Traveling to Africa with A Toddler

We live in Costa Rica and like most tropical destinations we get two seasons, wet and dry! Our favorite part of living here is going to the beach and our lifestyle revolves around that so we weren’t looking forward to being trapped indoors with a high energy toddler during October and November, the two rainiest months of the year! So what did we decide to do instead? Head to Africa of course!

We were honestly stumped on where to go. I have always wanted to rent a camper van and travel around Australia or Patagonia, but with Covid restrictions we were unable to visit those destinations. An African safari is a dream trip however I thought we’d go when our family was complete and we’d take a few kids (not toddlers) to Africa. But after doing a bit of research (thanks to Full Suitcase and Travelynn Family) I saw just how do-able and fun it could be!

We had stepped foot on the giant continent a few years ago with an amazing three weeks in Morroco, but that was before baby Marin.

How much time does it take to plan an African safari trip with a toddler?

While most people likely put a lot of time and research into a big trip like this, we bought our plane tickets and started planning less than one month out. I was honestly overwhelmed at first, but after narrowing down which countries to visit and where we wanted to safari, I simply scoured the internet to fill in the blanks!

We were fortunate to be able to reserve everything we wanted as well. This was during the pandemic so less people were traveling which gave us an advantage. I had a difficult time finding an overlander in Namibia last minute and while we got a reservation at Okaukuejo Resort inside Etosha, the watering hole view chalets were booked a year in advance.

How much does it cost to take an African safari trip with a toddler?

We spent about $5000 on accommodations including our overlander rental in Namibia. We saved a lot of money using flight benefits one way so all in all I think we spent around $10,000 for one month in South Africa and Namibia.

How long do I need for an African safari trip with a toddler?

We found one month to be the perfect amount of time for visiting both South Africa and Namibia. We had two weeks in each country. Honestly once in the overlander we felt unstoppable! I wish we continued our trip to nearby Botswana.

Where countries in Africa should I visit with a toddler?

Africa is huge and it can be hard to narrow down! South Africa was easy to get a direct flight to from the States and we stuck to the southern, drier countries to decrease our risk of malaria. We found both South Africa and Namibia to be very kid friendly.

Should I be worried about malaria when I visit Africa with a toddler?

I was a tad bit concerned with malaria but also didn’t really want to give Marin malaria meds since he was only one year old so I chose to stay in the southern countries which tend to be drier and less mosquito-y. So that’s how South Africa and Namibia got on the itinerary. None of us took malaria meds and we didn’t encounter any issues.

Should I be worried about jetlag when I visit Africa with a toddler?

Everyone’s favorite question.. what about jetlag?! We flew direct from Atlanta to Johannesburg and it was a 16 hour flight. Grant and I are self-proclaimed jetlag immune. We believe a couple glasses of cabernet, a little sleep on the plane, and forcing yourself to stay up until “bedtime” when you arrive will get you just right. But we weren’t sure what to expect with a toddler. Marin honestly was sleeping terribly at home so it didn’t seem that risky! Night one was super rough. We all woke up at 3 am wide awake and ate fried chicken. By the next day we were fine and on track.

African Road Trip with a Toddler

I love a good road trip! Renting a car is especially awesome when traveling with babies and toddlers because you can go at your own pace, use your carseats, and “explode” in the car aka break out all of the snacks and toys and not have to pack them up every time you move locations. The rental car almost serves as a home base while traveling around. And of course renting a car allows you to do things without a tour and stop wherever on a whim (I’m looking at you side of the road Biltong!) It’s ultimate freedom and flexibility. We took two major road trips while traveling Africa.

South African Garden Route Road Trip with a Toddler

Our first road trip was from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town in South Africa. This area is lovingly called “the garden route” and it is absolutely amazing. We hiked, saw whales, went on safari, and went wine tasting on one of the world’s prettiest stretches of coastline. This is a must do when planning your family African adventure! Read all about our Garden Route Road Trip here.

Namibia Road Trip with a Toddler

After South Africa we headed to Namibia, the least densely populated country on the planet! Namibia is wild in every sense of the word and we spent our days climbing sand dunes, star gazing, exploring the Skeleton Coast, and taking a safari in amazing Etosha. Check out all of our tips for pulling off a Namibia Road Trip with a toddler in tow.

Spending a Layover in Johannesburg

We flew in and out of JoBurg. Our first night was a time change blur (see aforementioned 3 am fried chicken bender) but our hotel, Premier Hotel OR Tambo, was fine. We had a little more time on the backend so we made a mini-vacay out of it. We stayed at the Houghton Hotel which was super nice and such a treat since we had been roughing it in an overlander for over a week! We visited the Nelson Mandela house, grabbed a coffee at a rooftop farm, had beers in Soweto, and ordered room-service sushi and smoothies!

Africa is massive and it feels reductive to call this a toddler Africa travel guide given we barely covered two countries. What we saw we loved and we cannot wait to return for more epic adventures. We will be back, Africa.

This is Africa,


Note: We visited Africa in October and November 2021.

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