We were in New York for spring break. It snowed. A lot. When we went to The Gap for winter gear we were met by a wall of colorful flip-flops, bathing suits and sunglasses. But that unexpected snowstorm brought unpredictable benefits, adding to our list of adventures from our mother daughter getaways.
My daughter Catherine and I started mother daughter trips when she was young. Now she’s married and living in Texas, we’ve started a yearly tradition of going somewhere new.
Perhaps the first of our mother daughter getaways was a brownie campout. A tornado threatened our campsite (in a trailer park), my windshield wipers quit working in a monstrous rainstorm and we ate every meal out. More on that below.
Our most recent trip was an activity-filled weekend at Tamaya Resort in New Mexico, which made for a perfect mother daughter weekend and my hair looked fabulous the whole time in the low humidity. I highly recommend mother daughter resort vacations. [See the full story: Mother-Daughter Weekend to Tamaya Resort]
I found myself wondering, when did mother daughter trips start? It wasn’t a thing for us when I was growing up. But then again, neither were girlfriend getaways. In our community women didn’t take off with their girlfriends or their daughters. It was either a trip with their husbands or a family vacation.
Whenever they started, girlfriend and mother daughter getaways have been some of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Here are a few of our favorite destinations and why they make excellent mother daughter trips.
See related story: Amazing Mother Daughter Weekend Trips and Tips To Make Them Stress-Free
Marrying George Clooney in Las Vegas
Reasons to go: It’s Vegas, baby!
When Catherine was in college we decided to go on a mother daughter getaway over her spring break. Well, one reason was that she had turned 21 and was old enough to participate in adult activities. I looked around for deals and found one to Las Vegas that included flights and a stay at Mandalay Bay.
I texted her and said, “Three days in Vegas?” Except I apparently texted the wrong number and the recipient turned me down. But then I did get her number right and she accepted.
We were both a bit overwhelmed checking into Mandalay Bay, which has a whopping 3,209 hotel rooms. It was a bit of a hike to our room but we loved all the glitz, glamour and over-the-topness of the hotel.
This is where I had my infamous wine bottle incident. I had a bottle of wine but no corkscrew. Not wanting to take 20 minutes to walk to the front desk of the massive hotel, I decided instead to Google “how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew.” After spending way more time researching and watching videos than it would have taken to get a corkscrew, I landed on the “take off the seal and smack on a hard surface” method.
I grabbed the bible out of the drawer, covered it with a towel and wham, slammed that bottle down hard enough to pop the cork out. Or break the bottle into bits. Which is what I did. At least it was white wine.
We giggled as we donned the white mink coats to visit the minus5 Ice Bar where everything is made of ice. We sipped vodka drinks in ice glasses while UPS employees clad in shorts chatted us up.
We also attended a Cirque du Soleil show, The Sirens of TI pirate show at Treasure Island and “The Donny and Marie Show.” I was never a big fan of theirs, but I had been offered free tickets prior to our trip. I had texted Catherine to see if she had ever heard of them. “There’s an Alex Osmond in my class, so maybe those are his parents,” she wrote back.
While wandering around one day a guy selling tickets for Madam Tussauds Las Vegas kept calling us over to offer us discounted tickets. His price went so low, we figured why not? Seemed like a Vegas thing to do.
The best part is you can actually pose with the figures. So I could put on bunny ears and lounge on a heart-shaped bed with Hugh Hefner and Catherine could put on a wedding dress and marry a tuxedo-clad George Clooney.
One of best memories was seeing Elvis. I’d shelled out big bucks for tickets so was trying to economize when I saw that you could see an Elvis impersonator for free at one of the casinos. Big Elvis has since moved to a larger casino, but back then he was at an unrenovated, wood-paneled, dark old casino where we sat at tables in a corner while Big Elvis sat on a chair, crooning to us, occasionally standing up to wiggle around in his form-fitting white jumpsuit. Not wanting to be rude with our incessant giggling, we slipped out after the first set.
