Tag Archives: France

Single Mom’s Budget Travel Tips

Photo by: Sam Squansh

Summer is around the corner. As a single parent, instead of getting giddy about your well-deserved time off, or some family fun, you may likely be getting depressed. Are you looking at your check book and thinking there’s NO WAY you can afford a vacation? If you are newly separated or divorced, you may feel like you will never travel again. I mean, it’s hard enough to even drive to see the grandparents with kiddos of a certain age, right? Even if you could afford a European or Hawaiian vacation, would you want to fly alone with the little ones? (I’ve done this many times,  as I used to live in Europe and my Ex still does, so I transport the kiddos to him. I’ve learned many tricks to entertain and distract the one, two, and three-year-old minds on transAtlantic flights. Even so, it’s extremely taxing. For tips on how to survive flights with your children read my article Survival Tips for European Travel with Children .)

But, back to reality…How can you afford a holiday with the little ones this year? If you’re creative, flexible, open-minded and resourceful, you’ll be amazed at the many ways to subsidize travel expenses. I’m going to share a few of my favorites. There’s NO reason why you can’t figure out a way to get away—even if for a weekend. If your Ex has the kiddos for a week or two over the summer, that might be the perfect chance to escape solo. If you are traveling with them, however, there are ways to lower costs, make new friends, and find affordable babysitting or camps so you can rest. I hope these ideas inspire you and if you have more, PLEASE chime in!

Top Travel Tips for the Single Mom: 

Try a House Swap: My favorite site is Sabbatical Homes. This site was founded by Nadege Conger when she realized that there was a need, predominately in the academic community. Her husband, who is a professor, travels a bit for work. Like many of his colleagues, he can take sabbaticals or visiting professor gigs at other universities. From this idea—to cater to academia—her site has grown to a larger audience. It is still much smaller than the main home exchange sites and feels more manageable—as it’s easy to identify and conduct background checks on the people who respond to your ads. If you’re thinking, “who would want to swap houses with me since I don’t live in California or Florida?” this site is for you. Academics often want to get away to work on a proposal or book—or need to teach at another university—expanding the typical search requests and making your house more viable. Since Nadege is French and travels a lot, there is large audience on this site from Europe. After posting my house, I had requests for house swaps in Italy, France, Spain and Hawaii. You can also rent your house via this site. If you are interested in an adventure and are flexible about where you go, this could be a great option. Plus, house swaps provide a great way to really enjoy your holiday with a local’s perspective. I’ve house swapped via craigslist (before learning of this site) and had amazing trips to Paris, Venice and London. (Which I will write about later, since they were all amazing holidays with local flare.)
Another great site to rent homes for your next vacation, or perhaps to list your own is: Vacation Homes and Villas.

Take a short cruise:
Lisa Van Riette, a single mom of three from Orange County, Calif., took a three night/four day excursion with Carnival Cruise Line this year for just under $1,000. Yup, you read that right. This included meals and kids camps and activities for her kids, ages 7, 11 and 13. “They had so much fun together! There were so many activities, like a build-a-bear (camp), a scavenger hunt for my 13-year-old and an all-you-can-eat (ice-cream) sunday party. I had time off and then we’d all get together for dinner. And, the food was good! You can’t beat it!” says Lisa.  This mom has taken many cruises with Carnival, but experts also rank Disney Cruise Line high for families as it has nursery staff for infants.

Explore Single Parent Holidays:
Organizations like Single Parent Travel offer group-discounted vacations for single parents and their children. A current package includes a a five day/four night Harry Potter excursion at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. Other trips include Telluride and the beaches off the Turkish coast. I can’t say the vacations are extremely cheap (Harry Potter costs between $850 and $1,300 for rooms alone), but they offer a group discount on rooms and a built-in community of other families with children, so your kiddos will make friends and play, while you can enjoy adult conversations with other single parents. It’s a brilliant idea.

Find Travel Deals:  
There are plenty of agencies out there to sign up with, but my favorite is Sherman’s Travel Deals . Highlighted on his site right now is a great article entitled Fifteen Summer Trips on Half a Tank outlining great weekend get-a-ways. Sign up and you’ll receive his weekly email of travel tips and the latest deals. For instance, BookIt.com has a hot deal for discounts on summer vacations, ending May 1st.

