We go straight to those in the know – our readers who are doing it on their own – to find your favourite destinations and holiday tips for single parents.
Here at Holidays with Kids, we have first-hand experience of travelling as single parents – after all, two thirds of our editorial team are bringing up kids on our own!
We also have a huge database of readers who are single parents, so we decided to tap this resource to find out what the biggest challenges and rewards are for single parents, what their favourite destinations are and what advice they can offer to those about to embark on a holiday as the only adult.
Favourite Destinations for Single Parents
The only limit to where single parents can travel is their imagination – there’s a whole world out there to explore. Many of our readers choose tried and tested destinations like the Gold Coast, Fiji or the USA; but others suggested going off the beaten track, giving your children the opportunity to experience new and exciting cultures.
“My daughter is really into wildlife and researching animals at the moment. I like to experience different cultures and try different things – so Borneo was perfect for us. When planning the itinerary I tried to mix up activities to keep things interesting for both of us and give my daughter certain travel responsibilities along the way, for example working out exchange rates, learning new foreign words and being in charge of her own luggage.” Alison Parkin
One tip was to list your home on an exchange website – you could get responses from all over the world, opening up new, unexpected destinations to explore.
It seems Australia’s favourite playground – the Gold Coast – is also the number one choice for single parents. With great family-friendly hotels, plenty to do and the ever-popular theme parks, it makes perfect sense to head to the Sunshine State and enjoy a break away from the real world.
Cruises are an ideal option for single parents – a ship is, in essence, a floating hotel with great kids’ facilities, transporting you to a new and exciting place every day.
“Not only is there the advantage of being somewhere different every day, there is no constant repacking and moving to new hotels, the children experience so many different cultures and countries but you remain in the same room and just let the ship take you there!” Rochel Rubinstein
Caravan parks are a cheap and friendly option, while camping is also popular, especially among single parents with boys. But be prepared:
“If you want to camp, make sure you have a tent that is easy to put up by yourself and practice putting it up several times before you go and get your kids involved.” Laura Dawson
“I know a day will come when my seven-year-old Amber would rather not spend holidays with her mum, but until that day camping provides the right mix for us both. It doesn’t matter if we drive 10 minutes to the beaches of the Sunshine Coast, or 10 hours to hike Carnarvon Gorge; we are both happier in our camper trailer than anywhere. Sometimes we go on our own and meet new people at the campsite (there are always kids around), and other times we gather friends and escape together.” Sarah Pye
Single parent travel presents challenges and rewards unlike any other family holiday. It provides the opportunity for intense and wonderful experiences with our children, but there are also the pitfalls of added expense, lack of support and an absence of down time. Not to mention lugging all the bags and never being in your own family photographs!
Finding a holiday that suits both the child and you is the first hurdle. Involve your children in planning discussions – if they are invited to contribute ideas, there will be fewer complaints along the way:
“When children are happy, the parent is happy. So try and find a place they will enjoy, discuss all the activities and places that you can go and see, and try organising a flexible but reliable day-to-day plan with your children … to cover what everyone wants to see.” Rania Daaboul
Of course, the biggest challenge any family faces in planning a holiday is the expense, especially when there is only one income. Most family packages are for two adults and two children, making it economically unviable for just one adult. Look out for companies offering discounts – one reader suggests Carnival Cruise Lines and Cosmos Tours who offer special deals for single parents.
“I often find the single supplement the biggest burden for me and an issue I am constantly trying to get around. In November we are planning a four-week trip to New Zealand’s South Island and have decided to stay in backpackers to keep the costs down so we can spend more on adventure activities.” Alison Parkin
Many of our readers advise booking an apartment rather than a hotel – that way you can save money by making your own breakfast and dinner:
“One thing I was glad I did was to find the nearest Coles and Woolies and stock up on food to fill the fridge. That way we could enjoy lounging around our apartment and not have to worry about dressing up and putting on shoes to go and going out to eat.” Sherri Pullen
Safety is a real concern among single parents – we all wish we had a second set of arms and eyes in the back of our head! The burden of responsibility is especially relevant when you are travelling overseas.
Then there’s the responsibility of making sure things run smoothly:
“Sometimes it can be exhausting when you’re on your own… you have to get the children ready, get their things ready, then get yourself ready and try not to forget the camera that has been on the charge from the day before…” Rania Daaboul
Utilising your time alone also presents a unique challenge for single parents:
“The hardest thing about travelling alone is the loneliness when my son is asleep at night… but I guess it’s all how you look at the situation. I actually met heaps of people whom I still keep in contact with, and I probably wouldn’t have met them if I had a partner there because you usually tend to keep to yourselves.” Laura Dawson
Kids' Club or Not?
It seems are readers are torn about the necessity of a kids’ club. For many, holidays are the only time during the year when they can have time together, so time alone is not a priority. Others like the flexibility of the kids having something to do, specialised activities to keep them happy all day long – or even just for half a day. Resorts that have multiple kids’ clubs catering to all age groups are especially popular.
“I just took my six-year-old son to Fiji, to the Shangri-La… My son was making friends everywhere. He thoroughly enjoyed the kids’ program – couldn’t wait to get there every day. We both enjoyed the mornings together and there was always something happening in the pool…. After lunch my son would disappear to the kids’ program and I wouldn’t hear from him til dinner time. I got to relax by the pool and catch up on some reading…” Deborah Simmelmann
As a single parent, making the most of the time the kids are busy can be a real challenge:
“First day at Kids’ Club and quite frankly I didn’t know what to do with myself… So Kids’ Clubs are now off my list as an essential, however I do find them a great place to meet other parents that you can later bump into around the pool… Kids are a great icebreaker.” Emma-Jane Smith
“It’s all very well having time to yourself but it would be nicer to be able to go out to lunch or dinner with someone else. I don’t always make the most of my time by myself and sometimes find myself waiting for the time to pick up the kids. This is because I usually end up doing something by myself.” Ella Murkett
“Being single, I wish I had another pair of eyes. So I always buy wristbands. Also, if you have a small child with you, you can hire a stroller at most hotels. A stroller can double up as a trolley to cart around bags, towel etc – when you wish you had another pair of arms.” Selena Rieckmann
“The best tip I could give another single parent is to always have the major talk about safety and the dos and don’ts of travelling to help make it easier for the mum or dad. I spent a long time on this with my son especially as we travelled overseas and I wanted him to be aware of potential situations but to have the best time he could.” Lisa Holloway
“Get your child accustomed to the culture of eating in a restaurant. So many children do not really know how it all works, what is expected of them and what they are to expect. So building up to our first holiday I started taking my son out to dinner once a fortnight, just somewhere casual in fear of an episode. Then when we went away he was fantastic. He knew exactly how to behave in a restaurant and I was able to relax and enjoy.” Emma-Jane Smith
“If you know other single parents then you can get a nice cabin and share the costs too.” Laura Dawson
“Remember to breath and exhale. It’s a challenge but heaps of fun that your kids will remember for ever.” Fiona Lamont