We both stared at the plate. Now, we aren’t big Valentine’s Day people (I can’t remember the last time we got each other a card), but even to us, it looked rather pathetic. It definitely looked like the least romantic meal of the holiday (we were skiing in the Alps) and was a far cry from our first ever Valentine’s Day when we jetted off to Brussels for the weekend. Now THAT was a romantic vacation date night!

Romance? What’s that?!

It’s hard to find 5 minutes for romance when you’re travelling with your whole family let along a whole evening for a date. While we want time to ourselves as a couple, we also want to get in quality family time with the Things. We see less and less of them as they get older and more independent and we know that trend is only going to continue.

On the other hand, with school runs and staying fit, business travel and the general fatigue of being a parent (and getting, ahem, older), our opportunities to hang out as a couple are getting more and more spread out. When we go on holiday we want to have a date. We want to spend time with each other. I mean, without stating the obvious, that’s why we got together in the first place!

We like each other’s company

One of my first memories of being on holiday with Thing 1 is of one of our first ever nights away as a three. Mr Wanderlust sat in the bath reading his book while I sat on the toilet reading mine. We were there hiding from Thing 1 while he went to sleep. After he went to sleep we sat on the bed sipping red wine and eating baklava.

In the dark, whispering so we didn’t wake him.

Talk about romance being dead. Thankfully we both saw the funny side.

This too shall pass

At the time, I remember thinking it was terrible how much things had changed since we first met. I was worried that this was how holidays would be from now on. I really hoped it wouldn’t last forever.

Spoiler alert – thankfully it hasn’t! Over the years we’ve become pretty good at creating date opportunities.

Here are my top tips for keeping the romance alive with some fantastic vacation date night ideas for parents.

Order in

We love going out for dinner but if we’re in a strange place and not travelling with our extended family it’s often just not feasible.

So get room service or takeaway and have your vacation date right there in the room. Admittedly, our first experience doing this involved us eating it in the bathroom. And while we’ve come a long way, it was only a year ago that we repeated that experience.

Sometimes there’s just no getting out of it.

On the other hand, we make our bookings more carefully these days. We’ve had some wonderful meals on balconies and patios courtesy of room service.

If you’re in a villa or an Airbnb, in-room dining isn’t necessarily out of the question. Ask your host if they can help you find a personal chef to come to you. This may sound ridiculously decadent, not to mention extravagant, but depending on where you’re staying it might well be an affordable date idea.

Date like Romeo and Juliet

The reality is that it’s usually more fun to eat together as a family not to mention more practical. So we find ourselves not needing dinner but needing to escape a hotel room while the Things fall asleep.

We take inspiration from Shakespeare and head to the balcony like those star crossed lovers. (We don’t do this in ski resorts haha).

I really enjoy that hour or so. We often re-live the best moments from the day or talk about or plans for the next day. It’s like a moment of calm after what is usually a hectic day of being on holiday with the Things.

To top it off, we’re often sat under the stars in some amazing location. You don’t get much more romantic than that!

Get a babysitter

Not always an option, Wanderlusters, but if it’s on the cards it’s a good one. Sometimes hotels can provide a babysitter or you might find them recommended in Facebook groups for the location. Our Things aren’t great at being left so if we do this, we put them to bed first before heading out.

If you’re staying in a hotel, a daytime alternative to a babysitter is the all hallowed Kids Club. Now I know they’re a bit controversial – someone once said they’re like Marmite and you either love them or you hate them. We’re a bit different – we’ve loved some Kids Clubs and really disliked others. It really depends on the club, the staff and the other Things who are there.

Assuming it’s a good one, and you’re happy to leave your Things there, Kids Clubs offer cheap (often free) daytime childcare… Leaving you to head off to enjoy yourselves, Thing-free!

This brings me on to the next few options…

Pamper yourself

I often find it hard to unwind on holiday. My head is usually buzzing with the events of the day whilst simultaneously thinking about the logistics of the next one.

This won’t come as a shock to anyone who knows me, but I often need reminding that holidays don’t need to be go-go-go all the time. And there’s nothing like a bit of pampering to really make me slow down and relax.

If I can go with Mr Wanderlust and take some time to ourselves to make it a vacation date then so much the better!

An adventurous date

Mr Wanderlust and I used to be all about the active holidays. We loved the idea of relaxing on a beach… But when it came down to it we would be bored and antsy after a couple of hours on the first day.

You might be in a place where the activity is obvious – skiing together next week is something I am really looking forward to. Or going diving or snorkelling together in the Maldives is pretty much obligatory.

Other things mightn’t be so clear but many hotels have loads of activities on offer. From borrowing a canoe or having a game of tennis, there are lots of things you can do right there on the premises. Failing that, we love going for a long walk or a hike – preferably up to a waterfall or somewhere where there is a great view and we can feel we got away from it all.

Breakfast or lunch date

This is a good one even if you’re not on holiday!

I’m a terrible one for assuming a date should be in the evening. And then it gets to the evening and we’re both tired and, surprise, surprise, we don’t go.

Why does a date have to be at night? Heading off for breakfast after we’ve been to the gym or grabbing a long lunch is a great way to make the most of the kids being in kids’ club.

Movie night date

So you can’t get that babysitter. You’ve eaten with the kids and sitting outside isn’t on the cards. You’ll need a living area for this one so it’s best in hotel suites or self-catering accommodation.

Plan ahead, grab some popcorn and snuggle up in front of the TV. Find a movie and have date night right there.

Family date

Ok, ok, so it’s not going to be the most romantic date in the world but it’s totally doable.

Sometimes it’s so easy to let life get in the way. It’s only on certain holidays that I remember to turn around and take stock of how far we’ve come. Out Things are turning into little people we quite like and are pretty decent company these days. At least some of the time they are haha.

Add to that a holiday like skiing where we don’t actually get to see that much of them and suddenly a family date is really appealing! Last year we headed out to dinner a few times with them and several times holed ourselves up in a cafe with some steaming cups of hot chocolate.

No, it’s not a Michelin Starred restaurant but sometimes the simple life is the best life.

Make the most of the little things

Back to that plate of food last year.

No, it wasn’t the most romantic meal we’ve ever had. It was nearly the end of our holiday and we were eating up food in the fridge. I mean… wow.

I don’t need flowers and chocolates or swanky dates. Maybe that makes me an easy wife – should I be more demanding and higher maintenance? Maybe it means I don’t buy into the materialistic nature of Hallmark holidays.

But here’s the thing.

I was exhausted. I’d fallen asleep putting the Things to bed. When I woke up, my dinner was cooked and on the table with a glass of wine next to it.

And that, Wanderlusters, is the most romantic thing Mr Wanderlust could have done for me that day.