Single Parent's Guide To Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is supposed to be a time to relax and have fun, but if you're a single parent, you know how stressful summertime can be. Chances are your kids have a whole lot more vacation than you do, so you'll have to find other ways to keep them busy and supervised while you're at work. If you do have some vacation time saved up, you'll want to make the most out of it, so consider saving up and planning for a cost-efficient family trip.

For most of us, summer vacation poses three distinct challenges. One is day-to-day management when the kids are at home, and you're working. Another is trying to organize a memorable summer trip without breaking your budget. A third, especially important if you just can't afford a trip or don't have the vacation time, is a close look at day trips and family activities that you can find near home.

Of course, every family is different, and no vacation is perfect for everyone. What works for you will depend on how old your children are, what they like to do, what they already do every day (you'll want to find some different things) and where you live. Don't forget to think about yourself as well!

Vacation Preparation
Most parents can't spend the entire summer at home with their kids, especially in a single-parent family. That's why it's important to plan and chart out how your little ones will spend their vacation days while you're at work. Be sure that you consult them when planning their vacation schedule, as you'll want them to be participating in activities that they will enjoy. Before you start the conversation, do some research and come up with a master list of possibilities. Talking to other parents at this stage can be very useful, as you can compare notes and options. Look at local drama or art camps, Girl or Boy Scouts day programs, swimming lessons, or other sports activities put on by the local recreational department.

Work through the list with your kids and see what gets them excited! A good way to keep track of how each child will spend their summer months is to make a grid with each child's name across the top with each week going down the side. Then fill in each slot beneath each child's name with the chosen activity for each week. Be sure to have your grid prepared ahead of time; try to finish it by mid-May at the latest.

Friends are an important part of a child's life, so if you can coordinate with your kids' closest friends and their parents, you are a big step ahead. Teamwork helps, and parents can make life easier if they tag-team the kid problems!

Take That Trip
A trip is the centerpiece of a summer vacation. It's not always possible, especially with so many of us holding more than one job and still barely getting by. If it's not feasible, don't blame yourself for that. Plenty of people are in the same boat, and you and your kids can still have a good summer without traveling. If you have the time and you've been able to put a few dollars away, though, it's worth putting some time and effort into identifying an affordable and memorable destination for your vacation.

National and State Parks are a great option if you want to get your family sometime in the great outdoors. Don't just look at the high profile parks. There are hundreds of parks across the country, and there may be some less known options near you! Many offer summer programs for children and families, and many are quite affordable, especially if you're willing to camp.

Look for resorts, hotels, even cruises that offer special family deals. An internet search will turn up hundreds of options, and a focus on family-specific programs will put you in places where your kids won't disturb others and are likely to find new friends. Just be sure to do your research, and look for independent reviews. If you are paying a package price, be sure you know what the package includes. You don't want to find yourself with unexpected costs!

Don't forget family. If you have relative that you might be able to visit, it's worth asking. Grandparents have saved many a summer!

If you're having trouble finding options that fit within your budget, look closer to home, ask friends and family for ideas, and keep searching the internet! You should also consider the possibility that using that budget on a series of day trips or weekends might get you more fun for the same amount.