Getaways without the kids

When you dream of destinations, adults-only may be just the ticket

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Kimberly A. Kenney
Globe Correspondent / May 18, 2008

Have you had a trip ruined because a baby cried all night in the hotel room next to yours? Has your romantic dinner been eclipsed by a whining toddler at the next table?

If vacationing surrounded by children doesn't appeal to you, you are not alone. More people travel without children than with them, according to the Travel Industry Association. In 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, TIA reported that only about 30 percent of leisure trips in the United States included children.

It is relatively easy to locate the more free-spirited adults-only resorts, mostly in the Caribbean; hedonistic and clothing-optional places abound. It's harder to find non-X-rated places that ban children.

To help navigate the child-free travel maze, you might need the help of a professional. Elena Mathis owns Child Free Travel, an agency that focuses exclusively on travel without kids.

"I am child-free myself," Mathis says, "and I completely relate to my clients. There are no judgments or questions, just the desire to plan the best 'child-free' vacation possible."

Not all of her clients are child-free. "There is no typical client," says Mathis. "I have planned trips for honeymooners, empty-nesters, child-free married couples, couples who are dating or living together. It runs the gamut." One client was a mother who was celebrating her 60th birthday and "just didn't want to deal with kids."

One thing her clients have in common is the desire for a quiet, relaxing vacation. Most are seeking luxury accommodations, often with a romantic setting. Phillip Gharabegian, who has been using Mathis's agency for almost three years, craves a respite from his busy life as a lawyer in Los Angeles.

"My girlfriend and I were looking for an escape to a tropical location," he says. "While we're at a resort, we want something that is free of young children." Most recently they stayed at Maroma, an adults-only resort near Cancún that does not allow children under age 12 from May 28 to Dec. 21. No one under 16 is allowed during the rest of the year.

"Nothing breaks your relaxation quicker than noise," says Gharabegian. "We tend not to stay at resorts that cater to the spring break crowd either."

Peggy Gavan, a writer from Warwick, N.Y., wants to avoid chaos when she travels. "There is nothing more annoying than getting splashed in the hotel pool by screaming kids, having to dodge little kids running around the lobby . . . especially when you pay thousands of dollars for a vacation," she says.

Many seeking child-free vacations work with children. Katie Andrews, an English teacher from Los Angeles, simply wants to get away from it all.

"I am around kids all day as a teacher," she says, "and while I love my job, I am happy to leave the kids and the job in favor of mature company, and most of all, time alone doing my own thing."

Connie Warner, a riding instructor from Richmond, agrees. "I like working with kids, but I need an adult-only escape for fun." She wants to look into a meditation retreat or yoga vacation next time she travels.

For many vacationers, adults-only also means all-inclusive. Ginette King, a technical writer from Marin County, Calif., recently stayed at the Golden Crown Paradise hotel in Puerto Vallarta with her husband. "It has bars, multiple restaurants, a pool, beach activities, billiards. We specifically loved that it was for adults only."

A sister resort next door includes amenities for families. Guests staying at the adults-only resort can use both facilities, but families are restricted to their side. "For us it's the perfect combination," says King. "We could . . . play next door, and we could get away from the kids at our adult resort only a few steps away."

Finding a resort with an age restriction is the only reliable way to avoid children when traveling. But even when a resort or hotel does have a child-free policy, it may not be easy to find. "It's not usually in gleaming, huge letters right up front," says Mathis.

Roland Ballner, owner and manager of Hotel Cortisen in St. Wolfgang, Austria, recently switched to a child-free policy. "In October 2005 we decided to start our 'no-kids policy' with the beginning of the summer season," he says. "In the Alps there are no other hotels with that philosophy and I thought, this idea is missing in our area - just to guarantee an even more peaceful and relaxing atmosphere in our hotel."

There was a little fallout after the announcement that guests must be 13 or older, but soon people began to embrace the idea.

"In Austria there are 75 hotels which are focused on families with little kids and babies," says Ballner. "So, why not do something for the other side as well? Most of our guests are young parents. If they have the chance to leave the kids with Grandma, they are more than happy to enjoy the peaceful, child-free atmosphere."

Since Caesars Pocono Resorts in Pennsylvania opened in 1958, three of the four properties have had a minimum age of 18. "We know that our guests love spending time with their children at home, on family vacations, and in everyday life," says Mark Saari, director of marketing. "But they also know the importance of spending time together as just a couple."

"Our suites are especially designed for romance," says Saari. "Some have 7-foot-tall champagne glass whirlpool baths for two, in-suite pools, saunas, heart-shaped Jacuzzis, and luxurious round beds."

Upscale locations are not likely to fit into a family budget, and "out of the way" destinations are inconvenient for toting tots. Jerry Steinberg, founding "non-father" of the social group No Kidding, looks for unique places to stay on vacation. "We prefer renting waterfront cabins or staying in bed-and-breakfasts, as opposed to impersonal hotels, motels, and resorts," he said.

Working vacations, such as helping to rebuild New Orleans, are likely to attract older groups, although you may encounter some teens. Destination spas are becoming more popular, and rarely interest children.

Study tours are an option. Mathis recently attended a conference sponsored by Disney for another branch of her travel agency. She was surprised to discover a new escorted tour program called "Adventures by Disney" that includes tours limited to the 18-and-over crowd. "It falls in perfectly with my client base."

The National Trust for Historic Preservation also sponsors dozens of domestic and foreign study tours every year. While there is no guarantee there will be no children in your group, the price tag and itinerary suggest that only adults will find it appealing.

If you enjoy adult-oriented activities, you can also minimize your contact with children. "We do a lot of scuba diving in Mexico," says Gavan, "so we really don't have to search that hard for relatively child-free vacations since scuba diving is not a big activity for kids. We usually travel to Cozumel, which is a great adult dive community."

Looking for a cruise? P&O Cruises has two child-free ships, the Artemis and the Arcadia. Disney also offers ships with adults-only decks that include child-free pools and restaurants.

Timing is important if you want to avoid children; the spring and fall shoulder seasons and the off-season are when they are in school.

"We avoid traveling during the summer months," says Kaye Walters, of Santa Barbara, Calif., who is working on a book called "Kidfree & Lovin' It," "unless we are driving to a secluded cabin in the woods somewhere. Fall, after the kids have just started school, is a good time to travel. We do not travel during school breaks or holidays."

Walters discovered Nukubati Island Resort, a child-free resort in Fiji, calling it "a small luxury private island resort on coconut plantation with a nearby reef for spectacular snorkeling."

Of course, just because school is in session doesn't mean you will be child-free. "You may still encounter infants and toddlers too young for school," says Walters, "and they do know how to scream."

Kimberly A. Kenney can be reached at

If You Go

Adults-only means there is an age restriction. The cutoff is often 16, but it can be as young as 12. This option is guaranteed to be child-free.

Adult-oriented means all of the activities are targeted for adults, but everyone is welcome. You may find some children at these destinations.

Couples-only spots are geared for romance. Intimate settings, candlelight dining, and spa facilities are common.


Child Free Travel

A comprehensive child-free travel agency.

Zagat Survey: Top US Hotels, Resorts & Spas
This annual guide has a section called "Children Not Recommended," organized by state.

Where to stay

Grand Lido
Various locations in the Caribbean

Little Palm Island Resort and Spa
Florida Keys


Children age 16 and older are welcome. From $790.

Golden Crown Paradise
Puerto Vallarta


Adults all-inclusive. Price varies.

Caesars Pocono Resorts

Cove Haven Resort in Lakeville, Paradise Stream Resort in Mount Pocono, and Pocono Palace Resort in Marshalls Creek.


Guests must be at least 18. $180-$580.

Hotel Cortisen
St. Wolfgang, Austria

Children over 12 welcome. About $93-$225.

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