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How to survive traveling solo with your kids

Courtesy of Lainie Liberti

Lainie Liberti and her now 13-year-old son, Miro Sevin Siegel, at Machu Picchu.

Even with two parents, traveling with children can be a challenge. There are bags to pack, sleep schedules to maintain, and young minds to occupy during long flights or car rides. With only one adult to field pleas of “Are we there yet?,” those traveling without a co-parent might feel overwhelmed at the prospect of hitting the road. With the following tips from family travel experts, single parents can enjoy exploring the world in the company of their kids.

Courtesy of Talon Windwalker

Talon Windwalker and his son, Steven, 11, on their round-the-world adventures.

Listen to your kids
Talon Windwalker, author of 1Dad1Kid.com, and his 11-year-old son have been on a round-the-world journey for more than a year. Windwalker advises parents to “include your child in the [travel] planning and decision-making as much as possible. Not only is it a great education, but it’s so much more interesting for them when they’ve been involved in the process.”

Adjust your expectations
A mother of two children under age 3, Keryn Means of WalkingOnTravels.com usually travels with her husband, who helps with diaper changes, feedings and naptime duties. However, a business trip for her previous employer led Means to her first solo trip as a parent: two weeks in China with her then 20-month-old son. After a failed day trip to the island of Macau that left Means and her toddler sweaty and exhausted, Means came to the realization that there are some activities she shouldn’t tackle on her own.

Without another parent along to help navigate a new locale and perform childcare duties, parents may want to consider reasonable expectations for how much can be accomplished in one day — and build in extra time for play and rest.

Courtesy of Keryn Means

Keryn Means and her son, Dek, making the most of their difficult day in Macau.

Make friends on the road
Traveling without a co-parent can get lonely at times. Windwalker says his son “needs someone besides Dad as his playmate from time to time.” They make friends at local parks, the beach and hostels. Many assume hostels are solely for college-aged backpackers, but they are also an affordable option for families on a one-person income who want to socialize with other travelers. Learn more about hostels at the Hostelling International website.

Lainie Liberti, who has been traveling the world with her now 13-year-old son for three years, makes friends with locals through CouchSurfing.org. “The 'groups' feature on the site allows us to post that we are coming to a particular city, and try to arrange meetups, events and social gatherings," she says. "We've met locals who are seniors, kids and everything in-between and have had some amazing experiences!” Liberti blogs about their adventures at RaisingMiro.com.

Buddy up
Just because you are traveling as a single parent doesn’t mean you need to go it alone. Invite another adult to join your vacation. It could be a grandparent or other family member, a trusted nanny or a fellow single parent with children.

Emma Johnson, a single mom and freelance business writer who blogs at WealthySingleMommy.com, recently took a vacation with her two preschoolers and another single mom’s family. Johnson appreciated splitting vacation costs and having another adult with whom to chat and share good times. Both sets of children had a ball playing together during their travels, too.

Pack light
One thing all of these travel-savvy parents agreed upon? Packing light. With just two adult hands to juggle luggage, it’s best to keep the packing list short. Purchase child-sized suitcases or backpacks and put your kids in charge of toting their own stuff.

Take a break
Even the most patient parent needs a break sometimes. Hiring a local babysitter or making use of your hotel’s kids camp can make the time you do spend together that much sweeter.

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor of TravelMamas.com, a site for anyone who wants to travel with children … and stay sane! Her book, “The Travel Mamas’ Guide,” will be available November 2012.

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