Tips for traveling as a single parent
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If you're a single parent, you already know the trials and tribulations of traveling with kids when you've only got one pair of hands to manage. The good news? According to the travel experts at, the travel industry is taking notice of you, which means it could become a little easier to take that much-needed getaway.
A tour company can be a real lifesaver on family vacations, especially if there are other kids in the group. A quality tour group will have a low staff-to-guest ratio (ideally one staffer per every six guests), which means parents can get a break while the guides take over.

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The Montana-based Austin-Lehman Adventures reports one in four of its participants is a single parent or grandparent, and more than 60 percent of bookings are either returning guests or referrals. Founded 35 years ago, this adventure tour company was created with families in mind, with tour guides taking into consideration that sometimes Mom or Dad needs grown-up time, and other times parents and kids may want to have some time without the rest of the group.

For a family "starter trip," co-founder Paul Lehman recommends the six-day, five-night Yellowstone vacation. At around $2,000 per adult (plus a $680 single supplement fee), and children averaging around $1,700, it's also their most economical option.

Family travel expert Eileen Ogintz, author of the popular "Taking the Kids" column, also recommends adventure tour companies such as Backroads, Thompson Travel and Wildland Adventures. Cruises and all-inclusive resorts offer good value, especially in terms of dining and activities, but Eileen reminds parents to remember their own personalities when choosing these options. While the kids are off playing, parents may get left behind with no one to talk to.

The real key to any successful family vacation is to be well prepared, and that's especially true when there's only one parent to handle it all. Get the kids involved with the process, or you may find yourself dealing with a meltdown early on. Ask where they want to go and what experiences they want to do. Sometimes the simplest things become more exciting when it's "their idea."

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Have the kids participate in the logistics, like reading maps or finding the gate at the airport. Not only does it keep them engaged, it helps them develop necessary skills. Always—always—make sure to have an emergency plan. In the event that the kids are somehow separated from you, do they know what to do and what not to do? If they are too small to have a cell phone, do they know your cell number by heart? In any destination, identify a meeting spot in case they get separated.

Do not overlook three major categories of things to pack: an emergency kit, plenty of games (new ones tend to hold their attention longer) and snacks. There's nothing worse than facing airport or airplane food that is not child-friendly or driving that long, never-ending stretch with signs reading, "Last stop for food for the next 60 miles!" Small bags of pretzels, almonds, raisins, granola bars and, if you choose, candy, are all great options.

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The last thing to remember to do is have fun and relax. Your kids get enough structure and early mornings during the school year, so it's okay to be flexible with your schedule on vacation. And remember, your children are louder and whinier to you than to anyone else.

Enjoy your time together!

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