Life isn't always fair, and travel deals aren't always fair either. Single travelers have long gotten the short end of the travel-package stick, sometimes paying almost the price of two adult fares for a private room. Single parents traveling with children have been worse off. In recent years some tours have begun offering "single-parent specials," but they frequently turn out to be "special" in name only. When you do the math, they often offer nothing more than a slight reduction of the usual two-adult rate.
Angered by the lack of helpful options for their needs, single parents have created networks to exchange travel advice, options and recommendations.
Brenda Elwell, a single parent for more than 20 years, runs http://www.singleparenttravel.net and writes a monthly newsletter for the site. Elwell has traveled around the world leading tours, often taking her two children with her to South and Central America, the Middle East and Asia, and on countless road trips. The monthly newsletter is filled with advice for single parents, such as how to teach a child to read a map (while you are driving), how to plan activities everyone will enjoy and how to budget on your trip.
What Elwell has learned in her journeys is that high prices are just one of the aggravations for a single parent. Activities included in packages are another. On a typical cruise or at a resort, a family package often separates children from their parents during the day: The kids go to day care or play games with other kids, and the adults play golf or tennis or take in some sun. That's because many parents want a break from their usual responsibilities and are more than happy to have the children occupied elsewhere.
But many hard-working single parents are eager to spend vacations with their children, of whom they see too little at home. Similarly, at many resorts at night, there are plenty of couples activities but nothing for the single parent. "Single adults with children feel out of place in most resorts," Elwell says. "[Resorts] are just not set up for them, and it's not fair."
We've found a few other sites that might also be helpful for the single parent struggling to put together a vacation that both parent and children will enjoy.
Family Travel Forum has a message board (http://www.familytravelforum.com/forum/singletravel) where people post questions, offer advice and sometimes plan trips with other single parents. Parents Without Partners (http://www.parentswithoutpartners.org) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting single parents and their children. Its Web site occasionally has links to travel resources and articles aimed at single parents.
Single Parent Central, http://www.singleparentcentral.com and Single Parent magazine, http://www.singleparentmagazine.com, run general online message boards where one can find discussions of travel issues.
Additional Web sites and resources will surely emerge in the future as travel companies realize that single parents traveling with their children are a large market of people who are not going to disappear.
One last note: Be cautious in accessing Web sites; some are dating or mail-order bride services, or sellers of swingers' vacations.