Like any avid traveller, I’ve always maintained a loosely ranked list of places I want to visit. And while tropical destinations have always been high on my list (I’m a beach bum at heart), Jamaica was never in my top 20, let alone my top 10. Nothing against it, but it just seemed so…accessible.
But that’s exactly why I ended up there two years ago, when my husband and I wanted to take our then-13-month-old on her first beach vacation. After assessing our list of requirements (a direct flight under five hours, a toddler-friendly pool, a top-notch kids’ club), it became clear that Jamaica would be the best fit for us.
We ended up having a fantastic vacation, but as much as I enjoyed our trip, I couldn’t help but think of the days when I could pick a far-off place on my list and just go without having to worry about nap schedules, the state of a region’s public washrooms and how to get from place to place with a car seat.
So here is my unsolicited advice to you: If you don’t have kids but are planning to have them soon, book a ticket now to somewhere that would be a pain in the ass to explore once you have a baby or young child in tow. Even though the Zika virus has knocked off a few pre-baby destinations, there are some incredible places to see, explore and relax—before you start making those annual family trips to Jamaica.
1. MoroccoThe Zika virus has made most of the world’s hot destinations no-go zones for couples who are pregnant or planning to conceive. Thankfully, Morocco offers plenty of sun with no risk of the mosquito-borne disease. This North African country is perfect for those looking for something different than your typical tropical or city getaway (though it does boast beautiful beaches and ample nightlife). Get lost in the souks of Marrakesh, a maze-like market that would be challenging to visit with a wandering kid. Explore the desert from the back of a camel without having a baby strapped to your body. And dine on the country’s famed street food, which includes kebabs, sesame cookies and snail soup (you’re not getting a kid to eat that).
2. PatagoniaThe tip of the Western world is ideal for couples looking for one last adventure before having kids. Outdoor activities can be particularly hard to do once children arrive, so hike the Andes, kayak alongside southern right whales and explore the Perito Moreno Glacier now. The southernmost part of Argentina and Chile is also intensely romantic, thanks to its gorgeous scenery and sparse population. After a long day of getting sweaty in the countryside, you can grab a bottle of acclaimed Chilean wine and unwind with your partner while enjoying the views from one of the region’s surprisingly affordable boutique hotels.
3. ParisLike most European destinations, the City of Lights is quite kid-friendly. But to truly appreciate Paris’s other nickname, the Most Romantic City in the World, visit it before children and do all those activities that parents only dream of: staying up late at quaint cafés, leisurely touring museums while holding your partner’s hand and indulging in couples-only spa treatments. If you want to really live it up, stay in one of the city’s luxury hotels, such as the 40-room La Reserve or the recently renovated Le Royal Monceau, Raffles. And while you’re in France, head to the Loire Valley, where you can indulge in wine while exploring real-life castles.
4. French PolynesiaThis South Pacific island chain is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen—and it’s also one of the quietest. Get ready to relax: There’s not a lot to do on these islands, which include Tahiti and Bora Bora, other than eat expensive French food, explore the South Pacific and, uh, sleep. While French Polynesia might be paradise for adults—especially those banking their sleep before having a baby—it can be boring for kids. Go now and create memories you can retreat to when you’re up cluster feeding for the third night in a row. To maximize your time and money, consider a trip aboard the Paul Gauguin, a boutique cruise ship that will take you to five islands over seven nights.
5. Alaska HighwayLong drives, few rest stops and unpredictable weather make Alaska and Canada’s North a challenging place to visit with kids. Take advantage of your child-free status and see some of the most stunning landscapes in the world while driving the Alaska Highway. This 2,288-kilometre journey starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and ends in Delta Junction, Alaska, and it takes anywhere from three days to two weeks, depending on how often you stop. Given how packed this part of the world is with Instagram-worthy scenes, you’ll want to stop a lot. A few of the trip’s highlights include jade-coloured Muncho Lake, the Liard River Hot Springs and the absolutely gorgeous Kluane National Park and Reserve.