I’m a single mom, but I still like to travel with my daughters when the budget allows it. Although it can seem daunting to travel alone with children, it’s really fun traveling with kids when you’re prepared. Here are some safety tips for traveling alone with smaller children.

Car Safety

This seems obvious, but make sure your vehicle is road-worthy before you travel. Be sure all the scheduled maintenance is up-to-date, and that unscheduled maintenance has been taken care of as well. Know where you’re going, whether you’re using the GPS in your vehicle, or the one on your cell phone. Better yet, also have a written map handy just in case. I always have a mini first aid kit with us at all times, some foods to snack on, water to drink, and a good flashlight.

I like to keep about twenty dollars in bills stored in my vehicle for emergency gas money, along with about five dollars in change for unexpected tolls. I keep a list of about five or seven emergency phone numbers (AAA, parents, neighbors, doctors, etc.) in case my cell phone stops working, and I never leave the house without both my cell phone (fully charged) and an in-car charger.

Hotel Safety

The girls and I always stay in a hotel with rooms off an indoor hallway, instead of a motel, with room access from the parking lot when we’re traveling alone. When we check in I specifically ask the front desk person not to say our room number aloud, and we keep the door locked once we’re inside. I’ve also purchased a door jammer with sound that we use specifically for traveling. You install batteries and jam it underneath the room door. If someone attempts to open the door from outside the room an alarm will sound, and you will wake up.

I take the flashlight and emergency kit out of the vehicle and bring it into our hotel room. It’s really no big deal to tote them back and forth. We’ve never needed the flashlight inside the room, although we’ve used the OTC medications on a semi-regular basis – when you’re traveling out of town and eating a diet of restaurant foods, someone is likely to get an upset stomach. It’s much easier to find my stash than to find a drugstore that I’ll have to drag my sick child(ren) to.

In your hotel room, you’ll also want to keep your valuables to a minimum. There are hotel safes available in your room sometimes, but your best bets are a portable safe that you bring with you, the safe at the front desk, and to take your valuables with you when you leave the room, although that may not be practical.

For the most part we reserve our room in advance, although sometimes that’s not possible with a last minute trip. But instead of driving from hotel to hotel looking for a room, use your cell phone’s HotelCoupons.com app to find a room. You will also be able to call the hotel to make sure that rooms are available.

Rest Stop Safety

I make sure to park in a space very close to the building. When I’m traveling alone with my daughters, parking away from the building so I can get a little more exercise goes right out the window. Safety is more important, especially when we’re in a place we’ve never been.

Whenever the girls and I leave the vehicle, we all get out on the drivers’ side of the car, especially after dark. They also know that the first thing they do when they get back into the vehicle is lock their doors. This may sound crazy, but I carry a flashlight in my purse at all times. It’s come in handy a time or two away from home. We make sure no valuables are left in sight in the car to make it an easy target for thieves. We try to clean up each time we leave the vehicle to make it easier to get back in and be comfortable.

Keeping Kids Occupied

In order to ensure that I’m paying attention to the road, and not the arguing girls behind me, I make sure they have plenty of games, books, movies, and travel toys to keep them occupied. All of these items must fit inside a tote bag so their back seat is easy to clean when we exit the vehicle.

Don’t be afraid to travel alone with your children. While my girls are now 6 and 8, I’ve been traveling alone with them since they were just 1 and 3. Adding a diaper bag, an umbrella stroller, and more frequent stops was the only difference. We’ve taken several memorable trips together, and will continue to do so. With just a few basic safety rules, your vacations will be full of fun, and with include much less worry.