Home Start Here How to Plan Your Best Vacation with a Baby or Toddler (updated for 2021)

How to Plan Your Best Vacation with a Baby or Toddler (updated for 2021)

by Shelly Rivoli

best vacation with baby, a how to guide

Travels with Baby Tips: How to Plan Your Best Vacation with a Baby (when you get the green light for travel!) – Planning your first vacation with a baby–or second or third for that matter–can be daunting. And that’s without the current pandemic uncertainties and safety issues to consider.

After all, it’s more than the commitment of the time and money. There is that bottom line of what you need to get most from the experience: a healthy recharging of your parent batteries. And let’s hope, the ability to return to your home feeling better than when you left it.

While there is no magic formula to help ensure that outcome, these important considerations in your travel planning can greatly improve your odds. Updated for January 2021. Post contains affiliate links.

 

1. Don’t just check the box for travel insurance–or expect your credit card’s travel insurance to cover problems if they arise.

 

What to look for in your family’s travel insurance policy:

A good travel insurance policy includes more than travel delays, missed connections, or lost baggage. Make sure your family is also covered for interruptions due to pre-existing conditions, a travel supplier’s financial default or bankruptcy.

And look at medical insurance inclusions to make sure and that you won’t be stuck paying out-of-network fees and deductibles if a family member needs medical care while away. ALL of these are recommended points of coverage for families in normal times — but all the more in these uncertain times.

Also, emergency medical evacuation coverage could be invaluable if you’d rather see a family member sent to your home hospital instead of one at your destination, or if your destination experiences a widespread problem and local hospitals are overwhelmed.

 

Where to look for your travel insurance:

Be warned that “travel insurance” provided by your credit card, or that you may be encouraged to add on with a check box and extra fee when booking a hotel, resort, plane ticket, or car for example may not cover all of these. And may not cover everyone in your party.

I like to check TravelInsurance.com (affiliate link) because it makes it easy to compare different policies side by side–by side so you can see exactly what you’ll be getting for your money. And while you’re there, take a look at whether or not your kids are included for free. Yes! some plans will cover kids under 18 years free! This alone may make the added cost of insurance well worth it.

And especially if you’re already getting kids covered for free, you might want to consider a higher-cost plan that offers “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage just in case. Here is a good explanation here of how cancel for any reason upgrades work. See specific details by policy. (You might also like Five Helpful Resources for Travel in Uncertain Times.)

 

 

2. Decide if an all-inclusive resort is right for you.

In light of coronavirus, all the perks of a typical family all-inclusive resort may not be available–and you may not want be comfortable taking advantage of things like kids clubs and child care for some time if they are.

But as we look forward to better days when we will, hopefully, see some return to normalcy … here are some important things to consider when deciding to go “all inclusive” or not.

One stop shopping for your meals, pool, entertainment (and possibly child care)–can sound ideal for the vacation with a baby. But remember not all “family-friendly” all-inclusive resorts are a fit for a family with a baby or toddler.

For example, if a kids club or childcare is mentioned, find out if it applies to infants and those in diapers. Also, if there is mention of “babysitting,” find out if that’s provided by staff or local nannies who may or not be available–and how early you can reserve your caregiver if necessary.

In the case of restaurants, be sure you know just how many allow children under 12 years–or children at all for that matter. Many resorts, even those that cater to families, will have adults-only dining options.

Be sure to read my post on “Tips for Booking the Best All-Inclusive Resort with Babies and Toddlers” to help guide you to an all-inclusive that will be a great fit for your family at the time of your vacation.

 

3. If you’ll be staying with friends or family, take a reality check.

 

First of all, take a coronavirus reality check.

It may still be some time before vacationing in other households is a safe or responsible choice. As we’ve seen from the 2020 winter holiday travel season, even those who set out to visit family and friends with the best intentions still managed to drive a surge in new cases.

Getting a negative test before traveling, wearing a mask in airports and on airplanes–none of these are guarantees against transmission between households coming together to visit under one roof. There are reasons many cities and regions have a self-quarantine requirement in place for travelers coming in from other areas.

