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Taking the Kids and Making Time for Romance

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Media ServicesTaking the KidsFebruary 2, 2012

Where’s the music?

We succumbed to the sales pitch for the “romantic,” albeit pricey gondola ride early one evening on Venice’s famed canals, but our gondolier, decked out in the traditional striped shirt, didn’t sing, much less talk to us. I don’t think he spoke English and our Italian didn’t go beyond buon giorno.

Still it was fun gliding on the narrow canals past Marco Polo’s house, Mozart’s House, the famous Bridge of Sighs (legend has it, that the bridge takes its name from the sighs of prisoners stealing their last look at freedom before making their way to their cells from the Doges Palace.)

As for the romance, honestly, we just laughed at the kitchy-ness of it all. At least we could relax and not worry about the kids’ reaction — (so lame … I can’t believe you spent money for this!) That entire trip to Italy and Croatia, in part on a Windstar Cruise  last fall, was full of moments like that — just-us time, sans kids — no sibling squabbles to mediate, no children’s opinions, no juggling different agendas, no playing psychologist, nurse and cook.

Of course, I love traveling with my children, their pals and various other pint-sized relatives. I do it all the time.

“Even a few days alone can help couples recharge and reconnect with each other,” said Dr. David Fassler, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and professor at the University of Vermont Medical School. No wonder nearly 70 percent of travelers polled last summer said their personal romantic relationships would benefit if they vacationed more together, Hotwire reports.

So this Valentine’s Day, instead of the chocolate and flowers, give your significant other a promise of a just-us, guilt-free break in the months to come. “Letting your kids stay home while you go away can also support their growing sense of independence and autonomy,” Dr. Fassler added. “Although kids certainly miss their parents, short-term separations can actually enhance resiliency by helping them develop new coping skills.”

So now that you’ve let go of the guilt, where to go? Obviously somewhere you won’t be surrounded by other people’s children.

The 29-room Kenwood Inn and Spa, located in Sonoma, Calif., respectfully has a no-children policy, which, they promise, will enhance romance. Did I mention the guests-only restaurant serves farm-fresh, Italian-inspired cuisine?

Since you don’t have to worry about the kids’ happiness, try something you’ve never done. Take a glass-blowing class with the Hotel Murano’s Hot Piece of Glass Package in Tacoma, Wash., which has emerged as the center of the American art glass movement.

Put your romance on ice and go ice fishing with your honey and then cuddle up at the Blue Harbor Resort and Spa on Lake Michigan  Located in Sheboygan, Wis., the Blue Harbor is just two hours from Chicago.

Climb one of St. Lucia’s famous pitons or zipline under the stars in Antigua. Be a castaway for a day on a deserted island in the Bahamas, complete with beach chairs, drinks and lunch.

Learn all about the farm-to-table movement from the resident forager at the Ocean House in Watch Hill, R.I. where you can take an “In the Kitchen” workshop focused on seasonal ingredients. (The deluxe hotel has a first-rate spa, too, and you can snare good off-season deals.)

See more of Italy than Renaissance art and churches with customized Country Bred Encounters tours whether you want to make parmesan cheese on a cheese farm or make ceramics with a master in Umbria.

Combine gourmet dining, wine with the adrenaline rush of river rafting with O.A.R.S on special Wine on the River Tours

Go camping — without all of the work — At Orenda ( in the Lake George area of New York’s Adirondacks, all meals are provided and outdoor activities are customized.

As for us, in Europe, we had a blast without the kids doing things they would have never considered — like our overpriced gondola-without-the-music tour of Venice.

Sometimes a little imperfection, I told the kids, just adds to the romance.

(For more on Eileen’s trip without the kids to Europe, read her trip diary at and also follow @TakingtheKids, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.)