Mythbusting the Single Parent Holiday abroad – Alexis’ story

Posted 1 August 2019

Alexis is a mum, actor and writer who blogs over at her site, The Time I Almost. As the summer holidays begin, she discusses her experiences of taking the brave step of booking a trip to Spain with her daughter.

I am a single mum to a beautiful, whip-smart four year old, and this summer – thanks to the support of my friends, parents and a rather wonderfully written article I read by Laura Weir in the Evening Standard – I was inspired to take my daughter on our very first Single Parent Holiday Abroad.

However, don’t get me wrong, it took me a good two years of single-parentdom (is that a word?) to be able to achieve this. Blame finances, blame fear, blame good ole Brexit, but it just never felt like the right time. I mean, sure, we’d been on mini-breaks to Butlins and Gulliver’s World, but we’d never actually gotten on a plane together and left UK airspace. How would we cope?

But this year, finally, I bought seventy-five mini bottles of unguents I would never use and a supportive full-cup bikini, pulled that rip-cord once and for all, and booked my daughter and I on a cheap package-deal holiday to Spain.

And you know what? It wasn’t a nightmare. On the contrary, it was truly heart-warming. I even managed to teach my daughter to swim, a fact which makes me so incredibly proud, I have a little ugly cry every time I think about it! This is why I wanted to write you a little piece dispelling all the nonsense I’d read, all that rubbish which had almost stopped me from hitting the ‘complete payment’ button. This is why I felt it was time to bust some myths once and for all…

So, if the thought of booking your first Single Parent Holiday Abroad makes you as nervous as a Love Island contestant in a Recoupling Ceremony, then don’t panic. Read on – I’ve got your back!

MYTH 1: You aren’t strong enough (physically)

Lugging a giant suitcase around at two in the morning as you try to find your holiday bungalow (whilst also carrying two rucksacks, half of Boots and a gallon or so of water in your other arm), isn’t exactly fun – particularly when you know you will be woken by ‘Oi Frog’ being slapped in your face at 6am, with a demand to ‘Read. This. Now!’ – but it will give you biceps to rival Michelle Obama’s by the end of your holiday, so who’s complaining?

MYTH 2: You aren’t strong enough (mentally)

Maybe you aren’t? Maybe you have PTSD or depression or anxiety like many of us do – but everyone deserves a break, right? Surely it’s worth a try?

Plus, Vitamin D is your friend, as are palm trees and all-you-can-eat buffets. Take some uplifting books, download a few inspirational podcasts or audiobooks to listen to, and take advantage of the Kids Club (free childcare). When you have a moment to yourself, when they are asleep or playing with their new friends, just relax and work on YOU.

MYTH 3: You will feel inferior or envious of all traditional families and compare yourself to them endlessly

There was a family on our holiday where the parents were so drunk the whole time, having four all-inclusive cocktails each per round, that they ended up using me and the other holidaymakers/barman/anyone as free childcare. I didn’t want to say no, because I felt so concerned for their kids, especially their baby who was slopping around in the mum’s arms the entire time she was on the dance floor attempting to do ‘The Macarena’.

My daughter kept referring to them as ‘The Drunk Parents Who Talk Funny’, mainly as they got so blottoed, they could no longer speak in proper sentences.

Guess what? I didn’t feel particularly envious of them. The point is that there are good and bad parents everywhere. Just do the best you can and don’t worry about everyone else.

MYTH 4: You will be accused of child trafficking

If, like me, your child has a different surname to you on their passport, PLEASE remember to take your child’s birth certificate with you, however much everyone says how alike you are or that you could almost be twins.

Due to a clampdown on child trafficking, you may very well be asked for birth certificates and/or copies of any Child Arrangements Orders you might have at Customs. I was questioned at the airport when we arrived and whipped out the relevant documents and it was all sorted in a matter of seconds. Be prepared.

MYTH 5: It won’t be fun

Wrong! Whatever happens, however many overtired outbursts you/your little ones might have, you will get to share so many incredible new experiences together- even just seeing different birds, flowers, or eating different foods (namely ones which aren’t yellow and come out of the freezer). It also gave me the perfect excuse to fulfil a lifelong childhood dream and blag our way into the cockpit of our plane for a guided tour – a lovely first for both of us and the stuff of great memories.

MYTH 6: Your child will have a meltdown on the plane

I fully expected that this was going to be the case, particularly when a friend told me her kids had screamed blue murder the first time their ears ‘popped’ in the air on a trip to France, so I planned accordingly- iPad, check, crayons, check, chewy sweets, check!

However, a very surprising thing happened: it turns out my daughter is the Ultimate Travel Companion, sitting quietly, happily eating her snacks and drawing to the point that the lady sitting next to us turned to me mid-flight and said, “Wow, your daughter is SO well-behaved!”

Who knew? You only learn by trying.

MYTH 7: You will be a pariah and people will steer clear of you as if you have the pox

This is only in your head. I repeat, this is only in your head.

Still, if you want a quick and easy way to make new friends, load up in Poundland on swimming pool toys, pre-holiday  – balls, a snorkel, water pistols, you name it and I guarantee you will be the toast of the Kids’ Pool.

