Single Parent Travel: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Holidays
Single parenting comes with its own unique challenges, but that doesn’t mean that travel has to be off the table. With a little bit of planning , you can have a great time and be prepared for any difficult situations.
There are plenty of ways to make traveling as a single parent easier and more enjoyable. Make sure to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to plan and prepare for the trip. This means packing everything you need for yourself and your kids well in advance. Look for destinations that offer plenty of activities for kids and that are reasonably priced. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
I started travelling with my son when he was 5 months old. Admittedly our first trip to Fiji was with my family, so I wasn’t on my own, but it gave me a taste of what travelling would be like with a young child.
Our next trip was to Europe when junior was just 3 years old. Part of the trip we travelled with my parents, but parts of it we were on our own. Always an optimist, I didn’t quite think it through – we took 17 flights and covered 6 destinations in 6 weeks.
You can imagine the challenges of having a full schedule with a jet lagged toddler. But more on that later.
If you are planning a trip with your child/children and are travelling as a solo parent, here are some tips to help you make the most of your trip.
12 Things You Need to Know Before Travelling With Your Children as a Single Parent
1. Make a list of what you need to pack and double check that you have everything
Dress for comfort and pack clothes that are appropriate for the activities you’ll be doing.
Travel as light as possible and only pack the things you absolutely need. You can always purchase or hire things at your destination.
I find Google Keep a great tool for lists and notes. You can easily download it to your phone if you don’t have it already. Google Keep syncs between your computer and phone so it’s easy to use on the run.
2. If travelling overseas, give yourself two or three days to get used to the new time zone
This is particularly important when you are travelling with babies and toddlers.
If your flight is delayed or your hotel room isn’t ready, try not to let it ruin your trip. Toddlers can get overstimulated at airports and large hotels, so try to find a quiet area and stay there until your flight or room is ready.
3. Make a list of what you would like to do on your trip
Before you set on your trip, it is a good idea to make a list of places you want to visit and things you’d like to see or experience. If your kids are a little older, get them involved as well. Planning a trip together is half the fun.
If you are traveling with a toddler or a young child, make sure you allow plenty of time between activities for rest. I generally organise one day of activities and one day of downtime.
Research kid-friendly restaurants in the area.
Try to keep a flexible schedule. Things will inevitably go wrong when you’re travelling, so it’s important to be able to make to make changes on the go.
Some fun activities to consider
- Go on a safari
- Climb a mountain
- Go swiming, bodyboarding, standup paddleboarding or surfing
- Visit ancient ruins
- See a show or watch a movie in 3D cinema
- Ride a roller coaster
- Visit a theme park
- Take a boat ride on a river or lake
- Visit a zoo, wild life park or aquarium
- Indoor rock climbing
- Go carting or quad biking
- Play mini golf
- Spend a day at an indoor play centre or trampoline park
- Visit a museum
- Go ice skating or roller skating
- Hire a bike, skateboard or a scooter
4. Check all your electronics
Before travelling, it’s a good idea to check that all your electronics and gadgets work properly and you know how to use them. Ensure you have all the right charger cables and travel adapters. Don’t forget to also check if your phone is set to international roaming, otherwise you may have problems connecting to a carrier.
I usually bring an extra phone charger in case I lose one and I also bring a power board. That way I only need one travel adapter and we can charge all our electronics at the same time.
5. Rent a baby carrier, car seat or stroller
If you’re travelling with young children, bring a baby carrier, car seat and/or stroller. If it seems like too much to carry, see if you can rent them or borrow them at your destination, but pre-book them to ensure they are available. This will free up your hands so you can take care of other things.
I also found having a leash for junior was super helpful. He was very curious about all the new things we were seeing and would run off to look at them – something he did not generally do when we were at home.
6. Pre-book local transport
Take the hassle out of getting to your hotel from the airport by booking a shuttle or hiring a car.
Print out a map of the area and mark the directions to your hotel. Whilst in many places you can use your mobile phone as GPS, there may be areas where you have no reception or are out of charge. Keep a printed copy of your itinerary including your hotel address on you at all times.
