7 Tips for globetrotting with a toddler

7 Tips for globetrotting with a toddler

By on January 5th, 2011

I have friends who just had a baby girl. They would have been in for a rude awakening had they not had dinner with me. =)

At dinner that night they talked about planning their first family vacation. A trip to France, complete with tours of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards, leisurely lunches on the Côte d’Azure, and shopping in Monaco.

It sounded perfect. Wonderful. And, of course, totally unrealistic. As parents of a two-year-old, we’ve learned that in addition to wipes, diapers, stuffed toys and snacks, there’s one other thing you need to bring when traveling with a child: a change of expectations.

I can’t stress this enough: If you assume vacations will include all the cultural fulfillment, relaxation and partying they once did, I have three words for you – Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

It’s just not the same when the little one is dumping your Pina Colada in the sand, or tugging at your swimsuit while you’re trying to melt into that lounger. And strolls through quaint little towns are a whole new experience when they involve, well, strollers.

We learned these lessons on our first vacation with our daughter, Sydney. After two or three days spent gazing wistfully at the crowd around the adults-only pool, we came to accept our new reality for what it was, and adjusted accordingly.

They were small adjustments after all. The sun was just as warm at the family pool. The grilled snapper just as tasty whether we ate dinner at six or nine. And the beautiful people heading down to the bar just as we were tucking Sydney into bed? Well, they weren’t going home with photos of chubby little feet drowned by sea foam or pudgy cheeks caked with sand.

So the positives of traveling with our little daughter far outweighed the compromises. As for our friends? I have no doubt they’ll reach the same conclusion—it just might take a few spilled glasses of Côtes du Rhône before they do.

Here are our 7 tips for globetrotting with a toddler:

  1. As noted above, manage your expectations—vacations will be different, but in a good way.
  2. If the hotel can arrange a sitter, go for it. You need time to yourselves and can’t very well go back to the room at 7 PM every night.
  3. Share the duty—let your spouse go to the gym or spa while you watch the little one, and vice versa.
  4. Stay in “kid-friendly” places. The better hotels will have well-trained, attentive staff who will make every effort to accommodate your needs.
  5. Don’t take what you don’t need—we once lugged a stroller and a pack-and-play to the islands and they never emerged from their bags.
  6. Think about the logistics of reaching your destination. Connecting flights, taxis and ferries are tough enough on two adults, let alone a toddler. Consider places you can reach more easily, or pay a little extra for a direct flight.
  7. As your child gets older, you’ll to need to start compromising more. I once swore I would never do anything so “touristy” as a glass-bottom boat ride. Guess what? I recently took one.

Peter Mayle, author of A Year in Provence, once said “Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity.” Traveling with a child will force a host of necessary compromises, adjustments and concessions. But the daily pleasures are well worth it.

Bon Voyage!

4 Response(s) to "7 Tips for globetrotting with a toddler"
Four Seasons Family says:
January 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Thanks for sharing, Clare. We agree: daytime naps would make an excellent Tip #8!

Clare says:
January 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I’ve got three boys of 10, 8 and 1. We learned early on that renting villas or houses was the way forward – and with a private pool, wherever possible!
It has the benefit of enabling you to enjoy your holiday venue whilst maintaining some semblance of home. If your little one needs to go to sleep at 7 or 8pm, then you can pop them into bed and enjoy a peaceful meal with your older children (or even just the two of you!!!). Daytime naps can be easily accommodated and you can enjoy lazing around rather than feeling that you need to get out of the confines of a small apartment. Highly recommended!

Four Seasons Family says:
January 13, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Congratulations on your little one, Lori! We’re delighted to hear that your family had a fun and relaxing stay with Four Seasons Miami and hope to welcome you back soon!

Lori Li says:
January 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Too true! I am new and very proud mom to a nearly seven month old boy and have made the official transition from “vacation” to “trip”! Staying at a hotel that understands and caters to families makes all the difference. We recently spent a week at the Four Seasons Miami and were delighted by the experience. Crib and high chair were set up in the room when we arrived, and a little stuffed dog was left for our son along with an array of baby toiletries. We stayed in an apartment room that had a small kitchen and living area which was fabulous. We are a family that loves to travel, but certainly will focus our holidays on places that provide this kind of support and service to allow for maximum fun and relaxation.

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