Flying Solo: Best Single-Parent Vacations to Take With the Kids
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As a single mom, traveling with my children while they were young was always a bit of a struggle. Carrying the gear for everyone, finding seats on flights together, keeping hands on both kids as they made their way through crowded attractions or airports, and don't get me started on the onboard lav situation.
But honestly, nothing was as bad as wanting to enjoy an all-inclusive type of vacation and being penalized for traveling solo. In fact, being single may cost you more than $2,671 additional per year. Think about it -- things like hotel rooms, car service, resort stays and some tours don't generally cost less just because there's only one adult involved.
Many all-inclusive resorts and cruises often have rates based on double occupancy, even when offering “kids stay free” packages. If you travel as a single parent, you are often forced to pay the additional fee for the nonexistent second adult in order to enjoy the ease and comfort of all-in-one-vacations.
But thankfully, the travel industry is starting to recognize that single parents want to travel, too, and more and more companies are waiving fees and making it easier for solo parents to travel with their children. Here are some of my favorite single-parent vacation options.
Hyatt Ziva Resorts
For solo parents who are into the miles-and-points game, you're no doubt already familiar with Hyatt's Ziva brand of all-inclusive resorts. You can book Hyatt Ziva properties throughout Mexico (Cancun, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta) as well as the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica. And, beginning Nov. 1, 2019, at the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
While redeeming points at an all-inclusive property will zap your points balance, you'll have everything you need to have a fantastic vacation with your kids at your fingertips. Award nights at the Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta properties can be booked from 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night for a standard room for two people. Additional guests over 3 years old cost an extra 10,000 point per night (with a maximum of four people in a room).
Suites at those resorts start at 32,000 points per night and are also 10,000 points for each additional person per night. Rose Hall and Cancun are slightly pricier with standard rooms for two set at 25,000 points per night and 12,500 points per night for additional guests. Award rates have not yet been announced for the forthcoming Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana. You can earn World of Hyatt points with the World of Hyatt Credit Card to use at these resorts or transfer them to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio from Chase Ultimate Rewards and cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
IHG All-Inclusive Resorts
IHG Rewards Club members can cash in on an all-inclusive stay in one of Holiday Inn's all-inclusive resort options where kids stay free. The Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay is 50,000 points per night and the Holiday Inn Los Cabos is 40,000 points per night -- both include food, drinks and activities. Learn how to maximize IHG Rewards Club points for family travel.
Single Parent Package in Saint Martin
Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino in Saint Martin may have received a devastating blow from Hurricane Irma in 2017, but it's wrapping up its yearlong, full renovation in February 2019, creating a near-brand-new resort catering to families. There you’ll find five restaurants, a fun children’s club, large pool with waterfalls overlooking the ocean and activities for kids and families. The resort features a Single Parent Package, waiving the single supplement fee and offering free stays for kids 12 and younger with discounts for older kids.
If you want to arrive well-rested and in style, here's how to fly to the Caribbean in a lie-flat seat.
Wyndham Rewards All-Inclusive Resorts
While all-inclusive resort operator Smile Resorts is Canadian-operated, you don’t need to live in Canada to take advantage of its single-parent vacation offers. The collection features flight and accommodation packages, yes, mainly from Canadian airports (save for Buffalo, New York), with single-parent supplement fees waived.
Properties include Casa Marina Beach Resort and Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach, both in the Dominican Republic, and Park Royal Ixtapa in Mexico. Each features kids clubs, pools, beaches and all you want from an all-inclusive resort. Kids ages 2 to 12 can eat and stay free, and teens are discounted, as well. You don't have to book through Smile Resorts to stay at the Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach. If you have Wyndham Rewards points, you can spend 15,000 per night for a room. Just be aware that you'll likely get a room with a king bed, so this option might not work if you're traveling with multiple kids or older children that can't share a bed with you.
Grand Palladium All-Inclusive Resorts
Grand Palladium Hotels and Resorts are all-inclusive properties scattered across the Caribbean in Mexico, Jamaica and Dominican Republic (not to be confused with Palladium Hotels, which are adult-only resorts). The five-star resorts focus on the Raggs dog squad characters, with character breakfasts, kids club and extra-special family programming, like dance parties. It also offers single-parent rates, allowing up to three kids to stay in the same room at 50% off room rates at properties like Grand Palladium White Sand Resort & Spa in Riviera Maya.
