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Setting out solo – solo parent travel post-COVID

As all of us know, parenting during COVID–solo or otherwise–hasn’t been easy. Usually when times are tough, the travel-obsessed (a club I’m definitely at a member of) mentally escape by planning future trips. 

But as the travel industry shut down, it became increasingly difficult to visualise what those next trips might look like. Now, with travel on the cards again, solo parents like me are ready to get back on the road, safely. 

Writer Sue White with her son, exploring Green Camp in Bali! Credit: Sue White

It’s a process that does require some creativity.  For me, the first challenge is social.  As a solo mum to a six-year-old son, many of my best trips have been our most social: trips where we’ve bunked in with other families or holidayed where there are crowds of other kids within arms’ reach. 

But as social distancing and limits on venue capacities put the brakes on some tried and trusted options, it’s time for travel-mad solo parents to re-imagine their family travel. Sure, hitting the road COVID-style won’t always be simple, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be great.

Team up with another family

While you may cause problems at cafes or restaurants if you travel in convoy with three carloads of relatives, COVID travel still offers plenty of scope for one of the best solo parent travel tricks: teaming up with another family. Over the years, we’ve successfully travelled with other one parent/one child families, with the nuclear ‘two plus two’ family configuration, and myriad other combinations of both adults and children. 

In my experience, if you ask early enough there will always be plenty of friends who will commit to a weekend jaunt across the year. Others will happily forward plan something bigger in the next school holidays.  In times of COVID, there are even advantages to be had here. Most people’s travel slates are now pretty clean and their appetite to get out there has never been stronger. 

Become a micro adventurer

Micro adventurers may just be the next big thing in family travel. Ready for some good news? They are easy for solo parent travellers because they are easy to organise and can be done on a schedule that suits you. 

On a micro adventure, you stay local and keep things short, simply heading out for an afternoon or overnight. Camping in the backyard was a micro adventure many families embraced during lockdown. 

Now, with national parks, beaches and attractions slowly opening to visitors, a micro adventure might involve hiring a boat for morning and taking your child fishing for the first time, trying a kid-friendly walk in your local nature reserve, or exploring a new part of your own city (a great chance for a ‘pin the tail on the city map’ opportunity). 

Pick kayaking or hiking adventures close by to make the most of micro-adventuring. Credit: Sue White

Friend hop on your next road trip

Road tripping will be making a comeback for many Australians, but for solo parent families’ long stints on the road with one driver can be unappealing.  Why not design a route that takes in as many friends and relatives houses as possible? Thinking about options for just a few moments made me realise I have options every few hundred kilometres up the East Coast – a road trip in the making, with free accommodation to boot (just don’t overstay your welcome). Even better if the friends and family have their own kids – that way both you and your children will have a social experience. 

Hike with your tike

Hiking and solo parenting are often fraught: safety considerations aside, it’s a big commitment to go on longer walks if you’re the only adult to do the inevitable carrying when your mini traveller “just can’t walk one more step

Spread out the travel fun, by working together with the kids to turn a local iconic experience into a family challenge (the kids could even help map our your route). Iconic walks are often easy to divide into a series of short hikes that can be done over a series of months. Take Western Australia’s famous Bibbulmun Track. At 1000 kilometres it’s a daunting proposition in its entirety, but the website offers plenty of ideas for kid-friendly day walks and overnight explorations. 

On the East Coast, Sydneysiders are spoiled for choice by stunning harbour or coastal walks, most an easy afternoon experience with coffee and ice cream at the end. In the ACT, the 145-kilometre Centenary Trail is oft forgotten, but this walking and cycling route is easily broken into kid-size chunks. Remember, if you’ve tackled a ‘big ticket’ experience like these, map the family’s achievements to inspire everyone for the next installment. 

Up the experiences

Tourism operators have never needed visitors more than they do right now, so if there were ever a time to spend more on experiences, this is it. If you’re driving to destinations in your own car to make social distancing simpler, or staying with friends while Airbnb-style accommodations remain closed, it stands to reason your budget could stretch to adding in a few more ticketed experiences on your trip.  For solo parents, organised activities are often a chance to take the back seat of the planning and logistics for a few hours; a welcome rest from being in charge. 

Ever wanted to whale watch? This could be your year. Children been begging to try stand up paddle boarding? Why not?  

Food is another way to change up your family travels. Sure, fine dining is wasted on young children, but splurging on an amazing dessert will probably be as much of a hit as the destination itself. This year, give local restaurants your custom or add an extra scoop to that inevitable ice cream purchase. 


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