Last week Matt and I did something we hadn’t done in three-and-a-half years: Travel without the children. We flew to San Diego where we spent a day before getting on a cruise ship and heading for Vancouver with stops in San Francisco and Victoria.
We were of course extremely fortunate to have the opportunity for such a luxurious trip during the course of which many lovely people served me equally lovely fruity drinks while I sat in comfortable chairs and looked at the ocean. But the biggest luxury of all was not so much the amenities as the opportunity to get away from the boys and spend some uninterrupted time together. What were the best things about doing so?
Sometimes it’s nice to do just what you want to do just when you want to do it. One thing about traveling with kids is that they require not only a plan but a back-up plan as well as a few additional back-pocket tricks, just in case. In contrast, I went into this week with a stack of books on my Kindle and no agenda. No one woke me up in the morning and I didn’t have to think more than five minutes ahead at any point on the trip. Better still: I wasn’t responsible for anyone else’s good time.
You’ll have lots of finished conversations. While I wouldn’t say that I’d forgotten how entertaining my spouse is (he’s really a hoot – I recommend inviting him to your next dinner party) it certainly was nice to be reminded of this continuously for a week. Not only were we able to engage in some uninterrupted discussion, we were able to just chat about what we had seen or what we might do later – if we felt like it. This was a welcome relief from the continual need to either discuss the logistics of our day-to-day life or to try and fit a more weighty discussion into allotted ten minutes before bed.
You can eat breakfast (and dinner) at 11. I don’t know about you, but for me the ultimate luxury these days is to eat whenever I feel like it, not because it’s the assigned mealtime. We didn’t have dinner before 8:00 p.m. And sometimes we skipped meals altogether, choosing instead to snack. Bliss! (Oh, and for seven whole days I ate not one single hamburger.)
Did anyone say modern art? I often extol the virtues of visiting museums with kids, including art museums. However, sometimes it’s nice to engage in a grown-up pursuit without having to also serve as tour guide and educational consultant. We also walked and walked and walked without anyone asking us exactly where we were going or when we’d get there or whether they might be able to purchase a souvenir snow globe or blo-pop along the way.
It will make you appreciate your next family vacation all the more. The entire time Matt and I were on our vacation we continuously noted things that the boys would have loved, from the pool on the ship to the stuffed animals in the gift shops to the cable cars to the bike ride around the Vancouver sea wall. It made us happy to think about returning to these fabulous cities with our children – you might even say it heightened the pleasure of being there without them.
Now, we wouldn’t have been able to take this trip without help (Thank you so much to Joan my stepmother who stayed with the boys the entire time!) and organization (I left a seven-page document that detailed who had to be where when and what to do in an emergency). But I would urge any parent to find a way to do some traveling without the children, even if you don’t go far or for very long. Are your resources of time and money limited? Budget for a local long weekend. No family who can come stay? Find friends to help – and offer to return the favor.
After watching lots of Mad Men, I’m pretty sure that the current generation of parents is one of the first to feel like we shouldn’t or can’t leave our children for a solo vacation, and I’d like to reverse that trend starting now. By all means, take your children places, and often (the approximately eight million pages on this site and many other family travel blogs will give you lots of ideas how to do so). But don’t forget to take an adults-only vacation now and then. You’ll be amazed what it does for your perspective and willingness to make school lunches.