On our last night we cruised around the casino and Catherine decided to try her hand at the slots. She put a few coins in and ended up winning $6.20, putting her in the minority of being a winner in Las Vegas.[See related story: 10 Amazing Free Things to Do in Las Vegas]
South Beachin’ in Miami, Florida
Reasons to go: Gorgeous beaches, walkable/bikeable area, great restaurants
We picked Miami for a mother daughter getaway one summer because Catherine was attending a conference there. I flew down and stayed with her in the iconic Fontainebleau Miami Beach for one night before we moved to the Marriott Stanton South Beach hotel.
You definitely want a balcony room here as the views of the beach, the boardwalk and passing cruise ships were part of the experience. The rooms are spacious and there’s a good restaurant onsite, Lola’s Surf Cantina, where we enjoyed margaritas and Mexican specialties.
Our hotel was in a fantastic location for walking around South Beach, admiring the art deco architecture and stopping in to check out some of the shops.
I wished I’d taken a photo as soon as we got to our room, in its clean uncluttered state. We are both relatively neat people, but in about five seconds it looked like our suitcases had exploded and rained down clothes, shoes and beauty products on our room.
The hotel had free bikes so we rode all around the boardwalk and through South Beach. We found a Cuban restaurant not far away where we had a fantastic lunch one day. We also lounged and walked on the beach.
Seeing “Hamilton” in Chicago
Reasons to go: There’s so much to do in Chicago and you can get theater tickets relatively easily.
Although it took months to get this trip arranged, seeing “Hamilton” in Chicago was one of our best mother daughter getaways. With work schedule and flights, arranging the trip was logistically challenging, but it finally came together for a weekend in August. We shopped, we ate, we biked on the 606 trail and attended a fantastic matinee of the show.
Most Exhausting of Our Mother Daughter Getaways: Doing All of Disney in One Day
Reasons to go: Thrilling rides, tons of laughs and exercise
I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but Catherine and I decided it would be a great idea to go to all four Disney resorts in Orlando in one day. Just. One. Day.
Having issued this challenge to ourselves we enthusiastically took it and mapped out our strategy based on transportation between resorts, which can sometimes be the most time-consuming. Lucky for us we had FastPasses so standing in line wasn’t an issue.
How I wish we both had Fitbits then, as we definitely would have achieved badges for all the steps we took that day, darting from Epcot to Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Disney World, picking one ride or attraction at each before moving onto another.
Here’s one of the best parts of a mother daughter getaway. You can do things together that other people have no interest in doing. Visiting four theme parks in one day would be a particularly cruel punishment for my husband, who just groaned when I told him what we did. It may have been one of our most exhausting mother daughter vacations.
Cruising the Caribbean
Reasons to go: Ease of an all-inclusive, not much planning required, plenty of activities
When Catherine was in high school we took a mother daughter cruise in the Caribbean for spring break, definitely the easiest of our mother daughter getaways to plan. A cruise is such an easy way to travel and we were looking for a warm location after the winter cold.
Early in the cruise we had stopped by one of the ubiquitous photo booths and had our pictures taken. When I saw them the next day, I was beyond appalled at how bad I looked. So on dress-up night when there were multiple photo stations set up, I dragged her to every single one, determined to get some decent shots. She was a good sport and we eventually took some nice photos.
When the Unexpected Occurs on Mother Daughter Getaways: Snow storming in New York City
Reasons to go: Shopping, museums, theaters and restaurants
One year I took Catherine to New York City in March for spring break where we planned to visit museums, tour the city on foot and see some friends in Connecticut. A friend of mine was getting a master’s degree and had rented an apartment on the Upper West Side that she generously offered to us for our stay.
We took a taxi (pre-Uber days) to the apartment where we faced our first challenge. Climbing up a huge flight of stairs to get into the building, followed by five more flights of stairs to the apartment, lugging our luggage one step at time and resting on each landing.
Finally we reached the door, turned the key and walked in. Unlike the apartments in “Friends” and “Sex and the City,” where underemployed people can somehow afford spacious digs, this apartment was more typical New York. Which means once you have two people and their luggage inside there’s not much space to turn around.
