Whether it’s a work trip or an adult get-away; the first trip for parents traveling away from the kids is filled with anxiety, fear, and dare I say it, excitement! We love traveling with our kids but we were travel-loving adults before the kids came along, too. And once in a while its quite enjoyable to take an adult-only adventure. For tips on how to prepare yourself or your kids, read on, we are here to do this together.
Our Experience traveling without the kids
Mike has had a dozen work trips since the kids were born from a 3-day conference in Seattle to a 19-day trip to Asia with everything in-between. While we have leveraged many of his travels into family trips. Sometimes it just isn’t feasible with timing, money, or his schedule.
My first trip away from my oldest kiddo he was almost two and I was 7 months pregnant. I LOVED having time to spread out in a king bed, use the shower, order room service, and eat a cheeseburger alone. I also cried myself to sleep because I missed him so much and he cried through our Skype session begging me to come home.
The next work trip a year later he was older and wiser and hardly missed me at all, truly. Fast forward, this fall we celebrated Mike’s 40th birthday. He chose a week-long backpacking trip along the Yellowstone River with REI. We had the best time and the kids loved their time with Nana.
All this to say, we don’t do it all the time, but we’ve done it, we think it’s important, and you can do it, too!
Taking care of yourself is not selfish. Giving your partner, grandma or an auntie special time with your kids is such a gift for everyone involved. Getting time away with your partner or your friends to recharge and have fun is important! So get out there and enjoy yourself, but first, there is some planning to do. Planning that will move your emotional needle about this trip from anxiety to excitement.
Best Time to Travel Without the Kids
There is no magical waiting period or age to determine when the timing is right to leave the kids behind for an adults-only trip. Our oldest kid really struggled with separation and parent travel until he turned 3, our middle didn’t start to have any separation struggles until he turned 3. Each kid and scenario will be unique.
And can you travel without your breastfeeding baby? You sure can. I had the opportunity to take two trips before our third kiddos first birthday. And while there are additional logistical considerations, it is totally possible on all fronts. LeAnna over at the Economical Excursionists has a super helpful and detailed post on traveling without your breastfed baby.
Spend some time to weigh all of your support available, destination options and timelines and pick the scenario in which you feel more excited about the trip than you anxious about leaving the kids. Keep reading for more tips to ensure things go as smooth as possible so you can have the best time on your trip.
Prepare Your Kids
We start talking about any trip a few weeks before we go. As the kids get older you can push the time before you tell them back farther. You know your kids, balance timing to ensure they can begin to prepare and ask questions, but not so much time that you have months of building anxiety. We read books about the location, locate it on a map, and they help with packing and shopping preparations. We have a light-up globe in their room that we use to show them where we are going and how far it is from NYC. That he can ‘touch’ our location and trace the distance seems to be a nice comfort for our middle and very tactile kid when we are gone.
A few days before the departure, I make a calendar with the big events including the return date. The kids can cross off each day and know what to look forward to. I also try to plug in a few fun distractions that are special i.e. trips to a museum, playdates, etc. while ensuring we keep their routine and schedule generally stable.
Prepare Your Caregivers
When one parent is traveling solo we ensure we pull in some additional resources on the homefront. From some evening extra help to scheduling a few playdate and meal-prep. We try to ensure the parent home isn’t left without some additional support in place.
When we are both traveling we have a bit more work in front of us.
With a non-parent caregiver, it is important to communicate early about expectations on both sides. Will you be able to relax and enjoy yourself more if you can get updates throughout the day or only consulted for questions and concerns? Will Nana feel comfortable taking kids across town for a birthday party?
I am an over-planner and leave a very detailed “guide” on all the things the kids and caregivers will need for even a short date-night. But also build it with your caregiver in mind, and feel free to collaborate with them on it a bit. When our former nanny watched them for 48 hours I left very little additional info outside of our itinerary. When Nana came to town for our most recent trip it was the big one, a 12-page manual. She feels more comfortable with specific details and reference points, plus we were going to be unreachable for 3 of 5 days and it had been a while since we were both traveling without the kids.
A template of page headers can be found below:
1- Kids Overview and Important Contacts
Address/ Parents #s/ Kids Full Names + DOB
Insurance Info/Pediatrician Details/ Dentist Details/ Poison Control #
Kids School Address + #
2- Adults Itinerary
Flight and travel details, our kids love watching our flights on the flight tracker apps! Especially on the return home.
3- Kids Schedule
When managing the logistics of three little ones + school + homework + meals having an hourly breakdown was really helpful for Nana.
4. School Pick-Up and Drop-Off Details
Maybe it’s our school, maybe its NYC but the pick-up and drop/off schedules are bananas and require an entire page of explanation.
5- Parks, Playgrounds, and Entertainment
Which ones have clean bathrooms/ swings for the baby, etc.
6- Routine Details and Quick Tips
Copy of the boy’s morning check-list they follow to get ready, Epipen instructions, sleep routine reminders, TV instructions (screen time rules are out the window when Nana is flying solo!)
7- Menu and Meals
We menu plan for the week and grocery shop on the weekends, it is no different when one or both of us are traveling. On our most recent trip, Nana really appreciated having a plan and everything ready to go. My kids know the menu in advance, usually, they helped create it. This cuts way down on arguments about what’s for dinner and makes light work for Nana after a long day of running them to and from their activities.
8- Emergency Instructions
How to get to the doctor/ER, who to call during what times, etc. + consent for medical care form.
Our kids love Skype and FaceTime with relatives and we work out a video chat schedule ahead of time. This is W helpful for longer trips or when there is a significant time difference that would make impulse calls less possible. But be ready to rework this plan. At 21 months, Skype was making our oldest more sad to see daddy. After our second tear-filled and soul-crushing call, we decided to forego Skype the remaining days of the trip. The lack of video communication was much harder on daddy than Linc.
Notes and Presents
I leave the kids a pre-written note and present for each night I am gone, something to look forward to opening and reminders about what I did that day or would be doing the next day. Some nights it’s a small piece of candy sometimes it’s a larger gift. In the summer months, a small box of sidewalk chalk, bubbles, etc. in winter I have done yo–yos, stickers, and new books related to the destination.
Welcome Home Banners and Projects
Mike traveled quite a bit when the first two were small. On his 2+ weeks trips especially we build a project around the welcome home banner. Breaking it into a multi-day craft project and helping us countdown the days until he was home.
Prepare for a welcome home (and it might not be so welcoming)
This is the crappy part to share about traveling without the kids. Your kiddo, especially younger babies may not welcome you back with open arms. Give them some space and time and follow their queues, they will come around.
Whenever Mike traveled the first few years, Lincoln always needed a few minutes or hours to re-warm up to him. And that time can be brutal. When I returned from our week-long Yellowstone adventure, I was prepared but also stunned when 10-month-old baby Zeke didn’t want me to hold him. He wanted his Nana who had been his constant companion for the week. By bedtime, he was glued to me, head on my shoulder, and back to being my super attached sidekick.
Have a great trip, enjoy yourself (selves)!