Everyone needs a break, but holidays can be hard to organise as a single parent, especially if your child’s other parent isn’t on board with your plans. And the cost can add up, so it’s good to know where to look to get a deal that suits your family.
This page contains practical advice to help you plan and make the most of holidays – whether you’re going away as a family or organising a break for your child.
Finding single parent family holidays
Are you planning a family adventure? Here are a few places to start looking.
Single parent family holidays
- Acorn Family Holidays – no-hassle adventure single-parent family holidays across Europe
- Camp Mates – all-inclusive UK camping holidays and holidays abroad for single parent families
- Green World Holidays – family activity holidays for single parents with teenagers
- High Adventure Holidays – exciting adventure holidays for single-parent families on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales
- Single Parents on Holiday – holidays of all types across Europe for single parents and their children
Low-cost holidays for single parents and their children
- Outward Bound Adventure Fund – partially funded outdoor adventure holidays for children of all ages
- Go Beyond – activity breaks for children from 8 to 15 with serious challenges in life (children must be referred by someone like a teacher, social or youth worker)
- Take a Break activity holidays – activity breaks for single parents and children between 5 and 15 by the Care for the Family charity – they offer discounts if you’re claiming Universal Credit
- Family Holiday Charity – for families on a low income who haven’t been away together in the last 4 years (you’ll need to be referred by someone like a social or support worker, health visitor or teacher)
- Kings Camps – subsidised camps for children from 5 to 17 who are having a hard time
- Mary Macarthur Holiday Trust – grants for women over 18 who haven’t had a holiday in years and need a solo break
- Women’s Holiday Centre – safe, friendly holiday house in Yorkshire for women and children on a low income or benefits
Other ways to save
- Share the experience. Think about getting together with family, friends or your child’s friends’ parents for your holiday. This will allow you to share the costs and the fun with other people.
- Ask about extras for single parents. Some travel companies have special single parent deals – they may not charge the usual single room supplement or offer free child places or insurance.
It may be tempting to take your children out of school for a cheaper holiday. But we don’t recommend doing this. You can be fined if you take your child away without permission – and schools will only give permission for exceptional circumstances, like a death or illness in the family.
- The 3H Foundation – grants and UK group holidays for low-income families with disabilities
- Family Fund – grants for families on a low income with a disabled child to go on holiday
- Happy Days – family holidays and days out for children from 3 to 17 with additional needs
- KIDS Direct Short Breaks – short breaks with trained workers for disabled children
- Holiday Homes Trust – affordable holidays in accessible caravans mainly in southern England
- Starlight – short breaks for families with children from 3 to 18 with a serious illness or health condition
- Tourism for All – a guide to accessible places to stay and visit around the UK
- The Rough Guide to Accessible Britain – ideas for days out around the UK by disabled visitors
Single parent holiday FAQs
What will happen to my benefits and tax credits if I go on holiday?
You’ll need to let the benefits office know if you go abroad (anywhere outside England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man). Here’s how going on holiday is likely to affect key benefits and tax credits.
- Universal Credit – continues for up to 1 month if you take a holiday either in the UK or abroad. But you have to tell your work coach you’re going. And you usually have to stick to your work-related requirements while you’re away – so you might have to keep looking for work or come back for a job interview or to start work. Do talk to your work coach about this, as they might let you pause your work-related activities for a short time.
- Child Benefit – continues for up to 8 weeks if you go abroad. No change if you’re in the UK.
- Income Support – continues for up to 4 weeks if you go abroad, but you have to tell the jobcentre. If you go on holiday in the UK, this isn’t affected, as long as you don’t miss any work-focused interviews while you’re away.
- Jobseeker’s Allowance – this will stop if you go on holiday abroad. If you take a UK break, you have to continue to be available and looking for work to keep getting it. But you can be excused from actively looking for work for 2 weeks a year – so ask your work coach about this.
- Housing Benefit – continues for up to 4 weeks if you holiday in the UK or abroad. If you go away for longer than that, check with your council.
- Tax credits – not affected if you take a UK break, and continues for up to 8 weeks if you go abroad.
Do I need permission from their other parent to take my child abroad?
If you’re the only one with parental responsibility, no.
But if the other parent also has parental responsibility, you do need their permission. It’s a good idea to get this in writing. You may be asked for proof at a UK or foreign border, or if there’s a disagreement about whether you were allowed to take your child abroad. It might help if you also have:
- Proof of your relationship with the child, like a birth certificate
- A divorce or marriage certificate (if you have one) if your surname is different to your child’s
If you’re named as the parent with residence (through a residence or child arrangements order), you can take your child abroad for 28 days without the other parent’s agreement.
If you have a child arrangements order that says how the child splits their time between you and the other parent, you’ll need to get the other parent’s permission so that you don’t break the terms of the order.
See more on getting permission to take a child abroad from gov.uk.
Do I need permission from my child’s other parent to get a passport for my child?
