April 21, 2014

Childfree Vacation: No Kids, No Fun?

The WNK quartet was recently indulging in a little mid-week, mid-summer bliss (think Lake Champlain, locally grown eats, frosty libations, nary the shadow of a kidlet) when a couple of us stumbled on a particularly obvious reason we have no kids. We are kids.

Sure we’re all in our fourth decades, but maturity seems to have passed us by. Or perhaps it’s just running late?

Why no kids? We are kids!

Childfree Vacation

English: Playa del Carmen is at the heart of t...

Playa del Carmen (Photo: Wikipedia)

This childfree truism was still echoing around my gray matter when I remembered a post I’d started a while back when a couple of childfree vacation and travel themed items caught my attention.

Although it may seem like every hotel and resort is touting their child friendliness, their amazing kids’ club or their deals for families… not every hotel is courting families this summer — or at all.

More and more hotels are putting a ban – yes, a ban — on kids. And while they probably won’t advertise it on their web site’s homepage, some hotels are simply saying: No kids allowed… (ABC News)

More and more hotels are banning kids. More and more hotels are offering childfree vacations. It’s a trend! And you thought it was just the mainstream media that discovered the childfree panacea?

Of course the childfree zeitgeist rubs tender folks against the grain, parents mostly, and they start gnashing their teeth.

Kids are awesome. We need to stop making excuses and start living… I am done apologizing. In fact, the only mistake here is that I ever told my children to be quiet in the first place. Pools are for shouting and jumping and cannonballing… Got it? … I’ve got a cannonball to perfect. (An Open Letter to People Without Children)

Easy, momma. Kids may be awesome, especially when they dazzle you with doody, but let’s remember that pools and jumping and cannonballing are as much fun for childfree adults as they are for kids. See, we CFers actually hang on to those childish pleasure principles a bit better than many parents. But that’s not the issue. At all!

And another.

Am I the only CF that loves kids? I am a kid. When I go on holiday I’d rather join the kids running around and screaming than lay on a beach. (Annika Desai on Why No Kids? Facebook page)

No, Annika, you’re not the only CF who loves kids. Many of us love kids. Many of us behave like big kids much of the time. But, and this is a big “but”, we’re also prone to adult moments. Sans kids.

Childfree Vacation Hot Spots

Anyway, it’s the usual volley. And not worth the digital ink it takes to bluster on. So let’s cut to the chase. Assuming you actually are interested in childfree vacation destinations rather than spoiling for a debate about why such should be in existence, etc. then we’ve got some fun leads for you.

Check out these eighteen hotel and resort “properties where the pool is sure to free of cannonballing kids. (ABC News)

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Check the article for more. And add your own childfree vacation favorites in the comments below or on the WNK Facebook page.

 

Childfree Mars!!! ?

How far would you travel for a completely childfree vacation? How about a permanent childfree vacation?

The leader of a private effort to colonize Mars hopes the Red Planet’s first few pioneers don’t bring children into the world there.

Mars, 2001, with the southern polar ice cap vi...

Mars, 2001, with the southern polar ice cap visible on the bottom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Check out:

Private Mars Colony Is No Place for Children (Yet)

 

 

 

 

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No Quiet Zones for this childfree traveler?

 

English: Air Asia X Airbus A340-300 (9M-XAB) a...

English: Air Asia X Airbus A340-300 (9M-XAB) approaching Stansted Airport (STN) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now we’ve all heard about Air Asia X’s quiet zones, seven designated economy class rows at the front of planes where children under 12 are not allowed, a point of contention for some pissed off parents and a supposed paradise for business travelers and the childfree, like me.

 

To access this frequent flyers’ Eden, you need only pay the extra $11-$35 fee might otherwise pay for apremium seat. But what do you get for your money?

 

You get a bulkhead barrier and a childfree bathroom (which is never enforced by attendants). So In the short-term, you may, if you are very lucky, get some relief from screaming and seat kicking. But I think quiet zones are actually a huge risk, and may ultimately turn basic economy cabins into a flying free for all.

