Family vacations for single parents have unique challenges. As the only parent, you oversee everything from choosing and paying for the vacation destination and travel arrangements, packing, researching and choosing vacation activities to making sure that everyone is happy being together. It can become very stressful and feel more like work than a vacation, totally leaving you feeling exhausted and not refreshed.
“While the main goal is to spend good quality family time, single parent travelers need to also find ways to allow themselves to recharge and have some good adult time, sans kids.” says Laura Madrid, travel expert and founder of Resort to Laura Madrid, a highly specialized, boutique travel consultancy with an emphasis on authentic, adventure, exotic & luxury travel.
As I started planning my next family vacation with my teenage daughter, I reached out to Laura for some expert travel planning advice, especially for the single parent family.
What are some of the ways single parents vacationing with their kids can make the most of their time off together?
We want our parents and their kids to have plenty of room when they travel, so we always look for larger suites that can accommodate parents and kids on roll-a-ways or pull-outs. We also want to give parents some privacy, so we try to select hotel suites that offer an extra bathroom or a connected room where the parent can close his or her bedroom door.
Having fantastic private guides can really enhance the whole family’s travel experience and give the single parent a break from always being the “rule enforcer”, director and planner. Our professional guides are often selected based on the kids’ ages or family dynamic. They are highly experienced in keeping kids interested in whatever the family is learning and/or doing. For example, we have a guide who keeps young children fully engaged at the Louvre with a planned scavenger hunt as part of a family’s travels in Paris.
How do you help single-parent families create vacations that both the adult and children will enjoy?
When planning trips for our families, we want to understand our families’ interests so we can make sure each family member gets to pick something that he or she really loves to do. Knowing that your activity is scheduled can provide leverage in being a good sport during other family member’s special activities.
We encourage our single parents to incorporate time for themselves during their family vacation - whether it is taking time to quietly read that book they have been wanting to start, relax with a spa and wellness treatment, or simply have a nice dinner at the hotel bar. We work with many resort properties and tour groups that offer structured programming and experiences specifically designed for teens and younger children in addition to offering activities for the whole family. Our goal is to ensure every family member is getting their vacation needs met while creating many experiences for the family to share together.
When it comes to keeping the family engaged, we recommend half-day activities that feature a fun structured excursion highlighting the destination combined with downtime for playing, sleeping, shopping or just tooling around the rest of the day. No one wants to be busy 24-7, but too little activity can be daunting, leaving the parents stressed to entertain the kids.
Any suggestions for easily incorporating holiday traditions on your vacation?
Our parents of single families are often juggling many things at once as they get their families ready for their holiday vacation. To help relieve some stress or pressure of recreating holiday traditions on their own while on vacation, many of our hotel partners will arrange for guest suites to be decorated with holiday decor before our family’s arrival.
Our hotel partners also work with our parents to ensure gifts that are mailed in advance to the hotel are in the suite upon arrival. We also suggest that parents travel with a few holiday gifts that can be easily stored in their luggage. I also tell my clients to remember that it is ok to start NEW traditions. Holiday traditions evolve and can turn into the new favorite way to celebrate!