Sept. 7, 2010— -- Once upon a time (in the days before family vacations), a weekend getaway or weeklong vacation together meant romantic dinners by candlelight, sunset strolls along the beach, a quiet exhibition in a famed museum of art. Then the kids came along and meals grew cold as you tended to their needs, getting kicked under the table while attempting to hold a conversation above the din of the very family-friendly restaurant.
Sunset strolls still occurred, but with buckets to hold the seashell treasures the kids found. Visits to museums became harried and to child-focused exhibits ("Yuck, mom, do we have to look at paintings all day?") But romance isn't impossible while traveling with children. If you're looking to spice up your next trip with the kids, here are some tips to help you have the best of both worlds.
Seek Family-Friendly Resorts With Kids' Clubs
Many destination resorts feature kids clubs where children of various ages can spend mornings or afternoons in camp-like settings, making crafts, taking adventure walks, learning to swim, and playing games with other children their age. Typically found at bustling family-friendly resorts at Disney World or all-inclusives on a Caribbean beach, such as Atlantis, there may be a lot of action. But while kids are enrolled in the club for a day or even a week, couples can sneak off to enjoy a spa treatment, hit the links or take that quiet sunset walk along the beach.
Some hotels and resorts such asThe Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney's Beach Club Resort, Disney's Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney's Polynesian Resort offer special Kids' Night Out evening programs that may last two to four hours. Kids get dinner (typically pizza-party style), movies, campfire fun, games ... but it's really a parents' night treat where mom and dad get to have a quiet dinner at a resort restaurant.
Traveling With Kids
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 children so their parents can get a little alone time. Even if not advertised, contact the concierge to find out if they can refer you to local sitters.
Perhaps the little ones aren't so interested in the "boring" art museums, but selecting a destination filled with both romance and history can help you stroll hand-in-hand with doe-eyed pleasure while the kids get an up-close-and-personal peek into their history books. Love will not be lost in the city of romance, and while you and your partner devour chocolates and walk along the Seine in Paris, the kids will happily tag along and marvel over the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. Take a trip to Buenos Aires and let the kids giggle while everyone learns the art of the tango. Book an over water bungalow in Tahiti and let the kids stare through the glass-bottom floor window at the natural and highly colorful fish swimming inches away, as you remain secluded in the island's paradise, eating passion fruit.
Travel in the Off-Season
During winter months, even if you're sick of shoveling out of the snow and are desperate for a warm-weather getaway, traveling to a cold-weather destination like Montreal, Snowmass or Steamboat Springs will help you avoid the hordes of families heading to the beaches. 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 before your in-room fireplace. Many ski lodges and rentals offer suites with private Jacuzzis beneath a blanket of stars and the absolute quiet of the surrounding snow-covered mountains. What could be more romantic?
Even with children, you can still keep the sizzle in your relationship with the element of surprise. Remember when you were dating and one of you would plan an unexpected getaway? Do it now, with the entire family. You can keep your destination a secret until you get to the airport, or spirit your partner away for a last-minute weekend getaway.
But if you're seeking a surprise that requires a little less planning, try planning a secret excursion, restaurant outing or even hotel stay while on vacation. For example, if you decided not to book a room in that luxury Irish castle because it was too expensive, covertly cancel your replacement reservations at the more affordable hotel, and book one night in the castle.
A cheaper way to surprise your significant other -- with equally positive results -- is to purchase something your loved one would enjoy using on your next trip together. Then hide the gift in your travel partner's suitcase so he or she discovers the item while unpacking, such as guidebooks, candy, a new sweater, binoculars or a novel by his or her favorite author. Having a bouque of flowers and/or a bottle of champagne waiting in the room upon check-in always ends with a smile, and a kiss as well.
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 alone 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 come vacation time. After the trip, keep the memory alive with date-night outings to Mexican restaurants.
How do you keep the romance alive while traveling with kids? Share your tips on the Family Vacation Critic travel forum.
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