We just got back from our first vacation as a family of 4 and it went better than expected! Vacations before we had kids consisted of sipping pina coladas by the pool, Margaritaville tunes on the speaker, and dozing in and out of naps on a lounge chair.
This trip was slightly different, but we still had a great time. We obviously set our expectations low, but definitely exceeded them greatly!
We were still able to enjoy ourselves, have a couple drinks, and experienced fun through our children’s eyes. Although it wasn’t as relaxing, it still felt great to get out of the cold and head somewhere warm and tropical.
The trip we planned was to Fort Lauderdale, Florida because we have friends and family in the area. The goal was to do a trip on a low budget and we accomplished that thanks to our generous hosts.
We got to enjoy the sun, sand, pool, ocean, live music, cocktails, and loads of toddler fun there. It’s a great family-friendly spot and there is a ton for both adults and kids to enjoy.
Of course there will always be some challenges and bumps in the road when traveling (or doing anything) with babies and toddlers, but it was nothing we couldn’t handle. The hardest part about the entire trip was the airport and flight because of time and space constraints.
There were a few tears, cranky moments, and bruises, but no crazy melt downs or casualties, so I’d say the trip was a success!
Here is my ultimate list of advice on taking a trip with toddlers, babies, or both!
Planning & packing
Track the prices
Depending on how long in advance you’re starting to plan for the trip, keep an eye out on prices before you book. Flights, hotels, and car rental prices fluctuate depending on the day of the week or how in demand they are at that time. Use sites likes hopper.com to get email updates when the price changes, so you don’t have to look it up every day.
Sign up for frequent flyer or points programs
Not only are you earning points for your travel that could potentially get you free stuff in the future, it can save you time waiting in line and better customer service too.
For this trip, my husband was a member of the Budget rental car FastBreak program (free to join). When we went to pick up our rental car, the line was insane! With this membership, he was able to skip the line, saving an hour and a half of wait time!
This is a no-brainer for free programs that offer additional incentives like this one. Airlines, rental cars, and hotels all have programs so just look into them.
Redeem credit card rewards, points, or miles
This is the best and most affordable way to pay for travel. If you have already signed up for these programs, look into what incentives they are currently offering or how to use your points toward travel. You may be able to save a lot even by cashing in credit card rewards in exchange for miles or when booking.
This is a smart thing to purchase especially when traveling with young children. You never know what could happen so protect yourselves against losing potentially thousands of dollars by gettin travel insurance. Also, your credit card may offer a limited travel insurance benefit. Make sure you look into that.
Choose optimal flight times around naps
Don’t expect your child to sleep on the plane. with all the new sights and sounds, it will be really difficult unless it’s a long flight. Aim to work it around their nap times if possible.
Upgrade your accommodations
If you have young babies or toddlers, they’re probably still napping a good portion of the day. You don’t want to be stuck in the hotel room during that prime sunshine because your kids are napping from 11am-2pm and sleeping by 7pm.
If the best you can do is get a hotel room with a balcony and even a nice view, opt for that. This way you can at least sip a glass of wine outside while the kids sleep. The most ideal options would be poolside/pool access rooms or a house rental with a pool right outside.
Choose an optimal location
Determine the goals for your vacation before choosing accommodations. Whether it’s to sit and relax at the pool or beach everyday or to do a little more exploring. You want to pick your hotel based on the proximity to most of the things you want to do, especially with young kids!
Bring a monitor
If you’re lucky enough to have a place with a pool or beach right outside your door, or if you’re comfortable enough leaving your baby inside while you’re a few feet away, definitely bring a baby monitor. If the pool is right outside your room or house, you can have the monitor outside with you while your child is inside sleeping. This way you’re still able to soak in the max amount of time on vacation.
Lap child or extra seat?
Children fly free under 2 if they’re sitting on your lap. Trying to keep your 1 year old occupied for a whole flight can be a tough experience, but depending on the length or cost of the flight may make your decision easier.
If it’s a shorter flight (under 2 and a half hours), I think the lap child is fine. Anything longer may become very difficult, especially with a squirmy toddler. Also keep in mind if you have 2 under 2, you can’t have more than 1 lap infant in the same row (for oxygen mask purposes). My husband and I had to sit in different rows because we each had lap infants.
Bonus Tip: If your flight isn’t full and no one is on standby, ask the gate attendant if you could use the extra seat for your lap child. They should be more than accommodating if it’s possible.
If you do decide to pay for your child’s seat, make sure you bring their car seat or a child safety harness, like this one. This way you can strap them in and they’re just as safe and comfortable as they are in a car. This will hopefully help them fall asleep too, but specifically prevent them from getting up!
Be a minimalist packer
It’s hard to know what you will absolutely need when you’re away from home with a baby. I’m one of those people who likes to have everything I could potentially use, just in case. However, when you’re going on an airplane with minimal space as it is, you don’t want to overpack.
Try to limit the number of outfits to 1 or 2 per day, pajamas to 1 per day, and keep all the gear and toys to a minimum. When you have so much extra stuff, you’ll just end up making more of a mess and being more stressed than with less.
For example, I packed my toddler’s bowl, children utensils, and extra sippy cups. I didn’t use any of them because when you’re out and about you make do with what you have. She can eat off of a placement (without suction) and use an adult fork for a couple days!
Don’t bring many toys
I know you may think your toddler or baby needs all their toys to occupy them during down time, but don’t fill your suitcase with toys from home. This is your chance to fill your time with new adventures, sights, and sounds.
Our daughter was right at the perfect age to start learning new words. She’s currently a little sponge and repeats everything we say. She was so excited to learn new words like airplane, pool, beach, sand, rocks, etc. We tried to maximize our time keeping her busy and entertained with as many educational opportunities as possible.
Pack disposable items
I like to bring disposable items such as bibs and placemats and always keep them in my diaper bag. This requires no cleaning up and you can just toss them out when you’re finished with a meal. These ones from Amazon are great and super convenient. If only my toddler would stop tearing them off the table!
Be aware of travel sizes for liquids
The standard airplane liquid containers must be 3.4oz or less in your carry on. Although, they do let you bring baby/toddler food on the plane that is larger than this size. For example, the toddler Plum Organics pouches that are 4oz are fine, but they’ll still probably stop you to check the items. Also check any medicine (Tylenol, Motrin) containers you’re bringing or shampoo, infant wash, lotions, etc.
Don’t forget power cords
You don’t want to be stuck on vacation without chargers. Anything from your phone, breast pump, baby monitor, or tablet is worthless without it’s charger or power cord.
Bring sample/travel sizes
Can you believe all of my 2 children’s toiletries (wash, diaper cream, q-tips, lotion, toothpaste, medicine, combs, sunscreen, hair ties, etc.) fit in this 8″ pouch! That’s smart packing!
I always saved and collected the sample size items of baby lotions, washes, creams, etc. from baby registry gift bags. It’s so much easier than bringing large containers, even if you are checking your bag. If you don’t have any samples, your local pharmacy should have travel sized baby items.
I know many of you might not have this option. But on our recent vacation, we brought my husband’s sister and it was huge to have an extra set of hands. We even got a couple of date nights out of it because she baby sat.
Pack way ahead of time
I was always one to wait until the last minute to pack. I would even tell myself that I’ll throw in the last few things I need the morning we leave. That never works well and even if I don’t end up forgetting something, I stress myself out so much.
Now that there’s 2 kids involved, I really want to reduce the amount of stress in my life so I am starting my packing process a week and a half in advance. This way I shouldn’t forget anything.
You’re probably going to be packing both your child’s clothes and your own in the same suitcase.
Put things in their own separate compartments for you and baby, based on category to help things stay together. For example, all bathing suits together, all pajamas together. You’ll need these things at the same time so this may be helpful.
Bonus tip: I always roll all my clothes when packing (or even organizing my home drawers). This takes up the least amount of space and you can see everything you have. For children’s outfits, I stack each set together, fold it in half, and then roll.
Utilize all your extra bag space
If you’re bringing a lap infant, you can bring a few extra bags with you on the plane. In addition to your carry on, you are allowed to bring your own personal item, as well as one for the baby. On some airlines, they don’t even count the diaper bag as a personal item, so you can bring 3 bags for you and your infant. Be sure to check with your airline to confirm.
