“You are going to Europe for Christmas to see friends and bringing your 5 year old, 3 year old, and 1 year old? You all are adventurous, or crazy, or both!” my friend exclaimed when she heard about our trip.
I think we are a lot crazy and adventurous for sure!
Traveling internationally with toddlers is definitely not for everyone. I always say traveling with little kiddos is not a vacation, but it’s an adventure.
But if you are the type of person who isn’t afraid of embracing uncomfortable challenges because you know there is priceless treasure to be found on the other side, and hold travel and exploring other cultures as one of your family values, here are four reasons why we travel internationally with toddlers, and why you might like it too.
1. Make sweet memories with your family that you can remind them of later.
It will be nice if my 5 year old and 3 year old remember our Europe trip (of course our 1 year old wont remember it), but if they don’t, I’m not too worried about it because we will help them remember it.
When I look back at old pictures of me as a kid, I’m not sure if I really remember what happened in that picture, or if my parents told me the stories so many times about those moments that they’ve just become a memory in my mind. The same goes with travel memories.
My 5 year old son has been to Mexico, visited Thailand twice, and now has been to France, Switzerland, and Germany.
He doesn’t remember the Mexico or Thailand trips much, but when we show him pictures of him there he lights up and loves the stories we tell him about how the Mexican girls loved holding him when he was a cute 1 year old, and how he loved taking a bath outside his great-grandma’s house in the same metal tub in Thailand that his dad used to bathe in.
Now when he sees those pics, he is proud to tell us those same stories we told him about his experiences in other countries.
2. Open their minds to the world at a young age.
Many people don’t travel with their toddlers because they say they wont remember, so what’s the point of all the money and time spent on it?
I don’t remember my mom snuggling me when I was a 2 year old. Or my dad tickling me so hard I couldn’t stop laughing when I was a 3 year old.
I know they did though, and even though I don’t remember all the love they poured into me as a baby or toddler, I know I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if they hadn’t loved me so well at a young age.
Most of the work moms and dads do during the toddler years, we don’t see the fruit of it, but trust that all the love and rich experiences we are pouring into our kids, is going to be reaped into a harvest one day.
The same goes with travel at a young age. Often you can’t see the impact it makes right away, sometimes you can, but I trust that showing my kids the world at a young age is priming them to be intrigued by other cultures and be ready to love on people who are from another country.
3. It’s fun!
Traveling internationally with toddlers is hard. But what’s also hard is a typical day with toddlers. I’ve ended a normal day at home with my kids feeling like a monster truck ran over me and that was just doing daily life.
Why not have some awesome experiences and memories in the midst of the hard toddler years by traveling with them?
Given the choice between a day spent at home with a whiny toddler or climbing up to see a castle in Germany with the snowy Alps glistening behind with a whiny toddler, I’d go for the castle any day.
There are hard parts to traveling with toddlers, but so many sweet parts like seeing the wonder of the world through your child’s eyes:
playing I Spy at the Paris metro stops,
chasing each other as we played tag through the streets of Lucerne, Switzerland,
searching for hidden treasures and finding them like spotted ferns and crunchy leaves as we hiked up to see castles in Germany,
sledding down Mount Pliatus,
experiencing riding a roller coaster and bumper cars for the first time at an old school indoor kids playground in Germany,
riding a double decker carousel by the Eiffel Tower,
jumping on trampolines at Jardin des Tuileries in Paris,
eating cotton candy bigger than Zelynda at a Christmas Market in Frankenthal, Germany and more and more.
So so fun! What’s even more fun is there has been scientific research done that shows taking vacations with your kids makes them happier and smarter!
4. You are made stronger and bond together through intense adventures more than through relaxing vacations.
Traveling internationally with a 1 year old, 3 year old and 5 year old reminds me of giving birth.
During parts of it I felt like I was in painful labor again. Like when flying from NYC to Germany after all three kids had fallen asleep for an hour, the flight attendants turned on all the blaring lights to serve dinner, and terror quickly ensued. All my kids woke up crying, and intense turbulence arose, so I threw up, and then Rocco threw up, and then the guy behind me said,”Hey, your baby is crying!”
That felt like in labor when it gets so hard you want to give up and wonder why you ever wanted to have a child in the first place, and you think I’m never having one again!! Or in my case I thought, “This is horrible! I’m never traveling internationally with toddlers again!”
But after giving birth all the hard contractions quickly become a faint memory. And the rich life in your hands is all that you really think about, and the pain you endured just reminds you how you are way stronger than you think, and God can help you through more than you can imagine.
I watched my kids go through their own forms of labor, and I endured it with them, but such life came from it and we bonded closer as a family from it:
telling our kids it was race time through the Paris subway, so we didn’t miss our train to Germany, and we all ran together as fast as we could through the metro,
seeing them hike up steep hills to see castles even though they were tired, cold and fussy, they did it, and then marveled at each castle,
eating completely different food than they are used to, and even though they didn’t love it all they tried it,
not being able to communicate with new friends who spoke German, but figuring out a way to play and have fun anyways,
waiting, waiting and waiting, on trains, in cars, and on planes,
not napping for many days….
When traveling with toddlers, if you have the eyes to see it, those painful labor like moments give birth to beautiful, bonding, life-giving moments that last a lifetime.