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For 5.5 years, we had just one kid. Then, once my sweet and charming second daughter was born and became old enough for me to reasonably travel without her from time to time (which took a while as she vehemently refused bottles), I still had a couple of more years with just one daughter who was the right age for more active trips. All total, let’s call it seven or eight years with occasional trips taken with just one daughter, my oldest.
Some of those early trips, when I took her to Kauai by myself when she was a 3-year-old, or to Paris when she was 4 years old, or to Alaska for a few days before dad could join, had their trying moments — but honestly, we loved our “Mommy and C” trips. Dad has a more traditional work schedule and doesn’t love traveling as frequently as we do, so it just made sense.
Fast-forwarding to present day, our second daughter is now 3.5 years old, exactly the same age when my first daughter and I started really exploring the world together. Our youngest is ready, willing and excited to join in the traveling-with-mommy fun.
In fact, I have my first whole trip booked with just the two of them and no other adult coming up very soon. I’ve done flights and parts of trips with the two of them by myself before, but never an entire trip that was just me and the girls — for fun. Coming up is exactly the kind of active trip that would have normally been reserved for just the oldest daughter and me.
But now, it is dawning on our 9-year-old that this is not going to be just a “Mommy and Me” trip as it would have been in all of her previous years. Little sister will be there, too. In fact, there are a grand total of zero “Mommy and Me” trips on the calendar with just one child. Cue all the mixed feelings.
Now, before the internet pitchforks are drawn upward, these mixed feelings are hardly the fault of the 9-year-old. Occasional trips with just her and me is the only world she knows. She’s actually a pretty darn great and inclusive big sister, but until recently, we’ve always had some trips that were just ours on the calendar.
So — how do you take solo trips with each kid without making the others feel left out? Or, are solo trips with kids something that just doesn’t translate well when the kids are all in a certain age range?
While I’ve forever been an advocate for taking trips with just one kid at times, pulling it off in real life can be harder than having a lovely, lofty philosophy. However, some families make it work and here are their strategies.
Take a Special Trip With Each Kid at a Certain Age
Maybe it is Disney World at 5-years-old, Paris at 10-years-old or New York City just before high school, but some families have designated ages when the kids can expect to take a solo trip with one (or both) parents. That may mean that each kid goes to the same place as all their siblings when they hit that age, or perhaps the destination is tailored to that child’s interests (or award availability). I love the idea of this plan, especially for larger families who can really make a tradition out of this schedule year after year.
Rotate Turns or Years
You don’t have to have a super structured schedule on when a kid will get to take a solo trip with the parent(s), you can just take turns as it makes sense. Maybe that means one child gets a turn each year, or every other year, or whatever makes sense. You could even use the Southwest Companion Pass to your benefit to accomplish these one-on-one trips since the pass lets you change your companion up to three times in one year. However you do it, you need to be darn sure that the turns really do rotate and the trips are roughly equivalent. The kids will notice.
My 9-year-old was all for this idea until she was reminded that her sister would get a turn to go somewhere while she had to stay home. Enter all of the “no ways.” She may warm up to that concept eventually, as I think it is the best strategy for our family, but the sting of it not being your turn won’t always be pleasant.
Divide and Conquer
Instead of someone getting left behind, you and your partner could divide and conquer with one parent and one child (or group of children) going one direction, and the other half going another direction. This can work best if there is an age gap between children and/or they simply have different traveling interests. Bonus points if those different interests align with the parents’ unique interests.
Maybe half the family wants to lay at the beach and swim while the other half wants to head to shows and museums in the big city. If you divide and conquer, you can all travel at the same time, but to different destinations to create some special one-on-one unique memories.
Even if half the family doesn’t travel somewhere, there can still be some fun, local activities planned to look forward to with the parent who stays behind.
The Grandma Factor
Some kids, many kids, love the chance to be spoiled by Grandma and Grandpa for a few days. If you are going to take one kid on a solo trip, hype up what the others will get to do while you are away. A trip to the grandparents where they will be royally spoiled, go to the movies, bake brownies and be the center of attention may be all you need to liftoff trips with one kid at a time. Extra credit if cousin play-time will be involved.
One for All and All for One
I’d like to continue taking solo trips with each of my kids from time to time as I truly cherish the one-on-one time that creates. But, not every family thinks that strategy is best. A number of traveling families I have communicated with take an all or nothing approach. This approach may be due a limited number of total trips that can be taken, a desire to not have anyone inadvertently feel left out, to maximize family time, because there is no one to leave a kid or children with or for a host of other reasons.
You can still carve out special experiences on trips with each child even if everyone makes the journey together. Go horseback riding with one, take in a Broadway show with another, do a half-day of thrill rides with just your oldest, take an ice cream break with your youngest, etc.
I’m on team take solo trips with each kid, on occasion. The conversations you have, connections you make and memories you create together are unique when there is only one child to focus on at a time. However, being a member of that team was much easier when there was only one vocal child to please. I’d love to hear how your family pulls off solo trips with each kid or why you’ve decided to always stick together when it comes time to travel.
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Featured image by Shelby Soblick for The Points Guy
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