Close your eyes and picture your ideal vacation. What do you see?
Perhaps you're on a beach somewhere with a good book and a drink in hand. The kids are playing quietly in the surf, the waves are crashing softly and the sun is beating down on the damp, white sand.
Or maybe you envision your family up in the mountains — hiking, fly-fishing, and taking in the scenery and crisp, clean air. The kids laugh without a care in the world as you wind your way up a wooded path. Sounds great, doesn't it?
Unfortunately, tranquil family vacations like the ones described above are most often found only in movies and commercials, not reality. The fact is, a normal family getaway is much different, and not always relaxing.
If you've ever traveled with kids, you know exactly what we're talking about. Kids with idle time tend to argue more than when they're at home. And on vacation, mom and dad might spend half the trip cooking, cleaning and entertaining the kids. Not to mention the fact that travel becomes more expensive when you add kids to the mix. After all, a trip for three, four or five people will always be more expensive than one for two. This all begs the question, should you really bring the kids along on your next vacation?
Faced with the prospect of spending a vacation doing mundane chores and childcare, many people choose to leave children out of the equation altogether. Perhaps a kid-free vacation sounds harsh from the outset, but if you think about it, there are several benefits you can only enjoy when you leave the little ones at home.
Especially when your kids are little, it's easier to enjoy your time off work and relax when you don't have anyone to take care of. Often times, leaving the kids at home is the only way to take a break from your cooking and cleaning duties.
When you travel without the kids, you can take part in activities that they wouldn't be able to enjoy. See a late-night show, visit places of historic significance or take your time exploring your favorite museums.
No one wants to spend thousands of dollars to take their children to a destination that isn't kid-friendly. But without the kids, your options are limitless. Tour the Italian countryside, see the Great Wall of China or visit London's museums without worrying whether your little ones are bored.
In addition to these benefits, a 2013 study from the U.S. Travel Association revealed even more reasons couples should travel alone — at least occasionally. According to the survey, which polled 1,100 adults, couples who travel alone together at least once a year enjoy more romance, more intimacy and are happier overall.
Of course, kid-free travel isn't without its own set of drawbacks. In addition to all the perks, it's also important to consider what you'll miss out on if you leave the kids at home. It's true that you might enjoy a little more rest and relaxation, but what are you giving up?
While some people have no problem leaving their children with a caregiver for a week or more, others have trouble enjoying themselves without the little ones in tow. Before you embark on your kid-free journey, it might be wise to ask yourself if you're one of them. If you've never traveled without the kids before, you might find you miss their laughter a lot more than you think. Plus, part of the fun of traveling with your kids is the opportunity to discover new places together. Are you ready to forgo the experience?
Of course, there's more than just emotion to consider; you also have to work out all of the logistics. When your kids are small especially, it can be difficult to get away for a few days, let alone a week.
Whatever you work out, it's best to make sure everything is settled before you leave. In addition to figuring out who will actually take care of your children, you also have to make arrangements for details like activity practices, groceries and school work. If you need tips on how to prepare for your kid-free trip, ParentMap offers a to-do list on its website that can help you get everything in order before you depart, including tips on how to tell your kids about your trip and the time they'll spend away from mom and dad.
You don't have to go without the kids every time, but there are plenty of reasons to enjoy a kid-free trip every once in a while. Almost any reason is good enough — whether it's trying to reconnect with your spouse, getting to see places your kids wouldn't like or simply taking the time to get through your favorite book. And you never know; a kid-free trip might be exactly what your marriage needs.
About the author: Holly Johnson is the founder of travel website, Travel Blue Book, which covers travel experiences ranging from cruising to fine dining. Holly also writes about frugal living, travel and budgeting on her other website, Club Thrifty, and at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, Personal Capital and many other online publications.
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