My Favorite Family Vacations for Solo and Single Parents

Easy, special, and packed with fun—these spots are perfect for solo and single parents and their kids.
Getaway mini house glamping in the Catskills with picnic table in foreground
(Photo: Getaway)
  • I travel frequently as a solo parent and have learned some tips along the way to make sure our vacations go smoothly.
  • Traveling with your kids as a single parent is a great time to bond and create memories that will last a lifetime.
  • These are my absolute favorite spots to visit as a single parent, no matter what ages your kids are.

According to the National Census Bureau, single parent homes have been on the rise for decades. It comes as no surprise that along with that number, single parent travel has also increased.

You don’t have to be separated or divorced to travel with your kiddo alone. Some parents (including me) carve out extra one-on-one time with their kids to bond and reconnect on solo parent trips. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or a longer vacation, here are my tips, along with some of my favorite destinations for solo parent traveling. 

Tips for Single Parent and Solo Parent Trips

  • Budget extra time to get from place to place, and be sure to map everything out ahead of time.
  • When packing, take into consideration whether or not you actually need the items you’re taking. I’m a huge proponent of traveling light and not overpacking. When flying, this also saves you on paying for checking bags.
  • Whether you’re traveling with a toddler or teen, make sure you pack some healthy snacks for those hunger emergencies. An apple or a bag of walnuts can be a lifesaver.
  • Before heading out, make sure your significant other, a friend, or family member has your itinerary so they know your whereabouts. 

My Beach-Forward Pick: Maui

aerial view from a helicopter of the Road to Hana, with the Pacific coastline visible as well
(Photo: Christine Sarkis)

Maui is open again for travel and it’s as beautiful as ever. All over the island, you’ll find locals raising money for fire victims by selling items like t-shirts, hats, and chocolate, but unless you’re actually in Lahaina, you won’t see much sign of the damage caused by last summer’s wildfires. As a traveler, come with empathy and kindness and you’ll be welcomed with open arms by locals who depend on tourism and who are proud to show off their exceptional home.

There are so many activities perfect for solo and single parents traveling with kids. For an activity where you get a little adult backup, book a surf lesson or try a sailing or snorkeling trip with a company like Sail Trilogy. If you’re traveling with a slightly older kid who can handle a longer drive, consider taking a Road to Hana tour with a native-owned tour company like Hana & Beyond. (Editor’s Note: I took a Road to Hana tour in February 2024 and the guide told me this is a good time to go because there are still far fewer people driving the road because demand hasn’t yet rebounded after the fires. -CS)

Where to Stay on Maui

The Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, centrally located right on Wailea’s Alanui Drive close to The Shops at Wailea, is a sprawling 40-acre resort, which is finishing up completion of renovations, is home to nine pools, a 2,000-foot lazy river, and multiple waterslides. The resort hosts weekly activities including cultural tours, fitness classes, and arts and crafts. Upon arrival, kids are given a Grand Passport, a map of educational and fun activities for them to experience during their visit. We took a hula session during our stay and loved learning something new together. Its spa, the Mōhalu Healing Garden and Beauty Lab, has a menu for kids and teen facials, and the family-friendly lūʻau show is among my favorite luaus ever.

For a bit of room to spread out, head north to Outrigger Honua Kai Resort & Spa on the Kaanapali Coast. Studios and one- and two-bedroom suites have extra room so both you and the kids get a bit of privacy, plus the bonus of a kitchen for easy meals when you don’t feel like going out to eat. The hotel is right on Kaanapali Beach and is home to Duke’s Beach House (and is close to Whalers Village where there are other restaurants and shops).

For a Manageable City Stay: Seattle, Washington

view of the Seattle Space Needle and fountain with kids playing on a warm summer day
Around the Space Needle, there are plenty of kid-friendly places to stop and play (Photo: Christine Sarkis)

I love Seattle for its bustling-but-not-overwhelming vibe and its indoor and outdoor activities for both adults and children.

Seattle has a lot of great museums and learning centers. If your kids are younger, don’t miss the Seattle Children’s Museum, which is full of cool exhibitions that encourage kids and their adults to play, get creative, and run around. Don’t miss the Outdoor Discovery Center, a collection of play structures and trails sure to keep them busy.

The Pacific Science Center is another attraction with interactive learning experience for kids of all ages. The non-profit is brimming with experiences, including the laser dome, which features shows throughout the day, and the planetarium, where kids can enjoy a live and engaging presentation about the solar system and far away galaxies. 

