Visiting Hilton Head with a Toddler

Author: Reagan Burns and Celine Brewer

Last Updated:

Our trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina was not planned much at all. On a whim, and armed with a Southwest companion pass, I pitched the idea to my mother, for a little extra childcare support and within 30 minutes we had flights scheduled from Rochester, NY to Savannah Georgia. Hilton Head with a toddler seemed like the perfect idea.

Unfortunately, my husband was busy with work, so he had to miss this trip. My daughter was just over two years when we traveled to Hilton Head. Thankfully, I was traveling solo with a toddler, since my mom was able to join us.

Here are all my best tips for visiting Hilton Head with toddlers:

Hilton Head with a Toddler (8)

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Getting to Hilton Head with a Toddler

I’ve taken advantage of a special with Southwest for two years now. Usually in mid-September, they run a two-day sale and if you book and travel before December, they’ll grant you a companion pass for all of January and February.

I wanted to take advantage of the companion pass before it expired, especially since my daughter had just passed the mark of flying as a lap infant for free. That prompted me to search for flights, and one of the more economical choices, for a 3-day trip, with minimal travel time was Savannah.

My initial plan was to do 1 night in downtown Savannah and then head out to Hilton Head (just 45 minutes away) for a couple beach days, but we ultimately decided to get to the island of Hilton Head and enjoy our time after settling in there.

Leaving Hilton Head with toddler - at airport

Getting Around Hilton Head – Rent a Car

We opted to rent a car, which was about $200 total for the 3 days with Thrifty. With just two adults and a toddler, my mom booked a ‘surprise’ car and we ended up with a Dodge Charger. It was more than enough space for our two suitcases and our Doona carseat.

using doona car seat and stroller for Hilton Head with toddler

I always travel with our Doona and gate check it, to make sure it never gets lost with check baggage. My daughter prefers to push it around the airport, rather than ride in it these days, so we pile our diaper bag and purses in there and let her have her fun.

The Doona car seat folds smoothly and is super easy to strap into any car with just the seatbelt. Sadly, I think this was the last trip that the Doona will travel with my toddler on, as she’s finally outgrown it. It is only rear-facing as it’s an infant car seat and her legs were bunched up against the seat. The shoulder straps are also getting to the point where they need to be higher but they’re already on the highest setting.

toddler in doona car seat

As we drove to Hilton Head we missed a turn and ended up a little further north than we planned but that gave us the opportunity to get a little off the beaten path in South Carolina. We saw many plantations and roadside stands for pecans. We noted that when we come back it would be fun to visit one of these.

Packing Toddler Essentials for Hilton Head

We were not sure how accessible a grocery store would be, so I packed enough diapers from home, and on our way, we stopped at a Publix and stocked up on groceries. It took about 45 minutes to drive from the Savannah airport to Hilton Head Island with my toddler, and to our surprise, there were multiple grocery stores, Target, TJ Maxx, restaurants and more, within a 5-minute drive right on the island.

There’s a main road that runs through the island called William Hilton Highway, and most restaurants, shopping plazas, stores and attractions are right on it, as well as the bike and walking paths.

Overall, I would recommend not stressing at all about forgetting items, because you’ll be able to grab any replacements easily.

Where to Stay in Hilton Head with a Toddler

The Perfect Beachside Condo Resort

We had found a two bedroom, two bathroom beach view condo on VRBO and it worked perfectly for our visit to Hilton Head with a toddler. The condo was located at the Hilton Head Island Beach and Tennis Resort and was a little dated but was fully stocked.

We were on the 4th floor, but there was an elevator and our patio had great views of the water. The railing on the patio was also sturdy and narrow enough that there was no danger with my toddler enjoying the fresh air there. The crowd was mostly retired age people, with some renting and some owning condos. Everyone was very friendly.

at the beach in Hilton Head with toddler

The resort had a large playground, which we used a few times with my toddler in the late afternoon and was just a short path away from the beach. We were right on Folly Field Beach Park and loved being a little removed from the touristy areas more south.

