Taking a trip with one child at a time: parent child bonding vacation

Sonja Prokopec took her son on their first “solo” trip together when he was six years old.

They went to Rome, and it was so memorable that Prokopec said she’s now planning their second trip this summer.

“I really enjoy one-on-one time which we have when travelling alone,” she said. “There are no distractions, no arguments among the siblings, time spent together is of high quality… My son still talks about our time in Rome and can’t wait for [our] London trip this June.”

Prokopec and her husband have three children — her son who is now 10, plus two younger daughters. They travel together, but time away with just one child and one parent has perks that family trips don’t often provide, she said.

“Travelling with only one child allows you to focus on the needs of only that child,” she said.  “Also, as I am not stretched from managing different demands, I feel like I am a better parent — more patient, more playful and more in the moment.”

Plus, “my son loves all the attention and loves that we get to explore together, just the two of us,” she said.

Prokopec’s husband — who “always insisted on doing things together, including travelling” — is now a proponent too, she said.

“My husband has also taken my son alone to Turkey and really loved it … even he sees the value in it,” she told CNBC Travel.

Serbian Sonja Prokopec and her son, Laith, on their trip to Rome.

Source: Sonja Prokopec

Prokopec hasn’t taken solo trips with her two youngest children, mostly because of Covid-19, she said. But that may soon change.

“I will definitely do more,” she said.

A growing trend

Elephants and ‘jungle bubbles’

Last year, I decided to book my own mother-daughter trip with my oldest child. (To satisfy cries of injustice from her younger siblings, I promised everyone a “solo” trip at their 10th birthday, too.)

To decide where to go, I asked my daughter a series of simple questions: beach or mountains, cold or warm weather, animals or adventure sports?

Based on her answers, I presented her with a few ideas. She chose the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, outside of Chiang Rai, Thailand. We booked several nights in the main hotel, and one night in the hotel’s “Jungle Bubble” — a spherical tent with a king-sized bed and bathroom that overlooks part of the hotel’s 168-acre area where its elephants can roam.

By day, we walked with the elephants through the fields and watched them bathe in a river along the Myanmar border. We prepared food for the elephants and fed them, but we did not ride them, a practice that is neither allowed by the hotel nor condoned by animal rights supporters.

In the evenings, we swam in the hotel’s pool and held a “spa night” in our room, with facial masks from home and bath salts and lotions from the hotel. At night, we sat outside and looked at the stars.

Guests at Anantara’s Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort can prepare “power balls” made of bananas, rice bran, sunflower seeds, sticky rice, tamarind and salt to feed to the elephants.

Source: Monica Pitrelli

One morning, I suggested we book a cooking class. But my daughter was adamant about trying Muay Thai boxing instead. Resisting the urge to tell her she wouldn’t like it (read: I wouldn’t like it), I booked a session. She loved every minute.

As for me, I cherished having so much time with my daughter, without having to tend to others’ needs. I found myself telling her stories from the past — my own and my husband’s — simply because, without competing voices around, I could.

Anantara’s Golden Triangle Elephant Resort & Camp currently has 20 elephants, including a mother and baby pair. The hotel said they do not buy the elephants, and riding them is forbidden.

Source: Monica Pitrelli

The time also afforded many teachable moments — lessons that had long needed to be taught. While resting in our room one day, I suddenly remembered that we needed to place lunch orders for my daughter’s upcoming school term.

Mom,” she said, looking up from her book. “We can do that when we get home.”

As a bonus, my husband reported having a wonderful time at home with my other children — enjoying their own special moments as a trio, without the complications that can come with a family of five.

Memories that last ‘forever’

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