Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to Vacation Without Kids

When your husband says, "Let's go to Europe for nineteen days!" you'll probably find yourself jumping on the couch all Tom Cruise excited-in-love like and hastily dump "Paris Street Style: A Guide to Effortless Chic" in your Amazon cart. "Should I make room in my backpack for a pair of heels?" "Striped shirt in Venice? Too cliche?"

These are the questions that will normally haunt you for the next six months as you prep for a trot around the globe.

When you become a mother, going on a trip to Europe for NINE.FREAKING.TEEN months, I mean, days, becomes...something else.

It becomes you strapping yourself into a germ-ridden tin can in the sky, hurtling thousands of miles away to places full of tiny adorable European children (on scooters!) that will remind you daily of the gaping Grand Canyon chasm in your soul that can only be filled by one tiny adorable 1/4 Korean-1/2 Ukrainian child who wobbles around the house on his blue scooter while saying, "Watch me!" before he crashes into the dining table.

I'll be honest. We almost didn't go.
Crepes in Paris, gelato in Italy, seafood risotto in Croatia, schnitzel in Germany, and goulash in Czech Republic almost didn't happen.

I've been a stay-at-home mom for the past (almost) three years. I'm with our child 89% of the time. He wonders what happened to me when I have been in the bathroom longer than 35 seconds, (Usually, I'm secretly eating a spoonful of TJ's cookie butter. As you can tell, food is my love language).

The back-and-forth inner turmoil of being equal parts realist and dreamer (fist bump to my fellow Pisces) was making me go all kinds of crazy.
My hard-working-needs-a-proper-vacation husband asked, "Well, what should we do for three weeks then? I have the time off...*sigh*"
To which I weakly replied, "Uhhhh, staycation?"

If looks could kill.

So, I put on my big girl pants and I made a decision, of course, after watching "Midnight in Paris," "Ratatouille," "Amelie," and the clincher, "Passport to Paris." All best decisions are made with guidance from St. Mary Kate and Ashley, you know.

"Buy.The.Tickets. And hurry before the wine wears off!"

I've never seen someone navigate the United Airlines website so fast, (plus, thirty other tabs and a master spreadsheet of the already planned trip, because, engineer husband, and, he knew. He knew)

We did it! We had fun! We aren't scarred for life!

Here are a few key tips in making the transition from dream trip to reality.


1). {Practice Makes Perfect} In the three years of parenthood, we have consistently done date nights from the very beginning. Sprinkle in several girls trips for me, guys or work-related trips for Daniel, plus a few weekend getaways together, and Josiah has watched us go and come back, countless times. It's hard to describe the concept of time to a toddler, but we always try to differientate the different types of "going away."

Example: Date night can be an easy, last minute kind of thing, "We'll be gone for a little bit. See you when you wake up in the morning!" A longer vacation needs some more mental prep, (we began slightly mentioning a trip about two weeks in advance). A few days before we left, "We'll get on a plane at the airport and fly to Europe!" "You're gonna stay with grandma and grandpa and go on adventures!" "Come back and pick us up at the airport!" You can be "basically specific" at this age. Give the general details in a pleasant "no big deal" kind of way, don't get too emotional or worked up.  Also, have them try and go to the airport when you leave and arrive, if possible! The actual process of "watching" you get on the plane and then walk out of the plane gives that stable realness factor for them. (Josiah talked about picking me up from the airport after my NYC trip for months after!)

2). {Trust Your People} Without our family and friends, we couldn't have done this! We left Josiah in the care of a few of his most favorite people on this world. People who gave him treats and took him to the zoo and played Legos and kissed his owies. He was living the life! (I still remember when my grandparents took care of me: trips to Toys R Us, new clothes, MCDONALDS! and they just so happened to own several TCBY stores, so, as much yogurt and ice cream as I could eat). Your child quite possibly, could have more fun than you. ha.

3). {Plan and Prepare} Cross all those t's and dot those i's (especially especially especially if you are going overseas). Leave house keys, medical release notes, medicines, special blankets or stuffed animals, general schedule/information in an easy to find place, etc. I also put together care boxes for each set of grandparents, including diapers and wipes, extra toys, snacks, and a little surprise present for Josiah to open for each day we were gone.

4). {Communicate} Thankfully we live in an age of Skype, FaceTime, and Email. Make sure you can coordinate those chats in advance with your time differences. (We found that any face-to-face communication towards the 2nd half of our trip was becoming harder for Josiah, so the "out of sight out of mind" approach worked better. Daily emails with the grandparents worked well for everyone!)

5). {Let Go and Let God} Meaning, after all the planning and preparing and worrying, just GO! Don't feel guilty or anxious. Have fun, enjoy quality alone time with your S.O. and don't forget to pick up some souvenirs for your little one!

P.S. Don't pack heels. For the love of everything holy, don't pack heels. We witnessed so many women hobbling around like wounded horses on the cobblestones of Europe. Free entertainment for us...


{Bon Bon}


Natalie | Mrs. Janney | said...

Obviously I need to start mentally preparing for my first overnight trip away from Henry (which hasn't happened yet) because even reading your excellent prep list almost put me in tears. For reals.

Tales of a young mamma said...

We went on a late honeymoon to Sweden when Jasper was about to turn four for 15 days. It was so much fun but the last few days we (okay I would have) done anything to be back already. I don't think I'll ever be able to do it again for that long till my kids are in like high school. I had only left for a weekend a couple times before so it was a LOT to be gone that long. The nice thing was we kept so busy busy busy, but I still cried almost every day towards the end.

Marjorie said...

What an opportunity! You need to get away sometimes as a parent. We took a cruise two years ago without our kids. First time doing something like that and I hope it's not the last.

Great tips! We also had Wills drawn up too before we left.

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