Published on October 10th, 2013 | by Kelly Rose Bradford0
Holidaying Solo: travelling on your own with kids
For a long time, the thought of travelling long haul on my own with a young child put me off taking him any further than, well, the Kent coast actually (around 70 miles from home).
Until he was seven, we travelled lots as a family – albeit only to European destinations – but I still knew exactly what was involved when flying with a small person: fractious, bored children in airport lounges, vomiting, fractious, bored children on planes, and finally, over-tired, bored, fractious children at the destination. And if it wasn’t my own exhibiting all those signs, there would be at least a dozen others doing so.
So when my relationship ended and it was just me sorting the summer breaks, travelling with my son brought with it a whole host of new issues.
Preparing for a holiday is stressful enough when there are two adults doing it. When there is just one grown up responsible for EVERYTHING, chaos doesn’t even begin to cover it.
I ended up so daunted by the prospect of going abroad that we started spending our school holidays in various rented cottages in the UK – which was lovely and enjoyable, but also a bit predictable (we rented one cottage SO frequently that my son became quite miffed when they changed things in it without warning us).
But I eventually decided I didn’t want Will to miss out on travel opps just because I feared all the prep – in our old life, my former partner would buy maps, draw up itineraries, plan things, learn the lingo, and do all kinds of practical stuff. As a working single mum, I just didn’t have the time for all that. I also had actual childcare and safety anxieties, and my imagination ran riot with thoughts of losing him in the airport or having to leave him unattended (and him then slipping off) while I queued for food/loos/changed money. In other words, I was facing up to all the general stresses that come with travelling solo with a small person that you never consider when holidaying as a family group.
But I didn’t want him picking up on any of my anxieties, or, when he looked back as an adult, concluding that all the ‘fun’ and ‘new place’ holidays ended when his mum and dad’s relationship did.
So this year I got a bit braver and ventured further afield than the Kent seaside. In the past ten months we have flown together twice, once long and once short haul, and had a couple of UK based long-drive holidays.
I know lots of parents hate the idea of being stuck in the car for hours on end with grumpy kids, but I have always found driving breaks OK with my son, even when he was a small baby (though, admittedly there were more adults to drown out the crying then). We used to do regular ten-hour-long ferry-and-driving holidays down to south east France, so now, anywhere we drive in the UK seems almost like a Sunday afternoon spin.
And even the flying trips weren’t quite as challenging as I’d feared.
In February, we did a nine hour flight to Florida, and in May, a short hop across to Denmark.
Obviously my son is older now (ten), and I am still not sure I would want to go long haul on my own with a toddler, but here is what I have learned on a compare and contrast basis from having travelled a lot as a family, to now holidaying as a single mum:
- Don’t pack too far in advance: You will think you are being uber organised, but your kids WILL rummage and remove things before departure without telling you. You will then only discover their swimming trunks/clean underwear/gadget chargers are missing once in resort.
- If you have pets that are being boarded or kennelled, do it the day before you are leaving – NOT on the morning you are due to travel. It just adds to the stress. We now pack our pooch off to her doggy sitter a full day before we leave, and knowing she is safe and sorted makes a huge difference.
- Don’t fall into the trap of packing a huge bag of toys just for the flight – I know single parents who use their hand luggage allocation for their kids’ stuff. When kids KNOW there are thirty more items in the bag, they will lose interest in each one a whole lot quicker…
- Don’t feel guilty about wanting ‘me time’ – it’s your holiday too. Use kids’ clubs, listening services and resort crèches – it’s often said that holidays are just parenting in a different location. When you’re a single parent this is even more true – try not to let it be.
- Accept help. If a friend or relative suggests coming away with you, don’t think of it in terms of your holiday becoming someone else’s – look upon it as company and an extra pair of hands.
- Don’t be shy – if you are able to use a listening service or babysitter at your holiday destination, don’t sit in the lounge hiding behind a book, or eat in your room/only with your child. Be confident with your own company and don’t fear eating or having a drink alone, but also be brave enough to talk to people. After a day of having only a youngster for company, having some grown-up chit chat will make a huge difference!