Traveling with children can be challenging, whether you have toddlers, teens or kids somewhere in between. Without another adult to balance the load, single parents take on even more stress when planning family trips.
But you don’t have to settle for staycations at home. Vacationing with kids as a solo parent doesn't have to be overwhelming. Here are some tips to make traveling with kids as a single parent easier.
Look for kid-friendly and budget-friendly accommodations
When planning a family vacation, you want a hotel or vacation rental with amenities children will enjoy — a pool, a playground area, activities to keep kids entertained.
But it's also important to choose accommodations that make your life easier. For single parents traveling on a budget, for example, look for hotels where kids stay free.
Chains that allow children to stay free include:
Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts.
Extended Stay America.
Check for restrictions first, especially the age cutoff for kids and the number of kids who can stay free per adult.
Nerd tip: Save more money by booking hotels that offer free kids' meals for breakfast and/or dinner.
» Learn more: Eight pro tips for smart and cheap family travel
Consider how you’ll get where you’re going
After you choose where to go as a family, you need to decide how to get there.
A road trip with kids as a single parent may seem preferable to flying. You're not navigating a busy airport with kids in tow. If you have younger kids who get cranky, a meltdown may be easier to manage on the road versus a crowded plane.
On the other hand, traveling by plane is quicker. And flying may be your only option if you’re taking the kids across the country or someplace abroad. With either option, planning ahead can save you headaches.
If you choose to drive
If you're taking a road trip with kids as a single parent don't overlook these factors:
Pack snacks and drinks for the drive, avoiding treats that are packed with sugar or caffeine.
Decide ahead of time where you'll make pit stops and when.
Bring enough books, games or toys to keep younger children occupied.
Pack pillows and blankets for younger kids to nap along the way.
Fill up on gas the day before you head out.
Being a single parent means you don't have another adult with you if your vehicle breaks down. So it may be worth signing up for roadside assistance through your insurance company or AAA.
Read about your credit card's perks and benefits too as your card might include roadside assistance benefits. Some of the best cards that offer roadside assistance include:
If you have one of these cards or you're thinking of getting one, read the fine print on its roadside assistance benefits. You should know what's covered and how much you might pay out of pocket to use your benefits.
If you choose to fly
If you're flying with kids as a single parent give these factors consideration:
Choose an airline with a reputation for being kid-friendly.
Save time at the airport by checking in online 24 hours ahead of time.
Print out boarding passes or download them through the airline's mobile app.
Check the airline's requirements for any documentation you may need to fly with kids.
Bring along snacks and entertainment for younger children.
Schedule flights for times that work best for your kids' normal routine if they still take naps or you're nursing.
Don't be afraid to ask flight attendants for help.
Use the right credit card
Booking your flights with the right travel rewards card can also help if you want to save money as a solo parent. If you have a card that earns points or miles you could use them to save on airfare.
Cards like the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® can save you money with free checked bags. If you have the Southwest Rapid Rewards Companion Pass, you could apply that toward a fare for one of your children. Kids ages 14 days to 2 years fly free with Southwest as long as they’re not occupying a seat and, on Southwest, bags fly free.
» Learn more: Five ways to survive flying with kids
Don't leave home without a contingency plan
Being the only adult in charge of a family trip means you need to think ahead about anything that could throw a wrinkle in your vacation.
Have a plan in case you and your kids get separated. Include:
How your children can identify a safe adult to ask for help.
What information to give that adult, especially your name and phone number.
Who else can be contacted in an emergency situation.
If your kids have cell phones, downloading a GPS tracking app can help you keep tabs on everyone in case you get separated or you're allowing teens to do some exploring on their own.
Make sure your kids know whom to reach out to if you are sick or injured while away from home. Keep friends and family in the loop about your travel plans, before and during your vacation. And if it's your child who's sick or hurt, be prepared to cut your trip short if necessary.
Learning your travel card's protections can give you some reassurance about what to do if things go south. For example, if your card offers benefits like trip cancellation or interruption insurance, that could help recoup some of the costs if the reason for ending a trip early is beyond your control.
The bottom line
Traveling with kids solo might seem a little intimidating but it really just takes a little more planning to make the most of your trip. Having the right credit card can also help make things easier when it comes to saving money and taking advantage of features that could make your family vacation a smoother one.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card