Teletubbies on the beach?
September 24, 2016 1:01 PM   Subscribe

What is the reality of taking a 2 year old on a beach / pool vacation?

Our son (and only child) is 18 months old. He's high energy and needs constant attention when he's awake. We are considering going to Cancun in January, when he will be 22 months old, and we are trying to imagine what it will be like.

We realize there will be significantly less relaxation and margaritas than any prior vacations - but we're having a hard time deciding if we want to go or not. We would love to hear from other parents about their experiences vacationing with children this age. Is it still fun and a little relaxing? Or would it basically just be chasing him around in Mexico instead of our home town, and we should just stay home and save the money.

Thanks for your input!
posted by kdern to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You'd still have to chase him around 24/7; you could possibly take turns doing it at the beach so you can also have turns resting. You'd also be tied to your hotel room after bedtime unless you can find a sitter; this can be less fun than post-bedtime at home especially if all you have is one room. I'd still be willing to do it to escape winter cold, YMMV.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:04 PM on September 24, 2016

In my experience, vacations with babies and toddlers are more work and less sleep than being at home, unless you have additional child care assistance. My kids were more difficult than average, so YMMV.
posted by metasarah at 1:23 PM on September 24, 2016

Meh. We did it with one, and then two. Hotel/resort sitters are pretty easy to find. Beach shovel plus bucket = 14 hours of entertainment for every kid ive ever seen. It's much EASIER thank you think. Go and have fun!
posted by chasles at 1:24 PM on September 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

@chasles... did you find that to be true with a child as young as two years old? He can play with a toy in our living room for about 5 minutes before he wants water / tv / blueberries / pick me up / bubbles / etc.
posted by kdern at 1:29 PM on September 24, 2016

We've taken our two boys on resort-type holidays/vacations since they were a few months old. I'd agree that it's a different sort of thing than going as a child-free couple. My kids love beaches and pools, and they'd be pretty happy if that's all we did. Life does mostly revolve around the kids, but if you organise things so that each adult gets a couple of hours of down-time to relax and read, or maybe wander about and explore, you'll manage to get some relaxation in there too.

I find messing about in the pool or building sandcastles pretty relaxing. After 10 years of that sort of thing I can't really imagine being able to just lie by a pool for hours reading - I think I'd get bored.

Bonus tip: if you have the option, holidaying with grandparents can be a good idea when you have small kids - they can take them on trips or babysit some evenings.
posted by pipeski at 1:30 PM on September 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

This 100% depends on whether your child is a "good" sleeper or not. Nothing is relaxing if your toddler reacts to being on vacation by skipping naps and waking up every two hours.

Also, how is he on planes? The age between mobility and screens can be super tough, and having to confine a toddler who really wants to run run run, fasten seatbelt sign be damned, is nerve-wracking. Not to mention the potential for GI issues on an airplane.

I am not saying this can't be done. I did it, and it was almost fun but not at all relaxing. And my kid was sleep trained and not terribly high energy.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:46 PM on September 24, 2016

Two year old may decide he hates beaches and will barely tolerate hotel pools. It happens.

Two year old may also not sit still at hotel restaurant/buffet. You may have to chase him around so much you won't be able to remember what and whether you ate at all, and if it was indeed as delicious as all the other guests are saying.

Lively two year olds = stressful vacations. Still worth it because I love beaches and change of scenery is funnnnn. But I would be severely disappointed if my goal were relaxation!

My advice:
1) choose a hotel with kiddy animation. You will enjoy your kid's fascination with warching the same mini-disco performance 14 nights in a row because at least you can sit still during it!
2) make sure the windows are well isolated and your room is not directly above the animation/performance stage. The noise tends to go on til 11 pm. Your kid will adjust to staying up late eventually, but your "finally!" adult evenings will be a thing of the past.
3) Either get a suite with a separate bedroom or take a babyphone and spend the evening outside the hotelroom. You will go bonkers otherwise.
Or just get an apartment with yyour own kitchen and no hotel service. It's cheaper but you'll end up doing cooking/laundry etc. just like you do at home, and that doesn't sound fun to me.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:50 PM on September 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

For us the challenges at that age were sleep, meals, after bedtime, and safety. For my kids a beach was always great (the pool not always.)

Meals: if it's a really truly family-oriented space, or if they have staff for kid dinner, it can be fine. Otherwise you may end up with one adult back in the room and the other bringing a plate. Three meals sitting to be served were brutal for us with kids that age.

Sleep: depends on your child. One of mine could not sleep hearing "hotel noises" which of course happen a lot in the afternoons and evening. Total awfulness. My second though was fine.

After bedtime: if you want to catch up on sleep or read a kindle it's great. Or if you have multiple rooms. We always have once again split up the parenting so one parent gets to go walk the beach, the other is stuck in a dark room. A balcony or other rooms helps a lot.

For all these reasons we preferred cottages near lakes even if we had to cook (or get takeout).

Safety: bring plug covers and something (stroller, car seat) you can hook the tot into if you have to. This helped a lot when my spouse wrecked his knee on vacation.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:09 PM on September 24, 2016

* As long as you're two-on-one, you can trade off relaxing; we took our daughter to Sicily at that age and one of us would play with her in the pool while the other got hammock time. Related: make sure there's a kid pool wherever you're going, a nice shallow one with plenty of loungers nearby.
* Our kid is also super high-maintenance at home but can entertain herself for hours on the beach with a few sand toys.
* Nth getting a suite/apartment if at all possible. In extremis we've converted a hotel closet into her sleeping space. (What? She said it was cozy!!)

