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The Stress-Free Guide for Traveling Without Kids

Leslie Bruce
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I’m such a hypocrite. As much as I tell mamas the importance of “self-care”—which is fast becoming an overused term worthy of an eye-roll—and how taking time away from your kids is necessary, I often have a hard time following my own advice.

My husband and I had scheduled back-to-back trips, which kept us away from home eight out of the last 12 days. It was our first solo trip since Roman was born, and our first “lazy” vacation alone since before Tallulah. (By lazy, I mean “sit by a pool with no agenda.”) I’m the type of person who doesn’t idle very well, so I knew that having ample down time would cause my mind to spiral.

I often see posts and articles about how to survive traveling with kids (and I’ve even written a few myself), but what I couldn’t really find was how to survive traveling WITHOUT your kids. It sounds nonsensical. After all, do you know how easy it is to navigate an airport with 45 bags, a stroller, and a tyrannical toddler? But take it from me: while the logistics of sleeping arrangements is far less complicated when it doesn’t include a crib and a toddler blow up mattress in a single hotel room, it’s also can be more challenging for you emotionally and mentally (especially if you’re new to it). The guilt is going to be there, that’s inevitable. But you CAN do something about the stress.

So in light of my recent travels, I put together EIGHT tips for surviving a kid-free vacation:

  • Arm your Army. Make sure your caregivers or family know the drill. Leave sleep and eat schedules, bedtime routines (including anything specific, like “Read Pout Pout Fish before bed and make sure he has his bear lovey”), and the information for any activities, camps, etc. the kids will be doing (including locations, times, what he or she needs to wear, what to pack in a bag or backpack, and contact info).
  • Make a Countdown Calendar. This is especially great for older kids. We make a construction paper chain (such an 80’s kid throwback), and every morning Tallulah removes one link. I usually have a small present for her to open each morning. This time I got a box of those super annoying Hatchimal eggs, and told her she could open one a day. (Of course, my parents are weak and let her open them all on the first day.)
  • Meal Prep. This is less for me and more for whoever is watching the kids. I make a big batch of waffles and freeze, put together smoothie packets, and buy a big box of Smucker’s frozen PB&Js. Making things a bit easier for my family or caregiver usually makes things easier for everyone (and gives me peace of mind).
  • Write Letters. This may seem silly, but every time I go on a trip, I write each of my kids a short letter. It’s a tradition I started when Tallulah was still a baby, and now it’s something she looks forward to. I leave it next to their bed (or crib in Roman’s case) and whoever puts them to bed reads it out loud. It can even be as simple as “Mama loves you so much and I can’t wait to see you soon!”
  • Assemble an Emergency Kit. This is usually when normal, rational people veer left—and when I drive straight into doomsday mountain. But, I stand by my lunacy. Smack dab in the middle of our travel, two substantial earthquakes rattled Southern California, and because there’s an earthquake kit in our garage, I didn’t completely unravel.
  • Fill Up Your Cup. What?! Being an adult means we talk a lot about how we have no time to do anything. So…here’s your big chance. Use this time to tackle something on your wish list: reading a new book or listening to a new podcast; get a massage or take a yoga class; learn how to knit or crochet (dear lord, I am an old woman!). You get the drift, right? Whether you’re relaxing by the pool or sitting on an airplane, fill your time with something that “sparks joy.” I got a new calligraphy book just before our trips…and I’m now considering opening an Etsy shop to make wooden signs. (I’m kidding. Sort of.)
  • Avoid FaceTime. This one is hard because you can start missing those little faces the moment you walk out the door. Ask your caregiver or family member to send you photos (many and often!), but I would suggest FaceTiming at your own risk. If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll start sobbing at the sight of you. Not only will you feel horribly guilty, but then whoever is watching them is now having to calm them down.
  • Pick-up Presents. It’s a cheap trick, but it definitely helps offset my own guilt. The kids got a hula doll and Poi the Surf Dog book from HawaiiI, and shirts and maracas from Mexico. (Side note: The maraca is loud and was a better idea in theory).

And, as cliché as it might sound, keep reminding yourself that this is a GOOD thing. It’s good for you; it’s good for your kids. Everyone wins. If all else fails, order yourself a second glass of Sauvie B and watch The Bachelorette (it works every time).

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