Are you a single mom who needs help planning for long-term travel with kids? Are you thinking of traveling round the world or going on vacation with your kids? If you answered yes, then I have some tips for you.
In many ways planning for long-term travel with kids is the same whether you are a single-parent family or a two-parent family. However, it’s also true that single parents face some unique challenges when traveling alone with their kids.
Before you buy the plane tickets and start jet-setting around the world,there are a few things you need to consider.
If you’re a single mom who’d like to travel long-term with your kids, or go on vacation, here are some things to think about to help you prepare for your trip:
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Do you have sole legal and physical custody of your kids? If you answered yes,then you’re good to go.You can skip this part if you wish. All you need is documentary proof. This can be a court order, birth certificates without the father’s name etc.
What if you have physical custody but not sole legal custody? If this is your situation, you’ll need a letter of consent, a signed consent form or any other legal document your home country or the countries you plan to visit require.
You’ll need to research this so you can obtain the proper documentation.
Now the all-important question.
What if your ex refuses to give consent? This is a very tough question to answer. Let me just say the answer depend on the parties involved and their unique circumstances.
If this is your situation, here are some questions for you to consider:
- Why is your ex withholding consent?
- Does he have valid reasons or concerns? For example concerns about the kids’ education (if they are school aged), health concerns, parenting concerns or financial concerns (maybe he’s worried about how you can afford to travel and take care of the kids long-term)?
- Is your ex open to discussing the issue? Are you willing to discuss the issue?
- What is the “real” reason you want to travel with your kids? It’s always a good idea to examine our motives.
- How’s the relationship between your kids and their dad?
- Have you considered how the absence/separation from their dad for weeks or months at a time would affect them?
- Are your kids okay with not seeing their dad for weeks or months at a time (assuming their dad is in their lives )?
- Is there a court order that restricts what you can and cannot do with the kids?
I know that’s a lot of questions for you to think about, but I believe these questions are necessary, and may save you some stress down the road.
I’m fortunate that my kids have always lived with me. My ex-husband and I have been able to work things out between us without recourse to the law. Maybe this is due in part to my willingness to accept the small child support payment he makes.
I know there are many single moms who have very bitter relationships with their ex-husbands or partners. This can be a big problem if you want to travel long-term with your kids.
I do not advice or recommend traveling with kids without the other parent’s consent because this can lead to more serious problems.
While I’ve never been asked for any document when traveling with my kids, I always have my divorce papers, kids’ birth certificates, emails from their dad etc. to show that I’m not kidnapping the kids, and their dad knows we are traveling.
I know countries like Canada and South Africa have very strict laws about traveling alone with kids. There are probably a few other countries out there, but I know about these two because I was thinking about visiting them.
So it’s important to do some research when planning for long-term travel with your kids (or short-term for that matter).
Other legal matters
This is an obvious one but I just wanted to point it out. Some important documents you need before traveling are:
- Valid/unexpired passports for everyone (including babies).
- Visas if required
- Return tickets or other proof of onward destination (if required).
It’s important to know the travel and visa rules of the country or region you plan to visit. For example,travelers visiting the Schengen area can only visit for ninety days within a 180-day period.
At the end of the ninety days you must leave the area and cannot return until you’ve spent ninety days outside the Schengen zone.
Note the United Kingdom and Ireland are not part of the Schengen area. For more information about this topic, check out this post Guide to Long-term travel in Europe for some ideas.
Please note this post was written in 2013 and some things may have changed. Please do your own research before traveling.You can also read this post How to (legally) Stay In Europe For More Than 90 Days for some more information.
If you homeschool your kids, then it’s important to know the homeschooling laws of the countries you plan to visit or stay. This may not be an issue if you plan to stay for only a few days or weeks in one country. But if you plan to stay long-term in one country, ensure you know the homeschooling laws of that place.
Some countries are very strict when it comes to homeschooling. The HSLDA website is the best resource for up-to-date information on homeschooling laws.
I know homeschooling is illegal in Germany, Sweden, and Netherlands. The rules are unclear in Spain, while it’s legal in Italy,United Kingdom, and France (though you may need to deal with some bureaucracy in France).
Health Insurance and Medical Care
While this may not be a big concern if you and your kids are in relatively good health, it’s important to think bout health insurance and how you plan to deal with medical emergencies.
Some questions to consider:
- Is adequate healthcare available in the country/countries you are visiting?
- Will you have access to quality healthcare if you need it?
- What happens if you or your kids suddenly become ill?
- Can you afford quality healthcare when traveling?
- If you or your kids have any chronic medical conditions (allergies, diabetes, etc), are they under control?
- Do you need vaccines before you visit a particular country or region? If you’re a family who do not vaccinate, how do you plan to deal with this issue? Since we vaccinate,I can’t offer any advice on this issue.
- If you’re on prescription medication,are the drugs readily available in the places you plan to visit? Don’t forget to research the generic and brand names of the drugs you need. For example, you won’t find Tylenol or Motrin in the UK, instead you’ll find Calpol or Paracetamol and Neurofen.
It’s possible to get some prescription drugs like antibiotics over the counter in certain countries.
However, don’t assume you can get your prescription filled everywhere. Do proper research before setting off. You may also need to get letters from your doctor before traveling.
Some challenges to think about when traveling:
- Do you speak the local language?
- Will you have access to English-speaking doctors and other personnel (if English is your first language)?
- Can you find interpreters who understand medical terminology? This can help to prevent medical errors.
While it’s good to think about these questions, there’s no need to be paranoid about finding adequate medical care.
Many countries outside the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia have excellent and affordable healthcare, so as long as you do your research, you should be fine. The key is to plan and be prepared for any emergency.
