3 Stages of Traveling Without Kids

My husband and I recently took a trip to California for a long weekend: 5 nights and 4 days without kids. Since we started our family almost three years ago, we’ve taken two solo trips. I’ll admit that it is amazing to get away from the day to day routine; however, these trips are a good reminder of why we chose to have a family.

These getaways bring out such a range of emotion in me, I feel like I’m every character in the movie Inside Out. On this most recent trip, I found myself going through three stages: Anxiety and Fear, Freedom and Relaxation, and Excitement and Relief.

Stage 1: Anxiety and Fear

Once the trip was about a week out, the anxiety set in. I’m packing for myself AND my kids and trying to think of anything they could possibly need over the next 5 days, even though they will only be staying 10 minutes away if they dare need anything else. In addition, I have a weird quirk where my house has to be spotless before we leave. No lingering trash in the house, no dirty dishes, NOTHING. I also find myself doing laundry the night before we depart because my husband couldn’t possibly leave without the shorts he just had to wear the day before (insert eye roll). Getting a family of four ready, plus our two cats, is a lot of work.

On top of all of that, I can’t help but let my mind wander to worst case scenarios:

What if something happens to us while we’re gone? Our kids wouldn’t even remember us.

I cried when I gave our kids a hug and kiss goodbye. I wasn’t crying because I was worried about leaving them in someone else’s care. I knew they would enjoy their time away just as much as we did, and we’re lucky to have some amazing family close by to watch after them. I cried selfishly. The thought of possibly never seeing them again completely devastated me. I tried to rationalize my thoughts that people take these trips ALL the time and everything is fine, but in that moment it wasn’t helping. Once we were back in the car and heading to the airport, I was mostly moving into stage two.

Stage 2: Freedom and Relaxation

This might sound bad, but while we were gone, it surprised me how little I thought or worried about the kids. It helped that we were three time zones away and our days didn’t align, but I really let myself enjoy the time away. It was nice to be able to do whatever we wanted and not have to worry about toting kids around, packing a diaper bag and planning our day around them. These days were a good reminder of who we used to be, before kids. We did FaceTime the kids a couple times and we would casually talk about what they were doing or look at pictures sent to us, but mostly, we were carefree even though we missed them terribly.

Stage 3: Excitement and Relief

As our last day was winding down, I couldn’t wait to get home. Not that I rushed the last leg of our trip, but I was excited to get home to see their sweet faces and get those sloppy kisses. This is typically when I realize that all my anxiety and worry was unnecessary. I tell myself that next time, I won’t react the way I did this time (but I do). When we got home, the reaction we received was everything we could have ever wanted and hearing about their adventures from their time away was refreshing. A great reminder that we need to try to do this more often.

For anyone out there contemplating a kidless trip, it may be a lot of work and you may miss them, but it’s well worth it. It’s a good excuse to spend a little one-on-one time and experience new things, which you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do in your daily routine. And, if you’re lucky enough to be able to leave them with grandparents or family like we are (thank you all!), the kids get a change of scenery for a few days, while building relationships with family.

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