Where to go?
March 13, 2011 1:34 AM   Subscribe

Where do we go for our last vacation before we have kids?

My husband and I are planning to start trying to conceive soon. We're both pretty career-orientated and haven't really been on a long trip together in the past few years, and knowing us, we probably won't make the time until we're really about to take the plunge and quit birth control. So, I estimate we've got one big child-free vacay left in us for quite a while. The question is, where do we go?

We live in California. I think we definitely want to leave North America. We have few qualms about leaving the English-speaking world; we have a little Spanish and a little French, but we've got along without either in other places and it's not terrifying to us. We're not of the same ethnicity and anywhere that would be overtly hostile about that is out. We'd prefer to avoid political instability (obviously that can be hard to predict) or places where Americans are targeted - that is to say, we're not against adventure but can be risk-averse at times. I'm not going to say money is no object, but I don't know that I'd rule any particular place out on the basis of cost.

I love cities and museums and good food and wine, and he likes places with some creature comforts and reliable internet access where he can rent a car and make his way around rather than depending on transit. We'll probably have a couple of weeks - I'd estimate 3 weeks tops, probably around September or October. I think we want to focus this a bit toward places that would hold little appeal for those travelling with children, and places that require a fair bit of energy - if we take child-free vacations once we have kids I expect they'll be a bit more about lying on beaches or lazing in bed half the day, and while I have no objection to those things, I don't think they constitute a vacation in and of themselves. I'm specifically not mentioning any countries we've been to already or the places we've already discussed since I'm sure there are places we've just omitted to consider and I don't want to bias the answers :)

So, have at it, AskMe. If you were about to reproduce and wanted a last hurrah as young adults, anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
posted by troublesome to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We're planning a trip with kids, so I can tell you about the kinds of things that aren't options for us:

- No skiing, snowboarding - kids are way too young, but even once they are older, they get cold and tired faster, so building a vacation around that is probably not worth it. This goes for any strenuous physical activity, scuba diving, etc.
- Not too much driving, long flights or long layovers - kids get cranky
- Sleepy/romantic hamlets are boring for kids
- No eurail passes - trains are great for kids, but seeing a new town or city every 2-3 days is too much.
- No food tourism or spas
- Natural wonders - younger kids are often oblivious to them

I've heard that France, especially Paris, and Italy are great kid-friendly places to go. So don't go there.

In my experience, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Children and parents often have a similar temperaments and even similar interests, so your vacations may not end up changing as much as you think they will.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:02 AM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

You pretty much don't have any parameters, so you're just going to get a long list of disparate stuff.

And you're going to find that pretty much no vacation you'd pick for yourself is kid friendly (until your as-yet-unconceived child is pretty old) unless you like theme parks or family-friendly resort beaches. Even 8-year-olds don't want to look at old/famous buildings, art museums or eat unfamiliar food.

My last vacation before the birth of my kid was to the Netherlands and Belgium, specifically Amsterdam, Utrecht, Brussels and Bruges. It was fun. Lots of old architecture, museums, beer and just walking around looking. We won't get to do something like that for a while.

If that sounds like a lame or pedestrian suggestion, you're going to get a lot of those unless you tighten up.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:32 AM on March 13, 2011

Wild jungles in Asia or South America. Temples, pyramids, bright and complex lifeforms crawling peeking and dashing.


Some place that reaches from the shore into the sky. Miles of elevation to explore, cutting through layers of wildlife and culture. Start in a jungle, head for a glacier. Reach the top and survey the domain.

Rent motorcycles with knobby tires and drive around Africa.
posted by krilli at 4:53 AM on March 13, 2011

When I finally hit double digits as a kid, my parents were ecstatic as I was finally old enough for a bunch of immunizations and had the ability to swallow enormous anti-malaria pills and we could all travel back to East Africa. So that could be a fun option for you. Second choice: I'd back a backpack and trounce around SE Asia for 3 weeks with only a marginal schedule in place. Because a non-scheduled holiday with kids isn't going to happen anytime soon.
posted by meerkatty at 5:01 AM on March 13, 2011

Go on a multi-day walking tour.

