Great Mother/Daughter Getaways

By Nancy Schretter, Editor

Taking the kids on one-on-one family vacations is one of today's fastest growing family travel trends. Many parents are booking these family vacations to celebrate special occasions, enjoy shared interests, and create opportunities for individual parent-child bonding. At other times, however, these types of family trips are simply due to family scheduling conflicts. Based on recent conversations with family travel agents and tour operators, mother/daughter getaways have become some of the most requested one-on-one family vacations.

I began taking mother/daughter trips with my children when they were in elementary school. My husband traveled heavily and it was often impossible for him to travel with us on spring break trips and over school holidays. As the children got older and school vacation schedules became more difficult to coordinate, I began taking the girls on one-on-one trips. Interestingly enough, these trips are some of my daughters' most treasured memories now that they are older. During those vacations, I was able to focus exclusively on each child and her individual interests and needs. We learned so much about each other and shared wonderful times together.

The family travel experts I spoke with while researching this article agreed that mother/daughter vacations create lasting memories and that advance planning is particularly important. We laughed about our experiences and shared ideas about what works best. It was clear that good times were had by all.

Here are eight suggestions for planning a great mother/daughter bonding trip:

Tip #1:  Start Small - If this is your first mother/daughter trip, start out by planning a weekend getaway or a relatively short trip. This will allow you to enjoy just the right amount of bonding time and see what works best before traveling together on a more extended vacation.

Tip #2: Choose The Right Place -  Pick a spot or a guided tour that is exciting for both of you. Select a destination where you can explore shared interests, create a vacation schedule that will work for you, and possibly experience something new together. Make sure to involve your daughter in planning the trip and encourage her to research ideas on the Internet or through reading travel books and magazines. Vacationing together in a new environment will bring out a shared spirit of adventure and discovery. 

Tip #3: Discuss Your Budget In Advance - This tip might not be quite so important when vacationing with a younger child, but it can certainly be a factor when planning a trip with a teen or young adult. It's best to have an honest discussion about money issues in advance rather than waiting until you have to say "no" to something your daughter wants to do. Budgetary issues can be covered during the trip planning phase when discussing such topics as accommodations, dining options, attractions and excursions, and shopping.

Tip #4: Set A Comfortable Pace - When choosing a destination or trip venue, keep in mind your individual preferences for waking hours, activity schedules, nightlife, and needs for sleep. Respect your differences. Discuss your preferences in advance, choose a destination that will meet both of your needs, and plan your vacation accordingly.

Tip #5: Allow For Some Private Time - Mother/daughter trips do not necessitate spending every waking hour together. Everyone needs a break sometimes, especially teens and young adults. Be honest with yourselves about your needs for time alone and build it into your trip.

Tip #6: Plan At Least One "Always Wanted To Do" Event - Including a special activity or event can make mother/daughter trips particularly meaningful. Often these can revolve around shared interests that will make memories or offer new perspectives on each other. Sometimes, however, it might just be something your child has always wanted to do but hasn't been able to experience at home or on a shared family trip. This might include horseback riding, enjoying a spa treatment, going kayaking or parasailing, learning to surf, seeing a live television show or Broadway play, climbing ancient pyramids, taking part in a charity-oriented activity, or swimming with the dolphins. For many daughters, doing "girly" things together, such as mother/daughter spa treatments, are particularly popular. Brainstorm with your daughter in advance and find out what she thinks would be "amazing" to do.

Tip #7: Leave Your Expectations At Home - It's easy for mothers to get all misty-eyed envisioning the intimate bonding moments that will be created on their mother/daughter trip. If we're being honest, however, we know that family vacations never go exactly as planned. There may be bumpy moments, relationship issues may surface, travel snafus happen, and those heart-to-heart chats might never occur. It's okay. Just take the experience as it comes and go with the flow. You may find that in spite of everything, it's the best trip you both have ever had.

Tip #8: Record The Memories - You'll have plenty of time for intimate conversations and unique shared experiences on your trip. If your daughter is willing, give her a disposable camera and a journal so that she can keep track of your adventures. When you get back, the two of you can collaborate to create an online or print photo album to remind you of your trip. If you have a daughter who's resistant to pictures, try to respect her wishes. Select a small souvenir to purchase as a memento of your vacation together. It's always surprising to see how much these are treasured in later years.

Favorite Mother/Daughter Trip Ideas

Choosing the right destination for your mother/daughter getaway is the most important part of the planning process. Selecting the right spot will depend heavily on shared interests and vacation preferences. Research has also shown that many popular mother/daughter trip ideas often cluster around activities that appeal to specific age groups.

Here are a few proven favorites:

School Age (6-12)

Talk To The Animals - School age kids often love being around animals and farm stay vacations are easy and affordable. Some of my daughters' best memories are staying at farms, playing with the animals, and going horseback riding there. This story on The Family Travel Network provides more information on farm stay options and information sources. If your daughter is more into marine life, think about taking a trip that involves visiting an aquarium or marine park, going snorkeling, or getting up close with dolphins. The Florida Keys can be an excellent destination for that type of trip. Family friendly places to stay include Cheeca Lodge and Hawk's Cay Resort.

