Best vacation ideas for families with toddlers
Travel is one of the best ways to educate your child. The hand’s on learning and first-person experiences help make your child feel personally invested in history and other cultures. Plus, travel helps bond families with shared memories and growth, together.
Traveling with toddlers may seem daunting at first — how to keep them entertained on the airplane is reason enough for many families to want to stay home during those formative ages. But the truth is, your little sponge is learning so much during the early years that it’s hugely beneficial to exert the extra effort and plan an adventure with your toddler.
As a bonus, you don’t have to work around school schedules, homework, tests, lessons and other conflicts that arise as your kid gets older.
Whether you’re looking for a family vacation during the last stretch of summer or planning your winter getaway, here are three of our favorite inspirations for best trips for families with toddlers in the United States.
1. Plan a staycation close to home.
The getting there is hand’s down the greatest stress in a toddler vacation, so cut it down as much as possible. Look for adventures close to home where you can still experience something new and special, but with minimal time trying to confine your kid in a small space.
Need ideas for your toddler vacation? Just look to your state and national parks. Not only are these destinations endlessly educational, but they’re outdoors, and studies show there are many health benefits to spending more time outside.
Plus, it’s easier to handle your kids’ energy when it’s not confined to a roof and walls.
Look for free guided family hikes with naturalists, where you kids can learn about the region’s flowers and wildlife. The family hikes are typically more of a “stroll” than a hike and most nature centers are built with kids in mind.
In Colorado, there are free, family-friendly nature hikes at the top of Vail Mountain in the summer. The gondola ride is incredible for little ones, who have probably never seen the world from a bird’s eye perspective before. And at the top is the Epic Discovery park, with mini roller coasters and ropes courses and slides for kids, all set in the pristine beauty of Colorado’s mountains. In place of the stress of Disney World or more traditional amusement parks, you get peace and fresh air.
2. Center your trip around a specialty resort.
Instead of constantly apologizing to the newlyweds at the high-end Jamaican getaway every time your kid kicks sand into their gazing eyes, book your stay at a family-centric resort.
For example, the Great Wolf Lodge franchise is the largest family of indoor water parks connected with hotels. You can find 13 different locations across the country, many that offer kid-themed rooms and special amenities to make your kids as comfy as possible, such as separate TVs and fun bunkbeds. Best of all, with the water park and adventure right on site, you don’t have to worry about hauling your 80-pound diaper bag around town. And if your kiddo has a meltdown, no stress, just hop back up to your room for a nap.
The Great Wolf hotels usually have special pools for younger kids, splash parks and water rides and slides for people of all ages and adrenaline levels. When you are ready to book, go through on of ShopAtHome.com’s travel partners (like travelocity or hotels.com) to get Cash Back.
3. Pick your place for the staff and organized activities.
The staff can make or break your trip. Some, like Club Med Sandpiper Bay, train staff in child care. In fact, this hotel offers a year-round kids’ camp that runs all day and late night. You can find trained counselors and sports coaches on site and there are tons of organized activities, so your kids’ summer camp is integrated into the hotel experience.
While kids are getting their wiggles out, the adults can relax in their bungalow, go on a riverboat cruise and join the kids for night-time “dive-in” movies later.
Club Meds are known for their emphasis on kid programming. In fact, kids under 4 stay for free at family destinations, making it the ideal hotel for a toddler vacation. Hotels come equipped with all baby care needs, from cots to baby food to baby baths.
Another chain with high-end amenities for the parents but extra care for the little ones is the Ritz-Carlton.
When you check into a Ritz, there’s often a separate check-in desk for the kids, where they can pick up a folder of activities and toys. Some Ritz hotels, like the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando, not far from Disney World, can even pop up special tents or tipis for the kids to sleep in. Head up to the Club Level for snacks all day (because you never know when your little one is going to get hangry), as well as fresh cookies and snacks, in case bribery is a parenting strategy you employ — or maybe to reward yourself.