Friday, June 29, 2012

Tips for a Destin, Florida vacation...with a toddler!

One thing I have learned from being a parent is that everything is a learning lesson.  Sometimes, it’s an easy lesson, sometimes it’s not.  What I’ve also learned is to ask those that have essentially “been there, done that” and be sure to share what worked for you (and maybe what didn’t work).
So, here are a few take-aways and favorite spots from our Destin trip:
mama & Annie Louise in matching beach hats!
 Stay in a hotel/resort that is kid friendly.  We stayed in the Holiday Inn tower – it was in a great area, we didn’t have to travel far for some great restaurants, and it was definitely not lacking in the activities for kids.  They have what’s called “Buccaneer Camp” which was more for older kids (like ages 3 and up), but they had nightly activities (including face painting, coloring, magic tricks, bounce houses) which was definitely an added bonus!  The kiddie pool was a favorite spot of ours, and we made lots of other toddler friends.  There’s also a concession-type stand outside, so we never had to leave the hotel for lunch, and we could eat on the deck in our beach-wear!
a little applesauce never hurt anyone!
Keep your child’s schedule….this is key.  Don’t skip naps and don’t change meal times.  Yes, it may stink to leave the beach or pool for naptime, but believe me, you’ll regret it if you skip that nap.  Keeping their schedule is the one thing you can do to keep things consistent for your little one.
TIP: spend your mornings (EARLY) on the's so much nicer!

Don’t overdo it or push it.  I knew AL might not like the beach or the ocean.  But you know what?  That’s okay.  I decided I wasn’t going to push anything that she didn’t want to do.  We went out to the beach with lots of sand toys (that she was familiar with from home) and just let her “test the waters.”  She did not like the ocean at all, and that was okay with me.  I just didn’t want to make her like anything – this was more for me, than for her.  And don’t overdo it…you’ll stress yourself out.  And hello, it’s VACATION, try to relax!
waiting for the sea lion show at the Gulfarium!
Research and plan for rainy days or days you don’t want to spend at the beach.  I didn’t really plan for this, but we made it by the skin of our teeth when Tropical Storm Debby showed up.  Here are some ideas in case you have a rainy day: most hotels have a small section of brochures (which usually have coupons) - browse through them and see if there’s anything that fits your fancy.  We visited the Gulfarium (it was about a 10 minute drive) – from what I had read online, it had recently been remodeled.  It was a little price-y for adults (around $20 each), but 3 and under were FREE.  It was a nice way to spend our morning – we LOVED the sea lion show!  The dolphin show (which was the whole reason we went) was somewhat disappointing because we couldn’t really see the dolphins.  Tip – if you go, stand along the side of the pool – great way to see all the action!  There are tons of other activities including shops, movies, naval museums, water parks, fun parks…pretty much anything for any age!
make sure to add some money to your budget for fun souvenirs!
and no dinner is complete without chocolate cake!
Try to budget for your food.  We had an idea of how much money we wanted to spend each day, and this helped us when trying to plan how much money we wanted to bring with us.  Visit the menus online so you can see a typical meal.  For us, as a family of 3, it usually cost us around $70 a night for dinner (2 entrees, a kids meal and dessert).  You’re on vacation…splurge for the desserts!  Your kids will LOVE it!
ice cream sandwiches make a great snack!
Pack plenty of beach towels, sunscreen and aloe vera (for those sunburns), floats, etc.  – you DON’T want to get down to the beach and not have any of these.  They are typically MUCH more expensive in vacation areas, so stock up before you leave!
another morning on the beach...getting ready to go to the POOL!

Here’s where we ate on our trip:
The Crap Trap – I give this one a 3 out of 5 stars…it was okay, definitely not the best food we ate while we were down there.
Another Broken Egg – WOW.  We met Molly for breakfast here (she suggested it).  SO good!  If you want to eat a big, beautiful breakfast or brunch, you definitely need to visit this place!
Dewey’s – I give this one 5 stars.  Amazingly yummy and delicious.  Loved the atmosphere and the casual feel.  And the crabcakes…oh my word!  The hush puppies were great, too!
A.J.’s – Another 3 out of 5 stars – good, but not great.  AL loved the location, as we could see lots of boats.  
The Back Porch – 4 out of 5 stars.  Great service, great location…great key lime pie!  And the playground was great for AL to play on after we finished dinner!
Pompano Joe’s – 5 out of 5 for sure!  The service was awesome, and the Teriyaki Tuna…DEEEEEEElicious! We indulged in the chocolate cake for dessert, and it was quite the treat!
*try to include some COLOR in your dinner for your kids – a lot of times, the kids meals are all fried…order a side of steamed veggies to add some green to their plate!
evenings on the beach were the best...cooler temps & not so crowded!
I have a whole post coming up next week about traveling with a toddler.  We had a 7+ hour trip to get down to Destin, so I have LOTS of tips.  
Have any other tips/suggestions that worked for your family?  
Share away!  I would LOVE to add them to my list!


  1. This is our vacation spot, and Yes to all the restaurants and tips above! My very favorite spots in the Destin area are The Red Bar 15 miles east in Grayton Beach, and Louisiana Lagniappe in Sandpiper Cove.

    My best tip for vacationing with toddlers and young kids is to avoid the sun during the middle of the day to limit sun exposure and crushing fatigue.

  2. Schedule was the biggest thing for me. WE would push it back a little later to enjoy more time in the morning on the beach, but that allowed for later bed times as well. Easton is so laid back he just went with whatever.

    All these are great tips!!!!

  3. Hi Leelee,
    My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blog posts about Sandpiper Cove to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you :)

  4. A kid-friendly place is one of the many places that I’ve been looking for. You see, we’ll be going on a tour to Destin with four kids and I’m very happy to have read your post. I think I can pursue with travelling this time since we’re all very excited to visit the beach in Destin! Thanks for your tips. :D

    + Danny Riddell +

  5. Hi-
    My name is Amy and I'm with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blogs about Destin to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at amy(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you soon!