As most of us parents know, travelling with kids requires extra planning and extra care when it comes to deciding where to head out to on holiday. While many instantly think of Dubai as a great destination for families with kids and teens, those with the youngest rascals may hesitate when it comes to judging Dubai's toddler-friendly capabilities.
Perhaps not many young families talk about their experience travelling to the most modern and dazzling of Middle Eastern cities with little tots in tow. And there aren't that many parents and past Dubai visitors blogging about the emirates’ fantastic toddler-friendliness; but here we are to let it be known that you should definitely consider Dubai as a top holiday destination when travelling with the littlest offspring. Not only is Dubai a great destination for parents of babies and toddlers seeking a relaxing, rejuvenating break, it can be great fun for everyone involved too!
So, is Dubai a toddler-friendly destination?
Getting to the nitty-gritty, is Dubai a toddler-friendly destination? Are there any good toddler-specific of baby-geared attractions to look forward to in Dubai?
The answer to all the above is yes, yes and most definitely YES. Not only is Dubai one of the best destinations for families with babies and toddlers, it can make for a really indulging break for parents and a stimulating adventure for little inquisitive minds.
Best hotels in Dubai for families with babies and toddlers
OK, so I've already told you that Dubai is a great destination for toddlers and their peace-and-quiet seeking parents who look forward to a relaxing escape from the often grinding daily routine with small children. But how does this translate in terms of accommodation?
Well, whilst not all accommodation will be toddler-friendly in Dubai, though most hotels will be able to accommodate babies by providing complimentary cots, etc., there are a few that excel at looking after families with very young kids and cater exceptionally well for the smallest of guests. Here are a few of my favourites.
My top 3 pick of Dubai's most toddler-friendly hotels
Grand Hyatt Dubai
Despite its grand spacious rooms and five-star facilities, this beautiful resort has a midway price point that means families don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy quality accommodation with exceptional service.
Little ones will benefit from the large, shaded paddling pool with a fun waterslide and water fountains. Even the tiniest tots will have a great time splashing about safely in the shallower parts of the pool while the fantastic, expansive outdoor areas include wide stretches of soft green lawns perfect for little crawlers, wobbly first-time walkers and runners to safely play. There's even live ducks on the Grand Hyatt Dubai and the swathes of green grass are intersected by a meandering rocky stream that little ones adore.
There's also a fantastic kids club onsite with something for all ages, including a mini soft play area with tunnels and plastic rockers, wooden puzzles, building blocks and a reading area with books, chairs, tables plus mini kitchens and cookers.
Parents, on the other hand, will love the ample dining selection with 13 restaurants to choose from and the luxury spa for the perfect invigorating treatment while the little kids are well looked after, either at the kids club, with a hired babysitter if they're under 4, or at the fun playground.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel
Another fantastic all-around option for parents of little kids, this iconic resort is also one of Dubai's most popular hotels given its proximity to Wild Wadi Waterpark next door, to which guests enjoy full and unlimited complimentary access.
This is a spectacular haven for kids and parents alike with its own pristine slice of private beach and a host of luxury facilities and amenities. All glamorous rooms and suites overlook the ocean, either partially or fully and every needed.
When it comes to young toddlers and babies, there is a fantastic temperature-controlled shaded outdoor pool for even the youngest of tots, complete with a fun mini water park ideal for toddler and older babies.
The kids club at Jumeirah Beach Hotel is great fun too and expert babysitting is provided on a variety of timeslots so that parents can sneak away for some alone couple time to reconnect with each other whilst in the know they left their precious offspring in safe, caring hands.
The Sindbad's Kids Club is simply out of this world, and should you have older kids you'll be glad you chose this hotel as it has something for every age group with face painting, wall-climbing, supervised activities and sports. For the littlest ones there are soft play areas and mini slides.
This hotel is on the pricier side but for families that can afford to indulge, it's well worth it the extra splurge for the swanky experience.
