Our five tips for traveling with toddlers and babies can help you consider your next destination and how to enjoy it.
It’s easy to give in to the idea of waiting until your child is older before traveling the world, but there are many benefits to starting early to help them become capable and enthusiastic travelers.
Traveling with babies and toddlers can seem daunting, from long flights to changing time zones, but you can plan a trip that your entire family will enjoy. The right travel specialist will focus on the logistics so you are free to make cherished memories.
There are plenty of variables as to what destination will suit your family, from the flight time to the weather, crowds to safety. Do you prefer lush nature or kid-friendly activities in the city? You can find ways to safely visit the Amazon or enjoy the museums of Rome.
“My first advice for those traveling with children is to choose the best time of the year,” says Portugal travel expert, Filomena. “For example, if you want to explore [Portugal], taking tours and visits, it is preferable when temperatures are milder between April and June. If the goal is to have a beach vacation, July to August are other good options. It is also advisable to choose private services. This gives you the freedom to make adjustments that allow the whole family to enjoy as much as possible.”
Choosing your destination should be guided by your own interests and travel goals, but the best vacation is one where your toddler is happy too. Toddlers are curious and like to explore, which means an activity you will enjoy could also interest them. A ceramics lesson in Greece could give the entire family the chance to mold clay while a hiking excursion through Patagonia can get you into nature. You can visit a family farm to sample olive oil in Italy or travel down the hidden canals of Bangkok in Thailand.
Once you choose your destination, do your best to plan for jet lag and different sleep schedules. This might mean having your first days entirely at your leisure, with self-guided, informal experiences. Perhaps give yourself more time to relax in fewer cities with fewer excursions, eliminating time spent traveling between destinations.
Travel specialist Suzie also recommends including activities ideal for your youngest child that the rest of the family can enjoy. “The rest of the family can have fun while the baby or toddler can sleep, such as taking a boat trip, scenic train, or even a long stroll.”
A safari is a fantastic experience for a family. If you have a baby or toddler along for the trip, safari specialist Kirsty suggests choosing a property with babysitting services, especially if you want to experience a game drive or night drive with your older children or with just the adults. “Most lodges are not going to permit babies or very young toddlers to go on game drives, so make sure that you do your research or that your travel consultant knows their stuff so you won’t be disappointed.”
When initially contacting Zicasso, mention you are traveling with a young child for our Traveler Care team to connect you with a travel specialist with significant experience and success in planning trips for families. Often parents themselves, a travel specialist has local knowledge, priceless suggestions, and personal experience to enhance your family’s travel experience.
“Unless you are traveling extremely remotely, most anything can be purchased in-country in a pinch. We’ve found less is more, and smaller is better when possible,” says Suzie. Packing wisely is an essential part of any vacation, and your travel specialist can assist you with a helpful packing list curated for their region of the world.
Snacks, toys, extra clothing, diapers, and wipes are great examples of things you should prepare to bring with you on your flights. Pack an appropriate number of items for your toddler and for you in case of milk spills or snacking mishaps. Think about the length of your flight and possible layovers, delays, or sold-out items in the stores. You do not need to pack an entire arsenal of formula, diapers, or wipes for the entirety of the trip, but having a few extras is wise.
With few exceptions, your destination will have the items you need to keep your family happy, healthy, and comfortable. In many places, you can even rent things like car seats, cribs, bassinets, and strollers to keep packing light. “If you are bringing a stroller along,” Suzie says, “make sure that kind of stroller works well in that particular country. For example, a simple stroller that can pack up extremely small can be great in Japan, however for Europe on cobblestone roads, you will need a stroller that has larger wheels.”
Travel specialist Raquel recommends taking a baby carrier instead of a stroller, especially for active parents. “Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy are chock full of charming medieval cities, towns and villages, with narrow cobblestone streets that can be tricky with a stroller.” Lighten your load, and weave your way around with a bit of ease and variety for your baby.
Make it easy for yourself whenever possible. “It’s much more enjoyable to be picked up at an airport with a driver who will help you with luggage and navigate an airport than to try to figure out where to pick up a rental car after you’ve flown all night and are in a foreign land,” says Suzie, who plans trips for several regions of the world.
An expert with knowledge of the area and experience in traveling with children can make a big difference for a seamless experience. There are accommodations to suit every kind of family, and helping your travel specialist to understand what makes things best for your family is paramount for having a great trip.
If you plan on plenty of day trips when in a European city, it could be easy to stay close to the train station. If you are looking for a beach getaway, you could find a family-friendly resort. Perhaps your child hates being in a car seat but is fine on planes and trains or maybe your children like to run around the outdoors but feel confined in shops. “Sometimes we forgot that babies have different personalities and like different things,” Raquel says. Planning around your baby’s preferences and personality can significantly improve your vacation experience.
Do you need more than one room so that you can spread out? Is a small apartment a good idea? Does your baby need a dark room to sleep well? Would you like to have an outdoor space to allow for adults to stay up after the kids are asleep? While the ideal scenario may not always be possible, knowing what makes things “perfect” for you allows your travel plans to support what you need most.
It’s essential to remain flexible when traveling with a toddler. Using a specific place as a home base makes it easier to explore at the pace your family sets and prefers rather than packing up and moving between destinations. It can make the entire trip more comfortable for the whole family while also making flexibility much easier, such as returning for a nap.
“Be flexible and don’t schedule too much into each day,” Suzie recommends. “You will find you have a more enjoyable time overall on the trip when you have margins in each day. Margins for flexibility of your schedule, margins for stopping at a park to play, or exploring something that your children will find captivating. Hotel location and having an outdoor area, such as a balcony or patio, can be important as parents and enjoying the evenings, as well.”
A travel specialist gives you a local friend and advocate. Should any challenges arise, or any plans need adjustment, a Zicasso trip travel specialist is always available to help. Their local knowledge, experience, and accessibility can help your family feel safe, comfortable, supported, and encouraged during every moment of your trip.
A family vacation is the perfect way to make lasting memories with children of all ages. From visiting a specific destination to ensuring you can enjoy particular experiences, looking for a tropical escape or in search of timeless cities, you can find plenty of options with our Family Vacations & Tours sample itineraries.
You can get more tips, helpful information, and guidance on planning your perfect family vacation with our Family Vacation Travel Guide or discover more interesting destinations to explore when searching our 8 Unique Places to Visit as a Family with Your Kids. Our Top 11 Family-Friendly Travel Destinations focuses on the most popular places families prefer to visit when on an international trip.