It’s a rite of passage in parenting: You’ve decided to take the plunge and book your first vacation with your baby. But, as anyone with young children knows, there’s an awful lot of planning and preparing that goes into traveling with little ones. So, before you pack your bags and book your trip, find out what the experts have to say about family-friendly destinations, amenities for young families—and what not to do during the course of your stay.
The Right Room
While a couples-only vacation may evoke images of fine dining and spa treatments, when you’re traveling with kids, your priorities shift tremendously and simplifying your daily routine bumps up to the top of the list. “Some of the easiest vacations with babies and small children are beach vacations at resorts that have everything at your fingertips,” says Tanya Byers, an experienced travel agent with The Travel Gals Travel Agency (www.thetravelgals.com) , specializing in family vacations. “Some of these resorts provide strollers, diapers, baby food, cribs, toys and baby monitors; you hardly have to pack anything.”
When booking a hotel, stroller-accessible rooms are a smart choice for parents schlepping back and forth to their room for diaper changes and feedings. “I really appreciate a ground-level room, so that we can easily get out and walk around without waiting for elevators,” she says. “You do sacrifice a little privacy, but the convenience is nice [especially] if everyone is at the pool or the beach and you have to run back and get something.
Special amenities geared toward families can also make a big difference in the quality of your experience. Corinne McDermott, founder of HaveBabyWillTravel.com (www.havebabywilltravel.com), opts for bathrooms with a bath tub (“they make bath time much easier”), as well as a small kitchen or kitchenette for food and bottle prep. “Check to see if they offer cribs or play yards for sleeping,” she adds, which cuts down on the amount of baby equipment you have to pack.
Gear to Go
Speaking of baby gear, investigate what other items are available for use during your stay. Byers says that some resorts have items you can rent at no cost and that are pre-assembled and waiting in your room upon check-in. “Many resorts even put baby toiletry items in the bathroom when they know you are arriving,” she adds.
Probably one of the more complicated items is a car seat. If you can’t bring your own, you’ll want to rent a model that meets the current safety standards. “Rates may vary, but most service providers will meet you at the airport, so you have the seat as soon as you land,” says McDermott.
Since more and more places are catering to families vacationing with young children, it pays to zero in on the hotel or resort that best meets your specific needs. Both McDermott and Byers praise Beaches Resorts, which include infant/toddler care in cost of your stay. “Their facilities and amenities for kids are top notch,” says McDermott, while Byers considers them “family-focused/centric rather than just family-friendly. They have almost everything you can think of.”
ClubMed resorts are also a popular choice, but their Baby and Petit Club Med’s services must be booked in advance and cost extra, notes McDermott.
Other recommended hot spots in the Caribbean include the Azul properties in Riviera Maya and
If you’re interested in taking advantage of on-site babysitting, Palace Resorts in the Mexican Caribbean offer a complimentary nanny service as part of its Family Connections Luxury Suites. Children receive personal attention, not grouped with other children, and parents can choose which activities the childcare specialist does and does not do with the kids._x000D_
Avoiding Potential Pitfalls
Regardless of where you choose to stay, not every aspect of your vacation will go according to plan—something experts say parents may forget. “Planning to do too much or having too many expectations can hinder enjoyment in a vacation,” says Byers. “Schedules can get messed up…flexibility is good.”
McDermott believes that considering your baby’s naps and planning around them is a good bet. “Give yourself the opportunity to rest and relax with your little one,” she advises. “Easing into family travel means your trips can become more active and adventurous as your baby grows.”