Can you pick just one? Favorite trips with babies and toddlers

With Mother’s Day coming up Sunday, I’ve decided to dedicate each day this week to offering tips, inspiration, and stories to all the traveling moms out there, especially those who might be questioning how, where, or why they can bring their children out into the world. And I won’t be doing it alone. Each day other fabulous traveling mothers will offer their own words of wisdom. I’m so excited to bring you the collective experience of this truly amazing group of family travelers who have been round the world and back with their little ones.

Playing in the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy

Even though I created the assignment, it’s hard for me to decided which was my favorite trip with a baby or toddler. It certainly doesn’t help that I spent so much time on the road with one – I’ve got a lot of locations to choose from. There was the magic of riding double decker buses in London, or playing in the Boboli Garden in Florence, or riding the Zilker Zephyr in Austin – all absolutely top-notch and memorable things to do with a one-year-old.

But if I think if I had to pick my favorite trip with a toddler, it would have to be Vermont, and to get even more specific, the swimming hole in the Mad River in Waitsfield perhaps because it’s a place I spent so much time with both of my babies. The water was frigid but clear, there were myriad rocks for throwing and exploring, and nothing filled my heart with more joy than the backdrop of mountains and blue sky. No matter how sleep deprived I was (and often during those visits I was very sleep deprived) when we arrived at the swimming hole I would relax into a kind of suspended joy that you might even call bliss. Simple – that’s the word that comes to mind, and I think when we travel with little ones, sometimes it’s the simple things that are very best.

I’m not the only one who thinks so either. Amy Whitley of Pit Stops for Kids loves beach outings for their ease:

Some of my favorite travel days with babies and toddlers have been beach days. Properly prepared, it truly can be, well, a day at the beach: you’re stationary with no frantic commute from destination to destination, kids can nap in the shade, and no one will shush you for having a crying (or shrieking in delight) kid. Our favorite kid-friendly beach towns have amenities like beach playgrounds, attractions within walking distance, and family bike rentals with baby seats and trailers.

Amie O’Shaughnessy of Ciao Bambino! also chooses the beach as her favorite baby-friendly destination:

I still smile when I think of the first time Devon experienced a beach at seven months old. We were on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai and he spent hours – literally – running his chubby little fingers through the sand. Kauai is still one of my all-time favorite family vacation destinations with kids of all ages. (Read all about Kauai with kids on Ciao Bambino.)

And for Corinne McDermott of Have Baby Will Travel, the beach is a happy place to remember:

One of the (tiny) drawbacks of family travel to Cuba, is that in order to stay beachfront with a certain level of amenities, your only option is to stay in a resort, which is usually all-inclusive. We explore the local culture and remedy any feelings of claustrophobia by actually leaving the resort. This is easier in some destinations within Cuba more than others, but one of our most beautiful days was on the public beach of Playa Pilar at the very tip of Cayo Guillermo. The sand was soft (and apparently delicious!) and the slope into the sea was so gentle we were protected from the large waves even though it was a windy day. The brilliance of the blues of the sea and sky imprinted itself in my brain, so now when I need a happy place I need only think of a little girl in a white hat and a baby in an orange hoodie playing in the sand by the sea.

Some traveling mothers prefer sailing on the ocean to sitting next to it. Colleen Lanin of Travel Mamas has fond memories of cruising with her toddler.

As “The Travel Mama” you might expect me to choose some exotic location as my favorite go-to baby or toddler vacation spot, but I am all about STAYING SANE while traveling with kids. Disney Cruise Line is the master of making sure all members of the family, including Mom and Dad, not only stay sane but also have a fabulous time on family vacation.  Some of my all-time favorite vacation memories were made aboard our Disney Cruise through the Mediterranean, when my first-born was two-years-old.

Mary Solio of The World is a Book also loved cruising with her daughter:

Our first major vacation with a child was a 7-day Alaska cruise when my daughter was almost six months old. We saw glaciers, bald eagles, bears, humpback whales, took a scenic train ride, and marveled at the wonders of Alaska. This was my favorite and most meaningful because it was my first as a traveling mom and on it I realized that kids make for some of the best travel companions.

