Being a single parent can be challenging enough in everyday life, before you throw holidays into the equation. A holiday is supposed to be enjoyable and relaxing but can quickly become anything but. It can also be an emotional time if you have only recently become a single parent and this is your first trip away.
Holidays should be an adventure and can be great for strengthening bonds and building relationships that can make life easier when back home. Every family is unique and has different dynamics and needs, but there are still things you can do in preparation for a holiday to make it more enjoyable and less of a burden as a single parent:
#1. Choose a holiday that suits you
Don’t be too ambitious or try to signal a fresh start by doing something that won’t necessarily suit everyone. There are plenty of options without travelling for hours, such as a road trip, camping, an adventure holiday or possibly trip to the seaside.
And then of course there are the far flung holidays from beach holidays in the Caribbean to city breaks in Europe or a trip to Disneyland. The key is to understand what the family want as a whole, what your budget is and to talk it through together.
#2. Don’t overdo it
If asked directly the kids might go wild at the suggestion of a two-week holiday abroad, but the reality is that you might run out of things to do after the first week. In actual fact, most kids long for home and their familiar routine after seven days, and so might you. Hence don’t be afraid to book a shorter break and fit more into it.
#3. Keep a routine
Discipline can be very difficult on holiday when the kids are faced with so many temptations and you need to make sure you are flexible but consistent at the same time. The younger your kids, the more important it is to not digress from their meal and bedtime routines too much or you will have to deal with overtired or hungry children or, possibly worse, kids on a sugar-high! Enjoy yourselves but set some boundaries and stick to your home routine to some degree to avoid stressful situations.
#4. You don’t have to travel alone
Just because you are a single parent this doesn’t mean you have to do it all by yourself. Do you have a friend in the same situation or a family you get on with that might want to join you on holiday? Or maybe your parents would enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and come on holiday with you (especially if they don’t live nearby)? Travelling with others is much more fun and, of course, eases the burden on you as you can share looking after the children, shopping and cooking.
#5. Approach the holiday with a different mind-set
If you are going to the beach, don’t expect to be able to get through 50 pages of the novel you brought with you. Unless you are travelling solo, you will be building sandcastles, paddling in the sea and fetching ice creams so you need to be realistic about your expectations. Catch up on sleep, enjoy not having to cook or do the laundry and relax with a glass of wine on the balcony when the kids have gone to bed.
#6. Hotel or self-catering?
This all depends on the type of family you are and what you want from a holiday, but if you are looking for an escape from cooking and washing up then go for a hotel, be it a small family run hotel where the staff are good with kids or a larger complex where every family member can choose their breakfast, lunch and dinner from a varied buffet saving you a lot of worries if you have fussy eaters or different tastes in food. Alternatively, self-catering gives the kids something to do, and they might enjoy the shopping and choosing their food, especially if they like trying new foods. You know your family best and what will create less stress.
#7. Plan excursions together
If you are at a resort hotel, a couple of trips to explore your surroundings will break the week up nicely and add to your holiday experience. Try to go somewhere that is not offered in your home town to make the trip memorable. Let the kids help you plan, vote on what to do or make sure everyone gets their choice for at least one trip. This involves everyone, is democratic and gives everyone something to look forward to, thus preventing fallouts in the meantime.
#8. Consider entertainment
In a family resort there is often entertainment laid on during the day and in the evenings, and while this might be the last thing you want to sit through yourself, kids disco and magic shows are often holiday highlights for the kids and will give you much deserved down time each evening.
#9. Consider a city break
Don’t be scared to book a city break! These are great, not just for families with older kids. There is more to keep the kids busy, travel is often easier (direct flights, shorter airport transfers), you are always on the go and everything is on hand in terms of places to eat and things to see. A city break might be more intense but could be easier to navigate as a single parent, not least because the kids will be tired out quicker!
#10. Spend wisely
Managing finances can be stressful at the best of times, but particularly on holiday when it sometimes feels like you are spending money constantly. Research single room supplements carefully and make sure there is plenty for the kids to do each day. In this respect, resort holidays are often ideal. A lot of the time kids are happy playing by the pool and just being in a different place, so you don’t have to plan an extravagant excursion every day, and therefore you can spread your budget across the week and create less worry for everyone.
Just remember: Travelling as a one-parent family does not need to be stressful. You are spoilt for choice with options so take your time to figure out what works for you and the children and try to prepare some aspects of the holiday in advance. It will be worth the effort!