The Caribbean is an archipelago of more than 7000 islands which stretches from the east coast of Florida to the northern tip of South America. The most popular destinations for families with babies and younger children include Aruba, Bermuda, Bonaire, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, St Martin/ St Kitts, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Barbados.
Each island offers something different for families, you can visit dolphins or even swim with them, explore a pirate ship or just lie back and enjoy the pristine, white, sandy beaches. Many of the islands have a myriad of activities for children (see below).
When to Go
The Caribbean is renowned for having one of the most desirable climates on the planet, with temperatures a gorgeous 24-29°C year round. The best time to visit the Caribbean is generally considered to be December-April, when it’s slightly cooler (particularly in the northern Caribbean), drier and less humid. May-November can be wet, with hurricanes possible from July-October.
From the USA
Most major airlines in North America fly direct to the more popular islands in the Caribbean. Even islands as small as Bonaire have nonstop services to major US cities. Generally however, getting to the Caribbean from US cities without hub airports will involve changing planes somewhere. American Airlines has major hubs for its extensive Caribbean service in Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Also note that service to the Caribbean is seasonal and more flight operate during the Winter months than in summer.
You can reach the Caribbean nonstop from Europe. Airlines from the UK serve former British colonies like Barbados and Antigua; French airlines serve the French-speaking islands; and Dutch carriers fly to Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. There are no direct flights to the Caribbean from Australia, New Zealand or Asia and you will need to fly via Europe or the US. Charter flights from the US, Canada, UK and Europe offer another option for getting to the islands. Fares are often cheaper than on regularly scheduled commercial airlines, but you usually have to depart and return on specific flights and you’ll probably have no flexibility to extend your stay. Such flights also often come as part of packages that include stays in resorts.
ne further option is to take a boat to the Caribbean. There are regular sailings from Florida and elsewhere in the USA and cruise liners all over the world operate trips to various islands. Disney Cruises are a great option for those travelling with babies and toddlers. Disney liners offer a nursery, larger standard staterooms — with baths, room-dividing curtains and enough room for baby paraphernalia and on-board stores are stocked with necessities like diapers and baby sunblock. Many of Royal Caribbean’s ships now offer a variety of larger family stateroom options, plus baby and toddler playgroups and diaper-wearing tots have expansive play areas on Carnival Cruise Line. Most cruise operators require that babies must be at least 6 months old to travel.
You can fly between most of the islands in the Caribbean and this is the easiest way to travel with little ones unless it is a short distance in which case a boat or car ferry might be better to avoid the stress of airports. Travel by sea between the Caribbean islands is usually cheaper but takes longer than flying and can be either fantastic or unpleasant if you or your child suffers from seasickness in rough weather. There is a ferry between Dominica, St Lucia and the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe which is well used by local shoppers as well as tourists. A car ferry links the Dominican Republic with Puerto Rico and there are ferries between the US and British Virgin Islands. You can visit a number of islands on your trip if you wish to see more than one place but plan well to ensure a stress free trip.
Baby & Toddler Essentials
You will be able to buy all your essentials such as powdered formula, food and nappies in any of the larger towns in the more popular resorts in the Caribbean. Pampers are widely available and you will be able to find SMA in some larger supermarkets on some of the islands however, the brand that your child is used to may not be available so it is better to pack for the trip. Use bottled water to prepare bottles; Evian and Good life are reputable brands with low sodium and mineral contents. Also, be prepared for high prices as baby and toddler essentials tend to be very expensive here.
If your child is weaning you will be able to find local brands of baby food and most resorts will offer something suitable for older children. In the more family oriented areas you will find many restaurants with good kids offerings. Pouches of baby food are easy to pack or you could opt for self catering accommodation and cook your child’s food using local ingredients. If you are travelling to Cuba you might want to take your formula, food and nappies with you as the brands available tend to be of poor quality and formula is harder to find. However, bottled water will be widely available in Cuba.
