Taking that first trip without your baby or little one can feel like a little bit of everything—from joyful excitement to twisted anxiety and a whole mess of emotions in between. Mama, trust me when I tell you that it’s all healthy, and this will be a beautiful experience for you both.
Go ahead and pack those bags, knowing that a good night’s sleep and time with yourself, your partner or your friends will have you back home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Whether you’re in the thick of newborn exhaustion or taking a well-deserved hiatus from parenting, it is possible to enjoy time away from it all while also giving your child a change of pace.
Before you hit the highway, here are a few tips to make the transition as smooth as possible and plan your vacation sans kids. (Plus a bonus one: breathe in, breathe out. You’ve got this!)
Prepare a sample schedule for your child’s caregiver
If your little one will be cared for by someone who isn’t deeply involved in their daily routine, it can be helpful to jot down a rough outline for them to refer to throughout the day. Don’t assume that Grandma and Grandpa know how many naps your baby needs or exactly when and what to offer for lunch. If there are any non-negotiables for you or your baby, be clear about them upfront.
That said, do allow them some flexibility within the routine to do things their own way and have fun. Provide the caregiver with all the need-to-know info for a successful day, and let them take it from there.
Set and manage your communication expectations
Are you hoping for hourly photo updates? An end-of-day dispatch? Regular FaceTime calls? Or would you rather be left alone except for emergencies? Let the caregiver know ahead of time how often you’d like to be in contact while, again, allowing some wiggle room for their own convenience.
Remember, as tempting as it is to see your babe on FaceTime, it can be more upsetting to some children than it’s worth. In my experience, it’s almost always better to ask for videos of the kids’ day that I can enjoy on my own time while sparing them the inevitable tears that come with a video call.
And, while I love hearing what my own toddlers are up to throughout the day, I’d rather not get a play-by-play of the challenging or frustrating moments. I’ve found that those updates add to my mental load and stress levels when there’s nothing I can actually do about it at that moment.
Personally, I’ve asked my husband to stop sharing that information with me, requesting instead: “If you’re not having a great time, I don’t need to hear about it right now. Just tell me everyone is happy and healthy, and I’ll see you when I get home.” You can almost always laugh through the mayhem together once it’s in the rearview.
Make the trip exciting for you
This may seem like a no-brainer, but seriously! Do not overlook this!
Leaving your child for the first time is hard enough, so be sure that you’re genuinely excited about where you’re headed and that it will fill your cup in some way. While that’s easy enough to do while relaxing on a sun-soaked vacation, you can even carve out some special time for yourself on a work trip. Treat yourself a mani/pedi, a latte and a new book—or take a late morning (or evening) in bed with room service. Even the simplest pleasures can feel downright indulgent when your time and space is your own.
Leave behind the essentials and important details
Be sure to equip your caregiver with all the important contacts and information they would need in the case of an emergency. This includes your child’s pediatrician’s name and number, any allergies or medications needed, etc. If it will provide you some peace of mind, you can also consider coming up with an emergency plan of action if you need to get home in a hurry.
Most likely, the “worst” thing to happen will be a tearful goodbye and some missed cuddles at bedtime. You can leave your own scent on a small, soft lovey by sleeping with it for a few nights and then offering it to your baby as a transitional object in your absence. It certainly won’t replace you, but it can offer some soothing comfort for your baby. (Vice versa: It may bring you comfort to travel with a small item that reminds you of or smells like your baby.)
Oh, and definitely don’t forget to leave enough diapers, wipes and other daily essentials behind to last until you return!
Have a breastfeeding plan of action
If you’re breastfeeding, you will need a pump to travel with. (Electric vs. Manual? That’s a personal preference, although I typically would travel with both for any trip exceeding 24 hours.)
If you want to keep and store your milk, you can carry a small cooler—and are within your rights to bring it through TSA security at the airport. Be sure to download the Mamava app for on-the-go breastfeeding support and access to private lactation pods in most major airports and other public spaces (like Walmarts!) across the country.
Before leaving, make sure you’ve pumped enough milk to get your baby through your absence and consider stocking up on a bit of formula for backup in case of a spilled milk emergency. Also, make sure your baby’s caregiver is aware of the best practices for warming and storing thawed milk. The CDC even has a handy printable PDF you can post right on your fridge.
Anticipate a sweet reunion
If your child is old enough to appreciate it, it can be nice to bring back a souvenir for them to enjoy—be it a sticker, a stuffie or something else age-appropriate from the trip. But, mostly, they’ll be thrilled to just see YOU!
Enjoy that time away, Mama, and get ready for the sweetest snuggles ever when you get home.