For those of us that love to travel, there’s no question that getting away as a family whenever we can is the ultimate goal. But what happens when an opportunity to travel comes up and you have to leave the kids at home?
Major crisis of conscience.
This is exactly what happened to me when I was offered the chance to travel to Alaska (one of my bucket list destinations) this time last year. A 3-week famil trip to one of the most spectacular spots on the planet – and one that I had never been to – but only two tickets.
Don’t get me wrong – we’ve left the kids before, but only for an extended weekend here and there – not weeks! The Hub and I discussed the option of me taking someone else so he could stay at home with the kids, but ultimately it was a trip he really wanted to take too. So seeing as he’s my favorite travel companion (aww ?) it was more of a discussion on how to make it happen rather than if it would happen.
The good news is, we did it, the kids survived and everyone’s happy. So what’s the trick? Here’s what we found worked (and what didn’t).
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Choosing the Right Babysitter
First step, obviously, is to find someone who can look after your kids while you’re away. We’re really lucky that both of our mothers love to travel so were totally on board with what we wanted to do. In the end, my mum agreed to not only step up as chief babysitter, but also to move into our home while we were away.
This, I think, is key – more so because we live several hours drive away from family. For various reasons, we had to travel during term time. And while it wouldn’t bother me pulling them out of school at this age (our eldest is nine), I did think it would be easier on everyone if their daily routine was more or less kept intact.
Ultimately, you need to find someone who you trust but also who the kids are comfortable with. It may be a close family friend, a neighbour, or like us, a family member but make sure they’re on the same parenting page as you.
I found it really helped to have Mum arrive a few days before we left – it meant the kids were able to be excited about having Grandma to stay without it being combined with us leaving, and Grandma had a chance to ease her way into it so to speak. Plus it gave me a chance to introduce her to teachers, family friends, etc so she had a support network while we were away.
Sticking to the Routine
By Mum moving into our house to look after the kids rather than them going to stay with her, their lives were disrupted as little as possible. For our eldest, who suffers from anxiety, this was really important. He knew what to expect on a day-to-day basis and was surrounded by the familiar. Plus, Mum got a break 6-hours a day to recharge while they were at school and kindy.
For the weeks leading up to our trip I jotted down notes as they came to me – all those little things you store in your head or know instinctively without thinking about it. Things like family rules (no screens after dinner), important phone numbers (the doctor, the mechanic, the pizza place), weekend entertainment ideas, favourite food (pizza). I put these all together in a special notebook and went over it with Mum when she arrived – it was basically a manual on how we live!
We debated over and over again whether it would be easier for the kids to see us off at the airport, or for us to say goodbye at home. Both have their pluses and minuses and I have a feeling would cancel each other out… but in the end our decision was made for us when J & C got invited to birthday parties the same day.
Distraction is your best friend!
Keeping in Touch
We’re so lucky that in this day and age communication is a breeze even over the biggest distances.
I didn’t want the kids to feel like they couldn’t disturb us while we were “on holiday” so gave Mum strict instructions that they could call/text/email whenever they felt like it. We explained to them that we may not always respond instantly as it might be a different time of day (or night) for us, or we may not have internet access or even phone reception, but that we would get back to them eventually.
Instant messaging was a life saver. The kids would send us little snippets of their day (usually accompanied by an over-abundance of emojis) and we would do the same. Selfies flew back and forth across the Pacific and both sides were reassured that the other was thinking of them, but also, happy and safe.
I had left home intending to call them every few days but we put an end to that after our very first call which ended with everyone in tears (me included) and our 4-year old having a really upset night. Messaging was much less emotional, and in the end we didn’t call again until the night before we flew home. Although there was that one time when I got a call from home asking where the TV remote was…
At the end of the day, they’ll miss you, and you’ll miss them (so much!). But having that time away was invaluable for not only the travel experience itself (Alaska really is amazing – read more about it here), but also for reconnecting with my husband, my Self, and giving me the head space to be a much better mother on our return.
Plus, you know, they loved their presents.
Anita | Burgess Travellers
Anita Burgess is in the business of making memorable family moments. Soccer mum, travel broker & writer, she’s happiest with a camera in her hand and the sand between her toes. Find insider travel tips and inspiration for your memorable moments on her blog, Burgess Travellers, or get in touch if you’re ready to make your holiday happen.
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