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How to Travel on Vacation as a Single Parent with Kids



Vacations can be more challenging for single-parent families. Room rates, often based on double-occupancy, can be twice as expensive when mom or dad is traveling solo. It may also be more difficult to find much-needed alone time without a partner to watch the kids, and a single parent may not feel comfortable on a tour when everyone else is coupled.

Recognizing that 27 percent of children under age 18 — nearly 20 million — live with one parent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, tour companies and resorts are now creating trips especially for the one-parent family.

“In the last year, resorts started pricing for single parents, not only at family properties but also at adult-only properties to give the single parent a way to get away,” says Felicia Dicks, travel consultant with Liberty Travel in Philadelphia.

Travel the world as a single parent

Where Disney once topped many families’ vacation lists, today more diverse, exotic and historical locations are popular. “Parents want to do something different,” says Dicks.

To satisfy this new market, Intrepid Travel, an adventure-travel company, unveiled six new tours this year designed for solo parents and their children. To make it easier on the parent, all of the logistics, from accommodations to activities, are handled for the trips, which include destinations in Costa Rica, Thailand, Northern India, Egypt, Vietnam and Morocco.

“As single-parent households increase, it’s time for the travel industry to take notice with travel opportunities that are fun, adventurous and affordable,” says Dyan Mckie, brand manager for Intrepid Travel’s Family Adventures.

Me-time for single parents

Trips aimed at single parents are also designed to give them some time alone and give kids a bit of independence.

“Led by local leaders in each destination, the itineraries provide parents with some much-deserved rest and relaxation and take the pressure off to plan and entertain at all times,” says Mckie. The kids, meanwhile, bond and form friendships with other kids in the group.

Dominique C. took sons Antwonne, 10, and DaShawn, 8, to the all-inclusive Sunscape Splash Montego Bay resort in Jamaica. “This was the first time I was traveling outside of the country by myself; I had been to Jamaica before, so I was comfortable there,” says the Mt. Laurel, NJ mom, who booked with Liberty Travel. The boys especially enjoyed the waterpark, kids’ club and other kid-friendly activities.

Noticing that she was caring for her young boys by herself, the staff was especially helpful and accommodating. The trip worked out so well that she planned another excursion to Punta Cana. “The boys loved Jamaica and this resort also has a waterpark and activities for kids,” she says.

Plan ahead for smoother travel

When one parent is responsible for several children, especially young kids, early planning can make the trip smoother. Book early, says Cindy McCabe, owner of Bethany Travel and Dream Vacations in Millsboro, DE, to get seats together toward the front of the plane.

“Little kids are great travelers,” says McCabe, who encourages each child to bring his own entertainment — an iPad with movies or games, stuffed animals, a blanket. “Anything to make them as comfortable on a plane as they are at home.”

Nonstop flights are best wherever possible, but if you are connecting, be sure to have plenty of time so no one is stressed or rushed. Choose a resort that’s close to the airport to avoid long rides after getting off the plane. And don’t assume the airline will seat the family together. It may be worth paying a premium to be sure.

“Maybe that seat assignment isn’t available for free, but you will want to pre-purchase that seat because you don’t want any surprises or issues when you get there,” says McCabe.

Traveling with kids with special needs

If you have a child with special needs, be sure to choose a destination that can accommodate him. For example, some resorts are autism certified.

“Beaches Resort has a chef that will meet with a child who has food allergies,” says McCabe. “In one family, the little girl felt like a princess because the chef came out every morning to see what she wanted for the day, to be sure he was fixing things that worked for her allergies.”

Terri Akman is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

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