Early on, my husband and I decided that we would not stop travelling when our son was born. We took him on his first flight when he was 5 months old, and he was cruising by two and a half. Easy peasy!
Then came our daughter. Her travel experience started at 3 months of age with a 24 hour car ride from Florida to New York, and back. Her first flight was around 7 months. It still wasn't that bad.
The biggest issue with travelling is that there is A LOT of luggage. For our first international trip with 2 kids under 5, we had 2 car seats, a stroller, 3 large bags and 3 carry ons. We did not travel light!
On this trip, I realized that my 5 year old son was happy to pull his carry-on through the airport knowing his things were packed inside. When my daughter turned 2.5 she seemed to enjoy pulling his bag around at home, so we bought her a carry-on as well. I managed to pack all of their clothing and one toy each, into their carry ons, which they merrily rolled from the parking lot to the gate. There was a bit of complaining, but it subsided once we were through security...which took over an hour!
Some things that are vital to my children being happy on travel day are snacks, a water bottle, a small toy of their choosing, good headphones, and for my oldest, his tablet. We also upgraded his carry-on to one with a scooter. Not only does he enjoy it, he keeps up with us easily.
The reality for me is that travelling with little ones is not bad if you teach them how to travel. They become accustomed to long car rides, getting through the airport, being responsible for their belongings and adapting to new surroundings. They learn to be courteous of others, and how to entertain themselves during a long flight.
When the kids see the suitcases out, they get excited. They look forward to each trip because they know we will spend time seeing new places, eating new foods and participating in new activities. My son has driven a tractor on a farm in Ireland, planted a coffee bean seedling with his sister in Costa Rica, and swam with a sea turtle in St Thomas.
I know not all kids are happy travelers. I am lucky to have two fairly chill kids. What I think all parents can agree with is that the smile on their faces make up for the sleepless flights, endless request for food/drinks and constant repetition of the word "mom".