Unmissable holidays and experiences before having children

Clearly I am passionate about travelling with my children, hence the reason for setting up our family travel blog!  I also however, look back fondly on the experiences and holidays my husband and I enjoyed before having children… the carefree days with no worries of baby nap times and the logistical nightmare of packing the entire contents of our house for a week in the sun!  This article will highlight the unmissable holidays and experiences to enjoy before having children…

Work abroad

Getting paid to live and work abroad is a life changing experience.  It is not impossible to work abroad with children but logistically more difficult as you need to worry about your family’s health care provision, schooling and gain the appropriate working visas.  Working abroad when you have no family ties provides you with the opportunity to broaden your horizons, learn about different cultures and see the world… all whilst getting paid:)  Even if you only work abroad for one season (i.e. as a travel rep in a holiday resort) and decide you absolutely hate it, you are less likely to regret doing it than regret not doing it later in life when you have children and financial commitments.

Images – Working onboard P&O Cruises as Shore Excursions Manager.

I spent most of my twenties and early thirties travelling and working abroad.  I caught the bug quite early at 18 and enjoyed my first working experience abroad with Camp America at a camp site in San Francisco.  It was a fairly ‘risk free’ and ‘safe’ first experience, they organised my working visa and even picked me up from the airport and delivered me to the campsite!  The confidence gained from working for Camp America enabled me to go on and work/study in the USA for a further five years and work onboard cruise ships for a few years.  I met my now husband when working onboard cruise ships in the Caribbean, which leads me on to the next unmissable holiday/experience before having children…

First holiday alone as a couple

The make or break/get to know one another experience!  With busy jobs and manic life’s often a holiday is the first time a couple will spend any quality time together.  It is a great opportunity to find out if you are compatible, as you really get to know someone well when you travel with them.  For example…

Does your new partner like to lay in the sun all day, turning over at regular intervals on the sun lounger perfecting the tan?  Are they happiest when taking full advantage of the water sports on offer or taking in the local culture and sightseeing?  Even a confident person may be a recluse on holiday and choose not to mix with other tourists or interact with the locals.  Does your new partner enjoy trying the local foods, attempting to speak the local language and really immersing themselves into the local community?  How do they deal with unexpected problems occurring… Flight delays, lost luggage, screaming babies on the flight? 

It is said you do not know someone until you live with them but to truly get to know someone I feel you should go on holiday alone as a couple. 

Mine and Richard’s first holiday was a road trip around Florida.  Thinking back we hardly knew each other.  As I said above, we had met whilst working onboard a cruise ship.  We had dated for only two months, (although ship relationships are intense as of course you see each other every day throughout your working contract).  I was 25 so hardly a child, however I knew my parents would worry if they knew I was going on holiday with a guy I had only known for two months!   I therefore told them I was going on holiday with friends, (It was a couple of years later when they learnt the truth!)

Image – Road trip fun, USA

It was easy to choose where to go on our holiday as we both fancied a road trip, (a fortnight on a beach after being onboard a ship which visits a new port everyday did not hold much appeal).  We both love the USA and so decided on a road trip from Miami.  

It was a fabulous holiday and it gave us the opportunity to really get to know one another.  We roller skated up and down South Beach in Miami, scuba dived with reef sharks in Key Largo, drank far too many cocktails in Key West and acted like big kids in Orlando.  We had booked the first nights accommodation and then stopped at places that took our fancy, resulting in us having to sleep one night in our rental car as we were unable to find a hotel with vacancies in Key West. (If this happened now, as parents of two young boys, it will clearly be an issue however as a young couple it just added to the adventure!) 

So it turns out we were compatible and both enjoy a mixture of experiences whilst on holiday… The rest as they say is history! 

Live somewhere you would never dream of living with children!

Once kids come along the ‘must have list’ for your dream home grows by the minute… close to grandparents for childcare support, extra bedrooms, kids playroom, large garden, garage and attic to fill with baby stuff, good school catchment area, etc, etc.  Before children there are none of these worries and so therefore choosing your first home is much simpler and provides more scope for freedom.

The first home we purchased together was a 50 foot narrow boat.  We lived onboard for two years.  Some of our friends thought we were bloody crazy, others thought the idea of coming out of the rat race and instead living on the canals was pretty cool.

Images – Our first home, a 50ft narrow boat!

We had family and friends onboard with us most weekends, chugging along at a couple of miles an hour, up and down the canals and rivers.  Of course some people live onboard boats with kids and I have the utmost respect for them because being completely honest there is no way I would even attempt to live onboard with two young children, a zillion toys and all the required baby gadgets!