 

Noise travels and reverberates and quiet zone seats do not come with complimentary noise-cancelling headphones. If you are seated at the back of the quiet zone, a screaming, kid could still be seated directly behind you.

 

You remember the smoking section? Sure, the air was worse in the back of the plane than the front, but the entire plane reeked, and sitting one row in front of the smokers was no better than joining them.

 

I shouldn’t care how people choose to spend their money, and as a childfree traveler I should probably encourage Air Asia X’s strategy, even if it is gimmicky. If they are successful, maybe other businesses will recognize the spending power of childfree travelers and exhausted parents’ need/desire for peace and quiet when they are on a date or vacation.

 

But for now, I am skeptical about QUIET ZONES.

 

I think the risks of segregated seating could ultimately outweigh the rewards.

 

I am concerned that quiet zones may perpetuate an “us against them” mentality, a friction that is not conducive to peaceful interactions in confined spaces with absolutely NO EXIT STRATEGY.

 

Also, I don’t like paying for things that should be free. Like simple consideration of others.

 

The bar for acceptable behavior in public spaces, for kids and adults, is already set so, so low. And I think setting a precedent where people have to pay extra for a little (or no) peace and consideration may lead to the bar falling to Chuck E Chees setting, where parents can sit back and let their kids go crazy.

 

Imagine yourself sitting on an Air Asia X light in row 20. A kid’s video game is chiming and beeping. He’s kicking your seat while his sister runs the aisle (even through the premium seats) shrieking. After 2 hours, you’re compelled to say something. You politely ask the parents if they might turn down the volume or put an end to the chair soccer. They not so politely tell you that you can pay up to move up, or shut up. Then what?

 

Parents are overworked and exhausted and the last thing they want to do on vacation is worry so much about offending others that they nag and scold their child until they break down completely, start crying or screaming, and offend others anyway. These are tiresome battles to fight for the benefit of others. And the value of considering those around you already appears to be waning in our society.

 

So when Air Asia or another airline steps in to set the standard for behavior in one particular part of the plane, are they effectively obliterating the societal standard for the rest of it? Are they telling parents in the rest of the plane that they no longer need to fight the battle at all? By saying, “THIS zone is for quiet people”, are they insinuating that the other section is for loud people? By defining rules for one section, are they suggesting that there are NO rules in the other (at least enough so that exhausted, indifferent or lazy parents can let their guards down and lower their expectations even further?

 

I say yes.

 

There is no reason for parents to try at all (or at least an excuse not to) when an institution defines rules that should be self evident, and effectively assumes the role of the quiet police. Even if we all know it is just a gimmick to make more money.

 

My fear or theory is: When institutions step in, many parents check out. And we all lose. Instead of being accountable to one another, we become accountable to the powers that be, even if that “power” is a profit driven company with little interest in enforcing their policy.

 

So, for me, Quiet Zones are not something I want to encourage or support necessarily. They are not effective or realistic, not worth the extra fee, and ultimately, maybe risky.

 

What do you think?

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Two Children or Three?

Small and romantic road

Romantic Umbria (Credit: adamo1978)

Time for a timeless flashback… Topic? Children versus adventure. Children versus carefree, fiesta marriage lifestyle. Children versus spontaneous travel. Remember this riff?

In The Juggle,  WSJ.com blog about “choices and tradeoffs people make as they juggle work and family” John J. Edwards III waxed nostalgic for the early days of marriage before he had children.

Like many married-with-kids jugglers, my wife and I look back fondly on our pre-children days… we had many fun times and adventures, from frequent parties in our apartment to a surprise long weekend in Paris. (WSJ.com)

He ruminates on the lifestyle freedom enjoyed by couples who opt not to embrace parenting but concedes that

it’s a cohort that often finds itself misunderstood or even ostracized as friends procreate. (WSJ.com)

He refers to a story posted at DINKlife.com by a woman who has endured countless painful experiences due to her childfree choice.

