There’s no end of blogs telling us about travelling with kids and how it can be done. But some experiences are just easier, better and more fun without a buggy or the endless questions of a small child.
Which is why I've created my ultimate bucket list of kids-free adventures. Tick them off the list then embark on your baby-making safe in the knowledge that you’ll have no travel regrets.
A major trek
There are some vast, beautiful countries to be explored and while you probably won’t manage to see all of them pre-kids, going to at least one should be on your parenthood-free bucket list. Trekking at the Tibetan Plateau is a pretty good choice – the terrain, altitude and number of miles you can cover are all remarkably child-unfriendly, while the views, people and scenery are all just remarkable. Make a big trip of it and take in sights such as the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Warriors at Xi’an to really get the most out of it.
There are lots of travel companies offering Tibetan experiences, dragoman.co.uk is sure to give you food for thought.
A splendid safari
Lions and rhinos, oh my! There’s nothing like waking small kids at 5am to get into a bumpy Jeep promising them the safari experience and then finding the animals aren’t on your schedule; the children see nothing but the odd bird and breakfast isn’t scheduled until 10am. Do yourself a favour and let your wild side out now. The Big Five (African elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard) all reside at Kruger national park in South Africa – though as an adult we expect you not to have a tantrum if you don’t actually spot them all.
A no-expense-spared city break
The destination is up to you – wake up in New York, Paris, Prague, the choice is yours – but the key here is to really go for it on the luxury-front. Stay in the fanciest hotel you can, order the most ridiculous cocktails, get the best theatre seats, buy awesome clothes. Because once you have kids, although the child-free city break may not be entirely out of reach (if you have grandparents willing to babysit, for example) you’ll most likely never have the money or the guilt-free attitude to do it in quite so much style.
The best restaurant in the world
El Celler Can Roca in the famed gastronomic region of Girona in Spain has been named Best Restaurant In The World by various polls, groups of judges and patrons that who are we to argue? Run by three brothers (head chef, pastry chef and wine sommelier), this is a restaurant where your meal isn’t going to take a nifty hour and include colouring-in sheets at the table. Savour the time, the peace and the incredible three-michelin-starred food while you can.
A skiing holiday with plenty of après-ski
As lots of parents will tell you, skiing with children can be fun. There are crèches and kids’ ski schools, and they love tobogganing and building snowmen. If, however, you fancy something a bit more, well, grown-up, for your après-ski activities, there are companies offering adult-only chalet hotels. It may be that after a day on the slopes you just want to sit in front of a roaring fire in peace, or perhaps you’d prefer some bar action.
A cottage… for two
Doesn’t it look amazing? A converted beach hut with all mod cons cosily fitted in, a hot tub on the deck and a perfect position – we’re not sure you could be much closer to the sea. Cornwall has a lot to offer when you go with children, but this little gem is definitely more geared to making them in.
A week of exactly what YOU want
Indulgence is the key here. When I was 22 I went to Venice for six days simply to look around all the art galleries and churches and the paintings in them. I didn’t go with anyone and I didn’t spend much money (aside from the Prada shoes I’d especially saved up for, knowing I was going to Italy) but it was an act of pure me-time joy. Pick your destination and your act of selfishness, then get booking.
A horror-themed restaurant
Where in the world would you possibly find a prison-hospital-themed restaurant where the staff are dressed as horror-film-style nurses and doctors, and halfway through your meal there is sudden screaming, lights flashing and a macabre ‘operation’ takes place on the floor by where you’re enjoying your meal (in a locked cell, naturally)? Only in Tokyo, of course! It's not for the squeamish and certainly not for the under 12s. This is one dining experience you won’t forget.
A great music festival
Yeah, yeah, loads of hip parents take their kids to music festivals these days - and why not? They’re mostly held in the warmer parts of the UK, there’s loads for kids to see and do at them, you can take those trendy ear-defenders for when they’re rocking out and they fall on a weekend. Not so for South By South West. Held in Austin, Texas, USA, it’s famed for breaking new bands and hosting some of the biggest names at the same time. But crucially, it’s always held during a week in UK term time. Go now.
