To all the parents who burst out laughing at the headline, I hear you. As someone who has been to twenty-eight countries and twenty-five of them with my kids who are both under the age of six, I must say I laughed too. How does one even think of couple-time when holidaying with the kids?
Well, today is your lucky day for I have not one but five ways for you to sneak in some couple-time, even as you holiday with your children. But first, a few words of caution, remember that you are first and foremost holidaying as a family. While one always hopes for couple time, it is important to remember that things will not be the same as they were when you travelled together before children. Remember the clichéd adage that you are only as happy as your least happy child? That rings true while travelling as a family. So do remember that the relentless pursuit of couple time at the expense of your kids' moods, might not work out well for anyone.
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The key is to redefine ‘couple time’ in this new context. Try to think of it as a way to find an oasis of calm amidst the island of chaos and noise that you most certainly will be on, especially if your kids are young. You have taken the kids out of their routines and comfort zones and even if it is on a journey of discovery and new sights, they are not really going to care about it, till they are older and see the wisdom and love behind it. Right now, they are going to resist and make it all about their happiness. Sure, you can give in and make it all about the kids, but then that reduces you and your spouse to mere guardians whose sole purpose is keeping the children happy. And that is not the best goal to have for you two as a couple. The key to making sure that a family vacation turns out happy and memorable for all of you is to find a balance.
And here are 5 ways that will help you with precisely that.
Travel to child-friendly places:
If sneaking in couple time is one of the goals of your family vacation it makes sense to keep the children happy and engaged. Therefore, travelling to places where children are not really welcome like high-end spa resorts or attempting to eat at fine-dine restaurants where children’s budding tastes are not accommodated or to casinos and party destinations where children will be (rightfully) kept at a mandated distance, is asking for trouble. Your best bets are all-inclusive family resorts or booking Air Bnbs that have toys, heading to restaurants that have kids menus and playrooms, looking for museums that have child-friendly activities. A little bit of research can help you with planning at least one kid-friendly activity per day, which is also when you sneak in your couple time.
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Read books about the location together:
As soon as you plan a destination, sit with your spouse and choose a book that is set in the location. To illustrate with an anecdote, my husband and I chose the book ‘Finding George Orwell In Burma’ before we travelled to Myanmar. We read it together and every time we chanced upon a location that we had read about, we would exchange notes leading to sudden moments of bonding. It was something that was just for us as a couple and a way of making the holiday ours as much as it was our child’s.
Take time to plan the itinerary together:
Find time to sit together and research the destination. Talk about what you are looking for from the vacation. As you add the children’s interests, do not forget to include what you want to see and eat, as well. The very act of finding the time to sit together and plan out the vacation will give you a feeling of being a team and being in it together.
Stay outside for the mid-morning and mid-afternoon lulls:
Remember to leave empty spaces in your schedule when travelling with kids. Children usually have a period where they slump in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon hours. They tend to get overwhelmed with all the travelling and sightseeing. Some of them get sleepy, some of them just want to withdraw from the effortful activity. Figure out these periods and try and get to an open space for this time. Try and head to a park or spend time at the beach where your older child can indulge in independent play or a younger child can nap. Make use of these lulls to take a quiet hour or so with your spouse. Reflect on the sights visited. Talk about how it is going so far. Or just go ahead, hold hands and sit together quietly. Sometimes sitting in companionable silence is the best gift we parents can give each other (free of your devices, of course).
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Relax the rules:
I cannot emphasize this enough. Remember that you are on vacation. Your children know there are things happening here that will only happen when they are away from home. If you are dying to have a conversation with your partner, or just sit and drink a glass of wine in peace, let them have some screen-time, while you do so. This could mean propping up your phone on the salt and pepper shakers at the restaurant table or switching on the TV in the room, while your partner and you order in room service. Bend your usual rules and make it work for you.
Apart from these ways, there are the usual options of travelling with one set of grandparents who would be happy to take the children off your hands for a bit or making use of the babysitter services that a lot of hotels now offer.
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And if all else fails, do not forget that the kids are that young and in that stage of constantly wanting you, only for a little while longer. So take a deep breath and soak it up and remember that in a few years, you might even find yourself dreaming of the times when you could travel with your kids.