By Ashley Iyer
I just returned from traveling to Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Monument Valley Navajo Travel Park, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. My travel companions were my husband and two-year-old daughter. I have always loved road trips, specifically West of the Mississippi. There is something cozy about being packed in a small SUV together with half eaten snacks on the ground and luggage and coolers packed to the brim of the trunk. We explored the pink and red sandstone cliffs in Zion, outlandish hoodoos in Bryce, the majestic Mittens Buttes in Monument Valley and endless curves and warm hues of Antelope Canyon.
Traveling allows me to see my husband and daughter in a different light. I enjoy my daughter’s unexpected leg hugs and the faint smell of marinara from last night’s dinner in her hair. I love nestling my daughter’s little Disney toothpaste and toothbrush next to my big toothpaste and toothbrush in my toiletry bag. I am always impressed with my husband’s ability to problem solve and the amount of Dad jokes he can spew out when traveling. We were surprised at her insistence on saying hi to literally every person that passed us as on day hikes. She was insistent on being outside and loudly shouted “doggy doggy” every time a dog passed. Nothing beats the simple joy of a child.
I have included some travel tips for traveling with toddlers our family has found helpful below:
- If you can honor your toddler’s sleep and meal routine or make slight modifications everyone will be happier for it. For example, when we were in Arches National Park we decided to get up very very early to avoid the heat and complete the hike to Delicate Arch and come back to our Airbnb in Moab Utah and take a nap. Later in the evening we returned to the Arches National Park to look at the rock features during the sunset. Also, we tried to do most of the driving between parks during her nap time.
- Our favorite baby carrier brand was Deuter. It provided a visor that we could temporarily put up during sunny hikes, there was also a place to put a water bladder. She even learned to drink from a Camelback during the trip! My husband and I took turns carrying.
- Book an Airbnb with a wash machine every 4 days or so to be able to pack less clothes.
- I let my Mommy guilt go about increasing my daughter’s screen time during long car and plane rides. It was important that we downloaded her favorite shows before going on the trip because we were in many areas without service.
- During the plane ride I packed 6 new books and toys from the dollar store and a couple old ones to keep my daughter occupied. I also made sure to have lots of grab and go snacks. If kids cry on the plane and you are making an effort to entertain your kid people can get over it.
- Of course, the best toys I brought were not meant to be toys at all. She loved collecting zip lock bags full of rocks and sand.
- We packed two big suitcases. One stayed in the car during all those hotel changes, we brought one up with us.
- We bought a couple of disposable coolers first things when we landed. We bought grab and go lunch and breakfast food for everyone. Mostly we just ate out for dinner.
- Call ahead to see if the hotel will provide a pack and play, so you do not have to pack one.
- Some things My husband and I decided we would do the next trip include: Getting a portable highchair, bring small almost Bento like boxes to separate her food. We decided we would stop to eat meals more often rather than in the car. Happy trails!