Taking a vacation with toddlers isn’t always a walk in the park. This reality spurs many parents into early planning the moment a vacation possibility comes around. While the list of toddler-friendly vacation destinations is not extensive, most parents will usually settle on destinations where their toddlers can be kept safe and entertained and they, the adults, can also enjoy themselves.
The Caribbean is one such destination! Offering sunny and fun vacations with lots of time spent beachside, this region is an easy choice for family vacations with kids, especially toddlers. If you’re planning a beach vacation or considering the possibility, here are some tips on how to plan a family vacation and what to pack for a fun-filled and stress-free getaway with a toddler.
The days leading up to your vacation could pass by in a flash! Planning ahead can help you stay on top of things. This planning goes for the resort you’ll be staying at, the activities you’ll get into while there, and of course, what you’ll pack. For the latter, create a packing list at least two weeks before you go to ensure you don’t forget anything important. We have a packing list below you can use for reference. The great thing about having a list is that anything on there you realize you don’t have once you start packing, you’ll have enough time to run out to get it if you plan in advance. As for activities, plan a simple schedule that can help ease you all quickly into things once you get there.
If you’re planning to go on a beach vacation or simply to the beach with a toddler, timing definitely matters. In terms of the time of day you and your family will actually hit the beach, you’ll need to plan carefully. Going in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest is simply not a good idea. Try going earlier in the morning or later in the day when the sun tends to be a little less intense. These will be the perfect times for your toddler to run around and enjoy the sand and the ocean without getting too hot. Plus, you’ll have better chances of getting in a shady nap while the other parent on duty watches the kids.
As much as planning early is important to be able to fit in all the things you want to do during your vacation, it is just as necessary to pencil in some time to mellow out and do nothing. This time can be used to take a nap (let’s face it, you’ll need one) or just to relax and do something quiet with the kids before getting back into the action. Downtime will be beneficial for toddlers as well since they generally don’t like to spend lots of time focusing on the same activity. The break will be welcome.
By now you have probably realized that toddlers and excessive screen time do not go well together. As much as handing them a device can sometimes feel like a quick fix, it often results in more meltdowns as the day progresses. A vacation can be the perfect opportunity to ditch the devices (switch them off or leave them at the resort) for a while and even start setting the tone for less screen time once you all are back home. Your toddler, and older kids too, will be so busy during their vacation they’re unlikely to mind. Switching off devices should go for you as well, and not just the kids. Enjoy the moment with your little ones.
We get it. You’re a planner. Planning is important, but when heading on vacation with a toddler, it is also important to let them take the lead sometimes. Toddler moods can be a little unpredictable, to say the least, and often depend on a number of factors including how much sleep they get and how comfortable they are in their environment. Having a rigid schedule when all they feel like doing is building sand castles will definitely be counterproductive. If they’re enjoying an activity, let them. Shift things in your schedule around to suit them as much as possible. Sometimes the day will run exactly as planned, but if it doesn’t, roll with it anyway. Allowing them to enjoy the moment will help keep you both in a calm and enjoyable space.
Sun, sand, and sea come along with a need to stay hydrated. This is especially so with toddlers. They can get extra thirsty running around in the sand or even around the pool. Make sure to bring lots of water or juice in a sippy cup or bottle, and extras just in case.
Pictured: The water park at Beaches Ocho Rios.
A resort can be a toddler’s dream, especially one like Beaches Resorts which caters specifically to families and includes lots of pools and even a waterpark. If your resort includes features like these, chances are your toddler will be able to have some really enjoyable times that are a lot less sandy (less clean-up afterward) than the beach tends to be. Remember resort pool experiences don’t happen every day, so let them spend as much time in the water as you’re comfortable with. The waterparks will definitely be fun as well, both for them and for you.
Insider tip: The Pirates Island Waterparks at Beaches Resorts are pirate-themed and super exciting. These waterparks are toddler-friendly, so kids of all ages can have a blast!
Lots of resorts have outdoor showers that you can use during your vacation to wash off the seawater and sand from the beach before heading to your room. These come in handy for washing the sand off beach toys as well, so you don’t have to worry about your room (or shower) being overrun with sand.
After an exciting day out, it’s useful to have tools on hand that help your toddler wind down for bed. Bring along a book they enjoy or a toy for this purpose — it’ll help them settle in that much quicker, so they’re well-rested for the next day’s activities. Plus, you’ll be able to get some much-needed Z’s as well!
Sunscreen is a must if you’re headed somewhere sunny with a toddler. While this might seem like a no-brainer, it is easy to forget. However, sunscreen is definitely not something you want to leave behind accidentally (or because your toddler decided to take it out of the luggage, or you just assumed it was already packed). Place this item at the top of your list and make sure you choose a brand that’s waterproof with a high SPF.
Expert tip: Keep your toddler’s skin safe by reapplying sunscreen often while on the beach.
Finding the perfect beach is a worthwhile venture if you want to keep your toddler cool during your beach vacation. As there will likely be lots of playing and running around, search for options with velcro or ties that are more likely to stay put.
A long-sleeved rash guard will come in handy to keep a toddler’s skin safe from sunburn. Toddlers can play safely in the water with one on and you’ll have less to worry about as they enjoy the ocean. Plus, rash guards tend to stay wet longer than your skin would, helping keep toddlers cool - unlike wearing regular long sleeves on the beach.
Even for toddlers who love the sand and sea, things can get a bit too heated at the beach. Keeping cool as much as possible will be the goal as you play and relax with your toddler. A beach umbrella and a beach tent are options if you’re going to a beach far from home, and especially beaches that are a good distance away from your resort. Your toddler will love being able to get close to you in the shade, and then get right back to playing whenever they’re ready.