Playgrounds in Hilton Head with toddler

On the last morning, as we left the condo for the beach, we passed another guest in the parking lot who pointed out a small alligator in the pond by the condo. We weren’t scared or threatened, and my mom tried to get closer and the alligator jumped in the water from her when she was still 40 feet away. They do have signs out, but I think like any area in the continental south, you have to be aware of some of the wildlife.

Hilton Head with a Toddler

Best Things to do in Hilton Head with a Toddler

Swimming (Beaches & Pools)

One of the best things to do in Hilton Head with toddlers is to just go to the beach. The beach area is large and flat, with smaller waves. We went in March and the water was chilly but still comfortable to wade in.

There are plenty of flat sandy areas for toddlers to play in the sand and build sand castles or shovel the sand. Our condo even came with toddler beach toys, children and adult beach chairs, beach towels and a collapsible cart to carry it down to the beach on, meaning we didn’t have to pack too many toddler beach essentials! This was top of our list for family things to do in Hilton Head.

walking on beach in Hilton Head with toddler

Another one of the best things to do in Hilton Head with toddlers is to visit the beachside pools. Our resort had a pool right next to the beach, with a kiddie pool of a depth of 1.5 feet. Right next to that was a deck with bar drink and food service. In order to use the pool, you needed to be staying at the resort. I will say, we were there at the beginning of March, and the first day, the pool was a great temperature, but the second day it was a little chilly.

Toddler playing condo pool - best places to stay in Hilton Head with toddler

I do not think they heat the pool, so if there’s wind it might not be an ideal pool day. The outside temperature was 70, but the pool was too cold to hang out in for long. On the first day there was another little girl there, the same age, so our daughters played and shared toys for a couple hours!

Playing at condo pool - Hilton Head with Toddler

Smith Galleries

We explored by driving down the William Hilton Highway and stopped in Smith Galleries a large art gallery that had a children’s play area in the back and specific children’s items. They feature it on their website here. We saw the more touristy areas, mid-island and many large impressive beachside home rentals that would be perfect for larger families. Almost all of the houses had pools.

There’s a rich history on the island from its discovery to its historical agricultural and racial roots. If you’re looking for a casual, off the beach activity for Hilton Head with a toddler you could visit the historic site of Mitchellville, the lighthouses and forts nearby or take a historical tour outside.

Hilton Head with a Toddler - best places to eat

Other Hilton Head Toddler Activities

Other Hilton Head activities for toddlers that we didn’t get a chance to experience were mini golf, museums, bike rentals with tag alongs (available at our condo) and there were tons of bike trails to all the attractions.

Another fun family thing to do in Hilton Head to grab a sweet treat in the afternoon. We brought my toddler to The G-Free Spot for gluten free lemon bars and a carrot cake cupcake. All the employees were very welcoming to a toddler!

Where to Eat in Hilton Head with a Toddler

Our rental car was perfect to get around Hilton Head Island with a toddler. We left the Doona in the car, making it easy to hop in for a few quick trips to restaurants and afternoon snacks. The first night we opted to do takeout, so that we could put my daughter down for bed on time (see getting toddlers to sleep on vacation).

The second night we went out to a Harborside restaurant, Poseidon. I loved how very toddler and baby friendly the restaurant was. We saw many families of all ages. They had highchairs, but my daughter prefers to stand and be mobile so we made a reservation and got a booth where she could spread out a little. The kid’s menu was full of choices (including gluten free) and they provided crayons.

Best places to eat in Hilton Head with toddler

There were a few fried food choices, some fresh seafood and steak, and some general staples such as pizza, french fries and burgers. I thought it was actually a pretty sophisticated kids menu. We decided on the fish and chips for my daughter since she generally likes fish (although it’s usually baked not fried) and the chips/french fries were a definite slam dunk.

I chose to order the Shrimp & Grits, thinking that at the very least she’d like the grits if I needed an additional backup. She loved it all. The fish and chips were a big portion, even for the kid’s size and we ended up bringing half of it home.

