Travelling as a Single Mom

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Preparing for the Journey

After choosing a destination and doing research to confirm whether it would be the best place for you and your children, it is time to decide what mode of transportation will get you there. If you are within the same country, it is recommended to simply drive there. A road trip can be a fun and memorable experience for you and your children. If the destination is in a different country you may want to reconsider air travel. Although trips to the airport and time spent in the air might be very difficult, being able to get to the destination quickly is a big plus. With one adult and one or more children traveling, a long boat or plane ride carries a lot of risk and can be very tiring. Also look for the availability of discounted fares or special rates for children. When traveling overseas, the primary choice for single mothers is to join a tour. A tour requires less organization and allows for visits to popular spots with the children. You can easily find a tour at your destination upon arrival, but it is safer to book in advance from your own country. However should you decide to visit somewhere remote, tours may not always be available.

Firstly, decide after much research where to go. Be aware of the form of transportation your destination requires. Once you have chosen a destination, find out what spots you are going to want to visit and determine the best location for you and your children to stay. With various activities you will want to have easy access to accommodation so you and your kids can take daily breaks and have some rest time. One very important thing to keep in mind when choosing a destination is the climate. Remember that single mothers usually need to take more stuff, and having to deal with bad weather could make things very difficult. Also look up what convenience and health services are available in the area you are staying.

Researching Destinations

In the end, we settled on spending 3 weeks in New Zealand with a friend and her child. New Zealand has a strong reputation as a safe and friendly travel destination, the people are famously welcoming to children and it is easy to meet other travelers. It is also a relatively easy place to travel as the distinct lack of culture shock and the fact that people speak English means less hassle getting around and finding things. The size and nature of New Zealand also means we do not have to spend too much time in transit or in any one place. Although accommodation is expensive, I was able to find self-contained units that sleep 4 people in one room, meaning I do not have to pay double price for two rooms and we have some travel independence. I also found quite a few other people who have traveled to New Zealand with young children and received plenty of positive feedback.

Before speaking about the physical act of traveling, research is the key in planning a successful trip. Because this is the first time I am traveling alone with my children, I had new criteria for my destination and plenty of questions about how best to plan our trip. So it was back to reading more single parent travel stories, searching the internet for single parent family groups or advice, and soliciting advice from friends. Overall, I wanted to find a place that was easy to navigate, safe, welcoming to children, not too remote and not too busy. I also needed to find accommodation that would house all three of us without paying for two rooms, and it would be great to meet other people in a similar situation. This is a tall order and there are few places that meet such criteria, though I did get some good ideas from a few websites targeted at single parent families, particularly The School Holiday Directory and Single With Kids.

Packing Essentials

While most single moms use effective diaper bags, bringing a trolley suitcase is also a good idea. You can put diapers, change clothes, snacks, and other important items for your kids inside the suitcase. It would be easier to find the items as the suitcase has compartments and not forgetting it is wheeled.

The keyword that is suitable for single mothers is “effective.” When you have kids, you need to be effective in everything you do. Instead of a few hours, packing for single moms needs to be executed within a few days to avoid unnecessary problems. Just imagine how troublesome it would be if you forgot to pack your kid’s favorite blanket or pacifier. An effective planning ensures everything of importance to be packed. Create a list and keep adding items to the list whenever you remember things to be packed. Pack the items for your kids first, then for yourself. Chances are you might be too exhausted by packing your kid’s stuff that you forgot to pack yours.

Packing your luggage before a travel is important for everyone. For single moms, it requires efficient and effective planning to ensure a smooth journey. Here are some tips to consider.

Organizing Travel Documents

* Ensuring your passport is still valid and obtaining a visa, if necessary, are crucial first steps. Single parents may consider obtaining a notarized letter from the other parent stating that it is okay for the child to leave the country. While a letter is not necessarily a requirement for entry, it will alleviate a great deal of concern and questioning from customs officials. Preparing an emergency medical treatment permission letter is also a good idea and, depending on the destination, may be important for entry into the country. Also, be sure to have adequate medical insurance and copies of the children’s shot records in case of emergency medical treatment in a foreign country. * It is a good idea to research consulate locations at your destination and carry their contact information and location with you in case of emergency. Register your trip information with the embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website. This is a new, online system which allows you to enter trip information, contact information, and an emergency contact, so that the embassy can contact and/or assist you in case of an emergency.

