Taking the kids on holiday can be challenging at the best of times but doing it solo, no doubt, adds another layer of stress. At Single Parents on Holiday, we know exactly how you feel which is why we are offer fully-organised single parent holidays, so that you can relax, spend quality time with the kids, and have a hassle-free trip. To make sure you don’t need a holiday before you even arrived at your destination, we have come up with 10 tips to prepare to ensure you arrive rested and can enjoy a stress-free holiday.
1. Get the kids involved
Encouraging your children to actively participate in the holiday planning process can maximize the fun for everyone and avoid any stressful debates later. Engage in an open discussion and invite your children to express their interests and ideas regarding their travel plans. Are there any sights they would like to see or activities they would like to try? Do you have teens who will only be happy if there are others the same age? Brainstorm with your family and find a holiday that offers something for everyone.
Involve your children in researching destinations by taking out books from the library or watching videos and travel guides online. This involvement not only helps you to come to a consensus from which you can begin planning your itinerary, but it also allows your children to take ownership of certain tasks in the planning process and feel that their input and contribution are valued.
2. Decide where to stay
Travelling with kids can be made a little easier when you stay somewhere that is designed with children in mind. Rather than staying in a hotel room, with its relatively cramped quarters, choose somewhere that has a plethora of amenities that allow your children to expend their energy in a safe and fun environment. Resorts with dedicated kids’ clubs where children can take part in supervised activities, play games, and make new friends work well for single parents as it can give them a much-needed break. Other features to look for include activity centres or water play areas with child-only zones where your kids can play to their heart’s content allowing you some well-earned downtime by the pool.
Alongside these amenities, family-friendly hotels also cater to the needs of younger travellers when it comes to mealtimes. Rather than having to eat like the grownups or finding somewhere else more suitable, child-friendly menus will serve meals with child-sized portions and treats to satisfy the fussiest of eaters. Additionally, many family-friendly hotels will offer all-inclusive packages or complimentary meals for children, helping you save money on your accommodation while you enjoy some time away with the kids.
3. Choose your time of travel
Before you book, make sure, you checked the weather average at the time you wish to travel. Some countries may not be ideal in the middle of summer – too hot, too mild, too unpredictable, etc. Do take into consideration how active you want to be on holiday. Some destinations are better suited for spring or autumn as they can get very hot which is not ideal for fair skinned people, sightseeing, or any active pursuits.
If you want to keep parental stress levels down, choose your time of travel to avoid overly busy airports and tourist hot spots. The last thing you want to do is spend your time queuing or navigating bustling crowds of people and traffic with only one pair of hands but several children in tow. While the school holidays may restrict your travel to certain dates, there are ways to avoid the crowds: Some attractions can be booked online in advance meaning you avoid queues at the ticket office. Others offer a fast-track option if you pay a little extra. Many popular tourist destinations, such as Disney World, offer calendar information that allows you to view peak times and choose dates to help you beat the crowd. This allows you to maximize your time at your destination and enjoy a more leisurely experience.
4. Book early
Whether it’s flights or accommodation, you are likely going to get not only a better deal, but also a much better choice if you book early:
Flight prices have rocketed in 2023, not least because of the rising cost of fuel. If you want to save on flights, you can try to beat the system and find out the best time to book flights. Prices for accommodation have also increased, although not as drastically as flight prices. Tour operators and accommodation providers almost always offer early bird deals, so if you know your kids’ term dates, have booked your time off work, and have travel insurance for any unforeseen emergencies, there is no rework, to delay booking and pay more. You will also get a much better choice of accommodation if you book ahead of time.
5. Check your passports
Once you have booked your flights and accommodation, you can relax a little – but not before checking everyone’s passport expiry dates! Make sure, you don’t get caught out by the new travel rules post Brexit: For travel to the EU, British passports now have to be valid for at least 6 months (sometimes 3 depending on the country) on the day you travel. In addition, your passports must be less than 10 years old. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, chances are that extra months were added to its expiry date, so check that your passports fulfil both requirements.
If you need to order a new passport, do it asap. From within the UK renewing your passport might only take 5 weeks, but the passport office can get busy before the school holidays and you must allow time to get a valid passport picture and all your documents together.
