Traveling as a Couple: Escaping Reality and Refocusing on YOU {part 2}

Traveling as a Couple: Escaping Reality and Refocusing on YOU {part 2}

So, you’ve got a bunch of kids and you could really use a vacation?  And you mean you want to care for your marriage and go it alone with your spouse?  Good for you!!!  I’m so proud of  you!

Now, if you follow along here at A Welcome Grace, you might have already read my post about why I think it is such a super awesome idea to do just that.  But, the reality is that there’s a whole lot that goes into the preparation for making that escape.  It’s not like when you were a kid and you could just throw on your Buster Browns, grab your Care Bears backpack and your Scooby Doo lunch box and head out the back door to see what adventure awaits.  No, indeed!

Now you have at least one (in our case, four) small to large humans that need to be provided for, fed, watered, sheltered, etc. even when you are AWOL.  And if you are anything like me, the craziness leading up to any vacation (with or without the kids) can seriously start to take away from the fun of the trip if I don’t rein it in with some careful planning and preparation.

So, what’s a mom to do?  Here are my top five, time-tested strategies for getting ready to leave the kids behind and reconnect with the love of your life.

#1 – Find someone you truly trust to watch the kids.

This might seem like a no-brainer.  And at some times, or for some people, it’s an easier task than others.  Whenever Greg and I have traveled, we have left the kids with our parents.  We are truly lucky that is an option for us, and don’t we know it!  We know that the people caring for them have their best interest at heart and love them (almost) as much as we do.

But what do you do if that isn’t an option?  I have a dear friend who does trade-off weekends or overnights with another friend.  Their families are very close and have children of similar ages who get along well.  One family will keep the others’ kids for a time while one set of parents gets a break, then at a later date, they trade-off!  It works out really well for them and the kids think they’re getting a pretty good deal, too.

What about one of your siblings?  My sister watched our oldest for a weekend when he was two so that Greg and I could go to Savannah for our 5th anniversary.  Aunt Monica loved the one-on-one time with her godson and Adam gloried in being the star of the show for a couple of days.  Win-win!

When I was in high school, my friend Tasha’s parents went on a trip to Hawaii for their anniversary.  Tasha stayed with our family as she and I had similar schedules for school and activities and went to the same church in our small town.  My mom made sure she was fed and that her homework got done, we girls thought we were having a week-long slumber party, and her parents had a great vacation.  I think this is a great option for families with older kids!

#2 – Start talking about your trip with your kids ahead of time.

This is especially important for those of us with little ones.  Anymore, I don’t think my high-schooler would be phased at all if he woke up one morning and we told him we were going to be gone for a few days.  He may wonder where he would be getting his next meal or how he’d get home from marching band, but otherwise he’d be totally cool.  Our six year-old, on the other hand, needs a little more hand holding.

When they were little, say between 3 and 8 years old, we’d start talking about the trip a couple weeks out.  Much earlier than that and they start to stew on it.  Much closer to your departure than that, and they haven’t had a chance to wrap their brains around it yet.  Simply mention where you are going, tell them some fun things you’re going to be doing, and then reassure them of when you will return.

For the 2 to 5 year-old crowd, we would always hype up just how much fun they were going to have with whoever was going to be watching them.  Saying things like “Aren’t you lucky you get to spend the weekend with Grandma?  I sure wish I got to do that.  Daddy and I have to go {fill in the blank} instead.”

Reassure them that you can’t wait to hear about what they’ve done when you get back.  That the person they’ll be staying with knows how to contact you if you’re needed.  Tell them their guardian angel will be on high alert while you’re away.  Then, move on to the rest of your preparations.

#3 – Make a Survival Guide for the caretaker.

This is going to look a little different depending on the ages of your kids.  When ours were little, the survival guide might contain information on which lovey they liked to sleep with or how they liked their grilled cheese cut up.  As they got a little older, information such as what movies and television shows/channels were approved and which weren’t.  At this point, all of our kids are in school and activities which means that there’s a lot of logistics to cover.

A day or so before we leave, I will sit down with the calendar and go over who has what activity and when.  Then I line it all up by day and time.  I get as specific as I can about the timing and such as I can be, so that there is little question on how it works.  Here is a sample from what I left for Grammy on our most recent trip…

  • Josh, Leah, and Lucy leave for school at 7:50 a.m. Josh rides his bike and the girls get a ride from Catherine across the street.
  • Adam leaves for the bus at 8:40 a.m.
  • It’s early release day on Wednesday, so you will need leave the house to pick up the carpool at 1:45. Josh will ride his bike home.  Adam will get home from the bus stop shortly after 3:00.
  • Leah has Jazz class at 5:00 at the Mandarin studio. I usually have her get ready at 4:30, then leave at about 4:40.
  • Adam will go to choir practice and will be getting a ride to and from with some friends. He will most likely leave at around 6:00 and they’ll bring him home when the instrumentalists are finished, around 8:00.
  • Wednesday night is trash night, so the boys need to gather it up and put it to the curb before they go to bed.

Now, God bless my mother-in-law, that was a pretty easy day.  I did feel a little bad for her, leaving her with the hot mess that was Thursdays this school year.  But everything turned out just fine in the end, thank goodness!

Other information I leave is the phone numbers of trusted friends who could help out, names and numbers of people giving my kids rides anywhere, bedtimes…things like that.  I feel like the more information I leave, the better prepared the caretaker will be, and the more relaxed I can feel when we’re gone.

#4 – Get the housekeeping done.

Hear me when I say this does NOT mean that you need to scrub your baseboards and scour your grout.  Your home does NOT have to be in pristine condition for you to leave it.  I repeat, it does not!  There are, however, things you can do ahead of time to make it easier on your caretaker.

Look ahead at your kids’ schedules (and take a peak in their laundry hampers).  What will they need before you come home?  When you’re doing your own pre-trip laundry, throw in whatever the kids will need, too.

Do whatever cleaning that your little heart desires and that time will allow.  I change the sheets on the guest room bed and clean  the bathroom the caretaker will be using.  Then, I put fresh sheets on our own bed and give our room a good once over.  Beyond that, our house is what it is.

Lastly, talk your kids’ caretaker.  Do they want you to leave food already prepared?  Maybe they want to do the cooking, but you can get a list of groceries to have on hand and ready.  If you’re leaving your kids at someone else’s house, it might be nice to leave them some money to supplement their grocery spending.

#5 – Contact the authorities.

The day before we leave, I’ll make sure I email the kids’ teachers and/or coaches.  I tell them that Greg and I will be out of town.  Then, I give them the name and number of the person caring for the kids.  I will also tell them how best to contact us in an emergency.  This is a good time to make sure the person is on the “approved” list at the schools.  It would be awful if Grandma or Auntie came to pick up Junior and weren’t allowed to leave with them!

Also, and this has bitten me in the butt more than once, look ahead and pay any bills that are coming due.  Take the opportunity to do so ahead of time so a late fee doesn’t hurt you later.  Sign permission slips, turn in school or activity fees, return library books.  Avoid the consequences your child will NOT thank you for if these things aren’t taken care of!

Now what?

Congrats! You’re ready to go!  You realize the importance of your trip.  You made sure the kids and their caretaker are ready to rock it without you around.

But what do you do to really reconnect and refocus once you’re gone?  That’s what we’ll talk about next time.  Until then, slainte!

Greg and I in Ireland, March 2014, for our 15th wedding anniversary.

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