For as much as I love to travel with kids, I have to admit I’ve also grown to really like traveling solo over the past few years. I’ll never forget the first time I had to travel on my own. I was 23 years old, a single mom and had recently started a new job that required me to travel. Back then even the idea of flying terrified me. Funny how things change because now I probably leave my family behind more often than I travel with them these days.
Traveling kid-free sounds like it might be easy, but in order to make it happen there is usually a lot of planning, prepping and organizing that has to happen first, especially so you don’t feel stressed when you don’t travel with kids.
How do you travel with children?
The answer to how do you travel with children is always an easy one for me, as I have been traveling with my kids since they were babies.
We have traveled everywhere together including long weekend getaways, Puerto Rico, Disney World, Europe and many more places throughout the world.
The tougher question is how do you travel WITHOUT your children, especially when parental guilt sets in.
Even though my kids are used to me traveling fairly often, my daughter in particular, sometimes has a tough time when she knows I am leaving for a trip. I have shared about her struggles with anxiety in the past and I strive to be cautious about not adding to her stress.
9 Tips When You Don’t Travel With Kids
1. Find the right time to tell your kids you will be traveling.
You know your child best and depending on how you think they will handle the news that you are leaving, it may be better to wait and share the news until only a few days before your trip.
I realized that method worked better with my daughter after I told her about a trip I was going on months in advance and she was anxious for all that time leading up to the trip. Since then I have learned my lesson and now I usually only tell my kids a week or even a few days before I am traveling.
2. Share details of your trip with your child.
Before a trip I always make sure to talk with my kids about where I am going, what I will be doing there and how long I will be away.
Sometimes we look at pictures online of where I will be traveling to, and I make them feel apart of the trip by asking what they would do if they traveled there.
3. Give kids a calendar to keep track of the days you are away.
My daughter loves knowing exactly how many days I will be away for, so we got her a fun bubble wrap calendar to keep track.
We also keep a family calendar in the kitchen where I write all the things my kids have going on while I’m away. Then they can keep busy with their own activities and plans while my husband or I am traveling.
4. Encourage kids to journal while you are away.
Over the years I have purchased many journals, planners, notebooks and more for my everyone in my family. When my kids started saying they didn’t know what to do with them or write about, I suggested they keep a travel journal during times I am away.
Then they can have some creative fun by documenting our time apart, which gives us lots to talk about when I am back home.
I love that we both get to share our experiences with each other which makes for great conversation and bonding time.
5. Leave surprises behind for your kids.
To help reduce separation anxiety and even give your child something to look forward to while you are gone, I suggest leaving surprise notes.
My daughter has said in the past that finding random notes from me inside her favorite dollhouse, school bag or tucked within her favorite stuffed animal at night makes me being away much better.
6. Schedule time for phone calls or video chats when you are away.
Thanks to smartphones, FaceTime, Skype and more, being away doesn’t have to feel so far. My kids know they can call me anytime when I am away, but I limit my calls to them so it doesn’t make the separation even more difficult (especially for my daughter).
I will admit that my husband is often better than me at keeping things under control at home, which is a good thing because I don’t feel like I have to “check in” often when I travel.
7. Turn your travels into a unique learning experience for kids.
When I was a little girl the wallpaper in my bedroom was a map and it was the coolest thing ever. I used to stick post-it notes over places on my wallpaper where I dreamed of traveling to someday.
My kids don’t have that wallpaper I had, but we have globes, scratch off maps, travel quotes and more all around our home to fuel their wanderlust. I have inspired them to travel in a unique way, even when they aren’t leaving the house.
When my husband or I travel somewhere our kids have never visited, we encourage them to learn a few things about the place.
They love asking me questions when I return to hear about what I saw, explored and of course see if I brought back any souvenirs.
8. Let your child feel like they are a part of the travel process.
Even through they she might not be going on the trip, my daughter and I have a routine where she helps me pack up my carry on luggage before I travel.
We spend time together talking about the weather where I am going and in my closet while she helps me pick out clothes and also my favorite travel shoes.
One of my sweetest things is that sometimes she sneaks one of her favorite stuffed animals into my bag for me to find after I have arrived.
My daughter loves when I pack up her clothes as if she is going away too, which also makes it easier for my husband each day by not having to figure out what she is going to wear.
9. Free up your schedule, post-travel, to spend quality time with your family.
Even though you may be jet lagged when you return, remember that your family, especially younger kids, may have been really missing you and will want your time and attention.
When I don’t travel with kids I make sure to plan something fun when I get back to do with my family. My daughter likes to have a charcuterie board/sleepover date night (I mean all 8 year olds love cheese boards), and my son loves to watch movies, go bowling, do some of these fun, free things in Philly or play sports.
Since I don’t think I’m the only parent who experiences this, I wanted to share these tips for when you don’t travel with kids, which I hope helps makes those times a little easier for everyone.
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Our son is almost 18, so we're just now starting to plan to travel without him. Cannot wait to have time with just my husband. :)