This is the question all parents face at some point – “Can I REALLY travel without kids”. It stared us in the face right around the 5th month of my first pregnancy. While running around San Antonio one month, and New York City the next, we suddenly realized how much our lives were about to change. As we saw parents getting on the Subway with strollers and carseats, and heard newborns screaming on the plane, our future travel plans suddenly seemed far more difficult.
We made a goal then and there to always make travel a priority – both with our future children and without.
Being on the other side, with 2 1/2 kids, we have happily discovered that traveling without kids is not only possible, but worth it on every level. It might feel stressful and overwhelming to pull it off. But that moment you take off the runway, you will feel the full thrill of having one on one time again with your best friend.
“Is It Possible For My Family to Pull This Off?”
I’ve already answered the original question. Yes, yes you really can travel without your kids. It’s possible, it’s doable, and it’s worth it.
BUT, every family situation is super different. I would be lying if I said it will always be super easy or super cheap.
Child care is always a trick, and we have been spoiled with a Grandma who is willing and able to take care of our kids. It makes the transition about as easy and natural as possible – I mean look at the picture above. Henry has literally never looked happier…so much for separation anxiety!
This isn’t always the case for everyone, and we imagine there will be many times we want to travel where we need to find other solutions.
For example, last year we went on a trip with Ryan’s parents. Our perfect child care was coming on vacation with us, which meant we needed to find another solution. We found a willing sister, who we could make a “trade” with to babysit her kids at a future date. This is a great option, and a great way to save some money as well. Your sitter will be great with your kids, and love the prospect of their own trip down the road!
(Pro Tip: Try to make it worth their while, even if it is a trade and they are family. Taking advantage of family is never a great option, so find a unique way to thank them so they know how much you appreciate what they are doing for you).
If you don’t have family or close friends who can help or make a trade, I’d start looking for someone you can pay. Talk to neighbors, friends and family to see who they have used and trusted in the past. You’ll be surprised by the options that come up. You may be paying for it, but it’s definitely a valuable additional cost to your trip. Even if you can’t swing it as often, I’d recommend making a goal to make this happen at some point – even if it’s your 10th or 15th anniversary. If you slowly save up for it, the extra cost won’t seem as impossible to cover.
Prepare to Feel Stress
To be honest, I don’t know if it’s more stressful to take kids on your trip or to leave them home. Some of these stresses – other than finding childcare – I’ll touch on below. They include planning and prepping meals, getting your will in order, packing for your kids, or cleaning your home.
The work that goes into pulling this off will always make you wonder if you should have just brought your kids along!
My first time leaving my kids with my sister-in-law I drove up to Utah to drop them off, and flew back to Las Vegas the same night to catch our flight out. After being told for weeks by so many voices that I could never pull this off, and I seriously started to doubt myself. I almost cancelled a million times. I honestly felt like there was no way it would be worth it in the end.
But, it happened. I made the drive alone, and my two young kids did great! They were happy and content in their new temporary environment. I made my flights, and then got to enjoy an entire week of ease and bliss. I love my kids – more than anything – but there comes a point when you forget how easy going to the grocery store used to be. Or eating lunch without grabbing hands.
Trust me…traveling without your kids will make you grateful for the smallest things. The stress will be worth it.
“Will My Kids Suffer Without Me There?”
And statistically speaking, leaving your child with another caretaker is completely safe. Of all criminal offenses against children under the age of 6, only 4.2% happen by a babysitter.
Parents almost always experience stress and worry when leaving their kids. But, if you are leaving your kids for several days, feel confident that you are getting nothing but the best caretaker you can find. You will know the person you are leaving your kids with very well. Trust them as you leave your kids in their hands. They will be well cared for and well loved.
To be honest – in my experience – my kids have way more fun with the babysitter than with me. They tend to go all out to make the most of their time, and chances are that your kids are having the time of their lives.
“Will My Kids Be Terrors Without Me?”
You may be concerned about how your child will react to your being gone. Whoever is watching your kids is doing you a huge favor. The last thing you want is your kids screaming all day, every day while you are away.
The truth is, almost all kids behave better for adults other than their parents. This might feel a little frustrating on a daily basis, but when it comes to heading out of town, it’s the greatest gift.
After warning and warning my mother in law of my kids’ typical tantrums and constant whining, I heard nothing but praise of my children. Mind you – this is from a Grandma’s perspective, who tends to see nothing but the best. But, after pressing her, I was convinced that while there may have been some mild poor behavior, my kids do seem to act better with her than with me. This is normal and to be expected, so go with it! Your children probably won’t be terrors while you are away, which is a win.
However, every child is different. Some definitely fit in the category of “when the cat’s away, the mice play.” This is not as likely, but it’s best to warn your babysitter of any bad behavior that you have seen. At least when it happens, they will know what to expect and how to deal with it.
Free Yourself From Guilt
Almost every parent will feel pangs of guilt and hesitation as they leave their children at home. These feelings are normal, and are based in your deep and intense love for your kids. You aren’t the only one wondering if it’s wrong to vacation without your kids.
However, while it is normal to love your kids so much you feel bad leaving them behind, you do not need to feel guilty. Leaving your children behind occasionally is healthy – for all of you! The break offered by time away can be beyond refreshing, and help you to be a better parent than ever! I know that I come back from a trip without my kids aching to be with them. I am far more patient, renewed, and raring to be a better and more loving mom.
