Single Parent Travel: Everything You Need for a Great Road Trip
Are you a single or solo parent looking to take a road trip with your children? There’s nothing quite like hitting the open road with your kids in tow.
Road trips offer a unique opportunity to bond with your kids and create lasting memories. If you’re planning a road trip with kids, there are a few things you can do to make the most of the journey. First, plan ahead and make sure to pack plenty of snacks and activities. It’s also important to take breaks often so that everyone has a chance to stretch their legs and burn off some energy. And finally, don’t forget to bring along some music or audio books to help pass the time.
In this article, we’ll give you some tips on how to make the most of your road trip, including how to prepare and what to pack.
Admittedly I have done both kinds of road trips – one that I would plan for weeks and one where we would spontaneously take off.
I remember taking a trip one long weekend, where I decided at 7am we would go away. I had the accommodation booked by 7.15am and we were on the road by 7.45am. My son is easy going and was used to travelling, so a spontaneous trip didn’t phase him. As long as he had his blankie, an ipad and snacks he was good to go.
If this is your first trip or if your children need a little more time to get prepared, then planning weeks ahead is a good idea. And it’s a lot of fun.
When it comes to where to go on your road trip, there are endless possibilities. If you’re looking for ideas, be sure to check out our list of the top road trip destinations for families. And remember, the most important thing is to have fun and make lasting memories with your kids!
How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip
1. Decide on your destination
Deciding on a destination for a road trip can be a daunting task, especially if you’re traveling solo or with young children. However, there are a few key factors that can help to narrow down your options.
- Consider your budget and the distance you’re willing to travel.
- Think about how much time you have available for your road trip.
- What scenery or attractions do you want to see – beaches, mountains, or forests?
- What activities would you like to do on the way or at your destination?
- What type of accommodation do you wish to stay at? Hotel, motel, cabin, guest house, tent?
Once you’ve considered these factors, you can start to research potential destinations and look for ones that fit your criteria. With a little planning, you can easily find the perfect place for your next road trip.
For trips that I did with my son that were over 4 hours away, I would generally stop for a night or two at a hotel. It gave us an opportunity to rest, but to also explore other areas. And really with a road trip, it’s not so much about the destination, but more about the journey.
2. Plan your route and make sure to take into account rest stops, food options and attractions
Before you hit the road on your next adventure, it’s important to take some time to plan your route. You’ll want to consider rest stops, food options, and attractions along the way. This will help you make the most of your trip and avoid getting tired or hungry (or both!) in the middle of nowhere.
Luckily, there are a few easy ways to do this. If you’re using a GPS, you can simply input your destination and let it calculate the best route for you. Or, you can consult a map or atlas and plot out a course yourself.
Once you have your route planned, be sure to share it with friends or family so they know where you’ll be and how to reach you in case of an emergency.
3. Make a budget and stick to it
Going on a road trip can be a great way to see the country and spend time with family or friends, but it’s important to make a budget before you hit the open road. Petrol is one of the biggest expenses you’ll incur, so it’s helpful to map out your route in advance and plan for any detours.
You should also factor in the cost of food, accommodation and activities.
If you’re camping, you’ll need to account for the cost of supplies like firewood and groceries. And if you’re staying in hotels, you’ll need to budget for both the nightly rate and any additional charges like parking fees.
By taking the time to plan ahead, you can ensure that your road trip is both enjoyable and affordable.
4. Make a packing list of essentials
Road trips are a great way to explore the country with your family, but they can also be a lot of work. Before you head on your adventure, be sure to pack everything you need to keep your kids safe and comfortable. Here are 20 essential items to pack for a road trip with kids:
- Car seat for each child. Make sure the seats are properly installed and that your children know how to use them.
- First-aid kit. This should include bandages, antiseptic cream, and any pain and prescription medications you and your children take.
- Snacks and drinks. Pack plenty of healthy snacks and drinks for your kids to eat and drink on the road.
- Toys and books. Bring along some toys and books to keep your kids entertained during long car rides.
- Map. It’s always good to have a map handy in case you get lost or need to find a rest stop and don’t have access to the internet.
- Notepad and pen. These can come in handy for playing games or keeping track of things you see on the road.
- Mobile phone charger. This is essential for keeping in touch with family or calling for help in case of an emergency.
- Camera. You’ll want to document your family’s adventures!
- Flashlight. A flashlight can be used for both fun and safety on a road trip.
- Clothing. Clothing appropriate for the destination’s weather forecast including an extra set of clothes in case of accidents or spills.
- Sunscreen and hats. These are essential if traveling in warm weather
- Comfortable shoes. Pack a couple of pairs for each person in case you get wet.
- Blankets or sleeping bags. Check with your accommodation if you also need to bring sheets.
- Pillows. Especially if you have your own favourite – that way you are sure to have a good night’s sleep.
- Insect repellent. A must if planning to camp or stay near a lake.
