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Great Vacation Ideas with a 1 and 4 Year Old

I'm looking for some great vacation ideas to go with my 2 children. I'm leaning toward some sort of national park vacation, but I don't know...Everything is tough with a 1 year old, but great ideas are welcomed. Everything i find online says it's great for kids because they have babysitting facilities--which is totally not the kind of vacation we want. Want to be outside, doing stuff. Not just sitting on a beach, or hiring strangers to watch the kids. Thanks in advance for your help and ideas!

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Hi K.,

You might like Dutch Wonderland. It's in PA not far from Hershey Park. If you go in the warm weather, they have a great water area for little ones.

Good luck!

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I have a 5, 3 & 1 year old so I can relate. We would never leave our children with a babysitter either!

Last summer we spent 10 days up at Smugglers Notch resort in Vermont, it was WONDERFUL!!! Yes they have all the services you don't want (babysitter, day camps, etc.) but we did not use them. There is so much to do for adults and children together, hiking, fishing, daily games and activities, pools, a lake, bike riding - you name it. It was the BEST family vacation I have ever taken - it was so good we bought a time share and are going back every year...

There are no "hotel" rooms, but all the rooms are condo/townhouse type places. The one we stayed in was off the main resort, you could walk back and forth, but it was a little further away with it's own pool and work out room. Each pool in the resort has some sought of water park for the kids - some water slide which are for the older kids, but others just have sprayers and wading pools/lazy river type things.


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Best thing you can do? A cruise. You only have to unpack once, there are a million activities on board, there is time for relaxation and time for entertainment, the food is abundant and available at all times... We went when our kids were just your kids' ages and it was a great experience for everyone.

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I also have a 4yr old and a 1yr old and for the summer I have planned mini vacations. we are driving down to Sesame place however before getting to sesame place we are stopping in New Jersey at the land of make believe my girls had a great time there last year. Stay the entire day go to dinner and get a hotel for the night. In the morning continue our drive to Sesame Place stay the entire day again dinner and a hotel. The next day we are going to the Crayola factory which is on the way spend the day again the same routine dinner hotel and the next day were on our way back home. This way we spend family time in the car, enjoy different hotels, get some pool time in and the kids get to go to different parks. I know it may sound expensive but honestly it's not you just have to really plan. The Jersey shore wildwood crest is a really great place for kids. They have an amazing boardwalk, the beach, etc. Also not that expensive. Nantucket- Jetties beach is great you can go windsurfing, rent some kayak's, go for a ride on a sail boat, fly some kites the kids love this kind of stuff.

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I don't know how far you want to go or where you are but the George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden, Utah is a great place. My family and I went there almost 2 years ago; my kids were 5, 2, and 5 months at the time. Everyone had a great time. There is a Museum inside and park outside to stroll around in with replicas of dinosaurs large and tiny. There is also a playground. There is an area for larger kids and one for smaller kids in the playground. Also, outside there is a big sandbox so the kids can "excavate" dino bones. We stayed at the KOA in Salt Lake in one of their log cabins. Everyone had a great time!
Good luck.

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My parents always took regular vacations with the 3 of us and just made it kid-friendly themselves. For instance, if we did go to the beach, we'd have to spend time looking for different types of shells/rocks and see how many feathers we could find. We'd talk about tides (yes, a 4 yo can have a rudimentary understanding of tides if you visit the beach at high tide one day & low tide another) and different marine animals. Beachside shops usually have things like coral, sand dollars and sea stars for sale; you can go into the shops and talk about how these were once living creatures and talk about protecting their environment. Basically, make the vacation one big learning adventure!

My parents also took us camping quite a bit when we were that age, and it's something my own husband & I have done with our little ones. Our oldest was around 2 and our middle child was 9 months when we first took them camping. We were concerned as to how they'd do in a tent, away from their normal sleeping environment, but there's so much playing and teaching that can be done with them outdoors (Mom & Dad don't have anything else to do, really, so it's fantastic for we parents, too!), that the kids are plum tuckered by bedtime and go to sleep without any complaints. :oD We're planning on camping again this summer, and our youngest will be only 6 months old.

