Single Parents: Vacation & Travel

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Taking two children on vacation without a partner

June 2007

I would like advice on taking my two children on vacation without a partner. I do not have parents or siblings available to travel with me so is it possible to travel alone with a toddler and an older child? Three seems like a difficult number so is it even possible? I have practiced by taking my kids to the zoo alone but what about a theme park, camping or Disneyland? I found the ride situation difficult since my older child is only in third grade and not old enough to ride alone with strangers. It kind of breaks my heart that my three year old is missing out on family vacation times. Do I wait for Mister Right? Yeah, right.! I may be alone for a long period of time with my track record. So how do others do it? Missing Mickey Mouse

I'm a single mom with a four year old. We've taken some vacations over the years and I have some thoughts on what works best. Our most successful vacations have been those during which my kid has other kids to play with or there's child care available and I get some downtime, as well as some adult companionship. I've camped and gone to Disney world with my daughter (in both cases with friends or family) and going it alone in those instances would have been pure hell. The key to single parent vacations is to make sure that the parent has some semblance of a vacation. It doesn't happen if you're on 24/7. Here's what has worked best for us:

1. Family Camp -- We love Berkeley Tuolomne Camp. Beautiful setting, good food you don't have to cook, lots of activities for everyone and a great kiddie camp for your three year old. Less work intensive for you then tent camping. Tuolomne is not the only family camp around -- single mom friends of mine have enjoyed Feather River and Lair of the Bear.

2. Vacation with Other Families -- Last summer we rented a beach house with a group of old friends from college and their kids. Some were couples, some single parents. Sharing food and transportation costs was great. The kids played with each other continuously. We've also taken short trips to places like Mendocino and the Russian River with other single moms and their kids as well as married friends with kids.

I haven't done it myself, but I do know single parents who've gone to Club Med and enjoyed it. Another idea might be cruises. Look for the ones which are child-friendly and offer activities/child care. If you're really into Disney, I think there are Disney cruises. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine going on a cruise pre-child, but we did a few years ago (with grandma) and I might do it again. I think it would be a fine thing to do with another family or on your own. Good luck! anon

I really don't suggest taking your two young kids to an amusement park without another adult, or at least a teenager, to help you. You are crazy to think you can pull this off - sorry. Were there no safey concerns, I'd say give it a go. But in the hustle and bustle of a busy park, with a 3yo and a 3rd grader, no way. Just hire a babysitter to assist you. I'm sure a teenager would LOVE a free trip to a theme park, and some would even go camping with you.

When I was 21, a single mom invited me to Disneyland with her and her two boys. The deal was the entire trip was free to me - I just had to pay for my own food, and I didn't get paid to help her with the kids. It was perfect and we had a great, safe time. Good luck

If you can afford it, The Sierra Club offers a variety of family trips which last from several days to a week. I used to be a leader, so I know that many trips accept toddlers. Single parents abound on these outings. Go to

For theme parks, perhaps you could ask a girlfriend to come along?

good luck. Susanne (been there)

The UC Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center -- -- is the place for you. It is a hotel like set up on the campus of UCSB with activities for every age group. It gives you a break and you have other adults to socialize with if you like. We have been going for several years and lots of single parent families attend because it is such an ideal set up. It gives you lots of time with the kids and lots of chances to get some rest or explore on your own because the kids activities are so fun, they actually want to go. Our kids have made friends that they look forward to seeing every year when they return. They book up very early as a rule but still have some openings for a couple of weeks left (and for your family, you would get a 2 bedroom suite). After you have attended once, you get priority in terms of switching to a week that might be more convenient for you the next year. With 3 kids, after doing the vacation center, we'll never spend a week at Disneyland again. Shannon
I have been a single parent for 13 years and the vacations we took are some of our family's best memories. Don't miss out on them. The best way to control the chaos is to be outdoors with other families nearby. We rented a cabin at Lake Shasta for a week in a situation with other families and the kids quickly formed friendships with other kids their own ages at the pool and at the rec center and I invited the kids and their parents over for dinner. We took car trips to natural wonders, had nice simple family dinners and went to the movies at night. We did the same at Mammoth Mountain, which has reduced rates on ski condos during the summer. One summer, when they were a bit older, we got a camping guide and picked out three sites ranked as 9 and 10 for scenic beauty. We spent a night or two camping, the night of travel at a motel for showers and comfy beds and t.v., then the next night at another spectacular camp ground. We saw great natural beauty, listened to new music CDs in the car and audio books, had a number of memorable mishaps that still crack us up now that one child has graduated from UC Berkeley and the other is about to graduate from high school. Do this. You'll never regret it. fond memories
My husband, 2 year old daughter and I just got back from a cruise vacation on Carnival. It worked out great for our family, and it seems like it could be fun for you and your kids, too.

They have Camp Carnival for kids over age 2 with lots of activities available from 9 am to 10 pm. We went on a 4 day cruise out of Long Beach with stops at Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico. You can choose when to have your children with you or not. Seems like it might be nice for MOM to have a break, too! The spa was a nice treat.

It is a good value with all the meals included. Fun and relaxing for all of us!

Email me if you'd like the contact info or more information. karen

Family Camp is terrific for single parents with children of various ages - you'll all have fun. Check out Berkeley's Tuolomne Camp and Oakland's Feather River Camp in the BPN archives. Happy Camper