Holiday Travel: Heart of Darkness

Holiday Travel: Heart of Darkness

Image credit:

Averting disaster on the way to grandmother’s house

If you are a Solo Mom, chances are the holidays suck. And unless you are heavily medicated, the lucky recipient of a lobotomy, or the member of an airy-fairy religious cult, the holiday season can be “the most horrible time of the year.”

The universe might as well cover us gals in fluorescent paint, top us with neon hats shaped like arrows pointed at our heads, and shine brilliant spotlights on us as fireworks explode in the sky above spelling “Alone! Alone! Alone!” Meanwhile we longingly watch as young lovers hold hands, sip hot cocoas, and canoodle under the mistletoe. Assholes!

If this weren’t bad enough, we are often expected to travel with our kids! Have I mentioned alone? We must return to our childhood nests, replete with long-established familial conflict that test the best antidepressants, where we will be sleeping on couches, eating foods we swore off eons ago, and not having a BM for a week.

But the best part of this fun-filled scenario is getting there and back again. Holiday travel with kids is an endeavor that strains even the most rock-solid two-parent families. Throw in the busiest travel days of the year, and the Solo Mom part, and you’ve got a recipe for Disaster Pudding.

Therefore, sisters in single parenting, I present to you my top 10 travel tips for traveling with tots. Read them. Take them or leave them.

10. “Keep it simple, stupid.”

This is my favorite saying, and I apply it to all areas of life, from cooking to writing to dating. It also works well when applied to traveling. Whether flying to New Jersey or driving to New Mexico, there is no need to add visits to extended family, your mom’s piano teacher, or your third cousin twice removed. You’ve been through enough just getting to New Jersey. Let these folks come to you—after the holidays. Better yet, Skype.

9. Make it fun.

(For your kids. We know you aren’t having fun.)

If you are driving, is there a better route with less traffic or more interesting things to see? How about their favorite music? (You know you secretly like it, too.) Try books on tape. The Harry Potter series alone will get you halfway across the United States. Plus, the car games that worked when you were little still work today. Twenty Questions and Alphabet License Plates don’t get old just because you do.

If you are flying, pack your kids a fun bag with items that will keep them busy: stickers, paper, new markers. Wrap tiny puzzles and action figures as gifts—and, while you are at it, perhaps a tiny flask with something for yourself.

8. Break it up.

If you are getting your kicks on Route 66, stop and check out that Blue Whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma, or Pee Wee’s Cabazon Dinosaurs on I-10 outside Palm Springs, California, and let us not forget the Jolly Green Giant off I-90 in Blue Earth, Minnesota. And if your little ones fall asleep while driving, for the love of God, don’t stop!

Meanwhile, cross-country flights have less turbulence with a stopover in Dallas, where kids can play, and mom can shop, pee, and have a glass of eggnog. It might make the trip a little longer, but it’s worth it in the long run.

7. Pack light.

You’re lugging kids along with luggage. You don’t need to lug a gift for Aunt Martha as well. Two words: gift cards. Better yet, your presence with your children is gift enough.

Likewise, this is not the time to read War and Peace or pack all the clothes from your closet “just in case.” It’s the holidays! Spend a little money. Invest in a Kindle or an iPad, and go shopping when you get there. Your mom can babysit.

6. Go electric.

Apps. Games. Music. iPads, iPhones, iEverythings. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Need I say more?

5. Food, glorious food.

The only thing worse than traveling solo with kids is traveling solo with hungry kids. Go for little bags of stuff with brightly colored wrappers: chewy things; cheesy things; crunchy, munchy, lunchy things. And maybe even a little bit of taboo. In short, snacks: the more, the better.

And, remember, nowadays airlines are limited in what they offer; they charge; and if you’re stuck on the tarmac and food service is forbidden, a foot-long sub in the purse goes a long way on the plane.

4. Book wisely.

Try flying on off-peak days. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year. Opt for Thanksgiving or Christmas day. If you leave first thing in the morning, you’ll be at your grandmother’s house in the evening—just in time for supper. Lines are shorter, airports and flights are more relaxed, and planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time record.

If you are driving, head out early in the morning or at night. The rest of the world is sleeping. Your kids will most likely fall asleep. And you can sleep when you get there.

(Note: Please use common sense. If you are flying to Buffalo, New York, via Detroit in the middle of winter, don’t leave 30 minutes in between flights. If you are driving into snow, pack snow chains, a flashlight, an emergency kit, and your beloved AAA card.)

3. Be realistic.

When you plop down in your airplane seat with two kids, a look of despair, and no dude to help you, people will imagine the next six hours playing out like rats in a cage with two wild cats. And it’s all your fault!

Remember, not everyone loves your children the way you do. Go above and beyond to be considerate of those around you. Smile, apologize, don’t let your kids kick the seat in front of them or litter their area with trash, and go into the bathroom to change that poopy diaper!

A little thoughtfulness goes a long way on a long flight and garners you heaps of much-needed compassion.

2. Breathe.

In and out. Repeat . . .

And my number-one travel tip for Solo Moms: drum roll, please . . .

1. Don’t!

Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

Send to friend

Download our ESME app for a smoother experience.

Get the app Get the app