MYTH 8: You won’t be able to go out in the evening

The word ‘Animation’ is going to be your saviour. Trust me!

Whereas as a single traveller or even as a young couple, you probably would have dry-heaved at the mere mention of the word, ‘Animation’ – aka the hotel’s hotchpotch of evening entertainment – it’s  going to be your New Best Friend for it means you have an excuse to leave your hotel room at night, get dressed up and catch a ‘so bad its good’ magic show or variety performance.

Your kid/s will laugh at all the terrible jokes and you’ll laugh too because you’ll let go and see it through their eyes. Hopefully, you’ll also realise what fun you’re both having on your very first Single Parent Holiday Abroad, despite all your previous fears and reservations.

10 comments on “Mythbusting the Single Parent Holiday abroad – Alexis’ story

  1. You have proved you are brave, highly sensible, very organised and know how to enjoy a holiday with your wonderful child; I’m so very proud of you and how far you’ve come through a difficult time. More importantly, you now know anything is possible providing you put in a lot of work before trying something new. Well done for sharing your holiday experience; sounds as if you both had an amazing time. Mum x

    1. Yes indeedy all relatable. Currently in Spain, first holiday with my kids aged 11 and 8 since being widowed a few months back. Oh the pleasures of the animation team.

      I agree with all you said and thanks for reminding me to have a good time. I would also add going with close, special friends if you can, who are friends to your own kids. I’m here with 2 families of lifelong friends who hopped on our original booking when my wife died. It has changed the dynamic for the kids and for me provided emotional and practical support.

  2. thank you for this what a wonderful account of what I and everyone would be completely worried about and think xxx thank you completely empowering and makes me want to book a holiday xxx Thank You xxx

  3. I totally agree with this article! There is no requirement whatsoever that says a husband/partner is needed to go on holiday! Ive taken my daughter abroad several times and its been amazing. Cheap deals can be found through major tour operators such as Tui if you look. I suggest the early weeks in May as the most reasonably priced. The downside is you pay a full adult cost for your child but if you look for a good deal this doesn’t affect things.
    The quality bonding time is worth the planning and saving and something to look forward to all year. Staff at airports can be very supportive. Im too busy enjoying one to one time with my child to be concerned with anyone else’s perception of an absent father. My advice is also – go for it!

  4. I found this story a bit depressing – I have just returned from a v short trip to the south coast with my two kids, who have a 5 yr age gap. I made it as easy as possible – only 2 hours out of London, staying in comfy airbnb, only for two nights, yet still they did nothing but fight, complain, cry, want toys, donuts, attention constantly. I felt exhausted. The above story should be inspiring, but instead it made me feel bad about my own lack of patience and exhaustion from all the hard work of being two parents in one

  5. Yes indeedy all relatable. Currently in Spain, first holiday with my kids aged 11 and 8 since being widowed a few months back. Oh the pleasures of the animation team.

    I agree with all you said and thanks for reminding me to have a good time. I would also add going with close, special friends if you can, who are friends to your own kids. I’m here with 2 families of lifelong friends who hopped on our original booking when my wife died. It has changed the dynamic for the kids and for me provided emotional and practical support.

  6. I first took my daughter abroad on my own when she was 4. Terrified in the airport we both had rucksacks on that had reigns clipped between them so I couldn’t lose her as I pulled 2 suitcases long. Bar far 1 of the best holidays I have experienced in my life, we had a ball. Within 4 hours on the first day I had met up with 3 other single mums and their children and we all met up.all.week. My friend tagged along the following year when we went back, she has no kids and I actually found she ruined parts of our holiday. Since then I have been to Disneyland Paris twice just me and my little one and back to Spain. I now enjoy it so much that I have booked Disneyland Paris for 3 days next December with my daughter and a week in Majorca with my daughter….and my niece. Planning ahead is the key and making sure you are organised, take loads of snacks in your case for when you get there and just enjoy it. You cannot buy the memories you will make there.

  7. I’ve done it too. Took my two on an all inclusive holiday in Greece. I was worried about it all before going but in the end it was fab. Yes, we did get the odd look at the dinner tables and some of the staff even asked where my husband was. But I heard myself say loud and clear that we were not together any longer and he would go on his own holiday with them later.
    It made me immensely proud to be able to do that. Not to be embarrassed or feel uneasy.
    Life doesn’t always work out the way you had planned and it’s ok to be a single parent.
    If anyone reading this is toying with the idea of taking their kids on holiday by themselves, just go for it, you will derive a real sense of pride and achievement from it.

  8. Hi. I’ve been taking my kids all over UK and abroad for years now, without a package deal. This year we are in Italy, last two years in France/Spain. Book flights and eurocamp and I hire a car. TomTom satnav get me where I need to go. Booked horse riding and boat trips on my phone and off we go,
    Sure there’s something missing, other adult company at times… but I’m still making great memories for the children. And they can also be proud that they have a confidant mum to take them places so they don’t lose out and we explore together. First time I drove in France was way out of my comfort zone … but feel the fear and do it anyway. ! I drove from Marseille to Perpignan.. May as well bite the bullet and do it. There’s always an English speaker at eurocamp if you need help.

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