Single parent travel

Even though I post a lot about our lives and travel, I haven’t said a lot about what it’s like to do single parent travel.

single parent travel, honduras

Isn’t it challenging?

While for me travel in general is pretty easy, it does have its challenges. Traveling with a child can at times add to that. I traveled a lot as a solo traveler, and traveling with my son automatically nearly doubles my expenses.

This is especially the case for lodging. Places in many countries do not give a discount for children, and they charge per person rather than for the room.

Airfare for children is almost always the same for children as adults. Ditto for trains, buses, and ferries.

Enhanced experience

Traveling with my son has been absolutely amazing. It’s so much fun to get to see a place through his eyes. He is an incredibly easy travel companion and pretty much just goes with the flow on things. That really helps when we’re doing things that bore him. I’m very interested in old churches, ruins, cemeteries, etc. He couldn’t care less about those things, but he has plenty of fun running around and jumping, and we have some great discussions.

He’s also incredibly patient with my constant picture taking.

Having my son with me has forced me to slow down from my pre-nomadic-life harried pace, especially when traveling, which has really enhanced our experience as well. We’ve been able to make local friends and really get to know an area better.

An added joy with doing long-term travel with Tigger is watching him grow, physically and otherwise.

single parent travel, koh samui, thailand, temple

What about safety issues?

The world really is a very safe place. Yes, you have to keep your wits about you, just like if we were back in the States, but for the most part people are absolutely wonderful.

We do avoid areas that are currently having issues with wars or similar situations. For instance, we’re in Malaysia right now and would love to go to Sabah and Sipadan, but they’re having some military activities occurring in the area, so we’re avoiding travel to those places.

Generally speaking, families tend to be even safer during travel.

We do have a safety plan in case something happens to me. A 2-parent family has a bit less of a concern in that area since there will likely still be at least 1 adult available to take care of the kids. However, in a single parent travel situation, if I’m incapacitated things could get tricky.

In Ecuador, I had a bad virus or something and was stuck in bed for a few days. Thankfully, we were in a hostel. The staff watched out for him, helped him with meals, and brought me local remedies and offered to go to the pharmacy for me. We had befriended another guest previously, and she had Tigger join her on some errands and took him out for ice cream so he could get a break from being at the hostel. I remain thankful for our little village of kind-hearted people.

In the event I’m not able to communicate, etc., Tigger has contact information for emergencies and knows who to ask for help for placing those phone calls. He also has email addresses for people back in the States who are our emergency contacts.

Don’t you ever need a break from being a parent?

O.M.G. YES!

Even though Tigger is seriously one of the easiest kids I’ve ever seen, once in a while a parent needs a break. And, really, sometimes our kids need a break from us as well!

This is probably the biggest challenge of single parent travel. When you’re the only parent, you are “on” 24/7. Sure, it was the same back home; however, there we had lots of time away from each other. Too much time, really. I was working 40 hours a week, he had school, etc. Now we’re together literally 24 hours a day.

I also had a community of family by choice that would have him over for a weekend or something, or who would come stay in our home with him.

I absolutely love having more time with my child. This was a big reason we left the States to live a nomadic global life. I wanted to be the one raising him rather than his school teacher and daycare staff with me doing the lion’s share on the weekend.

But it also means when I need to recharge my daddy batteries, there aren’t a lot of options.

I sometimes get small breaks by going to the store alone or going for a walk. In Honduras, I had more breaks because I was diving a lot. Although those times provided breaks from parenting, they weren’t respite from responsibility. Sometimes I need to not be a parent, instructor, or whatever. I need to not have to be focused on other people and their needs from time to time.

While short breaks can be helpful, occasionally I miss having 1-2 days where I can do whatever I want, go where I want to without discussion, take time to just sit somewhere and enjoy the scenery, etc. In the past, I found that to be so reinvigorating. After almost 2 years of being with my child almost 24 hours a day, I find myself needing some respite. Not because he’s tough to deal with or anything like that. It actually has little to do with him. I’m just the type of person who occasionally needs time to myself.

But I don’t have the network on the road that I had in our former home. So what do I do?

I just suck it up.

It isn’t like he’s to the point where I’d feel comfortable stocking up the fridge, leaving him some emergency and fun money, along with my phone number, and saying “OK, I’ll be back in a couple of days. Have fun!”

We’re currently staying with another nomadic family. He’s having a blast having other kids to play with. The adults had already discussed the possibility of him hanging out here while I get myself a hotel room for a couple of nights for some Talon time. Here’s what happened when I began discussing this idea with him:

“So, we were thinking it might be fun for you to have a couple of nights with the boys, and I would have a couple of nights for some me time,” i said.

“Well, no offense, but sometimes it IS good to get a break from people.”

Well, there you go.

single parent travel, donut, thailand, bangkok

Other benefits

There are some definite benefits to doing this as a one-parent show, though.

I don’t have to deal with another parent during decision-making. There are no arguments about choices I’ve made in my parenting role. When conceiving our next adventure, we only need to meet the needs of two people, one of whom is quite easy. (I’ll let you decide which one of us gets that description.)

Lodging is easier when there are only two people, especially when one has a young person’s body and can handle sleeping on a cot or couch so that the person with the older body can get some sleep without having someone’s knee in their back. Ahem.

I only have to give one other person my attention instead of having to make sure I’m giving enough of myself to me, my child, AND a partner.

It’s also nice to get my son all to myself. I don’t have to share him with another parent.

I think that’s my favorite part of single parent travel.

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22 Comments

      • Hi Talon,
        I understand this is an old thread but could you please tell me a little about working whilst travelling as a single parent? I have been toying with the idea for a while but am worried that if I go about it the wrong way that I will give my son a bad experience. Thabk you

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        • It really depends on what you do for work. Also, the age of your child and their ability to entertain themselves makes a big difference. It’s really no different on the road than it is at home, especially if you find something you can do online or remotely.

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  1. Oh boy did this resonate. Though I no longer have a kid in tow, when I had my niece with me in SEA I was so grateful when Dani and Jess from the Globetrotter Girls gave me a couple evenings to myself where they took Ana out for an evening. Having just dived into suddenly have an 11-year old in tow, it was great that they recognized I could use some alone time — I hope that works out with the other family and that a break is coming your way! :)
    Shannon O’Donnell recently posted..A Little Reflection … On Leaning into UncertaintyMy Profile

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    • I hope to meet Dani and Jess at some point. Wonderful ladies. How cool of them and for you!

      We haven’t done the nights away yet, although they’re open to it. It’s been kind of funny because since he has kids to play with literally nonstop, it’s almost like I’m not having to parent at all. LOL It’s been quite nice. Still may try for a couple of nights of alone time, though. :)

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  2. Great post. being a single with 2, adds other challenges, like not doubling, but tripling costs, some hostels will count the boys as 1, but recently, i am having to pay for 3 beds… and don’t even get me started on alone time. I do like the idea of stocking up the fridge and leaving some money, maybe in a couple years…

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  3. Having been a solo-traveller myself for the past 16 years for the most part, I’ve certainly been used to doing everything for myself. Only in the last 4-5 years have I really experimented more with travelling with someone else – granted, they are full grown adults with (for the most part) their own ability to be by themselves when necessary. I can’t imagine what it’s like, but it must both be the most challenging and most rewarding situation anyone could be faced with. Tigger’s a lucky kid! :)
    Ian Ord – Where Sidewalks End recently posted..Songkran: The world’s biggest water fight!My Profile

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    • If he wasn’t so incredibly easy, it would be a LOT tougher. But it DEFINITELY is incredibly rewarding.

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  4. I have loved traveling with my kids- that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been tiring and trying at times, and I’m doing this with my husband. :) Our travel is a bit different since we certainly don’t stay on the road as long as you and we also stick to the US but I can relate a teeny, tiny bit. We stayed and traveled in our 31 foot motorhome for 18 months. I don’t know how we did it, but we survived and we are so much stronger, and closer, from that experience. My husband and I are very close with our teens and I attribute much of that to the time we spent traveling in that camper together. I have a feeling your relationship with Tigger is much the same. Happy travels!
    Tonya recently posted..Preparing for Mission-Minded Travel & How You Can HelpMy Profile

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  5. I agree Talon and I must say that right now I am very shaken since I just found out a fellow travel blogger nomad family’s 2 yo son has just been murdered in Mexico (you might have heard about it: http://braveskimom.com/remembering-axel?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=remembering-axel). The parents wanted an afternoon out to go mountain biking together and left the kids with their rental house owner’s recommended babysitter… Well… when we travel, unless we are with our kids 24/7, we really don’t know what can happen to them (and I was just starting to relax about that last year in Costa Rica…). I know it is an isolated incident, but I also know it could have very well been us (we were supposed to rent a house in Mexico like them this winter… and we were bringing our mountain bikes…), but decided to save that for next winter. But honestly right now, I don’t know anymore…
    Catherine Forest recently posted..Sea kayaking on turquoise watersMy Profile

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    • Yes, I had heard about that horrible tragedy. Breaks my heart for that family.

      Having said that, though, people need to remember this stuff happens in the States, too. And in Europe. People absolutely adore going to Jamaica and the US Virgin Islands,but they don’t realize that those two places are in the top 7 for most intentional murders in the world. The US beats out most Asian countries, and, interestingly, many countries in Central Asia and the Middle East.

      While we are sometimes absolutely shaken by the appearance of evil in our world, it really is full of more beauty than bad. Statistically speaking, you’re actually safer traveling in foreign countries.

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  6. I love that he already understands the importance of getting a break from people! And you make it sound like, in a sense, you almost have the benefit of traveling alone with the lack of another adult around urging you to do something (not that he doesn’t have wants and needs, of course he does!).

    I’ve said it before though and I’ll say it again. As someone whose parents did up and move to a developing country when he was 4, I can tell you first hand just how valuable what you’re doing for your son.
    Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures recently posted..Photo Essay: Wat Phu, Laos’ Khmer HistoryMy Profile

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    • Oh yes, it’s a great benefit! Tigger is so flexible and easy-going whereas some adults . . . I’d much rather travel with my kid. LOL

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  7. Talon, you just gave me a good reason to get a divorce so i can travel alone with my daughter. I’ll leave my two boys at home. I know what you mean about needing a break from the kids. I cherish my alone time. SOmetimes i feel like that mama bird with a whole bunch of chicks pecking at her for food and i just want to get away but like you said, you just have to suck it up. This summer, i get a 2 month break from my older boys (they are flying to California). Is it wrong that I am happy about it and sad at the same time. :(
    Annie Andre recently posted..How To Pack Light Without Sacrificing Style Or Comfort: A Guide For Women InfographicMy Profile

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  8. It’s so important to recognize that we all need alone time. And yet, not always so easy to actually have it. I find I am able to have a decent amount of time alone or with just friends because Noah really makes room for it. Finding couple alone time, though, that almost never happens. I’m still trying to figure it out.

    I totally get when you say sometimes you just have to suck it up and deal with it. As you say, the time we have one-on-one with our kids when they’re this age is irreplaceable. I wouldn’t trade our lives for a 9-5 schedule even with a community of babysitters nearby.

    I also see how easy it is to let too much time pass without making sure to have that alone or couple time, and that can be problematic.
    Leigh recently posted..A Sneak Peek Into Roni Weiss’ New York CityMy Profile

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    • It definitely can be tough to find that time. So important, though. We all need to recharge our batteries from time to time.

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