My daughter did the normal coloring and moving from one side of the booth to the other about fifty times and the staff was not phased one bit. They were truly professional and accommodating and extremely friendly.

There was a fun park and playground on the other side of the street that we didn’t get a chance to play on but I could see spending an afternoon here with plenty of room for kids to run around.

Toddler Travel Gear to Pack for Hilton Head

This is a comprehensive packing list for travel with a baby or toddler, but if you are looking to pack light, renting baby equipment while traveling is an excellent way to do that.

Look into renting baby gear in Hilton Head.

I really didn’t have to bring too many toddler travel essentials for this trip. Because my daughter has outgrown her pack n play, I didn’t bring it on this trip and the condo had bunk beds where I used pillows to pad in a place for her to sleep on the bottom bunk. I could have brought a toddler travel bed or toddler inflatable bed rails, but the pillows did the trick.

And because everything was close and nearby, I never found myself having to change her diaper somewhere strange, except for the pool, changing her in and out of swim diapers. There were garbage bins on the beach and at the pool and there was even a sign at the pool that they had swim diapers available if needed.

I did bring a white noise machine for travel. I brought her Rest mini by Hatch, which is what we use at home too. I didn’t bother hooking up the Wifi accessibility to use it with the app, and it works the same without the wifi. This helped block out any hallway noise or my mom and I chatting in the living room next door.

Usually I also bring our Wyze camera as our travel baby monitor to keep an eye on her, but since I was sleeping in the same room I opted not to bring that either. The Wyze camera does need to be connected to wifi in order to get the video on my phone and I’ve had issues in the past with not being able to add it to an airbnb or hotel network, or maxing out the amount of devices allowed on the network. For this trip it was fine to not have it.

I did pack toddler travel snacks for our trip like fruit snacks, apple sauce pouches, and instant oatmeal from home. They were mostly for breakfast and to have emergency backups on the plane.

All the restaurants and stores had close parking, so I never found myself needing a stroller, and I either carried my daughter or held her hand while she walked. I did bring a stroller fan but didn’t end up needing it.

Final Thoughts on Hilton Head with a Toddler

The Savannah Airport is quite small and accessible. There are only 9 gates, and before you go through security, you’ll pass through a shopping area that’s meant to look like a town courtyard. I picked up a kiddie size ice cream for my daughter from a local ice cream producer, Leopold’s, before we went through, but she didn’t take much of an interest in it. I tried it and it was super yummy. Here’s a tip, there’s also a location by the gates, so if you’re nervous about getting through security, you can wait to get it until after.

Toddler eating ice cream at Savannah airport

Security had no line, for the entire hour we sat there enjoying the courtyard and we got through with a breeze. The TSA agents were extremely nice and took care to examine the toddler items such as a water bottle and milk and test them before passing us through. I’ve had my mix of TSA agent personalities and how they feel about these extra steps for toddler items and these employees were amazing.

Overall, Hilton Head with a toddler was casual and a breeze. We’re already planning our next trip for Easter where we’ll bring the entire family with 7 grandchildren who will surely be taking advantage of all the Hilton Head family activities.

Our impromptu visit to Hilton Head, South Carolina was a spontaneous decision. With the help of a Southwest companion pass, I convinced my mother to join me on this trip for some much-needed childcare assistance. We didn't have any concrete plans, but we were excited to explore this beautiful destination and make unforgettable memories together. Read more on Hilton Head with a toddler!

This post was written & edited by:

Reagan Burns
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Reagan Burns is a travel loving mom! | Website | + posts

Celine Brewer is the owner of Baby Can Travel. Not only does she have years of experience traveling with babies & toddlers, but she's helped millions of new parents travel with their babies and toddlers for over a decade. In addition to writing on her baby travel blog, she has shared her expertise on traveling with a baby or toddler by contributing to articles about traveling with a baby with the Washington Post, USA Today, the Lonely Planet magazine and Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.

Celine also writes about family travel on the site, which she co-owns with her husband. Being from the Canadian Rockies, she shares her passion about her home and travel to Banff National Park and area on their site

Read more about Celine Brewer.