Everything was different after I became a mom. From sleep patterns to meals, I had to readjust my thinking. Traveling was no different. When experiencing travel destinations with my kids in tow that I’d been to before they were born, it seemed like they either felt brand new—or more stressful. A quiet, romantic trip or a tranquil spa getaway felt more significant now. These brief, albeit relaxing-as-heck, excursions were a much needed break from the usual routine and meant time with my husband.
In that spirit, here are nine travel destinations for families that I think we can all agree are easier to appreciate—whether with or without the kiddos—now that we’re moms.
1) Water parks. (A close second goes to hotels with pools.) If you ask my husband, he will tell you that I’ve never really been someone who enjoys a communal swim experience. The first sign of soggy hair near a drain and I’m outta there! But then I had two kids. And guess what—kids love water. Suddenly it was clear why the universe created water parks with their lazy rivers and toilet bowl–like super slides. In case you’re wondering…yep, I’m more of a lazy river kind of gal.
2) National parks. Oh look, waterfalls. Big trees. Nature. Snooze! But with kids, it all makes sense to me. Going to a national park like Yosemite or Yellowstone means my kids can run and play in the biggest, most idyllic playground they’ve ever experienced. They might even see some animals, too.
3) Cancun, Mexico. This travel destination was all about spring breakers for me. And then my husband scored a trip here for a work conference, and suddenly I’m in love with Cancun. There’s so much more to it than “girls gone wild.” Plus, beach! And, yeah, I never really used to be a beach bunny (instead of beach blanket bingo, let’s just say I I was more a fan of the snuggle under the cozy afghan on the couch while binge watching TV game). Now I enjoy the beach. I just lather up the sunscreen.
4) College towns. They have bookstores and coffee shops, fun events, and lots of outdoor space. Two of my favorite towns are Ann Arbor, Michigan (with kids) and Cambridge, Massachusetts (without kids).
5) Disney World. I think I always knew this place would be magical, but it wasn’t until I had kids that I really got it. Before, I would only think of the lines, the price tag, and people dressed up in costumes that were borderline frightening. Turns out it’s so much easier to deal with waiting in line when you have an eager five year old whose major life goal is to meet Anna and Elsa. I recommend doing it all—the parades, the fireworks, the shows at Cinderella’s castle…
6) My parents’ house. I used to sometimes dread going home, where it seemed my mom still thought of me as a tween and even gave me a “soft curfew.” Now that I am a busy mom, going home to my mom’s roost rules! She pampers me. She lets me (no, she makes me) sleep in. She books me appointments (hair appointments, manicures, or maybe just a visit to the dentist) because she knows I rarely get a chance to put myself first on a day-to-day basis. We talk. She listens. And I don’t even mind her advice anymore because I know I need it now.
7) Road trips. I still get car sick, but road trips are by far more doable with multiple children. With kids, there’s so much stuff to bring along on a vacation—and on an airplane you can only carry so much. So if it’s within the continental United States—heck, we even drove from Paris to the South of France last year—we drive. My kids can take along their own snacks, and stretch out with a blanket and pillow without worrying it might have bed bugs. Bonus: It’s often cheaper than flying.
8) Paris, France. Okay—it goes without saying, but now that I have kids I love Paris in the springtime, winter…heck, any time of year if they aren’t with me! There’s a reason they call it the most romantic city in the world. It’s supposed to be for you and your honey, and that’s it. When I last visited the City of Lights with my husband, and ONLY my husband, we had a deliriously wine-infused, relaxing tour of the city. Let’s just say the word “canoodle” comes to mind.
image: Getty/Nicole Hill