When my husband and I met, I was already a single mom. I can count in one hand and less than 3 fingers how many times we have been away alone together. I mean, far away…not just away on date night.
It’s tough and expensive to take a trip without the kids, especially when they were smaller and because we don’t have family near by to take care of them for us.
And even with all the traveling we do, we still just never had a trip for ourselves. So, we decided to bite the bullet, loosen the wallet, be courageous and plan a trip, overseas, just the two of us without the kids in tow.
I am not going to sugar coat it for you. It’s not easy to do the first time around, at least for me it wasn’t. When I travel alone at least I am comforted with the fact that my husband is with the kids at night and available should anything happen. This time we would need to rely on our babysitter Amanda. Also, it’s much harder to do this when the kids are little ones. By this time our boys are 5, 6 and 14, but we definitely had to wait a bit before even considering this option.
Amanda is super sweet and we trust her completely, but we were leaving the country and suddenly the amount of trust needed was even more overwhelming. Of course, I also started to consider all the possible things (often awful) that could happen and though it may sound grim, it really helped us plan and organize so that we had a great contact list in place, made sure we informed all the necessary parties, and had covered all the bases.
Here’s our To-Do list in planning our trip:
It’s good to start talking about the trip, even before you know when you are going to go. Early conversations, where no deadline planning and stress is needed, helps give you time to really think about the details and allows for budgeting expenses, like paying the babysitter for her time if that’s who will be caring for your kids.
Before planning and setting budgets for your trip talk to your caregiver about costs and work out a schedule that is comfortable for everyone involved. Settle on a fair fee, not just a fee you can afford, and be ready to pay a little extra. Don’t ever skimp on your sitter. If you can’t pay a little extra than what they ask for, hold off on the trip until you can.
Let the schools and doctors know that you will be traveling and give them all the information of the person who will be caring for your children. Also find out if any special paperwork is needed to give the caregiver or family member permission to make decisions in case of an emergency. Discuss this very carefully and clearly with the caregiver as well.
Get a will! Never a bad time to be ready for the worse.
Put together a solid list of contacts for the person/people who will care for your children in your absence. Have the conversation with the people you want to put on the list before you do, give them your contact information as well and with all the information on your babysitter if that is who will be caring for your children. Make sure that whomever you put on your list is someone your children know and trust.
Leave all of your contact information where it is easily accessible. Cell phone, email, hotel, dates of travel, dates you will be in any specific hotel/location should be somewhere easily visible and attainable, not just in an email for your babysitter or family member. You want for anyone to reach you should they have to.
Talk to your children about the trip, about who will be taking care of them, and about how long you will be gone. Smaller children may not really grasp the concept of time, but it still helps for them to know if won’t be a couple of hours or a day. If you have older children, involved them in the plan, encourage them to help and be ready to reward them for taking part in helping make all of this possible for you.
Leave all instructions on medications, school schedules, extra curricular activities. Do not plan extra activities for the caregiver to have to worry about in your absence. You want to keep the schedule as flexible as possible so that they can manage it all with ease. If you have just one kid, then it’s easier to manage that schedule. But don’t expect to find someone who will be able (or willing) to manage the juggle in your absence. It might also save you money. So coordinate with the ballet teacher, piano teacher, soccer coach, or whomever else you need to let know to simplify the day in your absence.
Leave the fridge stocked, the house clean, and cash for small purchases. I tend to do this on every trip anyway, but it’s just more manageable for everyone if things are organized and trips to the store aren’t urgently needed while everyone adjusts to the temporary change. And it’s good for your caregiver to have cash handy for snacks and items that might run out while you gone.
Last, but not least, just let go. Eventually we had to. We got on the plane and we were off. We had no choice but to trust our sitter and have confidence that it was all going to be ok.
And it was. We had an incredible time. We bonded even more so as a couple. We shared romantic dinners and walks on the beach. We didn’t worry about the kids, or having to be home at a certain time. We checked in a couple of times a day, but not obsessively and rarely over the phone.
We spent 5 blissful days together on a beautiful tropical island without the kids anywhere near us and we loved it. By the evening of day 5 we missed our children terribly and were eager to return to them, but the moment we shared made us realize how important the trip was for us. The experience of this trip and the knowledge that we have people we can trust in our circle has inspired us to budget and plan for another trip just us two real soon.