Traveling with kids comes with its own challenges. Traveling solo with kids brings a whole additional set of difficulties. Loneliness, disapproving looks, zero "break" time; the list goes on. It's as if you're constantly climbing uphill, carrying luggage for two-plus. For any single parents out there who have journeyed away from home with your kiddos, I know you know what I'm talking about.
The desire to develop trips for single/solo parents came from my own experience traveling alone with my young son. While I cherish the adventures we've shared together, I'm also willing to admit how much I would appreciate some adult conversation; or the opportunity to get a massage, or sit at a bar, or go for a run... you know, the typical things one associates with a "vacation."
Because I believe that exposing my son to travel brings so many benefits, I don't really have the desire to take exciting trips without him (I mean, I'm sure I would, given the chance).
So, after searching for travel opportunities for single parents and finding that most options available are packaged in more of the all-inclusive-resort, oh-my-goodness-thats-my-entire-month-paycheck style, I decided to create the opportunities for myself and invite others to join me.
The Of Course You Can! Travel Adventures for Single Parents provide a chance for other single parents to meet and share the joys and burdens of traveling with our children. With my background in designing experiential curriculum, they also provide enriching activities that explore a variety of topics from science, to art, to history, to yoga - and everything in between.
Traveling and connecting with other single parents has the potential to create friendships rooted in a deep understanding of the delights and challenges that our unique situations hold. Plus, being in a group allows you a chance to take some time for yourself - to take that run, or get that massage, or maybe even go out to eat, or dance, or explore - with just adults.
I'd love to connect with you at one of the upcoming single parent retreats. You can read about the upcoming Fripp Island Beach Retreat here. If you join us, you and your kids will be engaging in some ocean-themed art activities, play-laxing on the beach with some kid-friendly yoga, and conducting science experiments that explore what's happening to our oceans because of all the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Are you in?
And I'd love to hear from you below! Why do you love traveling with your kiddos? And are there any special challenges you might face while traveling as a single parent?
My son LOVES the train. And really, what kid doesn't? If you've yet to experience train travel with or without your kiddos, I encourage you to give it a try! And to make your next train adventure as enjoyable as possible, here are a few super-mama hacks.
Money Saving Hack #1: Get comfy in coach
When my son and I first started our train travel adventures, I was convinced sleeper cars (first class) was the only way to go. Given that on our first trip he was only 3, and I was not yet navigating the single-mom financial tightness, a First Class Roomette was totally doable. However, now that I must look to cut costs and my boy is a bit more travel savvy, I've learned that coach class is definitely the way to go... for us.
With savings ranging from $200 - $800 a ticket, traveling coach is a great way to save money on long-distance travel.
To make the coach experience the best it can be, I've learned to bring a few essentials to get super comfy during our super affordable trip:
Money Saving Hack #2: Pack a Picnic, Train Style
While nearly all Amtrak trains feature dining cars, or at least sell food in some form, we've always brought along our own drinks and snacks to save money and ensure we have what we need.
Here are some of the essential "meals"/snacks I always bring:
Money Saving Hack #3: Amtrak Guest Rewards
We've already had numerous FREE train travel tickets, thanks to the Amtrak Guest Rewards program. Aiden has his own account so he accumulates points as well. When you're taking as many long distance trips as we do, the points add up fast and can be redeemed for upgrades, free tickets, and so much more. Check it out at https://www.amtrak.com/guestrewards/home
Hack #4: Make new friends while enjoying the view
Main takeaway... try the train!
If I haven't convinced you, try it for yourself. With the right attitude, train travel may become your new favorite way to travel!
I. Love. Libraries. Whatever town we travel to, I seek out their library at first chance. When a friend asked why I find out-of-town libraries so compelling, I had to think for a minute. So here are my reasons I enjoy these magical spaces in which I can't even earn a library card.
1) Libraries are free
Enough said, right? Of all the touristy spots where you can drop way more than you'd budgeting for, a library's goal is not to get your money. Speaking of tourists, that's another great thing libraries are pretty free from.
2) A library can reveal so much about a community
If one of your goals while traveling is to really get to know the people and culture of your destination, a library is like its heart. I love taking a peek at the programming, community boards, kid's section, and the people in libraries. If a community values the arts, entrepreneurship, theatre, gardening, knitting, etc, much of that will be revealed within the walls of a library. If you're in town for a few days, you may even learn of some cool kid-friendly events that are often free of charge.
4) Off-load and refresh your travel stash
If you're like me, a book or two or three or more are part of your travel gear (yes, I tried all the different digital gadgets for book reading, and, nope. A real book is what I'll be holding, thank you). I've found that most libraries have some sort of book swap, or free library, or discounted book sale, or similar, which can be a great way to refresh your book stash so that you don't have to begin your trip with a chunk of your personal book shelf. This of course works for kid friendly books for your mini travel companion as well.
5) Collect creative learning space ideas
I still get excited seeing the kids' section of different libraries. It's like my inner teacher always get a hit of caffeine whenever I see the creative displays and activities that librarians come up with across the country. Whether or not you have your own classroom or playroom or library to decorate back home, it's still super fun to see and experience the colorful magic.
Check out some of the cool aspects of the Downtown Lexington Public Library, by far one of my favorite libraries we've visited.
"Travel blogs are a dime a dozen", I said. "What do I have to offer?"
Reading the voice of other travelers can provide inspiration to help get us out the door and boost confidence in our abilities to travel wisely. But now that I find myself as a single parent, much of that advice and inspiration doesn’t always apply to me. So I decided to make it up as I go, writing down my own experience in hopes of inspiring other parents -- single or not -- to travel with their children.
Because, yes. Us [single] parents are a unique bunch. While our stories may be completely different, I'm willing to bet we share many commonalities. We're resilient and innovative, accomplishing more in a day than we thought possible. We’re also great at not finishing -- or even beginning -- so many of those projects that we imagine will make [the appearance of] our lives a little more polished, shiny, and put together. While I occasionally dabble with -- and even attempt -- some cutesy Pinterest whatnot, I've also found contentment in knowing that my child's less-than-perfect childhood is preparing him to be a helpful, grateful, resilient human in a not-so-perfect world. And the world is what I'll show him.
Of all the things I know I'll never be able to provide for him as a single parent on a shoestring budget, adventure is something he will know. To our little family of two, travel is a top priority. Well above organized activities and sports and recitals, perfect attendance or report cards, our table talk and goal setting is more often than not, “where to next?” To my six year old, transportation options (read: train, bus, plane, trolly...) are as exciting as roller coasters and as familiar as our couch.
This is our story.
I hope that our adventures and lessons learned can provide your family, whatever it looks like, to step a little out of the routine and comfort zone and, well, just... go.