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.
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, 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 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 starting in 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. This resulted in 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 live with kids!
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. Being completely honest we would struggle 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!
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 and many trips to London. HOWEVER, trying to fight the crowds and visit cultural sights with young children in tow is definitely a different experience to exploring a city 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 musicals in the West End. (My fav was 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!
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. 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!
Of course many people 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 enjoyed a couple of days sightseeing before returning home to open wedding gifts!
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 week 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 not a destination we would personally 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.
This is the official term for the last holiday as a couple before baby arrives. This started as an American tradition. 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. We booked a babymoon to give us the opportunity to enjoy some time together, before the madness of nappy changes and sleep deprivation kicked in!
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. I therefore became acquainted with every coffee shop and bar on the Freedom Trail! This was a very memorable holiday where we spent quality time together before our lives changed (for the better!) forever by the arrival of our little boy.
Visit family and friends
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!
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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?