, by Marie LeRose -- Mothers with multiple children know the juggling and the angst of finding meaningful time in your day or even during the week to bond with just one child at a time. With the back-to-school routine in place, that challenge becomes even harder, as “quality” time means helping with homework and driving the constant carpool to practices and play dates. Conversations focus around what to pack in the dreaded lunchbox or why we can’t eat pizza every night for dinner.

So with my oldest daughter starting high school this fall, I thought we needed a quick weekend away to reconnect, forge an alliance, and hopefully delay the inevitable “I hate my mother” stage.  Obviously planning a great mother-daughter weekend has endless options, and will vary depending on the age of your daughter and your shared passions, but with these tips in mind, you can plan an easy getaway:

1. Budget – a weekend getaway does not have to break the bank, take into consideration the cost of a flight, and whether it is less hassle and more economical to drive or can you take advantage of the weekend airfares offered by most airline carriers.

2. Location – consider exploring a city or location that neither you nor your daughter has visited before.  Look for locations that have access to a variety of activities – from museums, interesting classes, outdoor adventures…and the always necessary shopping!

3. Lodging – leverage the Internet and travel websites to look for local, unique lodging options in that city.  For a special weekend like this…it is a treat to break away from the usual “chain” hotels, and find a deal at one of the local properties.

4. Transportation – choosing the right location might mean you have access to public transportation, and don’t even need to worry about renting a car, and navigating a city with a daughter who is not yet skilled in reading a map.  Don’t forget this is supposed to be a bonding weekend….stressing over directions and map reading skills could put an early damper on the weekend!

So taking those considerations in mind, we chose Salt Lake City, Utah.  Why?  Quick direct flight from San Diego, a city we both have flown through innumerable times and zoomed by on our way to family ski trips but never once considered it as a vacation destination.  The airport is minutes from downtown Salt Lake City, so no need for a car and the TRAX train allows passengers to ride free throughout the downtown Free Fare zone.

Normally my daughter and I travel to soccer tournaments where we stay at a hotel off the freeway that will accept my loyalty points or offers free waffles for breakfast, this time I wanted it to be different.  My daughters eyes lit up as we pulled up to the front of The Grand America Hotel, a landmark in the city built to welcome the world to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Turns out, The Grand America Hotel offers many special value packages throughout the year. If you’re traveling with little ones? The hotel’s Families First program offers some useful amenities as well as a welcome gift of balloons and a package of JouJou chocolates. Cribs, rockers, bottle warmers, diaper genies and strollers can be delivered upon arrival free of charge.

We had lunch by the pool at The Garden Cafe, and then I surprised her with a massage at The Grand Spa.  Obviously, most of us never had a massage when we were a young teen, but hanging out in spa robes, reading magazines and lounging in the sauna, allowed us to start our bonding weekend.  And if you have younger daughters, they will never want to leave JouJou, the over-the-top toy boutique, which offers book readings, jewelry making classes and vintage-inspired candy and toys.  The hotel even offers a Princess Getaway package to celebrate a birthday or special event with your daughter.

Friday we decided to play tourist, and hopped on the new Big Bus Utah Sightseeing Tour, which is an open-air bus tour like the red double-decker buses in London.  The bus took us around the city’s main attractions including the brand-new Natural History Museum, the Utah Hogle Zoo, the Clark Planetarium, and Temple Square, world headquarters of the Mormon church, and the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  You can hop on and off the buses at any of the 19 stops, which allowed us to quickly see the sights at our own pace.

And as with most teenage girls, a few hours of sightseeing is enjoyable, as long as the next “attraction” involves trying on clothes.  We hopped on TRAX, the free light rail train that has a stop right outside the hotel, and headed to Salt Lake City’s newest attraction for serious shoppers, the City Creek Center.  This open air shopping center, designed using recycled materials, is the only mall that opened in the entire country in 2012, and even has animal tracks scattered throughout the mall, to have families learn more about native Utah animals. If you’re looking for a bite nearby, check out the Blue Iguana for some authentic Mexican food.

Salt Lake City is a gateway for outdoor enthusiasts – in 30 minutes you can be in Park City for summer hiking, biking, and horseback riding, or hitting the base of the mountain to ride the chairlifts or brave the Alpine Coaster or zip lines.  In the winter, there are eight world class ski resorts within an hour’s drive of The Grand America Hotel.   We chose to head to Park City, where we had a slightly friendly, fairly competitive battle at Jupiter Bowl, a luxury bowling entertainment center, with 16 lanes of bowling and a full service restaurant, billiards and an arcade.  Then we took in the Flying Ace All Stars Freestyle Pool Show at Utah’s Olympic Park.

And after all the fresh-air of the mountains, we wound down our day in the lobby of the hotel with their traditional Afternoon Tea.  We felt as if we had stepped into a grand European hotel, sipping our tea and eating our scones.  It is crazy that a simple cup of tea can make you feel thousands of miles away from home and the chaotic days of sports and schedules.

So did we bond and did we have precious one-on-one time and meaningful conversations? Absolutely!  Do I think she will still go through the stage of hating her mother in another month or two….undoubtedly.  But it might give us another excuse to plan another mother daughter weekend away.