Solo travel sometimes creeps up on people, and irrespective of whether you are single or partnered up, it’s highly likely that at some point you will end up travelling solo with your baby.
In fact, single parents probably do this with more ease, because they’re pretty used to having to run the 24-hour show without extra hands. (It’s certainly the case for our website founder Sue, who successfully travelled around Europe solo with her then 10 month old.)
But whether this is a one-off for you or a permanent thing, advice never hurts!
Our top 6 tips for solo travel with a baby.
1. Think ahead.
All parents become experts at this pretty early on. After all, if you don’t plan mentally at least a couple of hours ahead, you’ll end up with a hungry baby and an empty fridge, no nappies, or an ill timed excursion. But when it comes to solo travel with a baby you want to take your normal “thinking ahead” skills and ramp them up exponentially.
Use the baby’s sleep times to get organised for the next section of your day; this is especially the case with a six to 12 month old who may need your constant attention when they are awake. Ideally, food, liquids and transport will all be good to go when they wake up. (Sue usually tries to pack the car or pram while the baby sleeps, to minimise the juggle of bags and baby.) Speaking of packing, the right gear is going to make a big difference. Check our packing post here and our shop’s top recommendations.
2. Be strategic with your itinerary.
- Which activities would be smartest to do in a row?
- Which activities would be best skipped?
- Are there things that you would do if you had an extra pair of hands? Will be manageable – or enjoyable – without them? (Don’t be too cautious here, or you’ll never do anything. But there is a reality to solo travel with a baby: if it’s just you taking a baby to the beach, you obviously won’t get a proper swim in yourself.) Remember, we have a comprehensive post on itinerary planning here.
3. Say yes.
When strangers offer to help you down the stairs with a pram, or to pick something up the baby has thrown: let them. Really, say yes. During solo travel it’s your decision whether you also let them hold the baby while you go to the toilet on a plane or when you’re out (a plane seems less likely that they’ll disappear, right?), but for basics like an extra pair of helping hands for two minutes, say yes, yes, yes.
4. Allow strangers (who want to) to entertain your baby.
While you are there, of course. If you’re on a bus, plane or train and the person behind you is making goo goo ga faces at your baby (who is probably loving it), smile and nod supportively every now and then, answer the usual questions (“How old?” “Boy or girl”) and mentally wind down for a few minutes. You’ll be surprised at just how large a percentage of the public finds it fun to play peek a boo with a baby when they don’t have to do it 24/7. (See our post on Flying long haul for more examples of tapping into the travelling public’s maternal instincts.)
If you have this experience a few times throughout the day during solo travel you’ll find you get numerous tiny snippets of downtime where you don’t have to be on constant entertainment duty. It all adds up to staying resilient.
5. Find rest times that feel restful, decadent or enjoyable for you.
Can you order in a takeaway meal one night? Buy a great dessert and enjoy it while watching a movie in your room while the baby sleeps that night? Or have a massage in your room? Remember, this IS your holiday too, so try to not let those tiny opportunities for you time to slip away.
6. Don’t underestimate the need for adult conversation.
For Sue, the hardest thing about solo travel with a baby under one is not the logistics, or the feeding, cleaning, supervising and entertaining of her son. It’s the lack of adult conversation beyond the superficial chats with the general public (“How old?” and “Boy or girl?”) that do her in. It’s the main reason she likes travelling with a friend, family member, or staying with other people.
If you can’t organise to meet up with friends, consider joining groups like 5W (Women Welcome Women World Wide), where you can grab a coffee and conversation with a local. If you’re staying in an Airbnb apartment (not renting the whole thing, but renting a room in someone’s home) you might find that’s a good social outlet too. (See our post on Airbnb with a baby here. Sue loved her stay in Paris doing this – the couple whose home it was interacted with her son beautifully and also were great company in terms of providing adult conversation in the evenings.)