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On Heartbreak of Traveling without Your Kids for an Extended Period of Time

When I had kids, I decided in my heart that we would always travel together as a family. There was quite a bit of drama surrounding pregnancy with my son, with premature delivery followed by a week in NICU. I remember thinking that I never want to take these little people for granted. I would be a hands-on mom, always. Spoiler alert! I’m most definitely not a hands-on mom.

But I wanted  my children to tag along with us on trips, despite potential hardships. Sure, short getaways with your spouse are not only OK, they are necessary. But when it comes to big vacations, we would be with our kids, period. It’s not that I was judgmental of couples who left their little people behind so they could jet around the world,  I just never thought it would be us.

Well. As I found out recently, it’s best to never make definitive statements. Life is complicated and when you involve extended family, it can be off-the-charts complicated. Take our upcoming trip next year. Complicated doesn’t even begin to describe it. I had to work with limited supply of miles, savings and my husband’s meager vacation time. The most difficult part was making sure we won’t be separated from our kids for too long.

My sister-in-law had VERY strong ideas on the whole thing and she wouldn’t budge, not even a little bit. After all, this is the trip my in-laws wanted for decades. Everything had to be perfect. She is obsessed with “perfect” but that’s a post for another time (or not). Finally, after some exhausting back and forth, I decided to back out. I told her we would simply go to Tahiti as a family, something I wanted to do for a long time.  That way, my in-laws were free to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. Plus, like I said, I really don’t like the idea of being separated from my kids.

Everything was settled, or so I thought. My mother-in-law has reached out to me the following day and said that their trip is off since the kids are not coming. Their greatest joy is having them along during vacations. I realize not all in-laws are that way, and that I’m very fortunate in this respect. Apparently, my sister-in-law got very depressed  about the whole thing. She is not married and doesn’t have her own children. So she sort of adopted mine. We are  the definition of a dysfunctional family, but we do really love each other. I think of my SIL as my own sister at this point. And it breaks my heart to see her sad.

My husband and I discussed a few possible scenarios. Maybe we would go with kids to Tahiti and then he would fly home, with me continuing on to New Zealand to meet in-laws. He didn’t like the idea, but what can you do? However, my sister-in-law and I butt heads at home on a regular basis. Would it be wise to be stuck together  without having my husband there as a rants’ recipient? I talked to my mother-in-law and she said that one of us probably wouldn’t come back to US alive. Fair enough.

Additionally, I didn’t like the idea of being separated from my husband for two weeks. It started to look like “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” type deal. So, after some back and forth, my husband and I decided to just let  in-laws take the kids with them for the entire trip and we would meet them in Melbourne, Australia. That way, we would be separated from them for nine days at a time, which surely beats  three weeks.

It’s still a difficult scenario for me to come to terms with, but it’s the way the cookie crumbles. I know my kids will be fine with the in-laws. They have been on trips with them countless times and didn’t seem to miss us that much. We are a very close family, and I trust my in-laws completely.

The truth is, I’m more worried about how I will survive the separation. As a stay-at-home mom, I’m used to having my kids around. Yes, they drive me crazy half the time, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I do have other interests, of course, like writing and travel, but my kids are my life. And I don’t care if someone thinks it sounds uncool or lame.

My daughter is my mini-me in so many ways. The other day, her teacher told her that she is a natural-born writer. I almost cried when I heard it because I distinctly remember my teacher telling me the exact same thing when I was in elementary school. I would absolutely love to read my daughter’s stories about Tahiti, but I guess those will have to wait.

Of course, my in-laws are planning to stop in Fiji for few days, after leaving Australia. So, I will get to vicariously visit that place  through my daughter’s eyes and maybe we can plan a “girls” trip to Tahiti at some point in the future. She is a natural-born traveler, something else she has inherited from me. I guess what matters most is that the kids are happy, and I know that they will be. But will I?

Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen at





Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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14 thoughts on “On Heartbreak of Traveling without Your Kids for an Extended Period of Time

  1. Aw, I’m sure 9 days without them will be hard, but hopefully you will be having such a good time that you won’t get too sad. But I understand. When I went to New Orleans this summer for just 48 hours I missed my kids like crazy! I think it was worse because I was seeing and doing some things that I know they would love. When I went to visit my parents without them, I didn’t feel as bad, because I was just sitting in the hospital room and I know they were better off at home.

    Brian and I had one trip together without them to NYC for the weekend. We missed them like crazy because we knew they would love NYC. That’s why we had to plan a family trip there that next year. We are contemplating a solo trip for our 15th anniversary, but I’m really hesitant because we have nobody that really wants to spend time with them. Whoever we get will either be doing it reluctantly or just for the money. If I knew that the people watching them were crazy about them and they were going to have their own fun, I’d feel better about it. Yeah, I have issues. 🙂

    • @Nancy It’s crazy, as much as I want to get away from these munchkins, I really hate traveling without them. But it’s nice to do it now and again. I’m glad you and Brian were able to do that trip to NYC. I know you guys rarely get away by yourselves. It’s a shame that your relatives are reluctant to spend time with your kids. With us, it’s the opposite. I can’t keep my in-laws away from them! They actually thank me for letting them take the kids.

  2. We do both – travel with kids and without the kids. It doesn’t bother me to travel without my kids because we only leave them with my mom or my in-laws and they love spending time with both. Think of it as a time for them to create their own special memories – and a time for you to really relax! I hope your trip is perfect!

