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7 Perks to Traveling Alone With Your Kids

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For one reason or another—work commitments, family schedules or school vacations—our foursome splits up at least once a year when traveling. That means it’s me and the kids or my husband and the kids. He’s traditionally taken them to Florida in February to meet up with his parents and his sister’s family; I take them camping and on various jaunts with other mothers and their kids. It works out well. The trip gives one of us a break, time to catch up on work, start (and finish!) a home project, and go to the movies or on extra long hikes with friends.

I’m on one of those trips right now, but this time not with another mom and kids. I’m in Ohio with my parents, in the two-bedroom apartment they own and visit every summer. My husband is back at home, having the solitary time of his life. We have moments of missing him, but mostly we just slip into our minus-dad modus operandus, meaning mom’s in charge, meals get creative and, when we get home, we all appreciate the other parent a little bit more.

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When you break it down, this is what’s better about the missing spouse:

1. There’s one fewer mouth to feed. Anytime is snack time when traveling—chips are out in the car, or on the plane, and god only knows how many everyone’s had. And that means no one’s ever hungry at the same time. With dad, we have dinner; We pick a place, all order off the menu and whatever’s not eaten gets taken back to the minibar in a styrofoam container. Without dad, crackers, cheese, an apple and a pouch of nuts can pass for dinner.

2. There’s a little less sticker shock. Of course we’d rather have dad there than save money. But—no offense—he does require a separate ferry ticket, museum admission, bottles of water, hotel breakfast and plane fare.

3. You won’t resent your spouse for sleeping on the plane. Or not doing the dishes at your parents’ house, or coming down late for breakfast, or staying up late. And if you do resent him for not being there at all, it’s gone and dissipated by the time you can say anything. Just try not to text during those resentful moments.

4. If you’re visiting your family, you won’t have to worry about your spouse being driven crazy by them. Or they being passively, or not-so-passively, being driven crazy by him. All that dysfunction we grew up with? When it’s just us and our malleable children, it’s easy to fold right back into it—seamlessly, effortlessly. With a spouse there to reflect it back, provide running commentary on every quirk and at times complain, what’s the point? How is it a vacation if you have to confront reality?

5. You don’t have to figure out a ride to the airport. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Either you must shell out an exorbitant amount of money for a car service or cab, or you need to ask a friend to drive you to the airport—often at an inconvenient hour—with the obligation of needing to return the favor. Thumbs down on that!

6. You don’t have to get someone to bring in the mail, feed the cats or water the plants. Ditto the above, but throw in a mean cat and you feel terrible asking. Put your dog in sleepaway camp? Cha-ching! Add that to your total vacation bill.

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7. Everyone takes pity on you (in a good way). Strangers rush to help with luggage, don’t flinch when you want to switch seats, and often let you cut in line when boarding, at the bathroom or getting on the shuttle. If you’re visiting family without a spouse, they’ll happily take the kids for an afternoon to “give you time to yourself,” which can translate to shopping or reading. If your husband were there, all bets would be off. You'd have to wait for that latte, board last and kiss nap time goodbye.

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