Top 10 Tips For Solo Parent Travel With Toddlers
Even though I consider myself quite an expert traveler, holidaying solo with my two and half year old in tow required a whole another set of skills. I got a chance to put mine to good use on our recent trip to US. While my husband Karan was around for the first half of our trip in LA & Vegas, Karma and I were on our own in New York as Karan was staying at the Cornell campus. It was also my first ever trip to NY and my first ever solo parent travel trip!
We did pretty okay if I’m being honest. Yes, it required some planning and lot of coffee on-the-go but Karma and I managed to see everything on our list over the course of one week with only two earth-shattering tantrums and one mildly deafening one! I don’t know about you but I rate that as a success! 😉 However, I learned a lot about traveling solo with kids. My husband travels alone with Karma as well and I’m sharing some of our favourite tips below. I urge every parent to pack a bag and take a leap of faith because even with embarrassing meltdowns and unplanned escapades, it was one of the best vacations of my life!
SOLO PARENT TRAVEL TIPS
1. Travel Light
I cannot stress this enough especially when you are traveling solo with your baby or toddler. Yes, you do need a lot of stuff when traveling with a child but there are ways to pack light. Check out my tips on packing light with a baby. One suitcase is the upper limit for all clothes, shoes and other stuff – mom and child combined. And I do recommend 4-wheel suitcases over giant backpacks. I feel it’s easier to roll than carry a heavy load. In addition, take some essential gear that will ease your burden. Those are discussed below as well.
2. Keep it Simple
What do I mean by this? Plan your days and make easy plans. Choose 5 out of the 10 things you really want to do and ditch the rest. Target only one big must-see agenda in one day and maybe club some small ones that fall in the way. Don’t aim to do too much in one day and plan for food and rest breaks as well. For example, on Central Park Zoo day, I did only the main and petting zoo and nothing else. After we got done, Karma played at a mini park there itself for another hour and then we headed back. It was 5 pm but she was tired. I took her out for a stroll later but essentially that was our only outing that day. However, on Grand Central Station day, we also did Madison Square Park, Bryant Park and Broadway since each place took only 30 minutes to an hour and I could walk to each with food breaks.
3. Be Safe by Twinning
This is my favourite tip of all. Not only does twinning result in adorable vacation photos, it’s also a great safety measure. If by chance, you lose your child in a crowded place, you can literally just tell people to spot a kid wearing the same clothes or colours as you. No digging for pictures, no descriptions, no remembering faces – It’s the fastest way to get a crowd to locate someone. Even people tend to remember families with matching clothes. And you don’t have to shop on parent and child sites to find matching clothes. Simple combinations like denim and white or same colour tops and bottoms will do the trick.
4. Lace up those Sneakers
You might think your very comfortable flats that look adorable in photos will also be perfect for solo parent travel but you are so wrong! LOL! 😉 I hate to be so bossy about it but trust me, you don’t want to worry about snapping straps or tripping over pebbled streets when you are chasing your escaping toddler. Sneakers are the only way to go! But that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on style. I have always been a fan of fashion sneakers and hip kicks are all the rage these days. I wore my super comfortable white sneakers with all my outfits and got a matching pair for Karma too. Yes, your toddler needs a comfy pair too or that tantrum might come sooner than you expect.
5. Get a Local Sim
International roaming can be expensive but it’s important to stay connected when you are on a solo parent travel trip. You should always have a working phone in case of emergencies and data so you can use google maps for navigation. So buy a local sim for your phone with a data plan for not just convenience but safety as well. It’s also good to find out local cab apps that you can use as those are usually cheaper. For example, in New York, Lyft is really popular and cheaper than other popular cab services. I downloaded it since I had a local sim with a local number and used it easily in case of emergencies such as a meltdown of the century or being stuck in a downpour.
