Single parent travel comes with its own set of questions, necessities and challenges. With so much to take care of, where do you begin?
We talked to 3x Thomson traveler Amy Trapp about her experience as a single parent traveler with her daughter Abigail. The two of them have been to Tanzania, China and Morocco together – they know a thing or two!
What’s your experience like as a single parent traveler?
I’m a single mother and I have a teenage daughter. One of the reasons I chose Thomson – and I’ve used other companies – is because we like adventure. And I’m extremely concerned about safety.
With Thomson, it’s the guides, the drivers, the hotels. We were in Morocco last summer and the guide didn’t let us wander around alone. He made sure we knew where we were.
We’ve been to Africa, we’ve been to China, we’ve been to Morocco. This year, we’re going to Panama. They’re places I never would have navigated on my own.
Do you think a lot of people struggle with single parent travel?
Why do you think that is?
I think it can be daunting to get to an airport and worry about where you’re going to go, what you’re going to do – are the kids going to be bored? It’s a lot to be responsible for yourself and another person without an extra set of hands.
You traveled with other families on your trip to Tanzania and your other trip to China. As a single parent traveler, what is it like traveling with a group of families?
I’ve been a single mother since I adopted my daughter. We never had any issues. I keep in touch with a family we met on the Tanzania trip and a family we met on the China trip.
For China, it was one family from California, one family from Utah, and it was us from New York. We all got along great. The people who choose this kind of adventure trip have similar interests and backgrounds. We were all interested in the same thing. You don’t pick these kinds of trips if you don’t have that sense of adventure and wanderlust.
Tanzania as well – our group was made up of one big family from Oregon – grandparents, parents and children – two families from the East Coast and us. There were never issues with me, sitting and talking around the campfire, and feeling like a third wheel or fourth wheel because I was by myself without a spouse.
How did your daughter make friends with other kids on your group travels?
There were activities specifically for the kids that brought them together to bond. At one hotel, there was a pool, and at the end of the day, everyone was like, “Let’s meet at the pool at a certain time to go swimming.” They went and hung out together. She’s Instagram friends with some of them.
We had a rafiki, who is someone just in charge of the kids. They planned activities where the kids would play cards after a safari or do something like that. They keep the kids busy, they know what the kids like to do. They also give the parents a break. I’m not constantly worried that she’s bored and going to hate the trip.
Do you have any concerns about traveling as a single parent traveler?
My daughter is Chinese, so she doesn’t look like me. Because I was a single woman traveling alone, I needed to bring a birth certificate or a notarized note saying I was a single parent traveling and there was no other person taking her out of the country.
Because she doesn’t look like me and she is Asian, I always travel with her passport. We had an incident in an airport where the TSA person looked at her and said, “Who are you traveling with?” when she was little.
She looked at me like, “What do I say?”
I said, “Just say.”
She said, “My Mom,” and that was fine. They were obviously trying to make sure I wasn’t stealing her out of the country, which I guess people do.
In what ways has Thomson helped alleviate planning issues?
You have a dedicated program coordinator. Mine was Christine. Last year, before we went to Morocco, we were talking about Ireland and a bunch of other places. She was very good about talking about the different trips, what the pros are, what the cons are.
They do pick hotels and accommodations that are on the nicer side. For me, that’s important. Maybe they’re not five-star, but I don’t need five-star – everything will be clean, nice and safe. I don’t have the time or the energy to do it myself. All I do is send the money. I’m better at that!
Because my daughter is Chinese and she was going back to China for the first time, her Chinese visa was a lot more extensive than mine. It had to be in Chinese. So, [Thomson] hooked me up with someone in Washington who walked me through the process, helped me fill out the form so I could get her visa done properly. I couldn’t have filled it out in Chinese. I don’t speak Chinese.
[Thomson] was very clear about letting me know about the visa process and helping me find someone who could help expedite that process.
Do you know what you would have done without that connection?
No, I don’t. As I said, they [Thomson] are experts. I’m sure I’m not the first family they worked with on things like this, going back to China for the first time with an adopted child. They knew what to do.
Can you tell me about your favorite moments as a single parent traveler?
In Morocco, our guide was a Berber and a Muslim. That’s a culture I’m not all that familiar with. The best part of the trip was being able to ask him questions and having him talk about his culture and his religion. We got immersed in the culture, as well as hiking in the Atlas Mountains, going to the beach or checking out where they filmed “Matrix 3.”
We went to an artist’s home and did watercolor painting of Moroccan scenes. My daughter thought that that was spectacular.
During our Tanzania trip, the highlight was going to the school and having the kids interact with the students at the school and play soccer. Our Thomson guides translated for us because we don’t speak Swahili. That was spectacular.
I’m a big believer that if you’re going to go somewhere, you should understand the culture. I always felt, coming home from a Thomson trip, that we got the adventure and we were also immersed in the culture.
How did your guides help you feel comfortable in the places you’ve traveled to?
All the guides are local. They’ve been on Thomson trips before and they know what to do. In Morocco, my daughter and I were two women alone walking around the markets, and our guide let us do that, but kept behind and kept a close eye on us.
Because of religious reasons, he couldn’t eat dinner with us, but he was at the restaurant and made sure we understood what we were ordering and made sure everything was taken care of for us.
What would you tell single parents who are on the fence about traveling?
I would say that our experience has been nothing but positive. Because Thomson is an expert in these places they choose to go, it takes off a lot of the effort in terms of finding the right whitewater rafting group, finding the right part of the Great Wall to visit or finding the right artist in Morocco.
Because they are local and they’re on the ground, they have that expertise already, and they take a lot of that anxiety out of trying to piece it all together yourself.
I was married, divorced and I’ve traveled as a single person a lot. I’ve traveled with my daughter a lot. I’m not a travel agent. I work full time. I don’t have the time to plan. If I’m interested in travel, I should go to an expert.
Learn more about single parent travel here.