Travel tips for single parents
For single parents, traveling with kids can be a difficult task. You have no backup to take care of the kids while you drive or fly or to give you a break while on the holiday. There are things you can do to anticipate and ease some of these problems.
- Videos. Have a DVD/video player in your car, great. If you don't, there are relatively cheap portable DVD players that you can buy.
- Books: if you have a child who loves books, bring plenty. Encourage your kids to read and they will have something to do even when it rains. You can also buy audio books
- Puzzles and games
- Check regularly to see who wants to go to the bathroom. Check especially before long stretches where there are no facilities. Limit drinks especially with caffeine to avoid frequent stops.
- When you do stop, allow the children to run around in an appropriate place for 5 or 10 minutes to burn off some energy.
If it's your child's first time traveling by plane, let them know what to expect. Often they will be impatient with all the waiting before getting on the plane so be prepared for that. Encourage them not to remain seated in the terminal so they can burn off some energy before they get on the plane. Explain and even practice the behavior you expect from them on the plane.
- Bring some chewing gum. This helps to equalize the pressure in their ears when the plane is climbing and landing. Give it to them to chew, not to stick in their ears as one confused parent mistakenly thought.
- Bring a change of clothes for yourself. Kids are messy and accidents happen!
From personal experience I can tell you that it is no fun flying for 6 hours soaked in orange juice knowing your clothes are only a few feet away in your suitcase in the luggage compartment of the plane but you can't get to them.
- Bring toys but make sure they are appropriate for the plane. Nothing noisy or that requires hammering against the seat in front.
- Toilets on planes make a loud noise when flushed so make sure your child doesn't get a fright. You can ask your kid not to flush the toilet and then take care of it once they are out.
- If you have any special requirements, let the staff on the plane know as early as possible.
- Take advantage of the early boarding. If you have young kids you can take advantage of early boarding so you have time to arrange the kids and your luggage without holding everyone up. Check with your airline for the age cutoff for early boarding.
- Check with your airline beforehand to see if they offer a kids meal. Many do at no extra charge. They are often brought out before everyone else's food which allows you to organize them before your food comes out.
- Watch the drinks. They are so easily knocked over in the small space you have on-board. Limit caffeinated drinks so your kids are not running to the bathroom
- Make sure they drink enough water. You and the kids can get quite dehydrated on a plane.
- Remember kids cannot be seated near emergency exits.
- Make sure your child's passport is up to date. For American child passports , they are renewed every 5 years.
HotelTry to find a kid friendly hotel. There are many that specifically cater to kids and look into child minding services if you would like some time by yourself. Many hotels also have children's menus but check to make sure if you have a fussy eater. Check if there are kids menus at the hotel dining areas Remember that many hotels do not have lifeguards at their pools so you are responsible for your kid's safety
- Giving your child a cell phone while on holiday can help in case you get separated. Make sure they know how to use it in an emergency.
- Let them know who they should approach if lost: police, lifeguard, family with kids, older single woman (in this order)
- Kids are often excited and distracted when on holiday. Remind them to be careful and watch out for them. They are more prone to accidents
- Apply plenty of good quality waterproof sunscreen. Wait 30 minutes for it to soak in before activities. Reapply regularly.
- Make sure they are hydrated to avoid sunstroke. Water alone is not sufficient. They should have something to maintain their electrolytes e.g. sports drinks. Remember that caffeinated drinks will act to remove more water and can lead to dehydration.
- Use child safety seats in rental cars. Know the laws regarding child safety in the state or country you are in.