Family Travel: Solo Parent Child Vacations
Just the Two of Us
Tips for taking a one-on-one parent/child vacation while leaving the other parent and siblings at home.
It was an ambitious itinerary: Montreal, Cleveland, Toronto and Baltimore during one week in February. I was crisscrossing the Eastern United States and Canada with my then 17-year-old son for his college music auditions—and I left my husband and my other three children behind at home.
Up until then, our family had always traveled “en famille,” but the agenda for this trip was focused on my oldest son getting into music school, and it was impractical to take my entire crew.
The one-on-one trip turned out to be a treat for both of us; there were some nice hotels and meals, and we met interesting people along the way. In the two years since, my son has said several times, “Remember the college audition trip that was just us?”
Why Travel One-on-One
My first one-on-one parent/child vacation was the result of family scheduling conflicts—my husband could not take off from work, and my other kids could not miss school. Having that one-on-one time was a wonderful way to become reacquainted with my son before he went off to college. And since that trip, I have taken each of my other children on a one-on-one getaway.
It does seem to be a trend. Amy Graff of California has recently taken mother/daughter vacations to Washington, D.C., and to Portland, Ore., as well as a mother/son trip to Philadelphia. Graff’s daughter is 5 years old; her son is 2.
Some parents like to travel with just one child because the trip can be better tailored around that child’s interests. Catherine Holecko, a Wisconsin mother of a 3-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter has traveled one-on-one with each of her kids. “I recently had a business trip to a hotel with a water park. My daughter had been working hard on her swimming lessons at that time, so I knew she would enjoy coming with me. And we both loved the one-on-one time we spent together.” And when Graff was in Philadelphia with her son, they went to a NASCAR race, something she might not have done if she had brought her daughter along instead.
Benefits and Challenges of a One-on-One Vacation
According to Nadine Nardi Davidson, a travel consultant and author of the book Travel with Others Without Wishing They’d Stayed Home, most of her clients who book a solo trip with just one child do so because “it gives them the opportunity to bond with that child and share quality time together.”
Another benefit? When you travel with just one child the family dynamic changes—your child will generally behave better because siblings aren’t around to argue with! There is also a benefit to the spouse left behind: They are parenting one less child at home.
But when you travel as a twosome there are challenges, too. Everything is up to you—and you alone. You will need to keep your child occupied without your spouse as back-up or relying on your kids to entertain each other. The other major challenge for parents is the jealousy factor—the child or children left behind may feel some resentment.
Five Tips to Make a One-on-One Vacation Work For Everybody
- Separate, but equal. Let your kids know that each of them will get their turn for a special one-on-one vacation.
- Choose a “just-right” destination. A one-on-one trip to New York City may be perfect for a 12-year-old, but overwhelming for a 6-year-old.
- Make sure that the child or children who stay home have special outings and treats while you are away.
- Remember, it’s your vacation, too. Especially if your child is young or if you are planning a longer vacation, you may want to choose a resort or cruise that have planned kid’s activities so that you can have a break.
- First timer? Solo-parenting away from home isn’t always easy. You may want to consider a weekend one-on-one getaway first.