Holidays with friends

These holidays are important before kids come along and holidays become much more expensive and logistically a little bit more of…. shall we say a challenge?!  Holidays with friends offer an opportunity to let your hair down, create lasting memories/friendships and have a ‘few’ drinks without the worry of surviving a hangover with children to look after the next day!

I was so skint whilst at university that I remember selling (still needed!) study books and pledging that I was starving and penniless to my parents so that I could scrape together enough cash to go on a girls holiday to Benidorm! 

City Breaks 

I am not suggesting that you cannot enjoy city breaks as a family because you definitely can.  We have experienced several with Charlie and Harry, including a lovely trip to Copenhagen HOWEVER trying to fight the crowds and visit cultural sights with young children in tow is definitely more problematic than as a carefree, loved up couple!

Before children we loved city breaks and were fortunate to go on several a year.  We visited New York and crammed all the main sights into our four-day trip… Statue of Liberty, Times New Square, ice skating in Central Park and a musical in the West End (Mary Poppins, it was awesome and I am not ashamed to say I shed a tear when she flew at the end!)  A visit to NYC can of course be thoroughly enjoyable with children however, it would definitely be a completely different experience and one that involves a lot of time at Central Park zoo!  (I would also not suggest visiting NYC in December with young children because quite honestly I have never been so cold in my entire life).

Images – Exploring NYC without the worry of baby nap times, etc!

Activity holidays

Before we had children we were fortunate to experience several skiing and sailing holidays.  The most memorable ones were with our group of friends.  One year we travelled by Eurostar as a group from London St Pancras to Paris and then ski train to La Plagne.  The atmosphere onboard the train was fabulous.  We partied in the ‘disco carriage’ and arrived in the ski resort the next day where we immediately hit the slopes!

Another year a group of us hired a yacht and sailed from Athens around the Greek Islands. It was an awesome week.  The views were absolutely spectacular and the water was crystal clear.  We anchored in a terrible spot one evening, the sea was incredibly rough and the winds were howling.  Our yacht was plunging up and down and we all had to leave our cabins to reposition the anchor in the dark… Hilarious at the time but certainly not an experience I would want to repeat with young children!

As stated above, I am not saying that you cannot enjoy skiing or sailing holidays with children because you can and there are many specialised family ski and sail tour operators such as Mark Warner, Neilson and The Family Adventure Company who offer facilities such as crèches for tots and ski lessons for children. The main enjoyment for Richard and I however was experiencing these holidays with a group of like-minded friends.  When our boys are a little older we thoroughly look forward to introducing them both to skiing and sailing!

Images – Group skiing and sailing holiday, before the days of kids!


Of course many people nowadays get married after having children, however if you get the opportunity to leave the kids with grandparents, treat yourselves to a childfree minimoon!  A minimoon is a short break away enjoyed shortly after becoming man and wife.  A relaxing couple of days away is a great compromise if you cannot afford your dream honeymoon immediately after your wedding or the timing is not quite right and you want to go later in the year.

To be honest the day after your wedding can be a massive come down, you may have planned it for months, years even, and suddenly it is all over.  To beat those post wedding blues, book a couple of nights away to enjoy time in each others company, reliving the best parts of your big day!

Our wedding celebration took place over a three-day bank holiday, with most wedding guests staying at the venue for a couple of nights.  (After planning it for nearly a year and spending a small fortune we wanted it to last as long as possible!)  After saying our farewells to guests we hopped on the train to London and had a couple of days sightseeing before returning home to open wedding gifts and send our thank you notes!

Image – Our minimoon in London


If you get married before you have children (or you leave the kiddies at home with Grandparents) choose a honeymoon destination that offers the opportunity to take part in activities that you would never dream of experiencing with children or during a regular holiday.  

Richard and I spent three days in Las Vegas and then flew to Oahu in Hawaii where we stayed on Waikiki Beach and enjoyed surfing lessons and a visit to Pearl Harbour.  We then flew to Maui for a few days where we watched the sunrise from the top of Haleakala volcano, biked down the volcano and sailed to the island of Lanai …. It truly was a once in a lifetime trip that we will treasure forever.  We knew in the future that we wanted children and so purposefully chose Las Vegas as this is definitely not a destination you would choose to take young children to.  We also purposefully chose to enjoy lots of excursions which would be more difficult to experience with young kids.   

Images – Our honeymoon in Las Vegas and Hawaii, enjoying activities that would be more ‘difficult!’ with kids


This is the official term for the last holiday as a couple before baby arrives.  This started as an American tradition but as we were living in America at the time, it was a tradition we were happy to follow!  As with most couples, we were aware that life was about to change in a very significant way and so we booked a babymoon to give us the opportunity to enjoy some time together as a couple before the madness of nappy changes and sleep deprivation kicked in! 

