Leading up to our trip to Puerto Rico back in April our family shared a whole host of emotions.
This was new for us. Both Slaed (husband) and I have traveled without Bergen, but not together. One of us had always stayed back with the little guy.
I had the typical anxiety of getting across the country in a plane (2 flights) with a 2.5 year old without my partner in crime since Slaed would be traveling straight to San Juan while Bergen and I would stop in Charlotte to get him settled in with my mom.
I agonized over packing. Not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I was essentially packing for two trips (and two people): A visit with family in the Carolinas and a beach vacation + wedding. I was overwhelmed and kept thinking I would forget something, not to mention the issue keeping the weight of my bag under 50 pounds to avoid an extra fee.
Both Slaed and I worried about Bergen. Every little behavior quirk that came up during the weeks before the trip caused us to fret. We felt guilty about possibly burdening another person with his “antics”.
We even felt badly about leaving him (in the highly capable loving hands of my amazing mother)! Why would we travel to a fun, exciting, family friendly spot and keep him behind? I would only be without him for about 4 days, but since Slaed didn’t travel to the Carolinas with us, he would be away from Bergen for 10 days. That was hard on him.
I bet you can guess what I’m going to say though. Yup, it was all worth it! And it all turned out okay. It all turned out beautifully, in fact, and we have 6 lessons to share.
1. Kids behave better without you.
Bergen takes his guard down when we are around. He knows he can “get away” with things, and we’ll still be there the next day (or minute) loving and taking care of him. With friends and relatives, it’s different. While he loves them, he’s not so sure that he can give his complete trust, and thus will hold back. This was great for us because it meant he was cooperative, pleasant, and overall just went with the flow!
My mom didn’t have a highchair. I worried and fretted. What would she do? It was no problem for little Bergen. He rose to the occasion, and ate his meals like a champ in a regular chair. At home, we’d never think this would work.
2. Kids will learn, grow, and be exposed to new things.
The minute I returned from Puerto Rico and saw Bergen, I noticed changes…in a good way! Little words and phrases he picked up from being around new people emerged and pleasantly surprised me. He learned a few new songs that I’d never even heard! I ended up having to write my mom to find out the lyrics so that I could sing along with him.
Bergen also spent a lot of time with his aunt, uncle and three cousins (all boys) who live very close to my mom. You can imagine the wonderful bonding that took place, plus to the beauty of gaining skills and confidence from older “role models”.
No he wasn’t traveling to an exotic locale, but even so, Bergen was exposed to new-to-him foods, routines, and activities.
3. It’s a balance.
Did we think about Bergen a lot while we were away? You bet we did. During every little experience from waking up, sitting on the beach, swimming in the pool, enjoying meals, participating in the our friend’s wedding, touring San Juan, riding in taxis (I could go on and on), I thought about how Bergen would react to the situation and how we would make it work with him, even though he wasn’t there!
However, along with all that thinking also came a huge sigh of relief each and every time. I could wonder about him, and then I could let it go.
4. A changed schedule is okay.
After spending a few days in town with my mom, she got to know our rough schedule and daily routines. Then both of us decided it would be a good idea for me to write out what a “typical” day looks like for us with notes of rituals before nap and bedtime.
Did that schedule get followed to the letter? Of course not, and that’s completely fine! The notes gave my mom guidance and an idea of how we usually do things in order for Bergen to be comfortable, but ultimately, she figured out what worked best for her own timetable and agenda.
Flexibility is key, especially when time changes (three hour time difference between our house & Charlotte) are a factor.
5. Getting away is refreshing and good for your parenting .
It was especially helpful to take some time off, with my spouse, and get some distance between the decisions and stress of parenthood. We by no means talked about parenting issues during our entire visit to Puerto Rico, but it did give us a chance to pause and reflect without being in the thick of it.
We were able to recharge our “mommy and daddy” batteries allowing us the breathing space and confidence to tackle new things. Specifically, through the experience (being around my sister and her young kids also helped) I decided we would go into full blown potty training mode as soon as we returned from our trip. I’m proud to report that Bergen has been diaper-free during the day ever since (5 weeks and counting)!
6. Take Advantage.
Finally just a bit of advice for those of you who might be thinking about a couples trip without your kids. Take advantage of the free time. Do and cherish the things you miss most now that you are a parent, or maybe things you don’t have the time for or get to fully enjoy with all the business of taking care of kids and their needs. A few of our favorites were simple, but SO lovely:
- beach time
- paddleboarding (together)
- meals out
- walks and conversation without interruption
- getting to linger in places instead of rushing off due to a short attention span
We’d love to hear about your travels without kids. What worked? What were your takeaways?
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