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Traveling with a two-year-old


Recently I took my almost three-year-old granddaughter on a five-day trip to Florida.  You wouldn’t think that this would have been such a big deal, but I have gotten lots of comments and questions sounding suspiciously like,  “Why would you do such a thing?”

On trams at airports, in rental car shuttles and waiting in the airport people would stop and say, “What a cute little girl (and she is) and then make some comment to the effect that I must be transporting her  home or some such thing.

When I’d say, “No we’re on an adventure for five days,” I’d get incredulous looks.  I’m sure my silver hair and clearly Grandmother status (although I prefer the Nana moniker) make some wonder if I was crazy.

No, I wasn’t and I had a wonderful time.  These questions prompted me to think about why I would travel with such a young child.  This blog addresses my thoughts.  But before I go into that, I must come clean.  Two and a half of those days, I had a buddy to help.  Maddy and I visited a long time and special friend in Florida.  It takes a village, the cliché goes, and traveling at my age with such a small child.  It’s true. We had a grand time.

But on to the benefits and reasons for my adventure.

1. I want my grand children to know me and to know my passion for seeing the world.  It hit me when we were driving from Orlando to New Symrna Beach and listening to the CD that Madelyn’s Mommy so thoughtful provided. The song, “The Bear went over the Mountain” came on and as I belted out the words with Maddy singing along in her car seat, I had one of those, “Of course.  This is what it is all about.  The bear went over the mountain…….to See what he could See.

That’s a bit of how I feel about travel.  I want to see what is on the other side of the mountain.  I have a curiosity that won’t quit or “ants in my pants” as one friend described it… and I’d love to instill some of that fascination in the next generation of our family.

2.Traveling with a small child is a Zen type experience for me.  Hah! You say, this sounds crazy, but its not.  For someone like me who has a penchant for lists, calendars, organizing and endless planning, being with a small child is a total “in the moment” experience.  No multi-tasking or thinking about what we’re doing next week Thursday.

For one thing, I have a main mission of keeping this child safe.  I have to keep total focus on where she is, what she is eating, touching or doing.  Will have no lost child, choking on strange objects or inappropriate encounters with strangers on my watch.  Keeps me totally in the moment.

The other Zen like experience is sharing the total absorption with things I might take for granted and not stop to look at.  For example, Madelyn became fascinated with the foam on the beach, manipulating it for at least ten minutes.

She cautiously dropped sand and water on it to see what would happen, drew designs in the sand around it and then confidently stamped her little feet to make it mostly go away.  Once her curiosity was satisfied, off down the beach she skipped.

3. I loved seeing  the world through her eyes. The questions were fun and I loved explaining the simplest of things.  Like, walking down the hall of our big hotel and seeing the newspapers laying outside the door.  I explained to her that this meant all these people in the rooms were still sleeping (good reason for keeping our voices low).  On the way back after breakfast she observed that many of those people were now up because so many of the papers were gone.

“True, but we still don’t get to be noisy in the hall,” I responded.

Or the when the “room service” arrived—huge blessing to me after a full day of travel and total concentration.  Her eyes doubled in size when she saw the table being wheeled in and marveled at a small vase of flowers nestled in between our plates of burgers.

4.  Probably the best part of the experience was getting to know our little sweet heart—her tentativeness, her pure joy in the moment and her happy view of life.

The telling moment was on the first day of travel.  We made our two flights, found the luggage, got to the rental car office and got the car.  I was handed the car seat and an instruction booklet.

Nope.  Not installed.

I struggled for twenty minutes in the dark garage and dark car with Madelyn hopping around, actually behaving very well considering. I finally got the thing jerry rigged and as I buckled her in I sternly said, “Now Madelyn.  Nana needs your help.  She’s in a strange car, unknown airport and driving to a new hotel. You need to be very quiet.”

She solemnly nodded.

As we made our way through the rental car check out exit and negotiated the confusing airport exit, I hear this little voice from the backseat chirp,   “Nana, we’re having fun, aren’t we?”

That says it all.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Doreen Dal Santo
    Mar 8, 2011 Reply

    I love this! I remember the same feeling traveling with my young children as a single mom. I look forward to the day I have grandchildren to travel and explore with – lucky you!

    • posted by
      Theresa Umlauf
      Mar 9, 2011 Reply

      What a lucky granddaughter! Susan what a wonderful get to share. My heart melted.

  2. posted by
    Nancie Billingsley
    Mar 8, 2011 Reply

    That was wonderful! I hope to experience the same thing some day!

  3. posted by
    Georgia Gietzen
    Mar 8, 2011 Reply

    One of the best posts!! I just love the way you write and describe things. I can see it through your eyes . . . where I hope to be someday! Thanks for sharing. Lucky Madelyn – lucky you.

  4. posted by
    Mar 8, 2011 Reply

    Oh, thank you ever so much. I appreciate the kind words.

  5. posted by
    Madelon Hassberger
    Mar 9, 2011 Reply

    Susan. This was so sweet and touched my heart. What a beautiful gift for both of you. Thanks for sharing!

  6. posted by
    Cindy Schad`
    Mar 9, 2011 Reply

    How wonderful you were able to spend time alone with Madelyn! She is one lucky girl to have such a thoughtful, caring Nana. May you have many more “special” Nana adventures “over the mountains”:)

  7. posted by
    sallie bowie
    Mar 9, 2011 Reply

    Dear Susan,

    What an adventure….Looking at the world through a childs eyes…Amazing the things that we as adults miss. They say to bond with children while they are young….At about 9 years their friends become more important…You are definitely making wonderful memories with madelyn…Keep up the good work Nana…..Maybe we can join forces at Gramma camp this summer…

  8. posted by
    Mar 9, 2011 Reply

    Would love to do Gramma Camp. Sounds like wonderful fun. Count me in.

  9. posted by
    Margaret Cheff
    Mar 9, 2011 Reply

    Susan, I loved reading this…you’re creating memories for both of you with your love of travel. That’s what I hope I’ve been able to do as well with my adventure travel experiences with my nieces and nephew…even though they’re now all grown, they still talk about what they remember from our trips together. It’s the best gift to give your “kids”, whether they’re your own children, grandkids or nieces/nephews.

  10. posted by
    Mary Krzeminski
    Mar 9, 2011 Reply

    Susan, I enjoyed your description of your joy and Madeline’s. I am reminded of the lovely times Jim and I had traveling with our children when they were small. I love the grandparent/grandaughter relationship especially because it is something to which I look forward. What a beautiful story to share. Also, I am inspired by your desire to see over the next mountain, whether it is a physical destination or into the heart of your grandaughter.

  11. posted by
    Anne Scuderi
    Mar 11, 2011 Reply

    Thanks for sharing! Love the story of your adventure!

  12. posted by
    My Hotel Life
    Mar 13, 2011 Reply

    Very nice article. Every grandparent should take the time to travel with their grand kids. My wife’s mom took our youngest daughter to the JW Marriott Camelback in Scottsdale and she never stops talking about that trip even though we have take our kids there several times. One-on-one time is the best give you can give a child.

  13. posted by
    Mar 19, 2011 Reply

    Susan, I love this post. As every grandmother knows, the unexpected is most often the most memorable. Maddy inspecting the beach foam is priceless!

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