For our babymoon we took a road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville in North Carolina for a few days to tour the stunning Biltmore Estate and then flew to Boston to experience some culture and visit the main sights.  We were keen to walk the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile, red-lined route which leads to 16 historically significant sites…. Unfortunately, as baby was pushing down on my bladder I had to pee every ten minutes and so I became acquainted with every coffee shop and bar on the Freedom Trail!   This was a very memorable holiday where we spent quality time together as a couple before our lives changed (for the better!) forever by the arrival of our little boy.  

Images – Our babymoon in Boston.  Enjoying the main sights inc. Cheers Bar and the Freedom Trail

Visit family and friends

I have added this to the list of holidays to experience before having children because if, like me, you have friends scattered all over your country, I suggest that you take the time before you have your first baby to do a tour around and spend some quality time with them whilst you have the opportunity!  

As we were living in the USA, Richard and I travelled back to the UK when I was 30 weeks pregnant and spent a week with family. He then returned to the USA and I travelled around the UK by train staying with different friends.  If you are fortunate to not be having any pregnancy issues, the last few weeks of pregnancy with your first child is a magical time. (You certainly do not have the same freedom and time if/when you are pregnant with your second child as you still have your oldest child to run around after!)  I enjoyed touring the UK catching up with my oldest and dearest friends with my huge bump.  It was lovely to spend quality time with them before Charlie changed my life overnight! 

If you have enjoyed this article you may enjoy – Unmissable holidays to enjoy when you have children

Can you add any other unmissable holidays and experiences before having children?  Did you and your partner enjoy similar holidays before having your first child? 


36 thoughts on “Unmissable holidays and experiences before having children

  1. Nicole (The Brightness Of These Days)

    Fab post! Although it’s giving me itchy feet! We had a mini-moon and a baby-moon but never got round to a honeymoon, I’m thinking it’s almost time! I always say to friends thinking of trying for a baby to do any must-do travels first, or while you’re trying. Our last trip pre-babies was backpacking around Malawi and Mozambique, definitely not a trip I would be able to do again any time soon!

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  4. Tim

    Not by design, but our kids arrived relatively late (I was 37 when our first was born) so we fitted in a lot of travelling beforehand. There is so much we enjoyed that we just couldn’t do with three kids now (or, at least, not for a few more years and at considerable expense). Cramming in lots of city breaks where we saved money by staying in cheap hotels and then legged it around doing everything we possibly could in 4 days. Driving around California and the south-west of the US for three weeks making up our itinerary as we went along and not having to worry about booking a family room. Bungee-jumping and tramping up an active volcano in New Zealand.

    I loved those holidays.

    Having said that, I love the relaxing, easy-paced European holidays we currently do with friends every summer and our half-term getaways to Butlins. But I do miss those days! #sundaystars
    Tim recently posted…A Valentine’s Day parody: Won’t You (Buy Something for Me)My Profile

    1. Lisa Post author

      Your holidays before kids sound amazing Tim:) I particularly like the sound of the road trip in California and bungee jumping in New Zealand… hiking up a volcano does not appeal to me so much! I would not call our family holidays ‘relaxing and easy paced’ just yet, with two under the age of five we have a while to go before holidays are relaxing! Thanks for stopping by:)

  5. Lianne

    Fab post!! I do wish I’d gone on a few more holiday adventures before having children. I actually got offered a job working in a nursery on a Butlins resort, I was super excited about living and working on a holiday resort with new people… but I turned it down as I met my then partner and wanted to stay with him. I do wonder ‘what if’ a lot, but I wouldn’t have my 11 year old if I’d have gone 😉

  6. Zena's Suitcase

    I had my son quite young, so missed out on working abroad. I wouldn’t change it, but I would like some of these experiences in my life. When I married later in life, I made sure I got a few of these in before having more kids. It was a better way of approaching it I think

  7. Sonia

    I didn’t manage to do any travelling before I had my kids but I definitely intend to have some jolly good adventures when they have all left home 😉

    1. Lisa Post author

      Sounds like a great plan Kara:) I have friends who took lots of family holidays when their kids were growing up but are now extensively travelling as their children have started university.

  8. Cassie

    This is a great post and definitely a reminder that doing things and being outgoing before building a family is important! I’m definitely jealous of your houseboat though, that’s for sure.

    thanks for sharing!

