Professional travelling parents share their experiences in this handy, practical guide.
On some days, let’s be honest, it feels as though the answer is “nowhere.” The tiredness, the packing lists, the changes of clothes and the thought of negotiating a packed airport in the middle of a mind-frazzling meltdown can feel overwhelming.
And that’s before you get to thinking about what you’ll need to bring for the baby ;-)
Related: top tips on flying with a baby
We’ve just celebrated baby Lab’s second birthday and I’m so, so glad we decided to pack our bags and travel with her whenever we could when she was a baby.
Travel brings sanity and a sense of adventure to parents and, from my reckoning, it does the same for children as well, if handled right.
One of the first, and most important, things to do is to pick the right destination. With enough grit and determination, you can make anything work, right?
But why go for grit and determination when you could simply enjoy smiles and tension-free shoulders?
Some places in the world are just crying out for visits with babies and young children. Far from them being a place where you can “manage” your extra requirements, these destinations come alive as people greet you differently and embrace the joyful fact that you are nurturing the next generation.
I had more authentic interactions with people in New Orleans and on the sun-soaked coast of the Peloponnese when walking around with a baby than ever before or since.
Even the New York subway showed its friendly face as passengers cooed over our baby in a throng of different languages.
However. I’m obviously new to such mini-explorer led travel.
So I teamed up with some seriously travel-savvy parents and inspiring creatives to boot.
And asked them the question: where are the best places to go with a baby?
“Iceland is one big playground for kids, filled with waterfalls, rolling fields, and hiking trails,” says Nellie Huang, author of the award-winning Wild Junket on adventurous travel. “It’s easy to get around by car, and many of the hikes can be done with a baby hiking carrier. “
Nancy Besharah of Luxe Travel Family knows how to find the right facilities in the right places. Her top pick is the Four Seasons Resort Maui and Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on Hawaii’s Big Island. Why? “For its pack ‘n plays (play pens) delivered pool-side, complimentary cabanas, family-focused areas throughout the resort, and buckets and shovels to take to the beach.”
Photographer and author Lola Akinmade Åkerström combines countries together in her top pick. “No other place on earth is set up for travelling with small children as perfectly as the Nordics,” she says, in between snapping photos for National Geographic Traveller.
“From child-friendly restaurants, museums, and sights to extras for families like special toilets, changing rooms, accessibility features, and even riding for free on buses in Sweden if you’re pushing a stroller.”
“People in Laos are extremely friendly to kids,” says Huang, who has already taken her two-year-old daughter to over 20 countries.
“We lost count of the number of times people wanted to hold my daughter.It’s also a very laid back country — imagine all the fascinating culture, amazing food and beautiful landscapes of Thailand but without the chaos, crazy nightlife and backpacker scene.”
Akinmade Åkerström also doesn’t want to splinter down when it comes to sunnier spots. “Because they are popular travel destinations, they also have facilities set up for smaller kids in tow. While not everywhere is stroller-accessible, if you have your baby in a carrier, you’ll be fine. Plus, based on the weather, you don’t have to pack as much clothes and layers with you.”
Huang backs up the choice, with a special shout-out for the island of Cyprus, and Besharah drills down further still with a recommendation for Provence.
“Take your youngest to the sun-drenched south of France, where the Terre Blanche Resort offers a dedicated restaurant for children, world-class kids club (ages 2 -12), and a children’s pool overlooking the Provençal countryside. For the adults, there is 600 sq. meter infinity pool, soothing spa, two 18-hole golf courses, and multiple restaurants on the property.”
Given the welcome we had in Greece earlier in the year, even in the heart of Athens, that’s a full house for travel with a baby to anywhere on the Med.
Besharah completes her recommendations with the practical pleasures of the US. “Travelling families appreciate the easy-to-navigate international airport in sunny Palm Springs, California – and the fact that fleets of rental cars are parked steps from the terminal.
“Hang out poolside, visit the stroller-friendly hiking trails at Joshua Tree National Park, or explore The Living Desert. Here, you can feed giraffes and watch model trains chug along more than 3,300 feet of track.”
Well, I’m going to add America’s Deep South to this list, since the Mediterranean has already been well and truly taken.
Our road trip from New Orleans made the perfect itinerary for travel with a baby, combining culture, music, landscape and creole food with a very relaxed pace of life and welcoming atmosphere.
For UK based families, a trip to Holland is the answer, says family travel blogger Char Taylor of Taylor Hearts Travel. Used to venturing around with two mini-explorers under here’s why she recommends flying to Amsterdam:
“A flight from London to Amsterdam takes less than an hour, so it’s an ideal way to ease in to family travel. Add a great public transport system into the mix and you’ve got exciting spots like The Hague, Den Bosch and lots of other pretty Dutch towns and cities right in the palm of your hand.”
And the other hidden secret? “There are plenty of buggy-friendly hipster cafes where you can get your much needed caffeine fix!”
Famous for its theme parks and retirement aspects, Florida’s Gulf Coast makes a beautiful, relaxing place to travel with a child too young for Disney. We spent two weeks on a Florida Fly Drive from Orlando, travelling between Crystal River and Sarasota with baby Lab in tow and managed to combine beaches, art, culture, history and enough marine life to rival Finding Nemo.
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