Romance isn’t off limits once you have children – you just need to work harder to make it happen, and that goes for when you’re travelling too.
If a willing babysitter is a distant fantasy, or you just don’t fancy leaving the kids at home while you jet off to exotic climes, it’s still possible to sneak a little honeymoon vibe into your family trip. Here’s how.
Choose your destination wisely
This may be pointing out the obvious, but make sure you choose a destination that looks and feels romantic. Sure, the kids may still have tantrums, but strolling along a jaw-dropping white sand beach, or the streets of a beautifully dishevelled Mediterranean city will help take the edge off.
Yes, a Disney cruise or a cheerful child-focused resort might keep the kids out of your hands for longer, but you’ll have to spend your ‘alone time’ in the company of giant dancing cartoon characters, or worse: strangers’ children.
There’s no bigger passion killer than having to cram the entire family into one room. You know the drill: you wrestle the kids into bed, then spend the rest of the evening in semi-darkness, tiptoeing around in silence for fear of waking them up.
Renting an apartment is one solution – they get their own room and you get to have dinner at an adult-friendly hour. But if having to do your own washing up seems too much like domestic drudgery, splash out on a hotel suite or connecting rooms, or at least plump for a hotel room with a terrace so you can have some quiet time together while the kids are asleep.
Remember the days when you could pop out of the house on a whim for a quick drink? When a trip to the beach didn’t involve buckets, spades and sandy meltdowns? No? Bring the grandparents along for the ride and you can remind yourself.
Your kids get to spend quality time with grandma and grandpa, and you get to spend quality time out on the town with your other half, so it’s a win all around. And unlike kids' clubs and babysitters, there’s no need to book in advance, so impromptu walks on the beach are possible once again. If you’re very lucky, you may even get a lie-in.
Keep the kids entertained
The good old kids’ club is the easiest way to make time for romance on a family holiday. While your offspring are led on treasure hunts, you can relive your child-free days by sightseeing unencumbered, enjoying lunch by the sea, or, if you’re truly frazzled, taking a long, companionable nap.
If your children are too young for a kids’ club, there are often trained babysitters available, and some hotels offer baby listening services (less creepy than it sounds), enabling you to go out for a romantic dinner after putting the kids to bed.
Make nap time count
Having children who are young enough to nap is an added bonus when trying to ramp up the romantic atmosphere. Location is key here too. No one wants to be stuck in a hotel room watching a baby sleep, so book digs with some outside space, preferably with swoon-inducing surrounds.
Alternatively, you can lull them to sleep in the buggy while you take a walk, and when they’ve finally dozed off, sink a few cocktails and take in the view. If you've got a good sleeper, this can also work for an evening out.
Take a group holiday
Dealing with your own children on holiday can be challenging, so having others join the fray may seem ill-advised. But hire a villa with a group of friends and you can take it in turns to watch the little ones, allowing you some days and nights off to rekindle the old flame.
You could even take one of an ever-increasing number of group tours aimed at families, such as those organised by G Adventures or the Family Adventure Company. The kids will have an instant group of friends, and the other parents can help shoulder the childcare responsibilities, giving everyone a little couples' time off.
Let the kids in on the fun
There’s no rule that says you can only enjoy a bit of romance when the kids aren’t around. Watch the sunset together as a family, or go to a beautiful spot for a beach picnic, with champagne for the grown-ups and sparkling soft drinks for the kids.
Remember that magical moments can be found in unexpected places. Just being together and watching your kids’ wide-eyed excitement as they discover new places and experiences can be pretty romantic in itself.
Where to go
Mauritius – With all the drop-dead gorgeous beaches you could wish for, this is prime romantic couples’ territory, yet many resorts are well set up for children, with kids' clubs, babysitting and even the odd family massage session.
Glamping, Great Britain – Wear the kids out with wholesome countryside activities, then enjoy fire-lit evenings underneath the stars – without dampening the mood by having to put up your own tent.
Thailand – Few places beat Thailand for great value accommodation. Rent a bargainous romantic villa and luxuriate in the space between you and your offspring.
Italy – Hire a charming old farmhouse in the countryside. Once the kids are in bed you can gaze out over the hills and vineyards and stuff yourself silly with fine Italian produce.
South Africa – Visit one of the country’s many family-friendly wildlife lodges. While you’re off on a sunset game drive, the kids can enjoy the delights of a mini dung spotting safari.
Are you and your kids curious about the world? Come explore! Let’s start an adventure on the Lonely Planet Kids blog.