  9. Tori Gabriel

    I totally agree that you should live and work abroad before settling down. It’s advice I’m giving to my 18 year old niece at the moment. “Take a Gap Year at the very least”.

    I did much the same as you. I did Camp America and caught the travel bug which resulted in a couple of seasons as a holiday rep, backpacking Australia and Thailand, volunteering with lions in South Africa, a couple of years on the cruise ships (Disney Cruise Line) and finally a year working for Disney in Orlando. I am so glad I did all this before I settled down.

    1. Lisa Post author

      I look forward to meeting you Tori at a future blog event. I think we may have several friends in common as I have friends who worked onboard Disney Cruises. Volunteering with lions sounds incredible, what an experience that must have been!

    1. Lisa Post author

      Get your flights booked to Iceland Rachel! Although travelling with children is fun it is a completely different experience. Iceland is fabulous, I have been fortunate to visit Reykjavik and Akureyri and I can recommend both.

    1. Lisa Post author

      I agree Sally. Spontaneous travel and young kids do not mix well! I hope we can be more adventurous again when our boys are older but for now we book all of our travel plans in advance so that we can be assured that they will have a bed to sleep in, unlike our experience in Key West!

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  11. Ting at My Travel Monkey

    Oh love this post Lisa. Firstly, so nice to get to know you a bit better through all your travel experiences. And I couldn’t agree more with you that going on the first holiday is certainly a good test to your compatibility as a couple! Your honeymoon looks fab – we love Vegas but have never been to Hawaii -that’s on the list! We were lucky enough to go last year for a 5 days when mum offered to look after Monkey – child-free trips are good to go on now and then. Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes
    Ting at My Travel Monkey recently posted…10 Types of Tourists That Are AnnoyingMy Profile

    1. Lisa Post author

      Thanks for your lovely comment Ting. Child-free holidays are definitely good for a relationship every now and then! We try and go away at least a couple of times a year (although we do seem to spend the majority of our time talking about our boys and pointing out the places they would enjoy!)

    1. Lisa Post author

      Yes I think that is key Claire…being prepared to be flexible whilst they are young 🙂 Maybe ‘unmissable holidays before you are too old’ should be the next article in my series?!
      Yeah to Vegas! My only regret is not trying white water rafting through the Grand Canyon, this is one I will definitely have to leave until my boys have grown up a little!

  12. Urska @ Slovenian Girl Abroad

    Interesting reading Lisa. Do you think you really wouldn’t be able to repeat at least some of those travel of yours with your kids? Some of the things you’ve mentioned seems like are also doable with kids. But, I don’t have kids, so I clearly have no idea of how different is travelling with kids comparing to traveling with your partner/husband. 🙂

    1. Lisa Post author

      Thanks for stopping by Urska:) Some of these holidays are certainly ‘doable’ as you suggest although quite frankly the holidays would be a completely different experience with children. For example, I definitely would not take my two boys on a sailing holiday at the moment as at 4 and 1 years of age I would not be able to relax and enjoy it without worrying about them going overboard! City breaks are certainly a possibility and as I stated above, we have enjoyed lots of city holidays with my eldest but when touring around cultural sights or when wanting to fully enjoy the nightlife it is much easier without kids:) Working abroad is much more difficult with kids but certainly not an impossibility, their needs just need to come first. The next post in this series highlights the holidays we have enjoyed as a family -http://www.travellovingfamily.com/adventures-abroad/unmissable-holidays-when-you-have-children

  13. Keri (Baby Globetrotters)

    We have done pretty much everything on here- before and after kids! Each have their kid-free merit but equally we have tackled them head first with children too – which significantly changes the perspective!! Now our youngest is no longer breastfeeding we are trying to build in a good balance of kid-free breaks as well as our longer family holidays, everything in balance including your down time #MindayEscapes
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    1. Lisa Post author

      Hats off to you Keri! Yes it does definitely change the perspective! I certainly would not tackle working on cruise ships, living on a narrow boat or sailing with young child to worry about 🙂 We have throughly enjoyed some fabulous holidays with our boys but our family holidays center around their needs, which will change I’m sure as they get older and are able to join in activities such as skiing and sailing. Thanks for stopping by:)

  14. Cathy (MummyTravels)

    This brings back a few memories – I totally agree that you can do a lot more when travelling with kids than people sometimes think but there’s no question it’s different! I’m off shortly on my second child free trip after having my daughter and it’s like re educating myself about what I can do 🙂 #mondayescapes
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    1. Lisa Post author

      Enjoy your child free trip Cathy! If you are like me, you will spend most of your time talking about your child and checking out places she would have loved!! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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