Our Hawaiian Adventure with a Toddler

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I love to travel. I also love my daughter. However toddlers and travel don't usually ever go well together. 

As we approached our five year anniversary, my husband and I wanted to take a trip to celebrate. We considered a romantic escape for two, but truth is, we really like our kid and wanted to do something as a family. After all, starting our family has been the greatest achievement of our marriage so far. 

We tossed around a few ideas and finally decided on Hawaii. Neither of us had ever been there, we could do a lot of of hiking as well as spend time relaxing at the beach, and as part of the United States, everything there was pretty familiar to us. And because, Hawaii:

North Shore, Oahu

The one serious downside to a Hawaiian vacation is the long journey to get there - 12 hours with a toddler...were we crazy? But again, how can you say no to this:

Waikiki Beach, Oahu

So we booked our flights and prepared our battle plan. It included a bag of new toys, patience, books, more patience, sticker books, (did I mention patience?) and of course treats. I knew that we would not be above bribery to survive this trip.

In the end, what I discovered is that with the right destination, and the right attitude, exploring new places with a toddler doesn't have to be as difficult as one might imagine. I loved everything about Hawaii, but my favorite part of our trip was getting to experience it with my beautiful family. Watching my daughter's face light up as she ran towards the ocean and jumped in the waves with her Dad are memories I will cherish for my entire life.

I thought about sharing some "tips" we learned on how to travel with a toddler - but as I started writing these so-called "tips," I quickly realized the list was pointless because every child is different. Anything that we did or did not do may or may not work for another child. Heck, what worked on the flight there didn't necessarily work on the flight back - so I clearly do not have any magic answers and don't want to even pretend that I do.  

With that being said, I do have two quick suggestions for traveling with a toddler that apply regardless of if your child is an angel or has ants in their pants. One: If you can, book the window and aisle seats in the hope that no one books the middle seat in between you - giving you the entire row. This worked for half of our flights, the other half were fully booked (we always asked before boarding if someone was sitting in the middle seat, and once even though someone had booked the middle seat, the steward was able to move us to a different row). Having the extra space of an entire row felt luxurious after a four hour plane ride with three people in two seats.

And second, be brave. Don't let the stress of traveling stop you from exploring new places. Is traveling with a toddler difficult - yes. (Did I say difficult? I meant borderline neurotic!) But was it also 100% worth it to take her on a once in a lifetime, beautiful, never to be forgotten adventure - yes again. If I had to do this trip all over again, I would still take our daughter with us. I love to travel and I love my family, so for me, getting to travel with my family is the epitome of happiness.

Below are a few (okay more than a few because it was really hard for me to pick my favorites) photos from our trip. We took two weeks and traveled to the Big Island (Hawaii) and the island of Oahu. My favorite of the two was the Big Island because of its diverse and gorgeous landscapes. We relaxed on beautiful beaches, snorkeled with sea turtles in impossibly clear water, hiked through colorful rain forests with staggering valley views and visited Volcanoes National Park, which felt like an alien planet. The island provided more entertainment than we could experience in the nine days we were there and it is on my list of must return destinations.

I was also glad we visited Oahu because experiencing Pearl Harbor was incredibly moving and in my opinion a must see if endeavoring the long trek to Hawaii. I was a little overwhelmed by the crowds of Honolulu, but a quick one-hour drive to the North Shore quickly brought us back to the relaxed atmosphere and natural beauty of Hawaii. On Oahu, the North Shore was my happy place. With picturesque beaches, aquamarine water, fabulous snorkeling and even a visit from a Hawaiian Sea Monk Seal, it was the perfect way to end our surreal and lovely trip to paradise.

Aloha from the Big Island
Kua Bay, Big Island
Waiulua Bay near Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island
Enjoying the beautiful waters of Waiulua Bay
View of Big Island's desert region on our way to the rainforest
The Pololu Valley on the Big Island
Pololu Valley hike through the rainforest
Exploring the black sand beaches of the Pololu Valley
Pololu Valley
Hiking through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The beauty of the rainforest at Volcanoes National Park
The active Halema'uma'u Crater
Hiking through Akaka Falls State Park
Akaka Falls State Park, Big Island
Each night on the Big Island, the sky exploded at sunset
Walking along the boardwalk at Waikiki Beach on Oahu
The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is worth the extra ticket to visit (make sure to get your tickets early as they often sell out)
The USS Arizona Memorial
Banzai Beach on the North Shore, home of the Pipeline
The beautiful North Shore of Oahu
The North Shore, Oahu
A Sea Monk Seal came to say hello
Driving along the North Shore

A hui hou, Hawaii. Until we meet again...and we will be meeting again!

What destinations have you traveled to and loved? Do you have any favorite locations to travel to with kids?

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