I’m a proudly travel-addicted single mom, and as such I try to be pretty fearless about the process. I dive into learning languages, I under-pack and never regret it, and my 4-year-old is great at clinging deftly to our rolling suitcase as we jog between international airport gates. In general, I think I’ve got globetrotting-plus-kid down. Until I don’t.
When planning a trip to Cuba right before the pandemic, I found myself drowning in a) phone-tag messages with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and b) research about travel categories and visas and inflated exchange rates and the fact that I was about to be facing a week out of the country without being able to use Wi-Fi, a credit card, or an ATM. I had no idea where I was going to stay and how I was supposed to pay for it in a way that didn’t, you know, break U.S. law.
I absolutely hated to admit it, but I needed help planning a trip.
Enter: TRVLBEES, a family travel company focused on kid-friendly boutique hotels. In no time, TRVLBEEs had us booked in one of the loveliest hotels I’ve ever stayed in, and our entire Havana trip was made easier by the hotel folks’ kindness, conscientiousness, recommendations, Spanish lessons, and insane-good food. Plus, outsourcing all the hotel research/booking/hassle left me with the time (and energy, ugh) I needed to deal with the visas, the money, and, you know, the U.S. Department of the Treasury. We went to Cuba without breaking any U.S. laws! Hooray!
Nowadays, of course, everything we thought we knew about travel has changed, and parents in particular have so many more concerns when booking travel with our kids. And even with the COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, we know there’s no going back to our travel approach from the Beforetimes — at least not for a long while. Luckily, whether you’re looking to book a socially distanced winter escape for your family or planning ahead in hopes of flying to far-flung destinations come summer (fingers crossed?!), there are plenty of kid-friendly travel companies out there to help meet your needs and make your vacation so much easier.
Below, meet six family travel companies that will seriously reduce your trip-planning angina — COVID-related, Cuba-related, or otherwise.
This aforementioned life-saving (or at least trip-saving) company is a delight to work with and has a true eye for hotel design as well as both kid- and eco-friendliness. The properties are gorgeous and they’ll make you feel right at home, away from home.
And speaking of home away from home, a now-common pandemic travel practice is to eschew the hotel model entirely and book someone’s actual house, so you can quarantine with your family for part or the entirety of your trip. Look no further than family rental company extraordinaire Kid&Coe. Their properties are impeccably well-designed rentals — that come pre-equipped with all the kid stuff (books, toys, high chair, you name it) you could possibly need. A beautiful home to yourself and no need to sift through the endless disappointing listings to find the gems? Sign us up. Kid&Coe has properties around the globe and from A to Z — or at least from Amsterdam to Vietnam.
Another fantastic yet under-the-radar gem for vacation rentals for the whole family is Vacasa, which offers the worry-free booking approach we all need in these strange times. Read: no-fee trip change and cancellation options! And you know that means a lot when you’re traveling with a tot or three in tow. Vacasa offers 3-D tours of every property prior to booking, and the brand’s Premium Clean program lets parents rest assured they’re getting a safe and sanitized experience worthy of those sweet little-kid immune systems.
Ciao Bambino is a luxury family-travel planning service that takes every headache possible out of the research, booking, advice-getting, and more of the less-than-thrilling aspects of vacationing with kids. The brand designs trips and itineraries that are completely customized around your family’s size, needs, and preferences; the goal is to create authentic travel experiences and forever memories with less hassle.
Totts is a company for parent travelers who want to pack light — but not end up regretting it. The idea is genius, really: Totts ships a customizable box of curated baby/toddler essentials to your destination. Translation: No more traveling with a week’s worth of wipes, diapers, sunscreen etc. Totts will even send you sippy cups and kid-sized cutlery, and “the Totts family also know a thing or two about traveling with kids so they make sure you’re equipped for those ‘what if’ scenarios,” the brand told SheKnows over email. Talk about a travel win!
But if your travel-rental needs are more heavy-duty than Totts can handle, check out BabyQuip, which can get you everything from baby gates, car seats, strollers, high chairs and cribs to toys and books (if you’re not renting an already-equipped Kid&Coe, that is). BabyQuip is super easy to use and has garnered rave reviews from parents in cities across the U.S. and Canada. That’s the only downside really: It’s not full-blown international (yet).
Let’s Take the Kids
This Canada-based travel agency helps families book vacations based on destination as well as experiences. Looking for a hand planning a resort escape? Let’s Take the Kids will take out the guesswork. Or maybe you’re more at the “soft adventure” level of travel: “You’ve done the all-inclusive thing. You’ve done Disney. You’ve cruised the Caribbean. You’d love to do something a bit more ‘real,’ a bit more adventurous, but it still has to be safe, it still needs to be accessible and interesting for the kids,” Let’s Take the Kids asks on their site. Sound like you? You’ve come to the right place.
With these family travel companies in your corner, you’ll wonder why you ever stressed about kid travel in the first place. Just make sure to get that visa (and bring hella cash) when Cuba reopens, okay?
A version of this story was originally published in January 2020.
Keep children — and those around you — travel-safe with these adorable kids face masks.