Cape Town - Travelling with your family can be tough work - particularly as a single parent. With Easter coming up this weekend stress levels might intensify with finding the perfect destination to entertain the whole family.
But fret not, dear solo-moms and dads, these trip tips and tricks are sure to keep you and the kids relaxed and entertained!
1. Look for resorts that are solo-parent friendly
Many resorts will only offer the option of kids prices when there are two paying adults on the trip. However, one adult and one child will not eat or drink as much as two fully grown adults and this can be frustrating. But there are some resorts that will charge a kids price for your child even with just one paying adult.
When resort shopping, don't be afraid to inquire about special arrangements when it comes to 'kid-free, single room' rates. It will surely be cheaper than paying a two-person per room rate. And be sure to look at the final price and not just the adult-listed price.
Some resorts might appear expensive on paper, but the final price could be cheaper as you won't be paying for two full adult prices. Also, be sure to check for resorts that charge 'per room per night' rather than 'per person per night' to save you even more coin.
You may have to do some digging and search a little harder, but it's worth it to save the extra cash.
2. A room with a fridge
While everyone loves a room with a view, the realities of travelling with kids means you've gotta always keep an eye out for a room with a fridge. From storing milk for infants and toddlers to just keeping some fresh snacks or groceries in it to save a buck or two on room service charges for breakfast.
3. Avoid check-in lines
Is there anything more demotivating than starting a vacation by standing in an infinitely long queue with a trolley load of luggage and one, two or more kids nagging, complaining and tugging at your legs while trying to run amok?
If you've answered 'no', then you might want to avoid such daunting experiences at all costs. Check-in can be a nightmare if not properly - try for at least three or more hours in advance. But, even spending that much time in an airport with bored children and only two arms can be exhausting.
So, what is the solution you ask? Checking in online the night before can save you and your kids a lot of airport blood, sweat and tears. "Check in 24 hours in advance from your home computer and sign up for mobile alerts that can be sent to your cellphone with your flight status," says Barbara Higgins, Vice President of Customer Experience for United Airlines, and a mom herself. "This will bypass long lines at the counter or kiosk."
4. Plus counter perks
Why not consider upgrading your ticket to skip even more lines at the airport when checking in your luggage! So, you've checked your family in online and need to merely drop off your bags for check-in and want to avoid the dreaded linearity of queue trauma.
Well, for an extra fee, many airlines will let you check in at the "plus counter," where there is a much shorter wait. The bonus is that you don't always have to book the expensive plus seats to get this service. As a solo parent, it can be hard to control one or more kids while carting luggage and travel itineraries, especially in dragging and winding queues.
Depending on the age of your child, this added expense might just save your sanity and give you a breather of one less stressful situation.
5. Strap down the babes
Airports are overcrowded and if your toddler is unpredictable, fearless and fast this can be quite the headache.
As a single parent, with no one else to chase after the munchkins (and remember, leaving your bag unattended even to run after a kid on the loose is not recommended), use a stroller or car seat to keep them in one place where you can see them until you all step on the plane.
Since car seats and strollers are not counted as luggage - they can be checked in at the boarding gate. So keep them strapped while you kick back and maybe keep them entertained with nutritious snacks.
6. The early board catches the empty aisle worm
With some airlines allowing families to board right after First Class, it's important to pay attention to announcements so you don't miss your chance to shimmy and shake your way down an empty plane aisle.
This is a major perk when you have a child on one arm, potentially some others trailing you as well as carry-ons to lug and tug along as you find your seat.
7. Flight attendant babysitters
If you feel you need to bolt off for a quick bathroom break but are wary of leaving your kid unattended - ask a flight attendant to keep an eye on your kids while you do so. All you have to do is kindly ask one of the attendants to hang out in your section while you take care of bathroom business - heck, your kid may even score an extra bag of pretzels or complimentary snacks.
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8. Night flight
When it comes to planning flights - opt for a night flight, preferably just before their regular bedtime. This will help knock out the kids and make the flying experience that much less stressful. Do try to keep to a bedtime routine as much as possible while up in the air.
9. Think kid-friendly - but also: friendly kids
There's an undeniable age gap between you and your child, and after a while, you both need some time with age appropriate peers. Kids can be very active - especially older kids.
From switching between swimming for hours, spending more hours at an amusement park, still wanting to go out to dinner, and playing on the beach for what feels like eternity - and with a mouth that never runs dry - it can be exhausting to keep up with.
And while you love your kids, at some point, you might need a break. This is why if a destination is known for having a large and kid friendly atmosphere - the chances are there will be similarly energetic halflings ready to out-energise each other in fun. This could lead to some of your children's best travel memories.
10. Lock it down
Keeping track of your kids on vacation are tough enough as a solo parent, to avoid having to stress over whether your valuables will be swiped from your room while enjoying some R & R time or fun - invest in a lock bag.
A lock bag comes with, well - as its namesake implies, a lock and small chain. You can thread the chain through the bag and easily lock it to the leg of a chair, table, bed, your stress or quite possibly anything.
You can put your room key, phone, wallet and any other valuables in it, chain it to something and head out to enjoy some fun under the sun with your kids without the extra stress.