A single mom and her wonderful 4 year-old daughter have lived all over the United States together as they experience all that the country has to offer. My friend, Tomorrow (Yes, that is her name), is a strong and driven woman who has taken advantage of her mobility to show her child the world. Here are some of her thoughts on traveling with a toddler.

What’s it like traveling with a young one?

Well I got lucky with this kid! She enjoys road trips and is pretty easy going when traveling. Like any child, she does get restless but we’ve learned a pretty good system to keep her happy and occupied. On full driving days, she gets to pick out a toy or stuffed animal at the first gas station we go to, usually mid morning, so she has something new and interesting to play with. By mid afternoon, we usually stop at a playground or an indoor play place for about 30 minutes to get us through the rest of the day. Between that, lots of snacks, and her tablet, she’s an easy travel companion!

Read More: 40 Reasons to Love Travel with Kids

Mom is traveling with her toddler to Pikes Peak, Colorado
Tomorrow and Isla at the Summit of Pikes Peak, Colorado

What is your favorite moment traveling with you toddler?

I think our impromptu trip through Utah was my favorite. We’d lived in Denver for a few months and I was itching to see a canyon. I had never been before and I decided that’s what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day. We left at lunch on Saturday and drove about 5 hours away to Colorado National Monument which is a beautiful canyon on the far west side of the state. We got there right before sunset and got to enjoy the lighting change and it was gorgeous! It was too late to drive home so we camped out for the night so we could trek back in the morning. On a whim, I decided to drive into Utah a little bit because I was curious to see what was around and thought it would be a fun little adventure. We drove south towards Moab and suddenly found ourselves in Arches National Park! It wasn’t part of our plan but it was the most beautiful, unexpected detour ever. We had the absolute best time driving through there and listening to music and spending time together. This moment of pure spontaneity turned into one of the happiest memories of my life and an experience I’ll treasure for a lifetime!

What places have you gone to together?

Our first road trip together was in 2016 when we moved to Denver, and Isla was only two. We decided to stretch it out and stop in Chattanooga, Nashville, and St. Louis. While we lived in Denver, we did weekend road trips around Colorado which allowed us to visit Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Winter Park, Grand Junction and the Colorado National Monument, Colorado Springs, and other spots within the state!

Later, we went to Southern California, stopping in Las Vegas on the way, Los Angeles, and San Diego along the way. We even went hiking north of Malibu! When we moved back to Florida, we stopped to explore Santa Fe, Dallas, and New Orleans, which were all firsts for us, too!

2017 was such a special year for us. We were experiencing all of these firsts together! I’d never seen snow or canyons or the Pacific. Being able to share that with my daughter was incredible!

Our next road trip was during a hurricane. I had just broken my ankle and drove us up to North Carolina to stay with a friend. However, we were unable to stay beyond the first two days so we drove to Connecticut to stay with another friend, stopping in Washington D.C. along the way. From Bridgeport, we visited New York City and Boston, more firsts! 

After that, I got married! We went to Biloxi, Mississippi. We spent more time traveling around the South together, including a stop in New Orleans.

Malibu, California

Where are you going next?

Our most recent road trip was our move to Rapid City! This was a stressful one but we still had fun with it. We stopped in Atlanta and St. Louis and we were able to explore a whole new area of the country! The Badlands, Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, Custer State Park…we’re in the perfect area for outdoor adventure and exploring. Now that we’re so close to the Northwest, we planned our next road trip: We want to visit Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, and some other spots around here now that we’re settled in our new home.

What’s the best advice you have for someone flying with their toddler?

The key to flying with little ones is bribery! We stocked up on snacks she doesn’t normally have, like gummies and cookies, in addition to our usual snacks. We bought a special coloring book that she didn’t get to use until we were on the plane and she also got a new small toy for the plane. And the tablet was a lifesaver! We picked seats on the wing of the plane so she could watch the flaps go up and down when we landed and she loved looking out the window at the clouds and cities below. Flying wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be because we were well prepared!

At the Denver International Airport

How do you find things that are fun for both you and Isla?

As far as nature goes, we both enjoy the hiking and sightseeing. She gets as excited as I do over mountains and canyons and such. I think the biggest issue we face is museums which I want to stop at but I know she isn’t old enough to enjoy. I’ve learned to just stick to children’s museums and science centers, aquariums, and things I know we’ll both enjoy as much as we can. After those, I pick one place for myself that I don’t want to miss. On those days, she goes with a tablet and some headphones so I’m able to enjoy the “boring stuff” unbothered. It’s worked well for us so far! The important thing for me to remember is that we can always come back. One day she’ll be more interested in museums and we can go back to these places and get the full experience together

How has traveling helped Isla’s development?

Traveling and experiencing new places has definitely helped her with social skills and adaptability. She’s learned to keep herself occupied and it teaches her patience. All of the outdoor time is essential, as well. Spending time in nature and learning how to appreciate and take care of it is the best learning experience of all!

Peak Parenting
Beaches and Babes (San Diego, California)

Read more: Interview with a Disney Insider: Tips and stories you don’t want to miss

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