The thought of travelling as a single mom, woman or parent can be a little unnerving and intimidating at times. When we first set out to road trip the United States for 3 months, I was quite nervous about how to travel as a single woman, alone with her child. After a week in New York City I learned that most of my fears were in my head, and that as long as we practiced common sense and caution, travelling single wasn’t nearly as big of a deal as I first thought. Often once you get out into the world many initial fears are dispersed, but there are a few things you can do to help feel more comfortable travelling single.
Top Tips for Travelling Single (or with Kids)
1. Bring a first aid kit
Advil, band-aids, anti-septic cream and cough syrup/candies can be hard to find in some areas, especially at odd hours, and when you reach a ‘need it now’ situation. There’s nothing worse than having an ‘oops’ or a cold or flu hit and having nothing on hand to treat it.
2. Have an emergency plan with your kids
Every new place you go, pick a meetup spot in case someone gets lost.You can also teach them to look for a ‘mommy’ to tell that they’re lost. Who better than another mom to recognize the urgency of the situation!
If they’re old enough, help them memorize your phone number, or the number of an emergency contact.
If they carry a bag, print and laminate a copy of your emergency contact list to keep with them.
3. Bring a Selfie Stick and an adjustable tripod
As a single woman and/or mom it can be difficult to get good shots with you in them! We often don’t think about it as we’re taking photos of the sights or our kids, but when you look back on your photos, you’ll be glad you managed to get in a few!
4. Be discreet with your cash, and don’t carry it all on you.
If you must, split it up so you have some in a few different spots. When we’re out walking for the day, I’ll often tuck $50 or so into my sock, bra, or yoga pants pocket, just in case something happens to separate me from my wallet.
5. Research the place you plan to visit
Know if there is any safety advisory for any part of your intended destination, the closest walk-in clinic or hospital, if there are any norms in terms of clothing etiquette (for example, dressing more modestly/conservative), whether you need visas to enter, and whether you might need to prove you have a way out of the country when you enter. All of these will make you travels much easier, should an emergency or situation arise.
6. Pad your budget
Have room in your budget to be able to take cabs or upgrade your hotel room if you hit a place where you feel uncomfortable, or have an emergency situation. In one place we rented in Mexico, we lost power overnight so woke up to no lights or wifi, and a fridge and stove that no longer worked. Thankfully our landlords worked something out for us to move, but they could have easily just left us hanging to find our own solution.
7. Carry some sort of safety tool
Mace/bear spray, a pocket knife, whistle, cat keychain or even just putting keys between your knuckles when in an area that gives you a nervous feeling. Be sure you are comfortable with whatever you choose to carry, and that you will not be afraid to use it if the need should arise. Be mindful that force will be met with force, so be sure you are confident in your ability to use whatever you choose to carry.
8. Don’t drink too much!
You want to keep your wits about you, and be able to get home safely at the end of the night.
9. Don’t ever feel bad about saying no
Whether it’s a request to help with your bags, an offer of a drink or and invitation to go out. Trust your gut. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to reach out for help if a situation calls for it. The majority of people are good, and willing to help you.
10. Trust your gut
There is a difference between a natural fear of the unknown, and a gut reaction that is telling you something. Listen to the gut reaction, and don’t feel that you have to justify it. If you get a bad feeling getting on a certain train, entering a restaurant or climbing into a taxi, don’t hesitate to turn around and get the next one.
11. Wear a fake wedding ring
This might sound silly, but I’ve found some comfort in having a simple ring on my finger in some situations. Nothing too flashy, but having a ring just gives the impression that you likely aren’t travelling alone.
12. Don’t wear/carry flashy clothes, jewelry, and electronics.
Another common sense one, but it’s worth mentioning. Expensive looking electronics, jewelry and clothing can be very attention-drawing, and that is the last thing you want when you are travelling alone or with kids
13. Be headphone smart
If you listen to music with headphones, always wear just one when out and about.
You want to stay alert and hear what’s going on around you. On the flip side of that, you can wear both headphones with no music playing to avoid unwanted conversation, and to listen to what is going on around you without seeming like you’re eavesdropping.
14. Walk with confidence and purpose
Looking unsure of where you are and where you are going is one of the easiest ways to draw attention to yourself in a foreign country
15. Don’t look lost
Try to figure out your route before you leave for the day. If you do get lost, or unsure of your route, step into a cafe, restroom or busy store to look at your map.
16. Don’t dress like tourists
Forgo the Disney shirts and bright colours, you want to blend in, not stand out.
