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Traveling as a single parent can be challenging, but 100% worth it. I always feel a great sense of accomplishment when I get home from a solo trip with my son. Single parent travel often comes with fear and poses questions of ‘Can I really do this?’ The answer is, ‘of course you can!’ Here’s a list of tips and advice for single parent travel.
1. Talk to Your Kids Before You Go.
Be sure to explain the rules! Explain how important it is to stay with mum or dad when you are distracted in airport queues etc. Tell them that no matter what intriguing, shiny, new thing it is they want to go look at, they need to wait for you. Explain about the forms you need to fill out and the bags you need to carry and any expectations you have of them.
A lot of people disagree with putting a harness on their child and I’ve never needed to, but I do use a wrist to wrist strap when we are in extremely crowded places like train stations and airports or theme parks. This is not used to keep my child ‘under control’ but rather to give us both a sense of security to know we wont lose each other.
How much responsibility you place on your child will depend on their age and their maturity. At 5 my sons’ jobs are to make sure his carry on bag is with him at all times, his teddy bear (and its passport) are secure, and to stay with me. Let them help out where they can. My son carries paperwork and reminds me of things. He loves his travel jobs! Make the kids your partner in the adventure.
2. For Single Moms…
This one is more for the mums (sorry dads.) In many countries, you may receive a great deal of attention if not traveling with a male companion. I have had a lot of awkward offers from overly helpful taxi drivers and potential new husbands, so I choose to wear a wedding ring. I nearly always get asked where my husband is, to which I reply ‘at work.’ Most people never ask where and often assume it’s in the city you are in. I don’t like lying to people (most of whom are absolutely innocent) but I also don’t like to advertise that I’m a woman travelling on my own with a small child. A lot of people will see a wedding ring and not ask questions so head to the market and get yourself a ring!
3. Choose Your Accommodation Wisely
Be sure to think about what you really want to get out of your trip. Are you trying to immerse yourselves in a culture 24/7 OR are you looking forward to having some R&R and a side of some cultural immersion thrown in? When travelling solo with kids, it can be difficult to get out to do some local shopping, or to get a spa treatment, or maybe you have your heart set on a hike that isn’t very child friendly. Write a wish list for your hotel. If you want massages, find a hotel that offers both a kids club service and a day spa. If you want shopping, make sure shopping is near by your hotel so you can pop out while your kids are in kids club.
There is also great benefit to choosing a hotel that has inbuilt entertainment for your kids, hotels with attractions, water parks, and playgrounds (a big winner with my son.) Some of our favorites of this variety are the KSL Hotel and Dinosaur water park, The Sheraton Macau and the Angsana Laguna Phuket.
One of the things I always look for in a hotel when traveling as a single parent with kids is to have a restaurant and preferably room service available. This is a life saver if you’ve had a hard day or feel vulnerable in a strange place upon initial arrival. Choosing a really family friendly resort also means there will be other families and kids to play with. Kids will often form great friendships on vacation that can last as pen-pals or annual vacation friendships for years to come. In fact, I’m still in touch with vacation friends I met in Bali over 20 years ago!
4. Develop a Back Up Plan.
When traveling with my son, one thing that really puts my mind at ease is knowing that I have a plan if things aren’t going exactly as planned. I always research a babysitting service or nanny service before I leave home and have a chat to check out their availability. Be sure to check if any other travelers have used their service (Trip advisor is really great for this.) So, if I got really sick with the flu while on vacation, I know there is someone I can call to spend a day swimming with my son. Likewise, research if your hotel has a babysitting service. Of course a babysitter can also enable you to have a massage while someone else plays with your little one.
5. Think Long and Hard About Your Luggage.
Traveling with children can be tiring for both them and us. Because you don’t want to have to carry around a tired toddler and their luggage, be sure to pack accordingly. Also, think about your movements on the trip. Are you on and off trains and connecting planes, or are you going on a cruise and only unpacking once? On a cruise trip or a one-destination vacation, I might take a suitcase on wheels but I take only 1 suitcase for both of us. Its difficult trying to watch your bags and kids at an airport, so make it simple on yourself and only have one large bag rather than 10 small ones.
Also, never believe your toddler when they try to convince you they absolutely need that dinosaur suitcase and they will carry it themselves.
Amy is an ex Travel Agent and now creator of The Wandering Mum Family Travel Blog. She travels frequently with her young son as a single parent and writes about their adventures.
Amy, The Wandering Mum, August 15, 2016