And of course, what makes you feel more like you’re getting away from it all than staying on an island? Lisa Goodmurphy of Gone With the Family has made one her family’s favorite vacation spot:

My favorite family vacation destination with toddlers has always been Prince Edward Island on the Canadian East Coast, which we visited annually for several years starting when my older daughter was just a year old.  Our family returned again and again because we couldn’t imagine a better place for a relaxing holiday with little ones than this laid-back, friendly island where we could dig our toes into the red sand beaches, play at the many amusement park-like attractions in Cavendish, indulge in daily cones at Cows Ice Cream and introduce the girls to my beloved, spunky Anne of Green Gables.

Nicole Wiltrout of Arrows Sent Forth cherishes the memory of a vacation that lifted her out of a bit of new-mom blues:

Our trip to the Red River Gorge area of Kentucky stands out to me. Our one-year-old son was getting over a terrible cold, the weather had been lousy leading up to the trip, and I was just feeling generally “blah” about life and motherhood that week. We had such a great time hiking, picnicking, and just enjoying a beautiful cabin in the woods as a family. This vacation is a perfect example of how travel can turn your mood around in an instant.

While we learned yesterday that plane travel with a toddler can be stressful, Keryn Means of Walkingon Travels demonstrates that it’s also worth it:

One of our favorite family vacations was to Kyoto, Japan when my son was 21 months old. We spent the trip wandering the back alleys of town with our son and letting him climb up to temples and shrines around the city, exploring every nook and cranny that he could. We all got to try new foods, including our son’s favorites, salmon roe, okinomiyaki and yakisoba.

Meg Nesterov of Knocked Up Abroad Travels has been around the block a bit and chooses Turkey as her favorite family destination:

We’ve traveled with Vera since she was six weeks old and have no regrets. Not everything goes perfectly, but I learn something with each trip. The thing I tell new mothers who want to travel is to try to go to “baby-friendly” places like Mediterranean Europe, Latin America, or Southeast Asia. Out of eight countries so far, the United States has been the hardest place to travel with a baby! Going places where people always give you a seat on the train, react with joy when they see your baby, and never give you the stink eye in a restaurant makes it much easier to go outside your comfort zone. Living in Turkey isn’t easy, but I can’t imagine a more welcoming and friendly place for children.

And finally, for Rebecca Darling of R We There Yet Mom? it’s the joy of  discovery that makes traveling with a toddler fun, no matter where they are:

My favorite trips with my toddler are when we discover the unexpected.  When we have an agenda to follow but his curiosity takes us down another path.  At the nature center, he wants to sit by the pond for 20 minutes just watching the fish and it turns into the most relaxing moment of the day. At the Children’s Museum, he wants to play with the bubble machine, making me laugh nonstop.  Or the simple walk to the neighborhood park may take us twice as long because he wants to chase the butterflies and pick the wildflowers.

By allowing him to direct the flow and engage in what he wants to do, we end up having a better experience than if we would have kept up with mom’s schedule.  I only wish I would have learned this with my older two.  I cringe to think of all the memories I didn’t make because I was too afraid to veer off of my itinerary.

Ultimately the best thing about traveling with babies and toddlers is of course the memories. Taking your child out into the world and watching him or her experience it is one of the greatest joys of parenting, even when they are too little to tell you what they think words. I’m so grateful to all of these inspiring mothers who have shared their stories all week. I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I have and will join me in wishing every one of them a very Happy Mother’s Day.

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  1. says

    Hilton Head, SC, is probably the easiest family vacation we took when Tiny Traveler was little. The beach is wide, the sand is great, the surf is calm, we could pop her on the back of a bike and ride around the island safely (there are bike paths every where). We took a walk in a nature preserve that led through a swamp and ate seafood for dinner every night. There’s some siteseeing nearby. I love being a hardy “traveler” and going to exotic places but sometimes, especially with a little one, easy is nice.

  2. says

    I loved reading about everyone’s favorite memories of traveling with a baby or toddler. I’m bookmarking this one so I can come back and click through read everyone’s posts!

  3. Terumi says

    I love these travel stories. Kids do make amazing travel companions and hearing this echoed by so many moms reminds me how lucky we are:) thank you for sharing!

  4. says

    Great suggestions. We have done some amazing trips with our boys as babies and toddlers. My favorite trip with the boys as toddlers was definitely Chicago. We LOVED the city, found it so accessible with small children and hope to go back and visit again soon. We have booked a cruise for next March. So many amazing places to visit!

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