Finding alone time as a solo mom parent when I’m traveling solo with my four children is one of my top travel challenges.
I know that I’m not the only parent who struggles with finding alone time while traveling, road tripping, or adventuring around the globe. As my children get older, it’s getting significantly easier to find a few moments to myself when I’m somewhere far away from our home base.
But it’s still not easy. When I’m in a new, unfamiliar destination, alone with my children half-way around the planet, and not knowing anyone, leaving my children alone even for a short time is not an idea that sits well with me.
Solo Travel with Kids in Tow
I can’t begin to tell you how many yoga classes or trail running adventures I’ve wanted to take in new places, cities, towns, and parks. But I’ve missed out missed because I’ve had the kids in tow. And I had no one to watch them for an hour–or even for thirty, little, precious mommy time minutes.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been so exhausted while traveling somewhere on this planet and wished that I could have 30 seconds to call my own. Seconds just to breathe. Or to regain my happy, patient mommy footing. What to do? I usually settled for the space offered behind a closed bathroom door.
But, really, I’m not complaining. Not at all.
I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve gained traveling as a solo travel mom with my children for anything.
But I know, I’m certainly not the first mother in history to grapple with the solo travel mom alone time issue.
The Struggle is Real
Finding downtime. Recharge time. Restorative time. Me time. A solo mom time out. Whatever you want to call it, finding time alone when you’re traveling with kids is a real struggle.
The struggle applies to single moms and single dads. It applies to married or partnered parents without (and even with) the support of significant others.
Gosh, even people traveling without children struggle to find personal time and space.
Finding alone time while traveling alone with a child is often challenging. It is further challenging when you travel with multiple children.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Traveling and find alone time can be tough even when there are two parents traveling together with kids. It can be hard to find individual alone time, not to mention couple time.
With a little bit of mom magic and creativity, I’ve come up with 12 ways for finding or sneaking in alone time when you’re traveling solo with kids. Read on if you’re desperately seeking ways to recharge while on the road or go.
Creative Ways to Find Alone Time When You’re Traveling Solo or Single
1. Remember to Breathe.
When you’re traveling, especially with children, don’t feel like you have to do everything or show them everything to absorb the experience. You don’t have to satisfy an endless bucket list in order for the travel experience to influence, shape, and soak into a child. Take time to breathe, especially when you’re stressed out or exhausted. Seriously, bring awareness to your breath.
Allow yourself the gift of slow travel, even if you only have a short window of time from which to make the most. And allow space for yourself and take things a bit slower. Allow your child to have space to breathe, too. Kids often appreciate downtime when traveling. Enjoy the adventure.
2. Schedule Relaxed Activities that Restore Balance.
Opt for activities that will recharge you and restore your balance, even with your child(ren) alongside you. Perhaps this means finding a lovely coffee shop, buying your favorite beverage, and giving your child a bunch of crayons and paper or activity books (or an iPad), while you sip away and people watch.
This was one of my favorite ways to restore balance while spending a month solo with my four kids in Paris. Perhaps it means a low-key park picnic or a trip to the playground (where you can sit quietly on a bench and read a book, while listening to your children play around you), instead of taking yet another castle tour.
My me-time while traveling confession: In one city, I opted to buy the multi-day double deck bus tour not only because I knew my kids would love it and would love listening to the audio tour (and would love getting “free” headphones), but because it gave me hours to sit on a bus with few mom demands. I bought my kids soda (a big deal) and candy treats. They happily learned about the city’s incredible history while chugging down Coke and eating sweets, and I enjoyed a bit of zen.
3. Start a Yoga & Meditation Practice.
As I mentioned in this interview, yoga and meditation are powerful tools that allow me to find me time within the same space I’m occupying with my children. Sometimes I take time to work on yoga poses (asana) while the kids are playing or talking to me, or when I find beautiful, breathtaking places that call me to yoga practice.
