A successful family vacation takes the needs of all its members into consideration. The following are age-appropriate tips for choosing a destination with young kids.
How To Vacation With Young Children
As a family evolves, so should the family vacation. Each age has its benefits and challenges, and planning the family vacation must take these realities into account. The needs of babies are different than the needs of toddlers, and both are slightly different from the needs of three and four-year-olds. The following are developmental considerations for deciding where to vacation with young children.
How To Vacation With A Baby
Despite the overwhelming amount of baby gear required (stroller, car seat, diapers, etc.), babies over the age of three months are the easiest of the group to take wherever the parents prefer. Since they don’t weigh much, they can be carried (in a front carrier, sling, or stroller) as far as their parents are willing to walk. This makes wandering around a city or hiking in a national park an attractive option.
As long as a baby’s basic needs (eating, sleeping, diaper changes, and cuddling) are met in a timely fashion, he or she can be easily pleased with simple activities such as playing on the beach and watching the waves for hours. A beach vacation, where parents take turns swimming and watching baby, is another good choice.
Parents can get a break from childcare while the baby is sleeping (and babies tend to sleep a lot, so their parents get blocks of downtime). Renting a vacation home with extended family who can also watch the baby for a bit is another way for parents to get a break.
While family resorts are usually more appropriate for older children, a number provide baby gear and amenities such as nurseries and childproofing. Some even offer families the services of a personal nanny for the duration of their stay.
How To Vacation With A Toddler
While toddlers are also easily ported about (via stroller or backpack child carrier), they can move around independently and get into trouble, so parents need to carefully choose a vacation destination that has a minimum of potential hazards. (Staying in a place with a pool without a gate, for example, will not be very relaxing with a toddler who requires constant supervision.)
Children in this age group are still relatively easy to please and may become fascinated by simple things such as construction sites, large water fountain statues, and seeing live animals. This makes cities with zoos and aquariums an excellent choice when traveling with toddlers.
Toddlers need naps (which can often be taken in the stroller) and familiar bedtime routines (such as the same books or songs used at home). They also need plenty of opportunities to run around, which can be done in a variety of places such as beaches, public plazas, playgrounds or campgrounds. A good daily vacation strategy is for parents to plan a toddler-pleasing activity (such as visiting a playground) before attempting an adult-oriented attraction (such as visiting a museum).
While toddlers need a lot of the same gear as babies (stroller, car seats, bottles, and diapers), they also need to travel with some familiar entertainment items such as toys, books, music, and perhaps a beloved stuffed animal. (Parents should also bring a few new books or toys to distract the toddler as needed.)
How To Vacation with Ages 3 and 4
When a child becomes three and four years old, a number of vacation options become more attractive. This opinionated age group needs varied activities.
They are able to walk independently, but not very fast and not very far. This makes destinations where parents expect to walk a lot, a poor choice. If visiting a national park, for example, it becomes crucial to chose parks with short hikes that have dramatic payoffs (such as a waterfall). Also, some preschoolers who may have gladly camped when younger might not be happy without electricity once the sun goes down.
It is best to have a number of child-oriented activities (zoos, aquariums, child-oriented museums, small amusement parks, swimming spots, etc.) to choose from. A hotel with a swimming pool becomes a great bargaining chip to convince a three, four, or five year old to do an activity the parents want to do for a bit.
They may no longer take a nap, so build breaks into the schedule for kids as well as for yourself. This age group is used to being around other children and being on a schedule. This makes a whole different kind of vacation possible—resorts, cruise ships, or family camps with kids clubs where parents can leave their children for a couple of hours of supervised fun.
Different Vacations for Different Developmental Stages
Parents who respect their child’s development stage when planning a vacation are more likely to have a more relaxing vacation. When parents have more realistic expectations, all members of the family will have a better time.