Raising little kids is tough. The hardest part is the day-after-day humdrum of waking, feeding, playing, napping, playing some more, bathing, bedding and so on and so forth. We all need to get out of the house from time to time, which is why many young parents are interested in the best family vacations with toddlers.
Traveling with toddlers is a little different than, say, a honeymoon. You need to find a destination that offers lots of kid-friendly things to do, as well as stuff that the parents can have fun doing, too.
The good news: You have SO many options. Read on to see 17 great options when you’re searching for the best family vacations with toddlers.
The 17 Best Family Vacations With Toddlers
Did we say there’s something for everyone on this list? Find out for yourself when you browse the following 17 best family vacations with toddlers. They are all located in the United States, and there should be at least one that is driving distance from your home.
1. Sanibel Island, Florida
Sanibel Island is the southernmost barrier island along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. If you’re looking for the classic Florida beach experience with toddlers, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Not only does Sanibel Island offer beautiful beaches filled with seashells, it’s also nearby a wildlife refuge, botanical gardens, museums, a historical village and much more. There’s so much for anyone to do here — but families with toddlers will find no shortage of ways to pass the days.
2. Port Aransas, Texas
Texas beaches can’t compare to what you’ll find in California or Florida, but they put forth a valiant and budget-minded effort to deliver value to families with toddlers. And Port Aransas is the best among the few Texas beach options.
You can find budget-friendly lodging in Port Aransas, and you’re also just across the causeway from Corpus Christi, where you can take your kids to the aquarium, to a Texas League baseball game, or to visit the USS Lexington.
3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
You can have a blast with toddlers in any major American city, and Philadelphia certainly fits the bill. This city of history (and brotherly love) is filled with fun excursions for the young and the young at heart.
Check out the Philadelphia zoo, take in the city from the One Liberty Observation Deck and travel to Doylestown to play inside an eight-story castle-themed playground. What could be more fun than that?
4. Crested Butte, Colorado
People think of a Colorado vacation, and the first thing that pops into their minds is a snow-covered mountain with skiers streaking down. But summertime in Colorado is one of the best-kept secrets in the country — and Crested Butte is foremost among summertime destinations in the Centennial State.
You’ll find plentiful trails and parks in and around Crested Butte. You can take the ski lift to the top of the mountain for incredible views (and great photo opportunities). And Elk Avenue is lined with great shops, restaurants and other establishments that you and the kids will love.
5. Durham, New York
Ah, the Catskills, a classic American vacation destination. Durham (and the Catskills in general) remains a great place to travel, and that’s especially true if you have young children.
Everything from Catskills Creek to the Zoom Flume Water Park offers action-packed adventure for people of all ages. But perhaps the best parts of visiting Durham are the view of the Catskills Mountains and the fresh air that you just won’t find in the city.
6. Detroit, Michigan
Detroit owns a terrible and terribly undeserved reputation. But this American gem of a city is a great place to travel with kids of all ages. You can visit the world-class Henry Ford Museum and the Ford Rogue Factory. Spend a day at Belle Isle Park, or take in a Tigers baseball game on a picture-perfect summer evening.
7. Carlsbad, California
Carlsbad seems like a random entry on this list at first glance. But Carlsbad, located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, is home to LEGOLAND. And what kid won’t go nuts for LEGOLAND?
But toddlers have a hard time engaging with theme parks sometimes. After all, they aren’t exactly playing with Legos, right? But Carlsbad also gives you access to beaches, to the San Diego Zoo, to Disneyland, to Major League baseball games and other professional sports, to museums and much more. In fact, Carlsbad can give you the chance to spend full days in both Los Angeles and San Diego, which offer a wealth of toddler-friendly activities.
8. Port Angeles, Washington
Port Angeles sits just across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Victoria, Canada, and it offers one of the most nature- and wildlife-friendly experiences you can imagine. Not only is Port Angeles stunningly beautiful, it’s also a place where toddlers can join you for a light hike to a waterfall, visit a marine life center, and feed elk at the Olympic Game Farm.
If you live somewhere that’s hot in the summertime, plan a trip to Port Angeles, Washington, where you can breathe in fresh air, enjoy some cooler temperatures and see some of the most beautiful sights you can imagine.
Cruise ships are resorts on water. There are some that are designed for anyone, and there are others that are designed specifically for kids. You can take cruises out of California, Florida, Texas and other states across the country. Find a cruise that strikes your fancy, and get out on the ocean for a few days. There will be plenty to do with your toddler.
10. National Parks
The United States is home to 58 national parks. They are spread all over the country, so there’s always one that is within driving distance. And they are destinations built for families — even those with toddlers. You may not live close to the big names like Yosemite or Yellowstone, but there’s a national park near you — and it’s worth the trip, even with a toddler.
11. Disney World
Disney’s got this entertainment thing down to a science, even if your kids are too little to remember visiting one of the company’s theme parks. Visit Disney World in Florida (or Disneyland in California for that matter), and you’ll have a blast along with your toddler.
12. Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga is enjoying a bit of a moment. This once obscure town along the Tennessee-Georgia border is home to nature- and toddler-friendly activities. When you visit Chattanooga, you get a beautiful setting as well as great places to visit with kids, such as: the Tennessee Aquarium, Coolidge Park, Rock City Gardens, the Incline Railway, the Creative Discovery Museum, Ruby Falls and much more.
13. Washington, DC
Our nation’s capital gets a bad rap, too, mostly because of the politicians who work there. But there’s lots of kid-friendly stuff to do in and around Washington, DC. Try the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Glen Echo Park, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the International Spy Museum and more. You can spend days and not get to everything kid-friendly in The District.
14. San Antonio, Texas
The Alamo, a world-class zoo, theme parks, caverns, a kid-friendly JW Marriott and much more. San Antonio may be one of the most underrated toddler-friendly destinations you can imagine. One of the best parts about visiting San Antonio is that it offers warm weather throughout most of the year. For example: Looking for a great, non-crowded spring break destination? Book a trip to San Antonio.
15. Hawaii’s Big Island
Hawaii is hard to get to. We all know that. But, if you can make it to Hawaii’s Big Island, there are many things to do with your toddler. First, there are miles of amazing beaches. You can also attend a luau, take a helicopter ride, enjoy a snow cone and much more.
As noted above, this is not the most budget-friendly option on the list. But it’s something to dream about if you want paradise in an escape with your toddler.
16. Traverse City, Michigan
If you’ve ever taken a toddler to the beach, you know that one mouthful of seawater can ruin the day. That’s not a problem when you choose a beach destination on one of the Great Lakes — like Traverse City, Michigan.
Traverse City offers a laid-back feel, a beach to enjoy, museums to visit and other diversions. It’s also driving distance for many in the rust belt or Midwest.
17. Chincoteague Island, Virginia
Chincoteague Island is along the Delmarva Peninsula, and it’s home to wild horses. Sounds like fun, huh? It’s also a place where you can enjoy the beach, search for crabs, devour homemade ice cream and much more. This is a great option for families with toddlers that are looking for a low-stress getaway.
Final Thoughts on Best Family Vacations With Toddlers
The best thing to do when searching for the best family vacations with toddlers: Keep your expectations low. Toddlers are a lot of work. They are moody. They go from having a ball to having a fit in no time flat.
So choose a vacation destination where you can manage those challenges. If you go in with low expectations, any one of the vacation destinations listed above can delight and provide the experience you’re looking for.
Do you have a different toddler-friendly vacation destination to recommend? Let us know in the comments section, or send us a message.