Refreshed and Relaxed: The Aftermath of our Kid-Free Vacation

You may have remembered from a previous blog post the internal debate I was having of whether we should vacation with or without our 16 month old daughter. We bit the bullet and visited Charleston, South Carolina for five days/six nights without her. We had a great time and I don’t regret our decision to leave her at all, but did realize many things when we were away from her.

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I can no longer sleep in OR stay up late.

One of the biggest things I was looking forward to for this trip was sleeping in past 7 o’clock. The sweet sounds of silence and no cries or yells of “Mama!” from across the hall as my alarm clock sounded amazing. Apparently motherhood has taken away my ability to sleep in. Most days of vacation we were up around 7:00 – 7:30 a.m. and I’d often wake up between 5:30 – 6:00 a.m. not being able to fall back asleep. At least we were able to make the most of our days and not sleep them away, right? At least that’s what I kept telling myself. Going along with sleep, I can officially declare that we may have exited the “partying on vacation” mode of our 20s. The last trip we took as a couple pre-baby was to Nashville, Tennessee and included MANY late nights out enjoying the drinking establishments of Nashville. This trip we were lucky if we stayed up past 10 p.m. and drinks consisted of one or two beers with dinner. We’re officially old, and I think I’m okay with that!

I’ve literally lost my mind.

I’m a self described control freak. I send my daughter’s snacks to daycare so I know that she’s getting in enough fruits/veggies for the day, picked out her clothes to wear when we were gone, and planned all of our meal reservations for our trip. I thought I had everything set and ready to go, both at home and in Charleston. I had researched the best restaurants to eat (Charleston is known for its excellent food) and had reservations set for each night. We ended up going to one restaurant on Monday night ready for our reservations at 6:45 only to discover the restaurant was closed on Mondays. How could this be?! Why would the app I used allow me to make a reservation for a restaurant that isn’t even open that day? We luckily found another great restaurant to eat at, but I was still so confused. I logged onto the app to write a bad review only to discover we went to the wrong restaurant that night! Our reservations for said restaurant were for the next night. I realized in that moment I’m always busy thinking about other things and trying to keep everyone else organized. I forget about making sure that I’m organized and have things together myself.

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One of our dinner reservations I managed to keep straight!

Every kid around her age made me think about her.

We visited the beach a couple of times on our trip, which is a mecca for young families. Every time I saw a child around her age I immediately thought of her. It was hard not to wonder what she was doing back home, if she was being good or having a good time. It was nice to see other kids around her age, but it made me miss her more when I saw them.

She didn’t miss us as much as we missed her.

We’re fortunate to have my husband’s parents and my mom and sister living in the same city as us. Both sets of grandparents and my sister shared time to watch her while we were gone. We were able to FaceTime with her every day, and each time we talked she was full of smiles, laughter, and running around. She wasn’t interested in talking with us very long, and I could tell she was just fine without us.

It’s good to have “me” time.

It was nice to not have to worry about someone else’s needs before mine for a few short days. I wasn’t restricted by the length of nap time to catch up on reading my book or to lay out in the sun. I could go for a run and not feel guilty about missing time spent with her. I felt rejuvenated and refreshed when I returned home, instead of exhausted from the day to day grind of being a working mom.

It’s good to have time as a couple.

My husband and I rarely go out just the two of us and it’s not because we have a lack of babysitters since both of our families live in town. We often like staying at home and spending time with our daughter. We don’t like taking time away from her often since we both work full-time, but it was nice to have six days where we remembered what things were like before kids. Having conversations that didn’t revolve around whether our child pooped that day, how she was at daycare, or how whiny she had been for the day was refreshing. We were able to reconnect and remember what it was like to focus on our relationship again, which is very important. kid-free vacation

We wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of the things we did if she was with us.

Naps really put a damper on plans and activities. Our daughter still takes two naps and is a beast if she doesn’t get both of them. The girl loves her sleep and I can’t blame her, but two naps that break up the day don’t allow the time to do a lot. One day we went on a two hour walking tour of the city, and then after, walked around for three more hours taking in the history. There is no way we would have enjoyed doing this with her and she wouldn’t have enjoyed it either. Also, Charleston is a huge foodie city with amazing restaurants. We ate at some fancy restaurants with incredible food the week we were there, but there is no way the restaurants or dishes were toddler friendly. Our cuisine for the week would have looked a lot different if she was with us.

I want to go back with her.

While we wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of the things we did with her, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to eventually go back with her. We saw kids playing in a fountain in one of the parks and I instantly thought how much she would enjoy doing that. When we were at the beach I thought of how much fun she would have playing in the sand or running around the beach. We passed a Children’s Museum and Aquarium and I instantly thought of how fun it would be to bring her back to those as well. Needless to say, I already have the idea of renting a beach house for the week in the future and spending time there as a family.

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Reunited after six days away!

How easy it was to just relax.

I’ll be honest, I thought I was going to have a way harder time than I did leaving her. I thought I would cry when we dropped her off, think about her the entire trip, and miss her immensely. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard, but I had a lot easier time leaving her and relaxing than I thought I would. Maybe that was a sign I was ready to leave? Yes, I thought about her daily, but her well being and thoughts of her day-to-day activities didn’t consume my brain. I was able to be present during our vacation and truly enjoy the time spent away.

I would do it again.

Even though I came home to a child crying whenever I held her and reaching for my mom to hold her, stopping crying when she was held by her (talk about guilt trip!), I would 100% take a trip without her again. I really did feel refreshed when we got back, and I enjoyed spending time with my husband alone again. We have a family vacation planned this summer and ideally we’d like to have a family vacation every year and a no kids trip every couple of years. Now that we’ve left once it won’t be nearly as hard in the future. Plus I can see how much closer she got with her grandparents and aunt while we were gone, which she wouldn’t have been able to do if we were constantly around.

I highly encourage everyone to take a kid free vacation if you can. As parents we work hard each and every day to put our kids first, but in the end if we aren’t happy, rejuvenated, refreshed, and 100%, can we really be there for our kids? Although we’re used to putting everyone’s needs before our own, it’s important to take care of you and your relationships with others as well. This is probably the biggest thing I learned from our trip.

Have you traveled without kids? Did you have any big thoughts after you returned?

Elizabeth Kreher
Elizabeth is a personable, outgoing mom living in Cedar Rapids and working as a high school counselor. She met her husband, Ryan, in high school, but were friends for several years. They started dating while they were both at the University of Iowa and have been married since 2009. After enjoying 5.5 years as a married couple with only a dog to be responsible for, they added to their family in November 2014 when their daughter Elin was born. They welcomed their second daughter, Myla, in October 2016. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys being outside, reading, traveling, attempting to be crafty, running, cheering on the Hawkeyes and spending time with family and friends. She’s loved seeing Cedar Rapids through the lens of a mom and all our city has to offer for families.


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