“but the statement we feel best sums it all up was when a very close couple told us that they did not see us in their lives anymore as we were making the ‘unnatural choice.’ ” (WSJ.com)

The author wraps up with a palpable yearning for the days when he and his bride could zip off to Umbria, Italy like his childfree colleagues at work, but is quick to admit that his suburban social bubble is kid central with nary a childfree couple in the mix.

In fact, the big question generally is “two children or three?” rather than whether or not to have kids. (WSJ.com)

Travel for Couples Without Kids?

Couples Withouth Kids: CWK trips

Couples Without Kids: CWK trips

Back in early 2011, my husband and I started a social networking group in Boston called Couples Without Kids (our friends with children “affectionately” referred to the group as “Couples Who Hate Kids”).  We actually really like (some) children but had determined that we did not want them for ourselves.  As we were getting into our 30’s and 40’s, we found that it was becoming increasingly difficult to find other couples who didn’t have children.

Couples Without Kids

Our concept for the meetup group was that it would be a social networking group only – not a support group.  We weren’t looking to have intimate discussions about our reasons for being childfree, we just wanted to meet some nice people who could go out for drinks or meet for dinner on a moment’s notice.  How tired are you of making plans 3 months in advance only to have it cancelled because Billy’s got the Hershey squirts?  We like being able to call a CWK couple at 7 because we need a replacement at 8 for our trivia contest at the local bar (and we all know trivia + cocktails = fun).

Couples Without Kids Trips

Over the course of the past year, we’ve met many wonderful couples without kids and found one common interest (among many) was the love of traveling.  I’ve traveled extensively throughout the US, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe and beyond.  Therefore, early in 2012, I partnered with Travel Concepts, a well-established American Express Travel company, to launch a new business called “Couples Without Kids Trips”.  The concept is to offer unique, personalized experiences for childfree adults.

We offer two kinds of services – Organized Group Trips for childfree couples as well as Personalized Trips for childfree couples and adults (small groups, singles, honeymooners and “empty nesters”).   Instead of “family-friendly” destinations, we are specialists in adult-only vacations and finding destinations and excursions which cater to childfree adults.

A client recently asked me about the possibility of scheduling them on a childfree flight.  Although we can’t make miracles like this happen (yet), we do our best to cater to our childfree travelers.  For a humorous look at childfree travel, check out this video from DINKLife.  For more information about CWK Trips, please visit our website at www.coupleswithoutkidstrips.com.  If you “like” us on Facebook, you’ll receive updates about upcoming trips and promotions.

 

United: No Preboarding for Kids

English: United Airlines Boeing 777 (N223UA) t...

United Airlines wearing the post-merger livery combining the United name with the Continental logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are you and your family heading off for Memorial Day weekend? Don’t forget your patience pills and noise cancelling earphones because United Airlines has jumped on the “no preboarding for children” bandwagon.

Is this a step forward or backward for childfree air travelers who resent special treatment given to families flying in coach class with babies and young children?

Though it’s still too early to say, what initially looks like an egalitarian step forward for childfree fliers could prove to be an aggravating setback. Though special treatment for parents may seem unfair, it actually speeds the boarding process by sorting and situating families (and their mountains of travel gear) so that childfree travelers can efficiently board without waiting in the aisles.

What better way to find out if United’s policy change is a step forward or backward than a travel swarm weekend? Memorial Day dishes up notoriously congested travel conditions, so we should have a pretty clear assessment by early next week.

“We figured it would be better to simplify that process and reduce the number of boarding groups,” said United spokesman Charles Hobart. The airline does allow passengers with children traveling in first class or business class to board early. (CNN.com)

United changed their preboarding policy back in Apri, but likely kept the the topic mum to avoid a public relations backlash.

