Everyone loves to travel during the summer – including families with cranky babies, manic preschoolers, and brooding teens. And when it’s just the two of you on a relaxing and romantic getaway, the last thing you want is to choose two chaises on the beach or near the pool and have the moment ruined when a family straight out of National Lampoon’s Vacation plops down right next to you.
So, here are some tips for how to out-maneuver those omnipresent family groups – and with multi-generational travel all the rage, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are all too often along for the ride, too – and truly enjoy some adult time (such as the daybeds at the adult-only pool area at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on Hawaii's Big Island, shown at left).
Be wary about the beach: The first thing out of most kids’ mouths the moment school lets out is, “When are we going to the beach?” If you crave romantic walks, quiet dinners, and undisturbed sleep, schedule your beach vacation for September when the kids are back in school – or if the beach is a summer must, make sure your resort has adults-only areas (see below).
Be city slickers: Yes, there are families who take city vacations for the historic sights and museums (think Boston,
Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C. , Chicago, and San Francisco), but you can outsmart them by staying in a boutique hotel in a trendy or up-and-coming neighborhood rather than a chain hotel in the city center. Or think of smaller cities that hold more adult appeal: Santa Fe, NM; Savannah, GA; Ashville, NC; and Austin, TX; or Vancouver (shown at right) and Montreal in Canada.
Don’t go anywhere near a “park:" By anywhere, I mean within about 25 to 50 miles. And by park I don’t just mean mega theme parks like Disney World, Universal Studios, Hershey Park, or Six Flags. Come summer, hotels within a 45-minute drive of zoos, aquariums, water parks, and assorted other attractions are jammed with parents and their kids, who are guaranteed to be hyper-active after a day of eating sugar-laced treats and meeting their favorite characters. Ditto for national parks, where traffic jams of family-filled SUVs will likely drive you crazy.
Think wine country: How many parents do you know who take their kids wine tasting? Okay, so maybe there will be a few babies being toted in backpacks and wheeled in strollers, but they are usually not too much of a bother. And there are plenty of wine regions beyond the best-known ones in Napa (www.napavalley.com) and Sonoma (www.sonomavalleywine.com). Consider the Willamette Valley in Oregon (www.willamettewines.com), shown at left; the Columbia Valley in Washington (www.columbiavalleywine.com); Long Island’s North Fork (www.liwines.com) in New York; the Charlottesville area in Virginia (www.monticellowinetrail.com); and Texas Hill Country between Austin and Fredericksburg (www.texaswinetrail.com).
Book a spa getaway: Most destination spas appeal mainly to couples and groups of women on a girlfriends’ getaway, so they are also great spots to avoid families with small kids. To find a property that is spa-focused, not just a resort with a spa, do a web search for “destination spas” or peruse the options on spa-focused websites such as SpaFinder (www.spafinder.com) and Spa magazine (www.spamagazine.com).
Choose an adults-only all-inclusive: Very few hotels are adults-only or couples-only, but several all-inclusive resort chains in the Caribbean and Mexico are. It’s off-season in summer, so rates are lower, but you’ll need to consider that August to October is prime hurricane season. You’ll find only grown-ups at Sandals Resorts (www.sandals.com), Excellence Resorts (www.excellence-resorts.com), Couples Resorts (www.couples.com), Secrets Resorts (www.secretsresorts.com), Le Blanc Spa Resort (www.leblancsparesort.com), and El Dorado Royale (www.eldoradosparesorts.com).
Before you book any resort, make sure there’s a “quiet pool:” Sometimes a rate at a resort may seem too good to pass up, but if you want a truly relaxing getaway at a major resort in summer, ask whether there are two pools: one for families and one for adults (often called the “quiet pool”), such as the Palm Grove Pool at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai (shown at right). The second, adults-only pool may also be located next to the spa.
Consider a B&B: Intimate, proprietor-run bed-and-breakfasts and inns generally attract couples, as most are historic, filled with antiques, and not suited for families (although children older than 12 might be welcome). Again, choose wisely as even smaller inns located near popular family attractions or national parks may have a bustling ambience.
Take a small-ship cruise: If a summer cruise, say in Europe or Alaska, sounds appealing, think smaller. The big ships with all the bells and whistles attract quite a few families, while the smaller (under 700 passengers) vessels attract a more mature crowd of mostly couples (with a few teens and babies on certain itineraries) and many feature secluded Jacuzzis ideal for sunset relaxation a deux (such as on Seabourn Odyssey, shown at left). Check out your small-ship options on Seabourn (www.seabourn.com), Silversea (www.silversea.com), Windstar (www.windstarcruises.com), Regent (www.rssc.com), Sea Dream Yacht Club (www.seadream.com) and Star Clippers (www.starclippers.com).
See our Santa Fe, Austin, Vancouver, Montreal , Napa, Sonoma, Oregon, and Big Island Travel Guides for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages and more travel deals.