Catherine took it all in, then said, “Where’s the bedroom?” “You’re standing in it,” I said, pointing to the small futon/couch that was to be our shared bed for the next four nights. Seeking a learning opportunity for my preteen, I said, “If you ever dream of running off to New York, this would be considered a spacious apartment and probably cost most of your income.”
Our first night passed rather uneventfully, although sharing the bed was a bit cozy and the near-constant sirens took a bit of getting used to.
The next day we woke up to a winter wonderland. During the night the city had gotten several inches of snow. Being southern girls, we were initially delighted by this unexpected, and unpredicted blanketing. Then we realized we had no proper snow gear.
After bundling up as best we could we headed to the Gap to see if we could find scarves and gloves to ward off the cold but were met by a colorful array of flip-flops. So maybe we weren’t dressed for the weather but the city was simply gorgeous in the snow and the views of swaths of untouched snow in Central Park was enough to delight us.
One bonus of the snowstorm is that we spotted a line for tickets to a taping of “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and got tickets because so many people couldn’t make it into the city.
As for the apartment? We gave that up and found a hotel room at the Hilton. No charm, but a spacious room with two large beds seemed a better place to enjoy a snowstorm.
Snorkeling in Aruba
Reasons to go: Beautiful beaches, snorkeling adventures
When Catherine graduated high school we spent several days on Aruba, staying at the beautiful Bucati & Tara Beach Resort where we saw iguanas as big as alligators lounging on the beach.
The drinking age in Aruba is 18, so we shared a few legal cocktails for the first time.
I remember when she had to answer questions on a college questionnaire one of them was about alcohol use – I don’t think there was a place to add in that it was legal where she was, and that she was with her mother.
For our full story, see A Mother Daughter Adventure in Aruba
Chillin’ in Cabo
Reasons to go: Relaxation in an adults-only resort, water activities
We headed to Cabo one year for a stay at the adults-only Pueblo Bonito Pacifica. The resort is gorgeous and we lounged on the beach, went to downtown Cabo where we warded off pushy salesman who offered to find Catherine a boyfriend and participated in my first water aerobics class that definitely worked off some of the chips and guacamole I had inhaled.
I was lucky enough to return to Pueblo Bonito Pacifica recently, but this time without Catherine. See the story: Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Resort: Perfect for Couples, Girlfriend Getaways
This last story may not really qualify as one of our mother daughter getaways, but it was so full of mishaps and misadventures I wanted to share.
Brownie Scouting in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Reasons to go: Chattanooga is a great town, but don’t stay in a trailer park during a tornado
The Girl Scout motto is: Be Prepared. Unless I had been the captain of Noah’s Ark I am not really sure how I could have prepared for that adventure with my daughter as she experienced that most sacred of rituals for a young American girl – the brownie camp out.
(Some may argue that ours was not a true camp out and given the fact that we stayed in cabins, ate every meal out and didn’t even drive by a latrine, they may be right. But we had our tough moments. The coffee I got at McDonald’s in the morning was not up to its usual lawsuit-inducing temperature and the cornbread at Cracker Barrel was not as sweet as I like it. But we managed.)
We attended a Girl Scout event called Bridgefest, which consisted of marching across the pedestrian bridge in Chattanooga, Tennessee, while dancing and singing to “YMCA” and posing with a mascot dressed as a Krystal hamburger, then enjoying a Surge Cola and a Moon Pie in a tent near the Tennessee Aquarium as a man dressed as a fish hovered nearby twitching his gills.
We started our camp out on Friday afternoon. The four girls assigned to me amused themselves during the drive by making up stories, their content a combination of “E.T.” meets “Little House on the Prairie,” mixed in with “Goosebumps.”
We knew we had arrived at our destination when we saw Yogi Bear waving at us from I-75. The Jellystone Campground is basically a trailer park with a few cabins. As we stopped to check in, one of the leaders said, “Hey Jan, I just heard there is a tornado warning.” My mind raced: Tornado. Trailer Park. Knowing the ability of one to attract the other, it did not take me long to realize that this was not a good situation.