In warmer months, a stop at Wild Waves Theme & Water Park is a must. The 70-acre amusement and water park is a 33-minute drive from downtown Seattle and offers over 50 rides and a massive wave pool to  keep kids entertained. As a single traveling parent, I particularly love that this is a great spot for your kids to find other kids to play with and for me to get to chat with other caregivers.

Where to Stay in Seattle

I make the Four Seasons Seattle my base camp, and I love its location a few minutes walking distance from the iconic Pike Place Market. Not only do kids stay free at this elegant hotel, hotel staff also surprises kiddos with a welcome package that changes from season to season. I love being so close to the market because of the many budget-friendly food options available, especially for breakfast and lunch.

A Low-Key Mountain Adventure: Bend, Oregon

Lobby of Campfire Hotel in Bend, Oregon
Campfire Hotel is a fun homebase for solo parents and their kids (Photo: Campfire Hotel)

This high desert town in Oregon checks all the boxes for one of my favorite destinations as a solo traveler with a kid in tow. Near the Cascade Mountain Range, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities for all seasons. In the winter, we head to Mt. Bachelor for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. There’s also the chance to take a thrilling dog sledding ride through winding trails and snow-covered trees. 

There’s no place that satisfies all my culinary checklists like Bend because not only do they have tons of healthy options, restaurants here also tend to be kid-friendly and affordable.

There are many good restaurants to choose from, but here are some of my favorites. Rancher Butcher Chef opened in late 2021 in the NorthWest Crossing neighborhood. Served family-style and meant for sharing, seasonal ingredients are always the highlight. My absolute favorites here are the Japanese Miyazaki striploin and Snake River Farms ribeye. For kids bites, you can’t go wrong with their bistro burger and well-seasoned fries. 

For some seriously authentic Italian food, head to Trattoria Sbandati, a Bend mainstay since 2009. Family-owned and operated, reflecting owner Juri Sbandati’s Tuscan roots, the menu features house made pastas, savory sauces, and delicious desserts, along with an extensive wine and cocktail selection. The town is home to many healthy eating options as well, such as NW Raw Organic Juice Bar, which serves organic and plant-based juices and foods. Both parents and kids will fall in love with their healthy dessert options that aren’t loaded with tons of sugar.

Where to Stay in Bend

For families looking for comfort and fun, I recommend Campfire Hotel. Conveniently located right off Highway 97, this chic motel has comfortable rooms with flat screen TVs, an outdoor pool and hot tub, and a fire pit, where your little ones can make s’mores. The Happy Camper Suite has two bedrooms; one of them being a room with bunk beds, which is great for fun for the kids. The hotel provides pool toys for little ones and the welcoming lobby has a camp store with activity books, toys, and games.

National Park Memories: Zion, Utah

The Riverside Walk trail in Zion National Park in fall (Photo: National Park Service)
The Riverside Walk trail in Zion National Park in fall (Photo: National Park Service)

National parks allow us to connect with nature and teach our kids the importance of wildlife and preservation. They also offer days of exploration, with little time for boredom. And in general at national parks, I skip spending a ton of money on tours. Instead, I like to stop at the visitors center for a free map and a knowledgeable ranger with recommendations on hikes. Some parks even offer free tours.

Zion National Park is the third most visited national park in the United States with good reason. Well-known for its canyon, which is about 15 miles long and over 2,640 feet deep, visitors can hike among beautiful red-hued sandstone. The park offers easy hikes, along with more challenging pursuits such as The Narrows, a popular canyoning adventure.

Expect to find plenty of waterfalls within the park. Among them, Weeping Rock, located at Lower Emerald Pools, is the most popular. Pine Creek Falls is another great spot and less crowded but will take some maneuvering over large boulders and some sandy portions along the trail. The admission for Zion National Park is $35 per vehicle and $20 if traveling by foot, and your pass is good for seven days. If you elect to take the shuttle, it’s free and operated on a first-come, first-serve basis. And if you happen to be traveling with a fourth grader, get a national parks pass through the Every Kid Outdoors program and your visit will be free.

Another great stop near Zion is Snow Canyon State Park, where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed. It’s a 15-minute drive from the town of St. George and it features an expansive canyon surrounded by lava flows, and many trails for hiking. 