Ensuring Safety and Security

There is no need to be anxious about safety when it comes to travelling alone with your children, but extra precautions should be taken. Checking the Free Safety Kit is a good starting point, as there are tips on keeping children safe in various situations, emergency action plans, and checklists to ensure all safety bases are covered. Ensure that your children know to answer the door in your presence. Choosing safe accommodation is paramount. Utilizing the recommendations of the Mums around the World network or contacting the nearest embassy or consulate for advice can assist in making the best choice. Some members find that holidaying with another single mother family provides an extra sense of security and camaraderie. This travel liaison is a new initiative and the brainchild of a Single Parent, designed to provide a means for single parent families to connect with each other for the purpose of shared travel. The unexpected is best countered with a safety net. Travel insurance is well advised for single parent families. We have a tie-up with travel insurance plans too. Do start getting quotes from our insurance partners. Keep it simple when it comes to packing as practical clothing, a few toys, and simple first aid and medicines. A more comprehensive preparedness plan is a good idea but hopefully won’t be called into action. In all eventualities including natural disasters or political upheaval, registered travelers can be located by their home country’s embassy.

Choosing Safe Accommodations

Ensuring that accommodations are safe both in and of itself as well as its location in a safe environment is critical. Although there is no way to guarantee safety, there are certainly steps you can take to better your chances and it all starts with the research. When choosing a hotel, look for ones located in safe areas. This does not only mean avoiding high crime areas; a location that is safe for adults may not be safe for children and a location that is safe during the day might be a different story at night. Keep in mind the activities you plan to do and research their safety during all times. For example, a beachfront hotel might be lots of fun during the day, but not the safest choice at night. Using Google Maps to street view the area around a hotel can give you an idea of what to expect. Also, consider the distance from the parking area to the rooms. A long walk with children, luggage, and possibly groceries may not be the safest situation. Finally, there is no substitute for word of mouth. If you know anyone who has been to the location, get their input. If you don’t, there are many online forums related to family travel where you can get advice. Also consider contacting a concierge and asking their professional opinion on safety.

Utilizing Travel Insurance

The very basic use of travel insurance is to protect you in case anything goes wrong while you are on holiday and you fall sick or suffer an injury and need to seek professional medical attention. A policy will mean that you can recuperate in a private hospital and also receive the necessary medical care without having to worry about standard hospital queues and the cost for medical care. Now, figures suggest that if you fall sick abroad and need to be hospitalized for a day, it will cost approximately £800-£2,500 in the USA and approximately £600-£3,000 in Europe depending on which country you are from in Europe. Travel insurance can cover and even in some cases pay out the cost for this, and in a recent study, it has been suggested that costly medical treatment was the single biggest category for claims on travel insurance. Even less serious medical complaints while abroad can be costly, with the average cost per medical consultation on a cruise being the monetary equivalent to 9 holiday insurance monthly premiums for the average family. In short, travel insurance will help you avoid costly and unbudgeted medical care. Another main feature when it comes to travel insurance policy is coverage for cancellation of trip. In this current climate and economy, it is often a large cost to travel and often vacations are booked well in advance to make sure you get a holiday at a good price. To protect this investment, you can purchase trip cancellation insurance. An all perils policy will protect you for a wide variety of conditions and changes in circumstance, ones that are specified ahead of the time of policy purchase, and an any reason policy is self-explanatory with the reason for cancellation not having to be declared. With this policy in mind, it is possible to recoup every penny that you have spent up to the date of trip cancellation, and while some paper pushing and claim evidence may be required, it will mean that you are immediately able to rebook a vacation without worrying about having lost money on the previous booking, as well as having the funds to pay for any unforeseen circumstances that may have required the previous vacation funds. This kind of insurance may not be a priority for casual holiday makers, but for the business traveler or more adventurous type, it can take a great weight off their trip planning.

Practicing Personal Safety Measures

Another important thing is to stay informed on current events in the country that you are visiting. Events such as elections, strikes, civil unrest, and natural disasters can have a great impact on the safety of travellers. Often the impact is only temporary, but the situation could be volatile and it may be best to avoid the country at that time. In some situations, travel insurance holders may have access to assistance companies or 24hr emergency support for advice on what to do in an upcoming situation and it’s always good to register with your country’s embassy when you arrive.