And, queue in drum rolls, The Westin Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Spa
I've saved what I deem to be the best option for last. When I went to Dubai with my hyperactive, "really-hard-to-please, wouldn’t-sit-still" 18-month-old in tow, I stayed at The Westin Mina Seyahi part of a wider complex that also includes Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, with the latter being the best value for money option in terms of rooms rates. Whichever side you choose to stay in; be it The Westin, the more expensive one with more luxurious rooms, or Le Meridien, you can rest easy in the peace of mind that your youngest in tow will benefit from age-appropriate facilities and fun options geared towards their age group.
Babies as young as 10 months old; and even younger, under due supervision, of course; can happily sit splashing about at the amazing kids’ pool on Le Meridien’s side, perfectly shaded to protect young, sensitive skin and with a progressive depth in the shape of a crescent beach, so that the further you walk (no steps!), the deeper it gets.
Parents can sit near the edge and let babies sit or walk in ankle-deep water while more confident walkers, like my son, toddle from one end of the pool to the other in complete safety. It’s great for helping build up confidence among unsure toddlers wary of the water.
Also, the onsite water slide is great, supervised by a lifeguard and parents can go down it whilst holding their smaller offspring. My toddler loved it! But the other, even more awesome part is the amazing kids club, with a ball pit, and a great variety of toys.
On the outside, there’s what I believe to be Dubai’s best hotel playground with a sandy floor and a maze of slides, kid-sized plastic houses and wheeled toys. It was great! Come meal times the buffet has plenty of high chairs and there’s also a fun, separate seating area for slightly older kids. All in all, a fail-proof option for toddling families.
Well, yes, I initially said top three best Dubai family hotels for little kids and babies, but there are a couple of other great resorts that deserve at least a brief mention given the outstanding facilities for toddlers and kids they offer to weary parents hoping to get a break while their offspring’s faces light up with excitement as they head off to splashing fun. So here it goes:
The Jumeirah Zabeel Saray has an exceptionally good mini pool, complete with a giant whale that little ones can climb up to before sliding back down with a splash. It also has smaller paddling pool to splash about safely with a respite from the sun.
Meanwhile, the Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf, part of the Madinat Jumeirah complex which has its own indoor adventure complex for kids, ha a rather whimsical, large and shallow pool with a myriad of fountains squirting water in all directions as well as slides and even see-saws; yes!, in the water; and that’s on top of a variety of inflatables offered so that kids can cruise the ankle-deep water in a boating fashion.
Like I said, the great family hotels and resorts are a big part of what makes Dubai such a toddler-friendly destination, with younger and older siblings ensured limitless fun too and parents allowed to relax, unclench, and enjoy.
Why a toddler-friendly Dubai hotel means you'll hardly need to venture outside for entertainment
While it's true that very small babies, those under 6 months or so, can't really benefit from soft play areas, play rooms, playgrounds and paddling pools, parents will feel at ease in the know that wherever they go in Dubai they'll have baby facilities on hand, from high chairs to changing rooms and even at times, in some kids clubs, baby gyms to keep them safely entertained while parents sip a coffee and elder siblings run amok in very safe, fenced grounds.
For toddlers though, these hotels are true paradise! They'll be able to spend their tonnes of energy in a variety of fun pursuits. By 7 p.m. and probably even earlier, they'll be too worn out to even contemplate putting up a fight at bedtime, they'll fall asleep in seconds, and partners will be able to savour some quality couple time alone.
The only thing we cannot guarantee is that you'll get a good night sleep. With the littlest kids you really never know, especially small babies that feed on demand, but considering the many stimulating attractions and fun activities they can engage in during the daytime, most likely you'll all enjoy a sound night sleep.
From my own personal experience, my very active 18-month-old and horrendous, fidgety sleeper, slept really well in Dubai, so much so that we dared hire a hotel babysitter one evening and escape for an adult night out while he slept. When he returned he was still fast asleep. I only wish we had thought of it sooner and not on the last day of our trip!