You’ll have plenty of extra space if you bring all these bags, but remember you still have to carry them and find a place to put it! So, you still don’t want to overpack if it’s not necessary.
Bringing breast milk & pumps
Airlines let you bring frozen/thawed breast milk and formula in any size. You can bring all the ice packs you need to keep it frozen at well. Just remember that once your milk is thawed, you have to use it within 24 hours, so don’t bring too much.
Breast milk can stay at room temperature for up to 8 hours, so you may not even need to bring a cooler if you will be using frozen breast milk during your flight.
If you’re bringing a pump with you, make sure you remember all your extra accessories, bags, and keep it in a small travel bag for convenience. Your breast pump and coolor bag does not count as a personal item because it’s a medical device. Therefore you can bring a pump and cooler in addition to your other carry ons.
At the airport
The airport and flight were the toughest experiences of our whole trip, merely because you’re really limited on both time and space. A parent’s frustration tolerance can really be put to the test here!
Although having 2 kids and 2 adults, you would think that we wouldn’t feel overwhelmed and outnumbered, but that’s not the case. Although it seems like there’s just one kid for each of you and you should be able to handle it, it’s a bit harder than it seems. While you both have one kid, there’s still luggage to be carried, snacks to be disbursed, taking items out of bags at security, and so much more.
The airport can be an intimidating place as a parent if you’re not prepared well! Here are some tips on how to best prepare yourselves for the chaos of the airport with children.
Give yourself WAY MORE TIME than you think
When factoring how much time you need to get to the airport, through security, and board the plane, always factor in more than enough extra time for last minute diaper changes, spit-ups, melt downs, outfit changes, feedings, etc.
Get dropped off at the airport
To save time and sanity, get dropped off at the airport. If it’s not possible to have your whole family be dropped off, have one adult be dropped off at departures with all the kids, luggage, strollers, and car seats. The other adult can park the car and take the shuttle back while the rest of the crew just waits to check in.
This works out really well because I keep the kids in the stroller the whole time and there’s still two of us to go through airport security together. This reduces the craziness of taking shuttles back and forth with the large amount of stuff you’ll be bringing!
Reserve parking in advance, as close as possible
If you don’t want to drop off half the crew, at least get a really close parking spot. This will limit the amount of time and energy put forth into getting from your car, to a shuttle, and to the airport. If possible, economy parking at the airport is your best option.
Have your IDs ready to go
Do yourself a favor and have your passport or license already out of your wallet and in your pocket. It’s just one less thing to stumble over while in line to check in for your flight.
Any domestic U.S. flights, you WILL NOT need identification (birth certificate) for your child. However, if it is an international flight, you will need a passport for any age.
Backpack diaper bag
Make sure your hands are as free as possible! I have a back pack diaper bag now after my second baby and didn’t know what I was missing before! I’m obsessed with this beauty from Freshly Picked because it’s still stylish while having all the necessary components of a diaper bag.
Related Post: How to Pack a Diaper Bag like a Pro
Your baby or toddler will be squirming all over, so make sure to dress both you and them comfortably. Even pajamas will do!
Find a playroom
Did you know many airports have play spaces for young children? If all the extra time you allotted to be at the airport early actually provides you with ample time sitting at the gate, find a playroom for your child.
They’re not in every airport and may not even be available in the terminal you’re in, but it’s worth checking out. Check out this site to see which US airports best cater to young children and families.
Check bags and car seat in early
Any items that you won’t need on the plane you should check in at bag drop off. This includes car seats and any luggage you prepaid for. The least amount you have when going through security, trekking through the airport, and boarding a crowded plane, the better.
Bring the stroller to the gate
You can check the stroller and infant car seat (if attached) for free right at the gate. Don’t make the mistake of checking these items at the baggage drop off early on and lugging your kids and baggage through security and the airport.
Keeping the stroller lets you leave our kids strapped in through the airport instead of wandering around. You can even use the stroller as a dolly to carry personal items and small bags through the airport.
If you want to check the car seat and stroller early on, put your infant in a baby carrier or wrap so your hands are free.