7. Pack snacks and drinks for the trip
If you are travelling with young children make sure to pack plenty of snacks and drinks, especially if they are fussy eaters. This will keep them happy and hydrated during the trip. You may wish to pack everything into a backpack so your hands are free.
8. Bring activities for your children to do in the car or on the plane
Bring things for your children to do so they don’t get bored. This can include books, games, or even drawing or colouring sheets. Don’t rely on electronic gadgets, as they can run out of charge or you may not have access to the internet.
9. Make sure you have your documents and information readily available
Keep all your travel documents and information readily available in a special travel wallet.
This includes your:
- driver’s license
- travel insurance policy
- bank documents, foreign currency and credit cards
- international COVID vaccine certificate
- letter from other parent authorising you to take your child(ren) out of the country
It is a good idea to take a photo of all the documents and also print a copy of each in case you lose the originals or if they get stolen. Also print contact numbers for family and friends in case you lose or break your phone and you need to get in touch with someone.
No matter where you’re travelling, be prepared for the unexpected. This means being aware of your surroundings, knowing what to do in an emergency, and having a plan B in case something goes wrong. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and being prepared will help you have a more enjoyable trip.
10. Bring a first-aid kit
No matter where you’re travelling, it’s always a good idea to bring your own first-aid kit. This will come in handy if you or your child gets sick or injured and you don’t have quick access to a pharmacy. Don’t forget to bring prescription medications and details of your doctor.
Ensure you have the appropriate travel insurance and print essential contact numbers. Don’t rely on the internet, as sometimes it can take a while to connect to a new carrier and some countries have poor internet connection.
11. Find out if your hotel has a kids club
Going on holidays with kids can be a lot of fun, but if you are on your own and travelling with young children, there is nothing wrong with wanting a bit of time for yourself. Before you book a hotel / resort find out if they have a kids’ club or a babysitter, so you can have a break.
12. Join parent travel groups on Facebook
Traveling can be a daunting task for single parents, but with a little creativity and social media savvy, it can be a fun and bonding experience for the whole family.
One great way to find travel companions is through Facebook groups specifically for single parents. These groups are often filled with friendly and helpful members who are excited to share their travel experiences and advice and even meet up with you if they are in the same city.
The Benefits of Travel for Single Parents
Travelling with kids can take a bit of planning and preparation, but the benefits of travel are worth the effort. Seeing the world through your child’s eyes is an unforgettable experience.
Travelling can help children:
- learn about the world around them
- develop new skills
- bond with their siblings
- discover new places and cultures
- create memories that will last a lifetime
- build their confidence
- boost their creativity
- expand their perspective
And for single parents, travelling can be a chance to relax and enjoy some time away from the everyday routine and stresses of life.
The Best Destinations for Single Parents Travelling with Kids
When travelling with children, it’s important to find destinations that offer plenty of activities for all ages. Fortunately, there are a number of great destinations to choose from that will make everyone happy.
Here are some of the best destinations to consider:
Honolulu, Hawaii, US
If you’re looking for a tropical getaway, Honolulu is the perfect place to take your family. With its sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, your children will have a blast exploring this paradise. Consider going snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, swimming with dolphins at Sea Life Park, bodyboarding on Waikiki Beach
Sydney is another excellent choice, as it’s a beautiful city with plenty to see and do. The beaches are perfect for families, and there are tons of kid-friendly attractions, such as the Luna Park, Darling Harbour, Australian Museum and Taronga Zoo.
Gold Coast, Australia
Gold Coast is a gorgeous part of the world and is home to stunning beaches, amazing theme parks including Movie World, Sea World and Dream World, and plenty of other activities that will keep your little ones entertained for hours on end. Plus, with its warm weather and laid-back atmosphere, Gold Coast is the perfect place to relax and recharge with your family.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is a great place to travel with kids. There are plenty of activities for families to enjoy together, and the scenery is stunning. Some of the best things to do in Queenstown with kids include visiting the amusement park, going on a nature walk, taking a boat ride on the lake, and skiing or snowboarding in the winter. The town is also home to many restaurants and cafes that serve up kid-friendly fare. Plus, the locals are friendly and welcoming to families, making Queenstown an ideal destination for a vacation with children.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is an ideal destination for parents of children of all ages. This gorgeous city is full of history and culture, and there are plenty of things to keep your family busy. Check out Prague Castle, Prague Zoo, Museum of Senses. Plus, the food is incredible, and you’ll find that the prices are very reasonable.