Suggestions here

More suggestions here

Even More suggestions here
posted by vacapinta at 5:05 AM on March 13, 2011

How about Turkey?

It has a fantastic cuisine, and more historical sites & museums than you could point a stick at. Good wine I'm not so sure about, but I'm sure it's available. I mostly drank their excellent beer & raki, so didn't feel the need to explore the wine.

The comfort level for regular guesthouses is perfectly fine - very clean & tidy, spotless rooms & crisp sheets. Plenty modern enough for internet to be available everywhere.

Good roads, too, but here's the great part: if you take a week or two around the historical sites on the Aegean & Mediterranean coasts (plenty of Greek & Roman history) then to Cappadocia, if you have your own vehicle then you can hit the Northeastern area up along the Black Sea, which is very untouristed & quite scenic.

The whole country is fantastic value, too. As a backpacker, I think the general cost was about US$30 a day, all inclusive. Spend more than that & you'll really be living well.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:09 AM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]

PS - as for any worries about Islamic-American hostility, you can rule them out. Turkey is very secular, and I could never even find anybody interested in talking about the situation in the Middle East; they're so much more 'Mediterranean' than Arab. I would guarantee you that you'd not attract any undue attention from being American.

Also, Istanbul rocks. It's such a beautiful & historical city, where you could easily spend your entire holiday (but shouldn't, because there's so much more to see).
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:24 AM on March 13, 2011

New Zealand is amazing. Distance wise, I think it would be a flight best done without kids. Rent a car or a camper and explore. South Island is nicer than the north (which would be great if not compared to the south).
posted by backwards guitar at 5:47 AM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I reckon India. Although I'm currently there with two small kids...it's a very different India to the one I got to see fifteen years ago with no kids.
posted by taff at 5:58 AM on March 13, 2011

Another vote for new Zealand! You will want to go around Christmas, though. Maybe next February.

It ticks all of your boxes and then some! I'm on a phone so can't type. Memail for details. 3 weeks is minimum if you want to do it right.
posted by jbenben at 6:11 AM on March 13, 2011

I'd also say India because it's all kinds of awesome, but it fails a number of the criteria:
- fine wine (you've got to be joking - you couldn't get any for love or money)
- the museums are almost always incredibly poor for any explanation of the collection, and
- you can forget driving for yourself unless playing chicken with drunken truck drivers on a one-lane "highway" is your glass of chai.

posted by UbuRoivas at 6:12 AM on March 13, 2011

When my sister and I were infant and toddler, my parents brought us to museums and we enjoyed it. According to my parents, my sister learned to crawl on the marble floors at the Louvre, much to the chagrin of the guards who told my mother to beware "Les microbes!" that were surely everywhere on those floors.

Suggestions for vacations that your future kid/s won't be up for are really a YMMV kind of thing.

That said, what about a cycling vacation in the Netherlands or elsewhere in Europe?
posted by sciencegeek at 6:24 AM on March 13, 2011

Switzerland--an excellent variety of things to do running the gamut from sophisticated, urbane cities to quaint hamlets to natural adventures.
posted by drlith at 6:28 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just before I turned 40 I realized I'd never left the US and just sat down one day and planned a trip (which my wife was very open to, thank goodness).

*Fly from SF to London.
*Three days in London.
*Train from London to Paris.
*Week in Paris.
*Train from Paris to Vienna.
*Week in Vienna.
*Plan from Vienna to London and then London to SF.

Leaving the English speaking world isn't as big a deal as I thought. Even trying in Paris, contrary to popular belief, got us a great deal of gratitude and very welcoming attitudes (and this was in 2005 while GWB was still in office even). Of course, my wife was in charge of the French. :) I was in charge of the German in Vienna.

We went at almost the exact same time you did, Sep/Oct and Paris was spectacularly beautiful (I'll PM you some picture links) and Vienna was a little overcast and cold.

