You think you know parenting? You know the struggles of waking up early, dealing with tantrums, and ensuring your children’s needs are met each and every day? Try on the crazy struggles of single parent travel.
You’ll be glad you’re not doing it.
1. There is no such thing as “sleeping in.”
Oh, it’s Saturday and you want to sleep in until 10?
Too bad, you have a child who wakes up with the sunshine, is massively hungry, and won’t stop bouncing on your bed.
Here’s a video of how little space you can have while traveling with your kids:
Thought it was fun to stay up late with a few beers and binge watch Stranger Things?
Sure, Stranger Things is pretty awesome, but now you’re dehydrated, exhausted, and a child just cannon-balled your chest cavity.
2. You have to trust, a lot.
When you grow up hearing the phrase, ‘don’t talk to strangers,’ that really does something awful to your ability to trust people.
And when you’re traveling as a single parent, you have to trust.
You have to trust strangers that don’t speak your language around your children.
You have to trust the world to bring you good luck.
And most importantly, you have to trust yourself to be able to respond to any emergency in an effective way.
You have your children’s lives depending on that.
3. Sometimes people look down on you.
“You need to do what’s right for your child.”
“Your child needs something more stable.”
“Aren’t you worried about your child?”
That’s your opinion.
And, yeah, single parents who travel are not monsters.
People have a weird idea of who you are and what you do.
Single parents dragging their children from one country to another sounds antithetical to everything they’ve been taught, and they will judge you for it.
Are they wrong? Yes.
Does it suck? Also, yes.
4. It’s exponentially more expensive to travel with children than solo.
So many living the life of travel are budget travelers.
They take the cheapest long-distance routes.
They eat only the cheapest food.
And they don’t spend money on big attractions.
I’m on board with those ideas.
But I also have a child.
That means double the airplane tickets, double the dinner plates, and the occasional trip to Disneyland.
With these extra costs, mingling with the budget travelers and their buckets of change can feel disingenuous.
They’re my people, but family life appears more expensive (it is), and my people probably think I’m rich (I’m not).
Also, I’m pretty awkward with peers and I’m a super weird dad so maybe the money has nothing to do with it?
5. There’s so much to carry through airports.
When you’re by yourself, you can easily carry your bags in the airport by rolling your check-in luggage and throwing your carry-on over your shoulder.
Single parents roll multiple check-in bags, a carry-on over each shoulder, and a snack bag to keep the kids happy during the most testing moments of the transition.
I can’t tell you how many single parents have been crushed and killed in airports by the luggage they have to carry.
There aren’t any stats for that kind of tragedy.
6. So many documents, single parent travelers need a PA.
If you’re not crushed by your luggage, you have to pull out a rolodex of passports and a briefcase of legal documents proving you’re able to travel as a single parent.
Solo travelers have one easy passport to carry, they don’t face this existential crisis at immigration checkpoints.
7. Transition periods are hard, later on.
Transition periods from one place to another aren’t the hardest part of the transition, despite the aforementioned difficulties.
The most difficult part of the transition is the emotional aftershock it has on children.
They can be super happy to travel, excited all the way through!
Then, like my daughter did, immediately begin crying for their grandma as soon as the plane lifts off the tarmac.
Then there’s the sleep and time adjustment to a new time zone.
You’ll be exhausted, your children will be wide awake.
After the initial shocks, the secondary shocks set in: homesickness, difficulty falling or staying asleep for a week or so, separation anxiety, the list goes on.
Transition periods are hard not just during the transition period, but for days or weeks after.
8. Reverting to co-sleeping.
When you’re trying to overcome all these stressors, you might think it’s a good idea to get your rest, ensure that you’re able to function during the day.
To do that, you let your 4-year-old crawl into bed with you, and they fall asleep quickly and stay asleep all night.
Sometimes they sleep like this.
But, you made the right choice, right?
You’re back to where you were in the past, when your child was dependent on you for their sleep.
It can be tough to let them struggle through the adjustment of a new place, and it’s something that many single parent travelers stumble over before they overcome it.
9. LTR Dating is impossible.
Speaking of stumbling and sleeping alone: dating!
Finding someone who is compatible to fit your travel lifestyle with your child isn’t great.
Sure, you can hop on Tinder and be unliked as soon as someone reads your profile and notices you’re a single parent, but why not expedite that rejection and just try to meet someone face to face?
How my pickup lines are generally taken:
It’s probably the best way to meet anyone: in the grocery store, at the ice cream shop, at the park.
Actually, if you’re looking for a long-term relationship, you probably aren’t a single parent traveler.
10. Your children can speak languages you can’t.
If you’re discontent with your lonely life as a single parent abroad, prepare to feel even more isolated.
Your children have new friends, and they’re talking in a language you can’t understand.
Are they giggling about the boy they like, or planning to shaving-cream my face when I take a nap?
How’s one to know unless one takes that nap?
11. You. Move. Very. Slowly. Everywhere.
Speaking of napping: children walking.
My god, I’ve never seen something move so slowly, and I tried to watch grass grow as a child.
You can’t. But it grows faster than children walk.
Attention children everywhere: ya’ll need to hit the gym.
12. There is no nightlife.
If I hit the gym and expand my chest to look like Arnold, who cares?
I can never flaunt it at the club.
Nightlife is nighttime for single parents who travel.
There is sleeping, some Youtube, maybe some starlit yoga.
Outside of that, it’d be irresponsible of you to go to the bar when your children are sleeping.
Unless you can effectively drink a martini while watching your baby monitor, of course.
13. Your children won’t remember these awesome times traveling, what a waste!
Young kids these days, I tell ya. They just don’t remember the good stuff.
Small children generally don’t retain their memories.
That means my daughter won’t remember looking over the edge of Niagara Falls or playing in the waves in Colombia.
But then again, hopefully, she doesn’t remember the time she fell into a hot spring in Thailand.
14. Picky eaters become even pickier when traveling.
Kids can be picky eaters.
It’s our fault as parents, we know.
Blah, blah, blah.
Here’s what I know: when kids are being picky and they don’t have their favorite restaurant to soothe their grumpy bellies, shit gets real.
But what am I supposed to do? Not encourage my daughter to eat pizza with me?
That’s a disgusting idea.
15. You can’t ride all the roller coaster rides.
Kids hold us back in so many ways.
There’s no love life, no nightlife, and worst of all, you can’t ride the best rides.
Here was our trip to Ocean Park for her 5th birthday!
Luckily, when my daughter and I went to Disneyland in Hong Kong, she was just big enough to ride most of the cool rides.
Though I’m surprised her tiny body survived the jarring Star Wars Experience and the Tony Stark 3-D ride.