Preparing to Vacation Without Kids

For our tenth wedding anniversary, my husband is planning a full week vacation, without kids.

“Awww!” “How sweet!” “That’s so exciting!”

Yeah, yeah. I’ve been getting that reaction a lot. While it very well may be sweet and so exciting, I assure you, it’s actually mostly terrifying.

In the nearly five years we’ve been parents, the longest I have been away from our three young kids is one weekend, one time. It was for a mom conference. Did I mention that I have NO idea where we are going?  Are you getting the terror I am feeling yet?

To combat my growing anxiety about this mystery trip, I have been focusing on ideas to help my kids not be anxious while we are gone. We’ve been calling it their “Grandpa and Grandma Vacation.”  They are getting so excited they keep asking when we are finally leaving!  Here are the components to my plan for preparing both my kids and their caregivers for the week without us:

Vacation Without Kids

For the Kids

  • A Calendar

I made a calendar out of poster board and taped it to the wall in our main living space. Each day has space for the kids to plan their day with the help of grandpa and grandma. They have lots of ideas of what they want to do, eat, and where they want to go, so I got colored sticky notes they can use to write and draw their ideas for the week before arranging them on the calendar.


  • Morning Surprise Boxes

I’m hoping that thinking about opening their surprise box in the morning will help with any possible bedtime sadness. The boxes also serve as a visual countdown to when we come home. So what’s inside?  I wrapped up a note from me with surprises to share or something similar for each child. My favorites are birdhouse kits they can build and paint with grandpa and grandma.  Some of the other surprises are water balloons, coloring posters, special snacks, new t-shirts with their favorite characters, squirt guns, balloon rockets, and books I picked up at Puddle Jumpers. I didn’t know they had fantastic books there!


  • Memory Book Making Supplies

This is in the surprise box on the first day. I found blank books in the Target dollar spot a while ago, but just making a book with stapled paper would work great, too. The kids can draw a picture from their day each day, as well as tell grandpa or grandma what to write about their day.  It would be great summer writing practice for a school-aged kiddo! I asked grandma to leave some room for photos from the week as well. When they come back, they can read it to us and tell us all about their vacation.


  • Bedtime Books

I have “new” books checked out from the library for them to read each night. I focused on finding books about grandparents (such as How to Babysit a Grandpa) as well as fun read-aloud books using the Bridge to Reading website. The Cedar Rapids Library system makes it so easy to search online from home and put books on hold so you can go get them all at once!

In addition to putting the kids at ease with us being gone, I also wanted to put grandpa and grandma at ease.  To make it as easy as possible for them to take care of three busy little ones, I put together a folder containing the following:

For the Caregivers

  • Our Typical Daily Routine

In addition to an outline of the day, I included easy meal and snack ideas, bed and nap time routines, screen time boundaries, and family expectations. I believe having similar routines and boundaries while we are away will make the kids feel more comfortable and safe.

  • Mom Tips for Each Kid

I’m hoping to save some drama and let grandpa and grandma in on what I’ve learned about my kids. For example, one kiddo gets “hangry” (hungry+angry) before many meals. It is not pretty. Someone who doesn’t care for her on a regular basis might waste way too much time trying to calm her down when they just need to get some food in her ASAP!

  • A Medical Consent Form

I made and printed a medical form allowing grandparents temporary rights in making medical decisions for the kids. I used this website and paid $5. It was easy and made me feel better having it done.

  • Contact Information for Help

In the event of the grandparents needing help from other adults, they will have a list of friends who will be in town, know our kids, and have already agreed to help out. I included the numbers for the pediatrician’s office as well as poison control.

  • Cards

I looked through my wallet and left any cards they may need while I am gone such as:

  1. Library Card
  2. The Iowa Children’s Museum Membership Card
  3. HyVee Fuel Saver Card
  4. One of our Health Savings Account Cards to pay at the doctor or for a prescription.
  • A Will 

Lastly, I made sure my husband had a will using this website for $40. We made it together one evening and then he printed it and stopped by the bank to have it notarized. It’s not something you want to think about, but when traveling together, it needs to be done.

With all these things in place, I can only hope I have everything ready for my three little ones to be without daddy or mommy for seven days.

And seven nights.

Excuse me while I breathe into a paper bag.

Have you taken a trip without your kids?


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