Single Mum’s & Dad’s are hitting the road to see Australia with their kids – many thinking that they could never do it without a partner, but discovering a world of adventure and a connection with their kids that goes beyond anything they could ever have expected. Hayley from Hello Frankie Dean shares with us her top tips for Solo parenting. Real Stories | Real Families…
Solo parenting van-life: top ten tips for travelling with kids
Originally, I had ‘planned’ on (meaning dreamed about) doing a lap of Oz, but once I actually started planning what it would look like, I narrowed it down to a half lap over about six months. I made many jokes about only doing a half lap – as there’s only half the usual number of parents to do the driving in our family. See, I’m a solo mum and I travel with my two daughters, Harper 11 and Gem 4, and it’s the BEST thing we have done!
In this article, I share some travel tips, which may be helpful for other families – and especially helpful for other solo mums.
Tip 1. Have home days.
These are gold – we call them home days and they mean no driving, just pottering about. They feel like a recalibration for all of us, and are often when lovely conversations happen, or interests can be followed and games played freely.
2. Build family understanding around safety and team work.
For us, this means a common understanding that I have to be able to see where the girls are playing, not going into other people’s vans without me, and always asking if the dog is a patting dog. This sounds super cute – Gem walking up and asking in in her big four-year-old voice: “Is your dog a patting dog?” It also means team work and everyone chipping in. We have a super-cheesy family ‘Team Rhino’ cheer that we do, which we picked up when we stayed in the Rhino tent at the Dubbo Western Plains Zoo (which was an amazing experience). Harper has a list of jobs she has to do and Gem … well, I get her to be my helper and she has recently taken on the job of rug shaker and does a great job!
3. Have some super simple go-to meals.
For us, this is toasted sandwiches – we opted to bring a toastie machine instead of a toaster and have never regretted it. It’s also Rice Surprise – rice mixed with surprises, meaning whatever is available … often tinned tuna, tinned corn, fresh tomatoes and beans. Its super-filling and super-fast, so after a big driving day or an evening when you feel like playing, not cooking, its perfect.
4. Have wiggle room to stay or go.
It’s so nice to take it a day or two at a time, even if you have some dates you need to meet. It’s great to be able to go with the flow. We did this recently when we decided to stay four nights at Agnes Waters instead of two, and then just had a long driving day following. It feels so great to be able to fall in love with a place, and then stay a little bit longer.
5. Trust your gut.
If something doesn’t feel right, get some help. I have done this twice at caravan parks where I have felt a little uneasy and the staff have been great and helped me out, and there have been no issues.
6. Have a plan.
Have an emergency plan in mind for what to do if something goes wrong. I have had to have chats with Harper about this, with her being the eldest. Also have a first-aid kit and snake-bite kit – if you’re like me and have too many snake run-ins. We have discussed who to call, how to get help etc.
7. Have some luxury every now and then.
When you’re living in a super-small space together, it’s such a time of connection and closeness, packed with joy, but … when you get the chance to have some luxury, it’s like the joy is magnified. Big beds, baths, space, restaurant food and mini shampoos. We did a Dubbo Western Plains Zoofari and it was such a highlight.
8. Practice gratitude.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been times where I have thought ‘another parent would be handy right now’ – like when I want to sit in the passenger seat and research the area we are in, or swim laps, or get a massage, but I stop myself going down that path too far by looking at what we are doing and remembering all the joy – and I realise that this time is so special, I want to slow time down and soak it in.
9. Bottle those feels. Or blog them.
Keep track. Share with the ones that make your heart feel like its going to burst, the things you see that make you want to put that image on your wall or imprint it on your mind forever. Share them, document them. Already, looking back at our Insta and camera roll over the past three months brings me joy.
10. Keep everyone happy (ish).
This may sound like an impossibility, but it’s really not. We have a chat about what each of us would like to do that day, and then I talk about how we are a team, and we all want to enjoy our Frankie Dean AdVANtures. Then we come up with a plan taking everybody’s wishes into account. Note here that this may be a small ‘want’ each – such as a bike ride, a coffee at a cafe, a play at the park, a swim etc.
We are loving our adVANtures. and I am loving this time with my girls. It feels like it has given me the space and time to fall in love with them all over again, to really see them, to watch them grow, and learn right before my eyes … each day is really so special. I Hope these tips from the road help, and if you’re wondering if you should take some time out to travel, just do it. Remind yourself of that great quote by Mark Twain:
‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream, Discover.’
Another inspiring sole traveller is MotorhomeMama – you can read her story below…
Our team are over the moon to get our AUSTRALIAN MADE licence!! If you want to check out our AUSSIE made products – click here: