Travel is always an adventure, especially with kids. But if you are a parent travelling solo with a baby or young child, things can get even more challenging. Whether you’re taking a weekend road trip or flying cross country alone with your little ones, there are some simple things that you can do to make your travels a little easier for everyone. See more below a solo parent’s guide to international travel with kids.
My husband and I travel with our son as well as nieces and nephews on a regular basis, and sometimes I travel with the kids on my own. My first flight alone with my son was easy peasy, however traveling with two, three and even four kids alone was daunting for me the very first time, but following these solo parent trips below helped me tremendously and made our trip very smooth. I recently traveled with all four kids to Puerto Vallarta and we all had such an amazing time there!
Pro Tip: Looking for affordable flight tickets? Make sure to download the Skyscanner App. It is the best and my favorite website to find flights. It will show you the cheapest time to travel to any country in the world. If you prefer to use the Skyscanner Website, then you always can, however I prefer the Skycanner App because you can track flight prices and much more.
A Solo Parent’s Guide To International Travel With Kids
Planning is the name of the game when it comes to traveling solo with kids. Though spontaneity on vacation can be fun, when you’re on your own with the kids, it’s better to have a handle on your itinerary and travel plans before you head out. Be a little more detailed ahead of time, so that you can relax a bit and just enjoy the ride once your trip begins. When in a new country or place, planning will save you lots of time. If you forget to plan ahead and find yourself in a place with no internet, then you can rely on “Best Travel Apps You Can Use Without The Internet” to help you. Can you imagine waiting till the last minute to find a restaurant to take the kids to eat when they are really hungry?
Don’t Over Pack
It can be tempting to over pack to make sure that you have everything you could possibly need when you’re traveling alone with kids. However, when you’re juggling little ones and multiple bags as you try to check in with your flight and get through security, you might start to have regrets. Certainly, pack the must-haves, but be sure that things are manageable for one adult as you move from destination to destination. Also, make sure that your carry-ons are well stocked with snacks, activities, and a change of clothes in case of accidents or lost luggage. Packing has been a challenge for me, but I have definitely gotten so much better at making sure that we only pack necessary items.
Set the Ground Rules
When traveling solo with older kids, be sure to set the ground rules of your trip before ever leaving home. If you’ll need the help of older children in carrying luggage or managing younger siblings, make sure they understand their expected contributions. As with any travel, remind kids of rules about bickering, manners, souvenir purchases, and anything else that might cause conflict then you’re on the road. I make sure to explain to the kids what I expect from them and it makes everything run smoothly. I tell them they have a special job to do for me me and they get excited about it, just like pulling this Jet Kids Bed Box below.
Take A Carrier Or Stroller
Car seats and stroller don’t count as baggage when traveling, so it can be checked it at the ticket counter or at the gate. If you have a long layover, or a long walk from one terminal to another, a stroller is great because you can push your child around the airport without worrying about them getting tired from walking. If you are traveling with 2 kids alone, then having a carrier will allow you to be hands free so that you can push your other child in a stroller making your life much easier when navigating the airport and boarding the plane.
This is how you solo travel with two 4 year olds. When we got to the airport, I asked myself – “Karen, what were you thinking?” But Oops, it was too late now lol 🛫 You know what though, I was able to get through TSA (even with the exrtra pat down 😲) and the kids slept most of the flight. 👍 Special thanks to @GBGlobalOfficial, @ospreypacks and to @BecoBaby for making that possible. Sounds like a WIN to me 👐👌 However, I did spent all night unpacking from 4 trips ago & packing for this trip so I’m in desperate need of a nap 😂😪😪 #GBPockit #BecoCarrier #SoloMomTravel #TravelWithTwins ——————– . . . . . . . . . My must haves: [aff] 1. A good ergonomic carrier —> http://amzn.to/2xdRjqK 2. A super lightweight stroller –> http://amzn.to/2vS3VV1 3. Passport covers for the kids (make sure you forget to get yours also, #momlife lol) –> http://amzn.to/2fTP3Sa 4. Kids Backpacks –> http://amzn.to/2xe2NLc 5. Your backpack –> http://amzn.to/2fUoIna And the most important 😂 6. Money for some liquor on the plane 😋 #TravelWithKids #ShowThemTheWorld
Get To The Airport Early
Getting through airport security (TSA) isn’t always the easiest and/or fastest thing to do when you are traveling by yourself with kids. If you plan to pack food and snacks for kids, such as formula, breast milk, yogurt, water or juice, expect extra security screening for these food items. Getting to the airport early is important so that you don’t miss your flight. This will also allow you to get to the boarding gate on time which is great because certain airlines allow families with young children to board early. Boarding early is a great perk because you have time to settle in and put your luggage away before everyone else boards the plane.
