Looking for a fun easy, and inexpensive date night? How about a date night that doesn’t require a babysitter? Consider one of these options to enjoy time with your partner without footing the bill of a babysitter.
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I initially wrote this post back in November of 2015 (and have significantly updated it since then). Oh… how the world has changed. After living through nearly two years of some level of travel and leisure restrictions, creating a date night at home without a babysitter doesn’t seem so far-fetched. It’s certainly not novel anymore.
Nonetheless, as parents, we all need a break sometimes from the long days at the office (whether that’s a home office, a formal office, or the home for a stay-at-home parent). These days, we just need a break from it all.
Date night proves to be a common “escape.” But for those of us with children, date night (restrictions or not) isn’t always so easy.
Date Night Without Local Babysitters
We lived in downtown Chicago when our boys were young (though we now live in the suburbs of Philadelphia). As you might expect, Chicago is not exactly crawling with affordable teenage babysitters eager to watch our boys for a weekend date night. We didn’t have any family in the area, so any date night always entailed an expensive (albeit awesome) babysitter.
Given our limited options to spend a little time together sans kiddos, we had to get creative about ways to go on “dates” without regularly paying a fortune after covering the date night activity, the babysitter fees, and the cost for the babysitter to park in our downtown parking garage.
10 Date Nights (Or Day Dates) For Parents That Don’t Require A Babysitter
After four years of city living with kids plus two years of pandemic life, here are a few of the “babysitter not required” date night ideas we’ve tried or planned. If you have other ideas, be sure to share them in the comments!
Random Vacation Day Together
If you have vacation or paid time off from work, take a day when the kids are in daycare or at school and you don’t have anything else planned. Vacation days don’t have to be reserved just for traveling.
Every once in a while, M and I take a day off of work to hang out. We exercise together and go out to lunch. We go for hikes. We’ve gone to a movie. We’ve even made some time for a couple of loads of laundry and cooking a nice dinner before we pick up the boys. It’s really quite amazing.
We were telling a childless friend about this type of “date” one day, and he said “Yeah. I call that the weekend.” It gave us a good chuckle because it’s true.
Related Reading: 6 Outdoor Weekday Date Ideas
When our boys were younger and we were still both going in the office for work, M and I had a standing breakfast date on our calendar each Thursday morning. To be totally honest, it got canceled more often than it happened. But having it as a recurring appointment on our work calendars meant we scheduled around it when we could. We made it happen far more often than if we had to initiate each time.
We lived in Chicago at the time, so our breakfast date often happened at a bagel shop or a diner. But you could definitely do this at home after the kids are at daycare or get on the bus to go to school if that works better for you.
At-Home Fitness Date (Morning Or Evening Exercise)
Although not every morning, sometimes M and I set our alarms for an hour earlier than we’d otherwise get up. During this time, we often either exercise or do something entirely for ourselves. When we exercise together, it’s most often as a circuit in our unfinished basement. We have a chance to chat and catch up.
We also recently purchased a Peloton bike, so that’s made it way into our exercise routine more frequently. One of us will ride while the other works out in the area. We still chat a bit, and it’s a nice way to connect while also getting a good sweat in for the day.
It’s not exactly a super romantic and over-the-top endeavor, but it’s really nice to have a chance to hang out without the boys. Not a morning person? Me neither. Try these 10 Tips to Make Early Mornings Work for You.
Massages After the Kids are In Bed
After the little ones are tucked in bed, turn your own home into a fun and romantic space in which to spend time together and give each other massages. Turn down the lights. Light some candles. And listen to a soothing playlist on your favorite music app (Spotify has plenty of relaxing music playlists ready to use).
We have this massage table that we purchased several years ago (and long before I started being more intentional about avoiding Amazon). However, you can also purchase directly from the company’s website, where they have many other tables at a variety of price points.
The massage table is pretty nice, though we don’t use it nearly as often as we could. You definitely don’t need a fancy table though. A blanket on the floor works just fine.
I haven’t tried this Couples Massage course, but I’ve been curious about it for a while. I found it when I was looking for short courses to learn more formal skills about effective massage. It might make a great gift for your partner (because you’d be the most likely benefactor of course).
