My daughters were 3 and 7 the first time I traveled alone with them. As I loaded our bags into the back of the car and headed for the airport, I wondered if I was making a big mistake. Their dad was very hands-on and helped a lot in those early parenting days, and here I was, heading off on a weeklong trip with two small children without him. What was I thinking?
We live in a small town of around 10,000 people, and although it's a great place to raise kids, it's a stark contrast from my own upbringing in the city, where we regularly visited museums and art galleries, went to plays, and spent weekends ice-skating or picnicking in wildlife parks and zoos.
I didn't want my kids to miss out on those experiences only cities can offer. I started to get the travel bug. My work is flexible, but my now ex-husband's wasn't. If I wanted to take the girls traveling, I was going to have to do it alone.
Planning is the key to making travel with young kids enjoyable. My first step was figuring out how to board a plane with three people's luggage. The best decision I made was to buy the girls their own carry-on bags.
I found inexpensive, wheeled suitcases with handles: big enough to fit all their clothes but small enough for my 3-year-old to pull behind her. I also packed a small day bag with snacks, drink bottles, baby wipes, bandages, sun hats, sunscreen, and a soft toy for each child.
Kids like to know what's happening — especially when they're out of their usual routine — so before the trip, I created a schedule for each day. Vacations with their dad were often busy and spontaneous. He liked to pack the day full of activities and had a ton of energy to deal with any mishaps. But I knew that wouldn't work for me alone with the girls.
Our schedule involved just one activity in the morning and one in the afternoon. There's only so far a 3-year-old can walk without tantrums, so I also planned exactly which bus, train, tram, and taxi we'd be catching each day to and from our accommodation.
For our first trip, I'd picked Wellington, a city I was familiar with. We visited a space observatory and museum, then picnicked and played at the park in the beautiful gardens nearby. The best thing about planning your trip well, other than less grumpy, tired kids, is you can research and book events and shows in advance. After the park, we took a tram ride down into the city to see a kid's show I'd booked weeks earlier — something we probably would have missed out on with our more spontaneous vacations.
With just the three of us, I could travel at the girl's speed. If they loved something, we could stay longer. If they were tired, we could head back to our accommodation and have a rest. We spent an entire day in a huge six-floor interactive museum called Te Papa, and after six hours, the girls still didn't want to leave. The whole trip went smoothly, and we loved it.
It's been 10 years since our first solo trip, and we've had plenty since then. Now that I'm remarried, and we have a blended family with four kids aged 7 to 17, traveling separately works even better. It's impossible to please everyone.
The youngest wants to go to the zoo; the 11-year-old wants to see a vintage car museum; the teens want to shop and visit art galleries. Vacations with various combinations of parents and children means we can all do what we want.
In a few weeks, my teen girls and I are heading off on our own again for a couple of nights. We've booked a show and plan to go ice skating. We love our girl's weekends and look forward to many, many more.2023-09-24T13:32:02Z dg43tfdfdgfd