- Cooler or an esky. This is essential for storing food and drinks, especially if you’re traveling in hot weather.
- Rubbish bags. Keep the car clean and tidy with a designated bag for garbage.
- Toiletries. Don’t forget to pack toothbrushes, toothpaste, and any other necessary toiletries.
- Headphone splitter. This is a lifesaver if you have more than one child who wants to watch a movie or listen to music on the car ride .
- A small toolkit and jumper cables. Useful if your car breaks down or for small emergencies.
Road trips are a great way to spend time with your family while exploring new places! By being prepared and packing all the essentials, you can make sure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable trip.
5. Find (and book) affordable places to stay along the way
One of the best things about road trips is that they give you the opportunity to explore different places along the way to your final destination. If you’re on a tight budget, though, finding affordable places to stay can be a challenge. Here are a few tips to help you find the best deals on lodging:
– First, consider camping. If you’re willing to rough it a bit, spending a few nights under the stars can be a great way to save money. Just be sure to research campgrounds in advance so that you know what facilities and amenities will be available.
– You can also look for discounts at hotels and motels. Many chains offer special rates for NRMA or AAMI members or seniors, so be sure to ask about any discounts that might apply to you.
– Another option is to rent a room through an online marketplace like Airbnb or even Facebook Marketplace. This can be a great way to save money, especially if you’re traveling with a group of people. Just be sure to read the reviews carefully before booking so that you know what you’re getting into.
With a little planning, you can find plenty of ways to save money on lodging while still being able to enjoy your road trip.
6. Prepare your child for the trip ahead of time
If you’re planning a road trip with your child, it’s important to prepare them for the journey ahead. Depending on their age, they may not be used to spending extended periods of time in the car, so it’s important to let them know what to expect.
If possible, take a few practice drives before the trip so they can get used to being in the car for long periods of time.
Let them know how long the journey will take and what kind of things they can expect to see along the way. It can also be helpful to give them a map of the route, so they can follow along and feel involved in the planning process.
It’s also a good idea to pack some snacks and drinks and make sure there are plenty of stops along the way so they can take a break.
And finally, don’t forget to pack some games or books to keep them entertained during the drive. By taking these steps, you can help ensure that your child has a safe and enjoyable road trip.
7. Make sure your vehicle is in good condition
Any experienced road warrior knows that a successful road trip starts with a reliable car.
Before setting out on your journey, it is important to make sure that your vehicle is in good working condition. This means checking the fluids, tires, and brakes, and being sure that all systems are operating properly.
It is also a good idea to have your car serviced before embarking on a long trip. By taking these precautions, you can help ensure that your car will be able to handle the rigors of the road. And while no one likes to break down on the side of the highway, at least you can rest assured knowing that you did everything you could to prevent it.
Also make sure you have a full tank of gas before setting out. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and being stranded on the side of the road is nobody’s idea of a good time.
8. Download a map or GPS app to help you find your way
Road trips are a great way to explore new places and see the sights, but they can also be a source of stress if you’re not properly prepared. One of the most important things you can do before hitting the open road is to download a map of your route.
That way, if you lose GPS signal or internet access, you’ll still be able to find your way.
9. Pack snacks and drinks for the trip
A road trip can be a great adventure for the whole family. But if you’re traveling with young children, it’s important to be prepared. Pack plenty of snacks and drinks to keep everyone happy and hydrated.
When packing snacks for a road trip, it’s important to choose items that are portable, non-perishable, and satisfying. Here are 15 great options to keep in mind:
- Dried fruit: Dried fruit is a convenient and healthy option for road trips. Just be sure to watch out for added sugar.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds offer protein and healthy fats to help keep you feeling full during your travels.
- Jerky: Jerky is a great way to get your protein fix on the go. Just be sure to check the sodium content before you buy.
- Granola bars: Granola bars are an easy way to satisfy your hunger while on the road. Just be sure to choose ones that are high in fibre and low in sugar.
- Protein bars: Protein bars can be a convenient way to get a quick energy boost during your travels. Just be sure to read the labels carefully, as some brands can be high in sugar and calories.
- Trail mix: Trail mix is a classic road trip snack that offers a variety of flavours and textures. Just be sure to watch out for packages that are high in sugar and fat.
- Crackers: Crackers are a versatile snack that can be paired with cheese, peanut butter, or other spreads. Just be sure to choose whole-grain varieties for added fiber and nutrients.
- Fruit roll-ups: Fruit leather is a fun snack option that’s perfect for kids (and adults!). Just be sure to check the labels for added sugars or artificial ingredients.
- Popcorn: Popcorn is a light and crispy snack that’s perfect for munching on during long car rides. Just be sure to avoid versions that are loaded with butter or salt.
- Pretzels: Pretzels are another light and crispy snack option that can help curb your hunger during travel stops. Just be sure not to overdo it, as pretzels can be high in sodium content.
