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Single parent's guide to solo business travel tips

The Single Parent’s Guide to Solo Business Travel

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The first call comes in at 3 am. I should know better than to stay up late, but I’m a natural night owl, so I’ve quickly adjusted from Eastern to Pacific time on my first night out of town. That invariably translates into rough but welcome early morning wake up calls from my children while I’m on business travel.

Since my children were born, I’ve tried to limit my business travel as much as possible both in the number and duration of trips, but some travel is unavoidable. Without another parent to fall back on, business travel for single parents can be particularly challenging in terms of keeping life moving along with as little disruption as possible back home.

Here’s the business trip plan I’ve developed over the years for juggling home and work while on the road:

The Master Plan

Post a detailed schedule that lists times and locations for rides, activities, major school efforts, dinners, and phone numbers for everyone involved. Take a copy with you. In reality, this will be of most benefit to you to make sure you have all your bases covered. Everyone else will just call you to find out what’s going on, but you can rest easy knowing that you made the attempt.

The Backup Plan

The last time I went out of town, I was relying on seven different people to get my children where they needed to be during the school week. You can see the problem; it’s very easy for one of those seven people to be unavailable or not show up where you need them to be.

After a couple of panicky moments for my kids when they thought they were stranded, I now prepare them for the worst case scenario, and I emphasize that it’s really nothing to stress about if their ride doesn’t show up. How you want your child to respond if their expected ride isn’t there is up to you, but I like to follow these two basic steps:

  • Have them memorize your cell phone and at least one or two more of trusted family or friends. Yes, many children have cell phones now with their contacts readily available. And many of those cell phones somehow manage to be forgotten at home or not charged, rendering them useless. Memorization is an essential backup.
  • Walk through the various scenarios with your child. “If you come out of school and your ride’s not there, what can you do?” My first answer is always to call me and I explain in advance all of our options even though I’m out of town. Instill in your child that if they don’t reach you, they MUST leave a message with a call back number, then they can call that trusted family member or friend. This simple walk-through eases much of the anxiety associated with potential missed connections.

Check-In Times

There are critical points in the day when I make sure to check in with my kids. Morning is actually not one of them. This time of day tends to be the most rushed and stressful and I’m always mindful that a phone call from me can upset what may already be a shaky situation. Instead, I make sure to check in with my kids at these three critical times:

  • Transition times, so that I can make sure they arrived at the right place at roughly the right time.
  • Early evening to check on homework status.
  • Bedtime to say a final good night.

Medications

Preparing for a medical emergency is part of the planning process and a previous article on Tips for Traveling Without Kids has some great tips on this. I’ve also found that gathering all of the over the counter medicines we typically use and placing them in one convenient location is really helpful. This includes our “go to” pain medicine, cold medicine, cough medicine, as well as basic first aid supplies. This way, your caregiver won’t have to run to the store or try to sort through your bathroom cabinets searching for just the right medication.

Stocking the Refrigerator

I always find the food aspect of going out of town particularly challenging because I seem to rely on quick, frequent trips to the store to keep us fed. However, more organization is needed for out of town trips. I stock sufficient supplies for two or three different types of breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, then prepare an easy-to-freeze dinner for each night I’m gone. The dinners get listed on the schedule with directions on where to find them and how to prepare them.

Take a Red-Eye?

Yes, overnight flights are painful, but it’s so nice to get home in time to see the kids off to school. You can also get a quick nap in before the kids come home. They’re worth considering and usually worth the pain.

The All Important Souvenir

I really like picking up a souvenir for my kids when I’m on business travel. The first few times I traveled without my kids, though, I had a hard time deciding on one souvenir and invariably ended up spending too much money. I finally settled on key chains as the ideal souvenir. I can always find a key chain that shows something about where I’ve been, and they get immediate use since the kids attach them to their backpacks as decorations. They now have the noisiest backpacks in school, but they also have a traveling conversation piece. See all of favorite travel souvenir ideas.

I hope these travel and planning tips are helpful to any single parent traveling for business. Please leave your own tips in the comments section.

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Andrea is a single mom in Arlington, Virginia with a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. Her children took their first trips when they were just four…

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