As a mom who travels alone with two kids, currently aged 5 and 4, I’m often questioned as to why and how I do it. The motivation to travel alone varies for most moms and dads but the questions that strangers ask a solo traveling parent never seem to change. Any parent traveling alone should be prepared for the fact that strangers, hotel staff and border agents will ask you and your children some very uncomfortable questions.
Questions Border Agents Ask
No matter whether you are married, divorced, widowed, or a single parent from conception, border agents will always require proof of your sole right to remove children from their home country and bring them into another one. The easiest way to provide that proof is to bring a consent letter signed by the other parent and notarized by a lawyer.
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The letter must state:
- Who is traveling
- Where you are going
- Departure and return dates
- Why you are traveling
- Contact information for the non-traveling parent
Border agents will ask to see all legal custody documents in any separation or divorce situation. Here’s more information and a copy of the letter I carry when crossing borders. And here’s what you need to know about traveling if one parent is estranged or deceased and you cannot produce a consent letter.
Questions Strangers and Hotel Staff Ask
Unfortunately, once you get past the border, the questions don’t end. I do not wear any jewelry and never travel with a wedding ring. From the time I arrive at a destination until I leave, the kids and I tend to be asked invasive questions. Here is a list of some of the questions the kids and I have been asked:
- Where is your daddy?
- Why isn’t your husband here?
- Shouldn’t your husband be unloading your stuff?
- Is your mommy single?
- Do you have a daddy?
- Do your mommy and daddy live together?
- If you are single, how did you pay for this trip?
There is not much you can do to prepare your kids for questions like these besides to tell them the truth. As I am married and my husband lives in our home, the questions are less uncomfortable than they could be. I have had widowed and divorced parents tell me horrible stories of situations where strangers have upset their children.
The easiest way to deal with any of these questions is to simply put an end to the questioning. I could go into detail with people as to why I travel alone but I simply do not wish to disclose that information to strangers. When people question my children directly, I tend to be very short with them and answer the question quickly while shuffling my children to the side.
Set the Ground Rules with Staff
If young children are participating in activities without you, my advice would be to speak to the activity manager at the beginning of the week to ensure that they are aware that you are traveling alone and that staff do not discuss it with your children. Also, you should be very clear that you are the only adult with your children and that no one else is authorized to remove them from the activity.
You have a right to travel solo no matter your situation. You and your children also have a right to a question-free vacation. Whether or not you want to tell people why you choose to travel solo is your choice, but make sure you do it on your own terms. Here’s the whole story about my motivations to travel alone.