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:
- Raleigh has a a few easy to do trails like Shelley Lake park or the sweet park with a little train and carousel called Pullen Park. Charlotte has The Discovery Place, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, Freedom Park and The Nature Museum, Asheville has an unexpectedly awesome Botanical Gardens.
- Scottsdale has the The Railroad Park , while Phoenix the lovely Phoenix Zoo and The Children’s Museum of Phoenix.
- Atlanta is a very good option too for the older kids in this age group with one of the best (if not the best) aquariums in the country, a Children’s museum, the Centennial Park, Botanical Gardens, a Center for Puppetry Arts and a Natural History Museum. If you do go look for the City Pass to save on attractions.
- Orlando has an awesome lazy river of the JW Marriott Grande lakes, adjacent to the Orlando Ritz (thank you Marriott points!), Sea World (kids particularly loved Pets Ahoy) as well as indoor skydiving. We made the mistake of ordering room service once, that was pretty much the highlight of their trip and the Little Masters now ask for it all the time. There was some serious expectation management going on after that!