Five visitation travel tips for divorced dads

Divorced plus distance equals difficulty – when you have kids. You don’t get to spend as much time with them as you’d like, and the process of going to see them involves lots of time on a bus, train or plane (or even in a car). The trip home leaves you with lots of time to think. There’s nothing easy about this, but you can take some of the sting out. Keep the right frame of mind, and be realistic about how you travel: it makes a profound difference.

Do you take visitation trips a few times a month (or year)? Here are five ways to make it a bit easier, learned from a year of doing this myself:

1. Don’t measure time in minutes: this trap is seductive. You want to spend as much time as possible with your kids, and losing even 10 minutes to traffic or weather can be infuriating. It’s agonizing to be stuck on a bus, realizing it’s time you won’t be able to spend enjoying fatherhood. You can’t let this get to you: it’ll just drive you nuts (and affect your visit). It took me a few months to come to grips with this, and life got much better when I did.2. Leave early: this is especially important if you’re taking a bus, train or plane. You have enough stress already, and rushing for transportation will only heighten it. And, do you really want that to shape your frame of mind when you hug your kids for the first time in a few weeks? Give yourself a cushion up front, even if only to decompress a little. Arriving early can help you do this, too.

3. Distract yourself during the trip: I didn’t’ do this well at first, and I felt it. Even veteran travelers – who have logged hundreds of thousands of miles and are accustomed to bringing books, magazines and laptops – will not be as adept at passing the time on a visitation trip as they expect. Spend too much time dwelling on your situation (as I did for the first few months of three-hour bus rides), and you’ll torture yourself emotionally.

4. Be ready for the return trip: this can be pure living hell inside your head. Give yourself a moment to unwind before going home – you’ll need it. I usually get to the bus station 45 minutes early to collect my thoughts, reflect on the weekend and ease myself out of the mindset of having said goodbye. It helps. A lot. Traveling home accompanied only by your thoughts should become more bearable.

5. Know that it gets easier: or, at least that you’ll get used to it. You’ll find a rhythm, and that will get you through the traveling itself. Over time, you’ll see and feel the changes, and you’ll spend more time enjoying your visits.

Do you have any tips for making visitation travel easier? I’m not the only one who’d love to hear them, I’m sure. Leave a comment to help us all out.

[photo by Rob Young via Flickr]