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I'm Jen, a writer, mama + wife, and lover of all things travel, exploring, and adventuring. A Touch of Wanderlust is my home to document my family's adventures, wanderings, and discoveries around the globe.

Why We Took Our Toddler Son On A 2,000 Mile Road Trip

Why We Took Our Toddler Son On A 2,000 Mile Road Trip

When you say you’re going on vacation next week with your husband and toddler, most people will expectantly ask “where?” and in their heads are picturing Hawaii or Disney World. 

They tend to look at you like you’re a little nuts when you say “we’re doing a road trip to Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and Whistler.” 

“Wait, with your two year old? Wow...how far is that? Why are you doing that?”

Even after the proper explanations, you may still get a few crazy looks but hear me out.

After our son turned one, and then two, we realized we’d done a few weekends away to our favorite beach haunt, Santa Barbara. Matt had traveled a lot for work and I had been fortunate enough to escape to a professional conference and also on two girls weekends to Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. 

Wanting to see something new, get away for a week, and expose our son to move travel we started thinking about what would make sense. A hectic plane ride last Christmas with our very active toddler made us want to avoid planes, at least until he’s a bit older and understands better that he has to sit in his seat the majority of the time. We could handle fussing and crying in a car with just us but the stress of knowing he was potentially bothering other people made us want to avoid a plane. 

Neither of us had ever been to Vancouver or Whistler and I had only visited Seattle once. It kept us on the West Coast but gave us the opportunity to explore something new and could be done comfortably in about 10 days.

Unsure as to how Jack would do in the car, we brought some favorite books and snacks, and carefully plotted stops and park time. Some were thwarted (like our first day on the road when we thought we could stop in Eugene, Oregon, only to discover that a University of Oregon football game was using the local park as overflow parking). 

We really shouldn’t have worried.

He was a little rockstar road warrior. Seriously. We were surprised, proud, and thrilled that we found a means of travel for the moment that wouldn’t get us booted off of a plane.

He had two major meltdowns the entire 2,000 mile, 10 day trip. One wasn’t even in the car, it was as we sat down to dinner with friends late and he hit his wall from too much stimulation, downtime, and lack of food.

The other was when we were about an hour away from home. Seriously. Last day of the trip and we were all dying to be out of the car. We couldn’t blame him one bit.

He spent a ton of time watching out the window at trees, mountains, scenery, construction trucks, and cities. He flipped through a few favorite books. He fell in love with a light-up musical flashlight toy, an impulse purchase at Target one day. He ate a ridiculous amount of goldfish and cheerios. 

He loved running around the trails in Whistler and checking out every bench in the village. He ran along the Puget Sound, got to hang out with his three second cousins who are all under the age of two, and explored every inch of the Vancouver waterfront. 

He surprised us with a few stroller naps (something he almost never does anymore) and generally proved to be a happy little traveling man. He was fascinated by his new surroundings, including our hotel rooms. Best of all, our speech-delayed toddler started making more noises and sounds than he had been. Related? Who knows but as a stressed-out mama of a nonspeaking toddler, I’ll take it.

I’m not writing this to brag. 2,000 miles in a car is still 2,000 miles and definitely not for everyone. We had an amazing trip though and I write this to encourage anyone who wants to go explore something but is hesitant to do it, just do it. You never know. That little toddler might surprise you.

Destination: Portland, Oregon

Destination: Portland, Oregon

Travel Tip: Consider Carry-On Luggage Even If You End Up Checking It

Travel Tip: Consider Carry-On Luggage Even If You End Up Checking It