Kids, mama’s getting too spoiled to travel. Slumming it in a hostel with dirty hair and a heavy backpack isn’t working for me anymore, especially since now I have to carry a lifetime supply of diapers and every children’s medicine under the sun. Family travel is a different breed of travel, focused less on exploring a giant city on foot and more on finding acceptable food and accommodating routines. I’d like to say that I’m still cheap and adventurous, but no one wants to bargain for the best deal with a baby or toddler in tow. Let’s face it, we all want a semblance of comfort on vacation—otherwise it would just be childcare in a different city. Here are 10 ideas for simple yet spoiled travel, with kids or otherwise.
1. Stay home but not yours. Chill in a vacation rental. If you’re going to travel to a foreign place, at least you can have the comforts of home like a stocked kitchen, separate bedrooms and convenient ways to keep up many of your routines. Sometimes vacation rentals come with resort-like amenities, and you’re more likely to feel at home if you have a place in which to escape the other world outside your doorstep. One of my favorite blogs, Soul Travelers 3, is about 2 early retirees and their 5-year-old who travel half the year and winter in Spain or Penang, Malaysia, settling down for a home-like routine. Not only is their furnished apartment in Penang a great deal, it’s also a haven from busy Asian life. You don’t have to go so far, however, to rent a vacation home, as VRBO has tons in unique locations like Balboa Peninsula or Muir Beach.
2. Forget armchair travel. Explore from your deck chair on a cruise. Lazy travelers, you’ve come to the right ship. Cruising is not just for overeaters, rich people or big drinkers. If you’d like to see new places every day without having cart your luggage between bug-ridden motels, book an easy cruise to the Carrribean, Mexico, Alaska or New England. These destinations usually require only a domestic flight and are pretty port-intensive, getting you off the ship and ready to explore. Don’t want to eat on land? You can always get back on the ship for a free meal. Want to feel the excitement of foreign travel without the risk? A shore excursion ensures that you’ll be protected from “unpleasantries.” A guided tour doesn’t mean nothing unexpected will happen, as did to us in Colombia, when our bus broke down near a deserted beach and we got to swim in the warm Caribbean Sea near Cartagena. In general, a cruise lets you see other cultures without the isolation of independent travel.
3. Snuggle with nature. Go camping in a cottage or cabin. Keeping small hands from a campfire and cooking every meal with limited utensils is not exactly a parent’s idea of a vacation. Many families, however, want to commune with nature but not do a bunch of work. Enter Crystal Cove Beach Cottages in Newport Beach and Curry Village cabins in Yosemite. Each allows you to stay in a state/national park without bringing camping supplies or setting up a tent. Crystal Cove Beach Cottages have small kitchens (microwaves and fridges only). Head to Trader Joe’s up the road for some groceries, or dine at the Beachcomber Café. Interestingly, dorms are available with shared common areas if you’re looking for an easy introduction to fellow travelers. Simple yet spoiled, Yosemite’s Curry Village puts you in a tent or wooden cabin right in the park and has options like heated tents and private or shared bathrooms. There are no cooking facilities except communal grills, so enjoy Curry Village’s buffet, pizzeria or bar. Do yourself a favor and make the camping experience easier. There’s no room for inconvenience when traveling with small children.
4. Hey, dude. Let the ranch hands do the work. When you’re no longer a single traveler wanting to weed an organic garden or build a shed in exchange for lodging, an all-inclusive dude ranch can be great way to bring a little luxury to your nature-loving family. There are a few in California and they can seem pricy for a week vacation. However, consider in the meals, entertainment, horseback riding and children’s programs, and you might just meet your budget. Rankin Ranch near Bakersfield prices horseback riding separately in case you’re traveling with a baby or toddler and don’t want to leave him. Babysitting is available for an extra charge, but the wine and beer are free! Any child would enjoy bottle-feeding baby animals, and there’s beginner horseback riding for the older ones. Staying at a dude ranch makes for a simple vacation, but keeps a mama feeling spoiled with healthy, homemade meals and well-entertained kids.
5. It’s not all business. Tag along. If your spouse travels for business, chances are he’s staying in a nice hotel with a per-diem to spend on food and maybe, a rental car. Why not take advantage of these already-paid expenses and join him for a vacation? Yes, he’ll be busy during the day and sometimes at night (darn those steak dinners!), but you can always extend the trip past his obligations and enjoy the location together. If you bring along your baby or toddler, you’ll certainly attract attention (and friendly assistance) from hotel personnel or other tourists. While it may not be an ideal way to travel, it’s a great option if you’re low on funds or your husband’s low on vacation time. Encourage a resort-like hotel with plenty of amenities so you won’t have to venture out if you don’t want to. Besides, isn’t it time for your child’s first Shirley Temple in a hotel bar?
Photo by Loud Cow