I guess what I'm saying is try to see regular, everyday things through your children's eyes, and you can make just about any vacation destination fun for them.

Best wishes,

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We have been taking our two kids to New Hampishire since I had my daugther 7 yrs ago. They are now 4 & 7. We have a blast, we have a time-share at Attatish Mt - located within mins is Storyland - a park designed just for the little ones and within 45 mins you have Santas Village - where it's X-mas all year round. We have done small trails with them but this last year we actually made it up a waterfall - now that Derek is 4 , he's having a bettter time on the trails. I plan to go there forever - it is fun for everyone! If you want more info , just e-mail me

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Have you considered vacationing with another couple w/kids (or dogs, even)? My husband and I have done this several times, making plans with friends with kids or dogs, renting a house for a long weekend or as long as a week (upstate NY, Austin TX, Outer Banks, NC) and it's been a blast every time. You can switch off babysitting duties, relax during naps and the kids have others to play with.
Have fun!

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Hi K.,

You might like Dutch Wonderland. It's in PA not far from Hershey Park. If you go in the warm weather, they have a great water area for little ones.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Looks like you got some great responses....I might take some of the advice you have already been given. I just wanted to add a couple of remarks.
Sesame Place (went when my boys were just under 2). They loved it! Yes, there are a good amount of water rides, but there are plenty of things to do if you want to stay dry....cute shows and meals with the characters. The meals were great...the one with Cookie, Ernie, Bert and eveyone (except Elmo and Zoe cause they have their own meal) was great....plenty of time to hang with Characters and take pics. Entrance for those Under 2 years is FREE and when you pay the $45 entrance fee for those 2 and above, it is actually good for 2 days (no they don't have to been 2 days in a row). There are plenty of things to do in the area. I didn't have a chance to (too short of a stay), but there is a Childrens museum close by in Philly that looked cool and lots of carnival or fair type of events in the surrounding area as well. I think I stayed at the ramada inn...they had nightly entertainment for kids at the hotel good size pool and new playground.
Lake George....love it...just be aware that there are ALOT of seedy places in terms of lodging. But there are tons of things to do...hiking, biking, water fun, amusement park (that is overpriced).
Hope you enjoy your vacation!

1 mom found this helpful

Smugglers Notch in Vermont. A total family resort. Does offer babysitting if you want it, but it also has great family activities. Great for the outdoorsy types!

Last year we went to Williamsburg, VA when my kids were 1, 4 & 5. They all loved it! They worked in the gardens at the plantaion, pretended to roe the canoe, went in the houses and teepees. They also loved the drummers and marching down the main road in Williamsburg. We went to the amusement park too and they had a good time.

Hey K.,
How about Lake George? You can fish, collect rocks, explore!!

I'm also looking into this myself...someone suggested North Pole, NY - where Santa "lives" when Christmas isn't here. I've been told its a wonderful place and great for little kids. Check out their website...
I'm also looking into Sesame Place too...

If you're in Rochester, NY - we have the largest Children's Museum in the US - Strong Museum...google that as well...an entire day can be spent here. My kids love it. And we have a nice zoo nearby as well and every weekend in the summer, we have festivals and such...


National parks, zoos and children's museums are great places to get out ( I realize children museums are outside but if a raininy day hits or a major heat wave... a good way to break things up) ALso witha four year old many of those places have a bus, train or boat ride you can take to "do things" outside as well.

I realize those aren't specific ideas but we've done them with our kids over the years in Cincinatti OH, Providence RI, Lee MA, Boston MA ( swan boats in Boston) Providence RI and Syracuse NY, Portsmoth NH/Kittery ME........

I'm not sure what your budget is, but we loved the Beaches resort in Turks and Caicos. They have partnered with Sesame Street and have shows with some of the characters (Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster) and meet and greet opportunities. My daughter LOVED it there - she was 3 when we went. My only complaint is that they discouraged you from taking your own photos of the characters unless you were at a paid event. They want you to pay for the photos that they take. I felt that I paid enough to go there so why should I have to pay them for photos that I could otherwise take myself? Minor complaint though.

