Picnicking beneath the Eiffel Tower isn’t the same with a busy toddler in tow, and the high-altitude, stony streets of Cusco aren’t quite as charming when you’re struggling to push a stroller around them. Although it can be wonderful to expose children to new cultures and places, some destinations are best experienced before kids enter the picture. From cities with limited kid-friendly options to destinations deemed dangerous for impressionable young minds, here are the best places to travel at least once before you have kids.—Kristy Alpert
Spring break in Mexico is basically a birthright for Americans. College kids flock to Cancun, but the scene in the rest of the Riviera Maya is every bit as wild . . . only it’s geared for a bit less of a beer-bonging crowd. Everyone deserves to experience a beach trip to Mexico at least once without kids, and hotels like the Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla make it easy by weeding out both the spring breakers and the diaper bag crowd with their adults-only concepts. Sip cocktails on the beach and fill up on the all-inclusive dining options before taking a transfer to downtown Playa for a night of dancing and tequila at places like La Mezcallina or Coco Bongo.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Playa Del Carmen Guide
Although Monte Carlo is called the playground for the rich and famous, you’d be hard pressed to find a jungle gym in this swanky city. Monte Carlo is a destination best experienced with two free hands, one to raise a glass of Champagne or a Bond-style Vesper Martini and the other to shake hands with the glitterati about town. Although even the most glamorous hotels offer activities for kids (like the Little Chefs program at the Metropole Hotel, where kids craft their own treats with the head pastry chef at Joël Robuchon’s restaurant), other places are less accommodating for children with age restrictions at the casinos and certain restaurants. But most important, going to Monte Carlo sans kids means you won’t have to worry about finding a sitter while you’re getting the famous Bastien Gonzalez pedicure at the Métropole ESPA.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Monaco Guide
Kids love animals, but the massive critters you’ll encounter on the savanna aren’t of the petting zoo variety. Many safaris require guests to sign waivers that start out with something along the lines of “you realize you’ll be traveling in remote areas among wild animals in places where aircraft cannot land at night even in a medical emergency,” and end with warnings like, “you understand some areas in which you’ll be traveling are considered malarial.” Let’s just say spotting a lion is an entirely different experience when you do not have to think about protecting your own cub.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s 10 Best Safari Destinations
Mumbai is a city of contrasts, where bright futures and dark pasts coexist. For every luxury hotel there’s a slum, for every Bollywood starlet there’s a gangster, for every Bentley there’s a rickshaw. It’s a place so full of flavor that even the locals can’t handle most street food; it’s also a destination so full of life that it shouldn’t be missed. Head there before kids enter the picture so you’re free to take risks haggling at the Thieves’ Market, get lost gazing at the gold-plated roof inside the Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple, and flag down a rickshaw for a night on the town. But even in a country where taking risks is part of the experience, it’s probably best to skip the streets and experience authentic Indian cuisine at a place like Soma Restaurant.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Mumbai Guide
Tuscany is a lifestyle more than it is a destination, where cycling through vineyards on the way to an ancient castello is as commonplace as twirling forkfuls of homemade pasta around an intricately hand-painted bowl. With each visit, Tuscany becomes more and more of a part of you, which is why it’s best to begin your Tuscan story with a blank slate and an open agenda. Start your Tuscan journey with a weekend at the Castello di Casole – A Timbers Resort for a grown-up retreat of private wine tastings of estate-grown vintages, spa rituals that literally have you bathing in the essence of Tuscany at the Essere Spa, and gourmet wine-pairing dinners beneath Murano glass chandeliers at Ristorante Tosca.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Tuscany Guide
Despite the tens of thousands of Americans who safely travel to Colombia each year, it’s the “however” in the U.S. Department of State’s travel warning that earns Cartegena a spot on this list. According to the advisory, “The incidence of kidnapping in Colombia has diminished significantly from its peak in 2000 . . . however, kidnapping remains a threat.” Although friends might scorn the idea of you bringing a child to Colombia, no one would so much as bat an eyelash at the idea of an adult getaway in Cartagena. The city is Colombia’s enchanting fishing village on the edge of the Caribbean coast, and it’s one of the safest cities in the country. Sleep inside the walled city at the historic Alfiz Hotel, hop a ride on a chiva (the colorful open-sided buses that roll through the city), and sip on fresh agua de coco from the street carts lining the city walls.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Cartagena Guide
Walt Disney World
Where: Orlando, Florida
