Vacation with 3 Year Old - Any Suggestions???

Updated on April 25, 2013
M.M. asks from Chicago, IL
18 answers

We want to plan a vacation with our son who is 3 now. Do you have any suggestions?? Theme parks like Disney etc are something we are considering but not sure if it's better to do that when he is older. It need not be in Chicago area. We are willing to fly anywhere across the country, we want it to be a lot of fun for him and us as well!

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answers from Kansas City on

I would probably plan a VERY relaxed beach trip at the shore.
Keep in mind that at 3, he's not going to be able to "go" all day so a very loose schedule with down time is best.
When he was 3, 4, 5, we liked renting a house so kiddo could have his own room, and we had kitchen facilities and we didn't feel "trapped" in a hotel room.

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answers from New London on

Disney is too much for most little ones. I would go when is is older and will remember the trip. I would suggest PA...Sesame Place and Dutch Wonderland. Or a casual trip to Myrtle Beach.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Do a Disney cruise. We had an amazing vacation and would love to do it again. really, any cruise is great, but Disney is the best for kids.

A trip to Southern CA could be a lot of fun too. You can't do it all, but a few great options here are Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Legoland (only good if your child is at least 36" tall), the beach, Pretend City Children's Museum and so much more.

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answers from Anchorage on

I would skip the big parks for another couple of years. At 3 simpler parks (and cheaper ones) could be more fun, like if you have a dinosaur park near by or kids museum.

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answers from Dallas on

At this age, I think the best vacation is a relaxed one vs a destination trip. Last year I took DD to Destin, FL and rented a house for a week. We got up leisurely, colored, did puzzles, went to the beach and the pool. The only actual outing in a whole week was one trip to the aquarium. The rest of the time we just relaxed and stayed within walking distance - it was awesome. I am saving Disney, Legoland, etc for when she is older, out of diapers/stroller and she can remember it. Good luck!

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answers from Boston on

I think some parts of Disney are great for little kids, but it also can be overwhelming. Waiting in line can be stressful for impatient kids, and it's awfully hot if this is a summer plan you are talking about. If you spend the money on a park pass, and then he's exhausted after a few hours, will you feel you need to stick it out to get your money's worth? The hotels often have pools as well as kiddie activities, and certainly the transportation back and forth is well done. If you're in the area and want to do Sea World on a different day, that's fun too. We loved it for our kids but found it better from age 6 up. A few rides/attractions are boring for 9 and up, but there is plenty more that they can do that the little ones are too scared by or to short to ride on, so it balances out.

One thing we enjoyed so much was a beach vacation. Have you considered a place like Cape Cod or the Jersey Shore? We always went to Cape Cod because there are 3 levels of beaches -the bay side with the warmest water and no waves, the Nantucket Sound side with mild surf, and the ocean side with big surf and cold water. Flying to Boston or Providence and then renting a car is very manageable.

We have rented cottages so we had a kitchen and a place to just crash, and we have also stayed in hotels with a morning kids' program, so my husband and I could get a break too, lingering over coffee while our son ran around with "camp counselors" and other kids, looking for shells on the beach or being on the playground, or playing other games. Then we still had the afternoon together. There are a number of places right on the water - some with hotels, some with condo apartments, some with cottages - so there's no driving necessary. They also offer babysitting and a children's dinner program so my husband and I could get a dinner out once or twice, just the two of us.

Seashore vacations might be a nice thing to do - to show your child the ocean - and also have some down time on the beach. You can rent all the stuff you need (umbrellas, etc.) and usually when we've rented a house, the owner includes beach chairs, beach towels, umbrellas, and so on.

On Cape Cod (where I've taken many vacations), and also on the Jersey Shore (where I have taken a handful of vacations - but check for SuperStorm Sandy damage) there are amusement parks, bumper cars, go-karts, trampoline bouncy places, and so on. Cape Cod has a number of things to do on a rainy day - small and manageable museums (natural history, small aquarium, fire engine museum, hands-on kiddie places), public library programs, and more.

What I like about these places is you can just have fun on the beach instead of an entirely orchestrated vacation of events and rides and lines to stand in, but there are still lots of things you can choose from if you want to.

Have fun deciding!

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answers from Austin on

I agree the beach.. A condo with a pool, a kitchen and access to the beach..

Maybe with an aquarium close by..

Your child is still going to be excited in a pool or sand. will need a nap..

He will get a kick out of seeing fish in an aquarium and a park to climb and run around.

Disneyland is for older children.. Disney World is for even older kids.



answers from Detroit on

I am a beach girl, so I would say almost anywhere there is beach or water - Lake Michigan shoreline, Northern MI (Traverse City, Mackinaw Island), Cape Cod/MA if you want to go a little further, or FL or coastal Carolinas if you want to head south. I've heard good things about the Wisconsin Dells area, even though I've never been there.

