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It's time for a kid-free vacation

By Katia Hetter, CNN
updated 11:46 AM EDT, Wed September 5, 2012
Live Aqua Cancun is an adults-only, all-inclusive resort. Travelers looking for guaranteed peace and quiet may want to look at adults-only properties. Live Aqua Cancun is an adults-only, all-inclusive resort. Travelers looking for guaranteed peace and quiet may want to look at adults-only properties.
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Live Aqua Cancun, Mexico
Live Aqua Cancun
Cartagena, Colombia
The coast of Dubrovnik, Croatia
Glenmere Mansion in Chester, New York
The Glenmere Mansion library
The Kenwood Inn and Spa in Sonoma, California
The Kenwood Inn and Spa
Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California
Disneyland Resort
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • With most children in school, destinations are often less crowded, more affordable
  • Some spots are exclusively for the 18-and-older set; others have fewer kids present
  • Some Disney resorts pass holders avoid their favorite parks during the summer

(CNN) -- Imagine a lovely trip to the Caribbean, your favorite mountain retreat or even Disneyland without hordes of children around.

Even if you have children you adore, it sounds tempting, doesn't it? Admit it.

"I go places during the week when the crowds are smaller, I'm not anti-kid or anti-people," writes Matt Hodgetts, who shared his thoughts on CNN's Facebook page. "I just find it more enjoyable to be at the zoo/museum/shows when there are less people around."

Kudos for thoughtful parents of babies on planes

Rick Swartz, another Facebook commenter, says, "Kids are great, just not during a vacation. My own kids are grown and gone. I like a little peace and quiet on vacation."

Now's the perfect time for that kid-free trip. Most of the children who would be sharing your view of Yosemite or packing your top three theme park rides have gone back to school.

If you don't have kids, here's your chance to enjoy one of the benefits of not having them -- the freedom to grab cheaper airfares and hotel rooms. If you have kids, it could still benefit you to take some time to reconnect with your significant other.

That's because the travel industry enters into a so-called shoulder season after Labor Day, when most travelers head back to school or work and airline seats and hotel rooms remain unfilled. While Las Vegas, New York and Chicago were KAYAK's top flight search destinations for Labor Day, users who wait to travel to these destinations until the following weekend could save 8% to 10% on airfares, according to a KAYAK spokeswoman. Travel prices pick up again for Thanksgiving weekend and drop again until the Christmas and New Year's holiday travel period.

"You won't just get peace and quiet, but good weather and low prices," says Clem Bason, president of the Hotwire Group. "Everyone in the U.S. still thinks of summer vacation and that's when you take your vacation. People are sort of resistant to traveling in the fall and winter. They should go. You can't really lose on any angle."

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Going where it's 'hot'

For people chasing warm weather and beaches, American Express Travel recommends this year's popular South American destinations of Buenos Aires, Argentina; Patagonia (in the south of both Argentina and Chile); and Cartagena, Colombia (just watch out for rain in October and November).

Ever popular for travelers, Europe tends to go on sale during the fall and winter, and Eastern European destinations such as Montenegro and Croatia are still attracting a lot of interest.

In North America, leaf peepers may enjoy rail tours of the Canadian Rockies before winter hits. And California's Napa and Sonoma vineyards are offering specials connected to the fall harvest, says American Express Travel.

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Is it really only for adults?

Some vacation spots are exclusively for the 18-and-older set, while others simply have fewer children present because most children are attending school. That doesn't mean toddlers, home-schooled children or children with varying school holidays won't be present. If you want a truly adults-only experience, call your hotel to confirm it's really for people ages 18 and older.

Within the adults-only category, make sure to do your research to find out what type of "adult" resort you're booking, says Travelzoo senior editor Gabe Saglie. "On some resorts, 'adult' can mean risqué while on others, 'adult' can mean upscale, quiet and private."

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Adults-only resorts

Adults-only resorts can be found around the world. Some resorts are adults-only all the time, while others block out certain child-free times of year. Some allow teens but not younger children.

For people traveling to Mexico who want an all-inclusive experience, Live Aqua Cancun was recently named the No.1 resort in Mexico in Travel + Leisure's reader-driven World's Best awards. Visitors can enjoy celebrity chef-inspired dining, elegant spa treatments, the resort's eight pools and the ocean.

For wine lovers, the adults-only Kenwood Inn and Spa in California's Sonoma Valley offers a private wine bar and Italian-influenced cuisine of chef Steven Snook, a Gordon Ramsay transplant from New York. Ranked by U.S. News as a top wine country hotel, the Kenwood Inn has 29 guestrooms and suites, each with a private entrance (but no television).

In New York, within an easy drive of Hudson Valley museums and 1½ hours from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, the intimate Glenmere Mansion has just 18 rooms and suites for its guests, some of whom arrive from Manhattan via helicopter. The hotel, which was once a private retreat for the wealthy, offers adults a break from the rigors of city life. Even its two fine dining restaurants, which are open to the public, do not allow anyone under 18 years of age.

Adults-only cruising

While some mainstream cruise lines do have adults-only sections, those areas do need to be enforced by ship personnel and would-be cruisers should check to see if passengers report any trouble with "adult" areas being overrun by children.

If you prefer that question never be raised, Travelzoo's Gabe Saglie recommends checking out truly child-free cruises, including those operated by Carnival UK's P&O Cruises. (Make sure to choose an "Exclusively for adults" trip rather than a "Family friendly" trip.)

"British-owned P&O Cruises has a fleet of seven ships, three of which are exclusively for adults and offer a smaller-scale, more intimate cruising experience," he says, "Though not readily marketed in the U.S., they feature several exotic itineraries."

Making more room at Disney

It's unlikely that any visit to a Disney theme park will be child-free. Some parents take their children out of school for that visit to Mickey Mouse's empire, hoping for a more affordable and less-crowded experience. Still, there will be fewer when school is in session.

Sheryl, a grown-up from San Jose who visits Disneyland about six times per year, advises thinking about what you want from the experience. She and her partner are annual passholders who never visit between Memorial Day and Labor Day or on a holiday weekend. Their passes allow them to book trips up to three months in advance. (Sheryl, who is a child psychologist, didn't want to give her last name and be misconstrued as anti-child.)

"For me it helps to enjoy the experience when I have reasonable expectations," she says. "I had very different desires and expectations when we went to Disneyland for our honeymoon than when we had a family reunion during spring break. Our honeymoon was during an off-season and our experience was more adult focused.

"Our family reunion had to occur during a school holiday for the children in our lives," she says. "I went in knowing there were going to be crowds and families, the occasional meltdown and need for children-appropriate negotiation. Both holidays were fantastic and very different."

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