The first thing is to do research on the country that you intend to visit and understand their culture and way of life. You would need to find out the social and political issues and the crime rate in that country. This information can be obtained from the library, bookstores, tourist boards, and online searches. The better your understanding of the country, the easier it will be to blend in and keep a low profile. Understanding politics and social issues can help you avoid volatile areas. Find out where the higher crime areas are so you can avoid them and learn about common crimes against tourists and how to prevent them. Usually, countries that have higher crime rates against tourists will have information for tourists on safety.

Personal safety measures in travelling can essentially prevent dangerous situations from happening and assist one in dealing with an emergency or threat. All travellers should practice safety measures to protect themselves and their belongings. These are some of the important things you should do to ensure personal safety before and during travel.

Emergency Contacts and Plans

Emergency contacts and plans are crucial for a single mom traveling. Be sure to leave a copy of your travel itinerary with someone at home, as well as information on how to be reached in case of an emergency. Also, be sure you have health insurance and know your policy’s on “out of area” coverage. Single moms cannot afford to have things go wrong. Before you leave, you should find out what consular services are available in the countries you will visit and their locations. The consular officer will assist in many different situations, such as during destitution, a disaster, a missing person, and even a death. Always have on you the 24-hour emergency phone number for the nearest consulate or embassy. If something were to happen, they are your best bet to help. An important part of being safe is being prepared. By being prepared, it’ll ease the situation and get things back to normal as fast as possible.

It’s important to have things such as your passport, ATM card, traveler’s checks, and airline tickets in a safe place such as a money belt, an inside coat pocket, a pouch under your clothes, or in a secure hotel safe. When you’re in public, always stay alert to what’s going on around you and never leave your luggage unattended. Any of these items left could be stolen or subject you to questioning by airport security. The more you stand out as a wealthy tourist (cameras around your neck, fanny pack, maps, expensive luggage, or other signs of affluence), the more likely you are to be a target for crime. Try to not look like a tourist. Learn a bit of the local language and dress to blend in with the locals. This will not only help you avoid looking like a target for crime but help you gain some respect from the locals.

Managing Logistics and Finances

Having a well-defined travel itinerary allows you to gather much of the information needed for budgeting and will serve as a guide for any friends/family or childcare services helping out at home while you’re away. All copies of the itinerary should be left with someone who is easily contactable while you’re away. This is a safety measure in case of an emergency at home or if you need to be located by a friend or relative trying to reach you.

Make a list of activities and attractions you’d like to see while on your trip and then narrow this list down to a few key things. Overplanning will create added stress, unreasonable expectations, and disappointment when things don’t go as planned. Be sure to research opening days/hours, the price of admission, and if the activity is suitable for your children. A great idea would be to mark a “rest day” in your itinerary where you can take a break from sightseeing and just enjoy some recreational time.

When crafting the travel itinerary, make sure to choose a destination that is child-friendly and try to avoid a lot of moving around. You’re looking for flexibility, but children cope much better with change when they know what’s coming. Try to plan the trip with as much input from the children as possible.

Creating a travel itinerary Planning your travel itinerary is an important part of single-parent travel. It serves as a how-to guide that provides structure and predictability throughout the trip. When traveling as a single parent, the act of creating a travel itinerary will also provide a great sense of involvement and accomplishment for the children.

Creating a Travel Itinerary

A travel itinerary is the single mom’s best friend. It will help you keep track of where you are going, remember what you need to pack, and it will be a great resource for anyone who is taking over for you at home while you are away. First, make a list of the places you will be staying and their contact information. List transportation such as flights and the parts of your trip when you will need to rent a car. (You can make a separate itinerary for each city if it makes things less confusing.) Then, go through each day and write down what activities you would like to do and the things you would like to see. This will be most helpful when you are planning shorter trips or day outings from your home base in a city. Finally, a good itinerary has a list of what you will need to pack. You can even go so far as to make a packing list for each day if having important items scattered throughout your bags will stress you out. An Excel spreadsheet is the best way to keep all of this information in one place, and it will be easy to email a copy to someone who is helping you out at home.

