22 Ways To Make Single Parent Travel Easier & Better.
Just because you’re a single mum, it doesn’t mean you can’t take a holiday with your ratbags (little darlings). My daughter’s father lives in Western Australia, so my daughter and I are quite frequent flyers. A few months ago (after I won a two-year legal dispute against my daughter’s father who refused her a passport), my daughter and I took our first mother-daughter international holiday.
Travelling with children is hard enough as it is, let alone as a single parent, so follow these tips I have compiled to make sure you get the best out of your holiday.
If you’re travelling internationally as a single parent, it’s a good idea to carry a letter from your child’s other parent stating they agree to the travel. You don’t want to be turned back at the airport. Or if, like in my case, that would be impossible, carry a copy of your court orders stating you are free to travel. If you have a different surname to your child, it’s also a good idea to carry a copy of your child’s birth certificate. If you have been through the courts, or have a strained relationship with your ex, you may also want to check that your child is not on the airport watch list.
Research Accommodation Options.
Do lots of research before choosing a hotel. Make sure you read reviews, and also ask for recommendations. You’ll want a hotel that is child friendly, and provides a cot if you need one (the less you have to carry, the better). Some hotels have playgrounds and special swimming pools for kids, which is going to make your trip more enjoyable. Tell the hotel when you are booking that you have a child, as they are often very accommodating. They may also tell you about additional children’s activities that are not advertised or that they provide free meals for kids.
I also always make sure that there is a mini fridge in the room. This way you can purchase snacks and milk etc. to keep handy in your room. It’s also a good idea to request a room with a bath (if that is what your child is used to) as they don’t all have them. I also ALWAYS make sure there is a separate space – whether it’s a balcony or a separate sitting area. It’s your holiday too, and you want to be able to put your feet up and relax whilst the kid’s sleep.
If you don’t want a holiday in a hotel, there are plenty of other options to research that may actually be logistically easier, and also cheaper. Staying in a cabin, air BnB, or doing a home swap is a far more budget conscious holiday. These options also include extra things to make life easier (such as a kitchen).
There are also plenty of websites and tour companies that cater especially for single parent travel. Have a look at websites such as Holidays with Kids, which offers a lot of travel advice and options for single parent travel, and BookSinglesHolidays, which provides tours to places such as Morocco and Italy, for single parent groups.
Do What You Can Online.
Do everything you can, prior to travel, online. There is nothing worse than standing in long queues with your child or children. Especially if they tend to dart off (like mine). It’s not recommended to leave your luggage unattended, and if you have a child run off, well, there may not be a choice. So if you can, check in online, and pre-book any transfers so that you have a smoother journey and avoid as many queues as possible. The last thing you need is for someone to plant something in your bag because you’ve had to run off after a child.
Organise & Pack Everything The Night Before
Obviously, your luggage will already be packed for your holiday. If you’re getting up for an early flight, i.e. 5am in the morning, Nothing is easy at this god awful hour. Make sure all you have to do is shower and get you and the little ones dressed before you’re ready to get out the door. Breakfast can be packed the night before, or bought at the airport.
Hire Or Take A Stroller If You Have A Little One.
If your child is little, you need a stroller to eliminate the risk of them running off. I also used to travel with a baby carrier when my daughter was a baby. Being able to carry my baby, wear a backpack and a handbag, plus pull along a suitcase is a life saver.
Technology Is Your Friend.
I guess people did somehow survive back in the day without iPhones, iPads and tablets on planes, but I promise it will make your life easier to utilise technology. I admit that my daughter is a bit deprived when it comes to technology, and we don’t own any devices except for my iPhone, but if you’ve got them, use them. Even having the iPhone and having apps on there that my daughter likes, and being able to sync it to the in-flight entertainment is a relief for me. There are a lot of arguments against screen time these days, but seriously…being on an aeroplane is an exception.
Check In & Board Early.
Checking in early means that you’re not stressed or rushing around, plus it gives you a better chance of getting a good seat. It is worth asking if there is somewhere with a spare seat. If you need a bassinet, you will need to pre-book this with the airline over the phone. Choose your seat wisely. I personally find the back of the plane is not a good place to sit with a toddler or baby. It is where all the action is – the flight attendants all loiter here, and the toilets are there too, so there are often long queues, and it’s not a conducive environment for settling a baby or toddler.
Listen out for the early boarding call for those that have children. You’ll want to utilise this so you can get into your seats and get organised before it gets packed out. I like to keep essentials by my feet, and extras in the overhead compartment.
Snacks, Snacks & More Snacks.
I always take A LOT of food – fruit, crackers, sultanas, sandwiches, cheese, water etc. Food solves so many problems, and is a great distraction. I also pack a couple of little treats like lollipops. These are great when ascending and descending to prevent little ears playing up, and they are also good to use for bribery.
Ask For, Or Accept Help.
Flight attendants are usually very happy to help, as are complete strangers. If another passenger offers to help with your bags, don’t be scared to say YES PLEASE!! Just make sure they don’t look like a drug courier. And don’t be scared to ask a flight attendant to watch your child or baby if you need to use the toilet, as they are happy to help. Alternatively, if you have a baby, you can do what I used to do, but it’s not the easiest option – put the fold out change table down (which is usually above the toilet), and gently place your baby there whilst you use the toilet, jamming your head against it to act as a barrier to prevent the baby rolling off.
