Single Parent Holidays: Solo Travel with Kids & Teens

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Aoife Desmond is a single mum and co-parent to a teen. She has been separated over four years and taken several solo trips away with her daughter. She shares her advice on how her holidays have evolved as her child has grown.

Our first ever trip was a weekend to London to see the Harry Potter play when my daughter was Harry obsessed! The time of year was perfect for this – pre-Christmas, Hyde Park was fabulous, Leicester Square all Christmassy. We were so excited about Hamleys and room service macaroni cheese, that the weekend went well. But, wow, was it was tough! We’d planned this trip together as a family a year in advance and I found it really hard doing it alone. Sitting amongst the cool twenty-somethings in the Hoxton grill, I felt invisible. By the time I got home I was shattered, but mostly felt proud that I hadn’t cancelled the trip due to the pain. This was an accomplishment in making memories for my daughter.

Travelling solo as a single parent

Our next trip away was to Spain for ten days. I was mad! I’d no idea how much my daughter would miss her dad and how exhausting it would be to keep her entertained. We’d checked into a huge hotel and every time she needed the loo, we’d need to pack up our pool things and trek back.  After 4 days, we checked out and found a much more suitable, smaller hotel, where I could better manage alone and where the staff were helpful. I vowed never to go away that long on my own again!

Travelling long haul solo with kids

A year on though and itchy feet got the better of me, so I decided to I take my daughter to Barbados – thrilled to find an amazing Cyber Week deal, we stayed in a tiny inn by the beach. This holiday taught me everything about how to do it solo. Stay somewhere small so you know everyone’s faces – that feels much safer as the staff know you and you know them. Plan day-trips and talk to other families – we’d an amazing turtle swimming tour and my daughter played with other children all day. I was really surprised to meet several single parents that holiday and we really enjoyed the small boat trips and chatting with other families.

Finding the right balance in single parent holidays

Since then our holidays have been a mismatch of finding the right recipe and experimenting. I’ve done a switch holiday in Greece with my ex where we went for 5 days and he joined for one then took my daughter for 5. She loved having her family together again and we managed to be nice to each other for a few hours! Recently now she’s a teen, unsurprisingly group activity holidays work best. Fourteen year olds don’t love hanging out with their parents anyway, but we found the Edinburgh Fringe Festival amazing – lots of cirque, acro, dance and the very best buzz kept my teen very much engaged and entertained. Planning to meet with old friends once a day really made the difference too.

Is solo travel with kids worth it?

While it can be daunting to plan a single parent holiday – and it doesn’t always go smoothly, it is so worth it if you can afford the expense. My daughter often comments on how she loves looking forward to going away together.  Next year we’ll look to bring a friend with her and see how that goes. Whatever happens, I won’t be giving up on solo travels as a single parent.