Don’t miss their nap
If your flight time doesn’t coincide well with your child’s nap, don’t put off their nap expecting them to sleep on the plane. There’s too many new sights and sounds that they will probably be overstimulate and overtired.
If you really can’t plan your flight so they can nap at home, at least leave early to get them to nap in the car or put them down for a nap as soon as you get to your destination. The exhaustion will carry through with them for the rest of the trip and an overtired toddler is not something you want to deal with for your whole vacation.
Invest in a gate bag for stroller and car seat
Your car seat and stroller get checked for free which is a nice perk! However, like all luggage, it’s not handled with care getting on and off the plane.
If these items mean anything to you and you don’t want to see them get ruined, bring these car seat and stroller bags for protection. We made the mistake of just putting our car seat in a large garbage bag and it was damaged by the time we got it.
Give your toddler a backpack (with a leash)
Ok, never did I think I would be a put my kid on a leash parent, but when you only have 2 hands and a million things to carry and hold, it kind of makes sense.
We got my daughter this adorable little backpack which I highly recommend. Most backpacks my toddler would just take right off her shoulders, but this one has a front strap/harness to keep it on. She loved walking around the airport with her backpack like mom. Brielle is 18 months and 23 lbs and it fit her perfectly, but it could definitely work with an older child.
There’s actually good purpose to this backpack besides the fact that she looks adorable with it on. In it, I put all of her activities for the airport and plane to keep her busy. They included stickers, Water Wow markers & coloring pad, crayons, books, and snacks. Yes I fit all of those things in that little backpack!
Get their energy out
You know your toddler best whether having them run around a little before the flight will actually be beneficial or a disaster. Some children will get tired out, but others may become overstimulated. So if you’re thinking you will tire them out so that they will fall asleep on the plane, it just may have the opposite effect.
Either way, you’ll want to at least walk around with them before being cooped up on your lap for a couple hours. Walk your toddler around the airport to see all the new sights and sounds. They will love the new scenery. My daughter wouldn’t stop saying ‘airplane’ for 2 months after our trip!
You want to save some of the big ticket items for the flight, but if they’re starting to get antsy at the gate, you break out the iPad. If you’re against screen time, this is the one situation where it may be necessary!
Try different apps, music (don’t forget headphones), downloaded tv shows and movies. There are a few toddler apps that I’ve tried that are both educational and fun.
Amazon FreeTime has everything you need to keep your toddler busy both at the airport and on the flight. It’s a service offered through Amazon that provides thousands of content titles like games, books, and apps to keep your kid entertained for quite awhile! There is a 1 month free trial so sign up for it a couple weeks before your trip to see if you like it. You can always cancel right after.
Diaper change right before boarding
You want to limit the amount of diaper changes you have to do on the plane to none, if possible. There is a tiny diaper station pull out in the bathroom, but the stress of bringing your diaper bag into an airplane stall is making me cringe just thinking about it.
Do yourself a favor and change them right before in hopes that they don’t need any diaper changes on the plane!
On the airplane
Although you may think it would be wiser to board last to reduce the amount of time you and your baby are cooped up on the plane, I think the opposite.
You can get so flustered when you’re carrying babies, diaper bags, carry-ons, pillows, etc. while trying to find your seat, stow away your bags, and get situated in your row. Being on the plane first lessens any anxiety you will feel getting through the tight, busy aisles of the plane. You’ll also get first dibs on the overhead space which you’ll definitely be needing!
Airlines used to announce when families with young children could board first. However, now most airlines are not doing that. they will still let you board first, you just have to tell the gate attendant in advance and they will accommodate you.
Window or aisle seats
The decision is yours to choose whether a window or aisle will be more helpful for you and your baby. You might want to have easy access to the aisle in case of a sudden crying fit or tantrum, but you also don’t want to be disturbed if your baby is sleeping and someone has to leave your row.
For a longer flight with a toddler, I’d suggest the aisle seat because they are going to NEED to walk the aisles at some point. For a shorter flight, I wouldn’t want them to see that there’s an option to walk up and down the aisles because that’s all they will want to do then.
For babies, I would always choose the window because of the chance of him falling asleep and not wanting to be disturbed. Also you can get a little more support for holding them by being against the side of the plane.
