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Six Destination Vacation Ideas with a Toddler

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A condo stay near a beach, camping by a lake -- your toddler can be ecstatically happy anywhere. But if you've got the motivation and the moolah to take a destination vacation with your little one, check out the ideas below.

1. The Magic Kingdom, at Disney World

Cinderella's Castle, in Magic Kingdom; photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.
Cinderella's Castle, photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.
Walt Disney World has four giant theme parks and all are terrific for kids of any age, but families with wee kids all know that the most magical theme park is the Magic Kingdom, and within it, the area known as Fantasyland. The Cinderella Castle, Peter Pan's Flight, Dumbo The Flying Elephant, the Mad Tea Party tea cup ride, it's a small world, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh... these attractions have been delighting kids for decades, and a recent Fantasyland now offers double the Dumbos and adds a cluster of wonderful new attractions. (Families will also find these classic attractions at the California Disneyland and other Disneylands around the world.)

If budget allows, stay at a Disney Resort near the Magic Kingdom: three unique Deluxe Resorts offer many special features and activities on-property. Families can easily take the monorail or a boat ride back to their resort for an afternoon rest, and later return refreshed to the theme park to enjoy the evening parade and fireworks.

2. Disney Cruises

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World.
Still in the world of Disney... Though several cruise lines make impressive efforts to cater to kids, many cruise veterans agree that Disney Cruises are tops for families. For starters, Flounder's Reef nursery welcomes wee kids up to three years old. (You do need to pay an extra charge.) Meanwhile older sibs can have fun at the Oceaneer Club, for ages 3 to 4 and 5 to 7, and the Oceaneer Lab, for ages 8 to 12; teens get special lounge areas and activities. Plus there's all the general fun: Disney character greetings, movies and dance parties, games, family nightclub, and the Walt Disney Theater where two high-quality musical stage shows are offered on each ship.

3. Franklyn D. Resort All-Inclusive With Vacation Nannies

Photo courtesy of Franklyn D. Resort.
Photo courtesy of Franklyn D. Resort.
Families love to vacation at Caribbean all inclusive resorts which offer so much fun on-property, and so many conveniences: all-included meals, drinks, snacks, kids programs, watersports, land activities...

This mid-sized resort on the north coast of Jamaica stands out because of a very special feature: each family has their own friendly vacation nanny during their stay. A look at visitor comments (at a site like TripAdvisor) will quickly reveal how much families love their vacation nannies; many families return year after year.

4. Other All Inclusive Resorts With Programs for Toddlers

G.O.'s taking care of wee kids at Club Med - Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.
G.O.'s taking care of wee kids at Club Med - Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Also high on the list for resort getaways with toddlers are the Beaches resorts, which have nurseries plus kids programs for several age groups. Beaches is the family brand of the Sandals chain of all-inclusives. Club Med, meanwhile, is a long-established brand of all-inclusives with properties worldwide including several in Mexico and the Caribbean and one in Florida.

All Club Med resorts have a unique ambiance thanks to the enthusiastic G.O.'s who staff the kids programs, run the watersports and land activities, etc. Club Med has top-of-the-line programs for kids of all ages, with emphasis on active and creative fun; a number of resorts also have Baby Club Med for ages 4 months to 23 months, and Petit Club Med for ages two to three years (at an extra charge.) Baby Welcome is a complimentary program that offers amenities, high-chairs, crib, and a 24/7 room with baby food, bottle warmers, etc. Check visitor comments for how much families like Club Med and its G.O.'s!

5. Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort

Photo credit: Chris McClennan. Courtesy of Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort.
Photo credit: Chris McClennan. Courtesy of Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort.
Getting back to that vacation nanny idea...If money's no object, families can fly to Fiji to a top-rated luxury eco-resort where kids have their own nanny or buddy during their stay.

Visitors say this resort "must be experienced to be believed": picture a tropical paradise where guests stay in that-roofed "bures", and where -- as befits the Cousteau name -- a major focus is the beauty of the underseas. The resort has a full-time marine biologist, and many complimentary activities help guests explore Fiji's marine life. The unique kids club has its own pools and clubhouse, and each child under six is assigned a nanny; older kids team up with Fijian "buddies". All inclusive pricing covers meals, non-alcoholic drinks, guided snorkeling trips with the resort's marine biologist, night snorkeling, glass bottom boat excursions, reef walks, kayaking, and much more; packages add extra features and activities.

6. Europe!

Venice, photo ©  Teresa Plowright.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Does this sound crazy-- recommending a trip to Europe with a toddler? A small child who needs constant attention, and all that gear... Yes, there is more work and more logistics, when traveling with a toddler. But the advantage of making that effort is that a destination becomes a much friendlier place, when locals smile at your beautiful little child, maybe exchange a greeting... Often that barrier between "tourist" and local" dissolves thanks to the antics of a two-year-old. Traveling with a tot in Europe is a great way to make memories. Check out ideas for family trips in Europe, plus budget tips for travel in Europe too.

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