Ask Shelly: Where to spend a 1-month vacation with our 1-year-old?

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Barcelona with our 14-month-old, catching a game
of boules en route to a cafe con leche.

Hi Shelly,

We have an 8 month old infant (born mid July) and a one month vacation coming up and can’t decide where to go that will satisfy all of our needs. Some initial thoughts were Australia, Belize, Mexico or Spain.

We will either travel in September with a 14 month old or in Jan/Feb with a 19 month old. There is some flexibility on timing although we’re hoping to take advantage of shoulder seasons. Are there any areas that you would recommend with a toddler?

We are based in the SF bay area and are open to travel pretty much anywhere. If there wasn’t a baby to take into consideration we would probably would have spent the month in South East Asia moving around a lot. With this trip we are hoping to have a good balance of rest and relaxation (as much as possible with an infant) and cultural exploration so that we can reconnect as a couple and a family. With that said I think we might like to stay in one place for a couple of weeks and then travel to another couple of places. I think we have a lot of flexibility having an entire month in which to do this trip and we are open minded and adventurous people. Ideally I’m looking for a location(s) that offers enough interest to be fun for me while not too challenging with an infant/toddler. We will probably want to avoid areas on the State Departments list of not recommended travel destinations.

I have traveled to Australia, Fiji, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt and throughout Europe. My husband and I have traveled together to throughout the US, Europe, Hawaii, Cook Islands, Bora Bora and Bali. I enjoy both organized tours and independent travel.

My big fear is having an uncooperative toddler which will make for a unpleasant trip although she is a happy and mellow infant and so far seems to be a good traveler.

Kind regards,


It is fun to put myself in your shoes on this one! One month and such possibilities. Here are some ideas I have based on your timing and interests.

First, regarding Australia:

At 14 months or 19 months, your child will be in possibly one of the most challenging stages to face the flight to Australia. That’s not to say it’s not possible or that other toddlers haven’t done it successfully, but for most children at this stage it’s just beyond the window when they might still sleep a good chunk of the flight and be happy playing with you the rest. It’s also a peak time for working on those walking, running, and seat-back climbing (and kicking) skills. Suffice to say, at 1 to 1 ½ years old, it can get a little dicey after the 10th hour in the same airplane, and you’d be looking at much more than that.

A bit older than this and they will eventually be able to sit and busy themselves with toys and activities for some portions of the flight. Given the options you’ve mentioned, I might save Australia for when she is 3 years or older, when it might also be much easier to take her out to the Great Barrier Reef, though I’m sure there are others who might disagree (especially those pointing out it will cost your nearly 1/3 more to wait). 😉

For this trip you describe, I’d lean toward either:

Spain in September – The weather should be quite pleasant across the country and the shoulder season rates and crowds will be more manageable. With a toddler, you can enjoy the best of built-in fun (and freedom) at beaches and city parks while soaking up the culture and change of scenery you crave. When you aren’t sunning yourselves on the beaches or watching performers on Las Ramblas, you can take day trips to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Speaking of, you might also consider taking a ferry from Barcelona to Menorca for part of your time, or even look at cheap flights (try from within Spain to other points of interest where you might enjoy spending a week of your time. You might take a look at some of my recent related posts from southern Spain for some ideas.

Costa Rica in January/February – True this is during high season for much of the country (and you might consider it in September as well), but you will have no shortage of great outdoor activities and sights, including fabulous hikes (bring a good child carrier) and visits to animal refuges, butterfly gardens, waterfalls, and so on. Find a vacation rental in a small town and enjoy settling in among your neighbors and relaxing on the beach. The roads are rough, but the country is still a very safe-seeming place where you can explore independently with your family. Sanitation is also far better here than many other exotic (and third world) places you may consider, and the water is potable nearly everywhere you’ll go, which makes it a much easier place to relax while out and about, bathing your splash-happy tot, and enjoying the abundance of fresh tropical fruit with your toddler. I’ll be covering family-friendly activities in Costa Rica as I catch up from our recent travels so keep watching here.

For more help:

Tips for Planning Travel with a Baby 12 to 18 Months Old

Tips for Planning Travel with a Baby 18 to 24 Months Old


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Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks

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