Four words: Embrace the kids’ club.

By Liz Krieger
Updated March 21, 2017
AC Productions/Getty Images

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a mother on vacation with family is just a mother doing her job in a new (lovelier) location. Feeding, bathing, entertaining—the basic needs don’t evaporate just because you’re in a new time zone. And that’s the cruelty of it all. You’ve traveled to a spot where doing those daily duties feels even more onerous than usual. After all, that hammock has your name on it, and what’s the good of bringing a beach read if you never get to the actual reading part?

The answer, of course, lies in two of the most beautiful words in the English language: kids’ club. Variation: Kidz Klub. Definition: the entity that turns a trip into a vacation.

Until a few years ago, my husband and I had never stayed anyplace where this was even an option. Either the hotel wasn’t full-on resorty enough to have a kids’ program or our kids weren’t old enough to be dispatched to their own activities. Yet there we were, dropping our daughter off at Skully’s Imagineer Club at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island, Florida. We’d looked at the club longingly the first time we visited, a few years back, when we had a toddler (read: too young forSkully’s) and another baby on the way. We’d heard from other parents: Go kids’ club and you’ll never go back. But I’ll admit I felt a bit like I was pushing my daughter to walk the plank as we waved goodbye. It somehow seemed worse than a typical date night, since we hadn’t already logged a full day with her and certainly didn’t know these babysitters. What if they were pirates?! But as I sat on a lounge chair later, reading over the activity schedule—it had something to do with wacky sports or mad scientists, I believe—that guilt melted away like a frozen daiquiri in the Florida sun.

And it’s not like we were totally free to just hammock it up for the morning. Our younger daughter wasn’t old enough to be dropped off. But having even half the load lifted felt intoxicating. (Although maybe that was the daiquiri.)

Each day while my older daughter was off exploring, making art projects, and burn- ing off a ton of energy, my husband and I took turns with the younger one in the kiddie pool or on the resort’s free trolley, always a huge hit. We had precious alone time with our second- born—time when she didn’t have to race to keep up with her big sister or compete for attention. It also meant that one of us could be completely off-duty without feeling like the other was outnumbered. And let’s be honest: Couple time is lovely and all, but those hours by myself were glorious. I actually read that book I packed—at least until I fell asleep 20 pages in. If it was nap time for the toddler, one of us could stay in the hotel room with her while the other went for a leisurely jog. And best of all, when we went back to Skully’s to gather up Big Sister, we were refreshed and happy to be a family of four again.

RELATED: How to Create a Strong Password

We’re going back to South Seas this spring, and for the first time, both kids can skip into Skully’s. I expect to get through at least 30 (!) pages of my book before I doze off.

Trip Tips for The Kids’ Club

Do Some Recon.

Call ahead and ask what a typical day looks like. The club should offer a variety of activities so shy or chill kids can hang back and color.

Go With Friends.

If you’re worried your child will balk at a kids’ club, plan the trip with another family so she’ll have a buddy. Or do some pointed matchmaking at the pool on day one. (You might make a friend, too.)

Set Sibling Dates.

Got two kids in different age groups? Ask if the older can pop in and visit the younger, maybe for lunch. It will help both kids feel secure—and your big kid can report back honestly on how his little sibling is doing, if necessary.