K. i have a 1yr, 3yr, 8yr and 10yr old girls and we all love to go to cape cod. They have whale watches that my 3 year old keeps talking about since we went last year and they have wonderful beaches, not to mention the hotels have swimming pools that the whole family loves! Cape cod is a family friendly place. I wish you the best of luck on your journey where ever you choose to go!

Last summer we went to StoryLand in Glen, NH. My boys were barely 4 and 1.5 at the time. It's an amusement park for little kids. If you go into the park after 3pm you receive a ticket to enter the park for a full day any other day that season. So we went at 3 one afternoon and stayed until closing (6pm) and then went back the next morning and stayed until the kids were exhausted. Our kids had a blast and my 4 year old is asking to go back agian this year. Their website is www.storylandnh.com. Since the park is in the mountains there are lots of other state parks and places to visit. It's a great area for family vacations. Hope this helps.

I reccomend Sesame Place in PA... right near Hershy Park, which is too old for them right now, but a tour of the chocolate factory may be facinating for everyone as well. It's even a day's driving from NYC if you want to make a stop there... there is a place an hour and a half outside NYC too where i had gone to college called New Paltz... there is a mountain and resort you can hike through as well called Mohonk Mountain.

If you want outdoorsy hiking and museums and shows.. I reccommend looking into Ithaca

Hi K. -

We my kids were little we took them to Seseame Street Place in PA, near Philly, this is a water theme park so warm weather is best. They loved it! Also Crayola Factory is near there so we enjoyed that for a day and Seseame for a day. Lots of fun! Its been a while so Im not sure what else we did, but Im sure you can find a camp site near and lots of day trips and time for you to relax also. My kids loved the pool at the hotel so we spent a day just relaxing.

Good luck.

A friend of mine just got back from Disney. Her children are 4, 2, and 9 months. She said they had a wonderful time!

My kids are grown women now but when they were little (as young as 9 months) we travelled everywhere with them including Europe and cross country trips in a car or train. First of all, with a 1 & 4 year old I would advise getting a double stroller if you don't have one already. Sightseeing and walking around is never going to be as fascinating for kids asit is for us and they will get tired and sleepy. That being said, I think San Diego and environs is a fantastic place to visit for kids and adults alike. Lots to see (the best zoo, aquarium, water parks, Old Towne, town of Coronado over the bridge which is GORGEOUS and has the most beautiful old hotel. If you ever saw movie "Some Like it Hot" with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, this is the hotel where film was made. Also a short hop to Mexico (there is a trolley if you don't want to drive there) is nice for shopping, etc. So I hope that gives you an idea of somewhere to go with kids. Enjoy!

My kids always loved. Santas Village, and Storyland in New Hampster. Everything there is geared for kids. Santas Village is like an amusment park. Storyland is a hands on for kids dealing with all the kids stories like the 3 little pigs, old lady in the shoe etc... They aren't to far apart from each other.

Hi! My family has been going to Ocean City, MD for years. It has a very large beach (good for a full day of entertainment for kids) and over 2 miles of boardwalk. The entire town is set up for vacations with mini golf, restaurants, etc... It is also close to Assateague (sp?) Island which is where the ponyies live wild. As a younger child, we used to visit Frontier Town nearby. It is a mock western town with rides and shows and a train ride (kid sized) which is "held up" by robbers (in a fun, not scary way). In Salsibury (a 20 min drive), thre is a free zoo that I absolutely love. It is not that big, but is enough to see in a couple of hours.

I know a lot of people suggest Sesame Place in PA, but I have heard that Dutch World nearby, is even better for the younger kids. Hope that helps.

There are a couple of Dude Ranches in the Catskill Mtns, NY which are great. There is also Sesame Place and Hershey Park in PA which are great. Cape May, NJ has a ton of stuff to do with kids as well. Most vacation towns/places will have a calendar of events on their websites where you can plan your vacation and see what sort of things they have that are good for kids. Have fun!

Hi, I'm R. and new here. We have two girls, 1 1/2 and 5 1/2 yrs old. I was just planning our vacation for this summer. We are going to a family campground in Warrensburg for a week. We went to Lake George Escape campground last and that might be up your ally. They have great sites, and lots of activities for the kids. The week we went was x-mas in July and my older daughter got to go a x-mas and make crafts. You might want to look into it.

