There is a common misconception that once you have children, your life as you know it, is over and travel will be nothing more than an unattainable dream. Jessica Kameko "Meko" Rooks of the Travel with Meko blog begs to differ. The single mother of two says that, on the contrary, traveling solo with kids is very doable.
Along with her 7-year-old daughter Amiyah and 4-year-old son Camren, she travels the world creating unforgettable memories. The family has visited Panama, Saint Lucia, Sri Lanka, among othersmore, enjoying new cultures, foods, and learning experiences together.
These are experiences she finds benefit her children and their family as a unit in a variety of ways. It also helps break the stigma that people of color can not travel.
“Travel opens up their minds to experiencing new cultures, developing a profound sense of understanding and respect,” Rooks says. “When you travel to countries that don’t have the same amenities you do at home, your kids learn to be more appreciative and adaptable to what they do and do not have.”
But for some, in addition to feeling overwhelmed by the mere thought of flying and visiting a foreign country with children in tow, there are numerous barriers preventing people from traveling solo with kids. One of the biggest issues for many is the cost. However, the expert traveler says that it does not necessarily have to be expensive.
“When I first started traveling solo with my kids, I took advantage of them being under two years old as a lap child. Children under the age of two fly for free on your lap, so it was my goal to take them to as many countries as I could, since I only had to pay for myself.”
For others, the problem is simply a lack of knowledge, with many shying away from traveling solo with their kids because they do not know how to go about it, what to pack, or where to even begin. If this sounds like you, fret not. Here are six of Rooks' best tips to help you get started.
Bring the right products
Traveling solo means all the responsibility is on you, and you will carry most of the things for you and your child. Having the right travel products can help make the journey a lot easier.
“I like to bring lightweight, travel-friendly products that allow me to be hands-free, and/or the kids can carry them on their own,” she shares.
Know what you can bring through TSA
This is important as a solo traveler because it means you can bring more than the average traveler and feel safe. In addition to bringing a stroller and car seat free-of-charge, parents can also bring a bag for their baby onboard for free.
“This means your baby bag doesn't count as your personal or carry-on bag. Fill this bag with all the necessities that you'll need when traveling with your young child,” Rooks advises. “I always pack two of everything. Airports don't cater to children, and most airports don't have baby necessities. Pack two pacifiers, two bottles, two changes of clothes, etc. If your child is under the age of two, you are allowed to bring bottles of water and infant formula for your flight. You can bring breastmilk and a breast pump through TSA. You can also bring a lunch box with an ice pack to store your milk.”
Ask for a bassinet seat
Bassinet seats are complementary when traveling with a young child. They are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but when you book your flight, you can call the airline in advance to try to reserve one. You can also ask when you are checking in for a flight.
“Having these extra legroom seats allows you to have more space for your baby and you to stretch out your legs and space for your child to get up once the plane takes off," the globetrotting mom says. "If you have an infant, you can use the bassinet on the plane for the baby to sleep in and allow you to be hands-free. Each airline has a weight regulation for the bassinet seat. Most airlines allow you to request this seat complimentary for children up to four years old.”
The more stuff you pack, the more you have to carry on your own and keep track of. Overpacking also means you'll be paying more for checked luggage.
“I always try to fly with airlines that allow me to take a carry-on bag for free, so I don't have to purchase multiple checked bags. I normally try to take one carry-on bag for my necessities and another carry-on bag that the kids can share–one that they can wheel around without my assistance.”
Bring a safety card
Make a safety card with your contact and secondary contact information on it. Have your kids wear this card on a lanyard at all times while traveling.
“Whether we're traveling through the airport or touring the streets of a new city, I have my kids carry around their own safety card in case they ever get separated from me. I also list the information of the hotel where we’re staying," she explains. "Even though I never let my kids out of my sight while we’re traveling, you can never be too safe! It calms my nerves, knowing my child could return safely to me.”
Take it slow
Expect the unexpected with kids. Allow yourself extra time for accidents, feeding, changing diapers, arriving at the airport early, etc. Having patience is key when traveling solo with kids, and allowing yourself extra time makes things less stressful for both you and your children.
“When I travel with the kids overseas, we need at least a four-day vacation,” the travel blogger says. “You might want to schedule downtime for kids and yourself. Don’t overbook your travel itinerary. Not only do the kids need a break from touring around, but if you’re traveling as a single parent, you need rest, too.”