My husband and I went on six trips in our first year of marriage. Traveling has always been something we both really enjoy. We enjoy seeing new places, experiencing new things, trying new foods etc. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, obviously our travels came to an abrupt halt. I found out I was pregnant in September of 2020, and had my son in May of 2021. We were both SO nervous to travel after that.
We took our first trip with him (and our dog) when he was only 8 weeks old! Travel blogs/bloggers, with all of their tips and tricks, are the only way we got through it and continue to aspire to be a frequently traveling family.
My in-laws own a condo in Fort Myers, which is why it’s the perfect toddler friendly destination for us. We have been both pre-Hurricane Ian and post. I would imagine that many families would avoid visiting a post-hurricane destination like Fort Myers, however I don’t think you should discount it! Part of why I wanted to write this article was to show families that you can still have a wonderful visit to Fort Myers with a toddler and older children.
Hear are our best tips for visiting Fort Myers / Naples with a toddler.
What You’ll Find in This Article on Fort Myers & Naples with a Toddler:
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Getting from the Airport to your Accommodation in Fort Myers
Airport navigation with a toddler is no joke. We have learned new tips and tricks with every trip that make the experience of flying with a toddler better each time. The Fort Myers airport is not a large one to navigate, which is nice – but I still definitely recommend a stroller.
The rental car lot is close enough to the airport to walk, but if you don’t have a stroller to use for your toddler, it would be tiresome to get everything where you need to be to pick up the car.
We always rent a car with whatever company is offering the cheapest rate for the type of car we want. We have now rented a car seat and traveled with our own car seat. The rental car seats are probably the cheapest car seats you could possibly find and although they are usually clean and get the job done, they aren’t ideal. You also don’t know the history of that car seat.
We recently opted to just buy our own travel car seat to bring with us for several reasons. Mainly – the car seat we purchased for travel was only about $90 USD and every time we rent a car seat for a week with a rental car, it is usually about $100 USD. We know this will save us money from now on to just bring our own! The car seat we purchased is nicer than the ones you rent and seems much more durable and comfortable for our toddler, which we appreciate.
We bought a backpack car seat bag that we store it in to enable us to bring it easily to the airport. Having our own travel car seat and padded car seat bag made it so easy to navigate the airport and easily get into the rental car and drive away.
Where to Stay in Fort Myers with a Toddler
We stayed with my In-Laws at their condo in Bay Woods Lake neighborhood, which is about 10-15 minutes from the beach. Many of the oceanfront properties in Fort Myers Beach are still in repair from the Hurricane and I would suggest avoiding those areas.
Naples and Vanderbilt Beach are in pretty good shape and would be great options for oceanfront properties if that is what you and your family are looking for.
One thing to consider if you are wanting an oceanfront property is that the area is having a difficult time with Red Tide growth since the Hurricane. If you have an oceanfront condo or house, there could be a possibility that if Red Tide is offshore but close by, respiratory irritation (sneezing, coughing, runny nose) could occur.
Getting Around Naples & Fort Myers
Navigating the roads with our rental car was very easy. Unless you are staying in downtown Naples, due to the Hurricane, there are not a lot of walkable areas if you were hoping to only need rides to the airport and back.
Ubers are not super commonplace in this area either – although you can find them when you need them usually.
Just like any city, you will find traffic heavy times of day. We were usually out from 10-12pm and 3-6pm and didn’t have many issues (we went in late February). However, during peak summer months, the main highway can get a little congested from 4-8pm.
What to Pack for Fort Myers with a Toddler
Either a toddler travel stroller or a toddler carrier works great in Fort Myers/Naples! Besides how to get your toddler around, other toddler travel essentials to consider are:
A toddler travel bed or the Guava Lotus Travel Crib is a great choice. We love the Lotus Travel Crib because it is longer than a normal pack n play and does not have a weight limit. It sits directly on the floor, so it is sturdy and advertises that it is appropriate for children up to age three.
It is compact, so it is easy to travel with and even has backpack straps for easy transportation as well. We usually are able to set it on top of a large suitcase just fine for navigating to and from the airport.
Toddler snack cups make snacking on the go easy and mess free.
Travel Sippy Cup
Same as the snack cup, less mess with a travel sippy cup and your toddler can carry the cup!
Portable Change Mat
Every place I needed a changing table, there was one readily available. A portable change mat is easy to have just in case!
Toddler Travel Toys
Busy Baby Silicon Placemat
We use this at each restaurant for our toddler’s food. He cannot be trusted with glassware yet and some restaurants don’t offer an alternative. This silicone placemat is a lifesaver for us to have a clean space for his food to be on.
Portable Pop N Go Highchair
We use our portable highchair ALL THE TIME. Even though we didn’t need it at the restaurants, it was still super useful to pack. We even use it at home if we go to a friend or family’s house who we know does not have a high chair. The Summer Pop N Sit portable booster is super easy to travel with and provides a secure and easy spot for meals and even other activities like coloring/playing with toys.
Toddler Travel Snacks
There’s no reason to pack all your toddler travel snacks, diapers, etc. There are a multitude of grocery stores further in-land in Fort Myers (8-15 minutes from the beach). Options include Publix, Walmart, Sprouts. At Publix and Walmart – you can find all of your needed baby/toddler items. In Naples, you can find Publix stores pretty close to the beach area – but would have to drive awhile in-land (15 minutes) to reach a Walmart.
Best Things to do in Fort Myers with a Toddler
The last two times we have gone to this area, we really did not do a beach vacation. CRAZY, I know. We come from the North, so we just loved the warm weather and sunshine. We also just enjoyed trying to find other activities that our toddler might enjoy!
