Traveling is one of life’s most enriching experiences, and there’s no reason to put it on the back burner once you have kids. In fact, traveling with little ones can often make a previously-visited destination feel fresh and exciting, as you explore through their eyes and watch them take it all in. That being said, taking a dream vacation with kids can require a little extra planning to ensure everything runs smoothly. From choosing destinations that are easily accessible (15 hours on a plane with a crying toddler is no way to start off a trip) to finding a happy medium between adult-oriented activities and family-friendly events, we’re rounding up everything you need to know before setting off on your dream vacation… kids in tow. Keep reading to see how to make your next family trip memorable for everyone…
First things first: picking the destination. If your kids are young, consider traveling closer to home to minimize long hours of flying and jet-lag induced meltdowns. Once they’re older, a trip overseas will seem less intimidating, and frankly, will be a lot more fun for everyone involved. The exception would be an infant who still isn’t sleeping through the night, since you don’t have as much to lose.
Consider a rental home versus a hotel. With little ones, having the space to lay out their play mats, toys and other essentials could make for a smoother trip. Additionally, having a kitchen means that fussy eaters can grab a quick snack before heading out, and avoid a major meltdown. On the other hand, the ease of a hotel means that everyone can relax—parents too. We recommend seeking out spots with breakfast included, because no one wants to start off the day with a hangry toddler. This one is really dependent on your family’s particular lifestyle with kids, but an important consideration to take nonetheless.
This is also the time to check and double check your packing list. Pack what you need (especially if you’re traveling with very young kids who might spill or need that extra diaper) but try not to get bogged down by suitcases full of toys and extra clothes. We would also recommend investing in a lightweight umbrella stroller to make getting around a lot easier—that way, if your little one wants to nap, you can keep exploring. Need more inspiration? Check out this post for our essentials for traveling with little ones.
And now, without further ado, these are our top destinations for traveling with kids…
New parents know that the number one priority after having a little one is sleep. For that reason, Waikiki Beach in Hawaii is the ultimate getaway for some much-needed R&R. Lounge on the soft white sand, swim in the calm water (or try a surf lesson if you’re feeling adventurous!), then head over to any of the excellent restaurants along Oahu’s shore for a relaxed dinner. This is the perfect place to kick back and recharge, with no plans in sight.
Looking to stay a little closer to home? Not only is San Diego one of our favorite choices for an adults-only vacation, but the miles of beaches and kid-friendly activities also make this an ideal spot for a getaway. If you’re traveling with a baby, head over to Coronado Beach for sand that (literally) sparkles, a stroller-friendly and walkable downtown, and plenty of stores to browse while your little one naps. For toddlers, nothing is more magical than the San Diego Zoo. Spend the day exploring the different habitats and learning about animals, then wander around Balboa Park to cap off the visit.
Road trip lovers, pack your bags. One of the most iconic (and truly stunning) road trips in the United States is the Pacific Coast Highway drive, capped off by the natural beauty of Big Sur. This drive is best taken at a leisurely pace, with plenty of time to stop at sights like McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach, and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve… because trust us, you’ll want photos! Kids will love the chance to see marine life in tide pools (and maybe even a few seals), and the constantly changing landscape will keep them entertained as you make your way up the coast.
If you’ve made it out of the toddler stage but your little one still needs a nap for a successful day, consider adding Chicago to your travel list. We’re guessing the arctic Midwest winters speak for themselves, but this city is best visited with kids during the summer when outdoor activities abound and walking around during the day doesn’t require extra layers. From world-renowned, kid-friendly museums to the oldest free zoo in the United States, this green city has tons to explore. Even landmarks like Millennium Park and Buckingham Fountain will appeal to kids, which means that parents can enjoy them too.
Once you’ve picked your destination, it all comes down to getting there. If you’ll be flying, make sure to leave with plenty of extra time to get through security and find your gate. While breezing through the terminal with minutes to spare as a solo traveler may be doable, factor in at least an extra hour when traveling with little ones. If you sense that all the time waiting in the airport and on the plane may lead to tantrums, this is a good time to break out a brand-new toy you’ve been saving. Similarly, if you typically limit screen time, the plane is one place where you can throw that rule out the window. By making travel a time for special experiences like this, kids will be excited and entertained, even when flying for multiple hours. And lastly, speaking of flying… don’t forget to pack a drink or even lollipops for little kids whose ears may have trouble popping as the plane takes off and lands.
You made it! Now what? Once you’ve reached your dream destination, book whatever tours, restaurants, or methods of transportation you need to make the trip run smoothly (or even take care of these bookings before you take off!). The less you have to worry about once you’re out and about, the better. If your days are looking jam-packed, just remember that little legs will get tired, so schedule in some time to take a break, whether that’s back at your hotel for a midday nap or at a nearby park with snacks. Most of all, remember that even during the hard moments, this is a special experience that you get to share with your child, and whether you make it to every single monument or not, you can still have a dream vacation with your kids.
And there you have it! What destinations would you recommend for traveling with kids?
Xx Team GM
Photos: Gray Malin