Amanda S. Klimak, CTIE, is vice president of Largay Travel Inc. in Waterbury, CT.
Three years ago, when I joined the world of single parenting, the idea of taking a vacation without backup seemed somewhat horrifying. How could I possibly manage two small children outside my beloved comfort zone of home sweet home? What if I lost one of them? What if they got sick while traveling or, even worse, what if they decided to throw a hissy fit in the middle of the airport terminal or on the plane? It all sounds somewhat silly now but, at the time, these were all very, very real fears.
Early explorations with my then five-year-old daughter, Courtney, and seven-year-old son, Tristan, were limited to short trips only miles from our Connecticut home. A day trip to a local museum or a weekend away in Cape Cod seemed like great choices, but I was wrong. Our journeys somehow transformed me into what I now refer to as the “24-hour entertainment committee,” which was unfamiliar territory for this working mom. Somehow managing a $20 million company seemed like a cakewalk compared to trying to contain two little ones on my own for an extended period of time. What seemed like a brilliant idea of a relaxing weekend away at a friend’s beach house in Cape Cod was an exhausting proposition, to say the least.
There we were, privileged enough to be in a beautiful home on the beach—the problem was it was quickly transformed into a prison in which I was locked up with the energy twins. There was no escape from the constant activity and I was a caged animal who returned home with what I now refer to as “post-traumatic vacation disorder.” I was fearful of our next adventure, but I would not be broken. For years I had witnessed my single-parent clients traveling all over the world in vacation bliss with their little ones and somehow I knew that this self-proclaimed “super mom” would prevail in the world of vacationing.
With much angst and deliberation, the decision was made to once again venture out alone with my two little ones. This time, however, I was jumping in with both feet and cruising the Caribbean on a Voyager Class ship. Convinced by Royal Caribbean Cruise Sales Rep Lisa, I booked our cabin. The pre-trip mental turmoil I was experiencing may sound somewhat strange for a 20-year travel industry veteran, but I was venturing out alone into unfamiliar territory and completely outnumbered by my little angels. Would they break me once and for all? I think not. This time was different, and I was determined and prepared for battle—DVD players, iPods, video games, crayons, notepads and snacks were all a part of my single-mom survival kit. As we left for the airport, I felt empowered and convinced that this would be the best single-mom vacation ever.
Our journey was incredible and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line could not have been more accommodating. Each day, Tristan and Courtney bounced in and out of the Adventure Ocean Youth Program, allowing this overworked mom a few hours of alone time by the pool or in the fitness center. Explorations on shore were exciting for the three amigos and included swimming with dolphins and long walks through Old San Juan. Even the dining experience was transformed into a single parent’s paradise. Each evening the kids and I would venture up to the Windjammer Café for a nice buffet dinner for Tristan and Courtney, then they would ditch their boring mom and quickly retreat to Adventure Ocean for a Pajama or Pirate Party. Meanwhile, I would enjoy a magnificent five-course meal in the dining room with other single travelers, which the maitre d’ gladly arranged. Each night, we retired to our cabin for some great snuggle time on our bunk beds while watching movies and reminiscing about the day’s adventures.
We returned home with a newfound appreciation for our non-traditional family. I had a confidence and feeling of success in my abilities as a single parent that could not be described. I had conquered my fears of being the sole provider, the lone ranger and the family cruise director, and I was ready for our next adventure. I was no longer “super mom” but now “super mom extraordinaire,” and I realized that traveling as a single parent does not have to be feared but can be a gift to be savored. I realize now that I have something that most married parents may never enjoy—uninterrupted, one-on-one time with my children. The truth of the matter is that, with a little bit of planning and the right vacation choice, life as a traveling single parent can be the best vacation ever.
Stay tuned for details of our next adventure.