Invest in the extra leg room
If you’re not buying a seat for your 1 year old, use the extra money that you’re saving to purchase a big front seat or extra leg room. Once you put the tray table down in the standard economy seats, there’s virtually no space for you and a child. It would definitely make your trip a bit more comfortable.
Ask to switch seats
Again with all the new airline policies making you pay more just to pick your seats, you may not be seated with your husband. Don’t be afraid to ask a passenger to switch or even the flight attendant to help get your party together.
Bring extra layers
It’s usually cooler in the airport and warmer on the plane. If you’re holding a baby or a toddler on your lap, you will most likely get warm. Layer up for both you and your children. You also may be going from a colder destination to warmer climate, so plan accordingly and have layers to take off once you get to the airport.
Inflatable My Breast Friend
Whether or not you’re nursing your lap infant or not, the My Breast Friend is a super convenient way to hold your baby while sitting on a 2+hour flight. Although it might not seem that hard to hold a baby for that long while you’re seated, your arms will get tired. Remember, you don’t have full arm rests to support you and the baby.
If you haven’t used one of these yet and you’re a new nursing mom, get one! It straps around your waist so that it stays put and you can easily lay your baby on it. Even if your baby won’t sleep laying flat on it, it will help prop your arm up in order to hold your infant well.
This is the inflatable version of this nursing pillow that I like to bring on trips, as well as just leave in my car for nursing. I brought the inflatable one with me so there was less to carry through the airport.
Once I’m seated on the plane I quickly inflate it, put it around my waist, and hold the baby on it. Then I have a good supportive surface for the baby to lay and my arms aren’t killing me the whole trip.
Another option for holding your baby on the plane to give you comfort is to use a baby carrier or ring sling, like this one, for infants on the plane. It seems to me that the nursing pillow would be more convent for a younger baby (under 6 months) and the ring sling for an older one.
Child safety harness
If you’re buying a separate seat for your toddler and not bringing a car seat to sit them in, you should purchase a harness in advance. The seat belts on the plane are not adequate for a small sized toddler. This will allow them to be strapped in the seat for safety reasons, as well as keeping them contained. It folds up to fit right in your diaper bag and easy to quickly install on the airplane seat.
Disosable diaper trash bags
If you do have to change your child’s diaper on the plane, bring these diaper trash bags with you. In fact, you should always keep these handy in your diaper bag and car. They can help mask the odor if you have to keep your garbage in close proximity for awhile.
Babies and toddlers are the messiest people! Don’t forget a spare outfit on the plane for your kids and maybe even a spare top for yourself!
Keep a nursing cover around your neck
If you’re nursing your baby, just keep the cover around your neck for easy access when they start to get fussy. I’m all about sticking to a feeding schedule in the normal day to day, but if my baby starts crying on the airplane, I’m going to nurse him as soon as possible.
Snacks, snacks, and more snacks
Not many things bring toddler more joy than snacks, especially those that they don’t get quite often. Load up on non-messy snacks, such as bite-size crackers (goldfish), granola bars, pouches, etc.
Pouches for baby food
If you have to bring your baby solids on the flight, leave the jars and spoon at home and bring baby food pouches. Much easier to use in the confined space.
Plenty of entertainment for toddler
My trick is to bring your toddler their own little book bag filled with a bunch of activities that will hold their attention. We got my daughter this adorable little backpack that I mentioned above and highly recommend. It has a buckle on the front so it can’t fall off their little arms and it even comes with a leash (Yes I said I’d never put my child on a leash, but I also was never a parent of a toddler before!)
To increase the novelty of new toys or activities, don’t introduce some of these items until the flight. This may spark a little more interest than if they’ve already played with them before.
There’s also one time that all parents would probably agree that screen time is allowed and that’s when your trapped on an airplane with 100 strangers. The iPad can keep most children’s attention for quite some time especially when you have multiple avenues of entertainment.
Here are the items I included in her backpack that kept her occupied for the majority of the flight:
- These Highlight Books are perfect for babies and toddlers, small and light enough to fit easily into a diaper bag for on-the-go entertainment. My favorite thing about these books is that they are made of tear-resistant and bite-resistant material.
