We’ve been a nomadic family since January 2020, so we’ve learned a thing or two over the last 2.5 years of traveling with a little one. Our son was only 14 months old when we left San Diego on what we thought would be a family gap year. Honestly, being able to travel with our toddlers has been the greatest privilege in our lives.
Now, here we are with a 3.5-year-old that’s traveled to Beijing, Mexico, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, and 20 out of 50 states. That’s a lot of traveling for a little one, so we’ve learned quite a bit about traveling with a toddler.
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We’ve been asked why we started traveling with our son at such a young age, and here are some of the reasons we love traveling with a toddler.
Why do we love to travel with toddlers?
1. Save $$$ (we love saving $$)
One of the reasons we started traveling with our son so young was because it was more affordable. We didn’t have to buy an additional plane ticket, he got into everything free, and a lot of the times we got to skip the line (internationally) because we were traveling with a little one.
Up until our son turned three, we could go to Disneyland, Disney World, Legoland Florida, Legoland California, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, and many other places for free. We got all the fun, without having to pay several hundred, and over the year thousands of dollars.
2. It’s a lot of fun!!!!
Toddlers are the perfect excuse to be a kid again. Honestly, they are the best travel partners. You can enjoy rides, bounce on trampolines, swing, and have so much fun with your little one. This is the time to do all the things you didn’t or couldn’t do as a kid.
Growing up, my mom didn’t have the money for us to go to Disney World, so now as an adult, I had the opportunity to go with our son and have fun through his eyes. You miss so much traveling as an adult without kids. Kids see things that we normally miss, and that’s what makes traveling with kids special.
3. They are adaptable
Kids are one of the more adaptable and resilient creatures ever. They bounce back from most things faster than most adults. Our son has the memory of two seconds then he’s on to the next thing. If that is one thing we can learn from kids, especially toddlers is to let the little things go.
When our toddler hurts himself, he immediately asks for magic cream, which is Neosporin, but it helps him feel better. The moment he sees the cream come out he believes that everything is going to be okay.
We enrolled our son in school for the first time after moving to Mexico and he adapted. He was able to go to a school where he wasn’t familiar with the language and thrive. By the time we left, everyone loved him, and he loved them.
There were days when parents would come to us and say our son/daughter talks about Caleb all the time. As an only child, this was his chance to play with other kids his age and he thoroughly enjoyed it.
Wouldn’t it be great if we all believed like kids sometimes? As adults, we become too cynical. Why not believe there is just a little magic in the world?
4. Quality time
Being able to spend quality time and watch our son grow up was the motivation for our initial family gap year. The time you spend with your kids, especially toddlers (because at this point in their life they consider you their friend) is so valuable.
I remember when people would say cherish those moments when he was a baby, and they were right. I miss the days when he needed me and was my baby. Now that he is becoming a “big kid” (his words), I want to spend as much time with him as possible before he is occupied with other interests.
I can think about the moments we hiked a mountain in Guatemala, got lost in a National Park in Colombia, and walked a hanging rope bridge in Mexico. Having the chance to be present and see him become a person has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life.
5. Learning and development
Toddlers are constantly learning from everything they see, even when we think they aren’t. Their brains are amazing because they are taking in and processing information. One of the proudest moments for me as a parent was our acts of good deeds.
We do not like to talk about some of the things we do in local communities when we travel, but we noticed he was watching us. At two years old he gave his food to someone on the street that needed it.
As a two-year-old, he was perceptive enough to notice someone and give something he loved (French fries) to someone who needed them more than him. How amazing is that for a toddler to do without being prompted or told?
Those are the moments that make you proud as a parent.
6. Conquer fears
Travel is the perfect opportunity to conquer your fears. Today, we went to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (we’re on a month-long road trip) and our son “forced” me to walk across a rope bridge over 20 feet in the air.
I had to take a deep breath and go one step at a time, which gave him the confidence to go one step at a time. Before we knew it, we were at the end of the rope, and he wanted to go again, on the longer and higher bridge.
The same thing happened when we hiked to the top of El Penon in Guatape, Colombia. He kept me motivated to keep going because I am not a fan of heights. He said, “let’s keep going mama, no stop, no stop”. He pushed through and we climbed 1400 steps that day without stopping for a break.
Fears are taught. I am working on conquering my fears and teaching our son the same. Next on our list is ziplining in Costa Rica. We are headed there in November, so we will update you on how it goes.
7. Foster open-minded and humble little human beings
One thing we need in the world is more kind and open-minded people. I believe change starts with travelers because we are open to the possibilities of the world.
As children get older, they will take with them the lessons they’ve learned through traveling. They become more tolerant of other ways of thinking that do not align with their own.
There are different cultures, religions, and beliefs around the world, and there is nothing wrong with being okay with listening and learning about them. Your little one will become a more well-rounded person as they get older, and we need more tolerant people in the world.
8. Learn different languages
Our son started speaking Spanish before he started speaking English clearly. After spending nearly a year and a half in Mexico, he could understand Spanish. I am sure having him enrolled in a local pre-school in Mexico helped, but he seemed to pick up the language.
It’s amazing how much kids can learn without any effort. Even now, our son sings songs in Spanish, and we’ve been away from a Spanish-speaking country for nearly five months. Now we foster that by playing his favorite shows in Spanish and even calling his pre-school teacher once a week to talk to him in Spanish.
My wife is fluent in Korean, so we plan to add that to his language toolbox as well. Imagine how amazing it would be if you spoke three or four different languages. Kids, especially toddlers can do it without trying too hard. I know ours does.
Honestly, I always say that toddlers are the best travel partners because they have a sense of adventure. They are so curious, so there is a sense of adventure everywhere. Even going for a walk with your little one can turn into an adventure.
There are times when we let our toddler lead us in whatever direction he desires and that’s where our adventure leads us. We typically do this in parks or during hikes, which is a lot of fun. Plus, it gives your toddler a sense of responsibility that makes them feel good about themselves.
We are preparing future adults, so giving them the confidence to make decisions and see what happens in part of growing up. That’s why we let our little one lead us through the woods. We can always get home, but he has a blast leading the way.
10. Amazing memories
So many people say there is no point in traveling with a toddler because they will not remember it, but we live in a time where everything is recorded. There will be pictures and videos of all your experiences. Even if your toddlers do not remember, you will.
There are moments in time that you will never forget. One of those times for us was going to The Great Wall of China when our son was a baby. He will never remember being there, but we can always tell him the story.
When we watch Mulan, we stop the movie and say, we’ve been there and show him the pictures. How cool is that? Plus, I’m sure he will be the kid in school with lots of stories to tell from our adventures, either way, it’ll be something that’s cherished for a lifetime.
Why we love traveling with our toddler
The last 2.5 years have been the best time of my life. Some of the experiences we’ve had traveling with our toddler have become lifelong memories that I cherish.
Every day is a new adventure for us. We go on hikes, go to the beach, explore beautiful countries, or just spend the day playing outside. Traveling with our son has brought us closer together as a family.
We have some amazing stories to tell, so if you want your little one to be more adventurous, learn new languages, meet new friends and have some amazing experiences, then travel with your toddler!!