When you announce that your little bundle of joy is on the way the words “you will never travel again” starts to pop up left and right, as if your life stops until your darling children are off to college. Even worse, people start to talk about all of the theme parks you are destine to visit, because that is surely the only place capable of entertaining your children for more than 30 minutes. Well stop right there ladies. I’m here to tell you that there is a big wide world out there just waiting for you to explore with your kids, and most of it is not made of plastic. Here’s a little sampling of the adventures that our planet has to offer, and yes, I have done them all with a toddler and baby in tow.
Hawaii, The Big Island
Let’s start off small with the Hawaiian Islands. While most families head to Maui because it is so easy to get around, in fact it was our first trip with my oldest son, I say turn your back on convention and head to Hawaii’s Big Island. If you want a great town with baby beaches, restaurants, and easy access to stores galore then your best bet is to stay in Kona. The farmer’s market there is scrumptious and just down the street you will find the best french toast of your life at Island Lava Java. If you are looking for a quieter experience, head to the east side of the island south of Hilo. You will have more time to explore Volcanoes National Park away from the crowds, and have the chance to rub elbows with the locals at the Pahoa Farmer’s Market. The Champagne Ponds are the perfect place to let your little ones explore while you sneak a little snorkeling in, or you can head to the fresh water ponds and black sand beach south of Kapoho.
Another no brainer, but often overlooked spot, is England’s capital city of London. This is a major metropolitan area with grocery stores carrying diapers, baby food and formula in many of the major brands you know from back home. And in case you hadn’t heard, they also speak English there, making it a breeze to navigate the city and ask for help. If your kids are Pixar fans you can bet they will be thrilled to walk by Parliament to get a peak at Big Ben, or as Cars 2 fans know him, Big Bentley. There are plenty of public parks, playgrounds, and most of the museums are free, making this a parent’s dream destination if they want to pop in a little educational experience into the itinerary.
This is not your average college spring break destination. Oh no. Those kids head south of Loreto on the Baja Peninsula to soak up the sun and more than a few margaritas in Cabo. You can safely bring your kids to this sleepy little town on the Sea of Cortez, where retired snowbirds head south to stay warm for the winter along side the gray whale population that is a must see when in the area. With only one flight per day, and a 2-hour direct flight from LAX, you could be on the beach or sitting at your pool by the afternoon. If you want an authentic experience, skip the expensive resorts outside of town, and stay at a local inn or casita run by locals or American expats. You will be able to walk to some of the most delectable food you can imagine at rock bottom prices, and there are at least three shops to grab ice cream for the kids after a long day of adventure.
Crossing the Pacific may seem like a stretch for many families, but I am here to tell you that it is possible AND worth it. Kyoto is a city rich with tradition, culture, architectural wonders, and some of the most beautifully presented food you will ever lay eyes on. The city is pretty flat, making it easy to walk, and the bus system is exceptional. Even though you may not find as many English speakers as you thought you would, everyone is excited to help you, and they aren’t afraid to try a little sign language and miming to communicate. There are exceptional parks and open green spaces to let your kids run as well as easy to follow paths at the temples and shrines that keep toddlers roped in when mom and dad want to explore a few cultural elements. Prices can seem high, but if you find a nice rental off the main drag, cook a few meals in your temporary home, and dive into the food courts in the basements of the department stores, you can make this a very economical excursion.
While our neighbors to the north may get a bad rep for excessive amounts of snow and a very sparse population, Vancouver offers up city amenities your entire family will be rushing out the door to explore. The Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park and Science World will help you cram in a ton of learning fun on your next vacation. Once you’ve had enough science run off to Granville Island to sample some of the areas best produce, handmade desserts, and readymade foods for a picnic lunch before heading over to the Kids Market. Warning: your kids will never want to leave! If you are looking for a little more outdoor adventure don’t miss the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain and a stroll through Chinatown.
With so many incredible spots that are not only easy to navigate, but also very kid friendly, why would you ever limit yourself to the package idea of what a family vacation has to be? Open your mind to the possibilities, throw a dart at a map, let yourself dream a little, and then start planning your next adventure with your kids. Who knows, maybe they will actually start to teach you a little along the way.