Tips for Surviving a Vacation with a Toddler

Have toddler, will travel? Here are tips for surviving small spaces.

Sleeping late, all-day excursions, relaxing meals, cocktails by the pool… Consider those quintessential vacation pastimes a thing of the past if you have a toddler in tow. But even if you’re down with the kid-friendly activities and cuisine, one thing is for sure, managing a toddler's often early bedtimes and midday nap times can be difficult if you’re in a hotel room -- forget about actual relaxation. Check out these survival tips before you book your next vacation. 

Spring for a Suite.


While one- and two-bedroom suites can get pricey at upscale hotels, many families will tell you that the cost is well worth it. But if a fancy suite is going to break the bank, here's the good news: There are plenty of hotel and motel brands -- like Holiday Inn and Embassy Suites -- that cater to families on a budget with rooms that have separate living and bedroom spaces.

Even just one bedroom separated from a small living area can give you the flexibility you need to relax in the evenings while your little one sleeps. Most suites also include a kitchenette, which is helpful for storing milk and healthy snacks, and can help you recoup some of the cost of the room by eating a few meals in.


If a hotel suite isn’t possible, it’s time to improvise. Hotel bathrooms (and sometimes closets) are often large enough to fit a portable crib. (Seriously, it's OK to have your toddler sleep in the bathroom).

Or, if you have a room with a covered balcony, consider spending some quality time with your partner outside while your baby sleeps. While neither situation is ideal, it's often better to have some separate space than to lay quietly in a room for two to three hours before you're tired enough to go to sleep.

Don’t Stay in a Hotel.

Alternative lodging, like vacation rentals, has become far more common and popular with the rise of websites like airbnb and HomeAway. Staying in a furnished apartment or home provides a more flexible living arrangement than a hotel room and offers many comforts you and your family are accustomed too — like separate bedrooms, a kitchen, and a washer and dryer. In some areas, this option can be very cost-effective, especially if you’re traveling with a group or abroad. 

Hire a Babysitter.

Plenty of families bring babysitters on vacation with them to free up time for mom and dad to actually rest and relax. But if that’s not realistic, find out if your hotel offers babysitting services. Some hotels have daycare-type settings where you can drop the kids off for a few hours for a small fee. Other offer sitters who have been previously vetted by the hotel and can come to your room while you go out. Or, use a service like and pre-interview local sitters before you leave for your trip. 

Bring Another Adult with You.

If grandma is up for an adventure, bringing her on vacation might give you more flexibility to enjoy some down time sans toddler. Or, consider traveling with another family and switching off nights that one couple can go out, while the other stays with the kids.

Don't Sweat It.

Parents of toddlers often enforce strict nap times and bedtimes and with good reason -- it keeps your little one happy and the whole family functioning. But vacation is a time to bend the rules. A few ways to change up your toddler's routine without her going completely haywire (hopefully) is to push her nap time and/or bedtime a half hour or hour later than usual. You'll be surprised how adaptable your toddler can be and this will give you a little leeway with your schedule.  

That said, be mindful of your child's needs. Keeping a toddler happy, well-fed, and rested will likely make the trip more enjoyable for the whole family. Don't plan excursions that would leave your family stuck somewhere for extended periods of time. Be flexible with your schedule and build plenty of downtime into each day. 

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