Taking a Vacation Without Your Small Children- How Long Is Too Long?

Updated on February 06, 2013
J.A. asks from Moab, UT
11 answers

My husband and I have travelled to most of the US and some outside. We are starting to save and plan for a 'major' trip that will hopefully take place in about 2 years. We are thinking either a trip to Peru, Brazil, or eastern Europe. We aren't ones for going to Mexico and sitting on a beach somewhere. We love to cross places off our lists. Taking small children doesn't make sense for more reasons then just the $ but that alone is a pretty good reason. Also- of the places left in the US that we would like to go (New England and Southern CA), we would rather take the kids with us when they can fully appreciate the trip and the money spent.

We currently have a 20 month old and one on the way (due in May) so when we are planning on travelling, they would be 3.5 and 1.5 if we go when we plan (late 2012). Of course the trip itself is dependent on us being able to save and agree on where to go (which is the hardest part). Most everywhere we want to go would be 7-10 days to make it worth us going. Between the two sets of grandparents, our children would be cared for and taken good care of for whatever amount of time we choose to go. Added: It should be added that my sonstays w/ gma and gpa 1x a month for a night ot two and sees them usually 3x a week. My parents are also around all the time and will be helping w/ the load. Mil and fil have his crib and all his toys etc there so he is totally used to going there and I'm sure the new addition will be too- hopefully!

My husband and I have a hard time leaving our kids during a regular work day, but we also know that we need some time to do the things that make us happy (and for us it is travelling). We just don't know if we can go for that long period of time, but REALLY REALLY want to do as we promised and take time for ourselves.

Have you ever taken a long vacation away from your kids? Now with skype etc we wouldn't be that out of touch (in some of the possible destinations). How did you deal with being gone? Regrets?

Please no suggestions on taking the kids with us! I understand there are places we could go here, but they are going to be small and probably can't appreciate the amount of $$ it would cost to take them for just a weekend.

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answers from New York on

I could never leave my kids even for a day...only because I don't trust people with my kids, and my family lives overseas. I could potentially leave them with my family and take my husband to on a quick getaway to greece let's say (which is 4 hrs from where my folks live) but then I'd have my father call me every 5 seconds asking me how do you say this in English? So, no, we're not going anywhere without kids.
If we could we would. we miss so much traveling. we used to do it all the time. we still do but to kid-friendly destinations.
so I say 10 days is good for you and enough for the kids. I also say plan to go to prague. very romantic, beautiful, and you guys will have an amazing time.
I sign off wishing i was planning such a trip instead of this disney trip AGAIN.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

I understand your heartburn over this. My husband and I are currently trying to figure this out ourselves. It's hard to leave your kids. Mine are little too and don't think they'd truly appreciate Hawaii like we do. So for us we have decided that a 7 day trip isn't too long to leave them with a trusted family member. Plus aren't we all better parents when we've had time to regroup and feel like more of ourselves? I know I do. Though it's hard to leave them, do it. It be a good experience for you and your husband. There is plenty of time when they are older to take all the fun trips you want to with them. Have fun.

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answers from Kansas City on

I've had several families leave their children with me while traveling abroad. Most have been school age children and they did fine for up to 2 weeks at a time with no more than a couple of post cards. But then we did 5 days with two small children that were toddler and preschool age. Those kids were devastated the whole time. We tried everything to make them happy and we were able to distract them quite a bit of the time. But it just was NOT the same as leaving school age children.

On the flip side, many families of all ages use me for the weekends from Friday night to Sunday night. I know you really can't go abroad in just a few days. It's also great that they would be with grandparents. From my own perspective though, I HATED being left with my aunt and my grandparents when I was a child and was terribly homesick. So just because they are family doesn't absolutely guarantee that they will be okay with it that long.

I think it mostly depends on your children and their personalities.

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answers from Los Angeles on

A month...kidding. It depends but I'd say 1 week to 12 days is reasonable if you're going over seas. I've never had the opportunity to do such a long trip sans the kids. My husband is uncomfortable with it but if I found the right caretaker, I'd do it in a minute.

