A single mum’s guide to holidays

Posted 4 October 2017

Jessica has raised her son as a single parent since he was one. Here, she discusses her experiences of their holidays spent at home in the UK and beyond.

Single parent Jessica and her sonMy experience of holidaying as a single mum has been one of mixed emotions – but then isn’t that parenting in general?

My son was born when I was 23 years old. He is now days away from turning 13. It took me almost ten years to pluck up the courage to take him away on my own. I think there was a number of reasons why I didn’t – I couldn’t afford it for a long time, and the thought of going away on my own with him filled me with dread. I was in control at home, we had a routine and I knew we were safe. But leaving that security to be alone in a different country, or a different part of the country, was scary.

Growing in confidence in Lapland

But as I became older and became used to being a single mum, my confidence and faith in my abilities grew.

Our first trip, on our own, was four nights in Lapland. I felt like I was running out of time, my son was getting older and I was still parenting alone, so I booked the trip in May and spent all year paying it off.

The holiday was fairly structured so I felt comfortable with the plans for each day. We had an amazing time and we met another mum on her own with her son who we spent most of the trip with.

Our first holiday was a success!

More ambitious plans

After the first success, and feeling like I could conquer the world, I decided to borrow some money and buy a VW camper van (not the cool old one, a more reliable T4) which was a dream come true. However, our next holiday was not as successful.

We drove five hours down to Cornwall, praying that the van wouldn’t break down, only to be greeted with gale-force winds and horizontal rain. The whole campsite was full of tents and mobile homes but not a person in sight.

My son and I battled with the awning for about 40 minutes (with a few choice swear words thrown in from me) before we gave up, threw the awning in the van and closed the door. My son headed straight for his iPad while I sulked with a beer and gathered my thoughts. These moments in life are the loneliest for me.

We made the most of the breaks in the rain and I spent the whole trip geeing my son up and convincing him we were having a lovely time. The fact of the matter is I think holidaying alone with me bores my poor son to tears. There were a few other kids on the campsite but my son is shy and not the kind of kid that will join in without a wingman. Not all kids will embrace every situation despite my encouragement over the years.

This trip left me feeling lonely and exhausted. Camping is hard work, and it’s hard work being a happy, exciting mum for four days straight.

The scariest of our holidays

Holiday #3. In March 2017, my son expressed an interest in visiting Venice. I jumped on this because he is a homebody that never really wants to do anything without being convinced first. I found a cheap three-night deal and off we popped.

This was the scariest of the holidays I had done alone. I didn’t speak a word of Italian, I didn’t really know where I was going despite my best efforts to find out before we left, and we were on a tight budget.

But we had an amazing adventure with great memories of hotfooting it across the streets of Venice at 4:30 in the morning, suitcase and bags in tow, as we realised at the last minute that we had been standing at the wrong vaporetto (water bus) stop. This was another exhausting trip as I was the only adult making decisions and keeping up the morale.

My holiday experience led me to start my own business

In conclusion, for me, holidaying as a single mum is a great achievement, an adventure every time, and full of wonderful memories for my lovely son.

But having a holiday buddy for me and my son is definitely a preferred option. Most parents need time to unwind – ideally with a cocktail in hand – and most kids would prefer a comrade to explore with. Inspired by my ongoing journey, I’ve created a website, Holiday Mums, where single mums can match their children’s ages, hobbies and interests to connect with other parents.

For more advice on planning your summer break, including information on permission, passports and help with the costs, see our holidays information page.