I know you are not really travelling solo if you have your children tagging along beside you. Travelling with children is exhilarating, exasperating and exhausting in almost equal measures.
Travelling as sole parent with kids can be even more challenging.
Read on to keep your sanity when travelling solo with the kids in tow.
My daughter and I
My daughter and I have been a little family of just two people since she was about 18 months old. Not being the kind of mum to sit at home mope about my position I took every chance I could to take my daughter out and about to see and do as many things as possible. Why should she miss out because she has just one parent?
We started with small trips around our home city of Melbourne and progressed to flying interstate and finally overseas. We’ve also had some great road trips. Our longest road trip took us from Perth, across the Nullarbor Plain, to Adelaide then north to Brisbane.
I love having the opportunity to spend time with my child. I generally choose places where we can do things together, rather than places where I could leave her in a kids club and go my own way.
I love travelling with my daughter because it gives us some very valuable one on one time together away from the demands of work, school and household chores. It is a great way to get to know your child as person and help them to become confident going out into the world.
Travelling with your child can be great fun! When my daughter was young I got to be young again too. We visited endless theme parks, festivals, zoos, children’s concerts and theatre events. We went skiing, cycling and swimming at the beaches. All stuff I probably would not have thought to do without her. What a load of fun I would have missed out on with out her!
Now that my daughter is in her teens it is good to be able to help her build her life skills and confidence. Travelling has helped broaden her mind and to see that there are many opportunities available to her. Travel has helped my daughter to see the world from a broader perspective than if we had stayed at home.
Keeping your sanity
When it’s just you and your child away from your extended family or friends who usually make up your support network things can get tough. There is no back up when you get tired or stressed.
Sharpen up your negotiation skills, you are going to need them if everyday is not to end in an argument! Calmly discuss limits and expectations with your child. Ensure they know what is possible and what is not. There is no limit to how much it can cost to entertain a child if you don’t set some boundaries.
The key to success is to find things that you will both enjoy. Plan your activities according to the age and energy levels of your child.
My daughter found comfort in having a regular routine when she was very young. No matter where we went I did my best to make sure her meals and naps occurred at around the same time each day.
Know when it is time to go home or back to your hotel. Battling with an overtired and screaming child for the sake of staying out sightseeing a little longer is not an enjoyable experience for anyone!
I found that as my child grew older we could travel further, stay away from home longer and slowly move away from holidays largely focused on kids activities.
The world is generally set up for two people travelling together. Most standard hotel rooms accommodate two people. If you have an extra child there is often the option of adding an extra bed.
Most families I know fly economy. If this is you, two or three people will be able to sit side by side in the same row of seats. Although there may be some negotiating to be done around who gets the window seat!
Discount airfares on international flights are often available for children under the age of 12.
Overseas Travel for sole parent families
If you are an Australian planning to travel overseas your child will need a passport and permission from your former partner to travel. This can potentially be the greatest stumbling block of all!
If your former partner cannot be contacted and is not making financial contributions to your child’s upbringing talk to the passports office. If you can demonstrate to the Australian Passports Office that you are 100% responsible for your child, the requirement for permission to travel may be waived.
Agreeing on where to eat our meals was often a challenge for us. Not all restaurants are family friendly or welcome fidgeting children at their tables. I did not want to eat all of my meals at the fast food chains my daughter loves. There is nothing more dreary than eating room service. So what to do….
Cut down on the fast food temptations by booking hotel rooms that include a buffet breakfast in the room rate. This will take some of the pressure off you to be up early in the morning , dressed and ready to hit the streets in search of breakfast. The hotel breakfast buffets are usually open until around 10:00am. You may even get a sleep in and time to read the paper while you drink your coffee.
Lunch on the run
Lunch is often a meal on the run if you are out with children. Lunch can cost a fortune for greasy, unappetising food if you are visiting theme parks.
I was lucky that my daughter liked fairly plain food at lunch. If I packed a jar of Vegemite and went to the supermarket for bread, cheese and a few snacks to carry in my back pack I could usually avoid the worst of the junk. Zip-lock bags are perfect for carrying snacks.
Everyone is usually grumpy and exhausted by dinner. I found it was hard to get my daughter moving again if we had been out all day and went back to the hotel before dinner. Choosing a place to eat on the way back was the best strategy for avoiding conflict or room service meals.
Eating early is the key to avoiding crowds and frowning waiters in restaurants. Most places are usually keen to move the early diners out before the crowds arrive, which is handy for speeding up the service!
Bring along a few bits and pieces to keep the kids entertained and enjoy your dinner.
Our favourite places for young children
Animals and theme parks were the things my daughter loved visiting the most as a child.
Our top 5 were:
- Roar ‘n’ Snore, Melbourne Zoo, Australia
- Disneyland, any of the Disney Parks!
- Movie World, Gold Coast, Australia
- Dreamworld, Gold Coast, Australia
- Skiing at Queenstown, New Zealand
Our favourite places for teens
My daughter now has a wider range of interests and the ability to enjoy travelling further from home, for longer periods of time. The attraction of theme parks is still strong but she is also interested in soaking up the atmosphere, history and culture of the places that we visit.
Top 5 picks from my teen were: