Sometimes Skype just isn’t enough. Sometimes a trip to Grandma’s house is an absolute necessity. However, when Grandma now lives a few hundred — or even a couple thousand —miles away, the only way to make that visit happen might be to travel solo with the kids.
Yes, it can be a scary thought traveling alone with kids, especially little ones that can never be left alone — not in a hotel room, not in the bathroom of a fast food restaurant.
However, solo-parenting is something that most of us in the military community are already quite accustomed to, whether we like it or not.
So, if you haven’t already taken the plunge and traveled halfway across the country with the kids in tow, here’s a few of my favorite tips to make that solo trip to Grandma’s house a little less daunting, and hopefully a great success.
1. Pick the Easiest Mode of Transportation
Some kids travel better in the car and some travel better on a plane. Call me crazy, but I’d rather spend ten days driving cross-country with my kids than spend ten hours refusing their persistent requests for soda on an airplane.
Maybe, you have one kid that gets car sick the moment the road turns, but is easily satisfied by in-flight entertainment; obviously, you’d be better off taking to the air instead of the road.
Traveling solo with kids is challenging enough. Don’t make it any harder than you have to. Choose the easiest mode of transportation for your kids and your family.
2. What’s on the Way?
While planning a solo road trip from Charleston to Houston last summer, I was undecided on where to stop until I saw Robins AFB on the map. Immediately, I thought “I must know someone who knows someone who lives there.”
I never did reach out to my connections, but I could have if I had encountered an emergency on the road or if my asthmatic son had a crisis away from home.
Just knowing that there was a community to reach out to should the need arise, and a pharmacy in case any medications had been forgotten at home, gave me peace of mind as I traveled.
3. Keep in Touch – and Keep the Kids Busy
There are hundreds of suggestions out there for keeping the kids happy in the car, on the airplane, in a restaurant, or even in a hotel room. And I’ll admit that my kids log many hours watching hotel televisions, playing on tablets (even in restaurants) and staring mindlessly at our car’s portable DVD player as I drive.
However, now that my kids have started school, I have found one particularly successful entertainment option: writing postcards to friends and family.
Before each trip, I prepare a folder for each of my kids with postcard stamps and addresses of friends and family. As we travel, the kids get to pick out a few postcards whenever we find them at a gift shop or gas station. While waiting for food at a restaurant or before settling down to watch television in our hotel room, I help them write a few postcards.
Before leaving the hotel the next morning, we drop the postcards off at the hotel’s front desk so that they can go out with the mail.
I love that my kids have the opportunity to connect with their friends who have moved away; it’s a great reminder of the connections that we have all across the country.
Of course, the kids also love to keep Daddy informed of our adventures as well.
4. Consider this Packing Tip
It has happened more than once that – I finally accomplish the impossible and get my two kids to sleep in the same bed, only to realize that I left my cell phone charger in the car.
To avoid this scenario, which is especially unpleasant with young children that cannot be left alone in a hotel room, I now pack a bag that is ALWAYS brought into the hotel – every night no matter what.
In this bag I include all chargers, my son’s asthma inhalers, extra solution for my contacts, and medications (including cough syrup because listening to my asthmatic son cough all night long before driving hundreds of miles the next day is simply not an option.)
5. Have Fun!
Traveling with my kids each summer to visit family has allowed us to keep in touch with our friends from past duty stations and see the country. It’s been an invaluable learning experience.
Even if it seems outside your comfort zone, I encourage you to give it a try!