24 answers

Travel Without My 5 Year Old

Hi Moms!
I've never had this situation before so I need some input.

My oldest daughter is getting married in Italy (yay!) and we are not taking the kids. (yay again!) My concern is our 5 year old. We will be gone 9 days and I'm not too sure how to prepare him. Should I be nonchalant in giving him the facts, should we leave little surprises for him to open every few days. I just don't know. I'm having anxiety about how he's going to do.


FYI--he's staying at our home with my auntie (I'm 3 months older than her-haha!), his big brother-23 yrs old, big sisters 20 and 15 yrs old.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you so much to all who responded to my request. I'm happy to say, my 5 year old didn't have any problems at all while we were gone. He was busy "hanging out" with his big brother who took him bowling, and with his regular schedule, he was just fine! I prepared a "cross the days off" calendar and gave him all the information about where we were going and how long it was going to be.
Our daughter's wedding in Italy was absolutely amazing, beautiful and a bit unbelievable. It was a nice treat for my husband and I to get away for awhile
Thanks again moms and Mamasource.

More Answers

Hi T.,

It is hard for a 5 year old to conceptualize what being gone 9 days means. The better he understands the concept, the easier it will most likely be for him--just like for us, we'd like to know when our spouse will return after time away and having his return date be a surprise is not so welcome. Everyone likes predictability around stressful events. So, I would say, if there's time, use the calendar to start marking off days for upcoming events. For example, "The birthday party is this coming weekend. In three days. Let's mark a day off at the end of each day so we will know when the day of the birthday party arrives." This way he can begin to become familiar with the calendar and learn to predict upcoming events to some degree. Before you leave go to the calendar daily and show him which day you're leaving and which day you'll be back. He can mark them off when you're gone then maybe have some cuddle time with his older sibling (or someone who will be able to reliably commit to such a routine with him while you're away- predictability is important particularly if you're telling him "this is what it will be like when mommy and daddy are away"). Anything else you can do to prepare him for what it's going to be like such as reciting the story of who's coming to stay with him (or where he's going to stay), what time of day mommy and daddy will call or skype (even better), what the sitter will do while caring for him, what mommy and daddy will be thinking about him while they are away, etc.

All the best,

I'm no expert, but here are some suggestions. Make some tapes of yourself (and hubby?) reading some of his favorite books to him, along with some messages from you. Have his caregiver play them for him at nighttime and naptime. My friend used to leave small wrapped gifts throughout the house for her children to find. You could play with that idea and see what works for you.

Many years ago (I'm feeling old saying that! ha ha) my parents had to go away for a few days and my brother and I stayed with a relative. I can still recall how special it was that my parents had left a little something for us to open each day. It was a cherished moment of the day and it helped me to count down to their return as I saw the little gifts disappear. I think it is a perfect little touch for him at such a young age.

I see some of the recommendations on here to make the little gifts something he can use while you are away - bubbles, etc., and I think that's a great idea! Perhaps you can write him a little love note and wrap the gift in that sheet of paper (assuming the gifts are small enough to do so). That way he not only gets to open a little surprise but gets to see your writing with a sweet little message on it. As I recall, my parents also had one or two special days scheduled for us while they had to be gone - Zoo or something like that - and that was also a very nice touch which made it more of a fun adventure while they were away.

Best of luck to you! I know you'll come up with the perfect way to handle it!

AS a therapist I beg you to tell him the truth as much as a 5 year old can handle. Leaving a tape recording of your voice with loving and caring words can help. If you have time try one night away from him with the same sitter and see how he handles it but don't rush to his side should he start crying with the sitter. Small little gifts are OK and a calendar that he can visually reference and mark off the days is also a great help. Good Luck!

You are so sweet! I have four and I had to leave them for 3 days to help with some family business. I left each of them an envelope to open each day when they woke up and a little $1- bin item from Target to find each day through the letter, they had so much fun, I think they were sad when we returned!

Enjoy Italy & Congrats!!!

You've received alot of great suggestions! I would also add setting up some playdates and maybe buying him a new book or two before you leave that he could read each night. Also, promising him a gift from Italy will also give him the reassurance that you're coming back. Good luck! And have a GREAT time!

Well the good news is that you will be able to call every day if need be. I had the same situation - allbeit not Italy, but I was traveling down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon when my son was 5 years old. I was gone for 9 days and we had no communication with the outside world. phones and such just do not work from that far deep in the earth. Anyway, I did all I could to prepare him. I made a calendar with a map of the river and told him where we would be on the river each and every day and most importantly I left him letters. He's now almost 8 and he still has those letters in his nightstand and will not let me throw them out. I wrote him one for every morning explaining what he was going to be doing that day... "well, today you're going to school. I'm sure you'll have fun with all your friends..." and then I wrote him one for every night letting him know that I was thinking about him and sending him good night kisses and that I loved him very much. I also had a count down calendar where he could mark off the days until we got back. All these things really helped him pass the time knowing that we were thinking of him. Have a greaet time and don't worry. I'm sure he will do great. and like I said... at least you can call if need be.

When I went to visit family without my daughter, She & I made a count down calender for her to pull off 1 page each day. She decorated it and then I added special little things to it she did't see until I was gone. Leaving little notes in her clothing drawers and other places to find also helped. Enjoy your trip and he'll do great.

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