Walt Disney World has always gotten it right when it comes to magical experiences for the young and young at heart; but the park’s latest offerings have made it one of the best adult vacation experiences around. The park is home to the annual Epcot Food and Wine Festival, a slew of new boutique shops at Disney Springs, lavish 13-course dinners by a James Beard–nominated chef at Victoria & Albert’s, and late-night dancing options on the Disney Boardwalk. Go now because there will never be a time in your life you can justify leaving your kids at home while you go to Disney World.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Disney World Guide
WHERE: Indian Ocean
“Getting there” is part of the experience of this remote destination—and it’s one that would be taxing on tiny travelers. The country consists of 1,190 islands, and all of them are only accessible via boat, seaplane, or helicopter from the capital island of Male. Although high-end hotels like the Jumeirah Vittaveli offer kid’s clubs and multi-room villas for families, there’s no denying that this romantic destination is designed for lovers. Sip Champagne while peering into the turquoise water and coral reef through the glass floor of your overwater villa, or dine underwater at the Conrad’s Ithaa Undersea Restaurant.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Maldives Guide
Often referred to as the Red Center for its stunning rust-hued panoramas, the Northern Territory is like no other place on the planet. Getting there takes a full day of flying from the United States, and, once there, it’s easy to feel like you’re the first to discover this sprawling stretch of outback. Natural wonders like Uluru and Kakadu National Park rule the tourism industry, while little gems like the thermal pools of Mataranka and the luxury tented camps around the territory sweeten the deal. Wi-Fi and cell service are both contingent on generator power and weather, meaning you don’t want to have to worry about calling the sitter while you’re in this amazing and remote part of the world.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Australia Guide
The ancient city of Cusco was once the capital of the Inca Empire, and today it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unique composition of 16th-century Spanish Baroque churches and ancient Incan ruins. The architecture has been preserved over the years, and even places like the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco occupy beautifully historic spaces (their hotel occupies a 16th-century convent built over ancient Incan ruins), but walking from site to site isn’t as easy as you’d think, as the city sits at an elevation of around 11,200feet. As if pushing a stroller on narrow cobblestone pathways wasn’t challenging enough, add a headache and some altitude sickness, and you’ll see why you might want to travel light while in Cusco.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Cusco Guide
Where: United Arab Emirates
Dubai is Disneyland for adults. Dream it, and it can happen. Wish it, and it will come true. Even though there are tons of kid-friendly options throughout the city (the Wild Wadi Water Park sits just paces from the coastline, and even the breakfast buffet at the Madinat Jumeirah Resort has a gourmet ice cream station), nothing can compare to the fun that awaits when you let yourself be a grown-up kid in Dubai. Snow ski in the desert at the Dubai Mall, sink your toes into imported Saudi Arabian sand at the new Terrace at the Burj al Arab, or ride a wind-powered buggy over the dunes.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Dubai Guide
A trip to Russia typically takes three months of advance planning and paperwork . . . and that’s just for a solo visa. Planning a Russian vacation takes a bit of work and a lot of maneuvering (unless you book through a travel company like Travel All Russia that handles the visa process for their guests), but with the ruble at an all-time low and the new three-year multiple-entry visa option for American tourists, now is a great time to visit the country. Most visitors opt to spend as much time in the country as possible to make the most of their visas, but even if you plan a short visit, do you really want to share your caviar with a three-year-old?
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Moscow Guide
Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand, and it has gained a reputation as its biggest party island as well as the hub for some of the country’s most romantic hotels. Most parents traveling with children just avoid Patong Beach (where most of the wild action happens), but who wants to spend a weekend dodging parties and romance? Spend the day exploring hidden caves with John Gray’s Sea Canoe, luxuriate in an in-villa spa treatment at Sri panwa, and hit up the recently renovated White Room Nightclub for a pre-kid vacation you’re sure to remember.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Phuket Guide
The Highlands of Scotland are straight out of a movie, where the dreamlike landscape and craggy terrain act as the backdrop to an unfolding drama of clansmen and castles, and whiskies and mysteries. Hotels like the historic Culloden House set the stage for exploring Inverness, where you can spend the morning salmon fishing with a guide from You Fish Scotland on the same peaceful waters that will go into some of the region’s finest Scotches. Sure, kids may enjoy exploring around Loch Ness or walking the papier-mâchéd halls of Nessieland (one of the few kid-friendly attractions in the region), but the trippy tour will only cut into your schedule of Scotch tastings at places like Tomatin and Aberfeldy, where guests younger than 18 aren’t allowed.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Scotland Guide