Once upon a time, a vacation meant quiet dinners and strolls along the beach. Then the kids came along and meals grew cold as you tended to their needs, getting kicked under the table while trying to hold a conversation above the din of the not-so-quiet restaurant. The strolls along the beach continued, but now they require you to schlep strollers, beach tents, umbrellas, buckets, shovels, coolers, boogie boards… you get the picture.
Finding romance and alone time isn’t impossible while traveling with children, though. If you’re looking to spice up your next trip with kids in tow, here are some tips to help you have the best of both worlds
1. Seek Out Kids’ Clubs
Many resorts feature clubs where children of all ages can spend mornings or afternoons (or even nights) in camp-like settings, making crafts, taking adventure walks, learning to swim, and playing games with other children their age. You’ll typically find kids’ clubs at all-inclusive resorts or on cruise ships; many hotels in Disney World also offer them.
For hotels without special programs to keep the kids occupied, some keep a list of trusted babysitters who will come to your hotel room and watch the kids so you can get a little alone time. Even if not advertised, contact the concierge to find out if they can refer you to local sitters.
2. Travel with Relatives or Friends
Many families bring grandma and grandpa along on vacation for the bonding time, plus the added bonus of extra alone for mommy and daddy. Often, the grandparents are happy to stay in at the end of the day with the kids while the parents enjoy a date night out. Another option is to travel with family or friends who also have children. Take turns watching the kids. Parents can swap nights out, or there can even be girls’ nights or guys’ nights.
3. Bring a Babysitter or Find One at Your Destination
Some families choose to bring their trusted babysitter or nanny with them on vacation, especially if it started out as a work trip. This can get pricey, but is a great option if you’re looking for more adult-only time. Another idea is to try a reputable third-party agency, such as Care.com. Post a vacation babysitting position and make sure to video chat or have a phone interview with the selected person first. That way you’ll all feel more comfortable when you meet the sitter in person.
4. Consider Parent-Specific Programs
Plenty of family-friendly resorts offer romantic, unique activities and programs for parents, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t take advantage of them, especially if the hotel offers babysitting services or a kids’ club. For instance, the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa offers a Romance Tour of the Stars, in which parents can share Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries while they look through the lens of a 16-inch reflector telescope atop the hotel (where a luxurious swimming pool is located); the hotel also has several kids’ programs, including night camps.
Great Wolf Lodge, the popular water park resort chain, offers a clever Wine Down Service at many oftheir locations. Packages like “it’s Been a Fun-Filled Day, Time for Some Cabernet” and “Kids Snoring, More Pinot Noir-ing” provide wines paired with meat and cheese platters or decadent desserts right to your door (they’ll even text to avoid waking the kids up). You and your partner can reconnect while the kids slumber.
5. Choose Restaurants With Activities for the Kids
Many vacation destinations in Florida, California, Gulf Shores and even Chicago have restaurants on beaches where the kids can dig in the sand or play on a playground while parents enjoy meals at a leisurely pace. The incredible GF Victoria Costa Adeje in the Canary Islands has a restaurant with a glass-enclosed play area for the kids’ to get their energy out while parents savor coffee or dessert. Royal Caribbean offers family dining on their cruise ships, where the kids can be whisked off to the kids’ club after they finish their meal and parents can linger over the rest of their courses.
6. Get More Space
For added privacy, book a suite or choose a hotel that offers family suites, an increasingly popular offering. Family suites typically include two separate spaces for parents and kids—kids are often treated to a room with two twin beds or bunk beds, and in some cases, a bathroom of their own, while parents enjoy a room with a king bed.
Adjoining hotel rooms are great options as the kids get older. Both the kiddos and the adults will appreciate their own space, plus you can leave the adjoining door open to make communicating and transitioning between rooms even easier. Booking condos or houses is another fantastic option for families, as you can cook, spread out, and escape to separate bedrooms. But if you must all share one hotel room, look for one with a balcony. A balcony offers a wonderful little respite for parents to connect while still being close to the kids.
7. Plan Alone Time in Advance
When the kids hit the hay, savor some special time with your spouse. Take a bubble bath together or enjoy a bottle of wine. Book hotel rooms with balconies so you can sip coffee or enjoy an evening nightcap al fresco. Pack little surprises for this adult time, such as gourmet coffee or a bath bomb. When you plan ahead to maximize this time together, you’ll have just what you need to make the most of it.
More Tips for Finding Romance on a Family Vacation
- Get Romantic Pre-Trip: Sometimes it’s the planning of a big trip that gets us the most excited. Using that pre-trip time to do some things together in preparation can be very romantic. If you and the clan have decided Mexico will be the big summer vacation excursion, consider enrolling in a Spanish class together and learn a new language you’ll be able to use on your vacation. After the trip, keep the memory alive with date-night outings to Mexican restaurants.
- Travel in the Off-Season: During winter months, traveling to a cold-weather destination such as Montreal or Steamboat Springs will help you avoid the hordes of families heading to the beach. Bundle up and take the kids skiing, ice-skating or dog sledding during the day, and after they crash into bed each night, open a bottle of wine and snuggle up by your in-room fireplace, found at most ski lodges or nearby hotels. Many vacation home rentals feature private Jacuzzi tubs beneath a blanket of stars and the absolute quiet of the surrounding snow-covered mountains. What could be more romantic?
- Be Mysterious: Try arranging a secret excursion, restaurant outing or even hotel stay while on vacation. For example, if you decided not to book a room in that fairytale castle because it was too expensive, covertly cancel your replacement reservations at the more affordable hotel, and book just one night in the castle.
Cortney Fries (pronounced “freeze”) is an award-winning Chicago-based writer and mom to two spunky elementary school-age kids. She loves nothing more than traveling with family, having adventures with friends and exploring the outdoors. Cortney believes that you should definitely do things that scare you just a little bit. Follow her on Instagram, @cortneyfries.
What to Pack for Your Next Trip
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Swimwear for Men/Dad in Summer
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