Single parent travel: Expert tips for an unforgettable holiday

Going on holiday or travelling with your kids as a single parent can feel overwhelming. The cost, the logistics, and the practicalities. All too often, single mums put holidaying in the 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

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.

You don't need a lot of travel money. 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.

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.

Single parent holiday travel

Check out the large online travel platforms for flights, accommodation, and holiday packages. You can also put your requirements 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 that offer discounted holidays alongside other offers. It is definitely worth checking in with both of these before you book, as you could bag a big travel savings.

Take the 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 during 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 condition that she is up-to-date with her studies. It’s a really good incentive to get them working, and there is no need to wait for the next school holiday!

Travelling in term time will save you thousands of dollars, and it is quieter everywhere, too.

Single parent travel and holiday tips (cont.)

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 for 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, the 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, and you’ll likely 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.

Airbnb your home

Although we have never done the aforementioned 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.

The most reputable platforms to rent your home through are Airbnb and Stayz.

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.

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 their exes 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.

Travel with a fellow single mum

Travelling with another single-parent family will help decrease costs by sharing expenses. Three years ago, my friend Tina and I decided to take our kids on a beach vacation together. By combining our budgets, we could afford a spacious rental house right by the shore.

Every morning, we planned our day's activities while drinking our morning coffee, and the kids played together. Instead of eating out every meal, we took turns cooking delicious dinners and sharing recipes and stories late into the night. As we watched our kids build sandcastles and chase seagulls, we knew that our shared experiences were worth more than any discount we could find. You, too, can invite a fellow single mum on a getaway. Pooling your resources will help you save money and create a stronger bond between your kiddos.

Summary: Single parent travel holiday tips

Planning a single-parent travel holiday can seem like a lot of work at first, but think about the memories you will be creating with your little ones! Plus, you get to take time off from household chores and work deadlines, even if it's only for a few days.

The first step is to check the best holiday deals online and book them immediately because they sell out fast! Remember to reach out to other single mums and consider travelling together to share costs. When packing, think of practicality over excess. Versatile clothing and essentials will save you space and hassle. And don't forget to bring along some entertainment for the kids - their favourite book, a board game of their choice, or their beloved stuffed animal.

During your trip, try to keep a loose itinerary. Allow for flexibility in your plans because, let's face it, sometimes the best moments happen when you least expect them. Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help or look for family-friendly accommodations and activities. Many places offer discounts for single parents or have amenities specifically designed to cater to families. Safe travels!

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Sally Love

About the author

Sally Love is a pseudo single mum author who has been writing about single motherhood, separation and divorce for 8+ years. She has been a single mother for 10+ years and has two daughters, one of whom she co-parents and the other she solo parents. Sally has experienced all aspects of single motherhood from legal, financial, parenting, dating, travel as a single parent, re-partnering and re-building a career. She is an integral part of the Beanstalk community chatting and helping single mothers across the globe, as well as sharing her expertise, experiences and genuine reviews with major national newspapers and appearing on nation-wide television shows.

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