cruising with toddlerEditor’s Note: This blog was provided by Pack Your Pixie Dust guest blogger Sara H. Thank you Sara!

Having just returned home from a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise with our 21 month old son, I learned a few tips that may help future cruisers:

Meal Time

Dining out with young children can be a challenge no matter where you go.  On a cruise, if you choose to eat in the main dining room, meals can be longer than a typical restaurant.  Ask to have your child’s meal brought out with your appetizers.  Hungry children don’t understand the concept of a multi-course meal!  Don’t limit yourself to the kid’s menu.  On my recent Carnival cruise the kid’s menu consisted of pizza, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets.  Your children can order from the adult’s menu!  Spaghetti, baked chicken breasts, fresh fruit, and many other healthy choices are readily available every day.  Also consider bringing some prepackaged foods for your toddler such as favorite snacks, dried fruits, and cereal bars.  Your toddler will appreciate having a little taste from home especially if they are reluctant with trying new foods.

Cabin, Ship & Cruise Line Selection

Seek professional advice!  Seriously.  We weren’t new to cruising but we were new to cruising with a toddler.  We booked our vacation after doing our own research and didn’t use a travel agent.  That proved to be disastrous when I discovered that the kiddie pool on our ship wouldn’t allow my non-potty-trained son to go in it (yes, even with a swim diaper he still wasn’t allowed in.)  Apparently, “kiddie pool” doesn’t equal “kiddie pool for all kids”.  This was a tragic mistake that I could have avoided by seeking the advice of an experienced travel agent!  Plenty of ships have pools for all age children and some even have elaborate splash pads for the children to play in.  But not our ship.  The whole cruise I heard, “I want that wa-wa”, referring to the pool we constantly walked by.

Choosing the right cabin for your family vacation is never more important than when you have a young child, particularly one that still takes naps.  Get a balcony!  7 p.m. bedtimes and mid-afternoon naps could hold you captive to your stateroom for much longer than you expect.  Having a balcony turns those moments into peaceful opportunities for relaxation and privacy! If you are cruising with others and are okay with an adjoining cabin, that could be helpful as well. You can go into the other cabin with a baby monitor while yours is all locked up and secure while your child is napping/sleeping.

Carefully select your cruise line to ensure it’s accommodating and welcoming for your children.  Some cruise lines are more excited to be sailing with children than others.  If you intend to enroll your children in the kid’s club activities, be sure to get detailed information about the activities and availability they offer.

Random Mommy Tips

I’d suggest bringing a noisemaker, as the cruise director often makes announcements during the day that inevitably occur during your little one’s nap time.

Although we never needed it, I was prepared with motion sickness remedies for my little one.  We purchased ginger drinks from the health food store and Babies R Us sells adjustable motion sickness bands (intended for nausea relief during pregnancy but they adjust to infant size), they are invaluable if your little one experiences any issues!

Most cabins cannot accommodate any type of bath for a child, so showers are a must!  Practice showering with your little one at home so he’s not shocked by the concept on the ship.  Thankfully, this wasn’t an issue for our son but several other mom’s on the ship were discussing the concern.

Beach toys aren’t just for the beach!  Of course, you’re going to be buying a bucket and some sand toys for your days at the beach.  While you’re enjoying your sea days, fill the bucket with water and bring it out on your balcony.  Our son played for quite a while with the water and toys while we hung out on the balcony together with him.  An easy way to keep them entertained while you can relax!

Don’t forget to enjoy your vacation!  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the demands of parenting on a cruise ship but you are on vacation after all!  My son was perfectly content running around the decks (no, they won’t fall off) or chasing a basketball around the court.  Adding a young child to your cruise vacation definitely adds another element of responsibility to your vacation but it also adds an element of joy and surprise!  My son learned a whole new nautical-themed vocabulary, thoroughly enjoyed watching all the boats from the balcony, and loved the experience of cruising!

Happy Travels!

Feel free to contact Pack Your Pixie Dust to help you book a cruise with your little one. We can point out which ships have outdoor waterparks and other areas of entertainment for your child to play!

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