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answers from Kansas City on

I literally just got back from this kind of trip and I can honestly recommend to do it!!!! Of course you're nervous, and that won't go away, and likely you'll become more nervous as the day draws closer but honestly, it's great. It was SO nice to be on my own with my husband, something that seems almost foreign with our busy schedules! ;) My kids are 3 and 15 months and we went on a 7 day cruise so we were gone from them about 9 days between air travel, etc. My kids were fine wihtout us for most of the time. The last 2-3 days were a bit tough on them but nothing my mom couldn't handle. We split the kids between my sister in law who took off a few days from work and stayed at our house with them and then she took them to my mom for the rest of the time. It worked out well and we didn't feel like we were burdening either one of them for the entire duration. Plus it gave them kids some variety. I'll tell you what I did to help prepare them and according to the care givers it worked out well...

First I really played up the vacation aspect of it for my 3 y/o daughter. I made sure to tell her it was HER vacation and she was going to play and do all kinds of special things, etc. I started about 2 weeks ahead of time, slowing building it up. Secondly, I got a manila envelope for each day we were gone. Inside each envelope I put a small toy, game, trinket, or piece of candy for each child. Plus I put in 1 or 2 pictures of my husband and me with the kids. I had also made a little cheap, vinyl photo book cover with our pictures on it and left instructions to fill it with pictures each day. This way it was like a game to see what pictures were up next and they could look at the fun times we had and remember us while we were away. Plus, my daughter was able to look at the envelopes each morning and count down the days until we returned home, which was very helpful for her. I also put in a gift card one day to McDonald's so it was a additional little treat for them.

We considered doing skype, but decided against it. Instead we put international calling on our phone and checked in once/day. Even at that the 3 y/o was barely interested in talking to us. She was far too busy to get on the phone! LOL! I would say you can probably count on it being good for 7-10 days but I wouldn't push it much past that! It's a great idea to take time for yourselves and I think as parents and partners more people need to take time to work on their marriage and remember their spouse! ;)

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answers from Seattle on

Absolutely! I've left on several 10 day stints... and they have been fantastic. (I've also traveled with my son... which is also amazing, just in a TOTALLY different way. What's amazing how if you're a culturally adept traveler how many DOORS kids open for you. So when you feel more comfy keep that in mind for later trips. They may be too young to remember -although they may also surprise you, kiddo vividly remembers pieces of trips from only 1.5, and he's 8 now- but it just changes the way that people within the culture interact with you. America is a very unfriendly place for children, the rest of the world I've found is the exact opposite.) Because while taking kids opens a lot of doors, traveling just as an adult is just a wildly different experience (like being able to spend 10 hours in a museum;). So I'm not trying to talk you in, it's just a thing to keep in mind for LATER. Get your grownup time in.

Absolutely no regrets whatsoever. GUARANTEED first couple days I'm wigging. Death thoughts. Freakazoid thoughts. Guilt guilt guilt. But my son LOVES it when he gets to stay with Nana. They are soooo close, and have such an amazing relationship that the extra time has always proven to be a huge blessing. Then, of course, by the end of the trip... I don't wanna go back!!! ((Only half kidding. Of *course* you want to go back, but the mom-guilt at that point is totally gone.))

Tips and tricks from my own experience (aka what works best for us, may bot be best for everyone).

1) Kiddo has a once a month overnight with my parents, and a once a week playdate with them. So he has always been VERY comfortable with them. First trip I left it up to my mum if she wanted to stay in our house or take him to theirs for sleep (aka she was the one in the trenches and I trust her judgement).

2) Set times to phone every night. Don't be surprised if your kids could care less that you're on the phone. Sigh. Where's the love? No really, it's just that he was totally happy where he was and "busy" with something. When he was little it was about 50/50 whether he'd want to get on or not. The checking in has far more to do with making PARENTS happy than making kids happy.