Palace Resorts cater to single parents -- just think: 24-hour room service available (included) so someone can treat you to breakfast in bed daily. The Kids & Teens Stay Free package, which runs through Dec. 23, 2019, cuts out the single supplement and gives you a room with your kids 17 and younger, who travel for free. All the amenities of an all-inclusive, such as a playroom, teen hangouts, dining and activities, can be found at 10 oceanfront resorts in Jamaica and Mexico, including the Moon Palace Resort in Riviera Maya.
Beaches Resort, the popular family-friendly all-inclusive chain in Jamaica (three properties to choose from) and Turks & Caicos opens up a few of its months during the year to single parents with solo-parent deals. The properties feature multiple price-point accommodations from simple studios to multi-bedroom villas, and offers more than a dozen dining options, full waterparks, Sesame Street character-themed activities, kids’ clubs and programs for infants to teens ... and yes, even for parents.
Most mainstream cruise ships are not truly all-inclusive, but they do offer all your needs in one convenient location with lots of inclusions. Yet, with all of the tricks and treats cruise lines are offering for families, single parents don’t always find breaks, unless they are sailing with MSC Cruises, an Italian cruise operator. For single parents, choose the All-in-One package, which creates an all-inclusive package for you and your brood, sans a second adult, with Babycare, Miniclub, Juniors Club, dining, waterparks, shows and activities.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Lines (DCL), which can also be more expensive than many other large lines, may be worth the price when considering just how much they offer to single moms and dads. DCL connects solo parent travelers at meals to help them find and connect with one another and even plans activities specifically for single-parent families. Booking a state room with one adult and children is also a bit cheaper than a room with two adults and children. For example, a six-night Caribbean trip out of Galveston with two adults and two children starts at $3,250, while the same room with one adult and two children starts at $2,562.
On the Disney Cruise Line are included kids clubs, teen programs, family-friendly accommodations and, of course, a touch of Disney Magic onboard and during excursions. To help save with the pricy cost of a Disney Cruise, consider purchasing discounted Disney gift cards.
Solo Studios on Norwegian Cruise Line
If you are considering a cruise without the kids at some point, I have to give a quick nod to Norwegian for introducing a room class just for solo travelers. These studios are "cozy" (OK, small) at 100 square feet, but you won't pay the dreaded "single traveler tax." These rooms have exclusive use of a Studio Complex and Lounge. This is an area just for solo travelers staying in the studios where you can watch TV, order room service, have a drink and chat with other travelers.
Solo Parent Trips With Intrepid Travel
If you’re aiming to take on a more adventurous vacation with the kids, tour groups can help you plan and maneuver through all of the logistics at one price -- just show up and enjoy the trip. One of the best tour groups for families is Intrepid Travel, which specifically launched tours just for solo parents. The tours are kept small -- just three to five families -- and pair you and the kids with other solo parents who understand what it’s like to travel as a single parent.
Tours are catered to kids with stays at hotels that have swimming pools, dining at restaurants with kid-approved menus and programming that connects your kids to school studies or hobbies. Another plus? Kids 17 and younger receive a 10 percent discount. The exotic tours mean you can show kids the world with the help of others and choose from visits to Morocco, Costa Rica, Vietnam or India in 2019.
OARS Single-Parent Camping Trips
For parents who love outdoor adventure but understand camping without another adult is tricky (just putting up a tent alone can be a real feat!), OARS offers single-parent camping and rafting trips in the US. While connecting other single-parent travelers and, often, teens, you can visit the western states of Colorado, Arizona, Colorado and Alaska. The majority of the tour options for families take place during school breaks.
Whether you are a single parent, or your partner simply isn't always available to travel with you and the kids, don't be too nervous to travel alone with your children. You may find hotels and resorts willing to help (or even offer single-parent discounts) as packages for single parents traveling with kids are becoming increasingly available. When the trip is all about you and your kids, you're guaranteed to wind up with memory-making experiences for the whole family.
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