Both Paris and Vienna and cities full of museum and great wine experiences (it's called Wien, after all) and frankly we never set foot in a car except to get to the train station from our hotel in London, so if you stick to the city cars aren't even necessary. To me, that made the trip more enjoyable because driving is stressful for me and I love subways (making Paris' METRO one of the big draws to go there).

There is a note about kids related to this answer. :) When we first got together and married neither of us wanted children, but she changed her mind later and I remained skeptical. But that trip convinced me that we had the teamwork capabilities to be able to have kids. The kid is 2.5 now. :)

If you haven't been to Europe yet, you guys definitely owe it to yourselves to go and check it out. Very open to different ethnicity couples in the cites we visited. Spectacular history behind every place. Stunning beauty and great people.
posted by smallerdemon at 7:05 AM on March 13, 2011

I'd focus on things kids are forbidden to do. Our last kid-free vacation was a two-week archaeological dig on Roman ruins in the north of England, which children can't do (even with supervision) until the age of 14 with this particular program. There was internet (though we were mostly too tired to bother after digging all day!), weekends we could go on excursions to famous cities/sights in the area (transit or rental cars, people did both) and then go to local pubs or fancy restaurants for food and wine. It was the best vacation I've ever been on, and while the focus is the archaeology, there's plenty of room on either side of that for the types of things you mention. A lot of people do a two-week dig and then spend another 4 days to a week touristing it up in the country they're visiting (or tourist and then dig, whatever). I went with EarthWatch, which renders the cost of your (archaeological, but not touristy) stay tax-deductible, even, but there are several organizations that do similar, and plenty of countries to choose from. (EarthWatch has lots of "count endangered tree frogs in the rainforest" ones and only a handful of archaeology, but you may prefer tree frogs.) They're safe for Americans and regardless of the local language you'll work with researchers who speak (at least some) English on site; it makes the off-site interactions much easier (say my friends who've gone to countries where they don't speak the language) since you can ask questions in English of the researchers/workers and then go out into the non-English-speaking area with a lot more confidence.

"Even 8-year-olds don't want to look at old/famous buildings, art museums or eat unfamiliar food."

Um, this constituted pretty much every vacation of my childhood, where the goals were a combination of MAXIMUM CULTURAL EXPOSURE plus MAXIMUM CHILD EXHAUSTION. Museums, national monuments, natural wonders, great cities, weird transit, local food, Civil War battlefields, famous graveyards ... I remember an awful lot of them even from when I was very small, and most of them were fun. (I was waaaaaay over the Civil War battlefields after like two.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:12 AM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

I vote for Paris. We went in October and loved it.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:12 AM on March 13, 2011

Amsterdam. Do it up - probably won't get to again for a looooong time.
posted by sickinthehead at 7:36 AM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I haven't been (yet!) but it seems like Argentina, especially Buenos Aires, fits all of your criteria. It's not specifically un-kid-friendly, but would be a fun blow-out romantic extravagant trip. With extra time you could go to Iguazu National Park, Mendoza wine country, or even try to make it to Patagonia, Chile, or Bolivia if you feel ambitious.
posted by EmilyFlew at 9:07 AM on March 13, 2011

A thought that isn't a direct answer to the question: consider that "trying to have kids" and "having kids" may be events that are separated by longer than 9 months. My wife and I took a great "last vacation" and then started trying. 3 years later, we had taken 3 more "last vacations".

And we had fun on those vacations. But I think there was something about building that first one up as the "last one" that made the failing-to-conceive process extra depressing.
posted by gurple at 9:29 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even 8-year-olds don't want to look at old/famous buildings, art museums or eat unfamiliar food.

This is patently untrue. We've been taking our children (now 14 and nearly 11) all around the world since they were infants. It's just what we do. I can honestly say that our experiences traveling with children have been richer than those without; the locals nearly uniformly always treat us better when our kids are with us than when they're not. Our kids have developed an appreciation for art that wouldn't have happened if we hadn't taken them to the Louvre, to the Tate Modern (my daughter in particular now loves modern art), and to the National Gallery. They love museums, they love old cities, and they love trying new food. We love doing those things and didn't see any reason to stop once the kids arrived. We do take kid-specific trips now and again (we're going to Disney World at the end of the month) but mostly we just carried on doing what we loved before we had them.

