Traveling with small children is a challenge for anyone whether they are a single parent or a couple. A two parent unit has the great advantage of being able to trade off responsibilities between the needs of the small children and the necessary duties of getting from point A to point B with everything in its proper order. For the single parent, this can be a nightmare on even a good day, and air travel has not gotten simpler since 9-11. Since the invention of a magical teleportation device that transports us from Dallas to Honolulu in one science fiction swoop are far ahead of us, the best advice for the single parent traveling with small children is to get organized. Children by their very natures are little chaos machines, and when mom needs to suddenly unpack her carry-on bag for the angry looking TSA agent and produce all her belongings for inspection, it is a good idea to have those things packed as neatly as possible so that the children are not sobbing on the floor.
Packing is the key to any successful vacation. Having all of your belongings readily accessible and neatly organized in their proper place can make all the difference for everyone’s happiness and well-being. Children are often very excited to be traveling to a new place, but they will experience more anxiety and fright when their favorite things are not made to be produced on demand, or when they are misplaced or forgotten. There is simply no consoling a crying child whose favorite binky or bear is lying under their bed 2,000 miles away from the hotel. The single mom or dad’s job when packing is to ensure that a small and easily portable version of home is put inside all those travel bags. This is especially important because everything will get unpacked, possibly several times, depending on the time and the travel arrangements. Before you travel, make lists. Everyone has their own essential packing items, but the development of a rash for which you have no medicated powder can mean having a horrible time.
There are some ways to making packing simpler and more space effective. Traveling as a single parent usually means that there is a lot more to pack. One of the most effective ways to pack clothes is by rolling. Backpackers and military personnel have been using this method for packing for a very long time, and it works. Simply take the garment and lay it face down, fold in the sleeves, and roll the garment from the bottom up. Blue jeans, skirts, and t-shirts work really well using this method. This is because the rolling compresses the air out of the clothing, and it has the added benefit of keeping clothing freer of wrinkles than if they had been laid flat in the suitcase. Another space saver for packing luggage is the nesting method. Choose a larger item of clothing like a jacket and nest smaller belongings inside of it. This allows bunches of items to be packed into discreet units that are easily accessible. Packing creatively for the kids can also be a challenge. They often want to bring all kinds of things that take up a lot of space, and it can be hard to keep them on track. Consider then, when you are packing their t-shirts, to color coordinate the shirts for each day they are on vacation. Children have a squishy conception of time, and this can make their time more memorable, and can give them a focus should they decide to “help” with the packing.
Perhaps the worst obstacle for anyone with air travel is the TSA screenings. According to the TSA, 375,432,402 air travelers passed through American airports so far this year with 1.8 million passengers being screened each day. For the TSA, that is a tough job. The process can be painful or painless depending on a multitude of factors, but if you have not traveled by air in a long time, it is imperative that one check the TSA website. The strictest rules for the TSA involve locks on luggage and liquids, but luckily for the traveler, the TSA does offer a handy smartphone app that can be downloaded for free. So long as the single parent packs wisely and with organization, they can make this part of the vacation process smooth and easy, and everyone can have a great time.
Amy Nielson is an avid blogger who writes often for tech sites. You can follow her on Twitter @NielsonAmy.