I’ve travelled my whole life from babyhood onwards and have never let having my own kids stop my travel passion. I’m not a theme park or all-inclusive resort type of person and luckily my husband JF shares my love of independent holidays where we make our own fun for the family. We now have a 16 year old who’s visited 31 countries and has travelled at every age since his first trip abroad at 10 weeks. His first 6 years were spent as an only child and then son N° 2 came along. Having 2 kids didn’t stop us despite the added expense. N° 2 is now 10 and has been to 26 countries, he even took some of his first steps at the Acropolis in Athens just after his first birthday, precious memories indeed!
I want to show you that travel with toddlers is easy and can be about having fun and making lasting memories, rather than stress and great expense.
Reasons to travel abroad with a toddler
Aren’t they too young to appreciate it? No I don’t believe they are. I believe you’re never too young to be exposed to different ways of living, climates, food, culture and language. The more differences a child absorbs, the less they’ll actually find them “different” when older. I believe this encourages tolerance, acceptance and an interest in multi-culturalism (even at this early age).
Toddlers have an amazing ability to play without a language in common. My children have spent countless happy hours playing in a park or beach with local kids or other holiday makers without being able to speak each other’s languages; it doesn’t mean they can’t communicate however. They just get on with the international language of play. And you’re never too young to learn a few words in the language of the country you’re in. A “bonjour” or “merci” said by your little toddler will charm the local shopkeepers/café staff etc. The kids themselves will love knowing a few foreign words too, it adds to the adventure.
If you’re staying in a self-catering place you don’t have to eat out all the time, but encouraging young children to try foreign or different foods is always a good idea. The more adventurous a toddler is with food, hopefully the more adventurous they’ll be as an older child/teen/adult. And not only adventurous but accepting of difference. It isn’t always “better at home”!
Travelling with toddlers might mean you won’t see as many cultural sights in as much depth as you might have done pre-children, but you’ll be rewarded in other ways and see your holiday location through different eyes. Don’t underestimate just how exciting the seemingly simple activity of playing in a foreign playpark can be to a little kid, using different equipment and hearing different languages all around. Don’t forget too that you can get some adult time when your kid naps. While they are sleeping in their buggy you can visit a museum or gallery, do some shopping or take a leisurely meal in a restaurant. We never felt obliged to be “at home” for nap times in a bed, strollers are perfect for holiday naps!
I can’t stress enough how much we favour self-catering, whether it’s an apartment, gîte, cottage, villa, mobile home or camping, being in control of your own food is massive way to reduce stress when on holiday with young children. You can eat out when you want but aren’t obliged to for every meal, thereby being able to feed your children familiar favourites as well as trying new flavours. (But when eating out in France, restaurants are usually family friendly providing high chairs and a kid’s menu. It is accepted and normal behaviour to take young children to restaurants.)
A self-catering holiday rental also gives you more space to spread out and make your own for those times when you need down time at “home”. If you choose wisely you’ll also find that independent family-run places provide plenty of extras making your vacation even easier: travel cot, high chair, changing mat, plastic cutlery/crockery, stair gates, toys and even tricycles/push-a-long walkers etc. We provide all of this and more at Lou Messugo (we even have 2 different types of high chair seen in the photo of relaxed family dining on our terrace above!)
It goes without saying that a gîte or holiday apartment is cheaper than a hotel too.
Budget and expense
Make the most of travelling with little ones as they travel cheap! Under 2s are free on airlines (except taxes which vary) and in most countries you won’t have to pay for young kids on public transport or when sitting on a parent’s lap at a show. If you have to stay in a hotel overnight, enroute for example, babies and toddlers can usually stay free in the same room as the parents. Toddlers don’t eat much in restaurants and can share meals.
With toddlers you aren’t limited to school holidays thereby being able to take advantage of lower season rates. This is true of accommodation, travel and often entrance to attractions. All in all they don’t actually increase the budget by much from travelling as a couple.
I hope I’ve convinced you to travel with your little one/s if you don’t already. If you do, do you have any further suggestions? What do you think? I’ve written another post concentrating on reasons to holiday with toddlers specifically on the Côte d’Azur, with ideas of where to go and what to do. Hope to see you there!
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