We only write about destinations we have personally visited with our family.
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It can be difficult to choose a destination when travelling with a baby and a toddler. At the time of our trip to San Diego, our daughter was just over 2.5 years old and our little guy was 9 months old. Travelling with a baby meant we could choose the destination based on just our own interests, but now that one of our kids is past the baby stage, we try to choose a destination that will have activities that will also be fun for her (them). We don’t want to spend our entire vacation doing kid activities, but we do want them to enjoy travelling as well.
Learning from mistakes we’ve made in the past, we knew we couldn’t spend the entire time hauling the kids around in carriers and strollers. We had to give them an opportunity to burn off energy and be physically active. A crawling baby makes this a little more challenging because you need to find spots where they can safely crawl around (as they try to put everything in their mouths, etc.).
Taking all of this into consideration, San Diego is a near-perfect family destination for travel with a baby and a toddler. Here is why we recommend it:
The climate in San Diego is pretty consistent throughout the year, with average temperature highs between 9-18°C (48-64°F) in the winter and 19-25°C (66-77°F) in the summer. For our week in San Diego in May, we had a mix of some warm afternoons and some cooler days. Those cooler days can seem disappointing, but in reality they were perfect for travelling with a baby and toddler. Had it been extremely hot each day, we may have chosen to spend more days on the beach and less time out exploring. Also, when the days are too hot, we are more cautious about how much time our kids spend in the sun.
When travelling with babies and small children, the car seat question always comes up. If you are travelling with a young baby to a place where public transportation is excellent (like Europe), you might be able to get away without a car rental. For our trip to San Diego, there really was no other option than to rent a car. There are baby equipment rental companies that will deliver right to the Airport Rental Car Center at the airport, so we chose to rent over bringing our own car seats on the plane. Not only did we have less luggage to manage, we didn’t have to worry about our car seats getting damaged on the plane.
As for flights, San Diego was attractive to us given the 3 hour direct flight from Calgary, Canada. A three hour flight is pretty easy. We set up our toddler with the iPad and swapped the baby back and forth between us. Not only was the short flight time nice, but the time of the flights was perfect! It was mid-day both ways, meaning if our kids missed their afternoon naps, we could just put them down early for bed time. Yay!
3. THINGS TO DO
Most importantly, San Diego has a long list of activities that are sure to entertain the whole family and kids of any age.
Options for the whole family include La Jolla Cove & Children’s Pool (to see the seals), hiking in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve or spending a day on the beach. More kid-specific activities include the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, Birch Aquarium, Legoland, and Belmont Park. As we were doing our planning, we made sure to include activities we knew would entertain our little ones but also to plan for days where we would do something just for us – like hiking.
It was easy to keep our toddler moving between walking the zoo and on our hikes. For our baby, the Birch Aquarium was a perfect outing to let him explore, as was the time on the beach or at a park.
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Our preference these days is to self-cater, especially for breakfast and lunch. We are up so early that it’s easiest if we can all have breakfast before we head out for the day. Depending on our plans for the day, we might pack a lunch so we can eat quickly without wasting time in a restaurant. Sometimes, we will cook a simple dinner for the kids then one of us will run out and buy some delicious take-out for us to eat while the kids are sleeping.
Given we had a rental car, it was easy for us to pick up groceries for our week in San Diego. Staying in a rental house with a full kitchen also made cooking easy. Eating out is a fun part of travel, so we did eat out or get take-away a few times during our stay and had no trouble finding family-friendly restaurants.
5. ONE DOWNSIDE TO SAN DIEGO
While no place can be perfect, we really only had one complaint about San Diego and that was the amount of driving we had to do. Strapping two kids into car seats multiple times a day and having to drive 30-40 minutes one way when you aren’t exactly sure where you are going can be a little stressful. Overall, we found San Diego easy to navigate; it was just the distance between all the sights we wanted to see. Choosing where you stay is very important depending on where you want to spend the majority of your time. We found Mission Beach to be a fun and central location to stay.
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Have you been to San Diego with a baby or planning to? What's on your must-see list?