Why every mom should take a solo trip

Feb 16, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new trip information. It was originally published on March 22, 2019.

As a mom that travels frequently with my family, I’m a huge advocate for traveling with kids. However, I’ve also learned that to be the best version of myself requires me to do things just for me sometimes. To make sure I stay refreshed and rejuvenated, I’ve implemented a yearly solo trip where I can focus on my wants and needs without compromising.

The word “momcation” is often thrown around to describe this type of getaway, but regardless of what you call it, I think it’s important for every mom to take one. I’ll admit on my first solo trip there were so many thoughts running through my head as my own mother dropped me at the airport and I said goodbye to my kids. One of my daughters was excited for me while the other cried because she couldn’t come.

I was torn. Should I be doing this? How can I just leave my husband alone with a 2- and 4-year-old? Will people think, “Oh, I guess traveling with her kids isn’t as fun as she says it is?” Not to mention I was nervous! I’d never traveled alone before, and all the scary things people had told me since I announced I’d be going to Mexico alone kept running through my head.

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Momcation Casa Malca Tulum
Casa Malca Tulum. (Photo courtesy of Monet Hambrick)

But there I was, sitting on my flight heading to Tulum, staring out the window. I never really get to stare out the window because my eldest daughter loves the window seat. While I gladly give it up, it was nice having it for myself. Honestly, it was nice only worrying about myself since I’d gotten to the airport. I wasn’t asking my tiny humans who had to use the bathroom before getting on our flight, making sure I had every kid item to keep them entertained or sharing my snacks (OK, not having to sneak eating theirs).

It’s my ‘momcation’ and I’ll do what I want to

My flight landed in Cancun and I took a 90- minute shuttle to Tulum. Before the trip, I had planned on renting a bicycle and getting around via bikes and taxis. Upon arriving, I decided it was too hot and I wanted to rent a car, so I did. I did so without consulting anyone; I just changed my mind. It was such a liberating feeling!

After checking into my room, it was time to eat. I got some suggestions from the front desk and decided on burritos. I didn’t have to worry about if my kids wanted burritos or wonder if the establishment was kid-friendly. I got burritos because I wanted them. Novel, right?

Scuba diving is one of my favorite things to do. While my family goes on some pretty adventurous vacations, like taking surf lessons in Costa Rica or skiing in Colorado, scuba diving is off limits for a 2 and 4-year-old (though when they are a few years older, opportunity awaits). For now, I rarely, if ever, get to scuba dive on most of my trips. Not this time — I dove in the most beautiful cenote in Tulum: Casa Cenote.

Scuba Diving in Casa Cenote
Scuba diving in Casa Cenote. (Photo courtesy of Monet Hambrick)

You can really relax on a momcation

One of my favorite parts of my solo trip was being able to relax. Not just sneaking in an hour of TV after cleaning the kitchen, but really relaxing. I woke up when I wanted to, and if I didn’t feel like getting out of bed for breakfast until 1 p.m., that was just fine. Reading is one of my favorite things to do but I couldn’t remember the last time I read a book. On this trip, I was able to complete an entire book, all 525 pages! Whether I was laying in the hammock in my room or lounging at the beach, my book was cracked open and I lost myself in the story with no interruptions in sight. It was beautiful and so was my two-hour massage.

Why You Need a Momcation in Tulum, Mexico
Tulum, Mexico (Photo courtesy of Monet Hambrick)

Your momcation will take you out of your comfort zone and it will feel amazing

When traveling with my family I always have my husband or kids to talk to or to help turn uncomfortable situations into comfortable ones. My kids are natural icebreakers and they always get the party started. But here I was in Mexico staying, eating and sightseeing alone. The first day was a little nerve-wracking and uncomfortable but by the end of my trip, I was out of my shell and a whole new me. I went to a restaurant/bar alone and watched the sunset at a shared table where I met a lovely couple.

Momcation in Tulum, Mexico at Koh Tin
Enjoying the most beautiful sunset at Koh Tin in Tulum. (Photo courtesy of Monet Hambrick)

My last night was spent taking salsa lessons at a beach club with the sea breeze blowing in my hair. On my final morning, I proudly ate breakfast alone as I took in the beautiful sight of the ocean. I’ve always been an outgoing person, but before this trip, I’d never eaten at a restaurant alone. I left with a confidence I never had before.

Breakfast for one at Philosohphy at Casa Malca
Breakfast for one at Philosophy at Casa Malca. (Photo courtesy of Monet Hambrick)

After your first momcation, you just might become addicted

My first momcation was exactly what I needed and I couldn’t wait to start planning my next one. So I did — I headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, 12 months later. The great thing about visiting Puerto Rico is that you don’t need a passport as a U.S. citizen. With countless nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale/Miami to San Juan, it was easy to get to the island. I stayed for five nights and split my time between a residential area in an Airbnb and in Condado at the AC Marriott and Hilton DoubleTree. I was able to earn Delta SkyMiles for my Airbnb stay, cash out on free breakfast at the DoubleTree due to my Hilton Honors Gold status and use points to cover my nights at the Marriott. You know us moms are always thinking of ways to save!

(Photo courtesy of Monet Hambrick)

On this trip, I did some similar things as Tulum, including scuba diving, salsa lessons and an afternoon at the spa. For diving, I headed to Culebra, where I did a two-tank dive with Aqua Adventure PR. It’s 90 minutes from San Juan so you will need a car or can pay extra for pick up, the option I chose. This was one of my favorite dives: the reefs are so healthy and we saw plenty of colorful fish.

My three-hour salsa lesson was booked via Airbnb Experiences and included a night out on the town. It was nice to have a small group of people to hit the best salsa clubs with so I didn’t feel out of place all alone.

I also enjoyed taking surfing lessons at Isla Verde Beach. There is absolutely no experience needed and, although I fell a few times, it was so exciting finally standing up and riding the waves. A 90-minute lesson cost me $63 via Airbnb Experiences.

(Photo courtesy of Monet Hambrick)

Even though this was my third visit to San Juan (I’d previously visited with my husband and for a girls trip), I’d never heard of Loiza. I came across this Afro-Caribbean community while searching through the experiences Airbnb offered. I’m so glad I found it because I took the most perfect three-hour tour.

Just 15 minutes from San Juan lies this community, established in 1719. Mostly inhabited by Taino Indians and those of African descent, it’s where the freed slaves of Puerto Rico moved once slavery was over. Here you can learn about the bomba drums, the Plena dance and visit the Samuel Lind Art Studio. Each year Loiza hosts the Saint James festival in July. Whatever you do, don’t leave without trying a frituras, their traditional snack.

As moms we are typically behind the camera capturing our kids’ best moments. Rarely do we have pictures of ourselves, and when we do, they usually include our family. So on this solo trip, I hired a photographer to take pictures of just me. It was so nice having someone making sure that I looked the best and could reflect on this trip and remind myself of how much fun I had.

(Photo courtesy of Monet Hambrick)

Of course, I love traveling with my husband and kids, but these solo trips are so liberating. I take time out for me, make no compromises, rediscover the things I love to do and push my comfort zone.

Mamas, don’t ever feel guilty for needing some “me” time. If we don’t take care of ourselves, there is no way we can take care of our families. Each time I return home, I am refreshed and ready to continue tackling motherhood headfirst. These solo trips have become an annual affair and I hope you carve some time out to take one, too.

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