- The Melissa & Doug Water WOW activity pad is a simple activity that lets your toddler color mess-free and without any toxic chemicals. You just fill the marker tube with water and the colors show up as they apply it to the picture.
- A magnadoodle is another mess-free activity. This one doesn’t have any little pieces that you need to keep track of and your toddler will love drawing and erasing over and over again.
- Your toddler might love this buckle pillow that lets them fasten and fasten a bunch of buckles to keep them occupied.
- Stickers always provide endless entertainment
Slow down each activity
You have a long time to go and a limited number of activities to keep your toddler busy. Let them work out each thing on their own. Her book bag was packed with plenty of activities.
Instead of opening up the backpack for her and giving her each item, let them do it on their own time. Let them figure out how to open the flap, unzip the pouch, look through all the items and pull out each item they want to use. Have her put things back as she uses them. Let them try to figure out how to open their own snacks, etc. Ok, this only buys you a couple extra minutes, but every second counts!
Cuddly toy for naps
Don’t forget their favorite security blanket or stuffed animal! If they need this to fall asleep or calm themselves, make sure it’s packed in an accessible spot for the plane.
Dont let them out of the seat until the last minute
Seriously, wait until they’re ready to burst before you decide to let them run up and down the aisle (if you let them do this at all). Remember they’ll have to get back in their seat for the descent which could be 30 minutes. I know once my toddler is out of her seat (whether in a restaurant, stroller), it’s so tough to get her back in.
At your destination
Rental Car Tips
Upgrade your size
You’ll probably need to rent a car if you’re traveling with your whole family. My motto is: Go big or you’ll want to go home. Even though we have a standard SUV at home, we rent a Minivan while on vacation. If it’s a few dollars more, it’s definitely worth the extra space for all the luggage and car seats.
BYOC (Bring Your Own Car Seat)
I was floored when I called the rental car company and they told me that renting a car seat was $56 a day per seat. I originally didn’t want to lug the convertible car seat around the airport, but that is just way too expensive to rent one that you don’t even know is up to standards. The better option is to bring your own with a gate bag and check it for free right at baggage drop off.
If you typically use a base for your infant car seat, there’s no reason to bring that. You can easily and safely strap the car seat onto the seat with the seat belt.
Bring your Car Charger and Mount
A couple items you don’t want to forget are your car charger and phone mounting device (if you have one). You never want to be stuck out without a phone charger and if you’ll be doing a lot of driving on this trip (or even have a dead phone after the flight), you’ll want to bring your car phone charger with you to plug in the rental.
Also, if you don’t have a magnetic phone mount for your car, get one now! These little gadgets are fantastic and much better that any other clip-in phone mount. You’ll probably be using your GPS often when driving around at your vacation destination, so don’t forget to bring this with you!
Sign up for Rental Car Rewards
I’m not sure about all rental car companies, but specifically Budget lets you skip the line at the airport when you’re a FastBreak member. This saved us an hour and a half of waiting time to pick up our car! With 2 kids, that is precious time needed.
Get items shipped there
With most airlines adopting higher baggage fees even to bring a carry on, you will be better off shipping large items you may need to your destination. Hotels should have a pack n play, but if you’re not staying at a hotel, you’ll need your own equipment.
Now with Amazon Prime or Target 2 Day Shipping, you will have a better chance of guaranteeing that your items will be at your destination exactly when you need them and can track it as well. It would be cheaper to do this instead of paying for additional baggage nowadays.
Buy consumables at your destination
Things like diapers, wipes, snacks, and paper goods will just fill up your suitcase with unnecessary space that can be purchased there. So if you have limited room in your luggage with the limited amount of baggage you’re allowed to bring now, don’t fill it up with things that can easily be purchased there.
One of my biggest mantras is do whatever you can do to save time, especially with kids in tow. Wandering around the grocery store after a long flight is the last thing I want to do, especially when the pool is waiting for us! If you have the room in your luggage, bring what you can with you to limit the amount of stops you’ll need to make. If you’re going to need groceries when you’re there, pick up diapers there too.
