Vacationing With The 0-4 Year Old Crowd

1s year Humans and Terrible 2s Citizens

Maybe it is just me but those first years were a little rough. I favor things that are local, short and easy for this age group. Of course, all the below will be based on my experience and opinions, and while they may differ a lot from your perspective, the goal is to at least help you with a couple of ideas for traveling with the little ones.

Sure, a little baby on a plane is easier than a squirmy toddler (plus it is free!), but it is still a hassle. We flew about 15 times with my kids before they were 3, mostly because we were moving abroad and then, on the way back, we moved around in search for a new city to call home. Thankfully they  were very good flyers and took lots of naps, but I remember it being more stressful than restful until they got a little older (5+). Looking back on the things I actually enjoyed then, I recommend these types of vacations (mix of some I have taken or considered after much research):

  • Staycation – take advantage of free library events, go to a local park, museum or take a baby class with your little ones. Bonus points if someone that loves you dearly can come stay with you at home and help you take breaks (read: naps).  (Thanks mom!).
  • Grandparents time! – let them spoil your kid(s) (if they have offered, of course), you take a nap or go to the spa!
  • Pool – An easy place to keep the little ones happy and relaxed. Don’t have one? Check out neighborhood options, consider renting a house with a pool or stay at hotel with such kid friendly amenities.
  • Beach – hopefully you can drive to one, though we flew a few times and had a blast despite realizing a few times my child was eating sand. I quite enjoyed Hilton Head’s Sonesta Hotel, the pool, the beach (the spa!) and being able to rent those double bikes where your little one can sit behind you for your slightly older kids and a chair on the front for your little one.
  • Nature Walk – once old enough to sit on their own, find a short local trail or easy hike, backpack them up or grab a bike and pull them along. Take a picnic and just enjoy the now. Try to leave your cell phone off (I dare you).

Inquisitive 3s and Transitional 4s

I really quite enjoyed this age range and it became easier and easier to do more things with them as they became a little more independent (and I started to get my energy back). Here you can start to get a little more creative. I would do any of the above plus start adding further away places or wider experiences, including:

  • All inclusive hotels –  I would stick to places that are either driving distance or less than 2.5 hours by flight, preferably in the country like the Club Med Florida or the fancy pants Winnetu. If you are the friendly type (and not antisocial like me) you may also love something like Tyler Place.
  • Rent a house  do you have friends with similarly aged kids? Rent a house together for a weekend- playdates and bbq!
  • Backyard camping – why not? At least you get to see how they may take the real thing. Plus you can always introduce them to s’mores!
  • Small scale water parks – perhaps you can try your luck with one day at the Great Wolf Lodge for those in the older range. My kids LOVE that place. I know. Things we do for them….
  • Indoor Skydiving – kids can be as young as 3. We did this in Florida but they have many locations. This is not cheap but my kids just could not stop talking about it, forever.
  • Rent a cottage by a lake – may enjoy some relaxing time with the rest of the family.
  • Skiing – though I prefer to leave this activity for older kids, places like Smugglers’ Notch offer a great learning program for kids in this age range.
  • City Time – Visit a nearby city with cool things for kids.  Beyond San Francisco, New York and Chicago, here are a few other examples:

I will add more to the list as I get more ideas – welcome your feedback! Planning ahead? Here are some ideas for kids 5-8 and for the 9-12 year old crowd.


Summer 2016.

Travel Resources:

Here are a great list of travel blogs and sites that you may enjoy in regards to traveling, specifically with a family.

Want to learn about points and miles? Check out Million Mile Secrets and The Points Guy.

Overwhelmed with credit card/miles and don’t know where to start? I started with Marriott Card (best benefit is 7 nights + x amount of miles to most major airlines), Chase Sapphire Card and Starwood American Express (not sure how much longer this one will be around). These seemed the most flexible for me until I learned more. and for hotel reservation if you are not using a specific travel rewards card or hotel chain.

Car rental? Try  Autoslash.

Different ways the world talks about Continents. The 5 to 7 Continent models.

College Planning:

If you are just getting started investigating 529s and general cost of college, I encourage you to start here. Probably the best site I found so far. It helped me a lot with my initial planning.

Financial Independence:

Getting started on your own path to financial independence? I encourage you to watch this eye opening PBS documentary called The Retirement Gamble. Then, take a read through these articles, which I re-read often for encouragement. Why “Earn More” vs “Save More” Is The Wrong Debate, The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Retirement, Zero to Millionaire in Ten Years, How We Reached Financial Independence in Our 30s, and A Millionaire Is Made 10 Bucks at A Time.

The blogs that I mention here are the ones I most often read regarding early financial independence.

For a very simple how to guide for saving and investments, I really love this The Simple Path to Wealth. I particularly love that he is writing this to leave as a manifesto for his daughter. He also writes about rent vs own issue very eloquently. Another excellent article on rent vs buy by Afford Anything blog here.

The Mad Fientist is also filled with all sorts of great information and tools. And this blog post on The Road to financial independence is a great read.

Financial Management:

I use to track my day to day spending and to track my investments and assess my 401k plan fees.

As for investing, I am partial to Vanguard index funds.

Simple yet effective interest calculator.

Inflation calculator.

Teaching kids about money resources

Kid Travel

My Love For Travel

Sure, I love a great hiking trip and can very much appreciate the beauty of a starry night while camping.  However, on the Camping to Glamping scale, I definitely lean right. At least for the bathroom part!

I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to multiple countries (over 20) from a young age. This is a passion that has stayed with me ever since and continued in adulthood as I shared travel and living abroad experiences (3 countries including USA) with my husband.

We have done a good amount of traveling with our kids already but I am so excited that we are now entering an age group were we can start exploring further with them. I would love to give our children as many diverse experiences as possible through travel. I want to help them gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of our diverse world in terms of landscape, languages, cultures, traditions, etc.  and the importance of our role in preserving, as best as we can, our fragile environment.

Kid Travel Is Unique

Kids certainly change your view and vacation needs. I have enjoyed putting together and searching for hours vacations that are better suited for each age phase as they grow.

For example, during the young toddler years, few thing beat an easy to drive to ocean location or just hanging out by a pool. Heck during this time, a trip to the grocery store alone can feel more of a vacation that having to take the 80 pound equipment needed for such little person to go anywhere only for them to tantrum and refuse to nap while outside of home! (You know it’s true, don’t give me that look!).

Soon thereafter, kids start becoming easier and easier to travel with, parents start to become alive again and options continue to expand. Hooray!

Travel with kids is really about the right experience at the right time. Blink twice and that opportunity passes by sometimes.

What Is The Travel Budget?

For context, for 2016 and 2017  we have set a maximum budget of $10 – 12k per year for a family of 4, and gain an additional $4-8k in value from points and miles, when possible. Usually we take 2 vacations per year, though we may or may not use one of those for adults only. Oops.

Depending on how our other financial goals are going this budget is going to need some adjustments as we go. This may mean getting more and more creative with how we travel. Stay tuned!

For travel ideas with kids 0-4 go here, for those 5-8, go here.