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TAKING THE KIDS

Finding Time for Romance--Even With Baby

March 04, 2001|EILEEN OGINTZ

You lock eyes in the candlelight, over the rims of the wine goblets, and smile. Who is this attractive, interesting stranger?

But wait a second. That's no stranger. That's your spouse. Since the baby arrived, there are so few of those just-us times that you hardly recognize each other. Face it: You're lucky if you get four hours of uninterrupted sleep at a stretch. As much as you crave a romantic interlude, you don't really want to leave the precious darling.

So what's a new parent to do? Pack the black negligee, the romantic CD and the diaper bag.

It's not impossible to manage some romance on a trip with an infant. It takes more planning, although you may not want to travel to an exotic locale because it will be tougher to get good medical care, pediatricians say.

But whether you have a weekend or a week, the good news is that you won't have to sacrifice atmosphere, and you'll get that much-needed R R, no matter how fussy your baby. Choose your dates wisely (ski in March, head to the Caribbean or Arizona in April) to avoid peak season, and you'll even get a bargain.

You shouldn't have to worry about nasty looks when you show up with your infant, either. Even the toniest resorts are trying to ensure that you and your baby are happy.

"We recognize that these new parents are our customers," says spokeswoman Vivian Deuschl of the Ritz-Carlton. "They don't want to give up luxury or convenience because the baby is along. But one thing never changes: They worry whenever they're away from the baby."

That's why Ritz resorts such as those in Florida and on Maui lend new parents beepers or cell phones so the hotel-recommended sitter can reach them instantly. The resorts also provide childproof rooms. Telephone (800) 241-3333, Internet http://www.ritz carlton.com.

The Boca Raton (Fla.) Resort Club has a special baby-food menu, complete with "Sweetie Potato Pie." Tel. (888) 495-BOCA, http://www.bocaresort.com.

Four Seasons Resorts spell out the baby's name in bath sponges, leave special no-tears shampoo in the bathrooms and, for kids of kindergarten age and older, offer a complimentary camp program (which costs more than $50 a day at other resorts). The Four Seasons on the island of Hawaii welcomes tiny guests to a gentle sand-bottomed wading pool equipped with plenty of beach toys. Tel. (800) 332-3442, http://www .fourseasons.com.

When families with young children check in at Westin Resorts, tiny travelers are presented with a spill-proof tippy cup, and their parents are given safety tips and local emergency numbers. Any child-friendly resort will arrange for competent baby-sitters, but the Westin La Paloma in Tucson, Ariz., has organized day care for infants 6 months or older. Tel. (800) WESTIN1 (937-8461), http://www.westin.com.

Smugglers' Notch ski and summer resort in Vermont has a sunny, 7,900-square-foot day-care center that is better equipped than many preschools and offers free day care during certain weeks. Tel. (800) 451-8752, http://www .smuggs.com.

Don't worry about forgetting something. These days, baby-friendly resorts will try to provide everything you need-bottle warmers, jogging strollers, potty seats, extra diapers, playpens, even baby helmets so that the infant can settle into a baby seat for bike trips. A few all-suite resorts, including Windjammer Landing in St. Lucia and the new Pebbles in Jamaica, even include a daily nanny in packages, as well as programs for older children. At Pebbles, two children younger than 16 can stay and eat for free, and until mid-April, a second adult can stay for free.

There are also family packages at Windjammer Landing. Arrange a vacation at Pebbles by calling (888) FDR-KIDS (337-5437), http://www.fdrholidays.com. Windjammer is at (800) 743-9609, http://www.windjammer-landing.com.

"But for romance, pick a place that appeals to grown-ups, not one that is just for kids," suggests Kyle McCarthy, who founded and oversees Family Travel Forum.

You can order comprehensive "Tiny Travelers" issues from Family Travel Forum (http://www.family travelforum.com) for $14. They include additional ideas on where to go and how to get there. Family Travel Network (http://www.familytravel network.com) is another good resource for people traveling with babies. At either site, get feedback from other parents who have been to the places you'd like to visit.

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Taking the Kids appears the first and third week of every month.

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