Tips for single parent travel
Everyone deserves a holiday but the thought of coping alone with kids in tow can be a daunting prospect. There are things you can do as a single parent to help minimise the effect of any problems that might arise, so take our advice and have a stress-free vacation.
Involve your kids at the planning stage
Happy child equals happy you, so think about everyone's needs at the planning stage to find a destination that works for everyone. If your children love being outdoors and are adventurous, they're not going to appreciate being dragged around museums and art galleries just because you do. If you're struggling to agree, give everyone a day each and take it in turns to plan the itinerary. That way, everyone gets a little of what they want.
Share the responsibilities
No matter what your child's age, there are things they can do to be helpful. From carrying the snacks to working out a travel budget, there are plenty of ways that you can divide up the responsibilities so that everyone feels involved. Packing lists can be worked out together but you might feel less fraught if the person in charge of passports and tickets is you.
Think about how to minimise queuing
Children aren't always going to be patient, especially if they don't understand why they need to do something, and queuing is one of those situations to try to avoid if at all possible. Online check-in reduces the time spent waiting in line at the airport and some airports offer priority lanes through security too. Where you absolutely can't avoid queuing, try to pack something in an accessible pocket that will provide a distraction.
Plan for your hotel arrival in advance
Some hotels have got the whole "child-friendly" thing down, with kids clubs and on-site babysitters to entertain your gang for at least a few hours each day. But think about giving yourself space as you settle in, packing a goodie bag with favourite toys or treats for your child to unpack as you deal with the contents of your suitcase. Also, look for a room that has a fridge so you can tuck away some cold drinks or snacks to enjoy during your stay.
If you're worried about how your little ones will cope in a formal environment like a hotel, consider self-catering options. Enclosed gardens are a boon when it comes to letting off steam as are spacious living rooms. Older children will appreciate free WiFi and a decent TV; don't expect them to be as keen as you on exploring their new surroundings. Setting up a home from home means that you're more likely to get the opportunity to relax too and having your own kitchen to cook in is going to help the budget stretch further. A camping trip is another way to bond with your child.
Choose your mode of transport carefully
Slinging a backpack onto the rack of a chicken bus is one thing when it's just you, but if you're a single parent with kids in tow you'll need to think about how you're going to get around while you're away. A self-drive holiday might well be the easiest choice as the boot space is likely to be significantly greater than any airline's baggage allowance. Don't let long distances rule out a road trip; an overnight ferry can be part of the adventure and breaking your journey into stages short enough for your children to cope with is going to help as well. Build in lots of kid-friendly stops and make the travelling part of the holiday.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
This is probably the most important tip of all. Whether it's asking a flight attendant to watch your child while you go to the bathroom or letting a friendly local coo over your baby while you pack some groceries, it is easier getting help than you might think. Part of the great satisfaction travelling brings is when your problem-solving skills are up to the task of getting you out of trouble, so don't be afraid to challenge yourself and your kids - you're capable of more than you think. Happy travels!