Top toddler-friendly attractions in Dubai
Even when more often than not, parents travelling with babies and toddlers and booking a sunny break in Dubai usually prefer to stay put at the resort, enjoy the beach, the pool and not do much for a few days; if you’re itching to get out and about with your littlest in tow, there are a few places worth venturing into for a fun family day out to remember.
In Dubai, it’s not a secret to anyone that there's a world of entertainment for little ones outside hotels with a plethora of theme parks and an ever-growing list of kid-geared attractions, but in most cases, these attractions will be apt for older kids aged 4 or at the very least 3, and above.
So, is there anywhere in Dubai that specifically caters, entertainment-wise, for those aged 2 and below?
Indeed, there are a few places, and luckily for parents of older children, some will also have attractions for older kids, so that if your family includes little ones in a variety of age ranges, everyone is guaranteed age-appropriate fun! If it’s inside a theme park, for example, you and your partner can split up so that each takes different-aged kids to their designated areas age-wise. It’s all-around fun for everyone!
Magic Planet at Mall of the Emirates
Magic Planet inside Mall of the Emirates comprises a wide variety of kid-centred attractions, for every age group and that also includes toddlers. Different areas cater for different age groups so that kids between 2 and 12 can have oodles of fun. That’s the official age range but I dare say that younger kids can also have a blast in some of great soft play areas.
My 18-month-old certainly made the most of the experience and played around for nearly three hours, which means there was a lot to keep his mind engaged as some high-energy toddlers are notorious for their short attention spans and constant need of stimulation.
He played with giant blocks, made his way through an interactive play maze and enjoyed fun kiddie rides, no matter how small your little adventure, there will be a kiddie ride for them. The cost of a Day Pass for the soft play area is a mere 45 AED (£9-10) per child, a great price if you plan to linger. There are also tunnels, mazes, ball pits and giant slides for older toddlers and kids here too.
For older kids there are various arcade areas, thrilling rides, a Gravity trampoline park, for those at least 110centimetres tall, an Astro Blaster gaming experience, for those aged 5 and above, a Yalla bowling lounge. Pricing starts from 45 AED (£9-10) per player for 30 minute sessions, while Day Passes cost around 120 AED (£25).
And who said all the fun was for kids? Parents can also hop on to some of the gaming rides, with little ones in tow - I did it, play at the arcades, at the bowling alley, . Like I said, all-around fun for grown-ups that are still kids at heart and most of us are, to some degree.
With their revolutionary “Edutainment” concept Kidzania is a great day out for kids and parents alike, as offspring above 120 cm in height can be left there under close supervision while parents enjoy a quieter, more relaxing morning or afternoon, sightseeing, eating out or downing cocktails.
This is role-play at its most amazing and realistic, where kids can experience over 80 real-life professions and progress in very lifelike replica of a city. Kids not only play, they acquire life skills, learn about jobs and careers as well as about the fundamentals of how society functions and how finances work in a real-life scenario.
Parents can follow along their journey as the move from one profession to the next or from one activity to the other. For obvious reasons, given the nature of the activities and the level of autonomy needed, the minimum age required for kids to participate is 4, but there is a Fun First Nursery within the premises for toddlers aged 2 to 3 with entry costing 105 AED (£22) per child.
You can either leave your little rascal here or stay with them. Babies under two go free at Kidzania, although there are no attractions here for them, but parents with older children can either stay with their little crawlers or drop the older kids and take the baby or toddler elsewhere.
LEGOLAND Dubai is amazing for kids of all ages but surprisingly awesome for toddlers too. In fact, this is my top attraction for toddlers in Dubai, given that they start catering for little ones as young as 1 with age-specific areas. Here even the tiniest tots can embark in amazing play adventures!
