How To Enjoy A Summer Vacation With Small Kids

Have you ever traveled to a place where you instantly feel so comfortable and strangely at home? That’s how I feel when I visit Ojai, CA. It’s only about 50 minutes from Santa Barbara and about 2 hours from Los Angeles. This past month, I traveled down to Ojai for the third time (see my trip last summer here), but this time I was traveling as a family of four!

I’ve talked in the past about how my family likes to plan mini-vacations (see more on that in my dreamy Santa Barbara post). We tend to shy away from big, expensive trips with our kids. Hopefully when they get older, we will plan more of those. For now, we love to do jaunts all around California, and Ojai is one of our favorite places ever.

One of the things we love most about Ojai is the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. This is the second time we’ve had the pleasure of staying there. I think what I love most about the resort is that it feels like a beautiful oasis in this small town. The views are incredible. I love the mountains, green rolling hills and, of course, the glorious pink sunset. In fact, the resort staff tells you what time the ‘pink hour’ is every night, and you can view it from your balcony or while sitting by the fire drinking wine and roasting s’mores (the resort offers adorable s’mores kits at Libbey’s Market). We also love to eat outside at The Oak Kitchen (the Brussels sprouts are amazing) while watching kids play out on the grass and seeing the lanterns twinkle as the sun goes down.

This time around, we were visiting with my in-laws to celebrate my father-in-law’s 70th birthday. He and my husband enjoyed a morning of golf (which my husband highly recommends if you love to golf!), while I snuck away for the most relaxing massage at the spa. As much we love the town of Ojai, when we’re staying at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, we honestly don’t feel the need to leave the property.

Most of the time, we hung out at the Pixie Pool, which is the kid-friendly pool. What I love about this pool is it feels just as luxurious as an adult pool. It’s got an awesome spa, and you can enjoy drinks and kid-friendly and kid-approved snacks.

We’ve only stayed here twice, yet it feels like a second home. My kids love riding on the golf carts, we love taking a family photo overlooking the oak trees and it just feels like a magical spot that we cherish.

I asked you on social media what you would want to know most about this trip, and many of the responses were about schedules and sleeping arrangements. I’m going to give you the best rundown on how we made this trip work with a 10-month-old and a 3-year-old.

Tips for Staying at a Resort with a Baby and a Toddler: 

  1. Tell the hotel you’re coming with kids and tell them their ages. Many resorts will have fun gift bags for the kids when they arrive. These little things make such a big difference to kids especially if they are grumpy from traveling.
  2. If you can afford it, book a suite (we got a fireside suite at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa). It makes life so much easier. You have more space, you get a separate living area and it makes things feel a bit more luxurious than cramming into one small room. That being said, it’s definitely not a must. Most of the time, my kids are in the same room with us no matter how many we have.
  3. Make sure to ask for a Pack ‘n Play or a crib for the baby, and if the hotel offers toddler beds, take them up on it. Ojai Valley Inn & Spa does and it comes with fun kid characters and sheets. This is great because my daughter is too scared to sleep in a separate room on the couch when we’re away. So she and the baby can both sleep in the room with us comfortably.
  4. Be low-key about dining. I try to stay pretty relaxed when it comes to meals with the kids when staying at resorts. We don’t do any fancy dinners because most of the time the kids are worn out from playing and swimming by dinner time. What’s great about The Oak Kitchen is that it feels fancy, but is super kid-friendly and laid-back. I’ve had such great experiences eating there. Last summer, we had four kids under the age of 5 and they made us feel so welcomed. We often will pick a night that we eat in the guest room. It’s usually the first night when everyone is tired and it’s later than normal because we’ve been traveling. On our last night, we ate at Boccali’s, which is an Ojai staple and super casual and family-friendly. The strawberry shortcake is so delicious!
  5. Don’t overbook your schedule. That’s one thing that makes staying at a resort so great with kids. It’s entertaining enough for the kids to stay happy, yet it still feels like a beautiful vacation destination for adults. This trip, we really didn’t obligate ourselves to anything other than enjoying our stay. I find that really helped keep us more relaxed.
  6. Bring toys. Not everyone may agree with this, but I always bring fun toy packs for the kids that are usually filled with a mix of new and old toys that will keep them entertained on the drive, during boring moments in the room and out at meals. I bought my daughter a plastic case that can hold small toys and I surprised her with new ones throughout our drive. She loved it!

Sleeping Arrangements and Schedule: 

Like I mentioned above, we had a mini crib and travel toddler bed in the main room with us. I did bring some of my kids’ own blankets so they felt some comfort of home. While I don’t think a suite with a separate living area is crucial, what’s great about it is that it really helps if your kids nap or if they go to bed early. It can be a big bummer to have to sit in a dark silent room at 8 p.m. while your kids sleep.

Typical Daily Schedule: 

5:30 a.m.: Wake up! Whether at home or on vacation, my 10-month-old likes to wake up before 6 a.m.—no sleeping in for us. If my daughter was still sleeping, we would just sneak the baby out of the room and hang out in the living area.

7 a.m.: While I watched the kids and got them ready, my husband would walk into town to the market café and get us some breakfast and coffee. Then we would enjoy it in the room.

8:30 a.m.: Because my son wakes up so early, he has to take an early morning nap. Usually I stayed with him in the room while he napped and my husband and in-laws took my daughter out to explore.

11 a.m.: By now, my daughter was antsy to get to the pool, so we all headed there to have lunch and play for a few hours.

1 p.m.: My son needed another nap around this time. In the past, he would maybe have taken a nap at the pool in my arms, but he is too distracted for that now. This time, my husband joined him for a nap in the room and I stayed at the pool for a little longer with my daughter.

3 p.m.: Now it’s way passed quiet time for my daughter (she hardly naps anymore), so I would take her back to the room to play quietly, have a bath or watch a little television. Or my in-laws took her to their room to do the same.

5 p.m.: At this time, we all got ready for an early dinner (usually around 5:30 or 6 p.m.). My son goes to bed at 7 p.m. at home and my daughter is usually around 8 p.m., so we try to keep the routine as much as we can when out, but dinner is usually a tough time on vacation because the kids are overtired and off-schedule. Although, I admit that it can be fun to keep them out and do later activities sometimes.

8 p.m.: We would hang outside at the resort at this time. We usually walked around or watched the sunset with the kids after dinner.

9 p.m.: It’s bedtime for both kids. By this time, my son is totally overtired because he woke up at 5:30 a.m. and did not taken a late afternoon catnap (too difficult to get three naps in while doing things, and he doesn’t always need it anymore). So I would get him ready for bed and feed him while my husband did a little bedtime routine for my daughter. Usually they were both quickly asleep by 9-9:30 p.m.

10 p.m.: As much as my husband and I wanted alone time, we were totally exhausted come 10 p.m. We typically snuck back into the room by 10 or earlier and passed out with the kids.

I hope this was helpful. Vacationing with kids is so tiring and a little complicated, but always worth the good times and memories!

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Author: Taylor Sterling

Taylor Sterling is the founder and creative director of Glitter Guide. When she's not working on all things GG, she can be found reading and sometimes art directing photoshoots for @LolaJayne. She enjoys spending time with her family and eating french fries (not necessarily at the same time, although that's definitely the best combination). Follow her at @TaylorSterling

  • I definitely agree with you about getting a suite! We’ve had to share a room with our little guy a few times this year, and while it was fun, it was not fun to have to be silent + dark while he was asleep. Love the pictures!

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