    • @Holly I know you are absolutely right. I’m probably overthinking this whole thing. I guess the amount of time scares the heck out of me. I’ve never been away from my kids for more than four days at a time. Plus, the idea that they will be in a foreign country without us does make me a bit nervous. But Australia, New Zealand and Fiji are not exactly hot spots known for terrorist activities. Of course, in this world of ours, all bets are off. Just look at Las Vegas. But bad things can happen anywhere, I suppose. Plus, my kids will be with people I trust as much as I trust myself.

  3. Leana, you are such a great person. I do not have kids myself so I can’t comment on how hard it is to be without kids for an extended period of time. I can only imagine.

    • @Winnie Oh my goodness. If I come across as a great person on the blog, it’s an illusion, I assure you! 🙂 I’m not kidding. I’m cranky, impatient and difficult to deal with most of the time.
      Kids definitely change everything. For one, you feel guilty constantly. At least I do. I’m still looking for that right balance in my life. How much work is OK, so it doesn’t take away time from your kids? How much should I travel without them? I don’t have the right answers.

  4. Leana, you’re a brave person; I would be having a panic attack if they were my kids (that’s just the control freak that I’ve become since having them). However, you do deserve a much needed break, and they sound like they will be in great care. Your children are very fortunate that they get to spend as much time as they do with their grandparents. That’s one of my biggest regrets; I wish I could have taken trips with my grandmother.

    Hubby and I just took a 3 day trip to Boston without the kids, and it was one of the best vacations I have ever taken. Of course now I want to take the kids there someday, but even though they had to stay because of school, they had a blast with my parents who came to watch them. My parents even offered to watch them again….I’m already planning on something for next year 🙂

  5. @Stephanie Believe me, I’m the least brave person out there. LOL I’m sure when the time comes I will be freaking out. But the dye is cast at this point, as the saying goes. The tickets are bought, and there is no going back. I need to focus on the positive, like being able to spend quality time with my husband. Of course, with jet lag and hopping from content to continent, I’m not sure it can even be called that. But it will be much easier to deal with hectic pace if we don’t have kids with us. Let my SIL worry about that! She may not ever want to vacation with them again. #Winning
    But seriously, it’s one of those things where I just couldn’t make everyone happy. No matter what, somebody would end up getting shafted. I know the kids will have a blast, and I’m determined to have fun as well.
    P.S. Glad you enjoyed Boston!

  6. I have been abroad twice without my spouse/kids. I had the chance to go to Japan in 2013- i balled on the plane when I saw the map that we were flying over northern russia! But luckily we got to facetime etc. we missed each other, of course, but it was a cool opportunity for me. Last year, I went to Italy for my 40th with my aunt, uncle and sister. Good reminder that I am not only a mom, but a sister and niece as well. parts will be hard for sure, but its okay to miss them!

    • @Harmony Thanks for sharing your experience! It’s true, we are not just moms. I have to remind myself that it’s OK to go off and do your own thing now and again. Plus, I can always use more alone time with my husband. Life is so busy, we hardly talk anymore. Focusing on our marriage is just as important as focusing on kids. It’s about finding the right family balance, something I’m still trying to figure out.

  7. Aww, what a sweet post! I totally get where you’re coming from. I don’t think we ever spent more than a few days alone with our grandparents, but I remember summer camp. The first time was only for three days when I was nine, followed by a week every summer. How i cried at the beginning! But I still have special memories, even from the first time when it was hardest. My parents seemed just fine with it all, but that was only through my eyes. I now think it’s an important part of growing up to spend a week or so away from one’s parents, and your special trip actually sounds ideally balanced even if it wasn’t quite what you planned on. Just think, you’re giving your kids so many gifts… of travel, of bonding with relatives, and of incremental independence from you, which is what growing up is all about… as well as the gift to yourself, of a break from nonstop parenting, and celebrating marriage to your husband with the trip of a lifetime together. It’s ok to have mixed feelings about everything… just try to know in your heart you’re doing the right thing, and I’m sure you will all have more of a blast than not!

  8. I forgot to mention, in your copious free time (lol), have you seen the movie Room or read the book? Your post made me think of it. I just saw it three days ago, watched it again the next day, then blazed through the book yesterday (it is only like a hundred pages). One of the most powerful films or books I have ever experienced, and more than bit related to your post. If you’re ever in the mood for a suspenseful, moving and uplifting story about motherhood, I highly recommend it (preferably going in cold). But maybe your daily life already has more than enough of that already, haha!

    • @Debra Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words! What you said makes sense. It’s important to find the right balance. It’s funny, I actually used to go to camp each summer, for a whole month! My mom seemed totally fine with it. When I got older, she would put me on the train to visit relatives in another city. I don’t remember feeling shafted in any way. I’m certain that my kids will be taken care of. For the first part of the trip we will be separated for six nights, and that’s not too bad. Plus, we will be so busy the whole time. I guess it’s just the fear of the unknown, we’ve never done anything like this before.
      On movies… I hardly watch any these days, don’t really have the time. It’s partially due to blogging, plus other commitments. My husband and I started to watch Battlestar Galactica show after the kids go to bed. Talk about suspense and action packed plot. It’s fun and brings back memories. It’s rare that we both like something!

  9. Pingback: How a Family of Four Can (Mostly) Replicate Our Trip to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia - Miles For Family

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