Traveling with Just One Child-The Mommy and Me 10 Year Old Birthday Trips

Traveling with Just One Child-The Mommy and Me 10 Year Old Birthday Trips

Blue Hawaiian Helicopter

OMG we are going up in a helicopter!!

Long before I was Luxury Travel Mom, I started the 10 Year Old Birthday Trip tradition.

In a stroke of brilliance I decided that if I was taking a child on their once in a lifetime excursion, I wasn’t just doing it for me, I was being a great mom.

What started out as a boondoggle (if I’m being honest), has turned in to something more meaningful than I ever anticipated. I wish I could say I had consulted child psychologists and Harvard admissions counselors, but 10 was dumb luck and it’s been perfect.

Why ten is a great age

  • They are young enough to take out of school without ruining their pre-college GPA.
  • They still think you know everything.
  • They are old enough to remember it forever.

So now, each of my children gets to go wherever they want when they turn ten. Yes, I am accepting adoption applications.

How to take them out of school

  • Tell the school, don’t ask. This is educational and no it can’t be done during break.
  • Actually make it educational (JJ’s trip to Rwanda is likely what got him IN to his private school, they made him an offer during his interview).
  • Take their work with you and carve an hour out of every day to do it so they don’t fall behind.

My best advice

  • Record every moment, video, photo, have them keep a diary. 
  • Don’t feel guilty. Your other children and spouse will survive, despite what they say.
  • Plan, plan, plan. Include your child in the planning.

Wilson in Hawaii

Green Sea Turtles Big Island

Chance of a lifetime

Wilson chose Hawaii, but I fell in love.

We have communed with green sea turtles (the oldest creature on earth), swam with dolphins in the open sea, helicoptered over a volcano and waterfalls, and still have surfing lessons and Pearl Harbor waiting for us.

Our first day on the Big Island Wilson said “Mom, isn’t it great how we make each other’s dreams come true?”

While writing a story about bucket list travel I remembered how as a little girl I would call Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays and ask them to send me brochures. My parents couldn’t even afford to send me to the public swimming pool on Wednesdays, but I dreamed of Hawaii and squirreled away pamphlets under my canopy bed.

When we arrived at the Four Seasons in Haulalai and they put a lei around my neck, I found myself in tears. I hadn’t realized how much this trip meant to me too, but I think Wilson did.

Four Seasons Big Island

Wilson picks flowers for my hair every day


We swam in the “secret waterfall” shortly after this pic was taken.

Macie in Paris

Luxury Travel Mom

Mon Cheri

Luxury Travel Mom

Ok, we ate a LOT in Paris.

On our first day in Paris, Macie said “Mom, the food is so much better here, and the shoes are cuter.” I have never been more proud. Really, we could have flown home right then, my job was done.

Her voice will never sound like this again, she doesn’t call me “mommy” anymore and neither of us will ever forget the day we spent at La Fete des Tuilieries (a summer carnival, but fabulously Parisian).

JJ in Rwanda

Luxury Travel Mom

No one has ever been this excited to see me before

Very few people have had the opportunity that JJ did when we visited Rwanda. First of all, he went to Rwanda, which is perfectly safe by the way. Ask him, he can explain their benevolent dictatorship form of government to you. He visited Partners in Health hospitals, learned to diagnose malaria, met the children we sponsor through World Vision, shopped in a local market and took a safari tour through the Akagera Game Park.

Luxury Travel Mom

Can you see them sizing him up? (also, this is our hotel, NOT the game park)

Shortly after this photo was taken, one of the baboons (likely the shifty looking one in the back) climbed IN to our car to steal my gluten free cereal. He climbed OVER JJ on his way in, and then back out. JJ had his best cocktail party story at 10.

Keaton ??


So where does Keaton, whose life is pretty much one big bucket list trip, want to go when he turns ten?

Space, of course. No sibling rivalry there. So watch your back Lance Bass.

Wilson and I are being hosted by the Four Seasons as I am writing a story for their magazine about educational Hawaii. None of our other trips were in any way sponsored, unless you count Jeff Evans, and he does.




Baby maker, risk taker, shoe lover, world saver, travel freak.

  • Love this –for so many reasons.I especially love that each of your children have wanted to experience such difference experiences- that speaks so much to how you have empowered them to be individuals. (also- can we make turning 40 the new 10? Just saying) 🙂

    October 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm
  • This is a fantastic idea…I wish I had thought of it when my children were little.

    October 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm
  • Seriously what an awesome idea. You are the most awesome mom ever. 🙂

    October 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm
  • Catherine

    I love how each of your children choose such unique, special spots that will live on in their memories forever. Way to go super-fun-Mom! Here’s to creating more travel memories…

    October 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm
  • Such great memories. I may start the same tradition. 🙂

    October 17, 2013 at 2:32 pm
  • Absolutely brilliant! What a wonderful trip for just the two of you! Travel is the best education ever, just getting out into the world and letting them see so many amazing and beautiful places opens their minds more than a day in the classroom could. Happy birthday to Wilson : )

    October 17, 2013 at 3:01 pm
  • Love the video of you clutching your bag on the slide. 🙂

    I have a friend here who has done the 10-year-old trip with his daughters (yep, it’s a dad). They’ve gone to Paris, Italy and London. I think mom gets to take the girls when they are 14 or 16….

