Single parents band together in travel networks
No one said life, or travel deals, were fair. Single travelers have long been on the short end of the travel package stick, sometimes having to pay almost the price of two adult fares for a private room. Down on below the solo traveler, at the bottom of the pile of neglected travel groups, are single parents traveling with children. In recent years, some tours have started offering "single parent specials," but they often turn out to be "special" in name only. When you do the math, they turn out to be nothing more than a slight reduction on the usual two-adult rate.
Single parents have searched for years in vain for travel organizations that take their kind seriously. Why does no one seem to cater to their market? It basically comes down to money. Travel companies are in business to make money and maximize profits. They are happiest when things are simple, when clients agree to cookie-cutter packages intended for double occupancy. Attempts are made to keep changes (and work on the tour operator's part) to a minimum. But not everyone fits into the categories a tour operator wants (usually a family with two parents or an adult couple). Driven mad by the lack of options, many single parents have started networks to exchange travel advice, options, and recommendations on their own.
One of these single parents is Brenda Elwell, who runs singleparenttravel.net and writes a monthly newsletter for the site. A single parent for more than 20 years, Elwell has traveled around the world leading tours, often bringing her two children along with her to South and Central America, the Middle East, the Orient, 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're driving), how to plan activities that everyone will enjoy, and how to budget day-by-day expenses on your trip.
What Elwell has learned in the course of her experiences is that high prices are just one the aggravations for the single parent. Activities on packages are another. Take your typical cruise or resort. The usual family package separates children from the adults during the day. The kids go to daycare or play games with other kids, and the parents play golf or take in some sun. Many parents want a break from their usual responsibilities and are more than happy to have the children out of their hair for the day. But single parents tend to work long hours, and want to spend their vacations together with their children. At many resorts at night, there are plenty of romantic things for couple to do--dancing, hot tubbing and the like. "Single adults with children feel out of place in most resorts," says Elwell. "They are just not set up for them, and it's not fair."
In response, Elwell has put together a survey on the needs of single parents, the results of which she plans to publicize widely within the travel industry (and hopefully bring about much-needed change). If you'd like to take part in the survey, simply go to singleparenttravel.net/survey. All survey respondents will automatically be enrolled in a lottery, the prize being a free vacation for three at a Beaches resorts. The survey takes approximately five minutes to fill out, and all information will be kept confidential (not to worry, they won't sell your name and email address!).
More sources for singletons and their kids
We've found a few other sites that may also be helpful for the single parent struggling to put together a vacation that you and the children will enjoy. Family Travel Forum has a message board familytravelforum.com/forum/singletravel where people post questions, offer advice, and sometimes plan trips together with other single parents. Parents Without Partners (parentswithoutpartners.org) is a non-profit 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 (singleparentcentral.com) and Single Parent Magazine (singleparentmagazine.com) also host general online message boards where you can find occasional discussion of travel issues.
More Web sites and resources will surely arise in the future as travel organizations realize this is a large market of people who are not going to disappear. But be careful if you're surfing the Web looking for single parent travel opportunities. In our searching, we found that many sites for "single parent travel" turned out to be dating or mail-order bride services, and swingers' vacations! No joking.