Traveling with little children is a challenge. I’m going to keep things real with you. It’s not fun. Before having children, my husband and I traveled to so many places together and we had a blast. With children there is always so much to pack, (strollers, diapers, car seats, baby food, sippy cups, etc), and just getting around the airport terminal can turn into an Odyssey of its own-before one even gets to the destination. Then there are rental cars, taxis, buses, etc. that one must navigate with small children and luggage in tow. I’m going to share with you my tips to help you navigate this as best as possible.
Since this post alone can become overwhelming with information, I’m making separate posts for popular destinations for your convenience. Check out my Dollywood and Disney World posts for information pertaining specifically to them.
Cruising With Small Children. Is it worth it?
We are on a budget, so we have only been on Royal Caribbean and the Carnival Cruiselines. As much as I absolutely love Disney, we just can’t justify the 30% increase in the cost. We would rather use that extra 30% to pay for a separate trip to Disney World. This way we get two vacations for the cost of one Disney Cruise.
A perk of going on a cruise is having the daycare on board. Each boat as different daycare facilities so you need to research that before going. Some have daycare for babies while others do not. Many have kid’s clubs for your smaller children and that is a huge help!
One thing I didn’t know before cruising was that there is a no diaper rule in the pools on all the boats. So for our days at sea when we took our toddler, we were not allowed to swim with her. This proved to be difficult for us as it was hot, and that’s all we wanted to do was swim. They always had someone at the pool checking out the kids so you can’t sneak a diapered one in. We ended up removing our toddler’s swim diaper and put on one of her cloth diapers without any padding in it. There’s always a risk of a surprise BM but we timed it after she already pooped, so that way we could all get into the water together without sullying the pool water.
Some boats have splash pads just for babies and toddlers. These would be worth booking so that your little one could get some water time without all of that added stress.
We saved money by booking cabins with just the port hole window. We always spent so much time outside of our cabins that this was perfect for us. Also, I am very nervous about my small children climbing over those plexiglass walls anyways and there have been deaths of people who have fallen overboard. So for me to save money and have that peace of mind was a plus!
Sharing a room with your children can take the romance out of your trip. If you can swing the extra cost I do recommend having your parent, trusted friend, or a nanny come with you. You will have to pay for their cabin of course, but then your children can stay in there with them. Sometimes though, grandparents are happy to pay for themselves, and then your child can spend the night with them a few nights out of the trip.
International Traveling with Small Children
We like to go to the Caribbean the most! A few years ago we went to Grand Cayman with our au pair to help us with our children. To cut down on the costs we rented a condo through VRBO that had access to an amazing diving site literally across the street from the condo. We rented a car and went to the local grocery store to get our groceries. We of course paid our au pair her salary plus paid for her airfare and all costs of the trip.
This was a lovely get away but I would not recommend doing this for your family. Here are my reasons.
- Going to the grocery store will take time out of your days. It’s also not cheap on these islands. We ended up having to go several days bc sometimes you run out of things or need more things that you didn’t realize.
- Preparing meals takes away time from your fun. We make easy meals but even still, cleaning up takes away that time as well.
- Renting a car is not cheap and once we landed we had to wait a long time to get our car. Also, driving in other countries is not easy. My husband luckily has driven in Australia so driving in Grand Cayman was not an issue. For other people though, it could lead to an accident, and even with my husband’s background, there were a few worrisome moments.
- After reviewing our expenses to bring an au pair with us, buy groceries, and rent a car, even though at first the sticker price of our modest VRBO house and tickets lured us in, it turns out it was not a better deal than just going to an all inclusive without our au pair.
- You have to pack all of your baby gear. Going through customs with two car seats, the strollers, and all of your other luggage will wear you down.
My Favorite Caribbean All Inclusive Resort
I finally gave in and went to an all inclusive resort in Mexico. We went to one before on our honeymoon, but it felt like just a big hotel and the food tasted disgusting. I thought all places were like this. Well, I was wrong.
After much research we chose to go to Club Med in Cancun. Full disclosure-this is my honest unbiased review and I have not received any compensation for this.
As soon as we landed in Cancun, there was a driver with a sign waiting for us. We have never had this experience before. On a side note, when you are leaving the airport there are people dressed in nice official looking clothing asking you where you are going. Then they will tell you that they will take you to your driver. This is a lie. They are taking you to a time share place. Please don’t even make eye contact with them and get outside of the airport.
Club Med is a France based company, and the food is everything one would expect the French to deliver-delicious!!! We immensely enjoyed the buffets and never used the sit down restaurants. Their food was also healthy-so much in fact, that I did not gain a single pound! Usually I gain at least one pound per day on cruise ships, but not one ounce here. I attribute that to the healthy ingredients used in the food. The alcohol is included as well. I don’t really drink, but my husband absolutely loved it! He gets sick from cheap liquor and never once got sick from their mixed drinks and French wine.
