Road Tripping for the Single Parent
The Road Trip Tradition
At some point in our lives, we have all taken a road trip. Whether it be cross country or simply across the state, a road trip is a road trip. We all pack up some snacks and make sure we have pillows for the long ones, plenty of entertainment and head out on the open road. Some hate road trip while others live for them. As an avid traveler, I have a love/hate relationship with road trips for several reasons. I love the memories from my childhood and finding new restaurants and stores that somehow stick in your mind forever. I know those of you reading are already tasting that meal you had on a road trip somewhere you never forgot. Mine was on the Riverwalk at an Italian restaurant. Their chicken lasagna was something I never forgot so over 15 years later when I go back, I immediately ask for the lasagna. The waiter remembered, but no longer had on the menu. He was one very impressed waiter for me to travel back to for that lasagna and made me promise not to wait that long again. Having Texas as a neighbor, I'm sure I'll be back sooner next time. I could go on and on about memories such as this but back to my point.
Now the cons of a road trip. The unexpected traffic delays! Thank God for GPS today to alert us of wrecks ahead with alternate routes. As a child, I can recall missing hotel reservations due to traffic and my parents having to pay for two rooms simply because we were stuck on the interstate without the handy technology of a cell phone. This is my biggest one since I just spent three hours on the interstate between San Antonio and Austin this March, causing our home arrival to be much later than anticipated. Unfortunately we came up on it right after it occurred so Siri warned us once it was too late to change course.
Even with the pros and cons I mentioned, I could go on and on with a list of reasons we as humans need road trips. They connect us to our friends and families. They give us childhood memories we will never forget, such as me trying to push my sisters head out the window riding through the Rocky Mountains as a child. They introduce us to new cultures and impact our lives in ways that make each experience different for everyone.
I chose to write this for single parents because I know the feeling of wanting to travel but not because it is just you and your little one. Well don't let that stop you! I want to share my single parent road trip experiences to inspire you to plan your next trip. Enjoy!
The Riverwalk - San Antonio
Our Baby Roadtrips
This was our main spot for vacations birth - 5 years old. If you know Branson, you know why.
Have you taken a single parent road trip?
The Early Years - Stay close to home and Save $$ for the larger trips later!
Now many parents have conflicting issues on this, but I have never seen the point in spending a fortune on a vacation ]the child won't remember and will only see in pictures. I'm one of those "get my money's worth!" type person so I want my daughter to remember every vacation experience. Would it be nice to have a picture of her somewhere amazing as a baby? Sure, but as a single parent I'm imagining it may not be in your budget. If so, then go for it!
For the single parents with less money but have the travel itch, find the closest zoo or amusement park for your first road trip. You might also want to bring a family member based on the distance.
I went for the amusement park nearby with my nephew, who is one of my favorite traveling buddies. Living in Arkansas, Branson is a three hour drive for us so Silver Dollar City is a family favorite. It was my first road trip as a baby and I knew it had to be Ella's. Amusement Parks like Silver Dollar City have a special children's section so we spent most of our time there. They also host a Children's Festival we went to every year when she was smaller. I could go on and on about all ]Silver Dollar City has to offer but if you have been then you know, and if you haven't then go and check it out!
Taking a road trip such as this for a weekend allows you time for things such as hanging at the hotel pool, mini-golf around town, or movies. Ella's first movie was in Branson on one of our trips in the IMAX theatre they have there. It was a documentary on ocean animals and she was standing in amazement the entire time.
The funnest part is discovering what your baby or toddler is willing or unwilling to do. As a toddler, Ella loved the small rollercoasters at Silver Dollar City and couldn't wait to ride the large ones. Just this year though, she left me in line on the Galveston Pleasure Pier out of fear. I come from a family of thrill seekers so this is something we have to work on as time passes because this mom has been waiting years for a roller coaster partner on her little rollercoaster partner! .
