like we were wasting our vacation. I thought I have low expectations and yet it went lower.

But that’s the adjustment. The nice thing is that your toddler will likely be happy walking around your room as this place is new to him. Even if you don’t go out often, there are things to explore, cabinets to open, drawers to close, and other things to tinker at.

REMINDER: Do a quick sweep of the room as soon as you’re in. Make sure there are no small objects your tot can put in his mouth and potentially choke him. If your room has a balcony, make sure its door is locked.

Have you traveled with a toddler before? Having a 1-year-old makes a lot of difference in where you go and what you do at a certain place. You can search the internet for tips for a fuss-free vacation but nothing beats experience.

And if you are looking for a free travel packing checklist, I have a downloadable pdf from my blog post here.

Whatever trouble (minor, I hope) you encounter on your trip, I am here to remind you to see the good things. The toddler is learning and so are you.

family at the beach

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