As a single mom with a passion for travel, I can often be found kicking down dusty trails with my trusty sidekick, Big Mouth.
Our last journey brought us to Copenhagen, Denmark, where we visited friends.
Planning an international trip with a toddler can be scary, but this was overshadowed by the thought that my daughter is already becoming acclimated to international travel and new cultures, and that I enjoy being able to share these experiences with her.
The 10-hour flight from Fort Lauderdale wasmade bearable by several giant bags of candy that kept her entertained and me stupefied. I used to pack healthier snacks like cut-up veggies, raisins and cheese, but we’ve reached the "whatever works” stage of toddlerhood, and I’m currently not above bribery. I also packed a few books, some new toys, a change of clothing, and her blanket. We took an overnight flight that she managed to sleep through, and arrived in a nippy 27-degree Copenhagen the next morning, bright-eyed and airplane-haired.
I was a little worried about the sleep aspect (or the me not sleeping aspect), but arranged for plenty of backup at our destination, in case I needed to crash while my child started her day.
The easy part about traveling to Copenhagen is that Scandinavians are a very civilized and kid-friendly people. The coffee is good, even on airplanes, the luggage carts are ergonomic, everything is tidy, and nearly everyone speaks English — not that my daughter would have held back, anyway.
"I GOT PANTS ON!" she randomly announced to the nice man checking our passports.
"Yes!" he answered with a smile, waving us through the glass doors.
Although we suffered a little from jet lag, brisk walks in Copenhagen’s
beautiful, manicured parks knocked my kid out enough to take regular
naps. In the warmer months, local parks offer kid-friendly activities
such as puppet shows and boat rentals. In the winter, free ice skating
rinks are set up around the city, and are romantically lit in the
evenings for night skating. My daughter had her first turn on a pair of
rented skates in Frederiksberg, but seemed to enjoy losing her balance
much more than the effort involved in standing up. She also enjoyed
watching other skaters delicately fall on their Danish bottoms, and
helpfully offered a shouted "BOOM!” and giggling applause when anyone
hit the ice.
What I most enjoy about travel with a toddler is that it excuses you from rushing through a new city, feeling the need to inhale every museum and important statue in the short allotted time. You are able to enjoy the environment through more relaxed, everyday experiences, like a nice walk, or peeking out the window of a city bus.
I’ve found that sometimes, in the strangeness of a new environment, toddlers only want the old, familiar foods. Even for a picky 3-year old, I was able to successfully introduce some new foods to her menu (Danish rye bread, black currant juice) blended with the old favorites (string cheese, pasta). I was prepared for days of buttered spaghetti, but she did very nicely with the new stuff as well.
A childhood in Denmark seems to be a carefully indulged thing. Scandinavians clearly understand the child’s universe. In everyday design, public buses and trains have spots for large padded prams into which sleeping babies are tucked. Shopping centers have "family rooms" with sofas and changing tables and areas to nurse. Perfect strangers repeatedly and patiently bent down and answered my child’s nonsensical questions in English, and when she tripped on a threshold entering a shop, grownups flew out of thin air to help her to her feet. This was her third international trip, and by far, the easiest.
Traveling internationally with a child can be pleasant and uncomplicated. I only hoped to see friends and a few new sights, and spend some time with my daughter. With those humble expectations, our most recent trip turned out to be a truly great experience.
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