If you have ever been to the Butterfly Palace in Branson, you would think what little girl wouldn't like to go into a jungle room full of butterflies. Well, not my child because she jumped on me and started crying, causing us to leave immediately. Best 32.00 story of her childhood.
Another helpful first roadtrip tip: Be sure to video your baby crossing the state line for the first time if you are a picture/video fan like I am.
Last Helpful Hint: Like I mentioned earlier, if you are going a long distance, take a family member. My nephew was mine and on Ella's first trip she cried almost the entire way home and he had to sit with her in the back while we drove and listened to her crying and us singing. With all the baby gear and baby needs, an assistant is a must but once they hit toddler age, I recommend having some one on one bonding with your little one!
Our Fun In Branson, MissouriClick thumbnail to view full-size
I know what several may already be thinking and I agree with you to certain degrees. Some of my favorite trips from her childhood were our family Christmas trips to Silver Dollar City. Having the parents find a condo and enjoying the company of siblings and nephews, while having the freedom to depend on additional childcare is always a plus. Grandma fixes the breakfast before the entire family heads out and everyone has their own room for privacy... its a breakfast in bed feeling with a touch of home.
I prefer going the one additional family member route if I'm planning a large road trip myself. My daughter and I have enjoyed two wonderful trips with my grandmother. We took her to Texas to see her 90 year old sister before she passed and being able to spend a week with family you only see every few years was so comforting! My daughter got to meet her extended cousins and can keep in touch thanks to technology and I was able to see my great aunt and have her tell me countless stories of their childhood over our meals. The laughs and memories from our trip are something I will cherish for a lifetime.
One funny thing to remember though: Your grandmother cannot do everything, even though you and her believe she can! While staying in Odessa, we decided to go to Carslbad Caverns in New Mexico. We were halfway down into the caverns when that lightbulb flashed over my head that I brought an 80+ year old woman down into a system of caves that would be impossible to get her out of in time if something happened. Thankfully, she was as strong as I thought she was before entering and we all emerged exhausted and impressed with my grandma! How many people can say they took their 80+ year old, facebooking, texting, grandma down Carslbad Caverns and made it back up.
We took the long way home on that trip and stopped by the Oklahoma City Memorial, which is a must for all Americans. The serenity outside is breathtaking and you can feel the chills just looking at the memorial chairs. The living tree is and will always be one of my favorite spots in the world!
Taking an older family member or going on an entire family road trip can bring so many memories and new ones about your families history into your life. I recommend everyone take their grandparent somewhere and ask them everything about their childhoods and just sit back and enjoy. But remember: children and the elderly have to use the restroom more so be prepared to make lots of stops!! Our drive was a 12 hour drive. Enough said.
Family Vacations as a Single ParentClick thumbnail to view full-size
My Favorite Single Parent Road Trip :)
I'm going to share my favorite road trip as a single parent with you all because this experience not only taught me, but taught each of us something different so take that into consideration when planning your next single parent road trip!
When Ella was five and in kindergarten I decided it was finally time to take the major family road trip, significant other be damned! I was going to take her on an old fashioned one like my parents did for us as children. Several states, lots of natural parks, days shoved from morning till night of fun and memories! As a female and having a female daughter, my entire family was against this of course. It took a while, but I finally convinced my sister to let my road-trippin' nephew go with us on this adventure. He was 16 at this time and this put the family at ease enough for us to go once they decided he was "man" enough to go as well. Did I mention my family can be pretty protective?
So we took off across the South from Arkansas to Myrtle Beach. We stopped at Nashville on the way to see everything we could and stayed our first night in Gatlinburg. We got the country music experience in the afternoon and the Natural Park and the beauty of the Great Smoky's when we woke up the next morning. By evening, we had reached Myrtle Beach and spent one night in a condo thanks to a groupon and two nights camping in a tent at the state park. Yes, we camped out so you can imagine how packed my compact Kia was for this road trip. The beauty of waking up to the sunset at the Myrtle Beach State Park is something that cannot be recreated. It was well worth all the extra camping gear and the annoyance of putting up and down the tent. The cost also helped tremendously!!
