Traveling for the holidays can be super-fun or super-stressful. When you’re a single parent traveling with your children, chances are it will be on the stressful side. You have to get all their luggage packed, loaded up and checked in, then you have to get them to an airport gate or in the car, then you have to keep them entertained so they don’t spend the entire trip whining.
You may also be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that only happens during certain times of the year, usually winter. The shorter amounts of daylight can trigger depressed mood. If so, talk to your doctor. He or she can prescribe medication, therapy or light therapy. Also, remember that travel can boost your mood, even if it’s a bit stressful. A recent study even showed that planning to travel itself is a great way to feel better.
Here are some tips for traveling solo with your children this holiday season:
Check in early
Always check in online if you can. Even if you have to check luggage, checking in early will save you time.
Bring a stroller
If your child is small enough, don’t forget this handy tool. They’re not counted as luggage and can be checked at the gate. So, you can keep your kid in it until you are walking onto the plane.
Do some hotel research
Many hotels have special accommodations or kits for kids, so find out in advance. There are review websites that will tell you if the hotel you’re considering is kid-friendly. Also, request a room with a fridge. It will help you keep food, drinks and bottles cold.
Take advantage of early boarding
If your airline has this for parents, use it. Getting on board early helps ease the stress of slow kids that get in the way of other travelers and feeling pressured to put your things away while your kids are antsy.
Ask for help
Flight attendants are there to help you. If you have to go to the bathroom, they’ll keep an eye on your kids for a few minutes.
Arrange ground transportation in advance
You don’t want to be waiting for a ride or trying to arrange for a cab after you land.
Check in with someone
Especially if you’re driving a long distance, let someone know where you are. Google Maps now has a feature where you can share your trip progress with someone so that you don’t have to keep texting someone to let them know where you are.
Discuss safety with your kids
The kids should know what to do if you become separated. Tell them to look for someone in uniform or another mom with a stroller or kids. They should know your full name and hometown. Older kids should know all the details of how to find you.
Assume longer drive times
With kids, you have to stop a lot more often that you would if you were driving solo. Kids have to potty, eat, stretch their legs, whatever. If you can find a rest area with a playground, even better. Let them run around a bit. They need it.
Take the train
In the U.S., this isn’t always a possibility, but if it is, take advantage of it. Trains are much easier for parents than airplanes. You can take them on a walk from car to car, and there’s much more to see out the window.
When you’re heading out to visit family with your kids this holiday season, just remember to plan ahead. Bring extra of whatever the kids need in case you get stranded and try to relax a bit. When the kids are asleep, take a few minutes to yourself, reading a book or listening to music. Remember this is your vacation, too!
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