“There are very few things a parent can count on when it comes to air travel these days, but one of those things was always the ability to board first to get your children settled in and all of their needs met before the throngs of people board the plane,” said [Kate] Hanni in an e-mail to CNN. “I hope United changes their mind.” (CNN.com)

While ending preboarding for children may be perceived as a less family centric customer service initiative, United still invites passengers who need special assistance for any reason to present at the gate prior to boarding so that a United agent can accommodate them. Stemming at least in part from United’s 2010 merger with Continental, the policy apparently represents a reasonable consensus across both airlines.

“We transitioned to a common boarding process across all aircraft,” Hobart said. (CNN.com)

Ready to be a guinea pig? Safe travels and don’t forget to weigh in afterward.

Fast Forward

fast type

Image by mightymoss via Flickr

Wednesday already? I keep bumping the fast forward button!

Seems like only yesterday Susan, Amy, Brian and I were bumping along the highway from Costa Rica‘s Papagayo Peninsula to Lake Arenal psyching each other up for windsurfing with crocodiles, slurping up coconut milk from roadside vendors, and brainstorming a blog about our childfree lifestyle choices. Fast forward and we’re entering our 9th month and 107th post. Wow!

Thank you for making it possible. Thank you for reading our posts, commenting, sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and submitting guest posts. You continue to inspire us, and we’re enjoying every minute of it. Even when I bump the fast forward button…

While everything’s zipping past in a blur, there are a couple of quick snippets I want to showcase, sort of a “Wednesday WNK Digest”. First up, Brian nailed it in a recent post about how taboo a topic the childfree choice remains. Though he focused largely on celebs (a category that I’m thoroughly unqualified to address), the following excerpt about gender distinctions is oh-so-spot-on:

when a mother DOES speak out against mothering… she’s entering taboo territory, a place where people overreact and use the word “crazy”… Because these are words that mothers aren’t allowed to speak. “Don’t have kids” or “I wish I didn’t have kids” are somehow heard as “I wish they weren’t alive” or “I hate children”. It seems… From where I stand, men are given much more room.. to vent, admit, complain or translate their desire for silence and freedom and fresh air into advice or comedy… Mothers seem to police themselves, vigilantly. (Celebrities, WiNKs, Taboos and The Childfree Apology)

Another highlight? The clever crew over at The Onion nailed it with ‘This Is The Happiest Day Of My Life,’ Lies Man Holding Baby. Just to tickle your childfree fancy:

Looking out at a sea of expectant faces, new father Dan Rudloff commemorated the birth of his daughter, Elizabeth, by holding the small, vulnerable child in his arms and blurting out a series of lies and half-truths about how happy he was at that moment.

“Oh my God,” said Rudloff, staring down at the squalling, vernix-covered infant who will depend on him for everything from eating, to bathing, to keeping her head upright. “She’s beautiful.”

Realizing he was now forever tethered to this utterly helpless new life… Rudloff rattled off a series of patently false pleasantries about being overjoyed with his new baby girl. (The Onion)

For overly sensitive readers who sometimes miss humor, farce and send-ups, this is funny. Not snarky. Or cynical. Okay, maybe it’s all three!

Onward. Julie, The Hiking Humanist, took a protracted and reflective look at the term, childfree, in a recent post that’s worth passing along. She explains why the word is necessary descriptor to distinguish those who choose not to have children from those who are unable to have children.

We don’t want to be encouraged to have kids, or pitied for not having them, or seen as lonely or sad, or as selfish and hateful. The word we identify with exists to legitimize our choice, and to be a word for the lifestyle that we’re keen to talk about among ourselves and encourage acceptance of in the public sphere… This word is “childfree.” The word differentiates us from the childless, and from parents. More importantly, the word communicates that the absence of children is a positive thing for us, something we’re happy about and do not wish to be pitied for. (Defending The Word “Childfree”)

Julie’s a little huffy, but many of us have been at one point or another when slighted bingo’ed one time too many.

