You’ve spent hours fine tuning the art of traveling with children. The iPad games, the airplane snacks, how to set up a pack and play, and how to function on four hours of sleep because your kid ended up sleeping in your bed for your entire “vacation”. Finally you get the opportunity you’ve fantasized about, the chance to take a trip with your partner sans kiddos and you’re simultaneously giving your partner a “high five” and crossing your fingers, hoping nothing goes wrong..
Every time we travel without the children I become a crazy mess of emotions. After the initial elation of clicking “purchase” for airplane tickets there comes the guilt, anxiety and endless what ifs. What if we get upgraded to first class and I get to drink champagne and watch all those movies I haven’t had time for? What if the kids don’t eat a single vegetable while I’m gone? To help quell these feelings I remind myself of several things:
- My relationship with my husband needs time without kids. Spending extended time with your partner is the ultimate reset for your relationship. Sharing new experiences, having more energy for intimacy, the random conversations you have over a few rounds of margaritas and seeing each other as you were before you became parents rekindles a closeness that sustains your bond through the tantrums, soccer practices, and stomach flus.
- My leaving allows my children to form valuable bonds with family members. Our children don’t see their grandparents very frequently but every year each set of grandparents watches the kids for a week while my husband I transform into salty surf bums someplace far away. The grandparents come away from it exhausted, obviously because kids are exhausting, but also full of memories from the week and a deeper relationship with the boys.
- A few weeks away is a tiny fraction of the total time I spend with my children. There are 365 days in a year. I’m with them 350 of those days. They’ll be fine without me for those 15 bedtimes I miss.
Now that you’re feeling emotionally better about leaving there’s some practical details to take care of that can make everything go more smoothly while your gone. A little mindful planning and preparation can give you better peace of mind while your gone. Less worrying=more fun.
- Have a will or living trust prepared. In a serious moment of adulting before we left our kids for the first time to go to Thailand we had a trust made. Nobody likes meeting with a lawyer and discussing all the possibilities of death but knowing that there was a plan for our children in the very very very unlikely event that something should go wrong on our trip made everyone, especially family members, feel more comfortable with us leaving. #adulting
- Channel your inner teacher and leave a very detailed “lesson plan”. Leave your travel itinerary, the kids schedule, meal suggestions, kid friendly activities, health info, bedtime procedures, doctors info, and contact info for friends/childcare providers that might be able to help out if needed or answer simple questions. Expect that like most lesson plans some of it will be followed and some of it might be modified..
- Make sure your phone plan allows international calls/texts if going abroad
- Come up with a communication plan. Frequently there’s a pretty dramatic time difference between our paradisiacal beach and home which can be tricky for keeping in touch with the munchkins. Before going we figure out what the time change will be and give the grandparents an approximate idea of when we will be calling. Mornings, mid day, dinner time, whatever seems like it will work best for everyone. It’s also good to give your kids and whoever is watching your kids an idea of how often you plan on being in touch so that nobody panics when it’s been four days and they haven’t heard from you.
- Make sure that whoever is watching your children is authorized to get medical treatment for them. Usually this is just a form that needs to be filled out but it’s important just in case someone gets sick or takes a nasty tumble.
- Allow yourself a healthy amount of disconnection. I know some people like to call their kids every day while their gone but for me that just seems to make the kids miss you more because they’re reminded daily that you’re not there. However, we will make a few short videos with our phones and email them to the grandparents to share with the boys, usually of us doing something funny like jumping off a rock or crammed in the back of a tuk-tuk. The boys like seeing what we’re doing and it gives us something to talk to them about when we get back from our trip.
So now that you’ve taken care of all the necessary pre-travel without kids nitty gritty, savor the time away. Sleep in. Eat a multi course meal. Swear a little. Try something new. Leave behind the diaper bag and leave behind your worries. Just go.