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Kid-Free Couple Vacation

The 9 Emotional Stages of Going on a Vacation Without Your Kids

My husband and I recently returned from a five-night, six-day trip to the beach, the longest vacation we'd taken without our two kids since our oldest was born six years ago. We were looking forward to it for months, knowing that we so needed the time to reconnect, both to each other and to our kid-free selves, who seem to be way more fun and easygoing and less anger-prone than the people we are when we're trying to meet our 6-year-old daughter's endless needs and keep our 3-year-old son in pants.

The trip was just as great as we hoped it would be, even though it rained more than half of the time we were there. Who needs sun when you have a private patio not covered in bubble containers and bikes and the opportunity to take unlimited afternoon naps not next to a kicking toddler?

Thinking of planning your own child-free couple's trip? Here are all the emotions you can expect to feel before, during, and after your vacation.

  1. Stress about leaving the kids. Prepping to leave your kids for longer than a few hours takes some serious work. Not only do you have to find the sucker, I mean sitter, who is willing to watch your children for multiple days and nights, but you can't just hand them over without a detailed schedule, emergency contact list, and stocked fridge. At some point, you'll wonder if leaving is even worth it.
  2. Frantic planning and scheduling. God forbid your toddler should run out of corn dogs or your daughter doesn't have the perfect present for that weekend's birthday party, so you need to think ahead. Can your carpool cover you for that week's soccer practice? Do your in-laws even know where your son's preschool is located? These are the things that you'll obsess over in the weeks before you leave.
  3. The "lost arm" phenomenon. You'll arrive at the airport or settle into your seat in the car and feel like something's missing. Did you leave behind your passport or forget to pack underwear? Nope, it's just that you're so used to being on high alert, ready to react to your kids' needs and misdeeds, that simply being alone with your partner feels a little off. You'll get used to the pleasant sensation soon enough.
  4. That never-ending-day feeling. After you arrive at your destination, the first day of your trip will feel like an eternity. You can't remember the last time you've had 24 unstructured hours, and you're not totally sure what to do with them. You roam aimlessly from meals to naps to activities feeling like this trip is going to last forever, in the best way possible.
  5. The relaxation/forgetting-kids-exist zone. Around day two, you're settled in to vacation mode — so settled in that you can't really imagine what a vacation (or regular life) with kids even feels like. Why are you always so stressed out? Life is good, you just need to chill more, change your perspective, go with the flow. It's all easy to tell yourself when you're hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from your offspring.
  6. The end is near/fear of returning stage. Time speeds up, and suddenly, you're on your last day of vacation. The need to make every minute count is strong, and you start thinking about your real-life schedule upon return. This is a bummer, so you'll pour yourself a large drink and try to enjoy the last hours of freedom.
  7. Taking one more spin around the block. The drive home from vacation is a weird phenomenon. You'll be strangely excited to see your kids, but you'll also be aware that returning home means the magic spell you and your husband have been under while on vacation will be broken instantly. You'll discuss stopping at Starbucks or for a quick meal before you go home, just to keep the good times going for a few more minutes.
  8. The shock of reentry. You're home. After a joyful reunion full of hugs, kisses (you actually do love your kids!), and present requests, reality quickly sets in, and it isn't pretty. Your house is in disorder, your kids recognize that you are once again there to serve them (so start serving, Mom!!), and suddenly yesterday's afternoon nap on the beach seems like it was 100 years ago. Luckily, parents are tough, so you'll get back into the routine soon enough.
  9. The countdown to your next trip. You started talking about it on the plane home, but seriously, when can you get those suckers, I mean sitters, to watch the kids for a few days again!?
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