Read the recap of our Cambodia family trip! I am including plenty of vacation pictures, in case you like them as much as I do. On top of that I put together a short list of travel tips with young children. Travel and children don’t exclude each other. Like with everything else in life, you just have to adjust.
We just got back from our first real vacation with Olivia. I am still trying to catch up and get back into a routine of cooking and recipe sharing. Until then let me tell you a little about our trip.
We based ourselves out of Siem Reap, which is the town closest to stunning Angkor Wat. These 1000 year old temple ruins are a UNESCO world heritage site and absolutely breathtaking.
Of the 6 days we had in Siem Reap, we only spent one exploring the ruins. More would have been too much for our little explorer. There are actually a number of temples built by different kings in different time periods, all in unique styles. Angkor Wat just happens to be the biggest and most impressive, so the entire archaeological park was named after it.
I didn’t trust myself to be able to safely handle a toddler and a DSLR camera, so I left the camera at home for this trip. We took all photos with an iPhone. Usually we get quite decent quality, but I uploaded them here I felt they were lacking quality and for a second contemplated not to share them. But then I had to realize, any pictures are better than none at all, right?
We hired a remork (like a carriage attached to a motorbike) with driver and English speaking tour guide for the day. Afterwards, Konrad and I realized that this was the first time in all of our travels that we had a personal guide just for us. And it was absolutely worth it.
We managed to see much more than we would have on our own and received more better information than a guide book could have given. We also didn’t have to hustle along with a big group and adapt to the group’s pace.
Instead, our wonderful guide went along with our toddler’s pace and he had answers to all of our individual questions. It also meant we didn’t need an awkward selfie-stick or have to ask random tourists to take pictures of our family by the sites. Our guide pointed out the spots for the best picture ops as we encountered them and willingly snapped away (posing with a toddler does take longer!)
Everywhere we go Olivia seeks out other children her age. She met a little Cambodian boy at a rest stop, a fellow Chinese toddler tourist exploring in the ruins, and she insisted on sitting next to a little boy that also stayed at our hotel. After talking with his family, we discovered that the two were born on the exact same day! How awesome is this?
When we weren’t sightseeing at Angkor Wat, we explored the town of Siem Reap. Visiting the Angkor National Museum was a great primer before seeing the actual temple ruins.
We also made great use of the awesome saltwater pool at the hotel. Otherwise we tried to relax and enjoy our work break.
In retrospect, I realize that we went into this vacation with probably too high expectations. Especially in regards to how much relaxing we’d do. In order to make the trip enjoyable and a success we had to adjust along the way.
Here are our Top 5 Toddler Travel Tips! Some of these are things we learnt (the hard way) on our Cambodia vacation, others seemed to come more naturally, which doesn’t make them any less important.
1. Give attention
Toddlers thrive on their parent’s attention. Konrad and I went on this vacation with the expectation of having a relaxing time away from work. But we quickly had to realize that keeping everyone happy on vacation requires a different kind of work.
While we would have loved just kicking back and reading non-work related books for a change, Olivia didn’t understand such notions. Just like at home, she wanted someone to play with her, read to her or watch her while she was exploring the hotel surroundings. All the time! We had to adjust our vacation expectations to align with our toddler’s need for attention. Expecting less, resulted in more gratitude and happiness all around.
2. A reliable carrier
Having a comfortable, reliable carrier is a MUST when traveling with a toddler. At this age, it quickly gets tiring to hold them in your arm. Having Olivia in her sling also freed up my hands for the camera, to hold on while climbing steep steps and she even could have her nap while we continued our sightseeing.
For this trip I only used our trusty ring sling. I love how quick it is to set Olivia up in it, and that it can be used in a variety of positions. It spreads the weight over your back, but still one shoulder carries more of the load. Soon we’ll need a better backpack carrier, I think. I am already researching our best options (feel free to share your recommendations).
We make sure that we always have some snacks along. Hangry toddlers are a force not to be messed with. Mealtimes are less regulated while traveling. Unless you are eating at the hotel, it might take a little longer to find a suitable restaurant. And then it can be hit or miss, whether Olivia will actually like the food on offer. Here in Asia, fried rice has turned out to be a reliable staple.
4. Don’t forget the lovies
We left early morning to catch our plane to Cambodia. Just as we were about to head out the door, I remembered to quickly grab Olivia’s favorite teddybear and soother from her bed. While we packed everything else the day before, these items were in use until the last minute (showing how important they are!)
Having her lovie and soothie makes bedtime easy. In an unfamiliar surrounding and new bed, those items give familiar comfort.
5. Just go with it
My final advice is to relax! Since traveling with a toddler I have become more of a planner than I used to be. And we have our list of essential toddler travel items that we try to always think of. But I think the most crucial thing is to just go with the flow.
Despite all planning, there will be unexpected outcomes that you need to address at a moment’s notice. So you might just as well embrace it and take things as they come. Unless, you are traveling to the remote jungle, you’ll most likely be able to buy things locally that you forgot or didn’t think of. What your toddler needs most is you! So just be there and have fun together.
Have you traveled with toddlers? I’d love to hear your tips and stories.