My friend Jennifer and I recently found ourselves relaxing on a beach in Corsica, France, on a perfect October day during a two-week Mediterranean cruise.
It was the first time we had been gone for so long from our families, and though we missed our kids, truthfully, we were having a wonderful time. (Shout-out to our awesome partners for holding down our respective forts!)
As Jennifer, a mother of two elementary-aged kids, watched a couple of children playing with wild abandon a few steps away, she started musing about how she wanted to approach parenting differently coming back from our trip.
“I want to be less of a helicopter mom, and have more fun with my kids,” she told me. “Being away from them helps me to see things differently.”
When it was time for us to return home, we both felt excited to see our kids again. We also unexpectedly felt rejuvenated with fresh ideas for how to tackle parenting and life.
What People Think of Kid-Free Travel
Like a lot of things in the life of parents, taking vacations without your kids can sometimes be subject to judgment by others.
In a poll by YouGov, only about one-quarter (23 percent) of all respondents said that they felt parents should “regularly” go on kid-free trips, while 54 percent said they felt it was OK to go for special occasions.
Since my job as a travel writer often requires me to travel without my kids, I’ve seen both the positives and negatives of kid-free travel first-hand. Though I dearly enjoy traveling as a family and have some treasured memories of vacations with my children, traveling solo, with friends, or with my husband has also enhanced my life by giving me a sometimes desperately needed “time out” from my obligations as a working mom.
I reached out to some fellow travelers and psychologists to help distill a few of those benefits of kid-free travel.
Benefit 1: You’ll rediscover yourself.
Think back to what it felt like to travel before you had kids. Often, this was a time to reflect on your life and disconnect from stress. Though traveling with kids is wonderful, it often carries a lot of the same stressors of daily life, leaving parents feeling just as depleted when they return home as they were before they left.
But if you’re able to get some time and space for yourself, you’ll likely find some of those same benefits again of your pre-parent life.
“When you get a few days, or more, of 24/7 adult time, you’ll have an opportunity to reconnect with yourself and focus on what makes you tick when you don’t have any responsibilities,” says Susan G. Groner, author of Parenting: 101 Ways to Rock Your World.
Benefit 2: You’ll strengthen your relationship with your partner.
Taking some time out with just your partner can also be a significant boost for your relationship.
“It’s important for the couple to connect with each other and be reminded of why they fell in love with each other in the first place, without the kids around,” says Heidi McBain, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Texas. “It’s important for the kids to see their parents as a united front, and happy together as a couple.”
Evan and Susan Money of California have taken the idea of recommitting to their relationship (ideally apart from their two kids) to an extreme: they plan to “remarry” each other in a different state or country every year, and they are already on their 24th wedding.
“We have championed the cause of kid-free vacations both personally and professionally,” says Evan Money. “It’s important to parents, because a cell phone with a dead battery is useless. Parents that care about their kids should take time to recharge and reconnect with their spouse.”
Benefit 3: You’ll realize that you CAN be away from your kids.
Before you take that first trip away from your children, whether it’s a business trip or just a weekend getaway, the idea of leaving them can be excruciating.
But experts say that might be exactly the reason you should go—to prove that the world doesn’t fall apart just because you leave for a little while.
“I remember the first time we left our children, I was ready to cancel the trip,” Groner says. “Being away made me realize that I didn’t need to be in constant control of my child, and that I would survive—and thrive—for a short vacation away from her.”
Once you return home and see that everyone survived (and enjoy those first sweet homecoming hugs), you’ll feel more confident about traveling without your kids once in a while.
Benefit 4: You’ll enjoy and appreciate your kids more.
It’s true what they say: absence really does make the heart grow fonder when you are away from your kids, and it’s true for both of you.
When I travel for extended periods, I usually video chat with my kids on FaceTime, or we leave video messages to each other on Marco Polo throughout the day. This way, they still see me and can share the news of the day, and I get to stand back and just appreciate the sweet little people they’re becoming.
Prior to becoming a mom, returning home from a trip sometimes felt depressing, but I love coming home every time now, spending extra time cuddling, playing and just spending focused, quality time with them.
The excitement of coming home to your kids is honestly one of the biggest benefits of kid-free travel.
Benefit 5: You may find that you have become a better parent.
Just like what happened with my friend Jennifer, you might realize that the time you have spent away has given you a new perspective as a parent and helped you clear your mind to establish new priorities and goals for yourself and your kids.
The art of good parenting requires constant fine-tuning, but as a mom or dad, you often don’t have the luxury of looking up once in a while and seeing the bigger picture when you’re stuck in a day-to-day routine of packed lunches, softball practices and homework. Bad habits sometimes creep in and can be hard to break, but a little distance can help.
It might be because you’re observing other parents with their children while you’re traveling, or maybe it’s just the extra sleep that can give you a new awareness of what you’d like to try or do differently.
Benefit 6: You’ll give your kids a chance to deepen other relationships.
Some families are fortunate to have grandparents, siblings, or extended family members who are happy to pitch in and help take care of the kids while you’re traveling. Others (like myself) are lucky to have a supportive partner who will happily pick up the slack.
You might also have a good network of friends who are willing to “swap” overnights so you can get away, or a trusted babysitter who is willing to do long-term care.
“Keep in mind that the family or friends who are watching your kids will generally do things their way, and not necessarily yours, but trusting them to keep your kids safe is what’s most important here,” says McBain.
In any case, these can be great times for your kids to deepen their relationships with family and friends apart from you. Just like parents need a village, kids should have one, too—one that feels supportive and strong enough to be there for them during the times that you can’t.
Benefit 7: You’re sending a positive message to your kids.
It’s a lesson parents learn over and over: “unspoken” messages sometimes resonate the most with our kids.
For example, prioritizing your relationship with your partner—or carving out time for self-care— ideally will empower your kids to prioritize those same things when they get older, leading to healthier relationships.
“It’s beneficial to all involved when your life isn’t always so kid-centric,” says Groner. “Our kids actually can manage without us, as long as there is someone we trust to look after them.”
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