I know there are people who forgo health insurance and prefer to pay out-of-pocket for their medical needs. But in the unfortunate event that you or a member of your family needs repatriation, this can be very expensive.
It’s important to consider all your options before making a decision.
You have chosen your destinations or at least you have an idea of the places you’d like to visit. The next question is how do you plan to get there? Is it cheaper, quicker and more convenient to travel by air, train, or car?
If you’re traveling within Europe, Australia, the United States or Canada, you have the option of traveling in an RV or Campervan while roadschooling your kids.
Roadschooling has become very popular and it’s a good option for moms who cannot travel internationally for whatever reason.
Some common reasons why some moms don’t travel with their kids include fear, insecurity, or an ex that’s determined to ruin your life (kidding).
Traveling within your country is a great option for moms who prefer to test the waters before committing themselves fully to the travel lifestyle.
This is a good way to discover if long-term travel works for your family. Whilst traveling with kids has a lot of great benefits, it can be difficult and tiring sometimes.
Back to the topic…
Some other questions to consider:
Do you need to book ahead if you’re planning to visit multiple destinations, or do you prefer to be open and flexible in case your travel plans change?
How do you plan to get around when you arrive at your destination? Do you plan to use public transport or prefer to rent a car?
We always use public transport when we travel. Depending on the city, this can be a bit expensive. In some big cities like Paris and London, children up to a certain age can travel free or pay a reduced fare. Whereas in Lisbon and Nice, tram and metro tickets cost the same for both adults and kids.
It’s a good idea to research what’s available at your destination so you can figure out the cheapest option. Walking is a fun and cheap way to get around a city, but this isn’t always practicable when you’re traveling with kids.
How to afford long-term travel
The biggest question many single moms have when considering long-term travel with kids is how much they need to save. How much you need to save depends on the places you plan to visit and how you plan to travel.
What I mean is, what kind of traveler are you? Are you a budget traveler, a luxury traveler or somewhere in between?
Where do you want to go? Some destinations are cheaper and more budget-friendly than others. If you’re planning to spend most of your time in the western countries, you should expect to spend more money.
Some families choose to stay in Southeast Asia, Latin America and other cheaper destinations. No one is better than the other. You can choose your destinations based on your budget, your bucket list or any other criteria that’s important to you and your family.
One thing I can say is that you should expect to spend more than you originally budgeted especially in the first few months.
Child Care and Self Care
Don’t forget your emotional and mental health. What will you do about “me” time? Taking a break from kids can be a bit difficult when you’re traveling alone in a foreign country. You’re worried about safety and leaving the kids alone with strangers.
If you have young kids, you can research child care or play groups in the cities you plan to visit. If you plan on working while you’re on the road, you may need a few hours a day to devote to your work.
Just some things to think about.
There are many options to choose from depending on your budget and travel style. We have stayed in hotels and private rentals for most of our trips.
I can say that accommodation is the biggest expense when traveling with kids. I want my kids to be as comfortable as they can be when traveling, so I am open to spending a bit more in this category (mostly because of a medical condition).
Before choosing your accommodation, think about what is important to you. City center hotels or apartments are usually more expensive, but you’re close to everything and will save on transportation since you can walk to most places.
It’s cheaper to live in the boondocks, but you will need a car to travel around, and you may end up faraway from the main attractions.
It really depends on the purpose of your trip. If you need a place to relax after a long period of traveling around, then staying far from the city center is a better option.
We have done it both ways, but we prefer staying close to, or in the city center.
Food and what to eat
I don’t really have a lot to say about this. Eat whatever you can afford. I have a very picky eater, so I tend to be very flexible when it comes to eating.
This is a battle I prefer not to fight. Things are stressful enough as it is! Truth be told, I am not very adventurous when it comes to food and trying new cuisines.
You probably won’t see me posting pictures of food or giving recommendations of where to eat (well, except for eat lots of pastries when in France). We eat what we like and can afford.
Watch out how much you spend eating out. You can easily ruin your budget if you don’t pay attention. Avoid buying foods, drinks and snacks when visiting popular attractions. Bring your own or wait until you’re out of the area.
Prices are usually cheaper if you purchase stuff from shops or vendors outside the main tourist areas.
Hopefully, I have given you enough tips to get started.
If you’re a single mom who really wants to travel with her kids, then I encourage you to do it if you can make it work. I see the joy, light and laughter on my kids faces, and I say to myself “It is worth it. The sacrifice, the discomfort, the penny-pinching.”
Even if we stopped traveling today, my kids would have seen more and experienced more than a lot of people ever would.
It’s true there are hurdles and challenges to navigate and overcome, but as long as you have a plan, have the right motives, and your heart is in the right place, then you can make it work.
There are people who choose to travel for the wrong reasons like escaping their problems, or to spite their ex (deprive their ex from seeing the kids). Traveling won’t solve the problem and may even exacerbate it.
But I know there are many moms who choose to travel because they want to broaden their horizons, give their kids a world-class education, and serve others. To those moms I say, hope your dreams come true.
The list of blogs below are the ones I read as soon as the idea of traveling with my kids came into my mind. I spent hundreds of hours reading blogs posts and trying to absorb as much as I could.
I also read the books and blog posts below for more tips and inspiration.
This post 18+ Tips for Traveling With Kids also has lots of useful tips. Check it out!
How to Travel The World on $50 a Day -. I haven’t read this book but a lot of travel bloggers recommend it. You can check it out of you like. The author is solo traveler, but I’m sure there are tips that family travelers can use to plan and save money. (Just purchased the kindle edition for $2.99 and will be reading it soon).
Take Your Kids To Europe – This book is useful if you plan to travel around Europe.
Are you a traveling single mom or do dream of traveling with your kids? What challenges have you faced, or are you facing? Please leave your comments below. Would love to hear about your experiences.