Plan an adult getaway during a family trip Techniques: Check out your destination carefully beforehand to be sure you and your spouse will be able to have some time to yourselves. Or travel with another couple and trade baby-sitting.

Taking the Kids

October 12, 1997|By Eileen Ogintz | Eileen Ogintz,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Linda and Brian Singer didn't let their two young children keep them from the romantic getaway they craved. No, they didn't leave the kids home or travel with a nanny.

Their secret: "Booking a first-floor suite in Cancun," said Linda Singer, a Chicago graphics designer. "We'd put the kids to bed at 8 p.m., and we had from then on for ourselves. We'd eat dinner out on the terrace, listening to the ocean." Room service was essential, Singer added, laughing.

Beth Pretty and her husband, Paul Sanz, squeezed in just as much R&R traveling with their 5-month-old daughter to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Their secret: advance-booking experienced baby sitters at the resort before they'd even left home in Florida.

Jeannie Rosen and David Sofen also managed plenty of vacation romance in the California Sierras with their preschooler and baby.Their secret to a romance-on-a-budget family trip: Travel with another family and trade off child-care duties.

"Romance doesn't have to be only at night," said Rosen, a California artist, explaining she and her husband opted for long hikes instead. "The key is the time alone together."

And that's especially important for parents exhausted from 2 a.m. feedings, chasing toddlers and racing from work to child care. Vacations -- even with the kids -- shouldn't be more of the same.

"The view was prettier, but I was doing the same stuff on vacation that I did at home," recalled UCLA psychologist Jill Waterman, the mother of twins. She suggests romance-minded couples leave the kids at home with Grandma or a favorite adult sitter, if only for one night.

Too many new parents "still think they can do it all on vacation," said Nashville, Tenn., pediatrician Catherine Dundon, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "But the minute you decide to take the baby, you're going to have to make a lot of compromises," she warned, from where you will go (nothing too exotic with an infant) to what you'll do (a baby can't stay in the sun for hours) to where and when you'll dine (forget those luxurious three-hour restaurant dinners).

Necessary qualities

Before you pack up the baby (and stroller, diapers, baby food, formula and toys), here's a list of what your location should be like so you and your significant other can enjoy your little darling and rekindle the sparks that drew you together in the first place:

* Easy to reach: With a baby in tow, you don't want to drive six hours or change planes (and time zones) twice.

* Civilized locale: Babies can get very sick quickly, Dundon warns. High-quality pediatric care should be available nearby.

* Roomy: Nothing will ruin the mood more than sharing a hotel room with baby. Splurge on a suite or condo with a refrigerator (ask the hotel to empty the mini-bar).

* Kid-friendly: A place that touts its children's program (even if your children are too young to participate) will welcome your baby, too. (Off-duty counselors make great baby sitters.) If the establishment balks at providing a crib and highchair, it doesn't want your business.

* On-site activities and meals: Convenience is a necessity, not a luxury, when traveling with a baby. You don't want to walk miles to the beach. You won't have to go far for that romantic dinner when a sitter is with the baby.

Look no further

Here's where I wished we'd gone when our kids were in diapers. All can provide experienced sitters:

* The Kona Village Resort on the big island of Hawaii is like being in Tahiti without leaving the United States: Stay in a

thatched-roof cottage surrounded by tropical fish ponds and a fabulous beach, and snorkel, scuba dive or play golf nearby. Costs start at $425 per couple, including airport transportation, meals and all activities. Kids under 6 are free. Grade-schoolers' activities include a first-rate introduction to Hawaiian culture. Hop a direct flight to the Big Island from San Francisco or Los Angeles. Call 800-367-5290.

* The Buccaneer on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the oldest family-run Caribbean resort, has three beaches, two pools, a golf course, tennis courts, spa and water sports. Free Pirates' Playhouse activities for kids age 4 and up. Until Dec. 19, rates for family cottages start at $225, including breakfast. Call 800-255-3881.

* The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, 40 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, Calif., has so much repeat business it is often host to second- and third-generation guests. This is the place to hike or ride as well as play golf or tennis. Rates start at $325 ($375 for a suite), including breakfast and dinner. The baby will love the petting zoo; older kids perform in a weekly rodeo. Call 800-4-ALISAL.

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