Dinner and a Movie at Home
When I first shared this post so many years ago, dinner with a movie at home for date night wasn’t unheard of, but it certainly wasn’t the routine activity we think of today. These days, however, some movies don’t even come out in theaters! They just go straight to on-demand viewing options, so filmmakers expect us to watch from the comfort of our couch.
We can do better than scrolling and staring though. Be intentional about your movie night at home. Pick out a good movie you will both enjoy. Make a nice dinner after the kids are in bed. Make a homemade movie snack like flavored popcorn or chocolate-covered popcorn anyone.
Alternatively, you might enjoy an ice cream bar complete with ice cream, hot fudge, and plenty of toppings. Whatever you do, make it a bit more special than your average evening sitting next to each other on the couch watching routine shows.
Remember in high school when you watched a movie in the basement with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Channel that inner teenager and enjoy the date without wondering if your parents are going to creep down the stairs and check on you.
Another option to consider after the kiddos are asleep, share a fun dessert together. Try fondue in your kitchen. Or maybe you can share a slice of tasty pie that you made ahead of the evening just for fun.
Sometimes though, M and I just whip up a batch of boxed brownies. It isn’t anything fancy, but we get to enjoy some chocolate deliciousness together without interruption from the boy for about $4. I’ll take it!
S’mores Over a Fire Pit
If you have a fire pit in your yard or on your patio, put the kids to sleep and enjoy a sweet treat together under the moonlight and the glow of flames. Bring the baby monitor outside with you if your children are younger, or just check on them periodically if you ditched your baby monitor the second you no longer needed it (like we did).
Workout Class at the Gym Together
If your gym has childcare, take advantage. After sending kids to school or daycare all day, I sometimes feel guilty shipping the boys off to yet another outsourced parent. But I also think they like the change of pace, the new toys, and the big play spaces. Utilize the daycare you’re already paying for via your gym membership and spend some time together while also exercising. Two birds. One stone!
Take Advantage of Naptime
On the weekends, if your kids are still young, bring the baby monitor outside during nap time. Garden together. Play basketball in your driveway. Play a game.
If the weather isn’t cooperating, do a quick circuit exercise in your living room. M and I occasionally used a TRX Suspension trainer to complete short yet effective workouts in our apartment. We still use it on occasion, though we have more space in our current house for a variety of fitness activities.
Maybe you have a favorite card game or board game you enjoy playing. M thinks he’s unbeatable at Boggle. While I always require a few rounds to warm up, I have beaten him a time or two. He didn’t take it too well, but we’re still married, so… we’re good.
Here are a few of our favorite family board games and card games.
Phone a Friend For Free Babysitting
If the kids are older, coordinate for your children to be at a friend’s house for the evening, maybe even for a sleepover. If you’re feeling a little guilty, you can always return the favor. Once the kids are off the books, the options are endless.
Play During Practice
While most of us want to watch our kids play in actual sports games or participate in recitals, we could probably afford to miss a practice or two. If your kids are at practice for an extracurricular event, silently thank their coaches for being free babysitters and spend some time with your spouse. You could go for a run, grab a coffee, or just take a walk around the park together.
Online Cooking Class
I love that cooking classes not only are fun and result in a good meal but also leave you with some good skills to use in your kitchen going forward. Instead of visiting a cooking school, consider an online cooking or baking class to do together.
The Dress Code
Did you know this blog originally started as a fashion blog? True story.
I’ve since deleted most (but not all) of the fashion posts. In truth, I wish I’d just left them to live on the Internet. I was never a style maven, but I kind of wish I could go back to them now. Alas, I deleted them and they are gone.
That being said, when I initially wrote this post, I shared some of my favorite outfits of the time to wear on a date night. I actually think some of them are still pretty appropriate, relevant, and current. Others – not so much – but I’ve left for posterity and your enjoyment. Ha.
For date nights at home, feel free to wear something fun and fancy or don the athleisure. Do what makes you feel best!
Now you’re all set! Go plan that simple date and enjoy a good time together.
Got any more ideas for ‘no sitter required’ dates? I’d love to hear them. Leave them in the comments!
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Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and an advocate for sustainable living for modern families. In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.
You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.