Tara Bone, contributing writer

For years my husband traveled for work. With every trip, we said our goodbyes and I turned my attention back to our boys. I didn’t even think about traveling with him because I felt our children were too young for me to leave, but that abruptly changed last year.

It was like one day my boys needed me to survive, and the next they were autonomous little men (most of the time). All of sudden, there they were, feeding themselves, getting dressed on their own and going to bed without my help. They were big.

This day inevitably comes for all parents. Some anticipate it, others dread it. For me, it wasn’t a happy day, but I determined to make the best of it. So, when my husband asked me to travel with him on a long trip, I said a tentative “yes.” I knew it was important to spend time with him when I could, but I was apprehensive.

I got through leaving the boys for the first time with some planning and a few tips from experienced travel moms. The boys were happy while we were away, and, thanks to generous family and friends, they kept their normal schedules. I realized at the end of our travel that the boys took steps toward becoming responsible big men. Even my almost-teenager decided he liked me more than he thought. Absence really can make the heart grow fonder and stronger.

Travel tips to keep parents and kids happy while apart:

  • If planning a long trip, do a shorter test trip beforehand.
  • Think about both physical and emotional needs of kids.
  • Work with family and close friends you trust, and those your kids like.
  • Prepare and freeze meals ahead of time.
  • Write a letter to each child telling them how much you love them.
  • Determine best times to call; take into account different time zones and schedules.
  • Pack each day’s change of clothes in separate Ziploc bags for younger kids, or those staying away from home.
  • Simplify activities if necessary.
  • Display family rules, chore charts and routines.
  • Trust yourself. You know your kids best, so you determine when and if they’re ready to be left.

Compile a master binder with everything in one place. Include the following:

  • Family calendar and detailed schedules for each child
  • Contact information for neighbors, schools, doctors, friends, church leaders, coaches and anyone who will have contact with kids
  • Extra house and car keys
  • Doctor information, insurance card and letter of medical release • Parent travel itinerary and hotel information • Will and estate information
  • Pet details