The childcare is an extra cost and you must book it before going. Please do!!!!! It is amazing. Our six year old fell in love with her trapeze lessons and is now going to be taking these lessons where we live. Our three year old son made friends and had a blast.
Every single day it could just be my husband and I, relaxing in the sun, dancing to the live music, or swimming in the ocean. We took archery and sailing lessons which are included in the costs.
The staff were extremely friendly and there were no time share sales people oozing about the property. This was paramount to me because I have had some terrible encounters with these manipulative people. The staff genuinely cared about you and got to know you.
Here is a link:
I grew up around the Orlando area and am in love with Disney World. I have so may cherished childhood memories there with my beloved family members. Many of them are no longer earth side, so when I go, I am reminded of them, so my experience is just more than a theme park. Also, Walt Disney inspired me as a child. Watching Disney movies inspired me to overcome my trauma and tragedies in life. I am obsessed with Ariel and live my life as a real life mermaid because of her. I share this to explain why Disney World means so much to me, and why I want to go with my children as much as I can afford.
Where to Stay?
I like to stay off property at Windsor Hills in Kissimmee.
Here is my best kept secret! Renting directly from the owners will save you money by avoiding the extra fees from vrbo and Airbnb. You can see these same listings on those websites if you want to gather more reviews to ease your mind that this is in fact a legit way to book. Here is the website:
Here’s my latest video enjoying the Windsor Hills WaterPark that is included with every rental.
What about the extra driving? Doesn’t that bother you?
I have stayed on property before, but riding the bus and monorail took so much time with my kids. The last thing I want to do after a day in the parks is to fold up our double stroller, and haul both kids into the bus/monorail several times to get back to our room. There are no extra Magic hours anymore either, so there really is no extra incentive to stay there unless you want to spend a few thousand dollars more to rent rooms at the resorts that are a short monorail ride away. That is a valid choice for people also, but at this time in my life, being that close to Disney is not a high enough priority for that price.
I have timed my drive from door to Disney World gate and it has been consistently at ten minutes. I have waited and ridden their on property transportation services for longer. Not to mention the whole standing up with an infant and toddler with a double stroller and a bag of its contents leaning against my legs.
Windsor Hills has homes that you can rent starting at $100 per night and up. We have rented three bedroom, three bath town houses with splash pools for that rate. There is a water park that my kids absolutely love that are walking distance from the condos and town houses. If you have a larger family, I highly recommend the houses! We rented one for us to go with our extended family and there was plenty of room for everyone! The rooms are beautifully decorated with Disney and Universal themes, include their own pools and hot tubs, game rooms, movie rooms, etc.
What about your baby gear?
These homes come with baby gear! Now for Disney World I will bring our Citi Mini double stroller, but they have sippy cups and high chairs, bed rails, and safety gates for your children. I will use their stroller to get around the neighborhood to go to the amazing play park and pool area. Every personal pool also has a baby gate around it for safety which gave me peace of mind.
What about food?
Maybe it’s my autism, but I find theme park food to hurt my stomach. Unless one was to eat at Cinderella’s Castle or Be Our Guest and spend a fortune on every single meal, it’s just not for me. These homes have all the basic tools to make your own meals. There is a WalMart 5 minutes away and we do the grocery pick up. One tip is to schedule your pick up 5 days in advance. The slots will all be taken if you wait too long. This is so worth it! There is a restaurant on property that we have ordered from many times and have enjoyed it. There are also many restaurants that you can order take out from that are delicious and fairly priced. Orlando has some of the best food the world can offer with its diverse upscale cuisine.
How can you make it more magical?
I like to go into WalMart when we get there because I like to buy little presents for my children. They have the best Disney merchandise nearby for a fraction of the costs in the parks. I do this without the children so that way I can sneak it into our house and surprise them with “gifts from Tinkerbelle” in the mornings. This way they don’t ask for us to buy the expensive merchandise in the parks because they already got something special that morning!!! There is also a Disney Outlet nearby that has amazing merchandise straight from the parks. You can buy the Bippity Boppity Boo Boutique dresses that are the same exact ones for under $50. They cost $150 when you go to the boutique. Also, you can bring that dress with your child for them to do the makeover with if you do choose to do that experience and save $100 upfront.
The Best Disney Shopping
If you’re like me and love Disney merchandise and have the extra time, I highly recommend shopping at The Disney Character Warehouse. Here is the exact website.
I also love this mall because they have the best clothing options for all the members of your family. I purchased an Armani suit here for $40!!!! It looks like it was tailored to fit me and it turns out, Posh Spice owns the same exact one.
If you try the Bippidy Boppidy Boo Boutique experience for your princess get your dress from the outlet that I shared. It’s the exact same $150 dress for around $35. Get there when the store opens if you can bc they clear out fast!
We went to this mall as kids for our back to school shopping and it never disappointed our family. We were on a budget but definitely didn’t look it. Your friends back home will be amazed at all of your new fashion finds! You can also get alot of skincare and beauty products for a great discount here as well.