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All about our One-on-One Trips

Last week, I posted about Ella and my trip to New York City.

This was the first of our one parent/one child trips, but I’ve been looking forward to this FOREVER.

I have many wonderful memories from my childhood, but at the very tip-top are the one-on-one trips I took with each of my parents.

After I told Bart about this family tradition while we were engaged, we both were determined that it was something we’d do with our own children.

It’s hard to believe we actually have children old enough now to start these one-on-one trips!

Here’s how we plan to do it.

We’d like to do four trips with each of our girls before they graduate from high school. Our plan is to start when they’re in sixth grade and go every other year (so 6th grade, 8th grade, 10th grade and 12th grade).

We’ll rotate between parents, so I’ll take each girl on two trips and Bart will take each girl on two trips.

There are not long trips – just over two days long (Thursday night to Sunday morning, basically) and not international trips.

The girls have input on where they want to go and we also watch for cheap flights (I knew that New York City was one of Ella’s top places for our first trip, so when cheap tickets popped up this summer, I snagged them and we based our dates around the ticket availability).

Right now, she says she wants to go to Boston with Bart in two years for her next trip, so we’ll be keeping an eye out as it gets closer for cheap tickets, but it’s possible that a great deal will come up for somewhere else interesting and they’ll go there instead.

Once we had a location and dates set, we started planning. I don’t know if the other girls will be interested in a lot of planning as their trips come around, but Ella was VERY interested in helping to plan our itinerary.

We checked out several guidebooks to New York City from the library and she spent hours poring over them and making lists of what she wanted to see and do.

Then we both went through her list and noted the things we most wanted to do (her: the Natural History Museum and the Central Park Zoo. Me: the 9/11 Memorial, Dominique Ansel bakery and the New York Public Library).

Then we mapped things out and grouped things together between our two days so we could fit in as much as we could.

One of the things that makes these one-on-one trips so magical is that you get to say yes to lots of things that you wouldn’t necessarily say yes to with 6 people.

You want to stop in this bakery and get a cookie? Yes!

You want to go back to the hotel and watch a movie for a bit? Yes!

You want to check out this store? Yes!

It’s a totally different experience from traveling as a whole family (I love both – they’re just different) and it’s really a fun thing as a parent.

It’s also so easy to get around with only two people. I’ve noticed this every time my mom and I have gone on a solo trip since I’ve been adult. A hotel for two people? Easy! Getting a table for two? No problem! It’s just logistically much simpler to only deal with two people, which means you can fit a lot more things in.

Every time I’ve mentioned these solo trips, I’ve gotten a few messages from people who say things like “I’d feel terrible about everyone else missing out on it.”

I kind of feel like that’s missing the point.

I LOVE our family and I love doing things all together.

I ALSO love getting to focus on just one child and making memories just the two of us with no interruptions from other siblings or parent. I want my children to know that I love having them as part of our family AND I see them and love them as their own individual person, separate from their siblings.

More than twenty years later and I still feel the delight of having one of my parents focused entirely on me for hours and hours. As one of several children (I have four siblings), that’s not an experience you have often very often and it’s so sweet and special.

I mentioned this in my post years ago about these trips, but when my dad took my younger sister on the very first of these trips, he came back and told my mom, “I feel like I have an entirely new connection with Landen.”

Bart and I have commented on this many times – our children are very different when they’re on their own than they are when they’re all together. Some of them are more quiet and thoughtful on their own and some are much more chatty and exuberant. It’s a gift as a parent to get to see your child on their own.

I also think that it’s a good experience for other siblings to know that sometimes it’s not their special moment. That they can be happy for a sibling who gets to go do something fun and not be mad that it’s not their turn yet. Those are important life skills to learn!

Also, Bart did all sorts of fun things with the other girls while we were gone, including a movie night with cousins, bowling, and pizza, so nobody felt like they were just sitting at home being ignored (I’m already feeling the pressure about being a fun parent when Bart takes one of the girls! He’s much better at it than I am).

Plus, now the other girls are even more excited about their future trips!

Here are some other questions I got about these one-on-one trips:

What is your budget for these trips? 
Our budget for these trips is about one to two thousand dollars. New York City was on the more expensive side because hotels are more pricey and our tickets to Wicked were fairly expensive. Travel is also one of our highest family financial priorities, so it’s somewhere we’re willing to spend money and scrimp elsewhere (like eating out, cars, second-hand clothing, etc).

But you could do a similar experience for almost no money – just a full day of dedicated time with one child is magical. Leave early in the morning, pack a picnic lunch, go for a bike ride, explore local shops, take a hike, visit a new playground, go to a free performance and stop somewhere for a special treat and you could have a full day of dedicated one-on-one time with your child for just a few dollars. It doesn’t have to involve a plane flight or a hotel and I promise that long stretch of dedicated time is magical in ways you can’t imagine until you do it.

How did you pick 11 as the starting age? 
We didn’t really have a specific age in mind. I went on my first one-on-one trip when I was almost 15, while my younger sister’s first one was when she was probably 10 or 11, and we figured it would be somewhere around that 10-12 age when we started because they’d be old enough to easily travel with and actually do fun things with. We’d felt like the time was getting close – we were in a position where it was financially feasible to start and we didn’t have any babies that couldn’t be left easily at home – so when we saw the cheap tickets, that was sort of the jumpstart to get going.

Do you ever do both parents with 1 kid? I feel like I would have FOMO if my husband went without me! 
I was actually REALLY glad we didn’t have both parents there. If Bart had been there, it would have been so tempting for us to have lots of our own conversations. Whereas, because it was just Ella and me, I was able to totally focus on her. And I’m so excited for him to have those experiences with the girls too – I treasured those trips with just my dad.

What other cities have you visited with your parents on these trips?
My dad and I went to Washington D.C. and Milwaukee. My mom and I did New Orleans when I was growing up and then as an adult, we’ve done Boston, Seattle (twice!), and Portland. I truly think ANY city can be fun for two days – it doesn’t have to be a super touristy spot.

Any other questions about these one-on-one trips?

 

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11 Comments

  1. I LOVE this idea, but do feel a little anxious about how to make it fun for older boys on Mom’s turn 🙂 A great way to build into the relationship.

  2. You inspired us to do that with our kids. Fun part of living in Europe is that I will go to London with my oldest this school year. 🙂

  3. We started this tradition a few years ago when you talked about it in a past post. Thank you! Just like you said having one on one with just that kid is the magic of this. Focused attention without distraction. I think for those who are afraid of FOMO it’s healthy to take breaks from loved ones for a couple days and it’s healthy to be happy for other’s. FOMO originates in feelings of jealousy and competition- a bit of needing life to be “fair”. Life will never be exactly equal. Such good life lessons to curate in siblings (and adults 😉

  4. I would love hearing more of the details. My daughter is 7 and asked if she and I could go to NYC just the two of us. I am a little intimidated! Where to stay, transportation, food…. and feeling confident enough to take on the city just she and I without my husband!

  5. We started this this year except we each did an overnight with each of our 3 kids (so 24 hours of one-on-one time with each parent). Booking 6 different overnights was a little daunting (thank you hotel points!) but it was the best thing we did this summer! All 3 of my kids said it’s their favorite memory from 2021 and my husband, who thought I was a little crazy said he wants to do it every year. It really is special to get the one-on-one time with each of them. I like the idea of making them a little longer in high school and maybe alternating parents. Thanks for this post!!!!

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