While it may not be the perfect place or timing for meditation, I can usually sneak in a few minutes to meditate somewhere in the day or at night before I fall asleep–my mala beads are useful in getting in a round of mantra and breath. Getting up before the kids to squeeze in a yoga session is always so incredibly peaceful–and I don’t even have to leave the house, rental, hotel, motorhome, etc. It’s easy to travel with a yoga mat or yoga straps. One mat I have, a Manduka Superlight, is extremely packable and portable. You can also put down a hotel towel or two on the floor to use as a makeshift yoga mat.
4. Movie Time.
As you might do back at home, you can always play the movie card. Stream a movie on your computer or pop in a DVD on your television away from home for the kids, close the door, and go enjoy time to yourself in the other room–or time with your significant other. Headphones with noise cancelling features work magic too–especially ones that dampen noise, but still allow you to hear your children if they need help.
5. Ask your apartment owner or hotel for babysitter leads.
On several occasions, I’ve asked the owner of an apartment that I was renting on AirBNB or VRBO for babysitter or nanny leads. If you rent a property from a family, chances are they may know someone, like a neighbor or local nanny, who is trustworthy and can help you out with babysitting services.
Some hotels keep lists of babysitters and local nanny services who provide short-term care. Some rental advertisements on sites such as VRBO will even mention that babysitting services could be available. I remember looking at a rental on a family farm in France once, and the owner told me that her teenage daughter loved to babysit children. The longer you stay in a location, the more likely you will get to know other families or people in the neighborhood who might be willing to help you out.
6. Join homeschool, Expat, or other networking groups in your destination.
Once you know your destination, consider looking for local homeschool, expat, or other parent-child groups online, Facebook groups, meet-ups, where you might learn about local babysitting services or opportunities that will afford you alone time. For example, there is the Worldschooling Facebook group that posts weekly ‘where in the world’ are you updates.
7. Kids’ Night Out.
Look for kids’ night out (sometimes called parent night outs) in your destination that allow you to drop off your child(ren) while you catch a couple of hours to yourself. When I’ve traveled to New York City, I used Project Playdate several times, which gave me a bit of time to enjoy the city as a grownup. Look to recreation/fitness centers, YMCAs, churches, gymnastics schools, play centers, and childcare centers, as they often host these opportunities.
8. Spa night.
Buy some amazing products from your local destination–bath soap, bath bubbles, maybe a bottle of wine, sparkling juice or water, a candle, a good magazine or book–and fill up the tub after you’ve tucked the kids into bed. Sometimes you can find candles or incense at local farmer markets in your travels that can add local charm to your solo mom travel time-out experience.
If you are staying in a hotel or apartment with a fitness center, and you feel comfortable enough to leave your children, you may be able to go across the hall or downstairs and sneak in a workout to yourself. Also keep in mind that some fitness centers offer childcare. You may find a fitness center in your destination that offers childcare while you workout or remain on the premises. On my RV trip, I traveled with a Burley and found time to run on the beach with my kids.
10. Shut the bathroom door.
Sometimes you just have to tell your kids you need a few moments alone. So, head into the bathroom and close the door. Read a book, sit in silence, cry, meditate, pray, call your mom, significant other, or BFF. If it helps you, it’s worth it. Happy parent = happy kids.
11. Invite backup.
If you’re planning to travel solo for an extended period of time, ask for help ahead of time. If you know where you’re headed, ask your mom, dad, sibling, or best friend to come for a visit. While on my 48-State RV Tour, my parents met me at a campground in Florida. I remember enjoying a rare night out sans kids. The best part? I didn’t have to worry at all about the kids. I knew they were having a blast with their grandparents.
12. Look for Classes.
Enroll your child(ren) in classes, workshops, or programs along your travel adventure. While they are in classes or camps, you can enjoy time alone. Or, you can have downtime to focus on another child.
My children have enjoyed week long writing workshops and art classes around the planet. For example, in New York City they’ve taken writing camps. They’ve taken French classes at a Language school in Paris. And they’ve had tennis classes in Germany and yoga classes in California. While they have attended classes, I enjoyed one-on-one time with my youngest exploring the destination.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. Find that important and precious alone time! Just because you’re away from home or away from an established support network doesn’t mean you can’t find a little time to yourself.
Have other ideas for sneaking in solo mom travel alone time while on the road or away from home? What did I miss? Drop a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
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