Go To The Front Of Taxi Queues.
This is particularly useful in Australia. If you go straight to the front of the taxi queue, they’ll put you to the side, and as soon as a taxi with a car seat comes along – it’s yours. DON’T WASTE TIME WAITING IN THE QUEUE. Having said that, different states have different laws. Do research on the relevant state laws of where you are going. In New South Wales, for example, you CANNOT travel with a baby under one in a taxi without the baby being in a car seat. In Western Australia, however, you CAN travel in a taxi with a baby under one in your lap, provided it is in a baby carrier.
Hide The Contents Of The Mini Bar.
If you are in a hotel with a mini bar, they are generally quite accessible to little ones. Take everything out, and put it somewhere out of view and reach. You definitely don’t want a $100 bill for the Pringles and nuts that your child has devoured whilst you were in the shower.
Take Food From The Buffet Breakfast & Save Money On Lunch.
If you are trying to watch what you spend, you can easily make a couple of sandwiches and take some fruit at breakfast time, to have for lunch. Most hotels have no major issue with this. This is especially useful if your child is a fussy eater, and will never eat the $15 kid meal you buy for them. Save your money for something fun! You will also avoid more potential dramas that arise from eating out (see next tip).
Don’t Eat Out Every Night.
Trust me on this, it’s very stressful. Kids don’t cope well with sitting still for long periods of time and waiting. So for sure eat out SOMETIMES, but see if you can stock up on some child friendly meals, or get room service, and eat in your room on occasion too.
Make Friends With Other Families.
This is a really good idea if you’re staying in a resort style complex. If there’s lots of time being spent on the beach or by the pool, it’s nice for your kids to play with other kids, and nice for you to talk to other adults. It also means you don’t have to drag your child with you, every time you need to go to the toilet, as you have other adults around to watch your child.
IF YOU NEVER WEAR THAT DRESS AT HOME, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO WEAR IT ON YOUR HOLIDAY. While I’m at it, you’re not going to get a chance to read those 5 magazines and 6 books you brought with you. Limit it to two books and two magazines per week of travel. You’ll only look at them longingly. This is dependent on your children’s age of course. Same goes for your sneakers and workout clothes. You’re not going to go to the gym #keepdreaming. On our recent trip to Fiji, I think I could have gotten away with just half the things I packed for us.
You want to make sure that you are ready for any illness that may arise. And this means for you too. As a minimum, I always bring Panadol, Nurofen, cough medicine, Vicks, a thermometer, band aids, Hydralyte, burn and sting gel, saline solution and nasal spray for my daughter. I also bring Panadol, some stronger flu medication (like Codral), Hydralyte, and anti-diarrhoea medication for me. It sounds excessive, but think about it… If you or your child were to get sick, you then have to drag them out and find a chemist. You may even be in an isolated area. As a single parent, there’s no one else to go and get supplies for you. It’s best to be safe, just in case.
Take Time For You.
In order to be the best parent you can be, you need to look after yourself too. It doesn’t make you a bad parent if you get a babysitter, or put them in kids club for a couple of mornings or afternoons. Go and treat yourself to a massage, or lie by the pool for a couple of hours and read a book.
Stick To The Routine.
We all know that kids thrive on routine. Stick to it whilst on holidays to achieve best results. If your child still sleeps during the day at home, make sure they do on holidays. Otherwise it’s going to end in disaster.
I know I have advised not taking too much, but you really do still need to pack a few toys and books for your child. You may have rainy days, or decide to have a quiet afternoon in the hotel, and having some toys and books with you for these occasions is a good idea. Kids also get really exhausted from constant activity, so having a bit of quiet time in the hotel playing with toys, is not such a bad idea.
Let Your Children Be The Guides.
Don’t drag your children from place to place, or activity to activity. That’s not going to be fun for anyone. Change things up to suit their age, and ask for their input.
Buy Water In Bulk To Save $$ (if you can’t drink the tap water).
On our recent trip to Fiji I bought a case of 1 L Fiji water bottles at the airport duty free that were great to have on hand and saved me so much money. I bought a case of 12 x 1L bottles for $20 and they were selling them at the hotel for $9 each. You do the maths! I know, gone are the days of buying alcohol and cigarettes duty free… I’m buying water now. Who am I? But if you’re traveling somewhere where you can’t drink the tap water, buy water in bulk, if you can, to save $$. You can also bring some simple snack food to have on your holiday, or buy some from a local shop.
The Show Must Go On; Make the best of shitty situations.
Sometimes shit happens. Don’t let it ruin your holiday. Tomorrow is a new day, so try to stay positive. You’ve most likely spent a lot of money to make this holiday happen, so try to make the best of it. There are certain things out of your control. In Fiji, it rained the majority of the time. Sure I was disappointed, but my daughter didn’t care. She swam often in the rain, whilst I drank a cocktail under a beach umbrella.
Traveling as a single parent is quite a financial burden, and probably something you can’t do all that often, so make the most of it and HAVE FUN!
Guest Author: Julia Hasche
Julia became a single mum in 2013 when her daughter was just a few months old, and it has been a challenging, but rewarding journey ever since. She created Single Mother Survival Guide. in 2016 to assist newly single mothers in all things they may need to know about. It aims to support, inform, motivate and inspire single mothers.