A trip away as a lone parent and child/children can be a precious chance to reconnect and create new bonds as you share new experiences. If you plan it right, they also get instant playmates while you get the opportunity to relax in congenial company. Best of all, as the sole adult making decisions, you’re free of the arguments or compromises that can plague many a traditional family holiday.
It’s not essential, but many single parents feel happiest using a travel company that caters well for single parent families, especially if your child is sensitive to the issue of travelling without Mum or Dad and you worry that being surrounded by two-parent families might make them feel self-conscious or sad. For a list of such companies, see below.
Top Tips for Single-Parent Travel
• As with all travel with kids, plan your holiday carefully, taking everyone’s needs into account. You may fancy flopping out with a book on the beach, or want to grab some time in a hotel spa at least once during the holiday, but this may be especially tricky on your own. So it’s essential to choose somewhere you know there’ll be other kids roughly the same age as your own, and where babysitting or some other childcare is on offer (check how long in advance babysitters need to be booked).
• Accept that even the most carefully laid plans might not work out. For instance, on my first solo-parent trip to Corfu, I was banking on the hotel kids’ club to provide some respite for me and distraction for my then five-year-old – especially helpful when there isn’t anyone to bounce off and share the load. But when we got there, Joe recoiled at the prospect of so much as entering the mini-club. This was my mistake – I hadn’t thought to discuss or sell it to him in the most positive light beforehand. But it wasn’t a disaster – I focused all my patience and energy on teaching him to swim, and he was so exhausted that we’d retire to our room so he could have an afternoon nap and I could doze or read for a while. This in turn meant that he had the stamina to stay up later and watch the fire-eaters and jugglers with me and I got to relax over a drink. The moral of the story being that you can still have a great time by going with the flow.
• Perhaps even more than with other kinds of holiday, it’s very beneficial to involve your child/children in choosing where to go or what to see as a way of getting them excited in their upcoming adventure (particularly if your child is nervous about travelling with one parent). Will the beach suffice, or would an activity holiday be more up your street – or a combination of both? Joe was sold on our single-parent Easter break in Tunisia by the prospect of seeing a Star Wars filming location and by spending a night camping in the desert, while I was able to grab some relaxation during the part of the trip spent in a hotel.
• Complement rather than compete. One complication may be that your child is already committed to a trip with their other parent, in which case it’s a good idea to go for a completely different type of holiday. If they’ve just had a beach holiday overseas with Dad, think about a single-parent outdoor activity break.
• Don’t be afraid to bombard tour companies with questions to make triple-sure the holiday is right for your family. On an escorted adventure holiday when you’ll be travelling in a small group, it’s particularly important to find out the age and gender of any kids already booked on the trip you’re considering to make sure that your child will fit in and hopefully make some friends.
• Once you’re there, don’t be afraid to ask other families to watch over your child around the pool while you need the bathroom or nip to get a drink. Most people are more than happy to oblige, but they won’t necessarily strike up a conversation for fear of straying into a sensitive area. We’ve met some lovely people around the poolside.
• Single with Kids. The UK's largest firm specialising in single- and lone-parent family holidays, with varied offerings around Britain and continental Europe, from Lapland to the Mediterranean.
• Intrepid Travel. Adventurous worldwide trips for families with some single-parent departures.
• Crystal Ski Holidays. If you’re itching to escape to the mountains, teach your children to ski or just work off the excesses of Christmas, this company has more than four decades’ experience – plus an encouraging ‘one-parent saver’ discount on certain room types in certain properties.
• Responsible Travel (responsibletravel.com). One of the largest specialists in green/eco-friendly travel, this offers a variety of either single-parent or single-parent-friendly holidays.
• Single Parents on Holiday (singleparentsonholiday.co.uk). This firm runs escorted beach, activity and ski holidays using three- to five-star accommodation.
• PGL Family Adventures. These sociable outdoor multi-activity holidays receive rave reviews from single parents.
• Eurocamp. These popular holiday parks welcome single parents with special discounts.
See our solo-parent holiday guide, including current special offers.
By Judy Reynolds