Ask A Flight Attendant For Help
Flight attendants love children, and are willing to lend a helping hand as needed. If you need to get up and take a stretch, or even take a restroom break, you can always ring the call button. As long as the flight attendants aren’t busy, they won’t mind stopping by your seat to give you a break. Remember, it doesn’t hurt to ask for help when you need it.
Be as flexible as you can when it comes to your daily itinerary. When traveling solo with kids, it can sometimes be tough to keep everyone moving fast enough to stick to a rigid schedule. If a morning meltdown makes it impossible to start the day’s activities on time, stay calm and readjust the plans. Though pre-planning is important for you, avoid giving the kids too much detail about activities on the trip so that you can maintain this kind of flexibility without disappointment. It’s okay if your day doesn’t go as planned, I consider that a reminder to slow down and enjoy the little things.
Check-In For Your Flight 24 Hours In Advance
Checking in for your flight online will save you lots of hassle when at the airport. Checking in online allows you to enter all necessary information as well as passport information for international flights. This will save you time when you get to the airport, and most especially it will help you avoid the long airport check in lines which can be difficult to navigate when traveling alone with kids.
Have a Backup Plan
Expecting the best but preparing for the worst is always important. Flights get delayed, vehicles break down, and weather can change on a dime. If any of these things could affect your travel, think ahead and have ideas for a backup plan on hand so that you aren’t scrambling should a worst-case scenario occur. I always have Plan A, B and C; especially when traveling with the kids by myself.
Consider a Red-Eye
Traveling overnight with little ones can be a huge help when they are younger and have a hard time sitting still for longer periods. Put them in their jammies, bring along their favorite stuffed animal or blanket, and let them sleep through the drive or the flight. Just make sure to plan a solid naptime into the next day so that you can catch up on any missed sleep. A red eye flight is the way to go for me, the kids sleep all night and then wake up refreshed to explore the day.
Arrange For Transportation
As soon as you arrive your destination, make sure that you have someone ready to pick you up. It is better to have this scheduled in advance so that when you get there you don’t waste any time trying to figure out how to take a taxi or where to go. You can get out of the airplane, grab your luggage and head out straight to be picked up. If you have a late flight, it’ll avoid you standing outside the airport late at night especially in a foreign country.
Minor International Travel Consent Letter
When traveling internationally with kids as a solo parent, traveling with a child whom you are not the parent or legal guardian off, or even if your children has a different last name than yours, it is important to note the documents required by immigration at the country you are traveling to. According to the US Customs and Border Protection (BBP), children under 18 years old age traveling international with only one parent are not required to have written permission from the other parent, however every country is different and requirements will vary, so it is better to be prepared with a notarized parental child travel consent form. Click here for the Minor International Travel Consent Letter that I use when I travel with my nieces and nephews.
My husband was stopped by immigration officers in Canada when he traveled with our 2-year-old and no parental authorization from me in hand. Luckily, I was on another flight and landed shortly which took care of the issue. If you plan to travel with a family members child or a friend’s child, then written and notarized parental consent for travel is needed as well.
Other things needed in addition to a notarized parental authorization, is a copy of each child’s birth certificate and a copy of each child’s medical insurance. If you have full custody of your child, then a parental consent for travel isn’t required, so make to take a copy of any such paperwork with you as well. Make sure to have emergency contacts handy also. It is a good idea to have all these documents as a digital copy on your phone as well.
Take Time To Research Hotels / Accommodation
The accommodation you choose when you travel can make or break your vacation when traveling alone with kids. Using TripAdvisor to search for hotels and read reviews on kid friendly hotels. You’d want to check if they have a kid’s club, complimentary crib or cot, children’s menu or free breakfast for kids, kids pool, a kid’s program and more. This will give you a much-needed break so that you don’t feel burned out. Make sure to ask other parents for kid friendly hotel recommendations as well. Airbnb is also another great option because you can rent out and entire home allowing your kids lots of space to play and get their energy out, while you relax in another part of the home. When I took all 4 kids by myself to Mexico, I made sure to find a hotel that had a restaurant on site, was located on the beach and that had a kid’s club as well so that everything I needed to keep the kids entertained was within arm’s reach.
Manage Your Own Expectations
Finally, and probably most important, be sure to manage your own expectations about traveling solo with kids. You might envision this whirlwind trip, filled with happy memories, and grateful children, when in reality what you get is overwhelmed and exhausted children who have a few meltdowns along the way. Celebrate the fun moments and successes of the trip and let any problems or drama roll off your back! Don’t beat yourself up over a crazy day, it is bound to happen.
Traveling with kids alone can be challenging but also very rewarding. Following these tips for traveling as a solo parent internationally with kids should make your trip, whether local or international a more enjoyable one. I have had the pleasure of traveling alone with 1, 2, 3 and even 4 kids and even though exhausting, we always had such a great time when we get to our destination.