At time of writing, the CDC advises all travelers:

Testing does not eliminate all risk, but when paired with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations.

Here’s what to know:

      • Get tested 1-3 days before your flight.
      • Get tested 3-5 days after travel AND stay home for 7 days after travel.
        • Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days.
        • If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 10 days after travel.
      • Always follow state and local recommendations or requirements related to travel.
      • Delay your travel if you are waiting for test results.

It’s also important to recognize that some families just have a higher level of exposure than others (essential workers, families with children in childcare, families with teenagers who may be rolling their own dice). And everyone seems to have their own idea of what “social distancing” really means in practice.

Simply put: your hosts may be living in a whole ‘nuther world when it comes to covid precautions, which you won’t see until after you’ve arrived in their home.

 

Then consider these pre-pandemic tips for family home-stays.

Once the coronavirus situation improves, and let’s hope that’s in the not too distant future(!), you’ll just want to consider these “normal times reality checks” about staying with friends and family with a baby in tow…

More helpful hands, loving arms, and watchful eyes may sound like the perfect recipe for rest and relaxation if you need to vacation with a baby. But sometimes staying in someone else’s home can bring with it unexpected stress. Especially if this is your first time staying in another home with your precious little one.

Other people’s schedules, household noises, babyproofing issues, and curious pets, are just some of the issues you’ll want to plan ahead for on your trip. To help ensure the most enjoyable vacation time together, be sure to read “Staying Safe (and Sane) with Friends and Family” in Chapter 3 of Travels with Baby or read an excerpt here.

 

best vacation with baby, how to plan yours

 

4. Know whether the weather will be a problem and adapt accordingly.

Sure, rain can squelch vacation plans in any season or climate. But when undertaking a vacation with a baby–whose tender eyes and skin are more vulnerable to sun, even sunny days can be a consideration.

Also, keep in mind that the extreme heat of the tropics or sun exposure in higher elevations is even more pronounced than than for adults and older children. You don’t have to rule out these destinations for vacations with a baby, however.

Just think through possible challenges in advance and make sure you’re prepared. Will you have effective sun (or rain) protection? Breathable fabrics? Baby-friendly mosquito repellents? And other helpful items for the climate? Here are some helpful products and posts to ease your planning include:

Pack This! Insect Repellent Clothing for Babies and Toddlers

Eleven DEET-Free Ways to Help Prevent Mosquito Bites

Pack This! The Babymoov Babyni for vacations with a baby

Best Stroller Accessories for Travel (sun, rain, organization & more)

Pack This! Pop-up sun tent for family vacations

DEET-Free mosquito repellent wipes that work for the whole family

Anatomy of a Great Travel Hat for Kids (at FamilyTravel411.com)

Tips for Buying Sunglasses for Kids (at FamilyTravel411.com)

 

5. Bring only baby gear that will be helpful.

Yes, you can probably leave the stroller behind and just “wear” your baby when needed–but will you be sorry? How much sightseeing will you do on your feet, realistically? And how will your back respond? A good, lightweight travel stroller can be especially helpful for vacations with a baby as it serves many purposes: nap time cradle, impromptu diaper-changing station and restaurant high chair, etc.

Outside of the travel stroller, your gear needs may vary by the age and stage of your child. Not to mention where you will spend your vacation. Will you wish you had a baby travel bed that can fit a mosquito net for sleeping times indoors or out? Are there key temporary childproofing gadgets that could make a world of difference in your ability to relax and enjoy your vacation rental or hotel room?

For more ideas on what may serve you best on your upcoming trip, take a look at our recommendations in Great Baby Travel Gear and Products for Traveling Families. You might also find help in the Ages & Stages travel planning advice posts, which cover travel with your baby from birth to age 5.

 

6. Rent what you can where you’re going.

There’s a lot to be gained by having something you’d loathe to lug with you awaiting at your destination.

