How to travel when the kids are gone

As a parent, I have always wanted the best for my daughter, Dana, and letting her experience the world and become a global citizen is a big part of that.

But every now and then there was a little wish that I could share a trip with just my wife. A grown-up adventure of sorts.

Well, the Donut has now graduated High School and has her own dreams and plans for the near future and while it can make me sad that my little girl is growing up and becoming somewhat independent, it also makes me excited about the chance to travel with Pauline and do it the way we like, instead of having to make the little sacrifices needed for a good family vacation.

When Dana decided to take her “Schoolies” trip to Europe with Unleashed Travel I saw the chance for the first “empty nest” travel experience for many years, and then at the end of her trip we could meet up and spend Christmas and New Year together in Europe.

I have to say that although we were excited to meet up and share the end of the year as a family, two weeks of endlessly wandering through the streets of some beautiful European towns, eating when we felt like it, never hearing a complaint about sore feet, spending as much time as necessary to admire amazing Cathedrals and scenery, and getting up and out early in the morning made the time spent as a couple incredibly rewarding and relaxing. (Sorry Donut!)

Don’t get me wrong, there is something missing when you don’t have kids around and get to see the joy on their faces when they discover something they have only seen in books or on TV and have the extra excuse to behave like a child is sometimes liberating but only having to compromise with another adult takes a huge load off.

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Exploring a city on foot gives you the chance to explore off the beaten track and find those hidden gems.

It is nothing for Pauline and me to walk around for an entire day, and ten to fifteen kilometres is a regular occurrence when we are in a new town. So you can imagine how often we get to do that and enjoy it with our kid along for the ride. To say not very often would be a wild understatement.

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When it comes to impressive architecture you may well find that kids can be in awe when they wander inside their first Medieval Cathedral. I doubt anyone can do that without their jaw-dropping at the impressive interiors. Maybe your kids will even get through a second excursion, and if they make it through the third without significant whining then count your lucky stars.

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But without having to cater to their need for constantly changing and fun experiences you can spend an entire day soaking up the magnitude and magnificence of history and architecture if that’s what floats your boat.

Refreshments are the other area you will notice the biggest change. You no longer have the little voice asking for a drink, an ice cream, a cake, lunch, another drink, a cookie, another drink, dinner, etc.

This doesn’t mean you can’t still have those things, it just means the requests won’t be interrupting you midway through enjoying the scenery or an activity. (unless you are unlucky enough to have “one of those” spouses or travelling partner)

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For me, the biggest positive of travelling without kids is the feeling that the burden of expectation is significantly lessened. As a travelling parent, the main organiser of our adventures, and a professional Travel Agent, I have always felt a huge responsibility for making sure everything goes perfectly and the whole family has a great time.

That responsibility fades away when you realise that it is so much easier to rework your plans when they only involve grown-ups who are more able to go with the flow. You then get to enjoy the trip for yourself rather than making sure it is great for everyone else, and then somehow the things that go wrong seem smaller and rarer.

While I have probably made the case for leaving your kids with the grandparents next time and hitting the road as a couple, I would never want to lose a single memory of the trips we have taken as a family. There will be plenty of time to travel with your significant other in the future because the day will come when your kids are just too cool to want to travel with their parents rather than the other way around.

All travel is worthwhile and can be life-changing. It doesn’t matter who you go with or where you go, as long as you go.


It sounds a bit like I am happy to finally have the chance to travel with Pauline and do the things we both love rather than spending half our time, or more, making sure our adventures are kid-friendly, but deep down I know I am trying to convince myself of this.

The truth is our little girl has become the Wandering Donut and I know she has her own adventures planned out that no longer include us. I will cherish every memory of our family vacations and be excited for the times we may travel together in the future. It’s just that it won’t be all the time any more and that makes me a little bit sad.

How do you think you would feel travelling without the kids? Or, if you have gone through our current situation, how did you cope?

Dean Williamson
Dean Williamson
Dean is the main creative force behind Reasons to Visit. A road trip veteran with over 35,000 miles of driving in more than a dozen countries. He has also worked in the Australian travel and tourism industry for the past 10 years.

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  1. Some of our team are on the verge of empty-nesterhood, with the youngest off (at least some of the time) at university. It gives us a chance to ease into traveling on our own. I like it, personally. As you noted, you’re free to spend hours on the silly things only the grown-ups are interested in. On the other hand, the kids are off on their own adventures now, and I do get a bit of travel envy sometimes! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  2. We travel full time with our kids and it’s amazing! But there are some cities that we would love to return to without our children, like say, Paris… walking the Champs Elysee, or being able to hit *every* museum, or have dinner after 7!

    • Our most recent trip ended in Paris, with Junior leaving to visit friends for a week on the day before Pauline and I flew home. We had a whole day of just wandering the streets of Paris with no particular goal but to take it in. Aimless walking finally made me see why so many people love Paris. With the limitations from having a child in tow I saw the headline sights but couldn’t work out what all the global excitement was about. So I know exactly what you mean.

    • We get our first full bite at travelling without junior later this year with 3 weeks away. I think Dana has the best of the deal though with her 9 weeks visiting friends in North America in June and July.

  3. You must be very proud of her – now that she’s traveling on her own and has a blog as well. I don’t have kids yet but I also was a travel agent – I do know the dilemma of planning an itinerary for a family traveling with children. Lol. I’m sure she misses traveling with you too. 🙂

    • She will definitely miss traveling with us and part of the reason is she now has to spend her own money! You will find that planning your own family trips, when that time comes, is even harder than doing it for extended family.

      • I just let her read your comment and she thinks you are wrong about the desserts. She would rather spend her money on donuts and dessert and sleep on the street if she had to!

  4. We felt a little sad when we began traveling without our son. Yes, it was better in the sense that we could chose destinations that were more interesting for us, but it didn’t feel as merry as before. Well, I guess that’s life. It’s hard to get the perfect balance, but we are well adjusted as empty-nesters now and we fully enjoy our travels.

    • I’m sure I’ll get used to the new travel style pretty quickly too Anda. I suppose that the times we do come back together to travel it will be even more special.

  5. Whilst am enjoying our travels with our young man there are times when I reflect on the days where I could visit all the places I wanted to see and experience without complaints – or having to miss them knowing that it wasn’t the appropriate place to take a young child. Enjoy your new found freedom.

    • Thanks Sally. There is great joy in the memories of seeing my daughter loving new experiences with us around the world, but you are right, some things are best discovered without children in tow.

  6. It was really interesting when we became empty-nesters and started traveling without the girls. Well, they still travel with us…a lot, but not all the time. I think one way it becomes easier, because there is only two people deciding what to do instead of three or four.

    • That’s definitely the way I think too, Corinne. But it still makes me feel a bit guilty to think about traveling without junior tagging along.


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