Paradise by the Portable Crib

Traveling with your kids doesn’t have to mean an end to the romantic vacation. Some dos and don’ts on how parents can find alone time while on holiday.


A friend of a friend told me the following story:

A couple went to a romantic foreign city with their 8-month-old. This particular couple was worldly-wise, well traveled and very well educated.

The little one behaved in a most exemplary fashion, enduring the transatlantic flight and the jetlag with unexpected grace. In fact, she even endeavored to sleep through the night in a strange crib in a strange hotel room.

So well did the child behave, so soundly did she slumber, that this smart and savvy couple determined that leaving the baby alone in the room while they went out to dine was a fine idea.

The couple, this well-educated and well-groomed pair, took their baby monitor with them. They dined companionably, all the while listening to the static from the monitor, ears primed for any sound of their child’s cry.

The couple returned back to their room to find the wee babe sound asleep and safe.

If this sounds like a good idea to you, I am here to tell you this: PUT THE BABY MONITOR DOWN AND BACK AWAY FROM THE DOOR.

That static my friend’s friends heard? That means the monitor is no longer receiving a signal. That’s right, this smart and savvy pair left their infant alone in a hotel room in a strange city where very few people speak English (and, supposedly, those who do pretend that they don’t).

I know we all need a night off from being parents—God, do I know!—and traveling with kids is not the same as traveling as a couple. Not by a long shot.

Seeing the sights by moonlight, choosing a restaurant by wine list and spending romantic evenings under the stars are replaced with making trips to the children’s museum, judging the appeal of a restaurant’s kid’s menu (or reputation of its grilled cheese sandwiches) and enforcing 8:30 p.m. bedtimes.

But that doesn’t have to mean the end of the day’s itinerary.

Parents needs vacations too

“When you go on vacation, it is important to have time as a couple, even when you have a baby, a toddler who is giving you leg cramps and a five-year-old screaming in the back seat,” says Stacie Cockrell, mother and co-author of Babyproofing Your Marriage: How to Laugh More, Argue Less, and Communicate Better as Your Family Grows (HarperCollins, 2007), who knows what it’s like to spend an entire day looking for her child’s lost tennis shoe at Walt Disney World. “Connecting as a couple makes your vacation smoother.”

It can be hard for women to disconnect from “mommy mode,” Cockrell adds, and dads often end up feeling like the family pack mule. Setting aside time for just the ‘rents is essential if everyone is going to enjoy their time away from home.

Planning ahead is the only way to avoid family-vacation meltdowns, says Cockrell, who suggest booking your trip to an all-inclusive resort that has childcare on-site or checking to see if the hotel you choose offers babysitting services.

A girlfriend of mine recently went on a three-week trip to Chicago, Telluride and Boulder, Colo., with her 3-year-old daughter and 8-month-old son. Before she ever left town, she called nanny agencies and friends in each location and secured well-qualified childcare so she and her husband could have some couple time.

“I have babysitters lined up in every city,” she said (and rather smugly, I might add).

I know, genius, right? But how, you might ask, do you find a babysitter in a strange city when you can’t even get the 16-year-old down the block to come over for three hours on a Friday night?

Learn how to find reputable babysitting services, anywhere

Nanny agencies and similar childcare-provider services will often have a list of sitters willing to work on an on-call basis—I know this for a fact because I used to work for just such an agency right after I graduated from college.

Yeah, my parents were thrilled.

But I digress.

Professional childcare services can be found online or in the Yellow Pages for the city you’ll be visiting.

One benefit of using an agency is that most employ only sitters who have undergone a background check. Be sure to ask if that is the case, and, if not, you may want to look for an alternative organization.

I’m also not above poaching: If your travels take you near friends and family, don’t be shy about asking for phone numbers. A trusted sitter used by a friend can be your new best pal.

Cockrell is a firm believer that a night off from parenting will make your vacation one to remember—and not because you spent a hot, sweaty day in the beating sun looking for a small shoe in a huge, overwhelming theme park.

She advises getting sweaty in a whole different way, and says that, uh, getting your groove on is part of every healthy marriage—and that need doesn’t go on hiatus just because there is a portable crib at the end of your hotel bed.

“I know with my husband, if we go the whole [vacation] without any alone time, he will get more and more detached as the week goes on,” Cockrell says. “I learned that the hard way.”

So there you have it, permission to be grown-ups. Just remember to use a real live human being to watch your kids—and leave the baby monitor at home.

Themes: Family Travel

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