Americans' busiest travel time is fast approaching as over 30 million people plan holiday trips. While the thought of reuniting with family or getting away should spread joy, for those with children -- especially single parents -- the thought can be scarier than Halloween.
Brenda Elwell, author of The Single Parent Travel Handbook, has the following tips to make going to "grandma's house" a much more pleasant experience:
Get Buy-In: Involve the children in decision making. Plan to spend a third of the time on activities the kids like, a third of the time on activities the parent likes, and a third of the time on what the family enjoys together. Have children find special holiday activities or coupons on the Internet.
Make an Itinerary: With so much occupying people's minds during the holiday season, having an itinerary as a trip "cheat sheet" can free up brain space to focus on other things. Also, a good itinerary helps keeps things organized but can still allow for flexibility. Itineraries are especially good for single parents because they have to be twice as organized, twice as patient and twice as creative as their dual parent counterparts.
Research: Look for off-season specials, traveling to Europe is usually inexpensive during November. A trip closer to home, New Orleans offers great deals during December.
Keeping Sanity in the Car or Airplane
Leave Early: You know where the kids are in bed. No need to round them up. With heightened security at airports, giving yourself extra time to check in will help prevent any unnecessary nervous breakdowns trying to get the bags through the screening stations.
Distractions: Getting a VCR and DVD player installed in the car is a nice option, but that can be out of the price range for many single parents. Instead, consider renting one or have appropriate games on hand such as card or word games. For teenagers, make sure there are plenty of batteries for the CD or MP3 player.
Responsibilities: Children over the age of 10 are great junior navigators. Have them help find a poorly marked exit or read road signs. A teenager can be a senior navigator; plotting the course of the trip and helping stay on the right road. Very small children can locate safety exits. Delegating these tasks takes some burden off of the parent and teaches kids responsibility.
Brenda Elwell is a great source of information and suggestions for single parents. A veteran of over thirty years experience in the travel industry and a worldwide adventurer, Brenda Elwell has lived abroad and traveled to over 60 countries and 45 states, half of them as a single parent with her two kids in tow. For more information on traveling with children as a single parent, take a look at Brenda's book, The Single Parent Travel Handbook, or visit her website: Single Parent Travel.