SETTING OUT WITH BABIES AND TODDLERS
Although there may well be dauntless parents who would think nothing of mounting, say, a temple-to-temple Bhutan trek with their baby in a backpack, most of us are best off focusing on ease—and napping opportunities. Cherubs who adapt well to change are, of course, the best travelers, but even high-maintenance types benefit from new scenery. Book nonstop flights, and for safety, spring for a seat for your child (and lug aboard a car seat, too). But first, take your pick from these eminently doable getaway options.
Rent a Vacation House
Think of it: space for all that gear, a kitchen, a washer and dryer—and perhaps room for a doting grandparent or two. Rent-by-owner Web sites like www.vrbo.com have thousands of family-friendly options in vacation spots from Anchorage to Zihuatanejo. Or leave the legwork to the pros. Rental agencies such as ResortQuest (800/467-3529; www.resortquest.com) list properties throughout the U.S. and Canada. Ciao Bambino (866/802-0300; www.ciaobambino.com) plans villa vacations in Italy and France; it stocks the house with toys, snacks, and baby equipment; arms you with a mobile phone; and puts you in touch with experienced sitters.
Check into an All-inclusive
This is the cake-mix vacation—all the ingredients you need, just add sunblock. The Club Med resorts at Sandpiper, Florida, and Ixtapa, Mexico (800/258-2633; www.clubmed.com; one week for a family of four at Sandpiper from $3,855, at Ixtapa from $2,595), provide child care in their Baby Club Meds (expect to pay a weekly supplement of about $180 per child). Parents also have access to fridges and microwaves and, as part of the just-introduced baby welcome service, will find their rooms stocked with cribs, strollers, and infant tubs and childproofed. At Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa (888/232-2437; www.beaches.com; doubles from $865, kids under two free, kids under 15 $90 per night) families can sign on for a $12-an-hour Ultra Nanny who's ready to oversee everything from mealtimes to sand castle construction.
Take a Cruise
Vacations at sea work especially well for multigenerational groups—plenty of opportunities to scatter, and also to gather, especially at meals. Just be sure your cruise is well equipped for the under-three set. Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 (800/728-6273; www.cunard.com; seven-day sail for a family of four from $4,196) offer complimentary nursery care from 9 a.m. to midnight, by certified British nannies, for children a year and older. Babies as young as 12 weeks can set sail on a Disney cruise (800/951-3532; www.disneycruise.disney.go.com; four-day sail for a family of four from $1,156), where the Flounder's Reef Nursery staff will look after them for an hourly fee of $6; space is limited, so book ahead. Another Disney plus: children in swim diapers can use one designated (and specially filtered and chlorinated) pool.
Splurge on a Fancy Hotel
Babies are welcome at some of the most sophisticated spots these days. The Ritz-Carlton, Cancún (800/241-3333; www.ritzcarlton.com; doubles from $399)—scheduled to reopen April 30 following hurricane repairs—has Itzy Bitzy Ritz kids' rooms with cribs, changing tables, and phones that light up instead of ring. Cribs with 300-thread-count linens and Mustela baby toiletries await at the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley, Arizona (800/245-2051; www.sanctuaryaz.com; doubles from $525). And at the One & Only Maldives at Reethi Rah (866/552-0001; www.oneandonlyresorts.com; villas from $990), a "villa host" will sterilize bottles and launder clothing, while a chef whips up baby food. Mashed mango, sweetie?
Find diapers, baby food, and other necessities waiting at your rental house, hotel, or cruise ship. Jet Set Babies (866/990-1811; www.jetsetbabies.com) delivers.