Sunday, 17 August 2014

Top five tips for holidaying as a single parent

We've just come back from a week's camping in Wales. Well, I say camping - we stayed in a yurt and it was as luxurious as camping can get. A proper bed for me, a stove and a grill, a log burner and a compost loo, too.

I took the boys there last year - my first outing as a single parent - and the welcome couldn't have been warmer. Not only from the campsite owners, but from the other camper families who took pity on me the minute they saw my ashen face.

We had an unexpectedly glorious week then, and our repeat visit was just as enjoyable. I'm learning as I go, though; the first trip held some unexpected challenges (extremely cold nights, essentials left behind, the issues of all us of living in a confined space) which I'm almost getting to grips with now.

Here are my Top Five Tips for holidaying as a single parent.

1. Pick somewhere low-stress. For me, this means staying in the UK. I cannot be faffed with going to the airport with the kids at 3am, then stressing at the other end about buses or hire cars or making myself understood. I am a worrier, and I know my limits - but if you're laid back, and can enjoy the journey as part of the holiday (lucky bastard), then by all means, travel far afield with the kids. If you go abroad, consider going 'All Inclusive' so there's no cooking or washing up needed.

2. You'll be madly packing for your children, like you always do. But don't forget that this holiday is for you, too. Pack items that YOU will find useful, even luxurious. My tip for this year: a camping chair to take to the beach. Previously I'd have been happy to sit on the wet sand and watch the kids in the sea, but this chair - plus the addition of a five pound wind break - made going to the beach an absolute pleasure.

And while we're on the subject, don't just make packed lunches that the kids like; treat yourself, too. A really nice soft drink for you, or a proper coffee from the beach shack. If you like to read a paper, then buy yourself a blummin paper. Get the kids involved with the Codeword puzzle towards the back.  And then, when it's been read, get the children to scrumple it up, and burn it on the camp fire.

3. Go somewhere where you'll meet other families. You might love the thought of being in total isolation with your children (quick question - are you mad?) but I would advise picking a place where your kids will find friends to play with. It's a balance though, isn't it, because my worst nightmare would be to end up in a crowded hotel and surrounded by screaming children. *shudder* 

Choose well, Yoda, because you are going to be stuck there for a week or more.

4. Do things with your kids, but if you need some separation from them, don't be afraid of seeking out things that they would enjoy doing (whilst you have a snooze). Last week, I booked the boys onto a bushcraft course for a morning. They did a similar thing last year and, to be honest, they were a bit moany about going. But I knew that, if they didn't go, the probability that I would melt down through lack of sleep and space was high. So I twisted their arms a little and actually, that time apart did us all the world of good. (And they enjoyed it too.)

Conversely, book activities that you can do together. I booked Coasteering last week. If you haven't heard of it before - it is not really a suitable activity for a 43 year old woman. It is three days on and I still can't really move.

It's all about exploring the coastline - by climbing up craggy bits and jumping in, bobbing about in caves, clambering over barnacled columns and eating seaweed that tastes like Pizza Express doughballs (TRUE STORY). I absolutely loved the thought of it, but hadn't really realised how physical it was - the jumping in was fine but you had to climb out and back up again and that, ladies and gentlemen, is hard work for someone with a bigger than average bottom.

Anyway, the point is, we did it together, cheered each other when we'd done something brave and helped each other when we were struggling. I even saw my teenager (13) being chatted up by a group of 17 year old girls. Which was an odd feeling - pride and horror and joy and sadness all in one roly poly lump.

5. If you're holidaying in the UK, plan for wet weather. And the cold. Seems obvious, but the first year we went I had been led astray by a particularly good batch of weather beforehand, only to be pelted with a full day's rain when we arrived. This year, we packed lots of board games - but they were board games that we all liked to play. Our particular favourites are Dominion and Ticket To Ride - but we also like Settlers and Carcassonne, too. I'm afraid I won't let them take Monopoly or Risk (suppresses screams). I'm talking boys here: take balls. All sorts of balls - tennis, foot, soft, bouncy - whatever you can lay your hands on. Plus bats, rackets, stumps, frisbees.

And hoodies. As many hoodies as you can shake a stick at. Or something.

If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be this: don't put unnecessary strain on yourself. If you are cooking, take lots of packet rice, pasta and sausages. This is not haute cuisine week. They will survive if they don't get their quota of organic artichokes for a few days. Get the kids to share in the chores, and if they're old enough, show them how to make you a proper cup of coffee in the morning (I'm not joking). Keep your sanity through any means.

If you can do this, you and your children will have a fabulous time, wherever you are.


  1. Thanks for the tips Lottie! Heading camping with my three, my much younger sister and my niece without hubs next week. I hadn't thought of board games and you're right about the warmer clothes and blankets. Will have to look at my list!!

    1. Good luck Liv, and thanks for your comment! I'm sure you'll have a great time. xxx

  2. What a brilliant post for single parents, going to forward to some friends. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts x


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