5 Tips for Vacationing with a Toddler


Vacations took on a whole new meaning once my husband and I had our son, especially since he became a toddler. We used to find vacations relaxing, but now we find that they are just flat out more work than the idea of staying home and doing a stay-cation. Despite the added stress of traveling with a highly spirited, active child, we still do it, and I’ve picked up a few tips along the way.

1. Eat out less.  

If you have an active toddler like us, you know that eating out consist of going to a restaurant, quickly ordering food, and keeping your toddler occupied while you wait for that food. Then, once food comes, you help your child out as needed, while shoving food down your face so that you can grab the check quickly once your child finishes eating— because we know all too well that after 15 minutes of a kid being done eating, he is ready to go.  

Get a VRBO or room with a kitchen or fridge to make it possible to stay in for some meals during your trip. (Some hotels will bring in a fridge free of charge if you just ask.), Or if you are traveling by car, invest in an ice chest that will keep things cold for 3 days or longer and fill with ice as needed.

We often bring or stock the fridge in our rental or hotel room with almond milk for cereal, grab some muffins, and have sandwich items on hand for lunch. Having these two meals in the house or hotel room means my little guy only has to sit at a restaurant for a maximum of one meal a day. And sometimes we will even order room service if we don’t have a kitchen available. This way, my guy can keep his body moving without disturbing anyone, and my husband and I don’t have to shove food down our face. Less stressful for all of us.

2. Look for child-friendly things to do before arriving.  

toddler playing at a children's museum while on vacation with his familyI always research the area for family-friendly activities to do before we leave for vacation. Even devoting just one day of vacation to a child-centered activity makes the world of difference for my little guy. For instance, we just went to Reno, and I found a children’s museum that was less than a ten-minute drive from where we were staying. Score!!! After visiting their website I found they offered discounts on certain days, so we planned to take advantage of that. Since we were visiting family, we invited them along, as well. We brought our sandwiches with us, which I made for everyone in our hotel room before we left so we could eat them for lunch. It ended up being an awesome children’s museum that we all enjoyed.  

3. Get fresh air.  

Parks are a great place for toddlers to burn off energy, and a little cold and/or fresh air typically means a good night’s sleep. Look for nearby public parks for kids to run around. Playgrounds are not only free, but even just an hour of play can go a long way.

4. Don’t expect to relax.

Vacationing will not be relaxing like it used to be to prior to children. If you go on vacation knowing this, you will better be able to enjoy the time away, including those slivers of moments that are truly relaxing. My friend said it best, “Vacations aren’t relaxing anymore, but they can be fun.” I think this is a great motto to take on any trip you have with young children and maybe even older kids.  

5. Consider stay-cations or build in a day to regroup

Living in the city can make us forget that people from around the world come to vacation here in San Francisco. There is so much to do in the city that we really don’t have to travel at all.  Nothing is more relaxing than being able to be at home with nothing to do but relax and enjoy yourself. No need to pack, plan, prep, travel, and come home only to unpack and bounce right back into work while trying to catch back up on everything that we missed.  

If stay-cations aren’t your cup of tea, I suggest at least taking one day off before returning to work. Having one day to take it easy at home and get yourself prepared to re-enter your normal routine can make up for the relaxation we missed while traveling with a toddler.  

What tips have you learned or picked up while traveling with a toddler?


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Jennifer is Student Midwife who runs Little Ones Welcome, a holistic practice where she integrates Western and Eastern perspectives on Fertility and Pediatric health. She offers services in Acupuncture, Elimination Communication, and Post-Partum Preparedness. Jenn lives in San Francisco with her Husband Oliver, Son Eli, and Dog Franklin. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, walking, gardening, or just listening to the ocean waves. Jenn especially loves traveling, enjoying a good meal, and just chillin' with her boys !


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