Vacations are hard to come by when you're the mom. I'm not referring to financial constraints or scheduling challenges (although those are definitely real), but rather to the fact that vacations, for moms, aren't that vacation-y. Unless you can swing a stay at a nanny-inclusive resort, your motherhood duties aren't magically suspended just because you're wearing a bathing suit. My advice? Skip the camping trip, eschew the National Parks, and bypass Disneyland for one of these ridiculously cheap mom vacations you could take tomorrow.
My partner and I have traveled extensively with our young daughter. When she was a newborn, we took her to the beach for my husband's family's annual Gulf Shores visit. She's been to cabins on a lake and river in Washington State, courtesy of my side of the family. I took her to Washington, D.C., Florida, and Georgia on my own. Our biggest adventure was meeting my deployed husband in Europe for his two weeks of rest and relaxation. Let me just say that with an almost 2-year-old toddler in tow, it was neither restful nor relaxing. It sucks because, although you want to give your child memorable experiences, part of the attraction of a vacation is some time off.
I think it's important to distinguish between a vacation and a trip. According to writer M. Blazoned's handy guide, it's not a vacation if it involves overhead car storage, extended family and/or in-laws, or a kitchen. I'm well-aware that just disqualified most of your family getaways. Maybe, like my husband and me, you're already planning your "real" vacations for when the kids are out of the house. In the meantime, however, you need to find some ways to treat yo'self. The following aren't exactly Caribbean cruises, but they'll buy you some "me time":
The "Treats In The Pantry" Vacation
Quadruplet mom Ashley Gardner popularized this method with her viral video in which she's locked herself in the closet for a moment's peace from her four toddlers... and some licorice.
I don't have a walk-in pantry, so I've taken to sitting on the floor next to the cupboard and noshing on Girl Scout cookies while my daughter is distracted by Sesame Street. If I can't be somewhere tropical, Samoas on the linoleum will just have to do.
The "Post Drop-Off" Vacation
If you have your kids in daycare or school, you can take advantage of the time between drop-off and your next destination. That precious alone time in the car can be a real treat if you take yourself through the Starbucks drive-through and bump something other than the Moana soundtrack (just pretend your minivan is a convertible).
The "Solo Trip To The Store" Vacation
I'm a stay-at-home mom, and I enjoy long, romantic walks down the aisles of Target. I am not ashamed. I love when my husband takes our daughter on the weekends so I can enjoy buying things I don't need in the Dollar Spot unfettered by requests for chocolate and having to tend to the pottying needs of a small person.
The "Visit To Grandma's" Vacation
This is a win-win situation. My daughter is always asking to "go Gaga's house, feed cows, eat cookies." I'm lucky in that my mother-in-law lives just a few hours away and is almost always game to take her youngest granddaughter.
I try not to take advantage of her unless it's really necessary, so it's usually for work. I might be doing a training or writing, but it's a vacation in that I can relax knowing that my kiddo is happy and safe
The "Between Bedtime & Passing Out" Vacation
Reading the sequel to Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians on the sands of Saint Lucia sounds freaking magical, but at this point, I will settle for a "beach read" in bed. It's tempting to collapse into sleep or fold a load of laundry, but the time after your kid goes to bed is precious... and ripe for a mini-"momcation."
The "Go Outside & Play" Vacation
I've gotten a lot of flack for sending my toddler outside to play in our (fully fenced with a locking gate) backyard with the dog as her only companion, but honestly, IDGAF. It's not like I'm leaving the house for a meditation retreat, but it does allow me the space to take some deep, cleansing breaths, albeit not in lotus pose at the foothills of the Himalayas.
The "Appointment" Vacation
I take my daughter with me when I go see the midwife or the orthodontist, but I've found that the dentist and hair salon are too much for her to handle. Hourly care isn't free (although as a military spouse, I get a hell of a deal on post), but I make the most of it by padding the time and treating myself to lunch or a mani-pedi after.
The "Quiet Time" Vacation
At almost 3, my child no longer naps. That's fine by me, but I absolutely insist that she spend some quiet time in her room with her books every afternoon. She needs to rest and recharge and so does mommy. Anyone who doesn't think a nap qualifies as a vacation has clearly never taken care of a baby or toddler for an extended period of time.
The "Work Trip" Vacation
If you get the opportunity and can arrange childcare, this is the Holy Grail of mom vacations. Flying is so much more enjoyable when you can do it without a tiny version of yourself strapped to your physical person.
Plus, a work trip is not on your dime, you get to have adult conversations where people care about your opinions on subjects besides Daniel Tiger, and you're eating Vietnamese caramelized pork ribs instead of the leftover crusts of a grilled cheese. #Winning
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