Many New York State Parks have cabins for rent. These are very inexpensive, but they do get booked fairly quickly.
One thing to keep in mind: a vacation with kids is not a total relaxing vacation.

costa Rica. Aside from being an absolutetly magnificent country, it's people are wonderful and there are so many things to do and see...butterfly garden, waterfall gardens, the beaches!
good luck!

Not sure when you are looking to go, but Bar Harbour in ME is a great vacation. Very cute town, Acadia National Park is there, whale watching etc. Great place for biking and hiking. We did this vacation a few years ago, now we are looking into another family vacation, and not sure where to go.

Why not rent a cabin up at the adirondaks or do something of that sort. That way you can hike and fish and do all the outdoorsy stuff but you still have the cabin to bring the 1 year old to for naps and downtime.

have fun!

Hi K.! A great place to take the kids is Storyland in NH. If your planning on doing something for a few days you can also take them to Christmas Village, also in NH. Both attractions are about an hour away from one another.. It's really a great trip, they both have web sites so if you google them, you will be able to check them out! Hope this helps

Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, P.A. is a great park for little ones and adults as well. I've been there twice with my kids and there are lot's to do. Your 4yr old can go on some rides by himself and there is a water area in the park that your 1yr old will love(assuming that she can walk now) By far this is the one park that is really great for little ones! I totally recommend it and it's not expensive to enter. I also went to Sesame Place and that place I think is a rip off! and it's mostly water related... so your 1year old would not have such a good time. Good luck.


I suggest heading up to the Poconos, or even the Catskills in New York. Both areas are lovely, and you could get the best of both worlds. Rent a cabin in the woods and enjoy what the areas have to offer.

Going to the beach isn't that bad, either. My husband and I vacationed with our then 6 month old son at the beach last year (as well as with our 4 year old nephew and his parents), and we had a great time. We went to the beach with the kids, went sea kayaking, took lots of walks, played games on the boardwalk, the moms got to go shopping one afternoon while the dads stayed back with the boys. It was lovely! We stayed in a condo just a few blocks from the beach, so we could head back for afternoon naps and cook some of our meals at the condo. At night, we traded places with who stayed back the the kids and everyone else went out for drinks and soaked in the nightlife.

Just a thought. Have a great vacation!

We went to Disney when my son was 14 months, and it was great. Not for the rides, but the people watching, pool, play grounds, and being outside and just doing things in general. we went again this past x-mass when he was 2, and it was a lot of work because he wanted to run around but still couldn't do the rides. I think your 4 year old would really enjoy Disney, and your 1 year old would be easy to manage there too. There are lots to do, and lots to capture both their attention and imagination.

It is interesting how many of our own vacations are on here already. My kids are currently 6 and 2.

Personally I preferred Sesame Place to Dutch Wonderland - both are definitely geared towards kids, but the lines can be very long. I definitely recommend going during the week rather than the weekend. Sesame Place is much more up-to-date, and has the character tie-in. There are lots of shows to go to if you don't want to get wet. We went to Dutch Wonderland and Hershey's Park chocolate tour when we stayed in Lancaster, PA. I hightly recommend one of the bed and breakfasts there - they have a lot of family homes that are geared towards kids. I believe the place we stayed was called Country Vistas(?) - look it up on Trip Advisor. They let the kids help feed a few farm animals and collect the eggs from the chickens in the morning. It was very low-key and a nice place to come back to mid-day for naps. There are other kid-friendly activities nearby - an old-fashioned train, a cherry crest farms, choo-choo barn, etc.

I also second the New Hampshire idea. This is the only vacation we have repeated in the ten years I have been married. We are into outdoor activities, and this has a lot of the same hiking and natural wonders activities that we have in our own backyard here in the Finger Lakes. We have done Santa's Village, Flume Gorge(?), Clark's Trading Post, the Cog railroad up to Mt. Washington, and many more. There are two main areas to the White Mountains - we stayed in Lincoln, which seemed to have less of the cheesy touristy stuff (highly recommend the Comfort Inn there).

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