3) DO NOT pick them up the day you get back. Give yourself 1-2 days to sleep off the jet lag and unpack and get back into being "home".

4) It takes about 3-7 days after picking them up for the normal routine to reestablish.

5) Make sure each has a present to be given on your return.

6) MOST IMPORTANTLY... like in all areas of life, kids take their cues on how to react from the adults around them. If the adults are acting like it's traumatic and scary, kids fill the role expected of them (after all if it scares God Like Parents, it must be *terrifying*). Ditto if it's "Your mother just up and leaves you!" or "How could I leave my baaaaabyyyyy????" the kids will wig. If, instead, it's "What a grand time you'll have! You're so lucky!" kids will run with that as well.

I also have to say that while my mum usually took us with her when she travelled (particularly me, since I was oldest / he only for a little while) she and my dad would also leave about twice a year on trips of their own. Usually for 1-3 weeks. Them being gone (when I was old enough to really realize they were gone, prior to age 4 life was just life) was an ADVENTURE FOR US!!! We got to stay with family or friends, got special things to do... it was FUN for us. It's FAR harder being mum leaving, than it was to be child who was left.

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answers from Kansas City on

I can't imagine doing this! I have a 3.5 year old and have taken her to Europe, Hawaii, 6 cruises and everywhere in between (and none of this included "kid friendly" spots). Did you not have children to be a family? Why would you exclude them? I know you want a break, but I just can't see leaving them for a long period of time no matter how well they know their grandparents. I know I'm older and from the old school of thought, but my parents showed me the world from the time I was small and I am forever grateful. I am doing this with my own daughter, and I'm a single parent. And when they are older, do you really want to admit to them that you left them behind? I think you should wait until you feel comfortable taking a vacation with them. Kids are great travelers...much better than most of the adults I've traveled with. They are just happy to be with you, wherever in the world that may be.



answers from Boise on

Children are totally dependent on their parents. A parent should not abandon their small child to go on a pleasure trip. You gave birth to the child and now you have a responsibility to protect and nurture the child until the child can survive on it's own. You should only take necessary and calculated risks such as driving to work, maybe an overnight trip that is not far away...couple of hours at most. You should not be abrogating your responsibility to a grandparent or anybody else for that matter. This is a ME society which is totally upside down. Take your pleasure trip before you have children or when they are grown.

Some of the responders have said the kids didn't miss them or were busy having fun when they called or were disinterested. You selfish people, take it from some who knows, when you are a child and your parents die, the pain is there everyday, it may not be as acute when you are an adult but it is there and very real. You stay by your children, you can still make your marriage work without taking that cruise.



answers from New York on

As long as your kids are healthy and are being left with grandparents who you trust and they know well, enjoy.

This is not likely to come up but you should have a will that names someone as a legal guardian for the children before you travel out of the country (you should probably have one anyway). My cousins lost their parents at a young age and there was a custody fight since the guardian named in the will was not in a position to raise 2 young children at the time.



answers from San Francisco on

LOL. I was going to say a month, if I could find someone that would mind them that long. However, that isn't possible with school schedules, etc., sigh.
I have gone away for a long weekend when they were small, but I also did extended breastfeeding. And truthfully, by the time the 4th day was done, I was ready to see them again (at least when they were small - now they're teens and the story is different :). It's actually easier in some ways to go away when they are small because they don't have other stuff going on. If I asked someone to watch them now, the kids would have to be carted to sports, etc. which would be challenging for anyone I would ask. During the summer, hubby and I may get away.


answers from New York on

I think if you have grandparents willing to take the kids then its up to how long they are willing to keep them? I would "practice" -leave them with grandparents for a weekend and see how it goes before I left the country for 10-14 days to make sure they are OK staying with grandparents, the youngest will prob take cues from the oldest so let your oldest go visit grandparents when the new baby comes to get used to longer visits. Dont feel guilty if they are all happy

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