If moms have the hardest job on the planet- single moms are out of this world! We’ve got mad respect for all the single mamas out there who are crushing the parenting game totally solo. Maybe you share custody or co-parent, or maybe you’re truly flying solo, being both mom and dad all at the same time. Whatever your situation- we know you’re doing your very best to give your kids the world! However, actually *seeing* the world with your kids as a single parent can be pretty intimidating. Traveling with kids always presents unique challenges, and those challenges can be amplified if you only have one set of hands on deck. But you CAN do it! We’ve got your back mama! We’re covering 11 awesome travel tips for single moms to help you prepare to travel alone with your kids!
Travel Tips for Single Moms
1. Get Organized
As a single mom, you’re more than likely already an organization expert. You’re going to want to maximize your organization skills when planning for a trip where you’ll be the sole adult! It will be hard enough keeping track of kids and bags and snacks and all of the other things you’ll be juggling come travel day. The last thing you want is to be searching for boarding passes, passports, hotel addresses or theme park tickets. Make sure all of your pertinent information is organized and stored in one place so you can access it easily. Keep a folder in your purse with all documents, addresses, phone numbers and other important information- or use an app in your phone to store all of that information so it’s right at your fingertips when you need it. Anything you can do to help streamline your travel days will help make your trip easier and more enjoyable!
2. Choose Your Transportation Wisely
Planes, trains and automobiles! Which one is right for you?! When traveling alone with your kids, choosing the right transportation is extra important. Travel days are by far the most stressful days of a trip. Here are a few pros and cons to consider when choosing how to get to your destination:
Pros: You are in charge! You and you alone are in control of your schedule. You can leave when you want, stop when you want, and go wherever you want. Driving gives you a lot of freedom.
Cons: Unless you have older kids, you’ll be doing all the driving. If your kids fight in the backseat, it can be tough to drive and referee at the same time. If you’re headed to a big city, having a car might be difficult when it comes to parking.
Pros: It’s fast! If you’re going somewhere far way, there’s a lot to be said for getting there as quickly as possible. Flight attendants are usually willing to help you with bags, drinks and snacks. Many will even offer to hold a baby or toddler while you get situated- so you potentially have a little bit of help while traveling! Consider booking with airlines that have in-flight entertainment so each kid can watch a movie to stay busy without having to pack a separate screen or device for each kid.
Cons: Getting through security alone with kids can be stressful. Juggling everyone’s carry-on bags can be stressful too. Kids might get antsy on long flights. Depending on your destination, you may need to rent a car or use public transportation when you arrive.
Pros: You’re not driving! Taking a train means your hands are free at all times and you’re able to attend to your kids and everything they need. There’s also more room for movement on a train- it’s easier to walk around so kids who get antsy easily might find it easier to travel long distances when they can walk to the snack car and stretch their legs every so often. You can book seating with tables and even trains with sleeping cars so trains can be more comfortable than traveling by car or plane.
Cons: Some train routes can take awhile due to extra stops. Depending on your destination, you may need to rent a car or use public transportation when you arrive.
Pros: Once you get on the ship- you don’t have to worry about transportation at all. Everything is right there on the ship so there’s no need to worry about renting a car, using public transportation, or getting to and from the places you want to go!
Cons: Unless you live close to a port city, you’ll likely have to fly to the city you are departing from. If you have kiddos who get seasick- a cruise might not be a great choice!
3. Have Proper Documentation
Depending on your situation, you may need to carry specific documents showing that you have permission to travel alone with your children- especially if you are flying, cruising, or traveling out of the country. Remember- it’s always best to carry MORE documentation than you need. Getting caught without proper documentation can derail your entire trip in minutes. If you have sole custody of your kids, make sure you have copies of your custody papers. If you share custody, you will need a signed and notarized document from the other parent stating that you have permission to travel alone with the children to your specific destination, on your specific travel dates. This document should also state that you are authorized to make decisions, including medication decisions, for the children while traveling. Be sure this document contains as many specifics as possible including exact dates and locations (even hotel addresses) and is officially notarized.
Of note, these documents are far more important when traveling internationally than when traveling domestically. However, it is always a good idea to have them even if you are flying domestically. No one is going to check for the other parent’s permission if you are road tripping somewhere, but it’s still a good idea to have a signed and notarized document that allows you to make medical decisions just in case of an emergency.
4. Consider Renting Baby Gear
If you’re traveling with really little ones, it’s easy to get bogged down with gear like strollers, car seats, and pack-n-plays. It’s remarkable how the littlest babies need the biggest things! Travel Mamas has an INCREDIBLE post on renting baby gear– with links to specific rental companies all over the world!! You can rent anything from high chairs to bicycles- but the most common items are strollers, car seats, and cribs/pack-n-plays. Rental companies will deliver to the airport, your hotel, your AirBnB- even grandma’s house! We all know babies need a LOT of stuff- and if you’re traveling solo with your kids, you just don’t have enough hands to carry it all. Renting is a great way to get through those tough travel days with your hands as free as possible! Everything you need will be waiting for you when you arrive!
