Four Tips for Planning a Vacation with a Toddler

My spouse and I love to travel. Our vacations typically involved a long flight, an exotic location and very few pre-planned activities. It was so relaxing. Sleep in? Absolutely. Kayaking? Sure. Zip line? Why not. Stay in and read a book for the afternoon with an occasional nap. Absolutely!

We nearly always returned home rested. Sometimes, we even reached maximum relaxation at our destination and came home early for a bit more of a staycation, slowly ramping back up for work. It was perfection.

And then our son arrived…

Now, don’t get me wrong; I adore my son. Being Dad is the best and most important job I will ever have in my life. I didn’t know it was even possible to love another human to that degree. Despite that love for our son, eliminating vacations was just not an option for us, so we had to find a way to make vacation a reality with an infant and now toddler, just a month away from turning two! And we did.

Here are a few things we did that made vacation possible again.

  • For flights, less is more. I remember the first flight we scheduled was a three-and-a-half-hour flight. For several weeks prior to the trip, my anxiety level seemed to increase daily. As a frequent traveler for work, I could not shake the vision of the two of us, like parents on many of my recent flights, screaming child in between us repeatedly apologizing while bribing those around us with free drinks. We ended up having to cancel that vacation and made new plans that involved a much shorter flight. And the moment we confirmed our new plans, my anxiety immediately dissipated, and I experienced the excitement and chemical reactions in my body an upcoming vacation can and should induce.
  • Travel during nap time. Although sleep training was complete failure in our house, my son naps for two to two-and-a-half hours daily at roughly the same time each day. During our first one-hour flight, he played for about 20 minutes and slept for the rest of the flight. It may be inconvenient to try and schedule all possible vacation travel in the same two-hour windows each day but trust me: it’s well worth it.
  • Have a staycation before the vacation. We live in LA, roughly 25 miles from LAX. For those of you familiar with Southern California traffic, you are keenly aware that 25 miles can be 30 minutes or three hours depending on the day and time you get in the car. One of our earlier vacations was a three-hour trip and required us to be on the road at a rough time of day. Instead of waking up, packing the car, driving in traffic and just generally being miserable, we booked a hotel at the airport for the night before our flight. It was money well spent and had the added benefit of making the vacation feel longer.
  • Be ready to fill the gaps with screen time. Yes, I know, there are probably people who think we are horrible parents, and who can’t imagine putting an iPad in front of a 14-month old. I’ll take three hours of judgmental looks with a smiling child over three hours of complaining neighbors and a screaming child any day, period.

As I write this article, I am looking forward to our upcoming vacation to Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. Not only is the flight to Seattle a short one, we are flying out of Burbank. I’m already experiencing the benefits of the vacation (and have been since we booked the trip) with the one simple change; avoiding LAX!

If you’re ready to plan your family vacation but having trouble budgeting for it, read on to learn how to juggle multiple savings goals.

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