Art by Michelle Mildenberg 

After more than a year of living the pandemic life, you're ready to plan a fun family vacation. But your wee one is now a full-blown toddler who wants to help call the shots when it comes to everything. Literally, everything. We think this is the perfect time to find a destination that caters to little kids.

The Place? All-Inclusive Resort

If you want to really feel like you’ve made a getaway, consider an all-inclusive resort where you hand over your credit card and then prepare to have fun.

Pros: This type of trip requires very little planning and is top of the list on convenience. Resorts set up activities throughout the day, so there’s always something to entertain your crew. Buffet-style meals mean you don’t have to carry around your wallet, make menu decisions, or wait for your food while your tot is melting down.

Cons: Depending upon when and where you book, the inclusive part can be pricey. The food is usually not gourmet and you shouldn’t expect an authentic cultural experience.

Things to look for: Ask if there is a kids club (double check that the resort is a kid-friendly one!) and find out what kid-friendly amenities are included in the rooms.

The Place? Amusement Park

There’s no shortage of amusement parks to visit for family fun. Choose almost any major water park or theme park with attractions and you’re guaranteed to find some affordable lodging nearby to make a trip of it.

Pros: Parents and tots alike will be entertained every step of the way, from thrill rides and games to shows, character meet-ups, and parades. These parks usually have rides or areas dedicated to children 4 and under so you can be sure to find something age-appropriate. And almost everyone at these places has kids so they don’t roll their eyes or judge parents when there are tears, tantrums, or accidents.

Cons: For obvious reasons, amusement parks can be overstimulating and you don't want to be stuck in the middle of one when your child is ready for a nap. Moreover, it’s especially hard to wait in long lines when you have a toddler in your group.

Things to look for: Remember to measure your child beforehand and then look up what rides they are big enough to go on. Also, find out about child ride swap and special needs programs.

The Place? Airbnb or VRBO

The world is your oyster if you want to find a unique vacation rental home for your family trip on sites like Airbnb or VRBO. Pick anywhere from a cabin in the woods to a bungalow on the beach to a loft in the city to a castle in the countryside and then explore the surrounding area like locals.

Pros: You can easily suss out rentals that are perfect for families with little ones where you’ll have your own kitchen, more space and privacy than any hotel room, and amenities like toys, games, a pool, a swing set, and more. Plus, you can travel as a group with grandparents or other families and let the kids enjoy each other’s company in a space that has the comforts of home.

Cons: This type of trip requires a bit more planning on your part and the house might not be as sparkly clean as a hotel room. You also won't get away from the kitchen/cooking.

Things to look for: Use navigation tools on each site to find kid-friendly accommodations. Or try Kid & Coe for a list of curated properties. Site hosts will usually offer priceless knowledge of the area and tips for staying with kids.

The Place? Camping or Glamping

Introduce your tot to the great outdoors like never before with a family camping (or glamping) trip!

Pros: This kind of escape is highly affordable and you can keep the commitment minimal by starting with just a single night away from home. Your family will feel deeply refreshed spending so much time outside taking in nature. You can even check out some beautiful county or state parks nearby in case you need to bail in the middle of the night.

Cons: You’ll have to bring all the gear, food, toys, and creature comforts from home. And don’t expect to kick up your feet and relax. A camping trip means watching your tot very closely at all times.

Things to look for: Do some research to find tot-friendly campsites, ideally places with beaches or swimming areas, playgrounds, toilets, and showers. And watch out for poison ivy/poison oak!

The Place? Dude Ranch

Get a taste of western hospitality by visiting a dude ranch with your family. Just remember to pack matching cowboy boots for those adorable photo ops!

Pros: Tots will get plenty of fresh air and adventure when you plan a dude ranch vacay.  Even if they’re too small to do horseback riding, fishing, and the like, they’ll get a kick out of watching everyone else! And most toddlers will be thrilled to ride in a hiking backpack as parents explore the area by foot.

Cons: Wide open spaces don’t always mean letting your little ones run free. Parents will have to keep an eye on tots around things like animals, campfires, and rugged terrain.

Things to look for: Find a ranch with a kids program and toddler-specific stuff like playgrounds or game rooms. You can also track down other activities like yoga and kayaking.

—Whitney C. Harris

Whitney Harris is a freelance writer and mother of three who loves reading, running, and dancing like a teen on TikTok. Visit her here.

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