The recent story of a woman who got kicked off a Disney cruise ship for bringing her 4-month-old aboard is just the thing most family travelers don’t want to hear. After all, what could be more perfect than a Disney cruise for a baby? (Turns out, Disney Cruise Line has a rule against children under the age of 6 months.)
Before my daughter Lucy was born, I had visions of toting her across the planet, inspired by my cool cousin Katie, who had taken her kids to India, Vietnam, and Bali when they could barely walk. Nothing would prevent me from taking Lucy everywhere I went, so I fully intended to bring her on safari in Namibia when she was 1 year old. After all, Brad and Angelina gave birth to Shiloh there, and a safari outfitter I know said he has been taking his kids there since they were young. But then I met a woman whose little nephew died after contracting malaria in Africa (young children can’t really take malaria pills). And another safari guide warned me that when the animals hear a baby crying, they think the kid is prey. I quickly abandoned that idea and left Lucy at home with her grandparents.
So while I strongly believe that it is the responsibility of every good parent to have a well-traveled child, what is right for some parents isn’t right for everyone. One mom’s dream of a clifftop hotel in Santorini is another’s nightmare death trap.
I reached out to the experts — parenting writers and bloggers — to get their take on the worst family vacations on the planet.
The Big (Not So) Easy
Nadia Carriere’s children, checking out the G-rated offerings at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans (Photo: childmode/Instagram)
New Orleans is an incredible destination and has plenty of activities and attractions for families, but last year I made the rookie mistake of staying smack dab in the middle of Bourbon Street with my three kids. Needless to say, their eyes turned into saucers. New Orleans is awesome, but don’t stay on Bourbon Street unless you’re planning on explaining… quite a bit. —Nadia Carriere of Child Mode
Exhausted in Amalfi
Navigating the steps of Amalfi with a stroller (Photo: Ciao Bambino!)
The Amalfi Coast in Italy with a toddler is quite the aerobic challenge, given that many of the towns are built on cliffs with endless stairs and drops, so you spend much of your time carrying and chasing. We survived — happily, at the end of the day, I might add — although buyer beware. It’s not an easy place to travel with young kids. —Amie O’Shaughnessy of Ciao Bambino!
Stephanie Laing’s kids, after decamping Tulum for the tamer Ritz Carlton Cancun (Photo: Stephanie Laing)
Don’t take your kids to Tulum. We went in February last year and stayed at two different hotels. Each one was an early Spring Break party. We had to leave the pool before 2 p.m. every day: that’s when the “activities” started and by activities I mean, beer bongs, booty dancing, and shots. —Stephanie Laing of Put Your Pretty on By SL
Stranded in Kosovo — and in an Elevator
Kirstie Pelling’s daughter Hannah, on the road to Dubrovnik, Croatia (Photo: Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project)
Beyond a war zone, I’m not sure we really believe there are places that are entirely bad for children. But we have landed ourselves in some scrapes by inadequate planning. Our great plan to cycle some of the Balkan countries for the summer became a recipe for disaster on a main road on the Dalmatian Coast, populated by tourist coaches and competitive drivers. Our game of chicken was compounded by our 13-year-old getting heat stroke in the dash for safety. On the same trip, we stranded ourselves in Kosovo when politically sensitive border crossings meant we couldn’t travel back into Serbia on demand. We ended up having to travel to Macedonia and enter that way.
The key is to plan, and if you get stuck, to be calm and resourceful and flexible. And don’t be afraid to change your plans. But there’s always the unavoidable disaster, like the time we got stuck in a lift in a hotel in Spain. Together. I love my kids, but two hours in a lift the size of a toilet cubicle — with all three of them — was claustrophobic, to say the least. —Kirstie Pelling of The Family Adventure Project
Henley Vazquez and her daughter Sofia, enjoying Hong Kong through the haze of the worst jet lag they’ve known (Photo: Henley Vazquez)
I really believe that any destination is family friendly, but I will admit that the jet lag my daughter had in Asia last year threw us for a loop. Since we travel a lot, we’re used to making quick adjustments to new schedules. But New York to Hong Kong had her up at 2 a.m. — up for the day, not up for an hour — for three nights. Next trip, I’ll stock the hotel room with snacks (it’s a long wait for the breakfast restaurant to open when your child wakes up hungry in the wee hours) and allow for a less hectic schedule the first few days while we’re adjusting. —Henley Vazquez of Feather+Flip
Not Always in Season
When it comes to certain European beach holidays with kids, timing is everything. (Photo: Jennifer Howze/Instagram)
As cofounder of BritMums, I hear about all kinds of great family holiday spots… and a fair amount of bad. There are some party resorts popular with Brits — Blackpool in England, Magaluf on Majorca — that are a nightmare during the high season. Don’t go with your kids at these times, unless you fancy listening to the whoops and shrieks of bachelor and bachelorette parties deep into the night and want to explain to the kids all kinds of drunken jackassery.