It's definitely a different kind of trip than pre-kids, but I'd much rather have less-relaxing travel than no travel at all. YMMV.
posted by scyllary at 2:36 PM on September 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

We did a great Caribbean house rental when my son was exactly 2: the owners had kids, so the house came with toys, potties, high chairs, and a crib. My son was afraid of the ocean and screamed if any one of us ventured in. He played in the sand for two minutes each day. The rest of the time we played with him the same way we do at home. It was a beachside neighborhood where residents drove electric golf carts around - one came with the house, and that was a big hit. Five years later, my son still remembers the trip: the golf carts, the banana tree in the yard, and the ceiling fan.
posted by xo at 3:00 PM on September 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you have the sleep routine/schedule thing down, including on the road, then anything is possible. We had luck doing this with our first but it wasn't easy and it will have little in common with your past vacations where you could laze about and do whatever, whenever. But then again that's the entirety of you life after having a few kids anyway so you already know that.... I hope so anyway.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:20 PM on September 24, 2016

I went to Hawaii that included: two grandparents, two uncles and an aunt, 5 parents, a five year old, two 3.5 year olds, and an infant. The way we made sure that the parents got some time to relax is that the nonparents tooks shifts with the kids and we stuck to the nap/bedtime schedule as best we could. We rented a house and an enormous van. There was a lot of sitting on the lanai while the kids slept or played, and beach time was stressful but enjoyable anyway for those on kid duty. I would suggest bringing grandparents so you can have a vacation from the kids. It worked well to research activities we could do-- one AM before nap, one PM post-nap, and not stress about not doing everything.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:38 PM on September 24, 2016

We did two vacations with my older daughter at that age. One at a resort hotel in az. The other at a house rental in key west. It was asewsome both times - because I decided in advance that I'd nap with her, let her set the speed, and be happy to play in sand or at the pool. The kiddie pool was amazing and so was the beach. My current 3.5 yo would never have made those trips she is exhausting. We survived Disney world with her at 2 because we had four adults. So, know your kid, adjust expectations, and go while you have her outnumbered.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:58 PM on September 24, 2016

It sounds like it might depend on your child, because my daughter does not sit and play with beach toys for hours on end at all. Rather, she wants us to play with her the whole time and the goal posts for what is fun shift every 5 minutes.

The venue will matter, too- although 2 is, ime, not an age where you can commonly drop them off at kids club, even being able to accompany her there was better than places where we were limited to the toys we'd brought with us.

Other possible stressors- our daughter does not deal with even minor variations to her expectations for food well. So Balinese bananas, which are a little smaller and firmer than Australian ones, were on the long list of things she would not eat. This ended up being quite stressful.

Perks- having someone else clean the room every day, room service and the easy availability of nice adult activities like a day spa and a pool, on the occasions when we could work them.

So I think it can be worth it but you probably do want to choose the venue and location around the idea that you want your child happy and entertained first and foremost, and then the rest can fall into place quite easily.
posted by jojobobo at 7:55 PM on September 24, 2016

We just came back from a family vacation Mexico -- under different circumstances, but here's one thing I learned that might be helpful: you can pay a nanny/babysitter/child-watcher-type person a wage that is inexpensive for you but a really good wage for them. I'm not saying to pay such a person a rock-bottom wage, but the economic realities mean that they can be quite happy receiving an amount far less than you'd pay, say, in a US city for a week of child-watching. Having another set of hands around at meal times or pool times or even nap times would be wonderful. Like, staying in the hotel room while the kid naps, so you and partner can go to the pool. Being the eagle eye at the pool while you and partner have a cocktail, etc. See if wherever you'd be staying can hook you up.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:03 PM on September 24, 2016

It's better if your expectation for the trip is to enjoy watching your toddler enjoy themselves. Yes, you're going to be doing a lot of the same kinds of things you do at home -- feeding, diapering, putting them down for naps, etc. Don't expect much time for you doing the things you want to do on vacation. But if you think it would be fun watching your child make piles of sand, getting chased by incoming waves, or splashing in the pool, then go for it. You will be doing very little sightseeing and no snorkeling or jet skiing unless one of you stays behind with the kid. You'll probably be able to do a little reading while your partner is doing the more active child watching. At a big resort, food probably isn't an issue, they'll have mac and cheese and French fries and whatever other "always will eat" foods.

Make sure you have a balcony or a view or something so you and your partner can have relaxing sit and drink wine time after the kid goes to bed.

Also, probably not an issue if you are USian and going to Cancun, but jet lag at this age is a bitch, particularly on the return when your child is up all night and you have to go back to your normal work schedule on Monday.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:44 AM on September 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

At our house nothing tires the kids out faster than being in a pool for a few hours. It results in epic naps, and doesn't push back bedtime at all. Have all the snacks with you poolside so that you don't have leave during that time, and after 3 or 4 hours head up to room and have your own epic nap while toddler sleeps. It can be glorious, as vacations go. I would do it.
posted by vignettist at 10:29 AM on September 25, 2016

IMO it is a waste of time and money to take a toddler somewhere far away to go to a beach (a thing they have in most regions of the world). If this is a short flight and you have plenty of money, go for it, but you and the kid will get just as much delight (or annoyance) out of a visit to a nearby municipal pool or public lakeshore and you won't spend 2 days traipsing across multiple borders to do so. My 2 year old loves the beach,(for about an hour) but not as much as she loves being read the same 2 Berenstain Bears books then being chased around the dining room table every single night in the same way.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:04 AM on September 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've gone on plenty of vacations with my toddler. No one comes back happy, except the toddler. To me, it's a waste of time, money, and vacation days. I can entertain my toddler to the same exact extent by walking down to the train station during rush hour.

To my wife, taking our toddler (WHO DOES NOT SLEEP IN A HOTEL, EVER) is worth all the money in the world. For what it's worth, I won't be going on any vacations with the toddler any time soon. Maybe in a few years, once he's a little more self-sufficient.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 6:45 PM on October 16, 2016

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