I need a visa for my child. Will their other parent need to sign to get the visa?
This is likely to depend on whether or not your child’s other parent is on your child’s birth certificate. It’s best to ask the embassy of the country you’re travelling to about their requirements for a child entering the country. This will fall under their laws, not English law.
My child doesn’t have my surname. Will I need proof that I’m their parent when we travel?
If your surname is different, it’s a good idea to travel with:
- Proof of your relationship with the child, like a birth certificate
- A divorce or marriage certificate (if you have one)
- Written permission from the child’s other parent, if you need this
Negotiating holidays with your child’s other parent
You and your child’s other parent may not see eye to eye when it comes to taking your child on holiday. Here are some common scenarios we hear from single parents.
My child’s other parent and I want to take our child away at the same time. How do we work out who can do this?
If you’re finding it hard to agree with your child’s other parent, you could consider mediation. This is when a trained expert guides you through a discussion to find agreement. Find out more on our page about help when you can’t agree.
You might also want to think about the long-term implications of arguing about this holiday. Could you perhaps compromise this year? It might be useful to draw up a parenting plan to avoid this happening again by agreeing holidays in advance. There’s more about parenting plans on Cafcass’s website.
The holiday I’m planning clashes with my child’s other parent’s weekend with them and now they’re saying I can’t take them. What can I do?
You may want to remind the other parent about why a holiday away with you would be good for your child. It might be helpful to point out that you don’t have a problem with them taking them on a holiday too.
If they’re still unhappy about the clash, you could try:
- Swapping their planned contact for another day – this way your child’s other parent still gets to spend time with them
- Suggesting more contact between the child and their other parent some other time. This way they’ll make up for the missed contact and you can still enjoy your holiday
If these suggestions don’t work or you don’t feel comfortable suggesting them, you could try using mediation. This can be useful for couples who can’t reach an agreement between themselves – see our page on help if you can’t agree for more.
As long as there are no court orders in place, then strictly speaking you don’t need the consent of your children’s other parent to take them on holiday in the UK. You will need their consent to take your child abroad if they share parental responsibility with you.
If there’s a court order that says when your child visits their other parent, you won’t be able to take them on holiday during that time without the other parent’s agreement.
My child’s other parent wants to take them away but won’t tell me any details about the trip. Can I insist on knowing?
You do have the right to know where your children are, in case you need to contact them in an emergency. So their other parent should tell you where they’ll be staying and how to contact them while they’re away.
- If they refuse to give you this information and there’s time before the holiday, you could try to resolve things through mediation.
- If this isn’t appropriate or the holiday is soon, you could apply to the courts for an order to make your child’s other parent tell you where they’re going.
- If you’re worried about the child’s wellbeing or safety, or that they might not come back to you, the court can also issue an order to stop them being taken abroad.
- If you’re worried they’ll be taken out of the country very soon, you can make an urgent application. Go to your local family court in person, fill out the paperwork, and give it to the court that same day if you can. You can ask for an urgent hearing so the court can make a decision and an order that day to stop them from travelling.
My children’s other parent wants to take them on holiday abroad against my will. What should I do?
If you have parental responsibility, your child’s other parent needs your consent to take them abroad. If you don’t give this consent, your child’s other parent will have to get permission from the court to take them abroad.
The court would look at what’s in the child’s best interests and whether there’s a good reason to stop their parent taking them abroad. This could be, for example, if you think they wouldn’t bring the child back to the UK. In this case, you can withhold the child’s passport and ask the court to stop their other parent from taking them out of the country. This is called a prohibited steps order.
If you’re worried enough to want to stop them from travelling, act quickly and get legal advice. Here’s a list of solicitors who deal with child abduction cases.
You could also contact Reunite, a charity specialising in children being abducted to other countries. They have useful information on preventing your child being taken abroad, including trying to stop their passport. If your child is old enough to understand what’s happening, you could tell them that if they’re taken to an airport, they should find a police or airport security officer and ask them to call you.
If you think they’ll be taken out of the country in the next 48 hours, call the police on 999.
I want to take my child abroad but my child’s other parent won’t give me their passport. What can I do?
Start by talking to your child’s other parent, if you can, about why they won’t give you the passport.
If they’re worried about their child going away, it might help to share as much information with them as possible about the trip. Give them details of your travel plans, where you’ll be staying, and how they can get in touch while you’re away.
If it isn’t possible to talk to them, you could write to ask them for the passport. You could also try inviting them to family mediation to try to solve the problem.
As a last resort, you could apply to a court to get your child’s passport. This is called a specific issue order, and you’ll probably want to get legal advice before doing this.
Or, if they don’t have parental responsibility, you could ask the passport office for the child’s passport to be cancelled and a new one issued. Bear in mind this could take up to 3 months. Then you’d be able to take your child abroad without their other parent’s permission.
It’s worth remembering that they could apply to court to get parental responsibility. And if the court gives this to them, you’ll need their consent to take your child abroad, or a court order if they refuse.