How to Travel with Kids
…and still get lots of fun adult time
I’ve been on many not-so-fun vacations with my daughter. These trips took a lot of planning and were eagerly anticipated…and yet by the end, I was just aggravated and exhausted. So much of what we did center around what would make Beatrice happy.
A trip to a new city inevitably meant a trip to their children’s museum, their zoo, their splash pad…really just a recycling of the activities that we already did at home…activities that were for the enjoyment of Beatrice, not for the enjoyment of me and my husband. Additionally, large chunks of our day were invariably spent sitting in a boring hotel room while Beatrice napped.
When my daughter turned five, I had an epiphany. We were planning a trip to a major city during the summer months, and I thought to myself…summer means summer camp. A Google search quickly yielded a range of options: art camp, dance camp, cooking camp, etc. Some even offered enrollment by the day rather than by the week, so I was able to send Beatrice for just the three days I needed.
I chose an outdoors camp where she gleefully romped in the woods with other kids her age and built fairy houses. While Beatrice was living her best life at camp, her father and I were visiting museums, hiking mountains, and touring breweries.
It was heaven.
We had meaningful adult time with one another and then were excited each day to pick Beatrice up from camp. Our evening activities were more kid-centered and much more enjoyable because we’d already had our own adult time.
This trip immediately became our gold standard, and I soon found that this opportunity wasn’t just limited to the summers. For example, check out this list of spring break camps in Chicago. Many places even offer one-day camps on holidays like Labor Day.
I know what you’re thinking. So your “How to Travel with Kids” tip is basically to hire childcare so that you don’t have to travel with them…
For me, it’s the best of both worlds. I don’t want to leave my kid at home — partly because I don’t have anyone who can keep her overnight and partly because I genuinely want to take her on vacation.
At the same time, I really want to do some fun adulting on my trips, not just the kid stuff. Our vacations always include a weekend where it’s full-on family time, and then a few weekdays where Beatrice is doing something fun at a camp while my husband and I pursue some adult interests. I believe it is a perfect balance.
My idea has spread amongst our friends. We even have had some fun group trips where we all enjoyed the flexibility of my “summer camp solution!”
Then some friends that we often traveled with announced they were expecting a new baby. Hmmm, I thought, he won’t be old enough for a summer camp for YEARS…I assumed our trips with them would soon revert to those trips of old, where every activity would be a kid activity. But then we found out about drop-in daycares like this one.
Initially, my friends didn’t really need outside care for their baby while traveling; they could just strap him on and go. But when they entered the critical scheduled nap stage, they really appreciated being able to take him to a drop-in daycare for part of the day so that they could still be mobile while he snoozed.
Another benefit of the drop-in daycare is that it doesn’t matter if you’re traveling during a scheduled holiday when camps are usually offered. If there isn’t a camp, the older kids can still join the young ones at a drop-in daycare.
We have also made use of kid’s clubs at hotels; often you don’t have to actually be a guest of the hotel to use their club. Additionally, there are many babysitting services that specialize in providing their service to vacationers. I usually ask the concierge about such things and if that fails, turn to Google. I have friends who have also found babysitters in other cities by using sites like care.com.
The key is to plan a vacation that gives everyone a chance to do what they would like to do. For me, that includes long stretches of time when I can hang out with my husband without being constantly interrupted by the little one.
Or where I can enjoy an activity without listening to my child complain about it the entire time. Maybe that just means wandering in and out of shops on a city street or maybe it means skydiving out of a plane, but the main thing is that I get some freedom on my vacations…some time to enjoy activities without my mom hat on.