Once we left Myrtle Beach, we headed down to Fort Sumter, my nephew and I both being history buffs. This is an experience for anyone traveling to Charleston, South Carolina. Once in the Museum area, you can purchase tickets for the ferry. The views from the ferry and the seating on the ferry is nice with the indoor or outdoor option. Fort Sumter itself is something you have to see in person. It was so special for Ella when we were at Shiloh last summer and she was able to write her first Civil War battle field was Ft. Sumter. History buffs understand the importance.
When we left Charleston, we headed for Atlanta and this is where I splurged on a downtown Hilton hotel room for two days. While in Atlanta we watched a Braves game, my favorite team, went to the Georgia Aquarium, and visited the Coke Museum and the Olympic Park. I come from a family of Coke drinkers. My dad worked for Coke when I was small and I always joke that they put it in my baby bottles so I was not missing out. Plus our tickets were free thanks to the Coke Rewards system and the amount of coke I drink. The Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the world and again, you have to experience to understand the magnitude of how incredible it all is, from the moment you enter until you leave. My nephew and I had the best moment here when we went to a dolphin show and got more of a man in tights performance with the dolphins that left us biting our lips and crossing our legs to keep from busting out laughing. It didn't help when he started singing. Other than the odd performance with the dolphins, I highly recommend visiting downtown Atlanta for all of the amazing locations to visit. The price of the aquarium may seem high to some but it is worth every cent!
Overall, I say this is my favorite single parent road trip because my nephew has always been like a little brother more than a nephew. We got to know each other better and I was able to get to inspire him to travel more as he got older. My daughter kept us constantly entertained and we even had a moment where we all got so tickled by a golden book my nephew was reading her we had to pull over to change her pants.
We ended the trip by leaving Atlanta and I let him drive us back home since he had just gotten his license and I knew he would love the experience. He stopped us by Talladega on the way home for a picture and a magnet.
I made him a photo book of our trip for his 18th birthday and it was his favorite present according to his mom. This is why this is by far my favorite single parent road trip. Not only did I get to take my daughter across the South and let her see the Ocean for the first time, but I got to give my nephew an experience he will always cherish.
Ella's 1st Big Road Trip
Our Favorite Road Trip!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Need a break? Leave the Little One with Family!
Just because you have a little person attached to you now doesn't mean you can't lengthen that string and take off by yourself with a friend or significant other if you meet the right one. We all had the college road trips with our pals to the beach or ours were Beale & Bourbon St living in Arkansas. Memphis in May and Bonnaroo are right next door in Tennessee and both are well worth the time and trip! My Bonnaroo experience was one I will never forget and am so glad I went, even though returning to the "real world" after 3 days in a music festival is an odd experience. But once college is over and you have a kid and your friends are all either married with kids or have drifted away, you are left coming up with creative solutions to keep in touch and keep the road trip tradition alive as we age gracefully. Here are a few things I still find time to do with my bestie and my fiance added a few guy ideas for any guy readers out there that he and his bestie do when they take a weekend getaway. Some of these may also be more adult than our old college beach days. Most of these ideas are for larger cities and for the adult in us that has a little more money now than we did when we were in college.
- Art/Music Festivals
- Gallery Openings
- Sports games
- Historical/Scenic Locations
- Camping/Hiking/Hunting Weekend (Yes, girls can go camping alone!)
- Weekend @ a beach condo or anywhere beautiful where you can sit back, relax, and enjoy time catching up with friends.
Take it from a single parent of one. I've tried to always make sure that even though I was a single parent, my child didn't miss out on the family vacation experience. Now that I am engaged and we take family vacations, my fiance and I still take weekend getaways when we can down to New Orleans or wherever we can think of and our little girl gets the weekend with the grandparents.
No matter what type of vacation you plan to take, be sure to include a family style road trip in you child's life because it is something they will always remember.