If this is a vacation that you are planning in the summer, I would honestly probably steer clear of Disney World, because FL gets soooo HOT - stick with beaches instead, and a place with a pool, since at least then you can cool off. Any other time of the year, Disney is awesome, but if you plan to take him to Disney only once, better to wait until he is a little older (at least 6 or 7) and can get more out of it.

We have been on 3 Disney cruises so far however, and I can honestly say they are the best vacations we have ever had. Our daughter is now 5 and she has a blast every time. And I love it because I don't have to do any meal planning, cooking, cleaning, etc. - they just take care of all that for you! They just do a phenomenal job and I would recommend a Disney cruise hands-down over any other cruise line if you have kids.



answers from Chicago on

St Joes Michigan. it's a short drive, lovely beaches, splash pad, children museums....My kids LOVE IT.



answers from Los Angeles on

I would wait on Disneyland until he is a bit older. At least, 4 1/2. The older the better so he can actually enjoy it, he will be able to handle all of the excitement/long days etc.

In the meantime, take him to some place closer to you that has a shore, pier, mini fair etc.



answers from Los Angeles on

Mommyc has the right idea. But many cruise lines cater to children or families with children.

We just completed our 18th cruise and we had a blast. When our kids were still at home we took and Alaska Cruise (Princess Cruise lines). Our kids had a wonderful time in the ship's child care program. They could hardly wait to be done with breakfast so they could go into the child care and didn't want to go to dinner because they had to leave the facility.

When we took a cruise with my son and his wife, the same thing happened with their three kids. The people running the child care program had lots of child care education, experience and were well versed in first aid. They kept the kids busy and occupied.

The cruise ship child care programs give the parents free time on a vacation too.

Good luck to you and yours.



answers from Atlanta on

I'd do Disney. This is the perfect age to go. If you wait until they are older, it will lose a lot of the magic for him. He'll have a blast at Disney - it's made for kids. I'm a Disney fan and love it too, but a big part of my joy is getting to see everything through a child's eyes with an adult perspective.

I've never done the Disney cruise, but hear fantastic things about it from EVERY person who has done it. With the cruise, you can also split it and do a 3/4 day cruise and 3/4 days in Disney World.



answers from Chicago on

Mud Island River Park in Memphis
we took our kids when they were almost 4 and just turnd 7 and my younger one STILL asks to go back and do it again and that was 6 yrs ago that we went

It's a topographically correct to scale representation of the Mississippi river from the very beginning in MN to the very end at the Gulf of Mexico. You can walk in it (bring water shoes) and there are signs to read about historic stuff that has happened.

We have done 31 states so far with the older one, 29 with the younger, so if you message M. with a state you had in mind I could tell you what we did there.



answers from Washington DC on

Know your own kid's limits and likes and go from there. My DD was not quite three when we went across the UK and Ireland and she was 1 when we went to Bermuda on a cruise. She is the best traveler. Everything is an adventure, she can nap anywhere and she doesn't complain like her brother and sister. So if your kid is "get up and go" then go! And if he's not, then find a lake house or a condo at the beach and do something more relaxed. Kids, IMO, are pretty adaptable.


answers from Tampa on

We go to Disney all the time, my son first went at 4 and loved it! My daughter went the first time at 6 weeks old. She is 15 months old and loves going!



answers from New York on

I don't know the Chicago area but I can give you some tips about my area. We had an amazing time with our two year old in Vermont and also the White Mountains of NH. Up in NH they have small scale theme parks, lots of outdoor activities, great food, and I highly recommend the Inn at Mt. Washington. They are child friendly and even offer babysitting service if you want to go eat out in the evening. Some of the ski resorts in VT and NH also cater to summer guests, and they have activities and sometimes on site kids clubs or day cares, if you want to get away for a couples massage or zip wire tour. There is one in Smugglers Notch near Stowe VT that I want to check out myself.


answers from Santa Fe on

The beach is always a blast for any age kid. National parks are fun too. We just took a little road trip up to Mesa Verde National Park, Arches National Park, and Moab, Utah. Our 3 year old LOVED the guided tour at Mesa Verde. She was excited by the old ruins there and was asking our ranger lots of questions. She loved hiking in Arches and playing in the sand. We took our bikes and she had a blast sitting on her bike seat on some short bike rides. We got her a turtle bike horn and she was honking it at every other biker. We did not push her and did our hikes/bike rides at a kid friendly level and she had so much fun. We stayed at a hotel with a pool and after dinner every night we took her and her brother swimming. This was a highlight of the day for her I think! One day was rainy/snowy/cold and we went to a hot springs and also to a children's museum. I really think almost any vacation can be lots of fun for a 3 year old. Especially if you have time out in nature. I vote for picking a national park to go see! :)


answers from Chicago on

Depending on what your son likes, maybe a place like Sea World if he likes fish. If he's into Sesame Street, there is Sesame Place in PA. I've had some friends take their children 2-5 years and enjoyed it. About two hours from there is Hershey, PA with Hershey Park.

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