    October 17, 2013 at 3:57 pm
  • You are such a great mom. Thanks for the idea. I think I’ll have to start it with my kids… I have some time before they turn 10.


    October 18, 2013 at 12:08 am
  • Meisha Lawson

    I love it! My dad did 13 with us. I chose New York City and the Plaza Hotel. Maybe I should have dreamed bigger, but for a girl in MS, it was quite the experience. And yes, I still remember every bit of it 20 years later.

    October 18, 2013 at 3:45 pm
  • Tamala Prickett

    I started a 10 yr old birthday trip for my kids two years ago of all the same reasons! Evelyn chose NYC and I wrote about it on my blog. Next year is Claire’s 10th, and she wants to cruise through the Mediterranean 🙂 Have a wonderful time in Hawaii ! It is also on my bucket list.

    October 18, 2013 at 5:45 pm
  • @mrsoaroundworld

    I want you to adopt me and take me on a solo trip on my next birthday (multiple of 10)

    October 27, 2013 at 9:11 am
  • I absolutely loved following your adventure in Hawaii, and I love the idea of a birthday trip at age ten. I taught 5th grade for a few years, and really, ten is the perfect age, especially for something like this. I know a lot of teachers who get frustrated when kids are taken out of school, but for trips that can have a life-changing affect on the kid, I think it’s better than having them in school. What an amazing opportunity and a fun way for you two to bond!

    October 27, 2013 at 9:39 pm
  • What a great idea, especially for families with multiple children. Right now, we just have one, who is 7. Whether we stop at one or have more, I think we’ll steal this idea.

    October 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm
  • Stephanie

    Aloha Kim-Marie,

    It was such a pleasure to meet you and your son Wilson here at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Your pictures are fantastic- I especially love the one of Wilson laying beside the ‘Honu’ (turtle, in Hawaiian). I hope we can welcome you back soon, and we look forward to seeing you again.

    Warmest Aloha,

    Stephanie, Concierge

    November 1, 2013 at 10:44 pm
  • Dauna

    We had this idea when our oldest was 5. She will now be 10 this year, but our idea was that it would be a surprise. Our original idea was to do disney as hubby had no desire to go but this year (but I want to go and so do the kids), but he changed his mind and now it is our family vacation for next year. My almost 10 year old’s bucket list of places consists of Jamaica and Greece which are both countries we plan for family vacation. Actually we are doing Jamaica this winter and Greece in two years (hubby and I have been multiple times to both but always without the kids). An opportunity however has come up to go to help run a summer camp in Honduras next summer, so right now I am in the process of working all the details out. My second’s dream vacation is great wolf lodge and my third’s is to go swimming at the pool down the road. :).

    The plan is that hubby take them to Paris for their sweet 16th (we have all girls).

    June 13, 2014 at 12:47 pm
  • Hi
    absolutely love what you’ve done with your kids on these trips. Indeed it does make you a fantastic mom!
    I will be turning 50 in 18 months and my gorgeous good-traveling daughter 15. She and I have planned to take a great trip for that milestone for awhile now – and for awhile we said it would be Maldives (we surf) and then India. I got started planning the trip recently and – well – I didn’t have the usual fun, excitement, passionate response I usually do when I plan a trip. I told her about this and she said she didn’t feel over the top excited about the idea either. I found your blog while seeking ideas of where we actually should go.
    I have taken her throughout Mexico and she’s been to Spain. I on the other hand, have been to and lived in the UK, Australia, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Mexico and Central America and Canada.
    She mentioned being perhaps interested in going to Greece on a Mediterranean trip. I haven’t yet been to Rome, though I have been all over Italy.
    Anything pop to your mind as a good milestone trip to take for mother and daughter. We are willing to go for a longer period – like 3 weeks or more. The Indian trip was going to be 5 weeks. Great blog!

    July 6, 2014 at 7:02 pm
  • Maria Guerrero

    I am planning a very last minute trip with my daughter who will turn 9 on valentine’s day. I want to take her somewhere special to celebrate, her. Where would you recommend on a budget?

    January 10, 2015 at 7:05 pm
  • My son London Rain…. of course wants to travel to London, England. By the time I will be able to afford to take him, he may not want to travel to Europe with Mom. So I’ll keep saving loose change in the meantime. Sounds wonderful!

    April 1, 2016 at 9:58 pm
  • LOVE This! Yes, hard to afford truly as a single mom. But I’m figuring it out. My son just turned 10. Experiences rather than stuff. My goal for us. Wondering where we can go out of the country that we can afford. It does appear that during school is best. The “telling” rather than “asking” scenario..I agree, life is short and a few missed days won’t matter in the end. But my son’s school writes me a letter for just one day unexcused absence..How to pull that off…?

    Safe places and ones that hold his attention..?

    Summer time looks good, but airfares go way up…What’s your budget btw for a trip for two? Wonder what I can expect to pay…

    April 8, 2016 at 6:38 pm
  • Lolita Starling

    Omg! It’s absolutely incredible that I stumbled upon this story. My 9 yr old daughter just said she wanted a mommy/daughter trip for her 10th bday AND she wants to go to Hawaii! I googled 10yr old bday trips and this pops up. It’s great to see the cool things to do in Hawaii. So, the planning starts now! I love this idea! Thanks for posting…

    July 6, 2017 at 10:11 am

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