One of the most infuriating aspects of single parenting is the lack of freedom you have in planning a summer vacation. You don’t just have to worry about your schedule and your child’s interests, but your child’s other family members. Worse, if you scrimp and save to give your kids an amazing experience, their other parent might see it as a personal attack. It takes finesse to pull off a great trip as a single parent.
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Start With Your Custody Agreement
It’s important not to make any assumptions regarding vacation plans. Your custody agreement might specify the specific dates you have for vacation or the steps you need to take in order to inform the other parent of your plans. You might even need to ask for permission. It’s important to look these over early so you can petition the court if any changes are needed.
Keep in mind, too, your ex might not know what’s in your court order. It’s easy for mom or dad to assume they have rights. Wanting or expecting to maintain control over your vacation plans is not the same as legally being able to interfere. Being prepared for unreasonable demands helps you defuse them, but there are ways to help avoid them that you should try first.
Give Your Ex Advance Notice
For custody agreements with vacation stipulations, it’s pretty common for parents to have to notify one another of their plans within 30 days of a trip. What you and your ex consider “notice” might differ, so try to make sure you’re on the same page. Ease into discussions by informing your ex of the vacation dates and a rough idea of the location. A month’s notice should give you enough time to respond to any objections your ex might raise.
Put Yourself in the Other Family’s Shoes
Insecurity is at the root of many vacation battles, but it’s easy to confuse that feeling with fear. If your ex is furious that you’d try to take the kids out of the country, try not to be defensive, and talk them through their fears. Are they really worried you’ll disappear with the children, or are they worried the kids will remember their trip to Paris and forget their trip to Six Flags? Is there any valid reason your children should miss out on an excellent experience because both of you can’t afford to take them on it? Really frame it from the child’s perspective.
Use a similar tactic when dealing with objections to out-of-state travel or too extravagant trips, even if there are step- or half-siblings that will be missing out. You shouldn’t be shamed for making other children feel bad. This was a risk your former partner took by starting a family with someone else.
If the other parent refuses to give permission for international travel, you still have a few options. The U.S Virgin Islands – St. Thomas, St. John, and kid-friendly St. Croix – offer you crystalline waters and powdery white beaches without the need for a passport. Puerto Rico doesn’t require one either and will give the kids a chance to explore sunny, sandy beaches, one of the world’s most impressive cave systems and the only rainforest in the U.S. forest reserve. Just be aware, trips to Alaska which go through Canada Border Control will require your ex’s permission — or a court order.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
Unless contact with your child’s other parent proves to be a disruption, you should try to keep them in touch during a long trip. Feel free to restrict calls and texts to certain hours, and be sure to send lots of photos. You’ll appreciate the effort when it’s your turn to be left at home.
Vacations should be fun for everyone in your family, but it’s difficult for kids who are leaving half of their family at home. You can make it easier on them early in the planning stages by creating a trip their other parent can support.