Let me preface this article by telling you that I am a planner. I live by lists, I think out the pros and cons to all major decisions, and I certainly research and plan vacations months, if not a year, in advance. But when my husband and I decided to engage in spontaneous travel, with two small children, no less, the last minute trip that ensued was one of the best trips I’ve ever had, and a memory that I’ll carry with me always.
After our second son was born, I started to feel stir-crazy. The first months of his life were difficult, my husband was working all of the time, and our little 2-bedroom apartment started feeling like a cage instead of a home. I felt trapped with a 3 year old and a 7 month old, and I missed our mutual friends from college, who were now spread out all over the country. Two of our closest friends had married the year after us and were living in Chattanooga, TN, the place my husband and I had met and fell in love. We were feeling homesick for the familiar places of our courtship and all of the fun we used to have there with friends.
It was February, and my husband had started a less demanding job not long before. This meant that he now had most weekends free, which was something we hadn’t had in a long time. We started talking about our friends and Chattanooga that Friday when he got home from work, and within 30 minutes, decided to make the 12 hour drive to see our friends for the weekend. I was really nervous about taking a last minute vacation so far away with 2 little ones, but we’d made the trip through the night countless times before, so we decided to throw caution to the wind and just go for it.
After confirming that our friends would be home and that yes, of course we could come and stay, we packed our bags and were on the road in an hour. We were only going for one weekend, so my practical side kicked in and I simply packed several changes of clothes for each of us, plus pajamas and toiletries. Since we had 2 kids in diapers, I took a package of each size, 2 packages of wipes, diaper cream, and a few bottles and canisters of formula for our baby. We threw in portable beds, favorite stuffed animals, pillows and a few toys, and were on our way.
At first, I thought I might throw up from nervousness. Who were we to take two small kids 12 hours away on a last minute getaway? What if I forgot something? I didn’t even make a list, let alone have time to plan, so was this all a big mistake? I took a few deep breaths, got some reassurance from my husband that this was a trip we could make in our sleep, and realized that we were simply going to Chattanooga, TN, a city we knew like the backs of our hands, which also had countless stores and pharmacies in case we forgot anything. We would be just fine.
And we were. Visiting with our friends that weekend felt like we had simply traveled across town, not across 5 states. Since it was a last minute trip, there were no agendas, no plans to follow, no sites we had to see. We simply huddled in their house by the fire as snow fell, played with the kids, had lots of time to talk and cook some yummy food, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Despite this being a last minute vacation, it was one of the most relaxing trips I’d ever had. Sure, the beginning was nerve-wracking, but I soon realized that kids don’t really need a ton of gear for a short time; we had the basics, and they had a great time. I didn’t even have to make a trip to the store! The kids slept in the car most of the way, and my husband and I rediscovered our sense of adventure that had gotten buried as we became busy parents. It was a good reminder to me that not everything in life has to be planned, and that sometimes the best surprises happen in the most spontaneous of ways.