My arms are numb from carrying my boy through airports, plus I'm loaded with heavy bags filled with toddler supplies. We smell. My son is covered in food and milk, while I'm covered in pee from a leaky diaper. Both of us are cranky and tired.
Gone are the days of gracefully gliding through airports with just a purse and a coffee in my hand. I used to be a world traveller hopping between countries with ease. Be it by plane, train, boat or bus, my backpack and I were always ready for a new adventure.
Travelling is part of my DNA. Growing up, my parents would take my brother and I to new countries for months. In our temporary homes I would enrol in local schools, make new friends and explore different cultures with my family. Looking back, those trips were my happiest memories from my childhood.
Before having children, I imagined great backpacking adventures my husband and I would have with our offspring in tow (what is cuter than toddlers carrying tiny luggage). My make-believe worldly family would fly off to exotic places, rough it on road trips, taste delicious foreign dishes and immerse ourselves in new cultures and customs.
In reality our first family road trip was more of an exhaustive ordeal than a carefree adventure. It ended with us driving hours in search of a hospital with our son covered in blood after a nasty fall.
Related: 5 Things I Learned While Traveling With My Kids
For our first family holiday we thought we would take it easy and spend it relaxing on a beautiful beach. Our relaxing week in paradise turned into a week without sleep. Dinner time was spent chasing and persuading our toddler to behave while other guests glared at us over their romantic meals. I don't think I managed to sun-tan for more than 10 minutes without being dragged into the sand (anyways building sandcastles is more fun).
Then there was the time we took our eight-month old baby on safari. The whole time we were petrified he would wriggle free from our hands and be a crocodile's lunch. My husband and I still look back at that trip and say, "What were we thinking?!"
Traveling now isn't what it used to be. It has turned into a stressful and never-ending mission. But nevertheless it still is an integral mission.
The first five years of a baby's life are the most critical when it comes to development, building mental foundations, and social and emotional skills. It's a time when baby's brain develops faster than any other time in their lives. So why not expose the little ones to new worldly wonders that will form their character and humanity.
Sometimes parents say to me, "Why spend the money, energy and time on a holiday with a baby, they won't remember it." But that's like saying, "Why read to your baby or throw a first birthday party?" They also won't remember those activities.
Babies and toddlers are sponges and even though they won't remember early family trips, those experiences abroad stay ingrained in them. It helps raise adaptable, accepting and resilient children; widening their world.
The challenges of traveling with little ones are endless. The heavy and massive amount of baby gear that you need to drag through airports is daunting. The task of trying to keep Baby entertained on long journeys can be relentless. Hotel rooms don't come baby-proofed. It is exhausting. Hard established routines are thrown upside down. Toddlers are constantly on the go; there is no time to sit down and enjoy a quiet moment. And often they are overstimulated by all the new sights, sounds, tastes, and smells.
Related: What's it Like to Travel the World With 3 Kids?
Traveling with youngsters means expectations have to change. No longer can you sit at cafe and spend hours people watching, romantic dinners are off the menu, leisurely walks through museums and art galleries are a thing of the past, and shopping can be a nightmare.
But the trade off is well worth it. Experiencing travel through a toddler's eyes is amazing. The awe they have for the small things; be it a bug crossing the road or wind in their hair, makes you appreciate all the new details you probably missed before. Toddlers force you to stop and slow down, and fully take in your surroundings. And a family vacation means uninterrupted family time together.
Also with a tot in tow people tend to be friendlier and kinder. And it is easier to meet people when you arrive in a new place - kids seem to draw new friends in.
After a few travel disasters and a few successes, here is my advice: Be flexible, plans can change and they often do with kids. Take it easy, activities and outings always take longer with little ones. Pick a destination that is family friendly, no honeymoon resorts or intense sightseeing. Try to stick with a routine, but if it doesn't work out just go with it. And always take snacks.