Orlando, Florida US
This destination is perfect for families, as there are plenty of things to do and see. Plus, it’s home to some of the most popular theme parks in the world, including Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.
New York City, NY, US
This bustling city is full of energy and excitement, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy. From world-class museums to Broadway shows, your family will never be bored in NYC.
Los Angeles, CA, US
Los Angeles is a great destination for families, as there are tons of kid-friendly activities to enjoy including Disney Land, Universal Studios, Kidspace Children’s Museum. Plus, the weather is perfect year-round, so you can enjoy the outdoors no matter when you visit.
London, United Kingdom
This historic city is full of culture and charm, and there’s plenty for families to see. From riding the London Eye to visiting Buckingham Palace, your family will create memories that will last a lifetime.
Phuket is also a great choice for single parents travelling with kids, as it’s an incredibly friendly and welcoming country. Some fun activities include feeding the elephants, gliding on a zipline, learning wakeboarding. Plus, the food is amazing, and there are plenty of activities to keep your family entertained.
Italy is also an excellent choice for single parents travelling with kids, with its abundance of historical sites, gorgeous canals and lovely parks. Here are some ideas for things to do with your family in Venice: Visit St. Mark’s Square and the Basilica, take a gondola ride, explore the Rialto Bridge and market, visit the Doge’s Palace, and enjoy some of the city’s many parks.
So there you have it – some of the best destinations for single parents travelling with kids. No matter where you go, remember to have fun and enjoy making memories with your family. Safe travels!
How to Find the Best Deals on Flights and Hotels
When travelling as a single parent, money can be tight at times, but the good news is with a little preparation, you can make your trip affordable.
1. Travel out of school holidays
I have found travelling out of school holidays a lot cheaper – sometimes leaving a few days before school holiday starts can make a lot of difference to flight and hotel prices. Similarly, going towards the end of school holidays, you can get some great deals.
2. Book your trip well in advance
Plan your trip well in advance and book flights and hotels as early as possible. This will help you to get the best deals.
3. Shop around
Compare prices from different airlines and hotels. If you book directly through an airline or a hotel, you can sometimes get a better deal. Their websites often feature special promo prices and package deals, which may include breakfast, pamper treatments, free wifi, activities etc.
Take all the costs into consideration, when comparing prices and you may be surprised how much you can save with a package deal.
Also check what free activities are available at your hotel / resort and what equipment you can borrow.
4. Go and see your travel agent
I always thought that booking flights and accommodation by myself will save me money, but I found out that going through my travel agent I got an even better deal.
Travel agents have access to special deals and can quickly give you alternatives on flights – for example if you fly an hour earlier or later in the day, you might save yourself hundreds of dollars or they can recommend a hotel, which you may not have considered otherwise.
They also have resources available and can recommend tour organisers and transport providers.
5. Use online search engines
Use sites such as Booking.com, Agoda, Trivago, AirBnB . Pay close attention to what each hotel includes and compare them between the different site offerings. Sometimes you may pay an extra few dollars to book through one site but get many more inclusions.
6. Sign up for newsletters
Sign up for hotel/airline newsletters and you may get some great deals or find out about special packages only available to subscribers.
7. Use loyalty programs
If you frequently travel with a particular airline or hotel chain, sign up for their loyalty program. This can help you get discounts and other perks.
8. Ask about discounts
When booking flights or hotels, ask about discounts that may be available. For example, some airlines offer discounts to families traveling with children.
9. Sign up for partner programs
Earn flight credits through partner programs such as Flybuys, American Express or Velocity.
Best Travel Insurance for Single Parents
When travelling with children, it’s important to have travel insurance in case of an emergency. The best travel insurance for single parents is one that offers a wide range of coverage, including medical expenses, lost luggage, and trip cancellation.
Some travel insurers also offer discounts for families. So be sure to ask about family rates when you are getting quotes.
It’s also a good idea to read the fine print of any travel insurance policy before you purchase it. This way, you’ll be sure that you understand what is and isn’t covered.
