The Single Parent’s Family Vacation

No one expects to be a single parent. No one expects to share holidays, visit with their children, or plan vacations without their partners. Despite this fact, there are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States today, and those parents are responsible for raising 22 million children (United States). When you begin to consider the details and costs that go into planning as a single parent with children, it is no surprise that as few as 7% of all vacationers in 2017 described themselves as divorced or separated (Minnaert).

As daunting as the task may seem, family vacations can be a powerful tool in returning things to normal after divorce or separation. This is especially true if you traveled together before the separation. Here are a few important topics that will help when planning a successful family vacation as a single parent.

The Planning Stage

The more work you put into the planning stage, the less you end up doing during the actual vacation. Anything you can anticipate going wrong will go through your head. Don’t psych yourself out. Instead, begin your planning early. It’s not unreasonable to begin planning a domestic trip six months in advance and up to a year for an international one.

The age of your child or children will play an important role in where you go. If your children are very young, try looking into a single-destination trip. Pick a resort there where your itinerary is planned out. Don’t try to bring a preschooler to climb Machu Picchu. We’re not saying it can’t be done, but we don’t think you’ll enjoy it nearly as much as bringing your high school student on that trip.

If you’re thinking domestic, consider whether it makes more sense to drive to your location rather than fly. No one wants to be stuck in the car for hours on end,
but in the same breath, a few hours drive makes more sense than the stress of the airport. If you are flying, take advantage of airlines who are supportive of single parent travel. Take advantage of the call for early family boarding, gate check your stroller at no cost, and enjoy some good on-board entertainment. Don’t forget to include the kids in the planning phase. Make sure it’s a destination you’ll all enjoy.

Crossing the “t’s” and dotting the “i’s”

The passport might seem like a no-brainer, but getting a minor passport will require both parents and a trip to your local courthouse. In
addition, there’s no easy renew option. This procedure needs repeating every time each child under 16 requires a new passport. While the
US doesn’t require it, many border crossings call for a notarized letter from your child’s other parent granting access to travel.

The CDC recommends and sometimes requires vaccinations when traveling to certain countries that are experiencing outbreaks of transmittable or deadly
disease. If your child needs a vaccination to travel, be sure to get consent from your child’s other parent and review your custody agreement for guidance. Many
vaccinations require a waiting period or multiple doses to be effective so make sure to plan early.

When you have reached your destination…

Don’t overdo it. Pick one can’t-miss thing each day and try to plan around that. It’s always better to have extra time to try something new than not enough time and miss something special.

Just because it’s a family vacation doesn’t mean you can’t spend time apart. Look for opportunities to get out on your own, whether taking advantage of a hotel
provided babysitter or checking your child into the resort’s kids club. Your time apart will provide you a chance to relax and your little one the opportunity to
be independent and make new friends. An older child might enjoy hanging out in the hotel room and watching a movie while you go out.

When traveling with young children, opt for the meal plan. Children will often look for comfort food or even eat the same meal every day. Many young children do not want to experiment with local cuisine. If you’re confident that your child will dine around with you, many resorts offer two-meal options which leaves you only having to plan lunch or dinner off property.

You don’t have to do it alone.

Even Batman had Robin. Just because you’re a single parent doesn’t mean you have to operate with only two hands. Plan your trip with a sibling or another
single parent. Your children will appreciate having a playmate during their adventures, and you can trade off who watches the kid so that you have some confirmed downtime before you go.

You can also turn your family vacation into a big todo. Have a reunion for the whole family. Or consider inviting mom and dad on a multi-generational trip.
Chances are, they’ll be happy to spend time with their grandchildren while you do some exploring or just grab a beach chair and lounge in the sand peacefully.

Whether you’re driving to the next town and staying at a bed-and-breakfast or taking your teen on a European tour, the end of your relationship shouldn’t mean the end of family vacationing.

RESOURCES: United States. Census Department. Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2009. By Timothy S. Grall. Census, 2009. 24 Nov. 2013
Minnaert, Dr. Lynn. “US Family Travel Survey 2017.” New York University School of Professional Studies, Family Travel Association, 2017,