But these places are nice outside of high season. For example, Blackpool is known for its long history as a traditional British seaside resort, and Lloret de Mar in Catalunya, awash in package tours during summer, has a Blue Flag beach and the one of the biggest waterparks in Europe. Just pick your time wisely.” —Jennifer Howze of Jenography
Not Such an Easy Breezy Caribbean Vacation
Yahoo Parenting editor-in-chief Lindsay Powers and her resilient son Everett (Photo: Lindsay Powers)
No matter how prepared you are, or how safe of a location you’re traveling, things can always go wrong. When my son grabbed a huge chunk of cherry Danish and began to choke on the beach in Turks and Caicos, my husband had to do the Heimlich Maneuver! The women sitting at the next table over from us were horrified, but our then-7-month-old was totally fine. He wasn’t fazed at all. A few days later, we gave him fish tacos at a beachfront bar, and he broke out into hives. The bartender graciously offered to take us all to the hospital, but Everett recovered on his own, thankfully, after hanging out in our air-conditioned hotel room for a few hours. Despite all this, we all still travel regularly together. —Lindsay Powers, editor-in-chief of Yahoo Parenting
Don’t Forget the Cheerios!
Emily Cronin and her family (Photo: Emily Cronin)
My husband and I love traveling and we’ve done our best to avoid letting our twins (now 1-year-old, with about 16 flights under their tiny belts) change that, but we’ve definitely had our share of ridiculous, is-this-really-happening mishaps. Like tandem breastfeeding in the back of a minivan parked in a big-box parking lot just off I-85. And washing 16 bottles a day in a hotel bathroom for a week (this was when we took the babies, then 5-months old, to England and Israel for a month). And the airline losing the suitcase I had so carefully packed with a week’s worth of formula, baby food, Cheerios, diapers, etc., resulting in two days of fish sticks and a premature intro to whole milk until the bag arrived in the Turks & Caicos. And arguing with a hotel manager who insisted that the house rules allowed his staff to supply only one crib per hotel room, actual number of babies be damned. To me, the worst place to vacation with a child is anywhere likely to make the parent feel more stressed-out or humorless, since equanimity and a healthy appreciation of the ridiculous are essential to successful trips. That, and a big bag of Cheerios for baby-bribing. —Emily Cronin, editor of TrendingNY
Berkshires Gone Bust
Ellen Seidman’s children, experiencing a happier vacation moment than in the Berkshires (Photo: Ellen Seidman)
Our one and only worst vacation in our family history happened when we took the kids to the Berkshires one summer weekend when my daughter was 1 and my son was 3. We were envisioning one of those charming New England weekends we’d enjoyed when we were dating, and we were severely deluded.
Little kids and “charming” don’t really mix. There wasn’t anything for them to do at the B&B. It was super hot and we figured we’d hang in the pool, only it was geared toward adults, with no shallow area, and we had to hold the kids the entire time we were in the water. The kids sure as heck didn’t want to visit any of the cute antique shops. When we took them to a classical music concert at Tanglewood, complete with a gourmet picnic, mass wailing ensued — we left after 20 minutes. Total #fail. —Ellen Seidman of Love That Max
Patient Snow Bunnies
Elizabeth Thorp’s daughter (left) with her cousin (Photo: Elizabeth Thorp)
We typically spend holidays with my parents, who live half the year in Snowmass, Colorado. It can be hard to reach in the winter. With three children, I waffled between flying into Eagle Vail airport, a much larger airport with an easier approach than Aspen. I was greedy and booked us in to Aspen, which is closer to my parents. Big Mistake. A storm canceled our flight and the flights thereafter for two days. We waited at Denver Airport for six hours — investigated rental cars, other carriers, flights into Vail, and even Uber ($1,300). Many fancy people needed to get to Aspen. Competition was fierce. We declared our intent to take the United bus to Aspen. We were on the bus WAITLIST. (So much for United priority status?) We almost didn’t get seats, but another family had second thoughts about a five-hour bus ride and opted to take their chances with flights. I took their seats, knowing they wouldn’t get out for another day, at least. Sorry, not sorry. Survival-of-the-fittest family! After a nine-hour, grueling trek on a cramped bus through the Rockies in a blizzard, with little food or water, devices thoroughly drained of power, we arrived at Mimi and Poppy’s house, blanketed in two feet of fresh snow. After a 22-hour travel day, we were all grinning ear-to-ear, though, thinking about skiing the powder the next day. —Elizabeth Thorp of Poshbrood
WATCH: 4 Crucial Tips for Staying in a Hotel with Your Baby
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