Be prepared for lots of time in the sun and sea. Most lodgings provide beach towels, chairs and umbrellas. You can buy buckets and spades, swim safety equipment, snorkel masks and anything else you forget at beach shops in resort areas. You will need sun protection, insect repellent and a car seat if you plan on driving (unless you pre book one from your car rental agency). Ensure that you keep both yourself and little ones hydrated and keep babies and toddlers in the shade as much as possible.
Health & Wellbeing
From a health point of view, the Caribbean is generally safe as long as you’re reasonably careful about what you eat and drink. The most common travel-related diseases, such as dysentery and hepatitis, are acquired by consumption of contaminated food and water. Always used bottled water to prepare bottles and to keep hydrated. Make sure that you protect little ones from the sun using sun factor and a parasol or buggy shade. Also, bring a good first aid kit which contains any medication that your child might need and any prescription medications in clearly labelled containers together with prescriptions.
Mosquito-borne illnesses aren’t a significant concern on most of the islands, except during outbreaks of dengue fever. Medical care and facilities in major resort islands, such as Barbados, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands is good. Make sure to visit your GP at least 8 weeks before travelling to see what precautions should be taken for babies and toddlers and check the NHS Fit for Travel or the WHO websites for health updates.
You should also bring travel insurance for each and every member of your family. Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
Note that Cuba requires proof of medical insurance to enter the country. On remote islands, such as the Grenadines, you will require transport to more developed areas for any significant problem, so be sure your insurance covers medical transport and evacuation.
Best Places to Visit
Bermuda is technically outside the Caribbean but is often classed as part of it because it appeals to the same kind of holiday-makers, with its family-friendly beaches, good golf courses and fantastic package deals. These paradise islands are located to the east of the Caribbean in the Atlantic. If you plan on sightseeing outside of your hotel, Bermuda has one downside in that you will have to use taxis to get to the better restaurants, explore, shop, all the beaches. Bring your car seat if possible to ensure that your child is safe when travelling around.
Just off the east coast of Florida lie some of the Caribbean’s most family-friendly destinations: the Bahamas, offering pink sands, family friendly hotels and great all-inclusive deals. The Bahamas is a paradise for toddlers and offers aquariums, dolphin shows and more. The upscale resorts of the Turks and Caicos Islands are largely the preserve of the rich and famous however, there are plenty of family friendly hotels here also which will suit the needs of parents travelling with younger children.
The Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands lie south of the Bahamas and are well equipped for children and have plenty of family-friendly attractions and events, including Boatswain’s Beach Adventure Park, Stingray City and Pirates Week. Grand Cayman a very easy destination with younger children. The Seven Mile Beach is gorgeous and typically has calm water – perfect for babies. The turtle park and botanical gardens also make for great day trips.
Jamaica is a paradise holiday destination with great food, beaches and music. The food here can be a little spicy but there is always something for toddlers such as mashed potato and vegetables. The water is safe to drink here which is an added bonus. The palm-fringed beaches of the Dominican Republic are fast becoming known as a destination for eco tourists. Cuba is another option for families with a more adventurous streak and is a lot cheaper than some of the other Caribbean destinations. Most hotels in Cuba have high chairs and or boosters and can usually supply cribs or playpens with advance notice.
Puerto Rico offers Spanish influence and some great historic sites and museums. The British and US Virgin Islands offer child-friendly resorts, great beaches and plenty of water sports. For low-key tourism and a more laid back family holiday head to Antigua and Barbuda. The upscale little islands of St Kitts & Nevis are home to some of the region’s most luxurious family-friendly resorts. St Lucia is a great option for reasonably priced package deals and Grenada is home to some of the region’s best dive sites for families..
Martinique offers an interesting blend of French and Caribbean influences, a mild climate and plenty of outdoor activities suitable for toddlers. Barbados offer some excellent accommodation options and kids’ clubs which makes for an easy and very family-friendly vacation. Further south (and away from the hurricane zone) lies Trinidad and Tobago which have become eco-tourism giants in the region, with nature tours and eco-packages being a big draw for families. The islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are destinations growing in popularity with families.