Family Travel

Traveling to Destin with Young Children

We had the pleasure of vacationing in Destin to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday. She wanted to go on a trip as a family, so we planned a family-friendly beach trip which included her and my father-in-law, her two sons (including my husband), me, and our two young boys, ages 2 and 4. 

Photo Credit: Shore Shooters

I wanted to ensure my mother-in-law had a great time but was a bit leery of traveling with our two young kiddos, who can get a bit antsy with a lot of waiting around. My concerns ended up being unnecessary, as the boys had the time of their lives! This was our first time visiting Destin, and here is what we loved about it and what made it such a great, kid-friendly vacation spot:

ACCOMMODATIONS

There are tons of places to stay in Destin, and what I learned very quickly is they fill up fast! We worked with a travel agent to secure a beachside condo. What we loved most about this place was the fantastic view and close access to the beach. 

Waters Edge

Our Condo rental was in Fort Walton Beach, right outside of Destin. It was a quaint area and what I enjoyed is that the beaches did not seem as crowded as those directly off  Destin’s Highway 98. We stayed at Waters Edge. Like most of the places in Destin, in general, the Condo was a bit dated, but the cleanliness, ocean view, and access to the beach made up for it. 

Our Condo consisted of 3 bedrooms and two baths. There was a room with bunk beds that would work great for older kids. Since my boys are so young, we had to use one of the mattresses and move it to the floor in the room where we were sleeping, as they would have rolled right off the bunk bed!

The unit had a nice sized kitchen, complete with a pantry, a dining area, and a living room, in addition to the balcony access to take in the views from both the living room and master bedroom. My favorite thing about the Condo was that it had a washer and dryer unit right inside, and so I was able to wash towels that we had used and wash all of the boy’s clothes before we returned home. 

THINGS TO DO

There are tons of things to do in the Destin area, and the Highway 98 strip is full of excitement, including a water park, Go-cart race track, put-put golf, and lots more. While our stay lasted only four days, we opted to spend most of the time at the beach, but if you plan a more extended visit and want excursions and activities for kids, DestinFWB is a great resource. 

There’s tons of casual and fine dining, and one of the things I loved about the casual dining places was that many were open-air and full of activity, music, and ocean waves in the background. This helped drown out my two-year-olds singing and dancing. One of the casual dining places I would highly recommend is Al’s Beach Club Burger Bar. The food was delicious, and the relaxed atmosphere was perfect for our kiddos. 

We had some time to burn and noticed the Air Force Armament Museum on our way to the airport. This was such a treat! It’s a FREE museum with dozens of vintage military aircraft. It’s right on the way to the airport. I would suggest stopping there if you have time to burn once you initially arrive or when you’re leaving. While there, one of the volunteers shared with us that they will be opening an exhibit in 2022 dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen and their accomplishments which we plan on coming back to see on our next visit. 

TIPS BEFORE YOU GO

Plan meals in advance.

  • I made a grocery list and menu for all meals we would eat within the Condo and shared it with the adults in the family so that everyone could add what they needed to the list. 

Do Recon before shopping. 

  • We went directly to the grocery store after our flight. I wanted to stock up on everything before getting to the Condo. While I thought this was best at the time, I would recommend checking in first to see what the Condo has before making your list. We picked up beach toys for the boys, which were a must. However, we realized the Condo had plenty of beach toys in the closet left by previous guests that were almost identical to those we’d purchased. 

Plan a photoshoot for the beginning of your trip.

Photo Credit: Shore Shooters
  • If you are planning a photoshoot, be sure to arrange it for the very beginning of your trip. We arrived on a Friday morning and had ours scheduled for Friday evening. Keep in mind most beach photo shoots have to occur early in the morning (6 am) or late in the evening (7 pm), so schedule something that works best for your family. My goal was to have ours the first day to get it out of the way so everyone could relax the remainder of the trip. However, that didn’t happen due to rain in the evening. The early planning was still a blessing because they could reschedule us for another day before leaving. If you schedule your shoot for the end of your trip and end up having bad weather, you may run the risk of it not happening. 

Make Dinner Reservations a week before your trip.

