Whether you are a single parent on vacation with your kids or you just happen to be taking your kids on a trip without your spouse, parents traveling solo with children face special issues. Here are some top tips to help you manage on your own with young kids:
Flying with Kids
Flying with kids in tow is challenging even with two parents. But a solo parent juggling kids, luggage and documents will definitely have his or her hands full. Do what you can to eliminate the need to stand in long lines. Be sure to check-in online to your flight 24 hours in advance of departure. Print out your boarding passes or download your airline's mobile app so you can have easy access on your phone.
Know the rules about the kind of identification you and your child may need to fly.
When going through airport security, be sure to choose the family lanes, which are typically shorter.
Have you figured out how to get from the airport to your hotel after your plane lands? Before you leave home, take time to research whether your hotel offers a shuttle service and other options.
Choosing Kid-Friendly Hotels
Most hotels claim to be child-friendly, but the proof is in the pudding. Do your research beforehand and look for hotels that offer the following:
- Mini fridge in the guest room, which allows you to keep milk, juice or snacks at the ready
- Complimentary travel crib or cot that can be set up in your room
- Children's program at a destination resort (often these kids clubs start at age 3 or 4)
- Separate kiddie pool or splashpad where little ones can cool off safely
- Free breakfast and free wi-fi
When traveling on your own with kids, look for hotels that set their prices based on "per room per night" rather than "per person per night."
The majority of hotels set prices "per room per night" and allow up to two adults and two childen in a standard room. Most Disney World Resort Hotels, for example, charge the same room rate for up to four people. Some Disney hotels even offer rooms for larger families up to six people.
But many resorts (particularly all-inclusive resorts) set their rates based on a two-adult occupancy. The bane of single parent travel is the "single supplement fee," which is a way for the hotel to essentially get the same room rate even if only one adult is occupying the room. The single parent is charged the "per person" rate of $150, and also charged a supplement of 50 to 100 percent. How does this common industry practice play out when one parent is traveling with one, two, or three kids?
How nice it would be if the adult were charged only the regular "per person per night" and the child paid only the regular kids price. A few all-inclusive resorts do offer this kind of price break during special promotions at low-volume times of year. But more likely, the adult will be charged a single supplement, and the first child gets a discounted children's rate. Extra children should get the discount child's rate. If, for example, a mom were traveling with a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, she'd probably pay two adult prices and the 3-year-old would pay the kids rate.
Some resorts offer regular promotions for single parents traveling with kids. Also check out these companies, which have gone further to cater to this group.
- Single Parent Travel tracks deals for solo-parent travelers and organizes trips several times a year
- Beaches Resorts, the popular Caribbean all-inclusive chain, offers "single parent" months each year.
Feeling Comfortable as a Single Parent
Aside from pricing, some single parents feel uncomfortable with other vacationing families. Some tips:
- sign up for Single Parent Travel or visit Beaches or another resort during a single parents promotion.
- smaller resorts sometimes offer a friendlier atmosphere and more opportunities to chat and meet other guests for company
Travel Documents When Crossing Borders
Parents traveling solo with their kids need to be aware that they may need extra paperwork when crossing into other countries. Be sure to read about required documents for international travel with kids.
- Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher