Before I had kids, I traveled a lot without children. I went on road trips, day trips, train trips, and flew a couple of times. Once I even went to London. When Becky and I got together, we also traveled a lot without kids. Because of this shared history of travel, when we did eventually have kids, we kept traveling and just brought the kids with us.
For a while, this worked great. Little kids fly free and get in free almost everywhere and eat free most places too. They’re quiet (especially with breast feeding options) and they have no desire for continuous entertainment. We went to Orlando, Tampa, Baltimore, Washington D.C. Cleveland, Cincinnati, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and other places I’m sure I’m forgetting. Then they got to be about 3 and 4 and it got awful.
During this time of travel though, the only times we had problems were when I brought the family to mystery conferences. Becky felt left out and she had to deal with the kids the whole time while I went off and socialized. Over the years we’ve fine-tuned it a bit, but it’s still a problem. So when it came time for Bouchercon in St. Louis in 2011, we decided I would go alone. That was my first trip alone since I’d had kids and it was weird. I enjoyed it, and kind of actually forgot I had kids in a weird abstract way. I’m sure it makes me sound like a bad parent, but there you go. Shortly after that I went to Milwaukee by myself for Murder and Mayhem in Muskego and then last year I went to the Romantic Times BookFest by myself. That is the extent of my solo travel since I’ve had kids.
Becky and I have gone on a few trips without the kids, notably Bouchercon in Cleveland and Murder and Mayhem this year. That’s worked out a little better. We don’t really buy souvenirs for the kids unless there’s something specific we see they’d like such as Lego and coloring books, but it’s kind of scattershot. Part of this is that I don’t really want the kids thinking I’m going on vacation without them. I try my best to tell them plenty of times that daddy is leaving for work not “veecations” like they call them. I don’t know if it’s any better, but I’m trying.
For the most part, all of these trips have been long weekends. My upcoming trip will be almost a full week, so that’s new and I’m curious how it will work out. I won’t have cell service while in Europe, but I will have WiFi and Facetime so that should work. I expect I’ll miss the kids quite a bit this time. I really look forward to the day when the kids are old enough (and I’m rich enough-holy crap airfare is expensive) that we can all start traveling together again. We will be driving to Florida together this winter and I’m sure that will make me reevaluate that wish for a while.