Has your child ever thrown a whopping, flailing tantrum on an airplane? Mine has.
Recently, my husband and I went on a seven-week European trip with our two young children. The red-eye flight we took from St. Lucia to London to begin the journey will forevermore be known in my mind as the red-eye from hell.
Neither child slept a wink from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. But it wasn’t just that they didn’t sleep, it was that my two-year-old acted as if she’d been possessed by some sort of wild, screaming banshee demon. My sweet little strawberry went all scary on me. Her eight-hour tantrum shook us up, mostly because she’d always been a perfect little travel companion. But now, she’s two and apparently, she chose that flight to fully embrace her Terribles.
The whole episode was stressful, exhausting and even a little embarrassing. We broke into a cold sweat passing her back and forth, trying everything to soothe her. But nothing worked. We’d become that family on the plane.
And that is how we began our big European vacation: sleepless, achy and emotionally drained. It certainly didn’t feel like we were embarking on any kind of romantic adventure, even though I’d secretly been fantasizing that a family vacation could, in fact, be somehow just as romantic and fulfilling as a couple’s escapade.
Real Talk: A Family Vacation Is Not an Escape
I realize that a family vacation isn’t a romantic honeymoon. A friend once told me, “Vacationing with young kids is basically just doing what you do every day, but in another location. You’re still up at 7, playing superheroes at 11, and trapped inside for hours during naptime while you stare enviously at kid-free couples from your window. It’s still parenting. It’s still a lot of work.”
If you’ve traveled with your kids, you know there’s a lot of truth in that. Whereas travel with your spouse was once dreamy and romantic and something that instantly rekindled the spark in your sex life, traveling with little ones can feel schleppy and restrictive, and it can actually make romantic one-on-one time even harder to find. Because even if you travel with a nanny or hire a babysitter, the truth is that no matter how much help you have, a vacation isn’t a “real” vacation when you’re with your kids.
Because your kids will want you. They will find you the minute you open your book. They will climb up on you and smush you and demand your attention. And they will NOT STOP until they get it.
But as I’ve just learned in the last seven weeks, it doesn’t mean there’s zero room for romance.
Because you have a choice: You can be irritated and complain that you have no privacy, not enough free time, not enough opportunity to connect with your spouse in a sensual, romantic way. You can long for the days when your vacation meant margaritas till the wee hours and sleeping until 11. Or you can work a little bit harder to find those precious moments to connect, just you and him. Embrace the chaos of a family trip and truly savor those sexy interludes you do find. Make the most of every romantic opportunity.
I’m 100% confident this is possible, because I did it. I was successful in my quest to find time for frisky business and romantic reconnection during a long, busy family trip.
Here are my 4 favorite ways to make time for romance and intimacy on a family vacation:
1. Find romance in the chaos. When our daughter was in the middle of her epic tantrum and we were the most hated passengers on the plane, my husband and I could’ve easily turned on each other. But instead, we looked at each other with a knowing smile and a little burst of laughter, as if to say, “Holy hell, can you believe this is happening right now?!” We kissed across the seats, and our alliance as parents, friends and lovers was unbreakable. We were committed to seeing out the red-eye horror show as a team. And that felt like an incredibly romantic gesture. It set the tone and showed us that we could bring humor, love, togetherness and kisses to anything and everything we encountered on our journey.
So when the crap hits the fan — you lose your luggage, leave your passports in the hotel safe or cruise up to the wrong airport because you didn’t double-check the tickets (yes, this has happened to us more than once) — don’t blame each other or let it ruin your romantic flow. Face the travel chaos together as a united front, kissing and laughing along the way.
2. Embrace the quickie. Unless you’re traveling with a full-time nanny (and bless you if you are), it’s unlikely that you’ll find a full, uninterrupted hour for a wild love session with your spouse. So naturally, the quickie becomes king when you’re traveling. Lean on these short, heated, energetic sessions where your bodies passionately collide to stay sensually connected and satisfied. Whereas you might have sex once or twice a week at home, try having a quickie every day or every other day while traveling.
Focusing on quickies takes the pressure off having “epic holiday sex” and allows you both to focus more on FUN and FREQUENCY. It may not be the most mind-blowing sex of your life, but it will help you feel more connected and empowered as a couple, reigniting the mutual commitment you’re both making to nurture a sensual life together.
