I’ve been traveling internationally regularly for the past 15 years. A little ‘ol week at the beach in Mexico is a no-brainer, right?
Well, not exactly. Not anymore.
Now that I’m a mom, any single night away from home requires a bit of advance planning. And as this is also my first solo travel adventure, I’m taking some extra steps to ensure I’m prepared.
The objective of my yoga-on-the-beach getaway is to relax, get some sun and do some yoga. The last thing I want is to be fielding questions from home. I also don’t need to be stressing about logistics, transfers, money or safety in general.
As a mom there are a few more steps in the travel planning process to ensure a relaxing getaway. And, I also need to take some extra precautions when traveling solo, but it’s well worth it!
I love the weekly #TravelTipTuesday chatter on Twitter, as it’s a great place to learn new packing and travel tips. So in the interest of removing barriers and making it easier for busy moms like you to get away on a much-needed travel adventure too, and yes, offering a few #TravelTips, here are some of my tips to help you prepare for travel.
Coordinate Childcare in Advance.
I’m lucky that my fabulous mother in law is flying in to give a hand for a few days. I know the kids will be thrilled, everyone will be well fed and it will be all smiles when I return. But, there is still a fair amount of coordination that needs to happen to hand over the day-to-day household details.
Whether you’re leaving your kids with a grandparent, a friend or your partner in parenting, I have put together a document that makes it very simple to outline the schedule and activities by day. You can customize this document to include all emergency contact numbers and perhaps most importantly a medical emergency authorization (in many states healthcare providers must have written authorization from a parent in order to provide care!)
Perhaps I’m just excited to revisit my old backpacker days, but getting everything I need into one small backpack is my goal when traveling solo. Also, as a mom it’s the one chance I have to float through the airport, footloose and fancy free. The only thing occupying my hands is a cup of coffee as I relax, reading some trashy magazine and wait to board my flight. No juggling blankies, sippy cups, or wet wipes here!
Pack light — because you can. Don’t check a bag if you can avoid it. Carry only what you need on your back. It will feel good, believe me!
Especially if jetting off to a warm weather climate, you really don’t need much. My awesome Lowepro camera bag doubles as my backpack, with plenty of room for a week-long trip. I have one black strapless dress in a no-wrinkle fabric that makes the transition from beach cover-up to dinner dress beautifully.
I’ll also pack 2 swim suits, a pair of denim shorts and a tank top, jammies, a head lamp (I may not use the head lamp every day but it comes in handy on every trip at least once!), and one zip-loc bag of very basic cosmetics plus one tube of lipstick. That’s all you need, trust me!
And then there are the electronics. Cell phone, camera and all the f*&^ing cords. I swear this is half my weight and bulk but there is no getting around it. As a travel blogger I’ll have my laptop with me as well.
Paying for stuff.
I usually arrive in a country and take out some cash from an ATM at the airport. While it’s important to have a bit of cash on you at all times, credit cards are a safer option when paying for more expensive items. And of course, it’s more cost effective to charge things if you have a low-fee credit card for international transactions.
I made a few phone calls as was surprised to learn that my Frontier World MasterCard has a 3% fee on all foreign transactions. Being a travel-related card I assumed that it would have had a lower fee. I then called my Nordstrom Signature Visa (love my Nordstrom Notes!) and was thrilled to learn that this card only charges 1% on all foreign transactions. So that’s an easy choice. I’ll carry some cash and use my Nordstrom card for the rest.
Get your mobile phone all set up.
At a minimum, make sure you have a mobile phone that will work in the country where you’ll be traveling. Call your mobile company in advance to “turn on” international roaming if you don’t already have that set up. Then double-check everything prior to departure. If you’re traveling alone, a cell phone is an absolute must.
As a travel blogger, there is nothing more stressful than not having Internet while traveling. I’m also in the process of enabling my mobile phone as a wireless hotspot, which is an extra cost but well worth it to me.
Organize your first and last transfers.
Maybe this is because I’m a mom who is used to organizing every last detail day in and day out. Or maybe it’s because I’ve worked in travel long enough to know that a missed transfer is the kiss of death for any tour operator. But I always organize in advance my first and last transfers on every trip.
After experiencing my fair share of hectic airport arrivals around the world, including crowds of crazed taxi drivers trying to get me to hop in their car in Caracas, Nairobi, and even Cancun, I’ve found arranged transfers to be the way to go. Being able to confidently saunter over to a driver with sign with your name on it, at least that one time upon arrival, ensures you can arrive at your destination stress free.
Organize your first and your last transfers in advance. You know where you’re going and where you have to end up. Leave some room for adventure in the middle of course! But remember this adventure is all about no stress, so do yourself a favor and organize a few things to make it that way.
Extra Credit: Keep an eye on your home if no one will be there.
Leaving the kids with the grandparents? If your home will be empty, consider some sort of home monitoring system. I’ve been doing some research and am loving Dropcam. This camera generates cloud-based feeds any time activity is detected, so you can check in while you’re away. Amazon makes near-daily deliveries to our house, so we’re considering one for our front door so we can track when packages are delivered in our absence, then ask a neighbor to grab them before someone else does!
The bottom line.
The bottom line is that traveling alone is really about reaching within yourself and heading on your own journey. And especially for mothers, this is important and much more than just hippie talk. When you take time away from your day-to-day life, you’ll learn more about yourself, or perhaps revisit parts of yourself that you may not have seen in a long time.
But first and foremost, you want to be safe and have a great time. A little up front organization and planning will go a long way!
What have I missed? What would you add to my list?
I love linking up on the #SundayTraveler!