When we had Henry, we were bound and determined not to abandon our love of travel just because we had a little one in tow. He pretty much comes with us everywhere; work trips, road trips, plane trips. He’s done it all. And although on our first few outings we had a steep learning curve, we figured out a few tricks to get Henry into the swing of the way that we travel. Of course it’s not exactly the same as it was without a baby, but we’ve definitely found our groove with activities that we as grownups love and the little dude can totally get into as well.
Beaches and Pools Hit the water, guys! One parent can be on kid duty while the other one sips something out of a coconut under an umbrella, then switch off. Or you can all park it under a larger beach tent, give the kiddo some sand toys, and help him build the best sandcastle there ever was. Beaches and pools have been great for us — H would splash all day if we let him, so if your kids are the same take advantage.
Hiking This one’s particularly good if your child is little and light enough for you to wear while you are hiking around. Strap that kid on and go for a hike! We always like to infuse a little physical activity into our trips, and babies love the scenery and all the action of being toted around somewhere new and exciting.
Nap Shopping If you can get a good nap out of your kiddo while they’re in a stroller or a carrier, it’s a perfect time to go shopping in the grownup places that would probably bore him to death. (Or, in our case, the places where he’d tear all of the really expensive and breakable objects off of the shelf.) We usually start with a walk outside with the stroller fully reclined to get Henry to sleep, then once he’s out we can do our own thing and run around to whatever shops we want to pop into.
Parks and Playgrounds This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s an awesome way to get to know a new place through the eyes of a local! Some cities have some insanely cool parks, I might add, with plenty to do for grownups and kids alike. Once you’ve got a toddler on your hands, hunt down parks with super fun play structures or interesting features that might be different from what he’s used to at home.
Early Bird Special It’s actually kind of serendipitous that parents of little kids usually eat dinner at a ridiculously early hour, because if there’s a restaurant you want to try you can usually beat the crowds. Perfect. Instead of dinner at 7 or 8 when all of the adult crews will be out and about, grab dinner at a cool spot at 5:30 or so. It’s usually completely empty so you worry a little less if your kid squawks one too many times. Same goes for brunch; just make it breakfast. You’ll be there with the geriatric crew who loves babies anyway. 😉
Picnics If you’ve got a particularly rambunctious toddler, picnics. are. awesome. Stop at a great market (or even better, a local farmer’s market) and grab a bunch of easy, fresh foods — we love to do fruits, veggies, cheeses, breads, hummus, and more. We always keep a super-thin, compact picnic blanket (I actually think it was a sarong that we got in Tahiti!) with us when we travel to be able to toss it down on the grass anywhere and have an impromptu meal. After you eat, the little one can run around and blow off some steam.
Toy Stores Ryan and I didn’t realize it before we had a kid, but toy stores are awesome! We would stop in to toy stores here and there while I was pregnant the first time and after a while we got a little hooked. Now in every town we look for fun toy shops to stop into, especially if they’re mom-and-pop shops or have stuff you don’t see everywhere. Henry loves looking around, and it’s a fun way to spend some time. If your toddler is a little older, just explain to them beforehand that maybe they don’t get a toy from every store that you stop in.
Bakeries and Sweet Shops Don’t judge us, but sometimes if we want to just stop and take a break during a trip, we’ll hit a cute coffee shop, bakery, or sweet shop and just let Henry pick something out. No, we’re not constantly bribing him with sugar (and it’s definitely not something we do frequently at home), but a little treat on vacation is okay with us. It buys us a little time to enjoy a new spot, and obviously the kid is into it if he’s eating cake!
Wander When all else fails, explore! Put the kid in a stroller or carrier and just take off on foot to explore a new place. Babies & toddlers love to take in the sights, and it’s even better for them if you’re chatting to each other and to them about what you’re seeing. This way mom and dad get to take in the sights, too.
I think all in all, it’s kind of key not to sacrifice your own enjoyment of a trip to do only “kid stuff” in an effort to entertain the little ones. Truly, I don’t think they need that. What’s key is to find things that everybody loves and go from there. Here’s hoping your travel with little ones is easy and awesome! And if you are planning a family one day, trust me — bookmark this one for later. 😉 Any other tips you moms out there would add to the list? xoxo