We just got back from my daughter’s birthday vacation. Every January we head out to Orlando and spend a few days with our favorite Disney friends. Can I share with you that if vacationing alone with your child at the Happiest Place on Earth is truly a way to remind yourself how single you are?! I mean, we know that we’re single parents but let’s be real, we don’t go through life thinking “I’m a single mom,” all day long. Disney will have that phrase on loop in your brain.
That’s not to say that you won’t enjoy yourself because trust me we enjoy ourselves. It’s just one of those times that I am reminded I am doing it alone. And since some of you might be thinking of doing the travel thing alone I wanted to share some of what works for me when traveling with my daughter. Some of these are Disney centered but most can be adapted for all travel plans.
- Don’t check bags – I know, I know. Some of you are thinking I must be crazy. Checking bags is an additional expense you don’t need. If you travel my favorite airline you get one carry-on and one personal item FREE. That means for you and each of your children. My daughter has a small rolling suitcase that she pulls. I pack her biggest bookbag and my biggest tote as our personal items and stuff my duffel bag to the brim with most of what we need. If you’re going somewhere for less than a week you can make it work. If more than a week, consider doing laundry on vacation.
- Bring snacks – This is so very important. Especially if you have smaller children or selective eaters. You know what they like. Pack it. That rolling suitcase of my child’s? It is usually packed with microwave mac & cheese bowls and enough snacks to last a month. sadly, on the last trip, our hotel didn’t have a microwave so the mac & cheese came back home. If you bring enough snacks you will save so much money when you get into the theme parks. If you don’t pack a lot or want some other options (fresh fruit, yogurts, etc). consider heading to the store when you land. It will still save lots compared to buying things in the park that they might not eat.
- Call the hotel – If you have a question, call them and ask. I learned this tip from a friend. I used to think she was crazy calling hotels asking them questions before she checked in but as I travel more with my daughter I realize that they are such a resource. I once had a Disney cast member at the hotel we were checking into a few days later save me hundreds of dollars and many hours by helping me figure a transportation issue out.
- Buy the Memory Maker – Disney calls their photo pass Memory Maker. Most parks have a similar offer. I can’t speak to the other parks but at Disney, this is worth so much more than they charge (and it’s not cheap). As single parents, we’re usually not in the photos. We don’t normally have an extra set of arms to allow us to be in the moment because we’re the ones responsible for planning, executing and capturing moments as they happen. The Memory Maker allows you to be part of the memory. I also make sure to head to the photo studio located in Disney Springs to get some birthday pictures done as well as some mommy and me photos. This means at least once a year I am in the pictures with her.
- Let go of the plan – Yes, I know. As single parents, we need to plan every single minute. It is the only way to make sure things go well, according to plan. In the words of Queen Elsa herself, let it go! I used to map out exactly what I needed to do on vacation by the minute before I had my daughter. Since I began traveling with her almost 5 years ago I have realized that the more I plan the more I stress myself out. When traveling with kids things will not go according to plan. And sometimes they will have their own plan. This year, my daughter was a lot more vocal about what she did and did not want to do. It was hard for me to accept that we wouldn’t see or do certain things but then I remembered that it is her trip and there is no right or wrong way to do the parks.
- Buy something for yourself – This might be the hardest for us to follow. Trust me, I get it. We budget trips down to the penny to make sure our babies have a blast. You deserve a blast too. When we go to Disney I buy myself a small charm. It costs about $6 with tax. It’s not the biggest deal and less than I would spend grabbing a coffee with a friend at home. Still, it is something that is just for me. My daughter loves helping me pick my charm out. I usually leave my Disney charm bracelet on my desk (when I can see the top of my desk) so that it can remind me of my last trip and help me look forward to my next trip.
What Disney travel tips do you want to share? I’m always looking for new ones.