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May 15, 2011

Vacations: Kids plus One Please!

Children and Divorce

Single parents face a few unique challenges when it comes to vacationing with their kids.  Besides pricing, a common issue faced by single-parent travelers is: Will I feel comfortable with other vacationing families? The majority of the families you’ll meet on your next vacation will likely be two-parent families.  Many single parents feel like an outcast at family resorts, sometimes feeling peculiar trying to socialize with married couples.

There are three things you can do to ensure this doesn’t happen — the first: Get Over It! Second, travel with a group that caters to single-parent families or take advantage of travel deals for single parents, where the majority of other travelers are likely to be in your same boat. Third, pair up with another single-parent family — maybe you have a sibling or a close friend who is also a single parent. That way you’ll have adult companionship and the kids will have automatic friends.

Another problem many single parents face when they try to book a vacation with their kids is that most prices are based on two adults and double occupancy.  The good news is that with many vacations, single status hardly matters: car trips, camping, Disney theme parks, even European tours (where hotel rooms are priced by number of beds) — there are many situations where neither price nor social ease is affected much by being solo with kids.

Many families, however, dream of aCaribbeanresort, or a cruise… And on these types of vacations, single parents may get a big shock when a child gets charged an adult rate.  Many resorts/hotels base room prices on two adults sharing one room, i.e. the resort expects to charge $300 a night for a room, expressed as “$150 per person based on double occupancy” — “person” meaning an adult guest. Kids can then stay for free or pay a discount rate.

Obviously you don’t want to pay an adult price for your 9-year-old who eats nothing but hot dogs and won’t be enjoying a poolside cocktail complete with umbrella. So what’s the alternative? You could pay a single supplement for yourself (often 50% of the adult fee) and then pay a kids’ fare.  Single parents might also want to consider the possibility that booking an individual itinerary, rather than a package deal, just don’t forget to factor in the costs of food and entertainment.

Booking a vacation rental is another excellent way to save money. You’ll even have a kitchen so you can keep the dining out to a minimum.  You can rent homes and villas all over the world!  It is a great way to spend a week with your kids in Europe, immerse them in the culture and have a home base all at the same time.  Parents traveling solo with their kids need to be aware that they may need extra paperwork when crossing into other countries. Be sure to read about Crossing Borders with Kids: Documents Needed When Only One Parent is Traveling.

Also consider visiting a national park, families of all shapes, sizes and interests enjoy these trips. Best of all, you likely won’t have to go far from home to find a national park.  There are many more than you probably realize, some perhaps within driving distance of your home. Accommodations vary widely — you can rough it at a campsite or relax at a rustic lodge.  

The main goal is to spend quality time together as a family, but you should also be able to have some adult fun in the process, sans children. The travel industry has recognized this growing segment of the population and as a result, more vacation options for single parents are becoming available. 

So what are you waiting for?  Summer is just around the corner – go have some fun!