  • I had heard from several friends who frequent the area that the wait times at restaurants could be reasonably long. Given that we had two small children, I knew long waits for dinner would not be ideal. I researched a few places recommended by the owners of our Condo and called several to find out which offered reservations.  I stuck with those places, and we were seated upon arrival. 
  • *Pro Tip: If you’ve got a large party, inquiry about private dining rooms. For a fee, we were able to score one at Bijoux. The food and drinks were terrific, and we felt we could relax and let our hair down and have a fine dining experience, all while my 2-year-old screamed for chocolate cake and my 4-year-old picked at his fries since we weren’t in the presence of many others. It made for a great experience!

Be sure to rent a condo beachside or bring a wagon if there’s significant walking to access the beach.

With small children, having direct access from the beach from the first floor was a huge blessing for us! Both boys were able to walk and carry some of their beach toys in hand. If you don’t have direct beach access, please consider getting a wagon that’s large enough to tote your young kiddos and their toys. Otherwise, it may make traveling to and from the beach pretty taxing. 

SUPPLIES

As with most condo rentals in this area, you are responsible for bringing in most of your supplies. They provided initial supplies like toilet paper, dish soap, and bathing towels to get you started. Still, you were responsible for any additional supplies you would need during your stay, re-washing the bath towels as needed, etc. Beach towels were available to rent for the duration of your stay for $5. You could also bring your own beach towels. Given that we were flying and wanted to travel light, we opted to rent their beach towels. 

The other thing I liked was access to a full-sized kitchen in the unit, which allowed us to bring in all of our own food. We decided to get enough items for breakfast and lunch each day and then explore options for eating out in the evenings. This worked well for our family, given that I have two very young picky eaters! I was able to pick up their favorites from the local Walmart, which kept them fed and happy. 

RECOMMENDED ITEMS FOR SMALL CHILDREN

Life Vests – I’m huge on swim safety, and while both of our boys have learned to swim through ISR, I think it’s essential to make sure they are protected in natural bodies of water. We had the boys use life vests when they went further out in the water, whether just to enjoy the waves while we held them or to ride the boogie boards we found in our condos closet! 

Bright Color Swimsuits or Rash Guards – Ill be honest, I’m not a huge fan of bright colors when it comes to my boy’s wardrobe. I like more subtle colors and muted tones, however for the sake of swim safety, having bright color rash guards or swimsuits will help set your child apart in the water. You will be able to clearly see them and recognize them in the water/on the beach, and heaven forbid, if you do have to search for them in the water, their attire can be seen through the natural ocean blues. 

One Done Portable Potty Cup – While our Condo offered a bathroom nearby in the pool area, it would’ve still been inconvenient to walk back and forth to the restroom. I shared about the One Done Portable Potty Cup in my “Whats in my mom bag” video. This is definitely a must-have item and will make going potty a breeze. We never leave home without it. 

Collapsible Step Stool – With this, I would highly recommend seeing if the place you are staying has one first. Most hotels/resorts do not, but as we found out upon arrival, our Condo did, in fact, have the same collapsible step stool we packed in our 4-year-olds carry-on. This was a must-have item. It allowed both boys the independence to use the restroom, wash their hands, and brush their teeth. Since it’s so compact, I plan on taking ours on more trips in the future!

Beach Toys – Whether your Condo or resort has them, or even if you have to purchase from a local store, these are a must-have. The sand toys we bought at Walmart kept our boys busy each day in the beautiful, white sand. If you’re driving to Destin, these will be easy to pack, but if you’re flying in as we did, you may have to find a local store to purchase them if they aren’t provided where you’re staying. We ended up giving ours to another family that had just arrived on our final day so that their children could enjoy them as much as ours had. 

Sand Repellant Beach Blanket – while the Condo provided complimentary beach chairs and umbrella service, I still brought a beach blanket that we sat behind our chairs and umbrella. It’s a great place to put “all the things” that come with being at the beach, like your cooler, toys not in use, speaker, etc. Also, if you have a child still in diapers, it will provide an excellent clean surface to change them. 

We had a wonderful time, and although my boys may not remember this trip when they are older, I’m so thankful we have so many memories and beautiful photos to look back on to remember. In general, traveling with young children can be a lot of work and sometimes cause anxiety. Just remember to breathe, relax, and know that you are making memories every step of the way. Things don’t always go according to plan, and that’s okay too. Just go with it, see where God is taking you, and if needed, give the kiddos plenty of snacks to keep them occupied!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Asia
    July 16, 2021 at 4:53 pm

    Great family pics!!

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