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Birthdays are all big deals, but I suppose some are slightly bigger deals than others. In the family travel world I’m not sure there is a bigger birthday than the infamous second birthday. As you probably know, this is the firm line in the sand where you go from having a little one that can fly for free in your lap, to one that absolutely requires their own seat and ticket. If you have kept them as a lap infant for this long, travel gets noticeably more expensive once you pass through this magical date. But you know what, it also gets so much better. Today is that magical day for my sweet Little S.

Our second daughter was born into a traveling family, and as such, travel has been a part of her story almost since the very beginning. This reality comes with challenges, adjustments, and occasional disappointments, but it also comes with priceless experiences, gifts, memories, bonding, and growth. Oh boy does it come with growth.

They say that family trips serve as happiness anchors for children growing up, but I think they anchor even more for parents. When I look back at some of the photos from our last two years, most of which were taken on a trip of some sort, and I vividly remember those days as opposed to the sleep-deprived blur that many others days fade into. On those trips I remember what we did together, what she was doing, what she wasn’t yet doing, how the sisters interacted, what we were eating, and more. If you ask me what October 17, 2015, with a then three-month-old daughter was like, I probably wouldn’t be sure. However, because of travel I actually do remember everything from what we wore to what we ate since we were at Mickey’s Not So Scary Party in Disney World.

I remember that my baby slept pretty well swaddled in the crib, that she was nursing non-stop while her sister rode rides, that she loved to be snuggled, that she was very intrigued by all the sights and sounds at Disney, and that hanging out in her front pouch carrier worked out great. Also, looking back at pictures she apparently still slept pretty much anywhere…though it sure did not feel like it at the time.

If you asked me what August 8, 2016, was like I would probably just say it was hot. Except, for us it wasn’t. We were in Scotland with our then newly turned one year old wearing scarves and hoodies. If you asked me what developmental milestones she had hit at 13 months, I wouldn’t be sure. Except when I think back to our trip to the United Kingdom, I remember almost everything. She wasn’t walking quite yet, but she was a crawling machine. She had an adorable toothy smile and loved to snack on everything within sight. We had recently expanded both her diet and mine to introduce a wider variety of foods and that was (finally!) going well.

She still loved to snuggle and be held, but she also loved roaming and playing with her sister in the park. She would still fall asleep in her stroller if she was tired enough, but didn’t sleep quite as easily as she did when she was an infant. She loved her dad to pieces, but wanted to be attached to mom 24/7 if possible….especially on the airplane.

All of the trips she took in her first two years were memorable in their own ways, but while her cost to travel increases from this point forward, so does the fun factor. We are out of the hardest age to travel, and we are easing into the age where things not only get easier, but more rewarding.

I distinctly remember my trips with my older daughter as she went from a toddler to a preschooler. During that magical year between two and three she got to the point where she was ready to hop on planes to head off to Hawaii, Alaska, Paris, and more like a little traveling boss. Trips with her went from being a constant juggling act, to being way more fun than work. I think we are in the process of rounding that corner with our newly turned two year old, and I can’t wait to see what memories are still waiting to be made on adventures large and small.

But for today, we enjoy the moment. We remember the hot, sunny, summer day when she was born just two years ago. We will eat cake, chocolate, her favorite. We will dance, swim, sing, and celebrate our youngest, sweet, little ball of traveling two year old.

You may not get any more truly free flights Little S, but you will get so much more.

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