Print their number and keep it handy for quick access.
I remember being in Queenstown, New Zealand on a ski trip with my son. After 3 days of exploring he came down with a very high fever. I contacted the hotel and they recommended a doctor we could go and see, which was not far from our hotel. I booked a taxi and took junior to see the doctor, who prescribed antibiotics.
When I got back home from our trip and went to claim the doctor’s visit through my insurance they told me I could have phoned the number provided and they would have sent a doctor directly to the hotel.
Also pay attention to exclusions on pre existing conditions.
I took a trip with my son 8 months after being cleared of cancer and I had to pay extra for hospital cover. I didn’t mind paying the extra as it gave me peace of mind knowing I would be covered if something went wrong.
Some companies to consider
- Cover More (my preferred choice)
- Insure and Go
You may also wish to check out your credit cards as many credit card companies offer insurance coverage as an added benefit to their customers.
There may be limitations on how much they will pay out, so be sure to read the fine print. Keep in mind you may need to pay extra if you’re going on a cruise or skiing trip, as some policies don’t cover these activities.
What To Do If You Get Sick While Travelling
If you or your children get sick while travelling, it can be really stressful. But don’t worry, there are some things you can do to make it easier. The most important thing is to plan ahead as much as possible.
Before you go, make sure you have all the necessary documents including travel insurance that covers both you and your child(ren).
Bring a first aid kit including tablets to help alleviate symptoms of headache, cold & flu, gastro and motion sickness as well as any prescription medication.
If you can’t manage the symptoms of your illness with your medicine, contact your travel insurance immediately. They can either advise of the closest medical centre or even send a doctor to see you.
You can also contact the embassy or consulate of the country where you will be traveling. If your condition is serious or critical, consular officials may assist you in locating medical care and information as well as contacting your loved ones or transferring money from family members and/or friends.
If you are travelling with young children, contact the hotel and find out if you can get a babysitter or someone to take care of your child(ren) whilst you seek medical help or recover.
One year we were in Hawaii and shortly after we arrived I got a gastro bug and felt unwell for a couple of days. I managed to get to the pharmacy to get some medication, but I was tired and nauseous. Junior was only 6 years old and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with him while I recovered.
Fortunately, the hotel had streaming movies and I bought extra couple of games for his iPad. Jordan was happy to be able to play games all day and watch TV.
We had booked and paid for a dolphin swim for one of the days that I was sick. I was afraid that I would miss out, but I contacted the water park and explained the situation. They were very understanding and were able to reschedule our adventure for another day.
Sometimes challenging situations come up when you are travelling. When that happens, pause, take a breath and adjust your plans.
How To Deal With Jetlag
When travelling with kids, jetlag can be a real challenge. Here are some tips for dealing with it:
- Adjust your schedule before you leave. If possible, try to get your kids on the new time zone a few days before you travel.
- Get plenty of rest the night before your trip.
- Upon arrival, try to stick to the new schedule as closely as possible. This may mean going to bed earlier or later than usual, but it will help your body adjust more quickly.
- Before you leave, sit down and map out your trip including any time differences. Where will you be going? What will you be doing each day? This will help you stay organized and avoid any stressful surprises.
- Be patient!
The Best Way To Manage Your Money When Travelling
Create a budget
Before you leave, sit down and figure out how much money you’ll need for your trip. This will help you stay within your budget and avoid any financial stress.
Include cost for the following:
- Travel insurance
- Food and drink
- Activities and attractions
- Local transportation including transfers to and from the airport
- Shopping and souvenirs
- Emergency funds
- Car rental and parking
- Passport / Visa
- Vaccinations and Medication
- Mobile phone fees
- Currency exchange fees
Bring at least 2 different forms of payment
The best form of payment depends on the country you are travelling to, so make sure you do some research before you go. The most common ways to pay include:
- Travel money cards
- Credit cards
- Debit cards
- Apple Wallet or Google Pay
Don’t forget to let your bank know your travel dates to ensure you don’t have problems paying with your credit or debit card.
I always pack one credit card in my suitcase, in case my primary form of payment gets lost or stolen.
Don’t rely on being able to use your mobile phone to pay and bring the actual cards in case you are out of charge or the stores don’t accept that form of payment.
It’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand when you’re travelling. This way, you’ll be prepared for any unexpected expenses or if electronic forms of payment are down.
Track your spending
Keep a close eye on your spending while you’re on the road. This will help you stay within your budget and avoid any financial surprises.
There are several apps that make keeping track of your spending easier
What To Do If Your Child Gets Homesick While You’re Away
If your child gets homesick while you’re away, here are a few things you can do:
- Talk to them and try to reassure them that everything is okay and that you will be back home in xxx days. Ask them what would make them feel better in the moment.
- Encourage them to explore their new surroundings and make friends.
- Bring their favourite toys and reminders from home.
- Have a surprise bag filled with treats to make the trip more exciting and help them forget about what they are missing from home. Include their favourite snacks, stickers, bouncy balls, games.
- Let them call or text home as often as they want.
- Stick to a routine, if your children get anxious about their new surroundings. That means similar wake up time, meal time, nap time and bedtime.
- Get them involved in planning an outing they will enjoy.
How To Deal With Tantrums And Other Challenges While You’re Travelling
When travelling with kids, it’s important to be prepared for challenges including tantrums and mood swings. Here are a few tips:
1. Stay calm yourself
If you’re upset, your kids will be too.
2. Have a sense of humour about it
Kids will often test boundaries when they’re frustrated. Laughing at the situation can help diffuse it.
3. Try to understand what’s causing the tantrum
Is your child tired, hungry, or just plain cranky? Dealing with the root cause can help prevent future outbursts.
4. Distract your child with something else.
If all else fails, a change of scenery might be just what your child needs to calm down.
Back To My European Trip Story
After flying from Sydney to London, we spent a few days exploring the city. Junior seemed to be enjoying the outings and eating at McDonalds and other fast food outlets. After 3 days in London, we headed to Heathrow to take a short flight to Prague.
When we got to the airport Jordan decided he wanted to push the luggage trolley. We were in a hurry to get to the customs so I told him he couldn’t. And that’s where things went wrong.
He threw himself on the ground and had a major tantrum right in the middle of hundreds of travellers.
I didn’t know what to do … so I quickly picked him up and carried him to a somewhat quiet corner so he could have some time out. That made things even worse. He was screaming so loud that a security guard with a gun came to see what was going on.
When he ascertained no one was being harmed, he quickly retreated – I don’t think he was trained for dealing with a toddler in the middle of a major meltdown.
I was on the verge of tears, trying to stay composed and manage the situation, but it was proving to be challenging as I was so exhausted.
I can’t remember how we got through customs, but I do remember leaving Jordan with my parents while I excused myself and went to the bathroom. And there I lost it, sobbing so loudly that people stopped to ask if I was ok.
When I finally calmed down, I went back to where my parents were and junior was as happy as he could be. Meanwhile I was a mess. I didn’t know how I would handle 6 weeks of tantrums whilst we were travelling in unknown places and amongst strangers.
Thankfully he only had one meltdown during that holiday and that was when we landed in Prague. I tried distracting him with toys and planes, but that didn’t work. So I calmly walked him to a disabled toilet and gave him time out. When he finally calmed down, we collected our luggage and off we went to see our relatives.
For the rest of the trip, he was an angel. He loved exploring all the sights and made a few friends along the way.
When I had a chance to reflect on the situation, I realized the tantrums were because he was tired, out of his routine and away from his familiar surroundings, not to mention we were eating on the run, so the food he was eating wasn’t healthy. And all those circumstances lead to the perfect storm!
Looking back now we laugh about it but I learnt a valuable lesson on that trip. When travelling with a young child, it’s important to slow down, have plenty of time to adjust to local time zone and not pack our schedule full of activities.
Travelling as a single parent can be stressful and challenging, but it can also be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to spend time with your children creating memories that will last a lifetime.
I took many trips with my son, both locally within Australia and also overseas. With each trip I saw him grow and mature, well beyond his years. By the time he was 12 years old he had seen and done more than many people do in their lifetime.
He has become a well rounded young man, who continues to travel and explore the world and occasionally takes me with him. He is confident and makes friends easily and I believe travel has played a big part in this.
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.