Where to Stay Near Zion National Park

When we visit Zion, I love setting staying at The Advenire, Autograph Collection, located in the heart of St. George, an adorable and walkable town that’s about a 25-minute drive to Zion National Park. The boutique hotel’s restaurant Wood Ash and Rye is easily one of the best in the area, offering creative vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, along with excellent selections for carnivores. St. George’s streets are lined with an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and many parks.

Midwestern Charm: Bloomington, Indiana

Head to Bloomington for some old-fashioned Midwestern fun. Home to Indiana University, a quaint downtown with over 100 restaurants, and access to three lakes—Monroe, Griffy, and Lemon—it’s a great solo parent vacation.

Get some physical activity in at the Hoosier Heights rock climbing gym, which welcomes kids and adults of all levels. Day passes start at $14 for kids from 6 to 14 years old and children 5 years and under climb for free.

The Bloomington Speedway showcases race cars on the move, and will be hours of entertainment if your kiddo is a fan of monster trucks. Children 12 and under get in free. The arena offers overnight camping for a fee and has several food trucks on hand for a casual no-frills meal.

If the theater is more up your alley, I recommend taking in a performance at Indiana University’s Opera and Ballet Theater. The theater hosts live concerts and performances throughout the year, many of which are good for kids.

The city is close to many of Indiana’s best hiking trails, which are ideal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter months. The Bloomington Rail Trail, Karst Farm Park, and Clear Creek Trail have great outdoor trekking for both beginners and seasoned pros.

Good food is a nice perk in Bloomington. I highly recommend checking out Big Woods Bloomington for some hearty fare. Menu highlights are artisan pizzas, savory burgers, and delicious desserts. Make sure to stop by Rainbow Bakery during your visit—it has delicious cupcakes and cookie cakes.

Where to Stay in Bloomington

Traveling as a single parent, I look for convenient lodging. That’s why I recommend looking into a vacation rental like this one from Vacasa. With rentals, you get the convenience of a kitchen, living room, and sometimes even a yard—all for the same price (or sometimes less) of a hotel. Many also offer the perk of a washer and dryer. This private property overlooks the Hoosier National Forest and has incredible mountain views.

Take the All-Inclusive Approach: Highland, New York

I have found all-inclusive resorts to be a game-changer when traveling as a single parent with kids. If you do your research, not only do they save you money in the long run, there are many added benefits such as convenience, perks, and opportunities to try new things that are part of your package. 

Rocking Horse Ranch is one of my favorite East Coast all-inclusives because it’s conveniently located close to the Poughkeepsie train station. Situated on 500 acres, the resort has a nice mix of lodging options plus a massive indoor and outdoor waterpark, a game room, tennis and basketball courts, horseback riding, and mini-golf course.

Set in the heart of the Hudson River Valley, the ranch also features healing hot springs which are so blissful after a full day of activities. 

Rooms are rustic, but spacious and air conditioned, with flat-screen TVs and minifridges, which are great for storing leftovers. Perhaps what I enjoy the most at this all-inclusive is the many food options on offer. The resort serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with dessert, along with snacks throughout the day. I never have to worry about tantrums during snack times, so that’s a plus in my book!

It also does a great job with seasonal events and live entertainment to keep everyone active and involved. If you visit during the winter, I suggest snow tubing and sleigh rides. 

Tiny House Glamping: Around the United States

Getaway glamping with person by campfire in the evening
Get the camping vibes without the camping challenges (Photo: Getaway)

Here’s one more idea when you’re brainstorming vacations with the kids. Getaway provides a fun and easy glamping experience without the nuisances of camping like tent set up and bathroom considerations. These tiny home rentals are in nature-y destinations around the country and most are within two hours of a major metropolitan area. 

The cabins are all outfitted with comfort in mind and have heat, air conditioning, a flushing toilet, shower, and a bed with fluffy pillows and warm comforters. The highlights are the outdoor areas with picnic tables, Adirondack seating, and fire pits. 

My kiddo loved the bunk bed structure in our cabin with large windows, looking into the forest of trees. We’d wake up to the sun streaming into the cabin and hear birds chirping nearby.

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Jean Chen Smith
Jean Chen Smith is a freelance journalist who is passionate about storytelling and curating authentic travel experiences. Based in Oregon with a love of the great outdoors, she has contributed to The Oregonian, Travel + Leisure, FamilyVacationist, SFGATE, Insider Travel, 1859, AARP, and more. When not writing and traveling, she is following her other passions which include Pilates, trail running, and spending time with her shih tzus Tonka and Paisley.