You know I’m not shy about sharing, so in the spirit of inspiring you, here’s how we fit in some quickies during our recent trip:
- During nap times. We’d hire a babysitter for a couple of hours during the day so we could head out and explore while the children slept. We’d have a quickie first, shower and then embark a romantic adventure. In Istanbul, drinking pickle juice (delicious), eating a burnt marshmallow-y dessert (a Turkish staple), and seeing how the Bosphorus splits Europe and Asia was WAY BETTER because we’d taken 10 minutes first to put our bodies together in a passionate way.
- The wee hours. On days when I knew we wouldn’t have a sitter, we took advantage of the children’s jet lag and had cozy morning quickies before they barged in to our room. I find that sex first thing in the a.m. has a way of creating a beautiful mellow energy between us for the whole day.
- Date nights. On date nights in St. Tropez, I’d book the babysitter to come a half-hour earlier so that we’d have extra time to “get ready.” This always meant a quickie, plus a moment to chill together before showering, dressing, etc. I knew that if we waited to have sex until we got home from the date, I’d be too full and tired to have sex, especially if I’d had a few G&Ts!
And one final note on quickies: If you think they’re boring or too predictable, plan to shake things up by packing lingerie in your suitcase. No need for elaborate get-ups: Think a fishnet body stocking or a lacy slip with heels — a risque piece that’ll instantly inspire a heated desire within him while making you feel powerfully seductive and confident the minute you slip it on.
3. Make parenting sexy. You may not be able to get as much alone time with your spouse as you desire while traveling with young kids, but you can infuse your “parenting time” with more romance and flirtation. Notice the seductive fragrance of the flowers in the garden the kids are playing in, and pick one for your spouse. Sneak in kisses in the pool in between throwing the kids up in the air. Get a little competitive and flirtatious when you’re out at mini-golf. Embrace each moment as an opportunity to touch one another, reconnect and reignite your romance. This approach really worked for us on this last journey, even when Charlie beamed me in the head with an exploding water bomb. I chased him around in retaliation and beamed him back, and after we were both soaking wet and laughing hysterically, we kissed passionately in the garden — feeling youthful, connected and certain that parenting can still be sexy.
4. Give up a little bit! In other words, be a better partner by being a more lax, easygoing parent. If you’re usually strict about screen time, lighten up a bit for the sake of catching a moment to connect with your spouse. If an extra hour of Pixar magic and a bowl of popcorn can buy you a romantic swim and poolside makeout session with your man, then start poppin’ the corn and fire up the AppleTV. Park the kids in front of the screen for an hour (or — gasp! — more). There’s no screen-time police watching you on CCTV, so drop the guilt and max out on the time you can score with your honey by giving up a bit on the rules that usually govern your parenting routine.
Also, bribery works too. As in, you’ll get TWO scoops of ice cream if you play on your own for the next hour. And take your sister while you’re at it. It may not be the most stellar parenting technique, but hey, it works. (And your kids will L-O-V-E the indulgence. They’re on vacation, too!) Once you’ve scored the free time, make it count. Play a conversation game with your man (Google “Chuck Klosterman questions” to get things started), read a book to each other, try a little couple’s yoga and laugh your asses off, or hang in the kitchen cooking up a new recipe together.
The Most Important Family Vacation Lesson I Learned
Perhaps the most important bit of wisdom I gained from those seven weeks being “on the road” with the kids is this; Travel can be the conduit for positive change at home. While we traveled, I discovered the beauty in being more flexible and the magic in letting go and relaxing into the unknown, as a family and as a couple. At home, keeping a routine is my jam. But perhaps I’ve let it rule our existence a little too much. The kids didn’t explode when they ate dinner or went to bed much later than usual. They handled the crowds and the heat with ease and we didn’t lose them to kidnappers (yes, I entertained that irrational fear before departing). They had sand in every nook and cranny and I stopped caring whether they went to bed without a bath. Because they were happy. And we were happy.
And I’ve brought that that newfound appreciation for just rolling with it home with me. And it’s no surprise that it’s done wonders for my relationship. Not only do I enjoy myself more when I’m relaxed, but I’m more enjoyable to be around when I’m relaxed! (Duh.) So my plan is to keep it up: to let go of the reins a bit more and just enjoy my kids. To savor my time with my husband and cultivate romance more when we’re with the kids. And, of course, to ditch the kids when I want more one-on-one time with my man, quickies or otherwise. 😉
Your turn to share!
Now that you’ve heard about my experiences and the lessons I learned while traveling with kids, I want to hear YOURS! Leave a comment below and tell me about your family vacation adventures. Where have you been? With how many kids? What do you believe the key is to nurturing romance on a family trip? Don’t be shy — your comments will inspire the other readers (and me)!