As meteorologist Paul Goodloe mused to us about family travel: “If you include the kids, it’s no longer a holiday — we just call that a trip.” Don’t get us wrong: Traversing the world with your children can be a formative experience in which lifelong memories are made. It can also be rather suffocating (flashback to that one trip to San Diego when the hotel only had rooms with single beds). Your kids are loud and amped up on virgin tiki drinks, and there’s nowhere to escape.
With any family holiday longer than a week, it’s good to have some downtime. Read: time away from your offspring. This luxury is more feasible than you may think, but it does require some planning.
Stay at a hotel with built-in childcare
The easiest route is to look for hotels with free kids clubs. (‘Free’, of course, isn’t quite accurate—these properties are typically on the pricey side.) Most all-inclusive resorts and cruises feature the glorious perk of supervised childcare. (Last summer, I made great use of the ‘kids room’ on our cruise ship to Norway – at four months pregnant, I napped each afternoon while my child played limbo with ping pong with new friends.)
The Points Guy has a good list of hotels in the US with free childcare – handy if you’re planning a trip that way.
Time your holiday with a day camp
Sarah, a mum in Denver, writes that using a day camp was the the best idea she and her husband have had in recent memory. They stayed in a condo in Keystone, Colorado, and their kids went to an accredited day camp focusing on nature and science every day, from 8am to 5pm.
She gave the go-ahead to share here: “They got to have an awesome time (one kid was crying on the next to last day because she didn’t want camp to be over), and my husband and I got kid-free time to hike, bike, golf (him not me), swim, hot tub, shop, eat, and drink. In the evenings, we had dinner and pool time and TV time together. They also did one overnight, and we got a whole night/morning off! This is definitely going to be an annual thing.”
If you do some research, a day camp can be a relatively affordable option – and your kid might even be able to gain a skill they can’t learn at home. Note that for most of these programs, your child must be at least three years old and/or potty trained.
Hire a sitter
There’s always the option of hiring a local babysitter, though this can be nerve-wracking if you’re in a foreign place. You might first put some feelers out on Facebook, asking your friends if they know of any good sitters firsthand.
If that doesn’t work, you might try your hotel concierge, which likely has ties with a network of trusted childcare providers. Or you can check out Care.com, which can connect you with babysitters in more than 20 countries.
Tag-team with other families with kids (or bring the grandparents)
My favourite solution of all is to travel with other families with children and set up a plan for each parent or couple to have a kid-free day or evening. During that time, the other parents will watch all the little ones.
It costs nothing extra and the kids will have fun playing together. You can also bring along the grandparents for some extra pairs of hands.
At the very least, bring a baby monitor and put your kids to bed early
Even if you can’t completely get away from your kids, it’s worth it to carve in some solo moments. After your kids go to bed, have a glass of wine with your partner on the balcony or watch the latest season of Fleabag.
Emily from the Offspring Facebook group wrote that while travelling with her one-year-old, “we made sure the monitor reached the hotel lobby area and we bought a picnic dinner and drank beers and played games while the baby slept.” Now that sounds like a holiday.