Let’s be real, if there’s anyone who needs to be able to take a break from “real life”, its single parents. Whether you’re a single mom, dad or guardian and are raising a child(or children) alone, you must be one tough cookie. Maybe Raising kids is hard. Raising them by yourself is harder. So why is it, then, that single parents tend to shy away from traveling?
Traveling as a single parent doesn’t have to be difficult, stressful or expensive and it can be a great way to bond with your children. Single parent travel doesn’t have to be difficult. Maybe you’re a military wife or even a married parent whose spouse travels for work. Whatever your situation, I want to share some tips with you today that I’ve learned along the way after traveling as a single parent with my daughter, so that you can get out and explore!
Let me start by telling you a little about myself so you understand where I’m coming from. I only have one child. So I can really only tell you what I know from traveling with her; I’m sure there are other challenges associated with traveling alone with more than one child, but hopefully these tips can help you take the first steps towards having the confidence to at least try.
Secondly, you should know that I have always been a single parent, which means I am used to doing things alone. Its either do them alone or not do them at all. I’m not really the “doing nothing at all” kind of girl, so not doing something was really never an option for me.
And lastly, I do need to mention I didn’t start traveling with G until she was seven years old because I was finishing up my degree. I was in a very rigorous medical program in university, working three jobs and I barely had time to sleep, let alone think about traveling. Again, I am sure there are other challenges when traveling with younger children, but I am hoping these tips can help inspire you to take the first steps towards traveling as a single parent.
The first trip G and I took together by ourselves was to Niagara Falls. To some people, this doesn’t sound “small” but for us, its only a four hour drive. Its really accessible for us, we stayed on the U.S side so I didn’t need to worry about passports and I knew if I ran into trouble, my family was fairly close by. By starting smaller, it gave me the confidence that I could do it.
And really, when doing anything, all you need is a bit of confidence, right? If you really want to travel with your children, pick somewhere small to start. It doesn’t even have to be more than a day trip to somewhere a few hours away or a road trip for just a day or two, but by starting small, you can get a sense of what kind of traveler you are as a single parent as well as what kind of travelers your kids are, which will help when you decide to take a bigger trip.
Don’t go it alone
Wait, what? You thought this post was about going it alone right? Well not necessarily. Its about traveling as a single parent. And sometimes, not doing everything by yourself can be a good thing. I’m somewhat of an introvert and actually really enjoy time away from other people.
But I know not everyone is like that and some people need to be around other people to be happy or even to feel safe and secure. And that’s ok! Find another single parent, a friend(who doesn’t mind your kids) or relative that may be interested in traveling with you. It can help increase your confidence about having your children in an unfamiliar place and can also give you some much needed adult interaction. Just choose your travel buddy wisely!
G and I travel by ourselves at least 50% of the time and the other 50%, Rochelle(my sister) is with us. It works out well because Rochelle gets to spend time with her niece and I get to spend time with my sister!
Research, research, research
Nowadays, there are tons of blog posts, and even complete blogs about traveling solo as a female. There’s a lot of information out there on how to travel solo, whether you’re a girl or a guy, but traveling as a single parent adds another challenge. You’re not only responsible for yourself, but also your kids.
The best advice I can give to you is this: research the heck out of your destination of choice. I’m not saying opt for the cheesiest or most boring place to travel to just because you’re by yourself with kids, but really be aware of where you’re going, the areas of hotels you’re staying in, etc.
For example, there are loads of family friendly fun to be had in Panama City Beach, Florida, but would I take my daughter there during spring break? Absolutely not. Some adventures are better set aside for adults only trips.
Whenever I am taking my daughter somewhere I usually look up reviews on tripadvisor.com, yelp or just do a quick google search. When we took our California coast road trip last May, we were staying in a new hotel almost every night. It took a lot of research but I never once felt unsafe in any of the areas we stayed because I had done A LOT of research prior.
Use a travel agent
Ok so I’ll be honest, I have never used a travel agent. I actually really enjoy planning my trips and prefer to do it myself. I only mention this because firstly, they are free to use. Secondly, they can take care of the research end of it for you if that’s not your cup of tea and can arrange everything for you. How nice is that?
Stay within your comfort zone…..at first
Traveling isn’t supposed to be about staying in comfort zones, its supposed to be about breaking them, right? Well maybe. It really comes down to this: if you’re a nervous wreck the entire time you’re traveling, you’re not going to enjoy yourself and most likely, neither will your children.
For your first few adventures together, why not try something that you know is within your comfort zone? For example, a good friend of mine occasionally travels solo with her daughter while her husband is away at work. She will only ever travel to Walt Disney World by herself. She says that is the only place she feels safe enough to go it alone.
While Walt Disney World may not be everyone’s idea of “traveling”, and is definitely not the only “safe” place to go, that is something she knows she and her daughter will enjoy while traveling alone together and feel secure. Find somewhere you feel comfortable going and after you’ve taken a trip or two solo with your kids, then try to chip away at that comfort zone a little.
Know what you need to travel
G and I have only taken one international trip(so far) and that was a cruise to the Bahamas via a Disney Cruise. Documentation required for the trip was minimal and all that we needed was our passports. But be aware that some countries have much more stringent rules on traveling as a single parent. Canada, for example, may or may not request that you have a notorized Minor Travel consent form when traveling alone with your children.
On the other hand, at the time of publication, South Africa actually requires that you have a Sole Custody Court Order in order to enter their country. These regulations are in place to keep children from being abducted, however they can pose a hassle to you if not prepared. Don’t be that family that is detained at Border Control due to not having the proper documentation to travel with your kids.
Keep in Touch
As any smart traveler will tell you, keeping a lifeline with someone back home is essential to traveling safely, especially when you’re the only responsible adult present. Always let someone know when you’ve arrived at your destination, where you’re headed, how long you plan to be gone, etc.
Whether you do this via social media, texting, calling or even just by letting the hotel where you’re staying know, it is essential to have a connection with someone should something go wrong.
Look for Single Parent Friendly Locations
I have been noticing more and more destinations advertising as single parent friendly. Some all-inclusives have even started offering deals and discounts to parents traveling alone. I was surprised to see that even on our Disney Cruise, they offered special events for parents traveling solo. There are several single parent groups that will do group travel as well if you’re interested in traveling as a group.
Don’t blow your budget
The biggest thing I hear people complain about when it comes to traveling is the cost. Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive and there are many ways you can save on traveling with kids. Many tour companies give discounts for children under a certain age, kids under three are actually free at Walt Disney World, some restaurants let kids eat free, etc.
There are a lot of ways travel can be inexpensive with kids, so don’t let money stop you. There are many travel hacks out there to help you plan any trip on a budget!
Let them help plan
But be realistic. If you’re traveling with a two year old, then they may not have a whole lot to say about the matter. But if you let your kids who are old enough help plan and take on some responsibility, it will give them a sense of purpose and they will probably enjoy the trip more. And find something you will all enjoy! Whenever G and I plan to go anywhere, I’ll tell her my idea of a location and she will start looking it up and making a list of what she’d like to see.
Whatever you decide, whether you want to take a round the world trip or just go camping in your backyard, the first step is deciding to do it. Once you decide to just go, it will get easier every time. Traveling is such a rich experience for both you and your children that neither of you should have to miss out solely based on the fact that you’re a single parent. You work hard and you deserve it. And so do your kids.