17. Keep in contact with family
Set up a regular check in time, and keep them apprised as to where you are and what your itinerary is. Give them a copy of your IDs and accommodation contact info
18. Mention meeting a significant other or a friend
You don’t want to openly admit to travelling alone, with or without children, so casually mentioning meeting someone soon helps dissuade anyone that might think you are a single traveller
19. Carry copies of your ID
Make colour copies of your passport, birth certificate, drivers license and any other ID you will be carrying. Keep them in a few different places in your luggage.
20. Have a secure online storage account for important documents
Take photos of each piece of ID and upload them to a cloud drive like DropBox so you can access them from any computer.
21. Register your itinerary
If you are American, sign up for the STEP program to register your trip. If you are not American, see if your country offers a similar program.
22. Carry hard copies of your itinerary
Include phone numbers and addresses of your accommodations & rental companies, emergency contacts, closest embassy. You may not have internet access to retrieve them from your phone, or you may lose your phone at the most inopportune time
23. Carry an international calling card
Bring a couple international calling cards to use to keep in contact with family, and in an emergency. If your cell phone gets lost or stolen, these cards make it possible to contact someone to help you
24. Research the location of your accommodations before you book.
Sites like TripAdvisor, Hostelz and Oyster often have reviews of both the building and the neighbourhood so you can get an idea of the neighbourhood you’re walking into.
25. Always read reviews
When using Airbnb and Couchsurfing, and hotels for that matter, be sure to read reviews. Don’t book anything that doesn’t have several positive reviews, and never bok something with no reviews. If booking shared accomodations, like a room in a home, look for someone with kids- They’ll likely be more understanding and accepting of your kids.
26. Book a hotel with a 24 hour front desk
Avoid taking the chance of being left out somewhere by a front desk that closes before you get there. As a single mom, that’s the last thing you want to deal with after a day of travel.
27. Give the appearance that you are in your room
Leave the do not disturb sign up, and the TV on when you leave your room for the day. That reduces the number of people who will be in your room with access to your belongings each day, and gives the appearance that you are in there.
28. Be vague about where you are staying
There is no need for anyone to know exactly where you are staying. Be vague, and have a white lie ready in case anyone asks.
Luggage & Packing
29. Pack light
Nothing draws attention or slows you down more than a single woman carrying a lot of luggage!
30. Don’t carry a purse
If you must, choose a cross body strap, and don’t let it sit too low, or behind you. If you can, opt for a backpack and neck or under clothing wallet, like this one by my friends over at Florious Travel.
31. Never let your bag/purse out of your sight.
Take it with you to the bathroom, and when you need to set it down, always hold it between your feet or on your lap.
32. Bring a portable battery charger
You never want to get caught without battery on your phone, especially in a foreign country. This is the one we use. It will charge your device 3-5 times, and is lightweight enough to just tuck into a side pocket, just in case you need it.
33. Invest in a slash proof bag
Especially if staying hostels, and taking public transit, a slash proof bag will help prevent any potential theft.
Transit and Driving
34. Bring a GPS unit
If you’re renting a car or driving your own, be sure to have a GPS. They are invaluable for navigation. Phone GPS often doesn’t work without internet connection, whereas a GPS unit works just fine. Even if you’re not driving, this is a good thing to have when taking taxis, so you can watch to ensure your driver is staying on route.
35. Gas up often
If you are driving, be sure to fill up your tank when it gets down to a half tank. You don’t want to chance getting stuck in a sketchy area or the side of a dark highway!
36. Take a photo of your taxis license plate before getting in.
This is helpful both for safety, and in case you forget something in it.
37. Keep your address handy
Have the address of your hotel or hostel written down to hand to taxi drivers. Helps prevent any language confusion, and ensures he is getting you to where you need to go.
38. Be aware of where you sit
When on buses and trains, always sit close to the front, and near other people
39. Make a fake call so it sounds like someone is waiting for you
Use your phone to make a fake call when in a taxi or walking home… “Yup, I’m almost there, see you in 5!”
40. Know how much a taxi should cost
Ask in local expat or rental groups how much a taxi should cost to get from the airport to your hotel or the city center. It is easy to get taken for a ride as a tourist, so ask before getting in a taxi how much it will be. If you are quoted more than what you know it to be, you can take a different cab, or negotiate.
I hope these tips will help you feel more comfortable travelling as a single woman or parent! If you have any tips you’d like to share, leave a comment below!