29 Jun How to cope with travelling abroad as a single parent with kids
With the summer fast approaching lots of us with kids are trying to decide how to spend the long school summer holidays. When you are divorced or a single parent it can be daunting to face the holidays with the kids on your own.
I recently had a female client who has two kids, five and seven years old who is in the process of getting divorced. One of the things playing on her mind was the fact that they had always travelled abroad for two weeks every summer for a family holiday. This year she was worried that the kids would be so disappointed as she didn’t feel confident enough the go away on her own with them.
During our coaching session we broke down her concerns to pinpoint exactly why this was. We identified that her main fears were:
- How she would cope with two kids on her own in a different country
- What other people would think of her being there without a husband
- How would she deal with the embarrassment of meal times alone with the kids
- She was worried about the travelling part of the holiday
I know it can be overwhelming during a divorce to even consider doing these things alone now. However just because you haven’t done it before doesn’t mean you can’t do it. In fact you may even find that you really enjoy it! Divorce shouldn’t mean that you miss out on all the good things in life, in fact showing your kids that life still goes on is a great lesson for them.
The first time I travelled with my son after my divorce was when he was 2 years old. I soon learnt that the key to travelling as a single parent with kids is to prepare. So here are my tips for planning your trip.
- Do your research on your holiday destination. Make sure you choose somewhere that is child friendly with lots for kids to do. Avoid honeymoon destinations and romantic getaways. If there is a kids club that can be really helpful as you know there will be other kids around and plenty for them to do.
- If you are worried about the travelling then pick somewhere easy to get to. Choose somewhere a short drive away if you are nervous of flying alone for your first trip. Or pick a short haul destination.
- Take your time and ask friends and travel agents for recommendations as picking the right hotel or resort will make all the difference.
- It’s a good idea to check meal prices and any extras at hotels to ensure they fit your budget
I always found that packing toys, books, games and cards in hand luggage made airports and plane trips much easier. Snacks are important too, especially if you have a fussy eater!
I am lucky enough to have travelled a lot with my son both for work and pleasure and so I have learned how to make it as smooth as possible for both of us. I started off with shorter journeys such as Centre Parcs in UK and then short trips to France and then worked up to more far away places. This year we flew to the Maldives which involved three different flights and took almost 24 hours just to get there! But I promise you it’s not that scary if you plan ahead.
Now I’m single and a single parent I don’t want to miss out on doing the things I would do if I had a partner. Maldives is traditionally a romantic getaway but it has been on my bucket list for so many years and my son loves snorkelling as much as I do. I had saved up and decided not to miss out just because I was single. So I carefully choose a resort called Niyama in Maldives which was recommended highly for kids with lots of activities for both my son and me. So that was the first box ticked! I packed lots of entertainment for the flight and extra food which was lucky as my son didn’t like the on board kids meal.
Planning can save a melt down and make your life easier. However there are some things to be aware of that you can’t plan for. I think pretty much every time we have arrived at a hotel, no matter where we are in the world, there has been some surprise we are travelling alone. Comments ranging from
“Where’s Daddy??” from the reception staff to this time in Niyama when the porter told me that I had two room keys. “One is for you and the other is usually for the man”!! My favourite one which my son and I laugh at now is when we go to eat and the waiter looks at the two of us and says “Table for three?!”
Whilst these comments aren’t meant to upset or offend it can knock you off guard. Remember that your kids will take their lead from you how you react will set the tone. I usually smile and say “it’s just us!” A smile will deflect any awkwardness and the moment will pass quickly. A deep breathe is all it takes and a swift change of conversation to the weather or which table your child would like to sit at. You will be amazed at how quickly you get good at not reacting to these comments which can sting to start with.
I used to feel that everyone was looking at me and commenting on being without a man on holiday. However I soon realised that most people were too wrapped up in their own holiday to take any notice of us. The only comments I ever had were from women who were actually envious that I had time alone with my child without a husband to interfere or pick up after! The grass isn’t always greener and you can always find a silver lining if you look for it. For me it is spending quality time with my son without the pressures of everyday life in a new and exciting surrounding. It’s an adventure and time to have fun and share magic moments that we will never forget.
There are things you can do to make it easier for yourself:
- Find out what the dress code is and stick to it so you blend in rather than stand out
- Take a book to dinner so if your child does make friends and leaves the table you have something else to focus on
- Smile and say hello to staff. It helps them to be more friendly towards you too and then you feel more at ease. If you are worried about anything it helps to know the staff and will make you feel more confident and safe.
My son and I made friends with the restaurant manager Chilli in Niyama and he took great care of us. This made meal times much easier all round. We also made friends with the hotel manager who gave us a free mother and child massage which was a real treat and another memory to cherish. Some hotels are really wonderful when they know you are travelling on your own with kids and will go out of their way to make it special for you so don’t be afraid to let them know.
If you are travelling with one child then you may want to help them make friends. This takes the pressure off you to entertain them so it can be a good idea! When my son sees someone he would like to make friends with I usually help him start up a conversation and then leave them to it. It helps if it’s in the pool or in a playground so they have something to do together. I will usually have a quick chat to their parents too to make sure they are ok with it. Parents are often grateful that their kids have made a new friend and are happily occupied! My son and I have made some lifelong friends this way with some great people we have met on holidays.
Don’t worry if you break your usual routines while you’re away as it’s hard to maintain them in new environments. I always set some boundaries with my son before we travel. I ask him to stay where I can see him at all times and to help me when I ask him as I’m on my own. By addressing it as a separate issue he really takes notice and steps up. He also knows it’s more likely to happen again if he’s good! I find it’s important to get onto what I call “kid time” when we’re away. I go to bed when he does and wake up early with him too. With jet lag it can be a little all over the place but if you accept that it will be different while you’re away it all runs much smoother.
Whilst my tips and advice will make holidays easier for you I’m not saying that you won’t feel that pang of sadness at times when you think back to previous family holidays. However the grass isn’t always greener and you can always find a silver lining if you look for it. For me it is spending quality time with my son without the pressures of everyday life in new exciting surroundings. It’s an adventure and time to have fun and share magic moments that we will never forget. It really doesn’t matter whether it’s camping in UK or sandy beaches in Maldives – you can’t beat that time away just you and your kids.
Don’t let fear or a lack of confidence put you off taking your children on holiday. They grow up so quickly so don’t miss out on creating memories that you can cherish for a lifetime. My client has done just that and is now carefully planning a trip to Spain in July for a week with her kids.
So get prepared and you will be surprised at how much easier it can be and also how much fun you can have!