LEGOLAND Dubai is the only park in Dubai to have no minimum age restrictions on a number of attractions for smaller kids. Toddlers, regardless of age or height can get access to DUPLO Valley, LEGO Friends Clubhouse, Secret Chamber of Amset-RA, Builder’s Guild, Build and Test, Sea Port, Factory Tour, Police Headquarters, Build-a-City and Boating School, the only one where toddlers need to be at least 1 year old.
For those at least 80 cm tall, and that’s most one-year-olds, there is also the Submarine Adventure and DUPLO Express. Those at 95 cm and above, most three-year-olds and two-and-a-half-year-olds, can have fun at Junior Driving School, Kid Power Towers, Rescue Academny and City Aiport while those at least 90 cm tall, most two-year-olds, can enter the Lost Kingdom Adventure.
To top that, little rascals can also look forward to character appearances at LEGO City, Factory, Kingdoms and Adventure while everyone can enjoy the NINJAGO show at City Stage and THE LEGO Movie 4D at Lego Studios 4D.
Oh, and there is also the amazing MINILAND, an interactive, indoor, air-conditioned dome ideal for all the family with the opportunity for kids (probably older than two) to build their own city on a 10-metre play table.
And if you want to make a splash, the whole family (parents included) can float around in LEGO-shaped brick inflatables, castles and fountains at LEGOLAND Waterpark. Minimum age for the water park is two, so toddlers can wade along in the water.
Of all the attractions listed, LEGOLAND Dubai also is, understandably the most expensive, starting at 235 AED per person (£49) and yes, 2-year-old kids and older pay the same as adults. With so many fun options, though, it’ll be worth every penny!
Getting around in Dubai with kids, toddlers and babies
Babies, toddlers and kids under 5 years old all go free on Dubai Metro, the quickest, sleekest form of public transport in Dubai. It’s so ultra-clean, modern and futuristic you’ll wonder how they keep it so pristine, spoiler alert: no eating or drinking allowed on the trains or platforms. It’s also ultra-cheap with paper tickets for tourists for a single journey costing just 2 AED - that’s just about £0.40 pence! A daily pass costs 20 AED (around £4) and allows unlimited trips on a single day.
Of course, the smoothest of transport options is hiring a taxi to get you from A to Z in Dubai, especially when making certain journeys not covered yet by the Dubai Metro or when the prospect of lugging around a pushchair or pram seems too much of a hassle, and reminds you too much of the bus and tube commute back home, for what should be a relaxing holiday.
I used both, taxis and Dubai Metro to get around, but then again I was really curious to try it out and made the journey from Mall of the Emirates to Deira with a McLaren buggy and the experience was a positive one. Mind you, I had to stand because it was quite full at the time, nothing like London’s tube though, nowhere near as packed and no cramming anywhere, but the train compartments were spacious and save for the people taking up the seats only a sparsely scattered few stood. If you are on budget, riding on the Dubai Metro can really help you save big on your Dubai holiday without it feeling like you have to roughen it up.
Is it worth it to plan a Dubai holiday with toddlers?
A few years ago there weren't that many attractions for the under 3 brigade in Dubai, if any at all existed, they were limited to nurseries and some hotels’ kids clubs and paddling pools. That has changed to the point that not only Dubai’s new array of theme parks has made space for the littlest ones in the family so that no one is left out of the fun.
Even a gaming centre like Hub Zero; geared mainly towards teens, older kids and adults; has created an age-appropriate zone for crawlers and first-time walkers, with a large soft play area with slides and engaging activities for little minds, as well as a karting experience for toddlers named Tiny Track Racers.
Dubai hotels have also upped their games in terms of toddler-friendliness, with improved play areas taking in mind the abilities and limitations of younger tots, more shaded open air zones and every essential facility for parents. And best of all, at most attractions and hotels, often those under 3 or 2 don’t pay to stay or play! What are you waiting for to plan the perfect toddler-friendly adventure to Dubai?