5. Help Older Kids Pack Their Own Bags
Helping your older kids pack their own bags gives them a sense of ownership, responsibility and pride. Choose small-ish backpacks that kids can carry on their own. If their backpacks are too big or heavy, they’ll struggle to carry them on their own and that usually means whining and before long, mom is carrying everything. Choosing a smaller backpack and helping them pack to make sure it isn’t too overloaded is a big help! Older kids can pull their own wheeled suitcases too! Again, be sure to pick something that isn’t too big and bulky for them. Encourage your kids to pack their own bags with activities and snacks to keep them busy on their trip and talk up how proud of them you are that they’re going to carry their own bags!
6. Book Kid-Friendly Accommodations
Surviving your travel day(s) is half the battle! Choosing kid-friendly accommodations will help you enjoy the rest of your trip. Look for hotels that offer free shuttle service from the airport if you’re flying, plus free shuttle service to local attractions. Many hotels offer things like “Kids Eat Free” packages which can help get your days started easily when everyone can eat breakfast right at the hotel. Hotels with kids-clubs or babysitting services are a huge plus for single moms. Kids-clubs can give you a much needed break from the kids while you’re on vacation- even if you just use that time to grab a bite to eat or watch a show in your room. Being able to unwind a little bit is critical! Also look for small amenities like a mini-fridge in the room or complimentary cribs or roll-away beds that can help make your stay a bit easier!
Another great option is booking a vacation home or AirBnB rental. Having a little more space- each kid in their own bedroom, a playroom, or even a small yard- can be a tremendous help. Look for kid-friendly rentals, as many do have cribs, playrooms, and toys available to use. Another bonus of renting a vacation home is that you can cook your own meals. Going out to eat with kids can be difficult when you’re on your own. Being able to cook their favorite meals, or even just order take out that you can eat around a real dining room table can reduce some mealtime stress.
7. Have Groceries Delivered
If you’re staying in an AirBnB or vacation rental- have your groceries delivered! Heck, even if you’re staying in a hotel with a mini-fridge, have some snack foods delivered! Everyone knows that the number one key to successful travel with kids is to keep them fed in order to avoid that hangry meltdown! This means having their favorite snacks and lots of healthy food available at all times. But no one wants to pack a weeks worth of snacks to carry on the plane. So have groceries delivered as soon as you arrive and you’ll be prepared to ward off those hangry kiddos for the whole trip!
8. Book Activities Ahead of Time
If you’re going to museums, theme parks, or planning on any other kind of activity or excursion- book those tickets ahead of time so you don’t have to stand in ticket lines with the kids. Waiting in long lines with kids is hands down the worst part of traveling- no matter how many adults you have you help you wrangle them. Doing it solo should be considered an Olympic sport! So book everything you can in advance to avoid as many lines as possible. Print out tickets and keep them organized, or use e-tickets on your phone when possible so you don’t even have to bother with paper tickets!
9. Consider Bringing a Friend or Relative Along
If you’ve made it through the first eight travel tips for single moms and you’re still a bit unsure about taking a big trip alone with your kids, consider bringing a friend or relative along to help. More often than not, grandmas and grandpas are always clamoring for extra time with the grandchildren and they may be more than happy to spend extra special time with them on vacation. If you have a best friend or an aunt who knows your kids well, they may be a great choice too! Depending on the context of your relationship, consider offering to pay for part of their trip in exchange for their help. It may be worth the extra cost to have an extra set of hands on board!
10. Hire a Nanny for a Day
If you don’t have someone who can travel with you for your whole trip, consider hiring a nanny for a day or two at your destination. Most major cities have a professional nanny agency that vets their nannies thoroughly and carefully. Identify a nanny agency in or around your destination and give them a call ahead of time to see if they have someone who you can hire for a day or two while on vacation. The agency will provide proof of a background check and references, and you should be able to do a virtual interview with a prospective nanny so you can “meet” them ahead of time to make sure they’re a good fit. Maybe you’ve got a big activity like Disney World or a snorkeling adventure where you could really use an extra set of hands, or maybe you just want a night to yourself- either way, hiring a nanny at your destination is a great way to get a little extra help!
11. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
This may be one of the most important travel tips for single moms we can share… Don’t be afraid to ask for help! If you need a hand, find a friendly face and just ask. If you need help loading bags on the plane or on a shuttle, ask if someone can help you grab a bag or hold your baby while you fold up the stroller. Chat up your seatmate or a flight attendant in case you need to ask someone to hold your baby while you run to the bathroom. When you get to your hotel, don’t be afraid to ask if someone can help you get your bags to your room. If you’re a bit uncomfortable asking for help- look for another mother as just about every mother can understand the need for a helping hand!
JOIN US on Facebook for More Travel Tips for Single Moms
If you found these travel tips for single moms to be helpful, but you still feel like you need more resources or support, please join us in our Wandering Moms Facebook Group. We have THOUSANDS of single mamas who are traveling the country and the world with their children and our Facebook group is a great place to connect if you want to meet other mamas who can support, encourage, and even offer additional travel tips for single moms!