- Sandwich squares: An easy to eat snack that will fill you up until your next mealtime.
- Yoghurt: A cooling and refreshing snack that can be enjoyed plain or with fruit mixed in.
- Hard-boiled eggs: A good source of protein, which will help keep your energy levels up
- String cheese: Cheese is full of calcium, which is important for bone health.
- Veggie sticks with hummus or ranch dip: These are a great source of fibre, which will help keep you feeling full and prevent you from snacking too much.
10. Bring activities, games and books
It’s important to be prepared for the long hours spent in the car. Pack a bag with games, toys and books to keep your little ones entertained. Bring along their favourite stuffed animals or dolls to provide comfort.
Here are 10 activities to keep kids entertained while on a road trip:
- Travel bingo: create a bingo card with different items that can be spotted while on the road. For example, a tree, a truck, a stop sign, etc.
- I spy: similar to travel bingo, but instead of looking for specific items, kids try to spot things that are a certain color or shape.
- License plate game: see how many different license plates from different states can be spotted during the trip.
- Rock, paper, scissors: this classic game can be played with any number of people and doesn’t require any materials.
- Hangman: another classic game that can be played with paper and pencil (or even just by drawing in the dirt).
- Word ladder: start with a word and then take turns making a new word by changing one letter at a time. For example, you could start with “cat” and the next person could change it to “hat” and then the next person could change it to “bat.”
- 20 questions: one person thinks of an object, person, or place and the other players take turns asking 20 yes or no questions in order to guess what it is.
- Storytelling: take turns making up a story one sentence at a time. This can be done with one person telling the whole story or multiple people taking turns adding to it.
- Punch buggy: every time someone sees a Volkswagen Beetle, they punch the person next to them and say “punch buggy!” The first person to reach 100 punches wins.
- Simon says: one player is Simon and gives commands such as “Simon says touch your nose.” Everyone does what Simon says as long as they precede the command with “Simon says.” If Simon doesn’t say “Simon says” before giving a command and someone does it anyway, they’re out!
11. Program your playlist
Anyone who has ever taken a road trip with young children knows that it can be a challenging experience. In addition to the usual stresses of driving long distances, you also have to keep your little ones entertained.
A well-planned playlist can help to make the journey more enjoyable for everyone. Music is a great way to set the mood and keep everyone moving, while podcasts and audio books can provide some educational entertainment.
Of course, it’s important to choose material that will appeal to your kids. But with a little advance planning, you can create a road trip playlist that will keep your family happy and entertained for miles to come.
12. Check the weather forecast
Before you set off on your long-awaited road trip, be sure to check the weather forecast. If rain is in the forecast for your travel day, you may wish to consider delaying your trip by a day or two.
Heavy rains can make driving conditions dangerous, and it can be difficult to enjoy your surroundings when the weather is lousy. By planning ahead and paying attention to the forecast, you can help ensure that your road trip is safe and enjoyable.
If you do find yourself driving in the rain, be sure to take extra care and allow yourself plenty of time to reach your destination safely. And of course, don’t forget to pack your rain gear!
13. Pack your car and get on the road
One of the best ways to make sure your trip goes smoothly is to pack your car early.
Start by making a list of everything you’ll need for the trip, including clothes, food, games, and maps. Then, start packing a few days in advance so you’re not rushed.
Be sure to pack items that can be used for multiple purposes to save space. For example, bring a scarf that can double as a blanket or a sarong that can be used as a towel.
Finally, go over your checklist one last time before you hit the road to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything essential.
14. Have fun! Road trips are a great opportunity to bond with your kids
You can sing along to songs, play games, and tell stories. It’s a great way to spend time together and create lasting memories.
Plus, it’s a great chance to teach your kids about responsibility. They can help with navigation, packing, and even driving (if they’re old enough).
And, of course, road trips are also a great opportunity to see new places and have new adventures.
15. Make sure to take some time for yourself during the trip
Going on a road trip with your kids can be a fun and exhilarating experience. However, it’s important to make sure you take time for yourself as well. With all the planning and packing that goes into a trip, it’s easy to forget to schedule some “me” time. However, this is crucial in order to avoid burnout.
Make sure to set aside some time each day to do something you enjoy, whether it’s reading, taking a walk, or listening to music.
It may seem like a small thing, but it can make all the difference in how you feel at the end of the trip.
No matter how you plan to spend your summer road trip, we hope that these tips will help make the experience a little bit easier and more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Ivana Katz is a Sydney based website designer and travel blogger. Having her own business has given her the freedom to explore the world. She believes travel is the best teacher and her passion for adventure, writing and photography has taken her and her son to some amazing places, including Hawaii, Canada, Fiji, Greece and Czech Republic. Ivana’s favourite thing about travelling is learning, discovering hidden gems and creating memories. She loves nothing more than inspiring other women to chase their dreams and explore the world with their families and friends.