While it can be one of the most rewarding experiences for both you and your children, travelling with kids as a solo parent can be daunting and challenging.
Frequent traveller and solo parent Elisa knows all about the trials and triumphs of travelling as a single mum with two kids, having done it many times. Here, she lets us in on her top tried and tested tips and tricks.
Be prepared but don’t put pressure on yourself
Just the idea of flying with kids, especially long-haul, can trigger anxiety within even the most cool-headed parent. Elisa recommends being as prepared as possible by packing essentials into your carry-on luggage, such as a change of clothing for each child, entertainment such as iPads, colouring books and games, something they can soothe themselves with like a favourite toy, a dummy or bottle to relieve ear pressure and plenty of snacks. “I also really love the Mountain Buggy Bagrider, where your toddler or baby can sit on top of a suitcase, making the airport process a lot smoother.”
Road trip rules
If your mode of transport is the car, heed Elisa’s advice for a smooth journey ahead. “Start early, take regular toilet breaks, break up the trip with interesting stops along the way, have plenty of snacks on hand and break out the all-time car game classics such as I Spy to keep them motivated and engaged.”
Don’t put pressure on yourself
Don’t put pressure on yourself and your kids by worrying too much about what other passengers think. “More often than not you’ll find that most people are understanding and compassionate and will offer support should you need it, so be kind to yourself and your kids and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Give it some time
Adjusting to a new place and time zone can be awkward and challenging at first, especially for the young ones, so take it easy for the first couple of days and don’t have too much stuff planned as soon as you touch down. “Travelling and change in time zones can really take their toll so don’t plan too much,” Elisa says. “Be patient and give yourself and your kids time to adjust and settle into the time zone.”
Choose family-friendly accommodation
Its important to choose a hotel or resort that caters to families, so research your options, read reviews from other families and consider things like kids clubs, activities, babysitting and nanny services, and kid-friendly dining. Elisa highly recommends going all-inclusive because its friendlier on the budget and offers flexibility, which is important for families. “Make sure you also have buffet breakfast or lounge access – kids are constantly hungry and grazing but they can also be picky, and having a buffet or all-inclusive package means they can pick and choose what they want without costing you at least $20 per head every time.” Another excellent tip Elisa swears by is to book suites with separate bedrooms and living space so you’re not sitting in the dark when the kids go to bed.
Choosing family friendly accommodation also means there are other families for you and your kids to socialise with.
Deciding on a destination
When choosing a destination for your family holiday, its important to go for somewhere that offers a variety of things to see and do that you can enjoy together. Elisa recommends somewhere that is ideally just one flight away, warm and with minimal stress, like Fiji. “Fiji is always a winner – the people are kind and welcoming and they adore kids, there’s no shortage of fantastic resorts with plenty of kids clubs, nannies and other families, everyone will have a great time.” Elisa also recommends Thailand as its affordable, easy and fun, and if you’re looking for somewhere further ashore, Hawaii is always a great long-haul option for families. “Cruising is also fantastic – its really social so you won’t feel isolated, its all-inclusive meaning more bang for your buck, there’s always something to do and somewhere to go on board, you only have to pack once because your accommodation comes with you, and kids absolutely love it!”
Guided tours are a great way to get to know a destination, but choosing the right type of tour for your family is really important. When touring with kids, its best to choose tours that are short, have plenty of variety, an enthusiastic guide that’s good with kids, and interactive activities to keep young minds active and engaged. “Day passes and hop-on, hop-off buses are also great because they include a variety of attractions, they’re great value for money, you can go at your own pace and see what you want, and you can even jump the queue at most attractions, saving you a heap of time,” Elisa says. “Don’t forget to take the stroller if you have smaller kids that aren’t big on walking and look out for pram-friendly tour buses.”
Just go for it
While many parents may not have a choice when it comes to travelling solo plus kids because they are in fact single parents, as was the case with Elisa, she says it all comes down to living in the moment. “Going on holiday with your kids gives you the opportunity to reconnect with your kids, by doing something new and special together and sharing events and experiences you don’t get at home. Its also your holiday and your chance to take time out from the stress and pressures of everyday life in a new destination, so make memories, create the moment, just go for it!”