Single parent travel has its own set of challenges but it is also extremely rewarding. I always feel a great sense of achievement that I have pulled off something huge when I get home from a solo trip with my son. We have had amazing adventures on our own BUT, I do understand solo parent travel carries with it a slight element of fear and poses questions of ‘Can I really do this?’ and “on my own?’ the answer is, ‘of course you can’ but because I have felt that fear I put together this quick list of tips to hopefully help you with your single parent travel.
5. Think really really long and hard about your luggage. Travel with kids can be tiring, for them and us, I always wondered how I would carry a tired toddler and our luggage so pack accordingly. Also think about your movements on the trip, are you on and off trains, connecting planes, ferries or are you going on a cruise and only unpacking once. I have in the past travelled with a rucksack backpack and another smaller back pack for carry on so that I could manage them and my little guy because we were using a lot of different transport. I knew I could put one rucksack on my back, the small pack on my front and have both hands free to help my son board trains (and not get lost) at Kuala Lumpur’s very busy Sentral station. On a cruise trip or a one destination holiday I might take a suitcase on wheels but I take only 1 suitcase for both of us. Its tough trying to watch your bags and kids at an airport when getting into cabs and checking in so make it simple on yourself and only have one large bag rather than 10 small ones.
Also, never believe your 3 year old when they try to convince you they neeeeed that dinosaur suitcase and they will carry it themselves.
4. Develop a back up plan. One thing that really puts my mind at ease is knowing when travelling solo with my son 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, check if any other travellers have used their service (Trip advisor is really great for this) and know that if I was really sick with the flu there is someone I can call to spend a day swimming with my son, likewise, research if your hotel has a baby sitting service. Of course a babysitter can also enable you to have a massage while someone else plays with your little one. Kids club is also great for this if your hotel or resort has one which brings me to my next point.
3. Choose your accommodation wisely; think about what you really want to get out of your trip, are you trying to immerse yourselves in a culture 24/7 and wanting a home stay situation or are you looking forward to having some R&R with the odd spa treatment 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 facial or to catch a night performance or concert, you might have your heart set on a hike that really isn’t child friendly. By really thinking through what you want out of your vacation you can write a wish list for your hotel; if you want massages, find a hotel that offers both a child minding (or kids club) service and a day spa. If you want shopping make sure shopping is near by your hotel so you can pop out for a short stint while your kids are in kids club. I generally drag my son everywhere I go as we love to have most experiences together but there is the odd day that he wants to do a kids club activity so I take the opportunity to have a massage on the beach or something similar. I never venture far but that is a personal choice obviously. There is also great benefit to choosing a hotel that has inbuilt entertainment for your kids, hotels with attractions, water parks, playgrounds are a big winner with my little guy. Some of our favourites 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 solo travelling with kids is to have a restaurant and preferably room service available, its 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 one great addition to your holiday; other families and kids to play with. Kids will often form great friendships on holiday that can last as pen-pals or annual holiday friendships for many years to come. (I’m still in touch with holiday friends I met in Bali over 20 years ago!)
2. This one is more for the mums (sorry dads, no sexism intended), In many countries you will receive quite a lot of attention if not travelling 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 its in the city you are in. I don’t like lying to people (most of whom are absolutely 100 percent innocent) but I also don’t like to advertise 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.
1. Talk to your kids before you go. 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 wonderful, shiny, new thing it is they want to go look at they need to wait for you and you will look at it straight after your current task, explain about the forms you need to fill out and the bags you need to carry and any expectations you have of them. I know a lot of people disagree with putting a harness on their child and I’ve never needed to (again a personal choice) but I do use a wrist to wrist strap when we are in extremely crowded places like train stations and airports or theme parks, not so much to keep my child ‘under control’ but because it gives us both a sense of security to know we wont lose each other. How much responsibility you place on your child will obviously depend very much 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, as a 3 year old his task was simply to mind his teddy bear, at 6 it will increase. He tries to carry the luggage but given its 3 times his size, I generally need to intervene. 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.
Know that what you are doing is brave and sends an amazing message to your kids, my son is so proud of me when we travel and it makes managing everything on your own and lugging around their blasted dinosaur suitcase and 7 other bags and toys they have acquired all so worth it. Not only will you come home well rested you will come home with amazing memories and a new sense of pride that you did it!!
If you have ANY questions about travelling on your own with your kids, please don’t hesitate to ask a question through comments or email.
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