This blog post was updated on December 23, 2019.
As a parent, traveling with your kids is not only a great way to make some wonderful memories and form some strong bonds with them, but it’s also a fantastic way to open children’s minds so they can learn and experience different ideas, cultures, foods and so much more. As a single parent, traveling with your kids, while still very exciting, may feel a bit more daunting or difficult of an endeavor.
If you’re nervous about your first single-parent sojourn with the kids, we’ve got one piece of advice for you: don’t be! Sure, as a solo parent traveling abroad with your children, you’ve got some extra planning to do before you go, but with these 6 easy, single-parent travel tips, planning your vacation will be a breeze — check them out!
Choose a Kid-Friendly Place to Stay
Whether you’re staying in a hotel, resort or a cruise ship, it’s important that you feel comfortable as a single parent in the company of the other guests. Remember that while vacationing, you’re bound to come across people on their honeymoons, bachelor/bachelorette parties or people who are on a getaway to actually take a break from children! Chances are if you’re with young children you don’t want to be around too many of those kinds of vacationers and crowds and vice versa. So, when it comes to booking your accommodation, do your research and seek out family-friendly spots — somewhere that has amenities for your kids. You’ll be surprised at how many places offer perks and activities for children. From childcare and babysitting to kids’ camps, daily activities and planned tours and entertainment — the more kid-friendly your accommodations are, the more relaxed you can be on your trip (at least when it comes to your stay, that is)!
Bring Written Permission and Other Parental Documentation with You!
Besides the obvious (passports, visas, etc.), if you’re traveling as a single parent that has certain legal tutelage over your kids, it’s important that you have that documentation on you at all times, especially if you’re traveling abroad for an extended period of time.
If you have full legal custody over your children, make a copy of your official custodial documents and bring it with you. If you share custody, ask the other parent to give you a signed and notarized document stating that you have permission to leave the state and/or country with the children. This note should also include language to authorize you to make decisions for your kids, such as for medical treatment, during your travels.
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Take a Picture of Each of Your Kids Every Morning
Once your child is all dressed and you’re ready to take the town, take a quick snap of them and their full outfit before your head out. There are two benefits to this one: First, you have at least one picture of your kiddo that’s growing up too fast from each day, which will also make for a great memory of your trip once you return. Second, if your child gets lost, you won’t have to wrack your brain to try and remember what he/she was wearing because you’ll have the most recent photo you could possibly have to give the authorities.
Overpack Your First Aid Medical Travel Kit
Sally has a fever, Suzy got a bad bug bite and Shawn has a bellyache — yikes! When you’re traveling as a single parent with kids, unfortunately, you don’t have the luxury of sending the other parent out to hunt for medicine while you stay back and watch the children. In any situation involving illness, having that first aid kit handy is even more important than when you’re traveling alone. Not only should you have a travel medical kit with all the common medical needs such as bandaids and first aid creams, but we highly recommend carrying the particular medications that are specific to kids and to the possible illnesses you may be exposed to in the destination you’re traveling to and staying in. From backup asthma inhalers to motion-sickness pills, make sure you pack all your kids’ (and your own) medical essentials into your kit so you have it on hand whenever and wherever you need it.
Make an Emergency Plan and Rehearse It
Getting separated from your child while traveling far from home and being a single parent — that’s just a sheer nightmare! You may know your emergency plan inside out, but did you plan for emergencies that may happen abroad? In the case of a crisis while you’re traveling, not only is it imperative for you to make a revised travel version of your home emergency plan (like for when you get lost or separated in a grocery store or shopping mall plan), but it’s also essential that your children know this scheme just as well as they know the one you use at home, especially if you’re traveling with children too young to have a cell phone or to a country where you may or may not have cell service. Here are are a few things to think about while you’re devising your travel emergency plans:
– Does your child have your cell phone number or the number of whatever mobile device you’ll be using on the trip memorized?
– Does your child know your full name, their full name and both your home address and the address of the place (or at least the name of the hotel) you’re staying in?
– Do they know how to recognize an adult they can trust? (i.e. a police officer, nearby shopkeeper or school teacher, etc.)
– Does your child know whom to contact back home if they can’t reach you?
– Did you make a small emergency kit with spare cash, first aid and a snack and show them where you’ve kept it?
While your kids may know exactly what to do if they’re become separated from you at home, take some time before your trip and rehearse your emergency plan with your children until they know it inside and out, because after all — practice makes perfect. This will be particularly helpful for your younger children, reinforcing what to remember and what to do in case they get lost at any point in your trip.
Leave Room in Your Budget for a Splurge or Two!
This one goes for both parent and kids — both of you deserve a little something extra special on your trip. For your kids, ordering in room-service for a meal or two will be a true treat. They can relax with you in the room and eat at their own pace, and especially if this is after a long day of adventuring and walking about, it’s sure to give them (and you) a much-needed chance to reboot and refuel. Plus, you don’t have to worry about any of them throwing a tantrum, their food or their toys in a restaurant for a whole meal, phew!
As for mom or dad, slot in some “me” time. If you’re staying in a place that offers childcare or chaperoned activities just for the kids (just like we suggested you should…you’ll thank us later!).
Have any single-parent travel advice of your own to share? Go ahead and share it in the comments below!