Would an “exersaucer” keep your bouncing baby amused and safely out of harm’s way while you prepare dinner in your vacation rental? Would a full-size crib make all the difference in his going-to-bed-routine? Or would a pack ‘n play help keep her from wandering if she wakes before you do?

You can rent everything from baby swings and bath tubs to car seats and strollers and cribs and backpacks at destinations around the world. Be sure to bookmark The Worldwide Directory of Baby Gear Rentals for help finding any baby or toddler gear you might want to rent on this trip or your next.

 

7. Know what’s going to fly with your airline–and not.

Be aware that airlines can differ greatly in what they offer parents flying with infants and babies. In fact, some even CHARGE very differently for the service.

For example, most U.S. airlines allow infants less than 2 years old to fly free on an adult’s lap. However, if you don’t have proof of your baby’s age, you may get stuck paying anyway (see The REAL Reason Babies and Toddlers Need I.D. for Domestic Flights).

And whether or not you want your child to fly on a lap is a safety consideration in itself, which makes it helpful to know which airlines offer discounts for infants to fly in their own car seats or tots under 2 to be secured with the CARES harness.

While you’ll generally find the best perks for flying infants on non-U.S. airlines (baby care kits and babyfood, or possibly even a Sky Nanny), most airlines allow a checked stroller or car seat free per traveling infant. “Part 5: Travels by Airplane” in Travels with Baby looks at many of these issues and details.

It’s also a good idea to call and confirm any important details with your airline (and for your particular flights). You will also find plenty of helpful posts–for tips Before You Book, At the Airport, and On the Plane–in my Flying with Baby and Toddler Advice Index.

 

8. Get a family-friendly guide to your destination.

Visiting Amsterdam in your college days was probably vastly different from visiting Amsterdam with Kids Under 5. It would follow that your travel guide for the trip should probably be, too. So get family-centered advice to help ensure the best trip to your bucket list destinations with your little ones in tow.

If you haven’t already, be sure to browse our Destinations directory page for links to features and tips on visiting fun family locations. And be sure to check out our sister site Family Travel 411 for family-friendly travel guides to major cities, national parks, and other exciting destinations around the globe.

 

9. Consider a cruise with care.

NOW MORE THAN EVER … make sure you have adequate travel insurance to protect your cruise vacation, including any changes that may need to be made to the schedule and possible bankruptcy or default of the supplier.

And even in pre-pandemic times, you’d want to drill down to the details for families for any cruise line you’re considering. Most so-called “family friendly” cruise lines will still have minimum age requirements for infants and toddlers for some itineraries.

As well, the amenities on board for infants and children can vary widely from one cruise line to the next, including childcare options–especially with more limited sailings and tighter health and safety measures (this simply might not be an option on some cruises for a while).

To help plan your cruise with confidence, don’t miss Part 7: Travels by Cruise Ship (three chapters!) in Travels with Baby. And be sure to bookmark these posts:

Five Things You Should Know Before Planning a Cruise with a Baby or Toddler

What to Pack for a Cruise with a Baby: Important Essentials to Bring Onboard

 

You might also like:

Best Portable Baby Travel Beds, Cribs, and Bassinets (for Toddlers too!)

Checklist for Travel with Babies and Toddlers: Ten Things to Do Before You Leave Home

The Best Lightweight Strollers for Travel

Ask Shelly: Is One Month Too Soon to Vacation with a Newborn Infant?

Yes you CAN Still Get an Infant Fare with Southwest Airlines – Here’s How

Need to Know: Flying American Airlines with a Baby or Toddler

CARES Harness Review – The Flight Safety Harness for Children

Five Things You Should Know Before Flying with a Car Seat

The Best Infant Car Seats for Travel

Five Things You Should Know Before Flying with An Airplane Bassinet

Checking In Safety Checklist (with Printable)

The Worldwide Directory of Baby Gear Rentals

Ages & Stages Guide to Planning Travel from Birth to 5 Years

Safe journeys,

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

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What?! Your kids aren’t babies anymore? Head over to Family Travel 411

Curious about this content? See my editorial content disclosure.

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