As a follow-up to Amy’s recent post on “Childfree Getaways” and my post on “Childfree Dining Tips“, I’d like to pass along a few childfree travel suggestions from Child Free Nation:

Here are a couple quick tips for avoiding the diaper set during your getaway:

  • Spring for Luxury
  • Consider a Private Resort
  • Enjoy a Bed and Breakfast
  • Read the Reviews

(Seven Tips for Child Free Travel)

That catches me up a little bit… Of course, I’m liable to bump the fast forward button again before long. Sorry!

PANKs and PUNKs (Professional Aunties and Uncles No Kids)

Image representing SavvyAuntie as depicted in ...

Image via CrunchBase

The number of PANKs (Professional Aunties No Kids) and PUNKs (Professional Uncles No kids) is growing and their influence on children is in the news. The founder of the auntie movement is Melanie Notkin at www.savvyauntie.com. She has an active blog and book that guides child-free aunties on all things kiddie. Notkin is the creator of the term PANK and she also owns the trademark.

From her website:

A few years ago, DINKs was the new segment marketers had their eye on – Dual Income No Kids. PANKs, while focusing specifically on women (married, partnered or single) who have no kids, is a pretty large market in the US. In fact, the 2010 US Census Report: Fertility of American Women states that 47.1  percent of women through age 44 do not have kids (check “All Races” report). And that number has been steadily growing over the last couple of decades. In 1976, only 35 percent were childless.

Notkin gives statistics on the spending potential of the emerging PANK market:

-  According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 50 percent of single women own their own homes. They’re also the fastest-growing segment of new home buyers, second home buyers, car purchasers, new investors, and travelers. (Who hasn’t dreamed of taking the nieces and nephews on their first trip to Disney World?)

-  Twenty-seven percent of American households are headed by women, a fourfold increase since 1950.

-  Of American women who draw annual incomes of $100,000 or more, nearly half don’t have children. In fact, the more a woman earns, the less likely she is to have kids.

That means that these PANKs and PUNKs have money to spend on their nieces and nephews since they don’t have kids of their own.

A November Forbes article Raising Children: The Role of Aunts and Uncles says that many adults in childrens’ lives today are not relatives but close friends that are considered stand in aunts, uncles and godparents.

Notkin says, “The more aunts and uncles the child has, the more influences a child has,” says Notkin. “If the uncle is a fantastic artist, the child may be inspired by that talent.”

For kids the diversity of influences could be beneficial. Parents who share their kids with aunties and uncles might benefit too. And it fits with the notion that “it takes a village” to raise a child.

Author’s Note:

I’m not really an aunt, but I’m a godmother three times over and consider most of my friends’ kids my nieces and nephews, so that makes me a PANK.  I just finished shopping, wrapping and mailing all their Christmas gifts. I take my role of Auntie Amy very seriously at Christmas time, and put A LOT of thought into finding the exact right gift for each child. (One gift was noisy and I’m sorry for that.) And I hope, hope, hope the kids love them! I find that books are the best gifts and still remember all the books my PANKs and PUNKs and real aunts and uncles gave to me as a child. Hope you will share your favorites.

Hey WNKers (and PANKs and PUNKs) what is your favorite book to give to kids?

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Childfree Getaways

Looking to escape the cold AND the kids over the holidays?

Check out the list of tropical childfree vacation destinations below:

California

Villa Royale Inn – Palm Springs

Luxury Boutique Hotel

Adults only

http://villaroyale.com

Hawaii

Hooilo House Maui

http://www.hooilohouse.com/index.html

From the website:

Ho’oilo House is designed as an adults only property. We do allow children over 16, but they will be in their own room in accordance with our 2 person per room maximum. Exceptions can be made for small babies.

Antigua

Coconut Beach Club

Affordable all-inclusive resort

Adult couples only

http://www.coconutbeachclub.com/

St Lucia

Ladera – Beware children are welcome over the holidays!

2011 Nomination for most romantic resort in the Caribbean

http://www.ladera.com/

Gros Piton, St. Lucia, seen from the Ladera Ho...

