Traveling with a small child has its challenges.
You need to find a destination that has activities to keep them busy, as well as activities for older children and adults. In addition, parents need a place that understands a young child's need for kid-friendly snacks, naps and, potentially, changing areas.
With a small youngster of his own, finding a child-friendly destination has been something that even experienced travel agents have been learning about.
Walt Disney World
"The obvious destination is Disney," said Corey S. Determan, Good Travels Advisor & Certified Cruise Counsellor in Jacksonville, Florida.
"Though pricey, you get a lot of value for your money. As any parent who has had to contend with a rowdy toddler on an airplane or crying baby in a car will tell you, they take care of every detail and predict your child's needs better than you can. This is true of the Disney parks, the cruise line and their tour company, Adventures by Disney."
Sandy Nussbaum-Giercyk of Instant Impressions agrees that Disney is the top name for family travel:
"Depending on the age of the child and your desire for activities, family time, parent time, etc., Walt Disney World and Disneyland certainly are action-packed memorable places. Disney's Aulani offers great family activities, along with a kids club to give mom and dad the time to reconnect, enjoy the spa or just relax. Disney Cruise Line offers something for everyone from family games, kids clubs, Broadway shows, sun decks and more."
If Disney isn't your style, try other theme parks.
"You cannot beat theme parks in general for family travel," said Margie Lenau of Wonderland Family Vacations in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "They cater to small children. There are child care centers in the parks. When I took my grandchildren to one theme park, we went to a child care center. They didn't want to leave, there were movies and so many toys to play with."
Determan suggests SeaWorld.
"Living in Florida, most of us have season passes to either Disney or Universal Studios, but SeaWorld is less common," he said. "The entrance fee is less expensive and unlike their competitors, it is quite easy to see everything in one day (that means no multi-park passes). Our toddler was mesmerized by the animals at SeaWorld and, six months later, she still talks about the dolphins. There are also plenty of toddler-friendly rides, and in the summer there are live concerts."
Determan added that a considerable amount of dollars spent there goes to support their marine conservation and rehabilitation programs.
"What makes a great family destination is the amenities provided along with activities for the kids that will keep them happy and let Mom and Dad have even a nice dinner, just the two of them," said Kim Milnes, Family Travel Boutique in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
Milnes recommends three all-inclusive resorts: Azul Beach in Mexico, Nickelodeon Resort Punta Cana, and Beaches Turks and Caicos.
"I like Azul Beach for families with toddlers and babies," she said. "It not too big so it is easy to get around. They offer all of the baby items like cribs, changing tables, high chairs and age appropriate toys and have a great kids club. They have great family suites so Mom and Dad can put the baby down and have a spot to sit talk and relax and not fear to wake up the baby!"
Milnes also recommends Nickelodeon Resort Punta Cana for its big rooms, kids club, kids' buffet-that also provides options for children with food allergies-and baby equipment. She said that Beaches Turks and Caicos is "one of the best resorts for families."
"They are one of the few resorts that offer amenities and child care for babies and children under three, especially those who are not potty-trainMilnesIlnes said.
"The biggest new offering is support for kids with Autism. They just introduced Julia, the character who has autism from Sesame Street. As well, all of the child care staff have been trained and certified to work with children on the autism spectrum, even the older and teen kids. These families have a hard time traveling , and to know that there are appropriate services at the destination is a game changer for these families."
Samarah Meil, Owner/Travel Consultant of Amarillo Travel Network said that when it comes to traveling with a small child, Amarillo sells a lot of trips to Mexico, but there are several other family-friendly places to choose from.
"Azul's by Karisma offers so much in terms of providing amenities for families in their suites," she said.
"We love to sell the Beaches Turks & Caicos, but clients typically need to plan ahead as this property is very popular. I have recently seen more interest in Universal Studios and feel the property in Orlando has really upped their game. As always, we book out of Galveston many cruises for families via Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International."
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Do not rule out a trip to Europe, however, especially if you have a mix of younger and older children.
"Italy is a country that, of course, is known for romance and wine, but we're seeing lots of family travelers heading to Italy as well," said Joost Schreve who is the co-founder and CEO of kimkim, which specializes in curating independent customized tours by local travel specialists.
"Kid-friendly activities have a definite Italian twist when you consider that you can sign your little ones up for something as thrilling as gladiator school in Rome. Active families often enjoy taking their tweens and teens on a bike tour along the Appia Way. We often work with travelers heading to Italy to craft customized family cooking classes led by an authentic pizzaiolo. Budding chefs of all ages enjoy indulging in an Italian feast of pizza and gelato."
When planning a trip to accommodate small children, it might take some research to make sure the destination has what you need. Contacting a travel agent will surely help since they have the experience and knowledge of the resorts.
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