Kid-Free Getaways, Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa

One of the biggest benefits of taking a vacation is the opportunity for quality time with a spouse or partner; but on a family vacation, mom and dad dedicate their time to more than just each other, of course. Consider a new approach to family travel by planning not only a memorable, action-packed vacation for your kids but also a much-needed restful escape for the two of you. The secret ingredient: grandparents. Invite them along for a special grandparent-grandchild trip while you and your other half embark on a parents’ getaway.

Here’s how it works: All travelers fly into one destination from wherever they live. The grandparents will rent a car for themselves and the children and set out on a vacation adventure with the grandkids, while you and your partner can rent a car and enjoy time together on a worry-free break.

Jump down to vacation ideas for parents seeking:

Tips for Parents Planning Vacations for Large Families

Get Everyone Involved with Planning

Communication is key when planning any trip. Meet or talk by phone or video conference beforehand so everyone involved can share activity ideas. Choose your destination, then help your children and their grandparents decide where to go and what to do during their multigenerational travel adventure. Next, plan your own relaxing journey.

Prepare Travel Documents, Set Ground Rules and Develop an Emergency Plan

Remember to provide grandparents with your kids’ travel and medical documents, such as insurance cards and immunization records, and a notarized letter stating that they have permission to seek medical attention for your children. Talk with your children and their grandparents about a budget for souvenirs, acceptable snacks, electronics use and other travel ground rules. Additionally, create an emergency plan; everyone should know when and how to contact you (or another relative) in case the unexpected happens.

Vacation Ideas for Parents

If You Want Adventure

Some parents unwind by getting an adrenaline rush. If your perfect vacation includes hiking, paddling and cycling, this is your chance to enjoy the great outdoors. Choose activities that are difficult to do with children in tow, such as rafting and rock climbing.

National parks offer plenty of experiences for adventure lovers. Scale steep, rocky cliffs and traverse narrow granite ledges in Maine’s Acadia National Park, or kayak in Olympic National Park near Seattle. Rock climb or hike to see the spectacular views at Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area in West Virginia, then visit nearby Smoke Hole Caverns for an equally beautiful but less strenuous experience.

If you would rather ride roller coasters to get your heart pumping, choose a destination near several theme parks, such as Los Angeles or Orlando. To avoid theme park burnout, look for other nearby activities for thrill-seekers, such as indoor skydiving or go-kart racing.

Looking for adventure? Spend quality couple time in a kayak at Olympic National Park near Seattle.


If You Want Relaxation

Couples looking for true serenity often head to the beach to soak up the sun, listen to crashing waves and watch colorful sunsets. If this is your type of getaway, consider sunny San Diego. You’ll have your pick of beaches, including popular Pacific Beach and Coronado Island’s Silver Strand, in this Southern California hot spot. Take a drive to La Jolla Cove in North County and look for wildlife as you walk along the shore. If Florida’s beaches are more appealing or convenient, head to Seaside, near Panama City Beach, for a taste of the serene life, or drive to Camp Helen State Park, where you’ll find a lovely coastal dune lake and plenty of seashells. Check out Honeymoon Island State Park for a dose of romance on your relaxing escape. Walk hand in hand down the easy Osprey Trail on the island, named “Honeymoon” after a Life magazine contest in 1939 offered newlyweds a chance to win a two-week stay there.

Spas and wellness resorts offer a different type of relaxation. Focusing on your own well-being can banish burnout and refresh your mind and body. While New Mexico and Arizona are famous for their world-class spas, you can find top-notch wellness resorts and spas all over North America. Skyterra Wellness Retreat, near Asheville, North Carolina, and Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas, are just two award-winning examples.

Catch a California sunset at Mission Beach in San Diego. For an extra slice of serenity, stay at the nearby Crystal Pier Hotel — guests are the only ones with access to the pier at night.


If You Want Seclusion

Some couples relax best by leaving the rest of the world behind. If you’re looking for a private place to spend time together, consider renting a vacation cottage or home stay. Use your rental car to explore the surrounding area. Look for quiet walking trails, deserted beaches or wildlife sanctuaries — any place where you can be together without interruption. For seaside fun, rent a cottage in Sandbridge, Virginia, which is only about 15 miles south of the Virginia Beach boardwalk but is so quiet you’ll think you’re far from civilization. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is just a short drive away. If a log cabin — luxury or otherwise — is more to your taste, Ohio’s Hocking Hills might be your perfect destination. Hike to caves and waterfalls, go canoeing at night and return to your peaceful cabin for more time together.

Cedar Falls in Ohio’s Hocking Hills State Park is surrounded by hemlock trees — not cedar, surprisingly. This picturesque place is reachable by a fairly easy half-mile hike from the trailhead.


If You Want Amazing Food

Love trying new foods and exploring local cuisine? Head to a famous foodie hub: New Orleans. With iconic Creole and Cajun dishes, the Big Easy is an excellent choice for food-loving couples. Breakfast beignets, po’boys and jambalaya should all be dishes on your list. On the Pacific coast, split your time between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. Both cities offer vibrant but different food and drink scenes. Check out Vancouver’s food trucks and dig into a plate of poutine, then try some of Seattle’s famous oysters and remember to save room for salmon — and dessert. Salmon candy, anyone? Grab a bag to bring back to the hotel from Pike Place Fish Market.

Pike Place Market in Seattle is a food lover’s dream — home to a farmers market, restaurants and specialty food stores. Photo by kyhuskers2, flickr.


If You Want Spectacular Scenery

For awe-inspiring vistas, U.S. and Canadian national parks are your best bets. Explore California’s Yosemite National Park, with its sheer walls and eye-catching waterfalls, or head to the Grand Canyon to see nature’s might at work. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on the Michigan side of Lake Superior offers two ways to view the colorful rock formations, from shore or aboard a boat or kayak. South Dakota’s Badlands National Park is a photographer’s dream. The wild landscape seems to change color as sunlight plays across the rocks, and bison, bighorn sheep and pronghorn roam the prairies — the perfect setting to take a deep breath and exhale, steal a kiss or take a special photo together to display on your mantel back home.

The multicolored cliff sides and rock formations of Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are breathtaking to behold from land and water.
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About the Author

Nancy Parode is a writer and teacher who has been traveling the world with her Navy spouse. Her work has appeared in Northern Virginia and Military Spouse, among other magazines and newspapers, and on travel and lifestyle websites, including TripSavvy and Sixty and Me. Parode is currently based in the Washington, D.C., area, but you’ll find her wherever historical sights, great food and bookstores coexist.