How to Plan a Weekend Away from Your Kids
I’m writing this in my underwear from a hotel room in Boston. I slept until 7:30am this morning, which in my house is the kind of luxury usually reserved for my birthday.
Yesterday, she and I saw our first movie in a theater since July 2015. We waited two and a half hours to eat at a popular restaurant, something we would never even consider under the rule of our temperamental toddler. We drank margaritas at a bar until 11:00pm and didn’t have the dread of a mounting babysitter bill looming overhead. We napped for two hours. We read books sans child screaming for more Cheerios. We had sex without fear of waking up the baby.
Hey, parent-reader: You’re drooling. The last three days have been the kind of fantastical, whimsical, wet-dream of a vacation every parent yearns for in even the best of times. I’m not writing this to rub it in your face; I am writing to tell you that you too can have the same restorative release from your little ones. Planning time away with your spouse or partner doesn’t need to be an elaborate plan requiring months of planning and precise execution. Here’s my best advice on how to manifest the weekend jaunt of your dreams to life.
1. Utilize your family. If you have family close by, great, but for Hailey and I, we’re 2,500 miles from all the grandparents, aunts and uncles so we had to get strategic. A few months ago, when we found out that Hailey’s family would be coming to New York for the holidays, we floated the idea of taking a couple nights for just the two of us to get away and, luckily, they leapt at the opportunity.
If you’re in a similar position with family out of state, I get that it might be tough to take time away from your visit with them, but here’s the thing: Just do it. You’re going to be so glad you did, and there’s really no other way to do it without inconveniencing a parent-friend by tacking on your little maniac to their already-overwhelming troupe of loonies.
The other thing to consider is that your family – especially your parents – want time alone with their grandkids. All of the stuff your son or daughter does that makes you want to take power tools to your skull is somehow like catnip for grandparents, so let them have the kids and let it be a vacation for you and them.
2. Stay close. Once we had the green light from the in-laws, next was choosing a destination. We thought about New Orleans (one of my favorite cities that Hailey has yet to visit), Nashville, Austin and Montreal, but ultimately landed on Boston for a couple reasons: First, it was going to be much cheaper and far less time consuming to take an Amtrak up to Boston than fly somewhere; second, because by nature, the trip was intended to be restorative and therefore we wanted to avoid a destination where we’d inevitably feel the pressure to be exploring and jamming as much into our seventy-two available hours as possible. Definitely leave your town or city (staycations are not allowed), but save your airline miles and opt for something relatively close by.
3. Over prepare. The goal here is to minimize worry once you’re away, so take the time before you leave to set future you up for success. Diapers fully-stocked? Check. Tons of your kiddos’ favorite foods in the fridge? Done. Step-by-step instructions for completing the sacred ceremony of getting your toddler to nap? Duh. Leave no stone unturned, no detail uncovered in your four-page, 10pt font list of instructions, so that when you get to your destination, you can put your phone down and rest easy knowing it’s all there. Don’t be too hard on yourself though: It’s totally okay to check in every once and awhile to make sure everyone’s still alive and the house hasn’t burned down.
4. Make plans, but not too many. Hailey and I are two very different travelers. She’s beach, I’m city. She likes to lay by a pool with a cold drink in hand; I like to log ten miles of straight walking in a new place I’ve never been before. It can make traveling together tough at times, but when we booked this trip, I swore to myself I was going to play by her rules. Not just because I wanted it to be the best trip possible for Hailey, but because I knew her way was the right way for two nights away to recharge our parental batteries.
If you’re going to follow one rule on a trip like this, it should be this one: Everything is optional. It’s totally okay to look up the best rated restaurants, but if you’re hungry and eating room service chicken fingers in bed sounds better, do that. Make a short-list of activities you both might enjoy, but don’t be disappointed if you do absolutely zero of them. There’s no pressure to accomplish anything, no shame if you accomplish nothing. All that matters is that with every passing minute, you feel your little battery life increase just a smidge in hopes of being back to full by the time you leave.
5. Breathe life into old habits. When thinking of what you want to do in-between naps, try and bring back something you used to do more frequently before you had kids that’s fallen by the wayside since becoming a parent. Take a yoga class, read a book, catch up on podcasts – use the time to remind yourself what you enjoyed about that activity and make a conscious effort to think of ways you can bring it back into the fold more consistently once you’re back home.
Do not, however, use this time to catch up on work or do something dumb and boring like balance your budget or research kindergartens: This is time for you, and unless you’re one of those weirdos who really likes a good Excel formula, stick to genuinely enjoyable activities.
When all’s said and done, the most important advice I can share is just commit to making a trip like this happen. Whether you think you do or not, you need it. I needed it. The best parents of the best kids need it. We all love our kids and ultimately, while the trip is meant to give you some time away, the most special part is how quickly you look forward to returning home. How quickly you’ll both find yourselves scrolling through pictures on your phone, wine in hand, trading off photos of your little ones, laughing and aww-ing, wondering how you ever got so lucky.
Photo by Amy Frances.