Here are the best places to go with a toddler in the Fort Myers / Naples areas:
This is in Fort Myers and is a bar/restaurant/putt-putt/ice-cream parlor/playground. We swear every city needs one of these! It is a one-stop shop for kids and parents of all ages. We have taken our son there twice and have a blast each time.
The whole establishment is open to air and the playground area is half-covered from the sun, which is an added bonus. The food is typical American cuisine, but offers kid friendly options as well. You can carry drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) throughout the whole establishment (on the playground and around the putt-putt), which we loved!
Lakes Park is a large park in Fort Myers that has several lakes, playgrounds, splash pads, a train ride, and a large bike/jogging path. It is $2.00 to park, because it is considered a state park, but is otherwise free! There are multiple playgrounds on-site (one very large one shaped like a train) and a little train ride that takes you through the park (for a fee).
They offer several different kinds of paddle boats (which were not operational during our February trip due to the hurricane – so I would double check on this before a visit if you were wanting to do that) and bike buggies for rent as well.
There are two splash pads (which were also not operational yet during our February visit due to Hurricane damage) and a large number of picnic areas if you wanted to pack a lunch! There are alligators and many species of birds that live in the park, that offer some additional sightseeing.
The Naples Zoo was a great place to spend the morning with our toddler. It opens at 9:00am and closes at 4:30pm. We opted for an early trip (and it seemed like most people with young kids did the same). Parking was easy and convenient and was not too far from the entrance. We brought our UppaBaby G-Lite stroller for James to ride in – which he ended up not using much of.
Some of the sidewalks at the park are just gravel, which our stroller does not do well in, so definitely keep that in mind if you are planning a visit.
The Zoo is not very large, so it was fine to just have our toddler roam without the stroller and we carried him when he wanted.
There is a large playground right when you enter the park with a food court that offers basic food attached.
The Zoo offered opportunities to feed giraffes at certain times of the day and a free boat ride to see “monkey island” (several islands where the monkeys’ habitats were). The line for the boat ride went relatively quick and the boat ride itself is probably about 10 minutes long. If you have a toddler like mine who does not like sitting still – it may not be the BEST experience…but still worth it so they can see some cool monkeys!
Since Hurricane Ian, many of the Fort Myers Beach public beaches are not yet open. Public beaches often can have limited parking options, which can be a challenge when you have all of your toddler beach essentials in tow. Vanderbilt Beach is in between Fort Myers and Naples, but closer to Naples.
This is a great public beach option because there is a public parking garage very close to the beach access point that offers a lot of parking options. There are also public restrooms close by, which is a must if you are traveling with a potty-training toddler!
One important thing to consider when visiting any beach in this area is the Red Tide status. Many of the beaches are open, but due to the algae blooms offshore, may have respiratory irritation that occurs at the shore (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, etc.). These conditions change day to day – so you can check on the Lee County Beaches website to see what the status of each beach is before you head there daily.
Congo River Golf
This is an 18-hole putt-putt course in Bonita Springs (in between Fort Myers and Naples) that is great for kids of all ages! You can pay extra to feed their live Caiman (they look like mini-alligators) which James LOVED and was an added bonus to the already fun activity.
There are great playgrounds in this whole area! Most have re-opened since the Hurricane. Some different equipment may not be in full-working order yet within the park though.
Where to Eat in Fort Myers or Naples with a Toddler
We didn’t find the need for a travel highchair since eating in restaurants is fairly easy and often have highchairs. You’ll find that downtown Naples is definitely higher end and is less kid-friendly. It does not mean that they do not accommodate! But in general, this area is more geared towards wealthy retirees. Fort Myers restaurants are generally very kid-friendly, and workers are very accommodating to needs of toddlers.
Although this is considered a chain restaurant in the area (which means there are several locations of it), it is a great place for the whole family! They offer daily happy hours with great deals, are very kid friendly (highchairs, crayons, kids menus), and have a diverse menu of seafood and American food. All of the locations offer open-air seating (which we have found our toddler usually does best with!)
There are several restaurant options in the Naples Mercato shopping area. This area also has shops, a movie theater, and Kilwin’s Ice Cream Parlor. There are two large outdoor turf areas for kids to play and run around in and plenty of outdoor seating at all of the restaurants.
We specifically tried the 239 Naples and were not impressed. The tables were too close together to have a high chair fit comfortably and their “kids” meal portions were adult sized (as well as the food that was brought out). There are a multitude of other restaurants there that I think would be much more family friendly (as there are usually a lot of kids there when we go!).
Bimini Bait Shack
The Bimini Bait Shack has a water view and is situated right before the Sanibel bridge. It is themed after Gilligan’s island and has all sorts of decorations to keep a toddler entertained. It offers open air dining, live music, and water views. The bar itself is a fish tank and there are swings to sit on that can help to keep a busy toddler entertained!
K-Rico Mexican Grill (Bayfront Area of Naples)
This is a great restaurant in the Naples Bayfront area that offers authentic Mexican cuisine. We ate outside on the patio, which I recommend, because you have a view of the bay and the planes that land at the local Naples airport!
The frequent planes landing were not too loud and kept our toddler very occupied throughout the meal. There is also a small boat dock and some other restaurants and shops close by that can provide other options for entertainment. There should be parking garages around this area to offer easy parking – but bring a lightweight travel stroller in case you need to walk a bit.
Final Thoughts on Fort Myers with a Toddler
Overall, we find traveling to Fort Myers / Naples with a toddler a really fun holiday. It’s a perfect toddler-friendly destination, where we can relax and enjoy our time together as a family. There are plenty of toddler activities in Fort Naples and the surrounding areas, plus the beach to give our little one some free play time!
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