Personally, I don’t really feel that guilty leaving my kids at home. I’m convinced that it’s a normal and okay part of parenting. BUT I do feel major guilt for those who are watching my kids. I feel ultra anxious about how my kids will act while I’m gone, and just want it to be as easy as possible.
Something that has helped me feel less guilt in this arena is putting myself in their shoes. I would never say yes to watching kids unless it was something I wanted to do. And once I say yes to something, I’m all in. If I’m watching someone else’s kids I don’t expect them to be perfect. Your caretaker will know that most behavior in children is some level of “normal”, and they can handle it. Trust them and relax – that is the only way to make your experience worthwhile!
Here’s How You Are Going to Make it Happen
I’m going to lay out some basic steps of how we planned and prepared for our week away from our kids. Again, every home and family situation will look different, but here are some things you should be thinking about – hopefully long in advance.
Find a Babysitter
First step. Do not book anything until you have found and confirmed an awesome caretaker for your kids.
I talked about finding a babysitter a couple of times above, so I won’t delve into this too much.
My main advice is start close to home first – family is a great option…if only because you know they already love your kids. And don’t forget to ask others for references. I don’t think I’d ever leave my kids with someone outside of family and friends without a great recommendation.
Once you have a babysitter you can trust, you can relax and move on to the fun part of planning and booking your vacation!
Make a Basic Daily Schedule
I’m obsessed with schedules – just see almost any section of my blog. I love details, and I love making a plan. A schedule for your sitter with the basic daily plans and routines will be more than helpful as they try to enter your life for the time you are gone.
However, don’t go overboard – like I almost always do. If you are trusting someone enough to watch your kids for days at a time, chances are you know they are good with kids and pretty darn smart.
Keep your routine low-key, and flexible. My main goal this last time was to note what the kids would care about, put in ideas for things to do during the day, but leave it relatively open and easy-going.
Keep in mind what you would want to know about someone else’s kids if you were the babysitter. Make note of each of those items.
Pay Attention to Your Kids’ Quirks
Being with our kids every single hour of every single day can make it easy to get used to who they are and those weird/unique things they do.
Try to remember that your babysitter doesn’t know these quirks. Note these and add them to a notes section on your schedule. It can be just a brief note and explanation, but you don’t want them caught off guard – babysitter or your child.
What is it that causes your child to melt down? My 3 year old little boy wants to read the same exact books every night before bed. Don’t leave the guesswork to the babysitter. Throw in a warning so they can avoid the fight before it starts.
Plan and Prepare Some Meals
If your babysitter is coming to your house (almost always ideal), plan and prepare some meals.
We had Grandma coming to watch our kids. She is literally the best cook, and I know she was more than capable of preparing meals while we were gone. But, I personally, don’t love cooking with two toddlers running around my feet. I’m always sad I can’t be hanging out with them instead. I wanted this to be a fun time for her and my kids. Preparing some meals was one thing that I could do ahead of time to save her some stress.
The week before I I left, I made two different meals (enchiladas and lasagna). I simply doubled the recipes and stuck one pan of each in the freezer. I also made a pot of soup the day before we left, as an easy meal to pull out. Knowing these were large dinners, it accounted for most of the week with hardly any extra prep work on my end.
Whoever is watching your kids, even if you are paying them, is doing you a huge favor. In my mind, they deserve all they help they can get to have a fun, rather than stressful, experience.
Stock the Fridge and Pantry
Make sure to do a grocery trip ahead of time and have all of the staple food items, as well as some fun treats. Think of your babysitter and what they might like to have around while they are there. Make it fun and enticing for them to come, and enjoyable in the evenings and nap times.
Make sure you leave some extra cash for groceries you may have forgotten, or fresh food that will need to be replenished.
Leave an Emergency Contact List
Think of a couple of people in your neighborhood who could be contacted in an emergency. Make sure you have multiple, so that your babysitter can reach anyone in a pinch.
Take the Time To Make/Update Your Will
This may feel like a morbid topic, but it is so important to think about before you and your husband both leave. Having your affairs set in order in case something happens will have everyone sleeping better at night.
Make sure to figure out who will take your children if you both die, how they will access money, and move forward. Sadly, things happen. It’s unlikely, but once you hear one story, you can’t ever forget it. The best thing you can do is to be prepared.
“What Have We Been Waiting For?!”
So, start planning! It’s time to take the trip of a lifetime. The sooner you plan, the sooner you can enjoy a vacation with practical zero stress. You will be amazed by the little things that you’ve forgotten about.
Holding your husbands hand, instead of a wiggling toddler.
Laying by the pool with no noise whatsoever.
Looking into each other’s eyes across the dinner table, instead of shushing a baby.
Talking for hours on end, and having the time and energy to make goals and plans again!
Seeing something new together, and talking the whole time about how much your kids would love it if they were there. (And feeling grateful the whole time that you aren’t worried about them drowning in the ocean).
Traveling with my husband has been one of life’s greatest experiences. I’m so grateful it is something that he prioritizes. It brings us so many memories, and ties our past and our future together. I wouldn’t have our life any other way. And as fun and worthwhile as it is to travel with your kids (which we will talk plenty about) take time to travel and reconnect as a couple. You will never regret those moments you have together, and you will never appreciate your children more than the moment you arrive back home.
What are some ways you decrease the stress of leaving your kids behind? How has your family made this a reality? If you haven’t gone yet, what has been holding you back?
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