You finally took the plunge, bought the tickets and packed the suitcases, but you still have one nagging question at the back of your mind. And that question is, how to stay safe when traveling as a single mom.
Traveling alone with your kids can cause all sorts of anxiety for a single mom. You have so many questions, and if you’re the very imaginative type, you’re probably thinking of all the things that could possibly go wrong.
I am here to reassure you that you’re not alone! It takes courage and faith to hop on that plane with your kids and believe that everything is going to be just fine.
So if you’re scared and wondering how to stay safe when traveling, I can offer some tips to help you do just that.
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How To Stay Safe When Traveling As a Single Mom
First, let me start by saying most people you’ll come across are good people, so there’s no need to be paranoid when traveling.
Now for some practical tips.
1. Choose your destinations carefully
The world is a very big place and there’s so much to do and see. There’s beauty in every place, but some ugliness also exists. Know what you’re comfortable with before you choose your destination.
It’s pointless going to a place if you’re going to spend the bulk of your time looking behind you, scared about everything,and afraid to actually venture out to enjoy the sights,people and culture!
Research your travel destinations carefully. What do you need to know about the place? Any civil/political unrest? Is it rife with crime?
Make a list of the things that are important to you, and see if a particular destination meets your criteria. If you’re a minority traveler like us, maybe you’re concerned about racism and stuff like that.
It’s true that some places are not as welcoming as others. That shouldn’t stop you from visiting a particular place, as long as you’re prepared, and you know what to expect.
Check out the US Department of State for up to date travel advisories. Like I said at the beginning, there’s no need to be paranoid, and don’t believe everything you read.
2. Google/research common scams in your destination
Every city/state/country have some scams going on. Before traveling to a particular place, try to find out the common scams in that destination so you can spot them when you see them.
For example, accepting flowers or other “gifts” from someone on the street. Once you have accepted them, the scammer starts demanding money from you. They usually offer them to your kids because it’s harder for them to resist.
We watched some YouTube videos to see how pickpockets operate in Paris,Barcelona and some other major cities before traveling.
Pick pockets are a huge problem in most of the big cities in Europe and other places, you just have to be vigilant at all times.
3. Research and choose your accommodation wisely
Before or (after) booking your hotel or rental, try to research the neighborhood. You can use google map and read the reviews from other travelers, so you know what kind of neighborhood you’d be staying.
I once booked a hotel in Berlin in one of the red light districts. Oops. The ladies were active not only at night, but also during the day.
Can you say awkward? It wasn’t really fun trying to hurry the kids along,stop them from staring, or hoping they wouldn’t ask any awkward question.
Basically, you want to know what kind of neighborhood it is. Is it quiet or noisy? Is it close to some of the main attractions? Is it on a busy street? The downside of staying at a hotel on a busy street is the noise never stops even at night.
I know that sometimes due to budget constraints it isn’t always possible to stay in the nicest locations or hotels.Just do the best that you can. Know what you’re comfortable with and try to work around/with your budget.
A little bit of noise or discomfort doesn’t hurt anyone!
4. Try to blend in and not stand out
Try to blend in as much as you can. This isn’t always possible depending on the location. This can be difficult to do if you’re an English speaker in a non-English speaking country, or you’re from a different race from the locals.
One thing you can do is to plan your journey ahead of time, so you can avoid pulling out maps or looking lost when you’re out and about.
I usually write my itinerary on a piece of paper instead of pulling out maps and standing out as a tourist. I will usually check it before leaving home, and once before getting on a train/bus.
This way, I know what train to board, where to get off, how many stops before our stop, and how long the journey would take.
Confession time: I am really bad at reading maps so this works better for me. Ha!
Some people prey on tourists, so anything you can do to not stand out is a good thing.
5. Watch out for dangerous drivers and know the traffic rules
This one is a big one for me. Traffic rules are so different from what we are used to. Pedestrian crossings or crosswalks in the UK and US doesn’t mean the same thing in some parts of Europe.
Don’t assume that drivers will automatically stop for you at a crosswalk. You have to wait and make sure they stop before attempting to cross the road.
Some drivers in some cities like Rome and Lisbon engage in dangerous driving, so you need to be extra careful in such places.
Always try to have one hand free if you can, so you can hold younger kids (if they are too old to be in a stroller) when crossing the road or waiting to cross .
Just exercise caution and use common sense like you would at home.
6. Have a plan about what to do if you lose a kid or get separated
Before leaving home, map out a plan for what to do if a kid gets lost or is separated from you. Let them know how to identify those in authority that can help them like policemen, train or station attendants etc. I usually tell my kids to look for someone wearing a uniform or another mom with kids in case of an emergency.
My kids were 7 and 10 when we started traveling so they could understand and follow instructions. I told them that if we ever got separated on the train, they should get off at the next stop and look for a staff member there. They should let them know I would be coming along shortly.
Make sure older kids know their full names, your name, maybe telephone number and possibly where you’re staying.
Of course we hope we never have to go through such an experience, but it’s always better to have a plan so everyone knows what to do in an emergency.
7. Ask older kids to help out
I always try to have one hand free when I am out and about, but sometimes that isn’t always possible. I always ask my son to watch out for his sister when I am busy or engaged with other stuff.
I tell him to hold his sister’s hand or stay with her while crossing the road, or walking in busy areas if I have my hands full,or sometimes while I am taking some pictures.
Ask your older kids to stay with their younger kids to stop them from wandering off. If my daughter needs to go and look at something, I always ask my son to go with her (they are always within my sight), and he’s happy every chance he gets to throw his weight around as the big brother.
Some other safety tips:
- For younger kids, you can label their clothes or jackets with identifying information in case they get lost.
- Pack light and always have one hand free if you can.
- Avoid going out at night or going to places without a lot of people/crowd.
- Stay alert. Be aware of people around you and watch out for pickpockets.
- Keep valuables safe and out of sight. You can wear a money bag like this one, or some special clothing.
- Avoid dangerous situations. Exercise caution like you would at home, just use common sense and you should be fine.
- Lay some ground rules like no wandering away from the group etc.
- Be wary of offers of help from strangers, and be careful from whom you accept help.
- A lot of crimes are crimes of opportunity. So avoid flashing money or valuables especially in very busy areas.
- Keep photocopies of your passports and other important documents. I have scanned copies as an attachment in an email.
- Try to keep your purse in front of you if you can. I carry a medium-size cross-body purse which is very handy for me.
Hopefully, I have given you some useful tips to help you stay safe on your journey.
Let me sign off by saying that, you don’t need to live in fear or be paranoid. Most people you’ll come across are good people. All you need to do is to use the same care you would at home.
So go out there and have fun with your kids without worrying about things that probably wouldn’t happen. We haven’t lost any of our possessions or gotten lost or anything like that.
We just go about our business knowing that we have a plan if anything goes wrong.
Are you a single mom traveling alone with your kids? How do you stay safe when traveling? Or are you thinking of traveling alone with your kids? Do you have any concerns or tips for staying safe?
Let me know in the comments.