5 Essential Tips for Single Parents Traveling with Kids
Make It Happen
Since being widowed in 2005, I’ve done most of my traveling as a single parent with my daughter. As my child didn’t have a passport (and didn’t get one until she turned 17, thanks to India’s outdated passport rules regarding single parents) our travel was restricted to India.
Although there are some things that might be exclusive to travelers in India, most of what I learned is applicable to any single parent traveling with kids anywhere. Here are five essential tips for single parent travel.
Get Your Consent Letter
As a widow, I was my child’s sole guardian, so I never needed a consent letter when taking my child anywhere. But if you’re divorced and traveling with a minor, it’s very likely you may require a consent letter from your ex-spouse authorizing the trip.
Some countries also advise that you travel with additional documents proving that you are the child’s parent. This is something your lawyer can help you with, depending on the laws of the country you hail from.
A lot depends on your personal situation and the circumstances surrounding your divorce. Getting these legal issues sorted out before you plan your trip can save you a lot of heartache and inconvenience later.
Safety Comes First
Safety was my primary concern when traveling alone with a young child in a country like India. As a single woman, traveling in India isn’t always safe. And with a child, it becomes even more important to make the best decisions concerning their safety.
Besides obvious decisions — such as not planning trips to dangerous destinations —that will prevent you from getting into unsafe situations, you can also work proactively to ensure the safety of your family. The desire to stay in safe, family-friendly hotels made me opt for a timeshare with Club Mahindra and RCI. It’s a decision I never regretted.
Their timeshares are as good as a 4- or 5-star hotel in terms of stay, cleanliness, child-friendly activities and food. And safety is never a concern when we’re staying at one of their properties.
Similarly, you can choose trusted resort chains, travel companies and family-friendly destinations to increase your security and peace of mind.
Keeping Kids Entertained
Single parents traveling with one or more kids are understandably very intent on keeping their kids entertained. When bored, kids can quickly turn what could otherwise be an enjoyable and relaxing vacation into a dreadful excursion you never want to experience again.
In this too, I have found that having a timeshare is of great benefit. My child has spent many hours in the welcoming embrace of the activity rooms in Club Mahindra or other RCI resorts, playing games with other kids, painting or building stuff (at a charge, of course) with the activity kits they keep handy, and entertaining herself at karaoke evenings or housie (bingo) nights.
At Club Mahindra Munnar, they even had a mini-golf course that she enjoyed playing on thoroughly. In many ways, the fact that she was happy and entertained helped me preserve my sanity when I just wanted to relax and read a book, or watch a movie in the comfort of my 5-star hotel room.
If possible, always read up on the child-friendly activities or excursions at the hotel or destination of your choice before you make a booking, so you know what options you can expect in terms of entertainment. If none exist, you could always carry a few board games or fall back on the trusty old iPad to keep them entertained.
Keep Their Meds Handy
When traveling with kids who have allergies or asthma, it’s important to always carry some medications in your cabin luggage. I remember a vacation in Goa when my child broke out in hives after eating a bar of chocolate I purchased in the boarding area.
Desperate for some Benadryl, or any antihistamine that would help with the allergic reaction (the airport’s first aid kit had none), it was the air hostess in the plane we boarded who managed to rustle up an Avil. The result was that I had to almost carry a sleepy 6-year-old down the airstairs, but it thankfully took care of the allergy (and my panic).
Learn to Go with the Flow
During a trip to Kashmir, the hotel we had booked refused to honor our booking (for reasons I won’t go into here). It was the driver who had driven us to Srinagar from the airport who came to our rescue and helped us get safe lodging in an unfamiliar city.
I decided to trust him as our guide for our entire vacation there, even inviting his youngest daughter, who was the same age as my child, to accompany us for part of the trip. We all ended up having a wonderful time and it became one of our most memorable vacations. Sometimes just learning to go with the flow is the best thing you can do as a single parent traveling with a child.