My First Solo-Parent Trip :: A Tactical Guide to Traveling as The Only Parent


I never imagined vacationing as a solo parent. Yet, when I was presented with an opportunity to take my daughter on a vacation, off we went on our first adventure as mom and daughter. Was it hard? Yes! Was it worth it? Yes! Did I learn a lot? You betcha! No matter whether you are a single mom or just planning some one-on-one time with your kiddo, here are some tips for that next solo parent trip. 

Where To Go

Deciding where to go can be overwhelming, regardless of whether you are traveling as a solo parent or taking the entire family. If you’re new to traveling solo with your child or children, consider visiting a destination you already know and love. It will make planning your trip much less stressful. You already know where things are located there and how to navigate that area. Plus, you will get to make new memories in a familiar place!

Packing Prep

A planner by nature, I like to pull our clothing options well before I begin packing. Using a collapsible clothing rack, I plan our outfits and purge what we do not need to take. To go an extra step, I try on anything I am unsure of. If I’m only going to take what I absolutely need, I want to make sure everything looks the way I imagine. With a growing child, I also need to make sure anything she hasn’t worn recently still fits. This process has helped me pack lighter and eliminate all those “maybe” items, while avoiding any outfit disasters.

One of my favorite packing hacks is using packing cubes. These are not new to my packing routine, but I utilized them differently on this trip as a solo parent. I paired my outfit with my daughter’s and folded them Marie Kondo-style into the cubes. This trip included a few stops so I chose cubes for each stop. I thought this might be overkill, but it ended up working perfectly! I was able to easily pull what we needed, one packing cube at a time, without unpacking the entire suitcase. Each packing cube included full outfits for that portion of the trip, including socks and undergarments. All toiletries and accessories went into a small, carry-on sized suitcase.

The packing tool that has saved me the most headaches is a luggage scale. Inexpensive and portable, it can easily be packed so you can check your bags’ weights prior to your return, after purchasing souvenirs. No one wants to pay extra because their luggage is overweight. You also do not want to be trying to repack your bags to shift weight between them at the airport. This simple tool takes away any heavy luggage surprises.

Flying Away

The airport portion of our trip was the hardest. I tried to keep our luggage to a minimum and our carry-on items light. Despite all my packing prep, I had no idea how hard this was going to be or how much I would learn. Being a mom means being resourceful, right? I always recommend using curbside check-in when available, and I cannot stress how helpful this service is if you are juggling all the luggage alone. It is so easy to drop your luggage at the curb rather than dragging it through the airport to the baggage check area. It is worth the tip I give to the porter to let go of my luggage as quickly as possible. Smaller airports, such as the Birmingham Airport, typically have a short bag check line if you prefer to go inside.

After dropping off our luggage, we still had our carry-on items. My daughter insisted on bringing several electronics, and I always travel with my laptop for work. All of this got really heavy, so pairing down the electronics will be necessary before our next trip in order to save my back and shoulders a lot of pain. At one point I had a carry-on bag, my backpack, and my daughter’s backpack. Looking back, one device for my daughter would have been more than enough. I am also looking to exchange my heavy laptop for an iPad. This will make both of our backpacks much lighter and easier to manage. I recommend investing in a quality travel backpack that disperses weight well. Another option would be to use an under-seat rolling bag. You could easily attach a child’s backpack to the rolling bag, too.

A better carry-on plan will make both grabbing snacks and bathroom breaks much easier. Previously, I would leave my bag(s) with my companion to grab a snack or take my daughter for that last-minute potty check before boarding. Now, all the bags have to go with me! We made it work, but lighter devices and better bag choices will make this a better experience next time.

Baggage Claim Craziness

Baggage claim areas should be redesigned with soothing color palettes and relaxing music because they definitely bring out anxiety in people. Personally, my anxiety increased as I realized I had way more than I could possibly move on my own. Thank goodness for rent-able luggage carts! Having never rented one before, it simply didn’t occur to me to plan to use one. Standing around trying to figure out how to move my luggage with my 7-year-old in tow pushed me to take advantage of this nearby resource. While I have always thought my luggage was fine, I now know the value of luggage with good balance and wheels. If you travel often, investing in nicer luggage can be well worth it. Some great tools often used by flight crews are J-Hooks and luggage tandem straps. These both allow you to attach a smaller piece of luggage to a larger piece of luggage so you can pull them together.

Moving Around

This recent trip of mine included 3 stops. Therefore, each time I had to move our luggage, I was reminded that I was not equipped like an octopus. It was a struggle, but every move reminded me that I can do this better next time, and I should pass my newly discovered tips along to others. I looked at loading/unloading areas at resorts in a new way. Luggage carts are nearly extinct, and even if you happen find one, navigating today’s lobby areas can be a bit tricky. Bellhops are a thing of the past in many places, so it is up to you to check-in and get that luggage (and your child) to your room. Do not get sidetracked by Starbucks or the cute giftshop!

Returning Home

The best thing about our vacation ending was that I was done juggling heavy bags and luggage. The worst thing about our vacation ending was that we were so sad it was over. One-on-one vacations with your child(ren) are priceless. The experience is so unique, even in a familiar place. You’ll have different adventures and conversations than you’ve had previously. One mom of three has told me that traveling with one child is actually easier for her than traveling with the whole family. There is no arguing over what to do or where to eat, and they love the attention. Whether the trip is hard or easy or somewhere in between, you are guaranteed an unforgettable adventure while traveling with your family. I can’t wait to do it all over again!

List of Resources and Tools

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