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Google “Destin with kids” and you will find many articles and many links for all the fun things you can do in this glorious place. But toddlers (and babies) are a different beast. I recently traveled to Destin, Florida with my family (girls almost 3 and just 1) and here are ten tips for surviving and thriving in Destin with toddlers.
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1. Pack the essentials.
A vacation is one thing to pack for. A beach vacation… even more. Here is a list of things on my packing list, in a convenient PDF for you to print out and use. Some of our can’t miss out, favorite items to have include a baby floaty for the pool, games like Candy Land for a possible rain day or non-nap time, and reusable swim diapers.
2. Book a place big enough to spread out.
There will be time for cramming people into a small space and sleeping on couches and pull out beds. When you have babies and toddlers may not be that time. Shop around, go in the off-season, and get the most square footage you want to afford. Then you will feel more relaxed, refreshed, and ready to take on the next day.
3. Hit up the grocery store first thing.
By the time you arrive, you maybe have a list of things you have forgotten. (For us that included a sleep sack, a second bathing suit for me, and snack cups.) And you probably have a list of perishables for breakfast, snacks, or other meals. (We always buy milk, eggs, chicken apple sausage, yogurt, and fruit. That gets us through most mornings.) There are several grocery store options in the Destin area ( and of course the Wal-Mart and Target offer more options too.
4. Rent what you can’t bring
For those flying in, or those without room to bring all the things little ones require, renting baby and toddler equipment is an option. Some babies will sleep better in a full size crib. Babies eat better in their own high chair (at least I know mine does). The Crib Connection is an area company that can help out in this area.
5. Plan short morning and afternoon activities.
There are many advantages to planning your days in two parts: between breakfast and lunch, and after nap time/before dinner. One, it limits the amount of time in the sun at one time. Two, kids have a pretty short attention span anyway. Three, you can get more done on your whole vacation. But why should you plan this way? Read on.
6. Nap time
Nap time is something that needs to be respected. Children need their sleep and will do better if they have their regular naps. It is hard to keep on a nap schedule. In a pinch, we end up driving places and letting the kids fall asleep and then waiting in the parking lot until they wake up. It is not the best nap, but it is better than nothing.
Knowing where the playgrounds are is very important. Playgrounds are good because they give toddlers the exercise and socialization that they are used to in their regular day. Our favorite two playgrounds that work seamlessly into our day? The playground at the Silver Sands Premium Outlets not too far from the Carter’s store (coincidence? I think not.) This playground has two areas – one for ages 2-5 and one for 5 and over. The one for toddlers is pretty great and there are benches right in front. There is also a playground at The Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin near Moo La La Ice Cream and Desserts.
Many restaurants also have playgrounds, including McDonalds, Chick Fil A, and Joe’s Crab Shack, The Crab Trap Seafood and Oyster Bar .
There is also a city park and playground called the Children’s Park at Morgan Sports Center, located due north of Joe’s Crab Shack and Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
8. Other Activities
So what are some other activities that are popular with babies and toddlers in Destin?
- Beach – public beach or the beach attached to your condo, house, or hotel.
- Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park – A small, very doable aquarium etc. with fabulous dolphin and sea lion shows. Kids ages 0-2 get in FREE so take advantage of this while you can. But of course, the older kids are, the more they will get out of it.
- Walking around any of the Destin areas with shopping and combining that with a meal. (Destin Commons, HarborWalk Village, Sandestin’s Baytowne Wharf)
9. Date Night
What’s the best way to survive Destin with toddlers? Have a night away from them, of course! We budget in for a date night to explore a restaurant that may not be so kid-friendly. We have used two babysitter services in town and have been pleased with both Babysitters at the Beach and Angelfish Babysitting.
10. Plan for the unexpected
It isn’t really a vacation with kids. It is an experience. And the best way to survive is to be prepared for the unexpected. Naps will be refused. It will rain. You will forget the sunscreen. Things will happen. But if you expect these things to happen, a vacation in Destin with toddlers hopefully be too stressful. And remember to add extra baby wipes to the diaper bag because those can solve lots of problems.
Enjoy your vacation. The days are long but the years are short, so before too long we will be looking for ways to entertain teenagers on a beach vacation. But for now, do you know of another tip, restaurant, playground, or packing list item I need to add? Comment below!
And be sure to follow me on Pinterest. I have an entire board just for traveling with kids!