Toddler Travel | Where to Stay
Tips on Traveling With a Toddler is a new series on the blog. I'll be sharing what I've learned through my own experiences in the U.S and Europe with my daughter, as well as tips from friends and other trusted sources. - Eva Everything becomes a bit more complicated when you decide to travel with a kid. And a toddler just might be the most challenging age of all. But this didn't deter Kirk and I from traveling to Arizona, Oklahoma, Stockholm, Helsinki, and Paris with our (then) one year old daughter in 2012. Here are a few things we learned about choosing where to stay:
1) Location, location, location.
Although it may be tempting to stay on the outskirts of town to save some money, don't do it. Not with a toddler in tow. You want to keep all travel time to a minimum. Think of it this way: You're already spending your hard-earned time and money to go on a trip, so don't waste it in transit. This is even more important if you plan on taking your child back to your room each day for a nap, which will obviously double your travel time (and down time). When you stay in a great location, you can just walk out your door and start exploring right away.
On our recent trip to Europe, we stayed in the Sodermalm area of Stockholm, which is full of lovely cafés, shops, and parks. In Paris, we stayed on the Rue de la Paix, which is just a few minute's walk from the carousel and playgrounds of the Tuilerie gardens, the opera house, Galleries Lafayettes, and more. Two very different kinds of neighborhoods (young, hip vs. posh, historic), but both with plenty to do and experience. By contrast, we stayed a little further from the action in Helsinki. The tram stop was just a block from our hotel, and the ride only took about 10 minutes to get to the center of town, but it still made us feel a lot more disconnected.
2) Apartments are ideal for families.
First of all, you get more space for less money. So while the little one is sleeping in the bedroom, you can move about freely in the rest of the apartment instead of typing up emails on the bathroom counter or huddled under the sheets with a flashlight and a book. You also have a kitchen, which can save you money on meals and the hassle of dining out with a toddler. We'd often find a fun café for lunch every day, and eat breakfast and dinner at the apartment. (This also gave me an excuse to explore local grocery stores and markets, which is one of my favorite parts of traveling.)
We've rented apartments through AirBNB twice in the last year, and both have been great experiences. (I stick with places with multiple positive reviews.) I've also heard that HomeAway.com and VRBO.com are good resources.
3) Hotels can still be a great option...
Especially if you get to stay for free. We had enough credit card points (through Sycamore Street Press) to stay for free in Helsinki and Paris, otherwise we probably would have booked apartments in those cities as well. But I would consider a hotel again -- whether or not we have points to use -- for the following reasons: 1) Maid service: So nice to come back to a clean room with fresh towels and sheets. 2) Breakfast buffets: So many more options than if we made something ourselves. 3) The front desk: I'm not someone who has the concierge arrange my entire stay for me, but it's nice to know that someone is always there to answer questions or just hail you a cab.
Basically, although you have less room in a hotel, usually have to pay more, and will probably have to do some tip-toeing around, you'll feel more pampered than when you stay at an apartment. Which is nice, since you are on vacation.
Of course, every child and situation is different, and what worked for us may not work for you. But I hope this may be of some help if you are planning a trip with a little one. If you have any tips to add, I'd love to hear them in the comments section. Thanks! - Eva
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