6. Food On-The-Go
Yes, it would be ideal to give your child healthy homemade food on vacation as well. But lets be realistic! We are all parents here and we all take short cuts. A solo parent travel trip is the apt time to throw the rule book out the window and feed your child some readymade or restaurant food. It’s not ideal but it’s OKAY! 🙂 I carried Karma’s Babymel & Zip and Zoe insulated lunch bag along. Whether I cooked food or ordered it or doggie-bagged leftovers from a restaurant, it kept food fresh all day while we were out and I could feed her on the go whenever she got hungry. On other days, I bought food jars, squeeze food tubes and snack bars and loaded the lunch bag with those.
SOLO PARENT TRAVEL GEAR
7. Child Transport of Choice
Be it a stroller or carrier or both, you will need something to ‘hold’ your child. 😉 I prefer carrying both. It was fairly easy for me to explore the streets of New York with Karma comfortably sitting in our Joovy Groove Ultralight stroller. She would also nap and eat on-the-go while I kept walking. But there were times she wanted me to pick her up and I needed my hands free. That’s when my Soul full-buckle toddler carrier came to the rescue. When both parents are present, you can take turns but when it’s only one, you will need some gear to help with your child-load. Forget toddler, even teenagers refuse to walk around all day! LOL! So please do take along a sturdy umbrella stroller and a baby carrier.
8. Backpack Diaper Bag
A resourceful diaper bag that can be carried as a backpack is the only bag you should take along other than your suitcase. Even two hands are not enough when you are traveling solo with kids but you have only two! Trust me, you need both hands to be free. So if your diaper bag doesn’t have a backpack carry option, get a new one or use your laptop bag as your travel day bag. Avoid a bag that is too bulky as it’s a pain to carry. As long as you can fit an extra set of clothes, few diapers, wipes, wallet and few other things, you’re good to go. I carried my Vilah Bloom Cafe Crossover diaper bag that can be carried three ways, has enough space and looks really chic too.
9. Stroller Organiser
If you are using a stroller (which I highly recommend), then get a spacious stroller organiser too. You need certain items to be within reach while on the move such as loose cash, wipes, sunglasses, lip balm, tickets or other small items. Every time I bought entry tickets to some place, I just stashed them in the organiser till I reached the entry point instead of jamming them in my pockets or bag. I always had wet wipes within immediate reach and if you’re a parent, you probably use a million wipes a day too. I used Babymel stroller organiser since it has tons of space and has an internal bottle strap too that held my water bottle or iced-coffee. It comes with a detachable zippered pouch that I used to stash small notes and change and didn’t have to take out my big wallet every time I bought coffee and bagels from a street truck.
10. Selfie Stick
I actually did not carry a selfie stick with me and really wished I had one. Most of the photos I took were of Karma’s. My arm did not do such a great job of capturing the background, Karma and I in a photo. Few times, I asked some nice people around to take pictures of us and they obliged. But I feel I could have captured more memories of my solo trip with her if I had a selfie stick. So do take one along. I definitely will on my next solo parent travel trip.
This really long list might make you wonder if a solo parent travel trip is even worth it… Yes it is! These are just some handy tips to make your holiday easier and believe me, it is easier that it appears to be. I won’t lie! You will have to deal with a fair amount of toddler tantrums and delayed or even cancelled plans. But it’s okay! That’s a part and parcel of an amazing bonding experience with your child. It’s the journey that matters and a few missed Top 10 spots won’t be able to ruin the fun of exploring the world with your child. So let that tantrum run its course, forget about the missed plan and head to the nearest park. Karma and I had so much unplanned fun at splash parks in NY. It meant an hour less at our final stop but who cares?! 🙂
If you have more questions or doubts, just get in touch. Traveling with kids is something we are very passionate about and if we can help in any way, we would love to. You can follow Raising Karma on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube for more tips and photos of our travels and feel free to message us there anytime.
The full photo of my Soul carrier is not from a solo trip because I didn’t have a selfie stick and couldn’t take a proper photo on my own. 😉 However, I loaded one just to give my readers an idea of how a carrier can help. All other photos are from my vacation with Karma.