6. Permission from the other parent
Whether you are married, divorced, or widowed, if you are travelling abroad solo with your child/ren, you need to ensure you can prove that you are allowed to do so. This is a sensible and necessary measure to protect children from being taken from their parent/s against their will. Both airlines and border control can ask you to produce a document to prove that you have permission to take your child abroad. This may be a birth certificate to show you are the parent and/or the consent of anyone else with parental responsibility. If the other parent is no longer around, a death certificate or a court order made is usually accepted as a replacement.
7. Get travel insurance
We regularly see parents leaving this to the last minute. This is fine only as long as no unforeseen circumstances arise that might result in having to cancel or change your holiday booking. Our advice is to arrange travel cover as soon as you have made a commitment, i.e., booked your flight or put your deposit for your holiday down. Chances are that you or another family member fall sick putting your travel plans in jeopardy.
Another misconception is that travel insurance is not needed. Whilst your EHIC or GHIC card covers you for medical emergencies in many EU countries, it will not cover you for appointments for existing medical issues, theft, flight cancellations, mountain rescue, special assistance to get you home, etc. So, if you want to put your mind at rest, book private travel insurance and do so as soon as you have booked your single parent holiday. If you travel abroad more than once a year, an annual policy will save you money and hassle.
Now, you have booked your flights and accommodation and made sure your travel documents are sorted, it’s time to sit back and start looking forward to a stress-free holiday. Use the time to read up on your destination, buy a travel guide, and find out what there is to do locally, but don’t stress – you have plenty of time until your holiday! Enjoy the excitement and anticipation of your children as you read and talk about all the adventures you are going to have.
9. Make a Holiday Packing list
Everyone is different, but for me personally a list is what keeps my stress levels down. When you travel with children, there is always the worry that you will forget something important. That could be armbands, their favourite cuddly toy, or the night light without which your little ones won’t sleep. Not every item can be easily purchased and replaced when you arrive at your destination, and who wants to go shopping with their kids in tow on day 1 of their holiday?
The key is to start your list early and add to it as you think of things. Try one of the many free holiday packing list apps on the market as you are bound to lose any paper lists throughout the year. This also means you can use the list for future holidays, so you only have to update it next time. You can also consult a packing list for single parents to get you started. The key is not to leave it to the last minute, so that you can buy any items you don’t have, including clothes or footwear your kids have grown out of. If you want to make things easy for yourself, when it’s time to pack, make two lists: one with all the items you need to carry in your hand luggage and one with items that must go in your suitcase.
10. Enjoy the journey
Most parents dread the car journey or flight to their destination. What if your little ones get bored, cry, are hungry, or need the toilet at an inopportune time? Don’t worry, there is a travel solution for everything, and it doesn’t have to cost money. The key is to pack everyone’s hand luggage wisely, not forgetting your own comfort! If your neck or back get uncomfortable, try wearing a travel pillow, or if you have trouble sleeping, purchase a sleep mask or headphones.
When you are travelling with kids of all ages, it is always important to pack plenty of drinks, snacks, and travel toys that will keep the kids occupied. If you don’t want to spend money on new toys, you could make up your own travel activity sets, including crayons, colouring sheets, Lego, and other little surprises. There are some great DIY ideas on Pinterest for this. Don’t forget your own comfort.
Depending on the ages of your children, it is also wise to include a travel potty, wet wipes, sick bags, and/or plastic bags (for any wet or soiled clothes), as well as a couple of sets of spare clothes. Did you know that there are quite effective over the counter travel sickness tablets for kids on the market? If your children suffer from motion sickness, we strongly recommend bringing medication for the journey, whether you are travelling by plane, car or both.
Last but not least…
Whether you are organised by nature or the spontaneous type, once you have kids, a little planning ahead is necessary and goes a long way to ensuring a relaxing and successful holiday. There is still plenty of room to be spontaneous once you are on holiday. Hopefully our top 10 tips to have a stress-free holiday will help you embrace the challenge of booking a solo holiday with kids. So, keep calm and travel on !