Aftersun gels, creams, or serums definitely come in handy after a fun-filled beach day. Even more so when you probably spent more time out in the sun than intended. These are a great option if you or your toddler gets a little sunburnt, which, unfortunately, can happen from time to time. Even though you’re unlikely to need it if you and the kids wear sunscreen and protective clothing, it is still worthwhile to bring some aftersun along for backup.
Waterproof diapers are a good option for parents who will be traveling with a baby or a toddler who’s not yet potty-trained. These definitely beat wearing regular diapers into the water, since the regular ones get heavy and soggy the moment they hit the ocean. Bring more of these than you think you’ll need — a full pack of 20 should work if you’ll be staying for a week or less. Pack lots of wipes too – even if you are only traveling with older kids as these come in handy for more than just diaper changes.
Keep those little toes safe in and out of the water with water shoes and flip-flops. On the sand, flip-flops or even sandals will do, and while frolicking out in the water, water shoes can come in handy. Both of these will help keep feet a little less sandy and protect them from the hot sand. Flip-flops are especially convenient if you want to pop down to your room for a bit for some snacks or drinks, or even explore other parts of the resort on your beach day. Water shoes are also useful by the pool where things can sometimes get a little slippery.
You definitely won’t want to forget your toddler’s sippy cup or bottle when heading out to the beach. Make sure to pack these items early! Sure, you can probably find somewhere to buy a sippy cup or bottle when you get to your destination if you’re traveling for a beach vacation, but why set yourself up for that kind of hassle? Plus, if your toddler already has one they’re comfortable with, it is probably best to stick with that to avoid any fuss. Keep your toddler and yourself well hydrated by packing plenty of juice or water as well.
You definitely don’t want to forget the snacks for a toddler beach day. All the running around and swimming they’re likely to do is guaranteed to work up an appetite. They’ll be super thirsty as well when the water play and sand castle building activities are all done. Bring enough snacks to last the day, and even a couple of extras, just in case. Simple snacks like fruit, mom-made trail mix, pretzels, chips, and the like work just fine. Store these in ready-to-eat portions in ziplock bags to keep them sand-free.
Your toddler is probably going to want to bring all their favorite toys at the mere mention of the beach or pool, even those that probably aren’t appropriate for the venue. If this will be their first time at the beach, it will be a perfect time to introduce them to the world of beach toys! Reassure them that they can still play with their other toys when they get back home. Things like buckets and shovels are great for sandcastle building, while construction toys like diggers are always exciting to use on the sand. Here are some more toddler toys to bring on a beach vacation for ideas.
Don’t forget the beach towels! You’ll need them, both for drying the kids off when they get out of the water and also for sitting on the sand and relaxing while you’re there. You can even lay a towel out on your beach chair for added comfort, or place one under an umbrella or beach tent for the kids. Pack extra beach towels just in case.
Beach chairs will come in handy if you plan on spending time on the beach with toddlers or kids who never really seem ready to go home. A much less sandy option than beach towels, beach chairs are also easier to clean up when you’re finally ready to go back to your room. A comfy and shady spot is a must for those moments you’re not running around and chasing after your toddler. Hopefully, they’ll eventually want to settle in with you for a minute, even if only to get a sip from their juice box.
Puddle jumpers and life jackets come in handy for toddlers who’re curious about the ocean. Being in the water with one of these will give them an enhanced sense of freedom while keeping them safe with you right by their side. Whether on the beach, in the resort pool, or at a water park, puddle jumpers and life jackets are some items you’re not going to want to leave behind during vacations with toddlers.
This might seem like an unlikely essential, but baby powder can come in handy at the beach for more than just diaper changes. Use a little baby powder on your toddler’s feet, or even your own, to help brush off sand easier. The powder can also dry out wet sand, helping to prevent scratches or itchiness.
You’ll need a beach bag to keep all your seaside essentials together during your beach vacation - a waterproof one is a must-have. The bigger the beach bag the better! With a waterproof bag, you can easily keep things dry or store wet items like towels and swimwear when it’s time to get back to your resort.
Your toddler will love riding around in a beach wagon as the whole family explores the seashore. It’s worth finding a way to safely and easily bring one along as opposed to bringing a stroller that can be a huge hassle in super-soft sand. This will also make it much easier to tow your tired-out toddler and belongings back to the room when the fun is over.
Pictured: The main pool at Beaches Turks & Caicos, a great place for both fun and relaxation.
The best places to go on vacation with a toddler are those where accommodation is convenient and family-focused. All-inclusive resorts can be an especially great option for a beach vacation with a toddler! When picking a resort for your vacation, you should consider things like convenience (nearness to the beach, airport, etc.), proximity to outside attractions, comfort (size and appointments of rooms, etc.), and other factors.
There are a few resorts where you can find that sort of family-friendly convenience, but some like Beaches Resorts go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure you and your kids have an enjoyable vacation. Beaches has toddler-friendly resorts with lots of activities to keep your tots busy and entertained. These all-inclusive properties also have some of the best kids’ clubs that cater to a variety of age groups, as well as certified nannies to help in case parents need a couple of hours to themselves. Toddlers can even have a Sesame Street® vacation at Beaches Resorts! There are so many fun things for your family to get into that you’ll probably never have to leave the resort.
A beach is an amazing place when viewed through a toddler’s eyes. The glittering seas are perfect for splashing and giggling, and the sand is perfect for building and hiding treasures. If an awesome location is chosen, your toddler will absolutely love your beach vacation and be on their very best behavior throughout. Even if they’re not, this packing and planning list will ensure you’re well equipped to handle whatever it is they throw your way and keep everyone in smiles!
Insider tip: Beaches Resorts are for parents too! The whole family can have really great moments in an exciting destination. If you’re still undecided about accommodations, try searching for the best Turks and Caicos resorts or some really great resorts in Jamaica for kids.