A white-water rafting ride in Chile
If there’s an adventurer in you, you need to let her/him out – and while some adventures are easily adapted to the parenting life, others aren’t. White-water rafting most likely falls in the latter camp. Fast, exhilarating and in some of the most beautiful spots in the world, I really wish I’d done this before I had children. Expeditions offered in Chile include up to ten days of rafting and hiking, staying in fantastic tree-house-style camps in-between. It’s an experience you can keep dreaming back to when years later your daily challenge is to change a nappy without being peed on. Get an idea of what to expect here:
An afternoon of wine-tasting in Western Australia
There are many reasons why this is an experience best enjoyed without children – never mind the crazy-long flight, the jet lag and the fact that it’s generally frowned upon to quench a kid’s thirst with alcohol; if there’s one thing worse than a hangover it’s… a hangover with kids. Avoid all these pitfalls by discovering the beauty of Margaret River and its fantastic wines straight away.
A trek around the Temples of Angkor
Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples of Angkor are stunning and steeped in history, but they also spread over quite a distance, the roads and paths between the temples aren’t exactly smooth and it can get very hot (or rainy). Add to all that the somewhat unpredictable monkeys (so cute! Oh wait, one just bit my over-friendly child) – and you realise that this is a must-see that should be experienced in adult company or alone. Hire a bike and make your way around the area at a leisurely pace, or take a tuk-tuk for a chauffeur-driven tour. Either way, it’s an incredible place and going for post-temple beer in Siem Reap will also be a much nicer experience without mini-yous in tow, won’t it?
A child-free beach resort
If and when you do go on a beach holiday with your future off-spring be sure to note that it won’t be anything like your pre-parenthood beach experiences. There’s sun cream to apply, drowning to worry about, endless requests for ice cream/help with sand castles/toilets/drinks – you can leave your book at home safe in the knowledge that you won’t read a page of it lying on a sun lounger. So before you embark on that heady baby adventure, why not embark on this ultimate-relaxation holiday? Not only will you not have any of your own children with you but at an adult-only resort you won’t have anyone else’s either. Make the most of it.
The Murano glass factories, Italy, Venice
Children walking round a factory that produces intricate, beautiful and sometimes very expensive pieces of glasswork? What on earth could go wrong? The Murano glass factories are impressive and fascinating but definitely up there on the “Best visited before having children” top 5 we reckon. Check out Trip Advisor for tips on the factories offering demonstrations at the time you’re travelling, and always make sure you buy Murano glass that features the official trademark.
A yoga retreat in Greece
A yoga retreat abroad is appealing to those of us who don’t ever do yoga in the UK, isn’t it? Stretching by the pool, yoga in light, airy rooms, blue skies, healthy meals… It’s one of those things that you think ‘Oh, yes, that sounds very nice’ but never get round to it. If you have any plans to do it and plans to have a child, make sure the two don’t collide; no one’s going to want your off-spring around as they embark on their Downward Dog - and that includes you.
A Las Vegas jaunt
Let’s face it – Las Vegas is tacky and a bit weird but if you’re in the US for any other reason, it’s an experience you sort of have to have. No drinks are served to anyone under 21, nor are you allowed to gamble if you’re below that age – so really, there’s no point in going with children. They’ll be bored stiff and you’d have to explain why the lady handing out flyers for a show on the Strip is only wearing pants and nipple tassels with her extravagant feathery headpiece. Take a couple of days, enjoy the madness, try not to lose all your money, and then return to reality.
The traditional beer festival
It’s a frustrating fact of life, as this list clearly demonstrates, that children and alcohol don’t mix. Of course, mums and dads the world over enjoy a tipple after a long day of setting the right example, but taking the little darlings on a beer-themed holiday is probably pushing it in terms of good parenting ideas. Pre-kids, however, a weekend of beer being served from 9am by good German folk in some traditional costumes is obviously a brilliant one. With over 30 beer tents in which to enjoy the party atmosphere, you’re going to need some stamina so sleep well in advance and, er, “Prost!”
A gravity-defying roller coasters
When your future child reaches teenagehood, perhaps they’ll want to ride the fastest, tallest and longest roller coasters in the world with you. But you must keep in mind two possibilities: 1. Your child might be terrified of roller coasters and 2. As you get older, the appeal of being hurtled along a large metal structure may fade…
All in all - best to get it out of your system now while you’re raring to go.
The fastest steel roller coaster in the world - 240km/hr at its peak - is the Formula Rossa, which, unsurprisingly, is at Ferrari World, in Dubai.
If height is more your thing, the world’s tallest is the 130m Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure Park in New Jersey. And for length, try the 2479m Steel Dragon at Japan’s Nagashima Spa Land.