Rack Up Miles.
If you have credit card debt and a decent credit rating, transfer your account to  a credit card that is offering you airline miles. For instance, some credit cards will give you 25,000 miles for opening an account and then offers miles for each dollar you spend or transfer over. To compare credit cards offering miles, go here.

Finding the Light Within

Whenever I begin to feel jealousy, anger, pity or fear creep in—the four pitfalls I imagine many single moms tripping over—I stop and take a breath. I let myself step aside (sort of like a Woody Allen moment with the protagonist asking the audience for insight) and ask why I am sinking to these depths. Intellectually I know it’s not helping. Going through the process of divorce is gut-wrenching enough. Adding insult to injury by sinking to such negative thoughts, only keeps us mentally in the basement. How someone else treats us isn’t always deserved, or in any way reasonable. But knowing this, and feeling this, are two different things entirely. I understand. For two years I’ve wrestled with insecurities that I never had before. Getting to the place where I feel beautiful, loving, and like I am a gift to my children, has been a long walk of faith.

I’d like to walk that with you. I’m still finding my own way, but want to walk with you—especially those who are just going through the storm—as you hold your breath and put one foot, (metaphorically) in front of the other.

I’m currently working with a spiritual counselor and feel so blessed by her insight. One of the exercises that has helped me the most is that of meditation and focus on love. Love requires no formal religion—so no matter your faith—this exercise will help you. Over time, it creates what is called a bleed-over. The more you visualize yourself as a seed of light and love and harmony, the sooner you realize that it’s true. And once you do—no one, or anyone’s behavior—can take that away from you.

If you’ve received a crushing blow to your ego and self esteem, as many women who are dealing with infidelity have shared with me, there comes a time when those insecurities will begin to lift. Sure, there will always be people who are younger, physically more beautiful, more intelligent or more athletic than you. But these qualities don’t ultimately define us. They aren’t the essence of who we are. They don’t create the “je ne sais quoi” that the French refer to—meaning the intangible, or inexplainable quality that makes someone distinctive or attractive or irresistible. I’ve always imagined that this comes from an inexplicable source of light within a person. Have you ever met someone who isn’t quite beautiful, but his or her smile or lightness in mood or sense of goodness blows you over until you begin to think of that person akin to an angel? If you haven’t experienced this, you may think I’m nuts. If you have, you know exactly what I mean. I don’t pretend to have any of the answers for us, but I do know that we are all equal in God’s eyes. We all have access to light and love. All I know is that the more I focus on that, the less I focus on anything dark. Hurtful things people say or do begin to fall to the wayside as I focus on being a light to myself, my children and those I love.

If you are motivated, try this exercise with me for a week and let me know if it is changing your perceptions, mood, relationships with your kids, your Ex, etc.

Each night as you drift off to sleep, breathe deeply and visualize divine light bubbling up from the core of your body. It begins to spread throughout your body: up through your chest, your arms, down your legs, and out your toes, fingers and head. Say to yourself, “I am filled with light.” Imagine sharing the light with your children and even extend some love and light to your Ex, your extended family and any friends that you want to reach. Hold no other thoughts other than letting those you care about, feel light and love. Hold no agendas. Breathe deeply. Feel warmth run through your body, and begin to think of at least five things you are thankful for. Even if you can only think of things such as food, your car making it to work, or running water, be thankful for those things. The list will grow over time.

Allow yourself to drift off to sleep after saying your thanks.  Do this every night for a week. Even if you are in pain. Even if you are distracted. Perhaps especially so.

Remember, no matter what someone has done to you, it doesn’t define you. It doesn’t diminish your “je ne sais quoi” —your light within.

For some of you reading this, my words may seem a bit cheesy or saccharine. Sure, I know some of you are struggling with child custody battles, health issues, child support default, etc. The issues are heartbreaking. Perhaps this little exercise seems useless. Perhaps you think it’s silly. Try to push self-depricating thoughts aside and entertain this idea for a week anyway. What do you have to lose? Over time, you may begin to really feel that you are a source of light and love. And once you do, I have a hunch that your contagious energy will carry you forward throughout all your struggles with much more ease, confidence and less stress. And lowering stress is essential. I’m currently writing an article for a national magazine about the effects of severe stress on women’s health. It’s not pretty. Our children deserve healthy and happy moms. Lets try to give them what they—and we—deserve.

Lots of love,

Laura