Take advantage of the years when your family travel plans are not limited by school holidays and summer vacation.
Travel with your toddlers! You'll expand their world and plant the seed of adventure early. (And have fun in the process.)
Here are a handful of ideas to consider:
Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa, St Lucia.
At this Caribbean Resort, children will learn about their destination through activities designed for each age group. The SCOUTS program – Seeing, Crafting, Observing, Understanding, Tasting, St. Lucia) is infused in the fun you’ll find headquartered within the 50,000 square foot Cocoland Kidz Club. Expect youngsters to access a mini zipline and rock wall, a petting zoo and plenty of water play. Three of five resort pools cater to kids and include a lazy river and a zero entry splash pool. Savvy youngsters can order colorful slushies and fruity drinks at their own swim up bar. When parents opt for a night on their own, kids can enjoy their own Pirates Night or Movie Night on the Splash Lawn.
FDR Resort, Jamaica.
There is nothing like an afternoon splashing in the surf and building sand castles to wear out an active toddler. At the FDR Resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, once Junior goes down, a Vacation Nanny is available to sit by his side, while you enjoy an afternoon playing golf, scuba diving or exploring by kayak. Check in to this all-inclusive seaside getaway, and meet your CPR-trained Vacation Nanny who will assist you and your family in having the most relaxing time possible. Trained in child care and housekeeping, this professional staff member’s goal is to fill in where needed, whether by looking after youngsters in the pool, or making sure the kids’ favorite snacks are on hand in the room. Contact: www.fdrholidays.com.
Loews Miami Beach Hotel, Miami Beach, FL.
This oceanfront resort, the recipient of a recent $50 million redesign, offers a bounty of family enticements via the Loews Loves Kids program. Families can choose to enjoy the benefits of direct beach access (which makes castle building a breeze) or head to the zero entry pool where pop fountains add to the vacation vibe. Celebrate in style by spending the day with access to a SOAK cabana where air conditioning, flat screen TVs, private butler service and rooftop terraces will convince the kids they’ve reached VIP status. Take a pizza-making class together or take advantage of Family Happy Hour during which time kids can enjoy complimentary lawn games while parents sip cocktails, join in or cheer them on.
Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas.
For families that check into The Coral, the resort’s recently revamped, family-centric tower, a new level of luxury awaits. Compare notes with the Kids Concierge and in a flash, the dreams of mini-travelers (and their parents) will soon be a reality. From scheduling family swims with the dolphins to registering for Sea Squirts, an interactive marine program where youngsters can feed baby stingrays, sharks and schools of fish, the concierge is on hand to help create itineraries and smooth any bumps on the path to a memorable vacation. Ask about helping the Atlantis Aquarists guide Green Sea Turtle hatchlings to the sea.
Kids on the Trail.
Getting kids outside early and often is likely to instill a lifetime love of nature. Visit a local trail and watch as your child explores with wonder, turning over rocks and observing small animals and birds. Choose a loop trail or plan a scavenger hunt. Bring along a picnic and plenty of water or juice so that the whole family stays hydrated. After a few close-to-home practice rounds, include nature walks and hiking in your family vacation travel plans. In time, you’ll be scaling heights.
Just because you’ve become a parent doesn’t mean you have to stay put. Here are five ways to take a family vacation with wee ones:
Consider an all-inclusive. At Beaches Resorts in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos, the youngest travelers are cared for by certified nannies, caregivers with more than 2000 hours of experience and training in child safety. Toddlers enjoy beach and pool activities, puppet shows, face painting, treasure hunts and visits with Sesame Street characters. Parents of newborns to two year olds can enjoy uninterrupted beach time or a quiet dinner for two knowing their babies are cared for in a fully equipped nursery where child development specialists will look after their every need. Just in case, a nurse is available 24 hours a day. Contact: 1-888-BEACHES; www.Beaches.com.
Flight time. Book flights off peak for less crowded conditions and book early for the best choice of seats. Children under two are safest when buckled into a car seat so plan accordingly. Family preboarding may sound appealing, however, settling in early can mean considerable extra time in tight quarters before take-off. Consider sending one family member onboard early to organize seating arrangements and then board with the baby closer to departure. And of course, take time to research current TSA restrictions. Their web site offers videos regarding travel with kids of various ages. Contact: www.TSA.gov.
Take a cruise. Vacationing aboard a cruise ship provides a wide range of options for parents with young children. Many ships offer comprehensive children’s programs, providing parents a chance to enjoy their own shipboard activities. On board Disney’s Wonder and Magic ships, tykes from three months to three years can check in to the Flounder's Reef Nursery, a Little Mermaid-themed daycare center. Character visits, shows, pools and arcade centers offer family fun. Contact: (800) 951-3532; www.DisneyCruise.com.
Visit friends and family. Do you have cousins, siblings or college pals with children the same ages as yours? Plan a visit to their town or invite them to yours. Peruse the local Convention and Visitor’s Bureau site for suitable outings and deals. Check promotions from Groupon and similar ventures for half or reduced-price offers. Venturing out with folks who share similar interests, restrictions and nap requirements can provide a sense of well-being for all. Too many young children under the same roof might be overwhelming. Consider spending the night in spacious accommodations that will support various sleep schedules and meal times. Contact: www.ResidenceInn.com.
Visit the zoo. Build a trip around an outing to a well-known establishment like the San Diego Zoo or our National Zoo in Washington DC or visit one nearby your own home. Stroll through lush grounds with your family and enjoy the sights and sounds of wildlife in a safe environment. Investigate educational programs and tours including animal encounters, overnights and backstage passes. Contact: (619) 231-1515; www.sandiegozoo.org; nationalzoo.si.edu
Toddlers are travelers too. Your pint-sized family member just needs the right destination or activity to embrace his or her energy and curiosity.
Check out these places that embrace the junior set:
Disneyland. Anaheim, CA. Risk humming the song for weeks, but consider It’s a Small World, a family favorite first designed for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Climb aboard a boat that will cruise slowly past more than 100 dolls and animals dressed in international garb. Hear the well-known song in five languages. Young visitors will also enjoy Goofy’s Playhouse, Casey Jr. Circus Train and Big Thunder Ranch. The Disney web site allows parents to search for age-appropriate attractions, enabling strategic planning. Search the site for discounts and special packages.
Contact: (714) 781-4565; http://disneyland.disney.go.com
Club Med. Opt for quality time with the kids, paired with time to relax and recharge. Toddlers get the chance to play with other two and three years old in the Petit Club Med where they engage in age-appropriate water play, and indoor and outdoor games and crafts. Meanwhile, parents can relax on the beach, play tennis, kayak or unwind in the spa. When the sun goes down, babysitting services are available. Children’s club availability varies by Club Med locations.
Contact: 1-888-932-2582; www.clubmed.us
Visit the Zoo. Washington DC. Featuring more than 2,000 animals and a bounty of intriguing sights and sounds, young children will be amazed at the world that surrounds them. The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, often referred to as the National Zoo, is home to the exciting Giant Panda as well as two recent litters of lion cubs. Tucked within Rock Creek Park on more than 160 acres, the zoo is both walking and stroller friendly. Admission is free but parking can be challenging and pricey. Consider adding to the adventure by arriving via the Metro train.
Contact: 202-633-4800; http://nationalzoo.si.edu/
FDR Resort. Jamaica. There is nothing like an afternoon splashing in the surf and building sand castles to wear out an active toddler. At the FDR Resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, once Junior goes down, a Vacation Nanny is available to sit by his side, while you enjoy all the resort has to offer. Check in to this all-inclusive seaside getaway, and meet your Vacation Nanny who will assist you and your family in having the most relaxing time possible. Trained in child care and housekeeping, this professional staff member’s goal is to fill in where needed, whether by looking after youngsters in the pool, or making sure the kids’ favorite snacks are on hand in the room.
Contact: 1-800-654-1337; www.fdrholidays.com
On The Trail. Getting kids outside early and often is likely to instill a lifetime love of nature. Visit a local trail and watch as your child explores with wonder, turning over rocks and observing small animals and birds. Choose a loop trail or plan a scavenger hunt. Bring along a picnic and plenty of water or juice so that the whole family stays hydrated. After a few close-to-home practice rounds, include nature walks and hiking in your travel itineraries. In time, you’ll be scaling heights.