Embrace the Adventure of Traveling with Kids

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Anyone that knows me knows I love to travel. In fact, this is one of my favorite quotes: “To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live.”--Hans Christian Andersen

There is absolutely nothing that provides real-world experience like traveling. Trips help children learn and become well-rounded individuals. However, it’s not easy to travel with kids, especially as a single parent.

As a teenager, I traveled a lot with my dad to many amazing places. We often found ourselves in unexpected situations – from cancelled flights to not having the right currency for a taxi ride – but it was in those instances that my dad taught me the most valuable lesson I have learned: To view each trip – and, really, life – as an adventure. This simple lesson helps me to deal with challenges and enjoy the wonders of traveling.

Now, years later, as a single parent traveling with my daughter, I can personally relate to the struggles and challenges of traveling with a kid. With every trip, I seem to learn a new lesson. I’m sharing some of those lessons here to help other single parents travel at ease.

Planning is Key

Across the board, planning is by far the best tip to give when traveling with kids alone. While hoping for the best is a great philosophy, when it comes to planning travel, always plan for the unexpected.

When things don’t go according to plan, use it as an opportunity to turn your trip into an adventure! Unintended long layover at the airport? Use that time with your kids to play games or have a real conversation. Going with the flow a little will help reduce stress and often provides some unexpected memorable moments.

For airline travel, it’s important to not overpack so you and your kids aren’t lugging a ton of luggage through the airport. But, be sure to pack a bag that has the essentials all in one place to use as a carry-on.  

One important aspect of planning is allotting more time than you think is necessary, particularly when it comes to airport travel. When I took my daughter on our first Disney Cruise in 2013, I knew it was going to be crowded as it was Spring Break and Easter. We flew from Charlotte Douglas International Airport, which often has long lines, so I thought an arrival time of two and a half to three hours before our flight would be plenty. I was very wrong, and we literally pulled a Home Alone 2and ran through the airport, arriving at our gate just as they were about to shut the doors. Lesson learned: whatever time seems early enough to arrive at the airport, add another hour. You can never arrive too early to an airport, but you canarrive too late. Just remember to bring lots of fun airport to-do items – like coloring, sketch pads, little games, etc.!

Enjoy the Trip

Even with all that planning, it’s important to remember why you decided to travel in the first place. Whether it’s to give your children the adventure of a lifetime, or to introduce them to new cultures, never lose sight of that reason. This trip is for you and your kids to look back on and have fond memories of; it’s about the precious moments you spent together.

My daughter and I took our second Disney Cruise in January, and I made sure to simply enjoy every single moment. Because of that, it truly was the best vacation ever. Of course, Disney Cruise Lines is known for providing an absolutely amazing experience. However, this mindset really helped my daughter and I not only enjoy the trip, but make the most of each second we had together.

Be sure to set realistic expectations and be more open to go with the flow, knowing it’s okay to not stick to every single itinerary item. Sometimes the best travel memories are those spur-of-the-moment decisions to change plans.

Busy = Happy

Regardless of what transportation you use, it helps keep everyone happy and relaxed by keeping the kids entertained. Many parents do this with a ‘travel bag’ that has all kinds of things to keep kids busy--from activity pads to small toys. Remember to regularly check the bag so it stays age appropriate.

Here are just a few game ideas: Disney vs. Pixar Trivia, Travel Scavenger Hunt, Restaurant Bingo, License Plate Game, and Spot the Car. Remember, entertainment isn’t just about having something to do, it’s about keeping those little bellies happy as well. Always bring plenty of snacks!

Regardless of where you are going, make the most of the time you have with your kids and really teach them the joys of traveling and exploring. Finally, remember to embrace the adventure and unexpected while traveling!