Going on holiday or travelling with your kids as a single parent can feel overwhelming. The cost, the logistics, the practicalities. All too often, single mums put holidaying in the too-hard-basket or make a promise to do it another time.
Please don’t do that.
Spending quality time with your kids away from home and taking them travelling is hugely important for you, and them.
Not only is travelling an incredible experience for kids but I have found it to have many other benefits. It opens their mind, boosts development, motivates problem-solving, and encourages empathy with others (particularly different cultures) whilst making them more accepting of the world around them. Getting away as a family can also strengthen your bond with your children as you leave the mundane behind and discover new experiences together.
I’ve lived on a shoestring all my single mother life and have still travelled extensively with my daughters. I also have the experience of being an ex-travel agent. Here is how I made it happen.
Further reading on this topic: Flying with kids: Everything you need to know.
Single parent travel and holiday tips
WE TRAVEL ANYWHERE
Travel doesn’t have to be extensive or expensive. Yes, it is wonderful to go overseas and treat yourself to a nice hotel, but camping an hour’s drive from home can be just as much fun, sometimes more.
Work with what you have and what you can afford.
For example, during lockdown we couldn’t leave our state so I booked a cheap hotel deal in a town a 3-hour drive away. It was one of the most enjoyable trips we have had together and I would never have considered it had it not been for travel restrictions.
The important part is getting away from your home and your everyday routine while spending time together as a family.
Further reading: Single parent holidays: 6 Easy ideas to get away.
I GET THE CHEAPEST HOLIDAY DEALS AVAILABLE
Shopping for travel can take a while because there are so many deals, which is good but time-consuming. I start early and take my time so I get the absolute lowest prices available.
For flights, accommodation and package holidays check out the large online travel platforms. You can also put your requirement directly into a Google search and compare flight and accommodation prices on certain dates. My starting points are always:
Note: Scoopon and Cudo are discount coupon websites which offer discount holidays alongside other offers. It is definitely worth checking in with both of these before you book as you could bag a big travel saving.
I TAKE MY KIDS OUT OF SCHOOL
If you’ve ever booked a holiday or any kind of travel you will know that pricing is extremely date sensitive. Costs can triple in holiday time compared to term time.
Not everyone will agree with my choice, but I take my kids out of school to get cheaper pricing. If you do this, remember to notify the school and make sure your kids stay ahead with their schoolwork.
I am taking my youngest daughter out of school two weeks early at the end of this term but it is on the proviso that she is up-to-date with her studies. It’s a really good incentive to get them working!
Travel in term time will save you thousands of dollars and it is quieter everywhere too.
Single parent travel and holiday tips (cont.)
I CONTACT ACCOMMODATION DIRECTLY
Single parent families are not particularly well catered for in the holiday industry. For some strange reason, hotels and other accommodations expect every booking to be two adults and two kids and they price accordingly. For this reason, always phone your choice of accommodation directly and explain your situation and the sleeping arrangements you require.
When my girls were young, hotels were happy for us to share a room. Now they are teens they are classed as adults and although we still want to share a room, hotel booking systems won’t allow it or will charge me more. Instead, I call ahead and explain that yes we are three adults but it is myself and my daughters. They are always happy to put us in the same room, sometimes with a small extra charge for a Z-bed, which is way cheaper than booking a second room.
I find when I chat with the accommodation directly, they are more than happy to help us single parents travelling with kids.
WE LOVE AN INCLUSIVE BREAKFAST
Not only is it a lovely treat to have breakfast included in our accommodation booking but I find it saves a lot of money.
We are always starving in the morning and don’t want to roam unfamiliar streets looking for a nice place to eat at extra expense. Rather we head zombie-like to the hotel breakfast room and stuff our faces. It is the one time I encourage my kids to eat as much as they can and (no judgment please) we do take the odd piece of fruit to eat later in the day.
An inclusive breakfast might seem like an unnecessary expense at the time of booking but it will save you money in the long run and leave you more to spend on excursions or other travel highlights.
HOUSE SWAP FOR A FREE FAMILY HOLIDAY
If you are a single mum with a young child, several children, or a child with special needs, the thought of travel will feel particularly daunting.
But there are still ways to make it happen.
House swapping is free and a great way to experience being away from home, with all your home comforts. Do an exchange with a family similar to your own, that way you’re likely to have everything you need on arrival.
You must do this through a reputable site to ensure you are fully insured and the people coming into your home are vetted. Aussie House Swap has good reviews and testimonials.
WE AIRBNB OUR HOME
Although we have never done the afore-mentioned house swap, I do rent out our home when we are away for long periods of time. Why? Because it pays for the whole holiday!
Think about it.
TRAVEL IS MY PRIORITY
If you want to make travel and holidays a regular part of your life as a single parent, you have to prioritise it.
Our downstairs bathroom is a health hazard and should have been replaced about ten years ago but, as a family, faced with the choice of a new bathroom or a trip to America, the bathroom continues to fester.
Become a savvy saver and put money aside each month for your next adventure with your kids. Discuss places you would like to visit and why. Having something to look forward to is important for good mental health.
As a single mum with lots of outgoings, the only way to make travel happen is to prioritise it.
NOTE: TRAVEL AS A CO-PARENT
If you are co-parenting please make sure you have permission to take your kids on holiday before you pay for anything.
More importantly, do not book an overseas trip if your child does not have a passport. A passport needs to be signed by both parents and I have lost count of the number of people I know who had problems getting the ex to sign a passport form.
Your parenting orders or consent orders might detail how travel works in your separated family. We don’t have orders but I will always ask my ex in writing (usually by text) if it is ok to take the kids away. It is courteous to let the other parent know, and I would want to be notified if it was the other way around.
Further reading: The legalities of taking your kids on holiday if you’re separated.