My husband and I have taken a handful of trips away from our kids since we became parents, but none so far as when we jet-setted off to Sydney, Australia for my younger brother’s wedding. In truth, the anxiety about being so far away from my babies overshadowed the excitement of actually traveling to an incredible new country I never dreamed I’d visit. As much as we all need a break from parenting once in a while, halfway around the world is about as far away as you can get from your children. So what did I learn to help mitigate my anxiety and maximize our fun?
Prep the Caregivers
You need someone who loves your children nearly as much as you do. For us, we were lucky enough to have my husband’s sister and mom alternate the weeklong childcare duties. We left a packet of memberships, activity ideas, and all crucial information in a six-page Google doc with a calendar of activities, time differences, the WiFi info, diagrammed instructions for the TV remotes, and a list of where to find each digitally purchased Disney movie. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for our caregivers, fully knowing it was going to be a chaotic week and we’d owe them big time.
Plan for the Unexpected
I wasn’t worried about the care my mother and sister-in-law would take with our kids, but I was worried about the unexpected. What if one of the kids got sick? Broke a bone? Went to the hospital? There was no way we could quickly get back to them. So we also alerted friends and neighbors and had multiple emergency contacts. Plus (and maybe I’m a spaz) I couldn’t help but reflect on my own mortality flying halfway around the world, so I made sure our guardian papers were in order and took the time to write a personal note to each of my kids (please tell me I’m not the only one who does this). Either way, it calmed my heart to know I’d done this.
Enjoy The Journey
Once we were on the plane with 24 hours of travel stretched out before us, I snuggled into my seat, perused the entertainment selection, and finally started to relax. At that point, we were going, and the kids were going to have to be fine. A friend of mine and creator of the travel-inspired blog Mackinaw Road had flown to India a year earlier and mentioned that the flight “wasn’t so bad”. As a mom of two herself, having 14+ uninterrupted hours of “me time” was bliss. I found out she was absolutely right. Plus a fortuitous empty seat between me and my husband on the flights both to Australia and home meant we were able to stretch out a bit and sleep for about half the 16 hour Qantas flight from Dallas to Sydney (fun fact, it’s the 2nd longest flight you can take to anywhere in the world).
Resist the Urge to Facetime Too Much
We learned this the hard way. Our older child was happy to see us, but our little one didn't understand "hanging up", so we said goodbye to a wailing toddler clamoring for the phone. When babies are under two, it's probably best that they forget that you're gone, even if you miss them. For this international trip, we set up our own WhatsApp channel for photos and video updates.
Stay Calm When the Unexpected Happens
A few days into our trip, right after my brother said his wedding vows, we got a call. It was 3 AM back at home and my sister-in-law, the caregiver for our kids, had just come down with the stomach flu. Like the retching, can’t move, can’t eat, stomach flu. And so did her daughter. And so did our daughter. We had to direct my poor sister-in-law on where to find spare sheets and puke buckets and had our neighbors run to the store for Pedialyte.
We had to call-in our emergency contacts and did come home a day early. But we learned a lot. Companies are human, and telling them our story, we were able to rebook our travel home for minimal fees and cancel a pre-booked hot-air balloon ride with a documented “no refunds” policy. Also, when you are halfway around the world and can only do so much, acknowledgment and acceptance sets in and you realize (with an enormous amount of gratitude) that the people you put in charge are perfectly capable of caring for your kids - and of scrubbing puke off your bedroom carpet.
The trip was still amazing! And any trip we take in the future will be a piece-of-cake because we’ll never be as far away from our kids as we were on that trip. Although, we can never, EVER, ask my in-laws to babysit.
Trip Highlights & Tips
You can read about my favorite things to do if you have 48 hours in Sydney on the travel-inspired blog MackinawRoad.com