How to Plan a Kid-Free Vacation Without the Worry
June 10, 2016
I took a little break from blogging the past few weeks because I took a much needed, overdue vacation with my husband—and no kids! How to Plan a Kid-Free Vacation Without the Worry, you ask? Very carefully! It was overdue for many reasons, but mostly, as you can likely relate, because of the challenge of leaving my children in the care of others. Leaving the kids to take a long vacation is hard for any parent, but for parents of special needs children, it can seem almost impossible. You have to really want a vacation to put in the time and effort it takes to coordinate all the details. And yes, I really wanted it. And I’m so glad I took the time to plan it out. It was well worth it!
Today, I’m giving you a head start by outlining a plan that you can coordinate for a successful vacation.
It Takes a Village
You have probably already figured out that raising a family is best accomplished with a team of supportive people around you. Some of us win the jackpot in this department with friends, family and even hired support who become like family as they help us out from day to day. Others have to work to find the supports they need. Developing a network of people who have your back is even harder when your child requires a unique skill set to handle their needs.
Building a village doesn't happen overnight. As you know, you need people who have the patience and the mindset to deal with your child’s emotional needs in addition to the mechanics of their day-to-day activities. You need people who understand and respect the need for consistency with therapies, diets and supplement regimens, which can be challenging for even the most dedicated parent to take on.
Set Clear Expectations
Set your kids’ expectations. Your kids need to have an idea of what the time without you will be like. Spend time leading up to your vacation talking about any fears they have, how often you will communicate with them when they are gone, and if any changes to their schedule will necessary. For my daughter, it was important that her schedule stayed mostly the same. She was able to overcome her separation anxiety, for the most part, when I set clear expectations about how our absence was going to impact her daily routine.
Set your caregivers’ expectations. What types of events upset your child? How can they be comforted or calmed? What scenarios should be avoided at all costs? What rules, therapies or food regimens must they follow for success, and which ones can they skip in order for them to make the daily routine as easy as possible while you are gone? We are so used to making these judgment calls day in and day out that sometimes we forget we need to explain the “why” behind our child’s routines, diet, supplements, and therapies.
Set your expectations. Get your head wrapped around the fact that you won’t be able to control everything while you are gone. This has always been a tough one for me. As long as your children are safe and emotionally supported, their worlds will not come to an end if you are away for a week. You need the time to recharge, reconnect and come back with the energy and joy to be there for them the other 348 days of the year.
Plan for the Worst and Believe in the Best
The funny thing is, it took going away with my husband for us to revisit and address key issues that really should have already been in place. It took me getting on a plane with my husband without the kids for me to plan for the worst!
Make sure that your wills, powers of attorney and guardianships are all up to date. These documents should be reviewed and adjusted every few years. Most importantly, take the time to sit down with your children’s named guardians and discuss their needs. This conversation is especially important when you have a child with special needs. You will want to ensure they understand the extent of your child’s needs and what types of support they require.
Review your life insurance with the help of a financial planner. Ensure you have enough coverage to address your child’s additional care, therapies and treatment costs over and above their basic living needs. No one likes talking about what will happen to our children if we are no longer able to care for them ourselves, but it is necessary and will give you peace of mind to know they will be properly cared for no matter what happens.
Write and sign a letter to give caregivers the ability to make medical decisions in the event of an emergency. Check with your country, state, or province to determine what forms are needed and have them notarized or witnessed as necessary. Leave your primary caregivers with health insurance information or cards in addition to contact information for your children’s doctors and therapists.
Temporarily Change Emergency Contact Information
It is amazing how many people come in contact with your child throughout the week. Make a contact list of all of these individuals and organizations, notify them of your travel plans and how to contact your caregivers, and update your emergency contacts for the time you are gone.
Write it ALL Down
Write EVERYTHING down! The information you have stored in your head about how to care for your child is so much more than you realize. Write a book—more is definitely better. It will be better for your child, better for the temporary caregiver and better for you because you won’t get calls and texts asking questions to fill in the blanks.
Use technology. I recommend using a cloud sharing tool like Evernote or Google Docs (both can be used for free). I love technology. These programs allow you to make changes to the documents over time and seamlessly share them with all involved. Of course, I also made a hard copy too, and put it in a file folder for easy access.
Write out a schedule for each day. You are a pro at your child’s daily routine, but your caregivers are not. Make it as simple as possible to keep everyone’s anxiety level down. I even included travel times and directions to each activity to help keep things running smooth.
List out all contacts. Include all contacts for medical needs, therapists, schools, extra curricular activities and any others that may be needed. Who should be called or emailed if your child is unable to go to school or a scheduled activity?
Document your child’s current nutritional and biomedical therapies and their medical history. Give your caregivers clear instructions for your child’s care. Use our free Medical History and Therapy Tracking Tools to record and share this information for your child.
Leave a detailed itinerary of where you will be and how and when you can be contacted. We rely so heavily on our cell phones and the internet for communication these days, but often that isn’t the most reliable form of communication in other countries or remote areas. A good ‘ole landline number and address where you are staying can go a long way.
Depending on the age and capabilities of your children, give them a copy of details that will ease their mind. You know your child best. Some kids are comforted by having more information while others just need the basics. Use your best judgment.
Enjoy Your Vacation Guilt-Free
We all deserve an escape. No matter how much we love our children, we should not feel guilty for getting away for some adult time.
You’ve prepared for it. You deserve it. Enjoy it! I know I did.
Let me know in the comments below when was the last time you took an adult vacation (even if it was just an overnight trip) and how you prepared for it.
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