Six Tips for the Traveling Single Parent

All the traveling-with-kids books and articles I've read assume there are two adults per kid. Here are some tips for the single parent based on my own experience:

  • Don't pack more than one suitcase per person. If you are traveling with an infant or toddler, pack their clothes into your big suitcase. I never travel unless I can lug around the suitcases and the car seat and the stroller and the kid all by myself. It's a test of sorts.
  • When I fly with my 3 1/2-year-old son, I put him into his car seat right before we board the plane and balance the car seat on his stroller. That way I can wheel him down the gangway, and I only have to carry him in his car seat a short distance from the door of the plane to the seat.
  • Whenever we take a driving vacation, I try to stop every hour (or as close to an hour as possible -- sometimes out here in Nevada there aren't many exits per hour!). The first thing I do is look for a park, playground or the like, so my son can run around for a while.
  • Buy a "kiddie leash." I like the ones with the chest harness, so you don't dislocate your child's shoulder if you have to yank it. (Sometimes, with the wrist ones, I felt like his arm was coming off!) I don't care what other people say -- if I have my hands full with something (which I often do when we're traveling) and my son refuses to hold my hand, at least I have him attached to me with the leash. Then I know he can't run very far away from me.
  • Always try to buy a child his/her own airplane seat so you have a place to put the car seat. It's expensive, but much, much safer, and at least you can enroll the child in the frequent flyer club and start getting mileage. My son is only 3 1/2, but he's already halfway to a free ticket on Northwest!
  • Take the train if you can. Even though it takes longer and you don't necessarily get there the same day, kids LOVE trains, and just being on one seems to ward off that "are we there much longer" routine.
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