Lighten the Load with a Like-Minded Travel Companion
Traveling with kids would be easier if only you had four or five arms. Even simple tasks like holding hands to cross busy streets or checking in at the airport can be overwhelming when you're in charge of kids, luggage and travel documents. That's why some single moms look for travel buddies when they're planning family trips. There are trade-offs involved in this arrangement, but for some solo parents, having the help of a travel buddy is a lifesaver.
What Does a Travel Buddy Do?
Quite simply, a travel buddy is another adult who travels with you. People choose to find a travel buddy for a variety of reasons. Traveling with another person might feel safer, cut individual costs (like on cruise ships where rates are based on double occupancy) or make the trip easier in some way.
Do I Need One?
Maybe! If you're a mom traveling alone with kids, having another adult along can be hugely helpful. She can watch them while you run to the bathroom, or stay with the bags while you take the antsy kids to walk around during a long layover. Having a travel buddy might also help you feel more comfortable traveling as a single woman. There's safety in numbers, after all.
How Do I Find One?
Several travel sites have message boards where women can post their travel plans and buddy requirements. However, arranging for a stranger to join you and your kids on a trip is a major gamble. Your best bet is to find a trusted friend or family member to serve this role.
Who Should I Ask?
Not just any willing pal will make a good travel buddy. Choose someone whose company you genuinely enjoy. The ideal travel buddy has good judgment, a positive attitude, and enough energy to keep up with you and your kids at least some of the time. And because traveling with children doesn't allow for a ton of spontaneity, she should be willing to follow your general travel plan. You don't want to wake up one morning and find that she's decided to branch off on her own for a few days.
The person who fits this bill might be a sibling, cousin, old friend or even one of your parents. If you know any other single parents, it's worth asking if they have any interest in teaming up for a trip together. If all else fails and you can afford it, you might ask your favorite sitter to come along and work a few hours each day in exchange for a free trip.
How Will This Work?
Have a meeting before finalizing travel plans to make sure you're on the same page about itinerary and money. You might offer to pay part of the person's travel costs in exchange for some help with childcare, or let the opportunity to travel be its own reward and ask the person to pay her own way. In that case, you might want to treat her to a special excursion during the trip, pay for a few of her meals or gift her with a spa gift certificate as thanks after returning home.
It's also important to talk about what your hopes and expectations are for the arrangement. Will you just ask the travel buddy to help out on actual travel days and let her have the rest of the time to herself, or do you want to stick together all the time? Are you hoping that she'll watch the kids occasionally so you can have a few hours alone? Ask for her input too, and listen carefully. Clear communication is absolutely crucial to having a smooth and happy trip for everyone involved.
Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.