Budgeting for the Trip

Firstly, you must decide on a reasonable and affordable budget, taking into consideration the duration of your trip and the destination. There are many online resources such as travel cost calculators to aid in this stage of planning. Other single parents can provide helpful insight by sharing their travel experiences and costs. Get as much information as you can regarding costs of living, local food and restaurant prices, attraction costs, and transportation. You must bear in mind accommodation costs, making sure you research ahead of time to find the most affordable and comfortable places to stay. Apartment rental can sometimes work out more cost effective than hotels, and will provide access to a kitchen (saving money on eating out costs). Look for special deals and consider budget accommodations. Be aware of student discounts for any attractions your child/ren wish to visit. It is important to heavily research financial specifics of your trip. If there is doubt over financial factors, your trip will be plagued with stress and worry.

Planning the financial organization of your trip is crucial to the success of your holiday. You don’t want to plan something and come halfway through the trip and can’t afford to continue. With a child/ren and the added responsibility (and costs) this involves, you must be extra thorough in your planning and research.

Handling Transportation and Navigation

If it is necessary to take them out of school during the year, then the mom should have a serious talk with the teacher about what the children will be missing, and if they can make up the work when they return. In my opinion, missing material is not as big of a deal if a child understands how to catch up or make up the missing work. In fact, I think that making up the work is sometimes more beneficial than doing it the first time, as the child had already learned and forgotten the material, and doing it a second time would reinforce it.

Before finalizing travel plans, a single mom should be aware that school systems have specific rules about children missing days to weeks of school to travel. The rules are different for every school district, but most schools today have truancy laws, and taking children out of school can result in fines for the parent. While it might seem like a wonderful idea to take the children out of school to travel, the mom must take into consideration that sometimes in life, doing the responsible thing isn’t as much fun, meaning that sometimes they may need to plan vacations during summer or winter breaks.

Managing Childcare and Schooling

One thing that traveling single moms may encounter is a desire to stay in a given location for a period of time, to give both themselves and their child a rest from constant movement and to get a deeper look into the local culture. This is known as slow travel and can be preferable or even ideal for single parent travel. However, slow travel may require enrollment of the child in a school or education program, often a difficult and daunting task for a foreigner with limited understanding of local culture and education system. Before this can be done, it’s usually required to go beyond the standard tourist visa. Usually, a student visa or working visa for the parent is necessary to enroll a child in a local school. The logistics for this can be complex, but rewarding in many ways. Unfortunately, there are financial considerations. If a child is enrolled in a local fee-paying school, it may present a near-prohibitive cost to a traveling single mom. However, there are some cases where a child may be eligible for enrollment in a public school. Overall, considering the age, maturity, and the needs of the individual child, any type of formal education can be an enriching experience for the child and offer a chance for personal time for the parent.

As previously mentioned, many single moms who travel with their kids are not on vacation. For traveling single moms, time away from home may involve exploring education and job opportunities. Whether away from home is for fun or necessity, the issue of childcare is continuous. Traveling moms may be able to make arrangements for a brief time when they can leave their child and have some time to themselves. However, arrangements made at home may not be possible for traveling single moms. Conversely, there may be unique opportunities for childcare available to traveling single moms. Stepping out of your own culture and into that of another offers a myriad of cultural experiences for your child, and perhaps a rare chance for you to take a break. Though they may be costly, language schools or camps can be wonderful opportunities for your child to learn and can provide some free time for you. When evaluating any childcare option, consider possible benefits and detriments to your child as well as to yourself.

Maximizing Enjoyment and Creating Memories

Balancing Adult and Child Interests Often times, while on vacation, parents will want to have some time for themselves to relax and unwind. This can be achievable even when the parent is travelling alone with the kids. Consider bringing along another single parent and their kids. Not only will the adults enjoy having some adult conversation, the kids will have someone to play with, leaving the adult to relax uninterrupted. The other adult can also provide a source of extra help. This trip can also offer many activities that parents can do on their own during a “kids day” or through a babysitter. With proper planning, families can add a children’s program to the vacations, providing the kids with fun things to do under supervision while the parents are free to voyage on their own. Finally, there should be an effort to find activities that will be fun for both kids and parents, offering enjoyment for the entire family.

Finding Family-Friendly Activities One of the keys to a successful single-parent family vacation is finding activities that everyone can enjoy. If the activity is child-centered, it will be easier for the parent to relax and have a good time. National and state parks are good vacation destinations because they offer a wide variety of nature-oriented activities geared for families. Many cities have zoos or aquariums, which are usually a big hit with kids.

