Confession: I'd Rather Travel Without My Family

There's just something magical about being able to leave laundry, grocery shopping, and yes, my family, if only for a few days.

Ouch. Am I a bad person for just typing the title for this piece? I've got four kids, two dogs, a workaholic husband, a mortgage and a scratched minivan. So no, I guess I don't feel bad. I need to escape the confines of my home and a pile of laundry that never seems to get any smaller in order to keep it together. To the people who live in my home, I do this for you. You're welcome.

Hiking in Lake Tahoe

Hiking in Lake Tahoe

Taking time off on my own to hike in Lake Tahoe.

Photo by: Erin Gifford

Erin Gifford

Goodbye, Carpool Duty

There are some women in my neighborhood – yes, I'm talking to you PTA moms – who think I'm selfish for going off to explore on my own. I mean, how can I just take off and leave soccer carpool duty to someone else? Can I just tell you, I literally don't even think twice.

Hiking at Dixie National Forest in Utah

Hiking at Dixie National Forest in Utah

It was magical to be able to hike on my own up to this lookout point in Utah's Dixie National Forest.

Photo by: Erin Gifford

Erin Gifford

Traveling on my own, without my husband and kids (and dogs), is therapeutic. It's stress relief. And it's totally okay. It's literally a necessity to be a better mom, a better wife, a better person. I can't even imagine what kind of beast I would be if I didn't escape the monotony now and again.

I Stop Where I Want, When I Want

To be clear, it’s not like I’m off on three-day benders in Vegas. I’m also not off on two-week luxury safaris in Botswana. A typical solo mom getaway for me is three to four days and generally includes a half marathon (I’m a big runner), hiking and a mapped-out road trip in search of what’s cool, quirky, Insta-worthy and delicious.

Zion Half Marathon

Zion Half Marathon

I flew solo in April, taking time to run the Zion Half Marathon in Utah.

Photo by: Erin Gifford

Erin Gifford

It’s just me. There are no kids in the backseat calling out to me to tell me they have to pee, throw up or need me to change the radio station. I turn the radio on or off when I want. I stop when I want. I go where I want. I set the pace, the itinerary, the meal schedule.

I Try to Be the Cool Mom, Too

I do enjoy traveling with my family, too. We’re gearing up for our annual three-week road trip next month. As part of this trip, we’ll spend a couple of days at Disneyland and another couple of days at VidCon. The latter is a surprise in hopes of upping my 'Cool Mom' cred. Fingers crossed.

Kayaking at Sand Hollow State Park

Kayaking at Sand Hollow State Park

There's something very relaxing about kayaking solo at Sand Hollow State Park in Utah.

Photo by: Erin Gifford

Erin Gifford

I love going to new places with my kids, planning surprises for them, seeking out fun experiences that, from what I’ve heard, they’ll thank me for later. It may be some time, however, before I get accolades for the hike in Costa Rica that involved blood, sweat and, yes, tears.

It’s All About Mindfulness

Okay, so back to traveling alone. It’s all about mindfulness for me. I know, that’s such an overused buzzword these days, but it’s true. When I go off on my own, I can more fully enjoy a moment, a destination. I can center myself in my own head. I can refresh, recharge, renew. It’s totally what I need a few times a year.

Hiking Selfie

Hiking Selfie

Hiking along the Bears Den Trail in Virginia.

Photo by: Erin Gifford

Erin Gifford

And when I do, I come back as the mom I want to be. Not the mom yelling upstairs for someone (anyone) to bring down the laundry basket. Not the mom who’s angry because I’m the one in charge of dinner and we’re out of spaghetti sauce. Seriously, why am I in charge of that again?

Where Do We Go From Here (Literally)

For all the moms now thinking, hey, I’d like to vacation by myself too, I’ve got a few tips to help get you started.

Biking at Zion National Park

Biking at Zion National Park

You can bike along the Pa'rus Trail at Zion National Park in Utah.

Photo by: Erin Gifford

Erin Gifford

Start Slow: If you’ve never gone off on your own, my advice is to take it slow. Spend just one day on your own. Visit a museum you’ve been wanting to explore (that you know your kids would hate), or eat at a delicious new restaurant (that you know your kids would not pick as their first choice). Savor every moment enjoying what you want to do.

Arrange Childcare: Your partner may be understandably overwhelmed if you say you’ll be gone for the day or weekend and that you’re leaving right now. Oh, and that he or she is in charge of the kids while you’re gone. Instead, give notice and arrange for rides, carpools and needed childcare as much as you can.

Posing with a Llama near Kingman, Arizona

Posing with a Llama near Kingman, Arizona

It's a must to make time to pose with this friendly llama near Kingman, Arizona.

Photo by: Erin Gifford

Erin Gifford

Reschedule Appointments: If your son’s dentist appointment or your daughter’s well-child visit conflicts with time you want to be off on your own, reschedule the appointments. Trust me, the fewer kid-related commitments you can drop on your partner, the better.

Stay Close: The first time you go off on your own, plan to go no more than a few hours away by car. That way, you can enjoy yourself, but if everything at home really and truly melts down, you can just pick up and drive home.

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

You can stand on two states at once in the middle of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.

Photo by: Erin Gifford

Erin Gifford

Set Boundaries: Don’t let your kids (or your partner) call or FaceTime you every moment of your getaway. You need to be able to refresh, recharge and just be alone with you. You can’t do that if you feel like your family is still right there next to you.

My final word of advice is, as the Nike slogan goes, just do it. The world won’t end while you’re gone. The kids will be fed. They will get to school, maybe wearing mostly clean clothes. Do this for you, and you’ll thank yourself over and over again.

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