Toddler Travel … Turbulence and Tantrums Avoided

Westin Family Journey from Sunny San Diego to Disneyland

I think everyone gets a little bit of anxiety when getting prepared to travel with a toddler, as was I. Is he going to have a meltdown on the plane? Will he throw a tantrum and make a scene? Will we get any sleep? And the list goes on…

Well, let me tell you … it’s not worth it. We had the BEST trip of our lives! Sure, the 3 1/2 hour plane ride got a bit long, but with snacks, coloring books and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episodes on the iPad we got through it without any hitches. The only person Griffin bothered was mom (he’s almost 35 lbs and didn’t sit very still). I would suggest an additional seat for a large child under 2, we’ve got a big boy.

Renting a Car

We rented a car through National (we are Emerald Members). We got off the plane, shuttled over to the car rental and hopped right in to our minivan. We were on our way to sunny San Diego in no time. The customer service was superb! We were in and out with no problems and NO wait time! Perfect, for toddler travels.

San Diego

As we were in route to San Diego from LAX we decided it was time to take a break and let Griffin experience the ocean for the first time. We happened to stumble on San Clemente Beach and boy were we glad we did. It was a beautiful beach with large waves and tons of surfers to watch.

San Clemente San Clemente

We stayed at The Dana on Mission Bay. It was a nice hotel that was very accommodating and near the beach and downtown San Diego, perfect for our two night stay. There was a pool, a restaurant with good eats and also a shuttle service to nearby SeaWorld.


Day 1 in San Diego: A Day of Nonstop Adventures

Coronado Beach
We spent our first morning in San Diego at Coronado Beach. We stopped at the Broken Yolk for breakfast, I highly recommend this restaurant!  Coronado Beach is 1.5 miles long and super wide! We had perfect waves and the sand was soft as can be. We couldn’t keep Grif out of the water. After the beach we spent time shopping for souvenirs and they had some great little shops.

Coronado Beach

Belmont Park
After a short time relaxing at the hotel we headed to Belmont Park. There were rides, an arcade, restaurants and shops. We really enjoyed the beach views and lively atmosphere.

Belmont Park

Downtown San Diego
We had to check out downtown San Diego. We didn’t realize all the fun we would stumble upon on our journey. As we were heading in we saw a park that looked like a great place to stop for Griffin to play. Waterfront Park is the perfect place for family in a downtown setting! There was a unique play area, fountains to run through and an open play area with tall buildings and pirate ships surrounding you. It almost seemed surreal.

Fountain Park with City View Fountain Park Play Area Open Area Fountain Park

We walked to Westfield Horton Plaza which was a beautiful outdoor mall with good eats and a movie theatre.  We completed our day with fish and chips on the pier.

Westfield Horton Plaza

Day 2 in San Diego: Zoo Adventure and Anaheim Bound 

We spent the day at San Diego Zoo. This is the perfect place for a family with small children to go. There are countless exotic animals to see and there are also small play areas and animal figures for the kids to play on. Some of our favorites were the hippo, koala bears and pandas. This was a first for my husband and I too.

Hippo Koala Bear Panda
San Diego Zoo 2 San Diego Zoo Play Area San Diego Zoo

After our fun at the San Diego Zoo we were on our way to Anaheim.



We stayed at Fairfield Inn. It was a nice hotel with Disney themed rooms. It was just a short walk to Disneyland which allowed to sneak in a short nap during our Disney day.

Fairfield Pool Themed Room

Day 3 in Anaheim: Disneyland

We spent one full day at Disneyland (minus a short nap). We covered a lot of ground, rode most all the rides that we could with Griffin and saw all of our favorite characters. I would highly suggest downloading the app so you know when and where character appearances are taking place. Griffin was just about to turn 2 when we made our trip, but we found plenty of rides to go on as a family. Disneyland seemed reasonable to tackle with a toddler. Even though he may not remember the memories we have were well worth it and we will remind him with pictures. The pure joy on his face when he met Mickey was PRICELESS … had mom in tears.

Griffin and Mickey  Pluto and Grif  Mickey Minnie and Westin Family
Tomorrowland Ride  Castle  Dumbo Ride

A few take aways for traveling with a toddler:

  • They have the rest of their lives to take naps  – if they need a nap give them one, if not, enjoy your special time together
  • Don’t bring a pack-n-play most hotels have them, but ask in advance
  • Bring your own stroller and carseat – may be a drag, but they are great to have
  • Bring a blanket and stuffed animal from home to comfort them when they sleep
  • Always have snacks and beverages wherever you go
  • Take LOTS of pictures to capture the memories
  • Don’t sweat the small things and live in the moment

“Memories are Priceless. You can always make money, but you can’t always make more memories”
– Anonymous 




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Kelly Westin

Director of Marketing
Specializing in all things Marketing and caught the travel bug. Always up for new experiences and adventures. Learn more about me ►