Children are discouraged. From the website:

Ladera was designed primarily as a retreat for adults. Because of its unique location overlooking the Caribbean and the Pitons, there are steep drop-offs at the edge of every suite. Furthermore, many guests come to Ladera to get away from their children – for the romantic setting and peaceful solitude Ladera offers.

If you do bring your children, please keep a constant eye on them, especially around the cliff areas and on the stairways, and be sure they understand that peace and quiet are important to many of the guests at the resort. Children over the age of 10 are welcome. Families with children ages 5 and up are welcome during the holidays.

Mexico

Le Blanc Spa Resort – Cancun

Adults only luxury spa resport

http://www.leblancsparesort.com/

From the website:

Are you ready to release yourself from the cares of the world and surrender to the freedom of a serene and carefree luxurious retreat? The adults-only, all-inclusive Le Blanc Spa Resort beckons you from the white sand beaches and sparkling waters of the Caribbean.

WNKies – Tell us your favorite secret childfree getaway.

 

 

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Kid Leash?

Kid Leash? I just walked past this little scenario at Dulles International Airport!
Kid Leash?

I just walked past this little scenario at Dulles International Airport!

I’m en route from the Adirondacks to the Sangre de Cristos. You follow me so far? Exit Essex; enter Taos. Only, the transition’s not that slick…

First there was a ferry ride across Lake Champlain. Spectacular! Warm, breezy and bluebird skies. Then there was a leisurely picnic with my bride near Burlington, Vermont. At the edge of a pond. With cattails. And dragonflies. Perfect. Then a smooth flight to Dulles with a fascinating seat mate who’s sailing through the Mediterranean then across the Atlantic and around the Caribbean with her husband. The flight vanished instantly. So far, so good.

Then a layover at Dulles waiting for the flight to Albuquerque. Dinner. A walk. And then this. A pet child being taken for a walk! I’ve seen it on ski slopes. I’ve heard of it in malls. But a father walking his son on a leash? Never before. Still processing it. Good? Bad? Ugly?

Update: I posted a reddit link to this post (“Kid Leash: A father walking his son like a pet Pomeranian… Good? Bad? Ugly?”) which has generated some of the expected reactions, but also a few frustrated/angry commenters. For the record, I wasn’t excoriating the man in the picture above or users of baby leashes in general. I was surprised. And I asked readers to share their reactions. Turned out to be a more sensitive topic than I anticipated, provoking some defensive emotions. But mostly some interesting conversation. And a link to Gadling’s “Dont use baby leashes” with a video that ties in nicely!

But wait, there’s more! If you’re still trying to make up your mind if baby leashes are good, bad or ugly, then here’s another little scenario to set your gray matter gears in motion. Or your emotion in motion…

A woman was in last week with her one year old son. He was wearing one of those child leashes disguised as a cute monkey back pack, you know where the tail is the leash? … his mom wanted to try on shoes so she tied him to the sale rack. Yes, she TIED him to the sale rack… The sale rack is near our handicap ramp, which all kids think is a playground. So naturally the baby wanted to play on it. He heads for ramp and almost gets there but he’s leashed, so he starts to stretch. He makes it to the rail and starts trying to flip over it to get to the ramp. He’s so close yet so far, and this is so dangerous because the sale rack could fall on him if he gets any further… (Awful little monkeys)

The subsequent conversation between sales supervisor and mother is less startling to me that the scenario itself.

For the record, I well recognize the merits of a leash. In fact, it’s occurred to me that an adult version could be marketed to husbands/wives with a tendency to wander! But I’m also inclined to see a dehumanizing quality in a leashed baby or spouse. Perhaps it is primarily symbolic, but a leash seems like a convenient way to circumvent the sort of “hands on” parenting that ideally nurtures and educates and guides a child during these formative years. It replaces a verbal, tactile and cognitive guidance with a merely physical surrogate. I’m not a psychiatrist, nor do I pretend expertise in infant development, so I’m not denouncing the use of people leashing. Certainly those wiser than I will set me straight!