After several solo trips and a handful of vacations as a family of five, I decided to take my oldest on a mother-daughter adventure. Destination: the small town of Ventura, California. As luck would have it, she broke her arm the night before we left, leaving her in a cast and me in a panic. I was tempted to cancel but decided that the journey must go on, and while there were definitely hiccups along the way, the one-on-one time was more than worth the woes.
When it comes to travel, the millennial generation is more likely than any other to take a family trip. According to a report shared by the Resonance Consultancy, 44 per cent of millennial travellers planned to vacation with kids in 2018, up from 39 per cent of Generation X travellers, and 32 per cent of travelling Baby Boomers. And while family travel is on the rise, it is no longer limited to the four-person framework; instead, travelling solo with kids is an emerging trend, veering away from the traditional package holidays designed for nuclear families. Whether it’s a getaway with a grandparent, a gallivant with a favourite aunt or uncle, or a sojourn as a single parent, travelling alone with one child (or many) can be a rewarding experience – as long as you’re properly prepared.
Here are our tips on how to make your experience totally enjoyable.
Get parental permission - even if you're the parent
On our mother-daughter trip, I didn’t realize that a letter of consent from her father was required. Fortunately, I wasn’t asked at the border, but a parent can definitely be penalized without proof of permission. If you’re travelling outside of Canada, a signed letter is required for adults who are travelling with kids, without both parents present. The letter should be notarized, and must specify your travel details, including routes, dates and means of travel.
Lighten your load
When we went on our first trip as a family of five, we thought it would be fun to travel with our own individual suitcases and backpacks. What we didn’t consider was that our kids would quickly tire of toting their own stuff. With five backpacks, five suitcases and three kids under the age of eight to track, we had a heavy load to bear (literally and figuratively). When you’re the only adult on the trip, this can be an even trickier task. So our advice is to pack light and pack smart. Share a suitcase and cram your essentials into one carry-on (backpacks are best so you can travel hands-free). Include necessities such as flushable wipes, Tylenol, Band-Aids, a change of clothes and toothbrushes, and add some entertainment such as Play-Doh, colouring books and, of course, fully-charged devices.
Secure your seats
On one trip with my kids, my two-year-old son was assigned a seat that was a few rows away from me. With a fully-booked plane and no passenger willing to swap seats, I was forced to sit with him on my lap for the lengthy flight. When he suddenly feel ill, I ended up stuck in a pretty messy situation. When you book your flights, airlines will sometimes stagger your seats, even separating adults from children – that is, unless you invest in advanced seat selection. More often than not, it’s worth the extra few dollars to ensure you (and your child(ren)) are not sitting solo. Hot tip: try to land spots near the bathrooms on larger planes so that you can send your child on their own, especially if you’re travelling with more than one tot.
Pad your plans
On a trip to Tulum, I was excited to explore the Mayan Ruins with my three young kids. But, the excitement dissipated with the realization that the trail to get to the ruins was a long trek for little legs. By the time we arrived to take in the sights, my kids were exhausted, leaving me to carry my youngest for the three hour tour in the scorching heat.
When it comes to travelling on your own with your mini-me, whirlwind itineraries just won’t fly. Plan for downtime between excursions, as tired little ones will need to rest, and the attention span of kids can spiral when overstimulated. Research your destination before you depart (or better yet, use a travel advisor!), and be sure to select age-appropriate outings.
Stock up on snacks
When you’re taking a long-haul trip, there’s nothing worse than a hangry toddler. With few options available for in-flight meals, it’s best to pre-pack snacks such as granola bars, dried fruit and crackers. Keep a stash of snacks in your room for early wakings, late nights or random rest times. This will not only save you money, but it will keep your kids satisfied in between meals.
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