5 Tips For Traveling Alone With Kids

by Abby M. King
Originally Published: 
Little kid dressed up as a pilot

What’s one surefire way to make traveling with kids even harder? Traveling alone with kids.

Winter break, presidents day weekend, spring break, summer break, Columbus Day… there are ongoing opportunities to take your kids on a getaway. Before I was divorced, it didn’t take much to urge me to get us all out of doge. Post-divorce, I was overwhelmed and we pretty much stayed within walking distance of home for two years.

As a single parent, it’s easy to feel stuck at home. How can you go away when you will be outnumbered? How can you bear to stay home for yet another day off from school when it seems everyone else is doing something? Maybe you aren’t single but your husband can’t take time off and the thought of taking them on your own seems insane.

Well, it may be insane, but it’s also doable. Here are some tips for making it as easy and fun as possible…

1. If you can bring help do. This can be costly or challenging (finding a relative or friend who can take time off to accompany you). But, if you can find a way, take advantage of it! My kids had been asking to go to Disney World for years, a typical request of the 10 and under crowd. My ex and I are not “Disney” people, or so we thought, so that coupled with a crumbling marriage made a trip there impossible. Two years after separating I decided it was time. My kids were getting older and soon I would miss the sweet spot, both enthusiastic, walking, out of diapers and strollers and done with naps. I wanted a three day jaunt in and out swiftly before I lost my mind. I knew this was too much to take on my own. Logistically with age and height differences, my kids would want to go on different rides and sometimes one of my kids wouldn’t be allowed on the ride, I needed another adult. I debated whether or not it was “weird” to bring someone and then I got over myself. I am a single parent. I can let that stop me from doing things or I can find my own way to do what I want. I was lucky that a friend/ sometime babysitter whom I and the kids love was able to take a day off from her job and join us. I know I am blessed to also have had the funds to pay for her expenses. You can save your internal thoughts about how I have no idea what its like for everyone else and most people cant afford it. I GET THAT. But, you might be able to on some level. Many hotels have pull out couches and roll away beds so it could just be an extra flight. Maybe a friend or relative would like a getaway and you can get a cheap flight or use airline miles. My friend and I shared a room with my kids and had a fun 3 days in Disney. My kids knew she was coming because I felt we needed an extra hand. Everyone else thought she was my partner/girlfriend and since she is 10 years younger than me and a knockout I was thrilled.

2. Be prepped for lonely nights. Other than Disney, the other trips we have taken have been just the three of us. After long, fun, exhausting days I got my kids to bed and was ready to relax. It’s then being alone really sucks. At night, alone while my kids slept, I had no one to recount the day with; no one to spend my few hours of alone time with and it was lonely. Now I download a movie on my iPad and bring reading material. Great days can be bittersweet. Our first trip, skiing, I was so elated watching my kids ski for the first time and it dawned on me that I wish I had someone to bear witness, to share the joy. Being prepped helps, it was the unanticipated loneliness that first trip that tripped me up.

3. Be honest about what will work best. We can’t do it all, or I certainly cant. I know my limits and two kids at the beach is WAY above my threshold right now. Depending on your kid’s ages your options will shift over time. Be realistic about what you can handle. Don’t bite off too much more than you can chew. A few days away with you miserable and shouting at the kids is worse than three chill days at home. Plan something you can do with relative ease. My kids and I can go to the beach just the three of us when they are in high school.

4. Cities can be a great option. Mountain lodges, beach rentals, wilderness excursions. These can be tricky with young kids and one parent. I took my kids (8 and 5 at the time) to New Orleans and it was awesome and manageable. We had access to public transportation, museums, an aquarium and a zoo and the kids got to really feel what another culture was like. We ate local food, walked through the French Quarter and went to a small music festival. New Orleans is unique in what its activities, but Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago… there are so many cities that have a lot to offer and an abundance of hotels in varying price ranges making a trip affordable. Just because you want out of your city for a few days, don’t discount a different city.

5. Manage expectations. My son still asks if his dad, my ex can join us on a vacation. I do hope one day we can be a big kumbaya blended family, but that is not today. It’s also not tomorrow or next winter break. When I told him of our last trip instead of the excitement my daughter showed, he was disappointed; he would have no one to play basketball with, no one to throw the football with, I would spend time with his sister who would be with him? I am sorry his dad can’t come and I realize certain things they do I can’t or don’t want to. I empathize but enough with the boo-hooing. We can still have a great time, just different. I had a talk with him before we left so he knew what to expect and what probably wasn’t going to happen. He didn’t play basketball or football but I went in the ocean with him, jumped the waves and went on slides. I did what I could and talking about it prior to arrival made it easier for him to swallow that which was missing during the vacation.

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