Things I’ve Learned Traveling with a Toddler
I am an exceptionally type A person. I love a detailed itinerary, a plan, an agenda. Spontaneity stresses me out. Change gives me hives. I am that person who avoids the beach because how can you lay in one place ALL DAY. Relaxing while traveling has been a learning process. I get it, sometimes it is fun to cancel your museum trip and get that extra glass of wine and people watch. Sometimes….
My method of travel prep has been detailed itineraries so I know what I want to do and when before I arrive. I usually spend a few weeks researching hikes, restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions, etc. I like to build out each day including a timeline so I can figure out just how many days I need in each location to ensure we will hit all of our must do’s. I did this for our honeymoon to Italy and my husband can vouch for me – it was one of the best vacations ever. Not too hurried but full days and no feelings of “oh my gosh we missed that”. That isn’t to say I’ve never stumbled upon an adorable cafe and had to sit down for a cup of coffee. I have. I just prefer to scour the internet for the best cafe that mostly only locals go to and put it on my itinerary. Cute cafe on side alley rarely frequented by tourists – check!
Then we had a baby.
You know who doesn’t care about itineraries? Babies. Try showing one to a toddler playing with rocks. They care even less. Our vacations have taken on a decidedly different tone. I still make my famous (OK famous to my husband) itineraries and I do all of the research. But instead of scheduling us from sun up to sun down I build in wiggle room. Wiggle room becomes especially important when traveling in groups. Considering the people I often travel with are over 60 or under 5, I have opted to build in A LOT of wiggle room to everyday. This way I can still check off the things I’d like to do without coming across as the vacation dictator AND everyone gets nap time.
Take today for example. I am currently writing this while sitting on the patio of our rental home. It is 3pm and the weather in Black Mountain is gorgeous. Today is definitely a much better day for hiking than the previous few and it is our last full day of vacation. So why am I writing a blog post? Because my toddler got the respiratory infection my mother-in-law brought to town. She passed out in my lap on the couch after failing to take a normal timed nap because of her cough. My husband had to go to work because sometimes you have to do those things. My in-laws are taking naps because that is what retired people do. And I am writing a blog post…
I could chalk today up to a bust. It’s unlikely I’ll get a real hike in. But we have a huge grassy field in front of the house and it seems to be quite the hangout for birds (which are my 2-year old’s new thing). She is getting the rest she needs and I’m sitting outside with a great view and some lovely weather.
Traveling with family, particularly when your family includes a young child can be stressful if you let it. Time change and new surroundings invite epic meltdowns. And I’m not just talking about from your children. It still happens when we go places. And there are still times when I’ve sternly reminded the rest of my vacation crew that we had a hike planned for today and if we don’t leave in ten minutes we will never make it back in time for lunch at the BBQ place with bizarre hours and if we don’t make it before they close we will just starve to death. But more often than not I can back away from that ledge.
Maybe I am becoming flexible…
What are your tips and tricks for handling stress when traveling with small children?