6 thoughtful tips on traveling as a working mom

I’m on my way to Salt Lake City this week to attend Altitude Summit, a conference for bloggers. This is my first time attending a conference outside of my old corporate environment, and let me just say, my bags were packed a week ago. I used to travel for work quite frequently and upon packing for this trip, I realized it has been six months since I’ve been on a plane – the biggest gap I’ve had in travel for probably the last decade. I was thinking about my former work-travel life and some “best practices” I’ve learned along the way and thought I would share for anyone interested.

Make and send videos when you can: If you are traveling to a different time zone, that might make it difficult to call or FaceTime in the morning or before bedtime. I had a coworker who would get so creative with her videos to her toddler son. He was a big fan of Thomas the Train, so she would find somewhere with an interesting backdrop and excitedly announce that she had arrived in Sodor! I would settle for more ordinary things like tall buildings, airplanes, ferry boats, or dogs I saw that looked like ours at home.

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FaceTime singalong

Email your kids letters: Like a lot of parents, we signed our girls up for their own email addresses shortly after they were born and have been sending them little emails every now and then about funny things they did or said along with photos or videos. I found that the downtime I had at night while I was traveling was a great time to send an email to my girls, even if they wouldn’t read it for years to come.

Prep your iPhone: Make a separate album of photos on your phone with a handful of (appropriate) photos of your kids that you would be willing to share with colleagues if they ask to see a picture of them. This way, you can proudly hand over your phone without hesitation or fear that your coworker will scroll to something NSFW in your feed.

I also asked a few of my brilliant mom friends, who frequently travel, for their advice.

My friend Emily is a seasoned cross-country traveller and since having her son has become a pro at pumping on planes:

“First of all – always remember to carry your pump on. The last thing you want is for your checked luggage to get lost or delayed and to be engorged without your pump. Gahhh… I can’t think of anything worse. Next, be sure to bring your battery power pack (and extra batteries), keep your pump handy (under the seat in front of you), take the window seat (it’s the most private), don’t worry about the pumping bra (just hold it with your hands), and don’t stress about a thing. The best part about pumping on the plane is that the noise of the engine drowns out the sound of the pump. No one will even notice you’re doing it! Oh… and… the Medela quick clean wipes are worth their weight in gold!” – Emily, Bond trader and writer of Two Peas in a Prada

My friend Kate had to travel internationally for her job and that included while she was pregnant. Here’s her advice on flying while you’re expecting:

 “Always take the aisle seat. I was on a 10 hour flight, stuck in a window seat, and just pregnant enough to have to pee every hour or so. When you get to a crowded boarding area, don’t hesitate for a single second to sit in between two people, or even ask someone for their seat. That 22-inch roller bag also makes a great foot rest while you wait. Traveling or not, I attempted to read to the little bean every night.” –Kate, Account Executive

It’s totally normal for anxiety to kick in while you are gone. You know, the what if something bad happens kind of thoughts. My brave and resilient friend, Kristin recently traveled abroad and her son was hospitalized while she was away. Here’s her advice on leaving medical consent:

“This was our first trip abroad since having kids and I wanted to make the trip as less stressful as possible on everyone. We live a very schedule oriented life so I wrote down the ins and outs of our days in the “manual” so that the transition would be fluid. I thought the most important part of that “manual” would be which Mickey episode the kids liked most (yep, even THAT was in there) but when my youngest son came down with croup and spent two days in the hospital, the most important part of that manual was our medical consent letter. Before leaving I wrote a “temporary guardianship letter”. This document gave those we left in charge of our children the permission needed to make any medical decisions necessary and gave my husband and I the peace of mind that our children would be cared for properly. There are many examples of these types of letters online that cover long term (which may require more legalities) and short term absences. This letter, along with our insurance cards, not only made it easier on us but it was much easier for the unsuspecting grandparents who hadn’t had to deal with an ER visit in a long time!” – Kristin, Stay at Home Mom

It doesn’t matter how long you are gone, being away from your family is always tough. Adjusting to being away for me is like a cruise going against the tide – the first night and the last night are always the toughest. But focusing on the positive things really does help keep you distracted. After you crush it in your meetings, go see the sights, eat all of the food, take your time getting ready in the morning, order room service if you can, and for goodness sakes, enjoy that extra sleep.

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For what it’s worth, I was also into writing cheesy motivational messages to myself on hotel stationery.

7 thoughts on “6 thoughtful tips on traveling as a working mom

  1. I love these tips! I spent two pregnancies, pumping days, and many many more on planes and trains for work. It’s a rough rough job when you have little ones at home. I was just thinking about the post I wrote almost a year ago on this same topic as I prep for Alt as well. #1 being, try not to stress yourself out preparing for everything that could go wrong while you’re gone. You know, like impending snow storms, cars breaking down, etc (all things we’re dealing with right now!). Hope we get to meet up at Alt!

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    1. Thanks Tiffany! Ahh, as I once read in a Project Management book, “If an event is out of my control but I can prepare for that event, then I have reduced the impact.” Ha! I’ll definitely look up your post and look for you at Alt! xo

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  2. I am reading this while on travel for work all week…love all of it! You hit the nail head on that its like a cruise going against the tide, the mom guilt hits you like strong wave repeatedly. I have to tell myself Guilt isn’t going to make the time go faster or send you home sooner, so might as well take advantage of the “me” time and recharge!

    Oh, and as you know an awesome supportive husband helps that much more 🙂

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  3. I love all of these, even the pumping – ha! As a traveling Dad it is so important to stay as present as possible for your kids, and family in general. Well stated Rach!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Jimmy! You know, I originally titled this post, tips for parents but thought “moms” would be more appropriate with the pumping and pregnancy bits. You are a terrific Dad!

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