The cabins were nice and we even had electricity, although if we hadn’t we could have still seen from the lights of the cars passing on 1-75, which was approximately 87 feet behind us. After getting settled, which involved the girls opening up their bags, throwing everything on the floor, climbing in their bunks and shrieking until I chased all the bugs out with a broom, we headed out for pizza, then to an IMAX movie in downtown Chattanooga.
The movie was about ocean life, and was in 3-D. It was way cool. We got to wear big plastic glasses and the girls waved their arms in front of them, trying to grab the fish that looked like they were swimming right at us. Fortunately they didn’t ask any questions about the squid orgy that was portrayed so vividly.
When we came out of the theater, we met the deluge. The worst thunderstorm I had ever experienced. I drove back on an unfamiliar highway, that was undergoing construction, with five brownies, one brownie leader and one windshield wiper that decided at that point to quit.
While trying to chat casually with the leader, I was really saying a combination of the Our Father and the Girl Scout promise, which went something like this: “Our Father, who art in heaven, get me out of this storm and on my honor I will try to do my best to do anything you want, especially for those at home, even if that includes being the Bible School snack coordinator again.”
When we finally made it back, I sent the girls into the cabin to grab their toothbrushes, and we drove through the field that had become a swamp, to go to the bathroom. (See, we were roughing it.)
After a night of thunderstorms, worthy in their intensity of the midnight storm scene in “King Lear” we awoke to a gray but dry day, and my car had sunk only halfway into the mud. We drove into Chattanooga for Bridgefest and afterwards the troops gathered for refreshments and an Olympic-style pin-trading frenzy.
Scouts had taken scraps of pipe cleaners, felt, yarn and other materials and transformed them into totally awesome pins such as milk shakes, campfires, ladybugs and caterpillars. My favorite was the S’more, with felt for the chocolate and graham cracker and a cotton ball for the marshmallow, made by Troop 345 from Fairdale, KY.
So maybe our camp out was a little different from the ones I experienced as a child: no sailor hats dropped down latrines, no bears eating our food and no night so cold that my mother wrapped my sleeping bag in plastic wrap in a futile attempt to keep me warm so that I felt like a giant refrigerated leftover.
But I did experience the joy of the simple pleasures in life: given the tornado forecast, the simple gratitude of waking up in the same spot on the earth where I went to sleep; the warm feeling we got each time we passed by the smiling figure of Yogi Bear, his plastic arm raised in a permanent wave; and that special rush that you can only achieve from the combination of a Surge Cola and a Moon Pie.
(This story was originally publishing in my book, Just A Stage)
It’s funny – I didn’t realize just how many fun mother daughter trips we had taken until I wrote this story. And my hope is for many more!
On our Wish List for Mother Daughter Getaways
Here are more of our trip ideas for mother and daughter trips.
Charleston, South Carolina
Catherine’s bachelorette party was in nearby Foley Beach and we had dinner one night in Charleston. Yes, I was invited and took my college roommate Judy with me. We left after dinner so the girls could enjoy bacheloretting on their own.
We’d love to return and wander around the city more, along with shopping on King Street.
Palm Springs, California
I’m intrigued by the mid-century architecture, palm trees and gorgeous landscape of this desert oasis.
New Orleans Louisiana
We took the kids here when they were little, but as one of our mother daughter getaways, it would involve seeing some grown-up sites and taking a bike tour of the Garden District.
When we took a family trip to Montana, Catherine insisted we visit Glacier National Park and it was the best day of our trip. We vowed to visit more.
California wine tasting
We could start with a mother daughter weekend trip in San Francisco and visit Napa Valley, Sonoma, Russian River, Santa Barbara – so many choices!
I hope you feel inspired with all of our mother daughter vacation ideas and are ready to start planning your own. Share yours with us – we are always looking for fun mother daughter trip ideas!
– Jan Schroder, Editor-in-chief