By Amber Topping, Mom extraordinaire
I have been delightfully blessed with four beautiful kiddos. Yes, four – all between the ages of 3 and 11! To many of you, that may seem like a lot. To me, it’s the perfect make up for my little, big family. As a single mom I felt challenged by the thought of traveling solo and was quick to delay planning a trip.
In watching my family unit grow, I’ve recognized the importance in focusing our energies on exploring this big, beautiful world together – not only to create memories but to be more connected to one another and to places, people unknown.
While traveling solo can appear daunting, I’ve adopted the following tricks through trial and error and am hopeful my cheat sheet will help alleviate your traveling solo woes ---
Research. First, determine the type of vacation you are looking for with your family. Beach? Mountain? Adventure? History? Then, look it up! Find reviews, read articles on your favorite places. Look at which are logistically easiest to get to. Then press “Go”!
Let the Kids Decide. If traveling with older kids, let them do some research and select a few activities they would like to do. If traveling with younger kids, give them a few mom-approved options to choose from. This way you are more apt to pick an activity they enjoy instead of one you want them to enjoy!
Pack Wisely. Lugging multiple suitcases through an airport is tricky even when you do employ child assistance. To an eleven-year-old, a 50 lb. suitcase can feel more like steering a car than a suitcase. Pack the minimums. Almost every hotel, resort, condo, house, etc. will have a laundry service on site. Let the kids pick their very favorites. This way they won’t tire of repeating an outfit (something I’ve learned from my fashion forward nine-year-old).
Take a Carry On and a Lugabug! Leave the stroller at home. Instead, pack a carry on suitcase with necessary toiletry items and one change of clothes for each family member (don’t forget swimsuits!) The Lugabug, a child travel seat that attaches to your rolling suitcase, (www.lugabug.com) will keep your little ones close by giving you another free hand to navigate. Say “Yes” to not having to chase your kids around and instead, giving them the freedom to ride along or store their belongings in their Lugabug!
To boot, the carry-on suitcase will save your sanity in the event luggage is lost, flights are cancelled or your three-year-old destroys his outfit before your flight has even left the gate.
Use Early Boarding. Most airlines have a “families traveling with small children” boarding time. Use it. Getting settled before the masses will help both you and the passengers around you.
Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help. This has been a hard one for me. I know I am strong and independent and completely self-sufficient, but asking for help while traveling proves better for my sanity than making a show of my strength. You will be surprised how accommodating airline personnel and fellow passengers alike can be.
Have all Airport Transport Reserved. I made the mistake once of “winging it” on the airport transport side. There’s nothing worse than spending 45-minutes waiting for a taxi or shuttle after spending the entire day in active travel. Talk about asking for a meltdown. Call ahead and reserve a car!
Look for Hotels with Kids’ Programs. Better yet… go all inclusive!! As a parent, we travel to see the joy on our kids’ faces as they experience something new. It’s important we also take time for ourselves. This allows us to be a better parent! Many hotels offer kids clubs, sitter services, etc. All inclusives like Beaches and Club Med offer something for the entire family and take the planning out of the vacation. Let someone else do the work for a change!
Mix up your Dining Experiences. Eating every meal out can be expensive and exhausting. Mix it up. Try going out for only breakfast or only lunch instead of dinner every day. Get carry out. Try Happy Hour…yes, happy hour. You’ll often find smaller crowds and good prices on food and drink specials!
Expect the Unexpected. As parents, we survive most days on set schedules, expectations and plans. As a single parent, you carry the load in making sure things go as planned. While it is good to travel with a plan, one of the only things you can count on when traveling is for things to not go as expected. From flight delays, to lost luggage, to rooms not as you had envisioned, something can always go wrong! Don’t let the change rile you. Adapt and adjust. Just go with it. Sometimes the best things come when there is no plan!
Enjoy every Day! We don’t all get to travel multiple times a year. Enjoy every minute of the time you do!