Traveling with kids can take some planning and more so for the single parent, especially during these constantly changing times. With no one to share the load, single parent travel may cause some trepidation. Although most of our family travel was enjoyed together (myself, my husband and our two sons), there were plenty of times, due to work schedules, I ventured abroad alone with my two boys. When my older son went off to college, my younger son even tagged along on some “blended” business/leisure (bleisure!) trips to London and Spain.
There is no reason for any parent to feel overwhelmed – some simple advance planning can help eliminate unnecessary stress and lead to a very memorable vacation whether you are traveling stateside or out of the country:
Use a Travel Agent:
That’s me! A travel expert will help you to put all the pieces together in advance and forecast the pitfalls, so you are not caught off guard. Of course, there are always unforeseen events that happen during travel (weather, flight delays, illness), but why not try to control the things you can control?
Survey your documents:
Besides checking passports for ample expiration dates, check if you need travel consent from a co-guardian. These are all things that should be worked out well in advance of your trip. If you’re traveling to Canada, for example, you must have your child’s passport, birth certificate, and a letter of authorization from any co-parents. Your vacation plans may abruptly end at the airline check in desk if documents are not in order.
Testing and vaccine requirements:
Vaccination status and negative COVID testing will be the key to entry to many countries, cities, tourist sites, and restaurants. In pre-COVID times, vaccine requirements have always been on the books for many destinations, for example Yellow Fever vaccinations. As a Travel Agent, I provide clients with resources to verify requirements for vaccination, testing, and health declarations.
Purchase travel insurance:
“Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” and that includes trip delays, cancellation, or illness before or during traveling which can be covered by travel insurance. My kids have visited doctors (for thankfully mostly minor issues) in many corners of the world, including a trip to the ER in Australia for some stitches, so having travel insurance is definitely a necessity. Now, many countries require travelers to purchase specific policies in advance of travel that cover COVID related issues.
Include the kids:
Everyone has an opinion, even the little ones. The more invested they are in the trip, the less likely they will complain. Help kids prepare for travel by engaging them in a little research. Planning a beach vacation with snorkeling? Purchase a waterproof Fish Identification Card to study local sea life prior to the excursion. Heading on a hike? Download a trail map to pick out trails that match your family’s experience level. Sightseeing? I always scoped out museum websites in advance to seek out exhibits that would appeal to my boys. They loved archaeology and Egyptology, so when visiting London’s British Museum, we went straight to the Rosetta Stone to catch a glimpse before the crowds converged.
Consider dietary needs:
Are the kids on special diets, are there allergies to consider? Check out menus and make reservations in advance – OpenTable is a great resource. Including healthy eating habits while traveling is something that can easily be embraced. Read my article on how to Eat Healthy on Vacation for plenty of tips.
My recent article on how to Stay in Shape on Vacation includes suggestions on how to keep kids active. Walks, hikes, biking – there are many ways to tire them out. Besides National Parks or UNESCO sites, there are also State or County Parks to explore and those will most likely be less crowded and smaller scale which is perfect for younger travelers.
Get up early:
Starting early is always the best way to avoid crowds no matter where you go. If you are traveling west to an earlier time zone, your body clock will still be on your local time so take advantage of early rising. Traveling to a hot weather destination? Mornings are usually cooler which is a great time for strenuous activities.
Fight jet lag:
Flying across several time zones is never easy but try not to take the easy way out by crashing at the hotel as soon as you arrive. For an overnight or red-eye flight, I book hotel rooms for my clients for the night before so they can access their room first thing in the morning. Take a quick shower, leave your luggage and head out for some easy afternoon walking, exploring, or beach time. Enjoy an early dinner, and try to get to bed close to normal turn-in time. Jet lag will slowly dissipate each day.
The power of pools:
We have taken our kids around the world and one thing we always tried to look for, especially during a city trip, is a hotel with a pool. After a full day of sightseeing, there is nothing better to cool even the crankiest of travelers than an afternoon swim.
Include some down time:
On vacation, don’t expect family members to spend every waking moment together. Everyone can use a good afternoon nap no matter his or her age. Schedule some quiet/alone time – adults included!
Keep it fun!
As you think about making your future travel plans, even sightseeing focused trips can include some unique activities no matter your destination. In London hop in a Mini Cooper tour, in Paris indulge in a chocolate making class, in Madrid take a tapas tour, and in Portugal, you can even take surfing lessons.
Mix it up:
This idea comes from my client, Kenneth Traficante, a certified Financial Planner with Equitable Advisors, New York City. I recently planned a vacation for him and his two teen daughters to Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Sedona, Scottsdale, and Phoenix. Ken wanted to introduce his girls to the juxtaposition of two contrasting experiences: the exciting and over-the-top man-made city of Las Vegas verses the grandeur and natural beauty of the Grand Canyon. “Opposite experiences” keep vacations interesting – consider ways to enjoy both city pursuits and more nature focused activities. Ken’s itinerary included Cirque du Soleil shows, Grand Canyon hiking and star gazing, and a Sedona Pink JEEP tour. He loved that it gave his girls an appreciation and an understanding of the diverse world we live in – a perspective we could all use a little of right now!
It’s never TOO early to plan your next adventure. Email me: email@example.com, for assistance and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers regardless of credit card membership.
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