Mother/Daughter Resort Retreat - Resorts are often good choices for mother/daughter getaways. They generally offer a wide range of activities and amenities and can easily be used as a base to explore the surrounding area. Find a location and a resort that matches your shared interests. Many hotels, such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts, cater to families and offer special programs and services to meet their needs. Starwood's "Love Your Family" program provides signature family experiences and amenities, all managed by their "Director of Fun." This article on The Family Travel Network provides more details on the program. At The Phoenician, moms and daughters can enjoy a Mommy and Me Fingers and Toes spa treatment, have afternoon tea in the Lobby Tea Court, play in the resort's many pools, go hiking on Camelback Mountain, visit Sedona or the Grand Canyon, and explore the Arizona Science Center. For more listings of resorts with family friendly spas, take a look at this article on The Family Travel Network.

Beach Buddies - Mother/daughter beach trips are one of the most popular one-on-one getaways across all age groups. Usually this has to do with the opportunity for sun, fun and getting a tan. Kiawah Island Resort, Florida's North Captiva Island, and Bethany Beach in Delaware are some of our family's favorites in the States. For more great U.S. beach destinations for your mother/daughter getaway, take a look at this article on The Family Travel Network.

'Tweens and Teens (13-18)

Bright Lights, Big City - New York City has all the right stuff for a perfect mother/daughter getaway. Visit Times Square, get half-price tickets for a Broadway play, get your daughter tickets for Total Request Live (TRL) or her favorite show on the Food Network, take a movie location tour with On Location Tours, go shopping in SoHo, cruise by the Statue of Liberty with Circle Line or take a ride on "The Beast," visit the Empire State Building and the Natural History Museum, go biking in Central Park, and so much more. If you plan on visiting a number of attractions, purchasing a New York City Citypass could save you money. For more information on planning your trip, visit the New York & Company visitor's bureau website, New York Citysearch, and the New York City forums at TripAdvisor.

California Dreamin' - So, maybe every girl does want to be a California girl, as so many family travel journalists and travel agents mentioned this option as one of the best mother/daughter vacations for teens. Visit Hollywood and discover the magic at Disneyland. Then, head down the coast to Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA. Take surf lessons, go shopping, visit the spa, and roast marshmallows over a bonfire on the beach. Read about one teen's take on her mother/daughter trip to Huntington Beach on The Family Travel Network. The beachfront Hotel del Coronado near San Diego is another popular California surf and spa spot for teens.

Water World - Take a amazing beach destination and combine it with over-the-top waterslides, an excellent spa, the chance to swim with dolphins, cool shopping nearby, a teen program, and what have you got? A mother/daughter getaway with teen bragging rights. This type of getaway on land can be found at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. A similar water-based trip can be created on a short 3-, 4-, or 5-night cruise on Royal Caribbean, Carnival, or Norwegian Cruise Lines. If you're leaning towards a cruise, this article on The Family Travel Network will help you pick the right ship and itinerary for your needs.

Young Adult (19 and up)

Pampering & Adventure - Young adults love exciting experiences and new environments. Awaken your spirit of adventure and discovery with a trip to Belize's Ka'ana Boutique Resort. This unique jungle oasis nestled in the Maya Mountains is perfect for mothers and daughters who are seeking a combination of pampering and adventure. The resort's spacious, air-conditioned guest rooms are filled with every amenity and the chef's gourmet meals are exceptional. You'll bond while zip-lining through the jungle, tubing on the river through ancient cave systems, and climbing pyramids and other structures at nearby Mayan sites. Then, return to Ka'ana for a swim in their lovely infinity pool, a cool drink, and relaxing spa treatments. Horseback riding, canoeing and shopping for local crafts are also available nearby.

Tropical Tan - Sun, fun, spa, shopping, and adventure all come together in Los Cabos to make it an irresistible choice for a mother/daughter vacation. With more than 300 days of sunshine yearly, this is a great spot for a tropical getaway. Stay at the Barceló Los Cabos Palace Deluxe, a new all-suites resort on a wide strand of beach overlooking the sparkling Sea of Cortez. This all-inclusive resort is conveniently close to the shopping and quaint charms of San Jose del Cabo and just 25 minutes from everything lively Cabo San Lucas has to offer. The hotel features expansive suites - including 34 unique swim-up suites, three huge outdoor swimming pools totaling more than 50,000 square feet of watery fun, a world-class spa, five themed bars and a wide variety of specialty restaurants, and a number of enticing shops on site. Take a whale watching cruise together from December - April, play golf at any of the many nearby courses, or go horseback riding along the white sand beach. When you're ready for an adrenaline rush, bond while sailing on ziplines across deep canyon ravines at Cabo’s Wild Canyon Adventures. There's something for everyone here.

Nourish The Soul - For moms and daughters who are into health and wellness, the award-winning Canyon Ranch is the place to be. Canyon Ranch offers two locations, one surrounded by the Berkshire Mountains in Lenox, Massachusetts and the other enveloped by the Sonoran Desert in Tucson, Arizona. Both Canyon Ranch resort communities offer supportive environments, a wide array of spa and wellness programs, an extensive selection of treatments, fitness facilities with daily classes, and delicious spa cuisine. This is a great place to experience high-energy fun, unwind and bond together, learn new strategies, and renew shared commitments to great physical, mental and spiritual health.

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