Mom and Teen Traveling Together

First a mother’s perspective on her and her teenage daughter’s trip and then the daughter’s tip for traveling with your mom.

Paradise Lost: A Mother-Daughter Spring Break

By Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times

ONE of the good things about divorce is that you get to see less of your children.

I didn’t know that this can also be true of mother-daughter bonding getaways in fancy, five-star resorts.

When Emma, a freshman in college, asked me to take her somewhere warm over spring break, I seized the chance to spend time together. We wanted Miami without spring break debauchery and South Beach without fashionista chic. And I knew better than to suggest Canyon Ranch. Once, when I told Emma that the apartment seemed empty without her, she replied, “Are you saying I’m fat?” (She’s not.) In short, we needed a resort with real food, no beer-guzzling college hooligans or European runway models.

A friend mentioned the Fisher Island Hotel and Resort, on a small, highly exclusive private island two miles from South Beach, the kind of place where oligarchs and Oprah Winfrey buy and sell $15 million condos. I was alarmed by the prices but seduced by the descriptions of the 45-room hotel — a seaside Italian villa begun in 1926 by a descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt that has peacocks roaming the property.

I imagined sunrise walks on the beach, giggly mother-daughter spa treatments and intimate candlelit meals during which Emma would lean in and at long last tell me what college was like besides “fine.”

I failed to anticipate that exam-rattled 18-year-olds sleep long past noon and then stay up all night (I get up around 6 and am asleep easily before 10). Nor had I known that embedded in the ethos of this particular private island is a class system that places short-term guests below the salt.

The mother-daughter idyll beneath the palm trees was peaceful, luxurious and almost as though Emma had never left campus in Ohio. In the end it turned into a love-hate relationship that oddly enough mirrored my love-hate relationship with the resort. I loved everything about it, but it didn’t love me back, and that, I hated. It turned out it wasn’t personal.

It’s a long story, so I’ll begin at the bar.

There wasn’t one.

Fisher Island boasts 18 tennis courts, two of them grass, a nine-hole golf course designed by P. B. Dye, 3 swimming pools, 2 deepwater boat marinas, 6 restaurants, a fancy food and wine store, pillow menus, a tropical bird aviary and even a miniature observatory. But when I was there midweek in March there was no place to sit and have a glass of wine.

It goes without saying that any mother traveling with a teenage daughter is at some point going to need a drink. Even a good-enough mother will at least try not to drink too much in front of a college-age child; I needed a bar where I could enjoy a soothing cocktail fast and discreetly.

I tried the beach club first, but lashing winds from the sea battered the outdoor bar and kept away hotel guests and, more important, the bartender. The two restaurants that are attached to the hotel didn’t have separate bar areas, and something advertised as the Sunset Bar, close to the beach and facing the skyline of Miami, was closed the entire time we were there.

I considered driving our golf cart off the villa grounds to the Golf Grill, overlooking the nine-hole course, but that, Emma said primly, would set a bad example of maternal drinking and driving.

The entrance to the Vanderbilt Mansion opens onto a charming, outdoor stone-paved courtyard with large white sofas and armchairs underneath umbrellas that circle a giant banyan tree, imported by the Vanderbilts from India. It’s beautiful, and at dusk the perfect place to have a drink. I sat there many times for long stretches, and no waiter ever came and asked if I wanted anything. I saw no other guests sitting there, let alone over drinks, and I was forced to conclude that it was just a courtyard, one that felt like the world’s loveliest and loneliest bus terminal waiting room.

Read page 2

5 Tips for Traveling With Your Mother

By Emma Specter, The New York Times

1. Sleep will undoubtedly cause some friction. You see it as a necessary and restorative 12 to 14 hours; your mother sees it as a freak biological mutation standing in the way of a nonstop bonding session with her only child. The best time to address this issue is during the brief overlap in awake time the two of you will enjoy between the hours of 3 and 8 p.m.

2. You may be under the impression that, as an 18-year-old legal adult capable of voting for a president and fighting in a war, you are ready to monitor your own sunscreen application without your mother’s input. You are wrong. Your mother will have unearthed the only tube of SPF 150+ ever manufactured in North America, and she will insist on nervously brandishing it at you every 10 minutes. It’s easier not to put up a fight.

3. Don’t be alarmed when, over dinner, your mother stares searchingly into your eyes and murmurs “So how is college, really?” in the soothing yet stern tone of a “Law & Order” detective trying to coax a reluctant witness to talk. She may then divulge some highly disturbing freshman-year tales of her own in a misguided attempt to get you to talk. Don’t fall for it. Just smile politely and eat your pasta.

To read the other 2 tips