Travelling alone with the kids is a very rare and rewarding experience. With a little bit of forethought and some careful planning, single parents can create memories on the road that will last a lifetime. One of the keys to a successful single-parent family vacation is finding activities that everyone can enjoy. If the activity is child-centered, it will be easier for the parent to relax and have a good time. National and state parks are good vacation destinations because they offer a wide variety of nature-oriented activities geared for families. Many cities have zoos or aquariums, which are usually a big hit with kids.

Finding Family-Friendly Activities

To make the most of family time, it is important to find activities that adults and children both enjoy. This is not to say that you should only do things that are specifically for children, but make sure to include them in planning activities. The more involved a child is with the planning, the more likely it is that they will enjoy the activity. As Donna Ferber says, “Find out what interests your children. When you include them in the planning decisions, there is a greater chance of a successful outcome.” At times you may need to find things that may not be your first choice, but are interesting for your child. Jennifer stated that “While in Paris, I went to the most amazing playground sandwiched in between two of my favorite landmarks – the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides. I had planned to spend the day at the Louvre, but my son’s interests were quite different. We compromised and both did something that we enjoyed.” Look for classes and workshops that are a few days long, giving you and your child a chance to interact with local culture and people. This can lead into scheduling regular trips to a certain place or event that both you and your child can enjoy. During trip planning, it is important to find activities that will be physically and mentally engaging for your child. This can help to avoid boredom and disruptive behavior. Leigh Rollan suggests “Remember that kids have shorter attention spans than adults so plan activities in shorter time frames and be prepared to be flexible if they lose interest.” Make sure that any long walks or tours have interesting stops along the way and if a child is learning about something in school, try to get them involved with a similar experience during travel. Also look for things that may be unique and new to a child. Erin Kurtz says “The goal of family travel is to provide lasting positive memories. When kids are grown, they may not remember the details of a tour of the Museum of Modern Art, but they will have warm memories of the horse and carriage ride through Central Park, or the street performer in the metro.”

Balancing Adult and Child Interests

Your biggest and most likely battle will come at meal times. No matter where it is, children will always find a McDonald’s or KFC and whinge until they go. Best leave the battle for another day, try and give them confidence to try some new cuisine and then promise them the junk food alternative later in the day or the next day. A clever idea is to look for well-known chains that are nonexistent in your home country. For example, eating at Pizza Hut in Tokyo is a novelty event for my kids.

When planning daily activities during traveling, I find it helpful to set a loose goal of things I’d like to do each day. Having a Parenting with Dignity Instructor’s mind, I’ve always let the kids know that we will be doing one adult activity and one kid activity each day. Making sure this takes place is my key to success. If it’s a location, for example, with a lot to visit and sightsee, we will spend more time exploring. If it’s a relaxing holiday hot spot, we will do more beach activities. This way, the adults don’t get too bored and the kids can detox from all that learning they’ve been doing at school. This leads to everyone being happy and, most of all, less stressful. It’s all about compromise, leave the 10 hours of straight museum trips for a time when a babysitter is available.

Documenting the Journey

Upon our arrival in Rhode Island, an old friend excitedly advised us of a rock ‘n’ roll live performance scene they’d just begun attending. Our friend and his wife had been so desperate to still see live music but felt that they had lost contact with the music scene since becoming parents. Because of this, they have been out of contact with the journey and now felt somewhat guilty for not exposing their children to a more cultural scene. Soon after this conversation, my friend bought tickets for The Flaming Lips concert held on the picturesque Newport Cliff Stroll and hired a friend babysitter for the night. Though the idea of bringing your little one to this concert would have been inconceivable, the morning after this event I awakened my daughter early and suggested an impromptu visit to the same venue. Her smile and enthusiasm as she danced to the music being played through giant speakers in an almost surreal yet peaceful environment will stick with me forever and is a memory that she was able to bring back to her tennis mates in later years.

During your trip and even during your daily life as an individual mom, continually take photos of you and your child together. Usually, we end up behind the camera and have no proof that we have been on the journey too. This journey is considered one of the most memorable occasions with my daughter as we spent long hours on the Autobahn, hugging the sting of Black Forest closely, after which flying down the good Austrian highways to succeed in the Vienna fortress. The very thought is that you and your child will giggle about it ten years from now. No matter the venue, it’s possible to have a good time, connect with different parents who are touring with lesser aged kids, and an opportunity for your little one to experience the feeling of giving back to those less fortunate.