Our toddler Owen has been so fortunate to have opportunities to travel the world at such a young age. He’s been to Thailand, Italy, Greece, Canada, Hawaii, Disneyland, and more. We know that he won’t remember most of these trips years from now, but he definitely remembers them vividly for months and has absorbed so much about other places and cultures. I believe that these global experiences will impact the person he becomes, so it got me thinking about a toddler travel bucket list.
With Baby #2 expected this Fall, I know our lives are going to be a bit more chaotic. However, I really hope to continue exposing our kids to the amazing people and places in this world. We plan on traveling with our kids as they grow up, but there are definitely some places that would be cool to see as a young child.
Toddler Travel Bucket List:
- Walt Disney World, Florida: We had such a great time in Disneyland this Spring that the next logical place to visit would be Disney World. We’ve heard that it takes about 6 days to fully explore the parks. We’d love to either test the waters with just a 2-3 day trip, or attempt the full 6 days in the next few years. I’m waiting until the Disney movie Moana comes out in November 2016 in case they add a Polynesian element. We’d really like to check out the Kilimanjaro Safaris, the Maharajah Jungle Trek, Epcot (specifically Reflections of China,) the Wildlife Express Train, and the Lilo & Stitch breakfast at the Polynesian Village Resort.
- Hong Kong, China: My husband’s family is from Hong Kong and I’ve had the amazing opportunity to visit twice and it’s one of my favorite cities! We can’t wait to bring our kids there! Our ultimate must-do is seeing the Big Buddha and riding on the gondola. It’s an absolute breathtaking view. Now that we are “Disney people,” we want to spend a day at Hong Kong Disneyland just for the experience. I really enjoyed seeing Ocean Park and I think my son would get a blast out of it. We’d also go see the Peak so the kids could see another view of Hong Kong and experience the tram ride. My favorite thing to do is shop the markets, so we’d definitely incorporate that in at some point. And of course we’d be eating a lot of food and drinking mango drinks. We’d also be spending time with family over there, which is really the most impactful part of traveling with kids. It’s great for them to connect with family and get the local experience, too.
- Paris, France: My husband and I have each been to Paris separately. We are itching to go back soon and I think it would be a fun place for toddlers. The Eiffel Tower is not only iconic, but it would be quite the landmark to scale as a toddler. And the Place du Trocadero has an antique carousel with views of the garden and the Eiffel Tower. The Jardin des Tuileries also has a carousel, playground and pony rides in addition to the beautiful gardens and statues. The Jardin du Luxembourg is a playground with sandboxes, slides, seesaws and more. The Cite des Sciences has an area for kids ages 2-7 full of indoor activities. Bois de Boulonge is the Central Park of Paris and there are many activities and attractions for kids. There are also open air buses and cruises on the Seine. And just strolling around the streets of Paris and stopping at cafes. We are passionate about our pastries and I know Owen would be in heaven eating a real French croissant every morning.
- San Diego, California: I’ve been hearing for years how amazing the San Diego Zoo is and I’d like to see it for myself. I’d also like to take Owen to Legoland before he ages out of it. SeaWorld would be interesting to experience. We always like to see airplanes, so the San Diego Air & Space Museum would be a must do. The New Children’s Museum has artsy stuff and a climbing wall. I’ve also never been to a California beach, so I’d like to see how it differs from the rest of the beaches I’ve enjoyed.
- Havana, Cuba: I’ve been dreaming of visiting Cuba since I was in college. It hasn’t been a realistic option until recently. We’d really love to stay at a casas particulares, which is the Cuban equivalent of a B&B, so we could get a more cultural experience. We’d love to just walk through the streets of Old Havana and absorb the sights, sounds and smells. We’d also like to ride the train through the National Zoo. And we’d like to shop the Souvenir Market. This would be the ultimate toddler travel bucket list item.
- Disney Cruise: Since our trip to Disneyland, we are obsessed with all things Disney and their high regard for their guests. Our last cruise had the best customer service we’d ever experienced. Combining these two options seems like the ultimate win. Plus there are opportunities for character experiences and Disney entertainment onboard. There are some Disney cruises from Seattle up to Alaska, but I’m not sure the ports are of much interest to us. We’d love to do the Northern Europe cruise that stops in Denmark, Sweden and Russia since we’ve never been to these countries. The British Isles would also be a memorable experience.
- New York City, New York: Neither my husband nor I have been here yet, so we’d want to do a mix of touristy things plus toddler specific activities. Of course, we’d like to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. And we’d need a day to explore Central Park. We’d also like to check out the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, the Children’s Museum of Art, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Transit Museum, and Bronx Zoo. And we’d need a stop at Chinatown, Times Square and lots of subway rides.
- London, England: Like Paris, my husband and I have each experienced London separately and would love to go as a family. Our son loves buses (especially double decker buses) so this is the ideal city to tour in a double decker bus. The London Transport Museum seems like Owen’s dream museum complete with a play area. The British Museum offers kids under five a free backpack with a magnifying glass and flashlight. The Discover Children’s Story Centre looks like an amazing indoor play space. The London Zoo seems incredibly family friendly with changing tables and a play area. The famous Hyde Park has three different playgrounds. There’s also a boat to Greenwich. And seeing the Changing of the Guard is a must.
- Dublin, Ireland: They have child-friendly taxis, so we won’t need to lug our car seats (which is the only downside of traveling in my opinion). It looks easy to take the train around the country to see new places and the train ride is an experience within itself. But, Ireland seems like the type of place for a really epic family road trip where we’d stay in local Bed and Breakfasts. I’m imagining stopping to let a herd of sheep pass and gazing out the window at rolling green fields. Maybe I watch too many movies? Ardgillan Castle sounds gorgeous and they have a playground for kids. The Ring of Kerry sounds picturesque with quaint Irish villages. And visiting tea shops sounds fabulous.
- Beijing and Shanghai, China: I went on a really affordable and very pleasant tour of Shanghai and Beijing before I had kids. I’d really like to take my kids (or at least my oldest) on the same tour so he can get a taste of Mainland China. He’s been “studying” Mandarin since he was 9 months old and I’d love for him to be immersed in the language and culture while he still learning the language. The highlights of the trip were seeing the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, and the Venice of the East. Since this is an organized tour, I’m waiting to do this trip until my oldest has more stamina and won’t need an afternoon nap. There are a lot of sights packed into this tour and I don’t want to push him too hard. But, the price is right and we may find ourselves heading back to the hotel early some days for a break. Plus, there’s always the new Shanghai Disneyland if we need a complete shift of experiences.
This is our dream travel bucket list for the next 4 years or so. We won’t be able to do all this (or possibly any), but it’s nice to have the list handy in case opportunities arise. Once our kids are in elementary school, I think we’ll try to road trip on Route 66, see Yellowstone, visit Yosemite, and explore the East Coast a bit more. Or tie in our travels to what they are studying in school.