We have an annual subscription to Shipt which is a same-day delivery service. I seriously swear by it! I use it at home to get groceries and other items delivered within an hour. So when I realized I could use this service at any address in the U.S, I got so excited to be able to use it on vacation. They have a bunch of stores like Target, Publix, CVS, etc. Use this link to get $50 off the annual subscription. Then it only comes out to be $50 for the entire year- that’s less than Amazon Prime and it’s seriously better!
I was able to place an order for a pack of diapers, wipes, some snacks, a case of water, and even wine. I did this on the plane as soon as we landed and it was at our condo as soon as we got home! Perfect timing and so conveinent! I highly recommend this not only for vacations, but daily life.
If you do have more space if your suitcase, bring everything with you. It will probably be cheaper to buy items by you rather than a vacation destination.
Try to stick to their schedule
If your baby or toddler is on a pretty consistent nap and sleep schedule, try your best not to deviate from it unless you want to deal with a cranky child for your whole vacation. The first couple days of your trip they’ll be exhausted from doing new things between the sun, water, and running around all day long.
An example of what not to do: Our flight to vacation was close to my daughter’s nap time, but I figured she would nap in the car on the way to the resort. She took about a 10 minute nap (instead of her usual 2-4 hour nap). Since we just got to our destination, I was excited to squeeze in some pool time and go out to dinner.
I didn’t think it would have been that bad if she missed her nap, but boy was I wrong. We pushed her to go to the pool and then out to dinner on just a 10 minute nap. By the time we were at the restaurant, she was already sleep deprived and miserable.
It wasn’t a great experience that night, but I learned not to push it. We should have skipped the pool and given her a good nap before dinner or skipped the nice dinner and put her to bed early.
Pack n play
Bring or buy whatever sleeping apparatus your child is used to sleeping in. The last thing you want on vacation is a sleep-deprived toddler. If you’re staying at a hotel, they typically have a simple pack n play available upon request. If you’re staying at a condo or air BnB, another option is to get a pack n play shipped to you.
With Amazon Prime or Target Free 2-day Shipping, you should be able to order it 2 days in advance of your arrival date and get it that day. You want to make sure you don’t order it more than 2 days or it will arrive before you do.
Just make sure you order before noon 2 days before because otherwise the order may count as the next business day and it could take 3 days to arrive. Also, don’t forget to bring your own pack n play sheet if you order one.
Don’t forget the sunscreen
You don’t want to start off your trip with a sunburned baby. I know this is always on your packing list, but make sure it’s not one of those items you forget.
If you’re just bringing a carry on for the airplane, make sure your sunscreen is below 3.4 oz so it doesn’t get taken away at security. This Toms of Maine Natural Baby Sunscreen is only 3oz so perfect in a carry on. It’s also something you should always keep in your diaper bag.
Pool > Beach
When vacationing with babies or toddlers, you will have a much easier time staying at the pool rather than heading to the beach. Even if your hotel or resort is right on the beach, dealing with the sand, beach toys, and waves just overwhelms me. Stick to the pool for a more stress-free experience.
If you’re going to head to the beach, just be prepared. You’re going to want to bring a blanket, umbrella, beach chairs, some sand toys, towels, etc. I wrote a whole post on Essentials to Bring to the Beach with a Baby. Take a look at all the examples I give.
If you’re driving on this trip, it makes it much easier to bring all of these things. If you’re flying, you always have the option to mail larger items to your destination with free 2 day shipping.
Search the area for restaurants and things to do and schedule an itinerary. It will probably change, but it’s always good to have a plan in place just to be able to get out of the hotel quicker.
Lots of snacks
Toddlers love snacks, especially treats that they don’t always get. Make sure you stock up for the trip!
Don’t try to do too much
This is something I have a hard time with in general now that I’m a mom. My vacations were always packed with activities exploring and trying out new cuisines. This isn’t ideal for vacations with young kids anymore.
Make family vacations as relaxing as possible and save the exploring for those trips with just your partner.
Use swim diapers
Swim diapers don’t hold water, otherwise when they go in the pool they would fill up and get completely saturated. We learned the hard way that when your infant’s bowel movements are still liquidy because they’re only fed liquids, they do leak out as well!
Bonus Tip: Double up a disposable swim diaper with a reusable one.