With the right preparation, you can have a stress-free trip and everyone will have fun!
Back in May my husband and I went to Portugal and we were gone for 11 days. I was a missionary there about 13 years ago, and he also speaks Portuguese as he served in Brazil 15 years ago. It's been on our dream vacation list pretty much since we got married and we were finally able to make it happen.
I also recognize that we are super lucky to have had my mom be both willing and able to stay with our kids for a week and a half. I know that not everyone has that luxury. But I also think it's super important for parents to have some time away if at all possible. See if you can swap with some family members or friends for a weekend.
Ok, so back to leaving your kids while you go on vacation :) Your preparation may look a little different depending on you kids' ages, but most of the ideas are the same. Our kids are 9, 7 and 4. We were also traveling out of the country with limited internet access and no plans of making phone calls, so there wasn't really an option of "call us if you have questions."
FOR THOSE AT HOME:
--Create an information binder for Grandma (or who ever is watching the kids)
--A schedule for each day--This should have important things like when the school bus comes, lessons, classes, and even routine items like what they should do after school (homework, practice piano, take care of pets, etc) This is not to make the caregiver feel like a slave to the schedule, but things that are written down don't have to be remembered in the head. Plus, it makes the kids feel more secure when some routines are kept the same even with mom and dad gone. If there are certain things that happen before bedtime (story, a special blanket, etc) be sure to write these down too.
--Addresses and phone numbers--Include things like school, church, library, a couple of parks, addresses to anyone who will be watching the kids for a while (I had some great friends agree to watch Asher for a couple hours each morning so that my mom would have some kid-free time to visit the gym or run errands) Then phone numbers to all of those people of course, as well as a couple more neighbors for emergency contacts, the school (including the number for reporting absences if it's a different number)
--"How to's" for around the house--These are those little quirky things like how to use the remote for the tv/cable/video. It's not always the same as how it works at someone else's house :) Where to find the circut breaker box, where the water main shut off is, where the spare house key is. All those things that they hopefully won't need to know!
--Your itinerary--List all flights and times, hotels and phone numbers of where you're staying, and the dates if you're in a few different cities like we were.
--Pet information--I've mentioned before that we have a few :) We have a canary, 2 guinea pigs, 2 goats and a fish. I made sure to write down what they all needed every day, and the girls mostly take care of their own guinea pigs. Be sure to leave a phone number for the vet too.
--Meal plan--My meal plan was pretty vague. Food wasn't assigned to specific days, but I did provide several suggestions for meals. I also bought several Lunchables for school and other packaged food that I don't always have around. I tried to account for my kids' different tastes, though some are much trickier to please :) I also did a major grocery shopping trip right before we left so that those things were in the house already.
--Medical--None of our kids have any specific medical needs or allergies, so this was basically just an "in case of emergency" tyep sheet with doctor and dentist phone numbers and a signed medical release stating that my mom could take the kids for any care they needed. We also stapled a plastic bag to that paper and stuck our insurance card in there. Luckily, none of this information was needed while we were gone :)
This is one of the funnest parts of getting ready for a trip. I like to leave a surprise for the kids to open on each day that we're gone. They're not elaborate or expensive, but I have fun picking out little things that I think they'll enjoy. Plus, it gives them something to be excited about. The dollar store is a great place to visit for sure. I included things like MadLibs, sidewalk chalk, a new movie with popcorn and candy for a movie night, new pens with post-its, and more.
--Create a few date night packs to take with you
I went to The Dating Divas and picked out a couple of their ideas and got those ready. Like the chocolate tasting party. We stopped at a little grocery store one afternoon and picked up a few different Portuguese candy bars to try out that night.
--Have a photo scavenger hunt
I knew we'd be taking lots of pictures, but I wanted to make it a little more exciting too. I asked for suggestions from family and friends, and it was a lot of fun...and gave us a little something extra to do and talk about. You can see the whole list and the pictures we got for each one in this post. There's also a printable one you can download.
Other random things to remember:
- Make sure school lunch accounts have money in them
- Write down when trash day is
- Stock up on things like hand soap and toilet paper.