Now. That said, if you want to make the most out of a child-free vacation but still do things you like to do, how about city-hop? Pick some cities in Europe (for example) and try to visit several of them in your three weeks. To me, the hardest thing about traveling with kids is the messed up schedule and lugging things around, so I would try to cram as much in as possible.
posted by cooker girl at 9:51 AM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


"This is patently untrue for plenty of families," is what I intended to write.
posted by cooker girl at 9:59 AM on March 13, 2011

I'd also chime in for India, only because there is so much variety in the climate as well as in the things to see.

1. Wildlife tours are wonderful, especially in Karnataka/Kerala areas as well as in Central India (don't go to Chatisgarh)

2. Mumbai/Delhi/Calcutta/Pondicherry are great historical places

3. South India has wonderful 3000-year old temples that are still in use

4. Leh/Ladakh has some of the most breathtaking mountain sceneries in the world (backdrop of the Himalayas with clear blue lakes)

Only caveat is that September/October would be cold in some areas (North India) and may curtail your activities. Any earlier and you could be caught in the heavy rains (Monsoon season)

A reliable tour operator who provides some flexibility (Cox and Kings) will take care of most of the hassle for you, providing you transport, guides etc

Also, it looks like everyone speaks English there, although heavy accents may be met with a "Pardon! Could you repeat that please?"

Only thing I dislike is that tourists pay higher fees for some Museums/public places than citizens.
posted by theobserver at 10:09 AM on March 13, 2011

Easy - Spain. You're future kids will like Paris/India/Asia as much as you will. Spain is great without kids because outside of restaurants/cultural sights/galleries/museums (which are all things your kids will like too) it has one of the only activities that is resolutely kid unfriendly, namely standing at tapas bars all night grazing and drinking dumb amounts of sherry/red wine. Every other holiday activity is kid friendly.

As a rule kids don't get the point of standing at one bar, drink/eat and then going across the street to do it in another place; Repeat. You don't sit for dinner but after an evenings entertainment you are full and ready for bed.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:16 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love cities and museums and good food and wine, and he likes places with some creature comforts and reliable internet access where he can rent a car and make his way around rather than depending on transit.

This combination, to me, seems like the biggest limiter rather than whether or not you'll have kids with you in the future. Creature comforts and renting a car and museums and cities: this says Ireland to me, or maybe somewhere in the UK. Or continental Europe (though I think renting a car can be pricey and not terribly sensible in some European countries) or maybe New Zealand or Australia.

Which of these are you most willing to abandon? I think a lot of the adventure vacations being proposed here will not necessarily offer creature comforts and reliable internet.

When I finally hit double digits as a kid, my parents were ecstatic as I was finally old enough for a bunch of immunizations and had the ability to swallow enormous anti-malaria pills and we could all travel back to East Africa.
A few years ago I took my then-3 year old on a ten-day vacation to Ethiopia. So, you know, YMMV. I think what constitutes a family vacation varies a whole lot by family.

So, kid-free, where money isn't really an issue: I'd think about the places that are the farthest away via plane, and go there.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:35 AM on March 13, 2011

Southeast Asia. Specifically Cambodia and/or Vietnam if you guys are interested in cultural stuff. Skip the car rental.
posted by Sara C. at 12:44 PM on March 13, 2011

Fine dining and going out to the theater are the only two things I really miss when vacationing with my kids. Yes, it is technically possible to do both of those with young children in tow, but it is 1000x more enjoyable not to.
posted by apparently at 2:22 PM on March 13, 2011

Another vote for new zealand! Its just better.

Fair warning though; this was the last trip my wife and i took before having a baby. It was so damned awesome, we live here now...and we brought the offspring.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:15 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

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