Why you shouldn’t feel an ounce of guilt about traveling alone
Imagine this: a white-sand beach, crystal-clear turquoise water, and a margarita in your hand. Absolute bliss, right? Now imagine that Kid Number One needs a diaper change, and Kid Number Two is screaming because she got sand in her mouth . . . again. By the time you get home from your vacation, you’ll need another one to recover from all that “family fun.”
Family vacations are billed as fun for the whole family, but single moms are often left in the dust. That’s why it’s not just OK but almost mandatory that you travel without your kids at least once in a while. No matter how strange it might seem to vacation without your kids, it goes a long way toward helping Solo Moms stay sane. Here’s why.
1. Family vacations aren’t a break for the grown-ups. The whole reason for taking a vacation in the first place is to get a break from the stress of daily life. When you bring your kids along, not only do you still have to keep up with your daily routine, but also it’s actually more work than usual. Kids get thrown off their schedules, you don’t have all of their favorite toys and comfort items in your hotel room or Airbnb, and many kids (mine included!) tend to get super cranky while they adjust to travel. By the time they get used to the change of location, it’s usually time to head home.
What this means is that family vacations don’t really end up being vacations for Solo Moms at all. The kids have fun, but we never end up getting that desperately needed break for ourselves. So although it’s great to bring the kids along and go on adventures together, it’s equally important to get away on your own sometimes. That’s when the real relaxation happens.
2. Not everywhere is best visited with kids. I’ve taken my kids to Las Vegas during a road trip, and it was a great family destination. We swam, visited the shark reef, and walked up and down the strip, marveling at all of the amazing architecture. Although that was fun, it didn’t come close to my adult trips to Vegas during which my friends and I ate at gourmet restaurants, shopped for hours, and drank cocktails and played blackjack until 3:00 a.m.
The truth is that not every location is appropriate for kids. Some locations may be too dangerous to bring your kids, and others may be just too grown-up for them to appreciate. It’s tough to spend hours poring over artifacts in a museum when your kids are itching to go swimming, and it’s even less enjoyable to have to leave shows or events you were excited about when your kids have a meltdown.
When you travel without your kids, you can visit anywhere you desire without worrying about your kids’ safety or whether they’ll be able to find anything they like to eat on the menu. You can also enjoy the nightlife without having to arrange a single thing! No babysitters required.
3. You deserve to have fun. As Solo Moms, it’s easy to get caught up in what our kids want and need, and to forget that we’re people with wants and needs, too. It’s hard to prioritize our own enjoyment over our kids’ joy at the sight of the Disneyland parade, but our kids need to learn that not everything is about them. It’s healthy for our kids to grow up knowing that they’re just one part of a family and that their moms are important, too. Traveling without them may not win you Mom of the Year points in their eyes, but it reinforces the idea to them (and you!) that your needs matter.
Being a Solo Mom is a hard job, there’s no two ways around it. We live our lives on everyone else’s schedules, and we have to-do lists for our to-do lists. All that hard work takes a toll, and no matter how hard we try, none of us is Superwoman! We all need space to have fun, be silly, and enjoy ourselves. The least we can do is take a weekend for ourselves once or twice a year, preferably somewhere without a single kid in sight!
4. Being alone reminds us of who we are when we aren’t being Mommy. I became a mom at 19 years old, and it’s hard to remember who I was before that point. My oldest son is 18 years old, and I’ve officially spent more of my life mothering than not. So much of my identity is wrapped up in motherhood that it’s easy to let it consume me. But none of us is just a mom; we are all people with our own wants, needs, desires, and passions. Getting some time alone can help us rekindle those passions, or even just remember who we are aside from being mothers.
Jessica Friedmann is a mom from Canberra, Australia, who experienced this firsthand. “I travelled alone for six weeks through Lisbon, Budapest, Marseille, and Athens picking up travel stories and finishing my book,” she said. “It was the first time I’d done anything really independently since my four-year-old son was born, and while I missed him tremendously, it felt so incredibly freeing to engage deeply with parts of myself that are necessarily suppressed as a parent.”
Whether you take a trip to pursue your career goals like Friedmann did or simply unwind on the shore, when you have time to yourself, you’re guaranteed to find parts of yourself you’ve let fall by the wayside during the daily grind.
5. Traveling alone teaches us to prioritize ourselves. Self-care is a term that’s thrown around a lot, but no one needs it more than Solo Moms. At the same time, Solo Moms often struggle the hardest to find the resources they need to carve out time for themselves. If the idea of traveling around the world sounds laughably out of reach, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for you to travel on your own. It just means you need to get creative—and that will happen only if you make yourself a priority.
When our kids need something, most of us will move heaven and earth to get them what they need. Taking care of ourselves is equally important yet easy to overlook. Making self-care a priority for travel can help us renew our commitment to taking care of ourselves in other areas, too. Building self-care into our routines helps us be better mothers and happier people, and travel can kick-start that process (or be a welcome addition!).
Travel can mean many different things: it can be as simple as swapping houses with a girlfriend for a weekend while your kids stay with their grandparents, or as elaborate as spending weeks traveling the globe. There’s a solution for every budget and every Solo Mom, but you’ll find it only if you recognize that you need a chance to unwind, renew, and recharge.
There’s no wrong way to travel as a Solo Mom. What are your favorite trips to take without your kids? Share your travel stories with us in the comments!
Jody Allard is a writer and mother living in Seattle. Her work has been featured in the Washington Post, Time, and Good Housekeeping, and on Vice, among others. When she isn’t writing, she can be found binge-watching HGTV and embarrassing her teenagers.
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