How to survive a holiday as a single parent

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Last month, one year post separation, I took my three young kids, 8, 5 and 3 years old, abroad. On my own. For the first time. It was the final milestone in a year, which had seen me dismantle the Christmas tree (badly) and light my first BBQ (not so badly).
I was a little anxious before we left and spent weeks prepping my kids for ALL the things that could go wrong, if they played up. Getting lost. Getting hurt on the baggage carousel. Getting arrested in passport control. The list was endless. Bring on the holiday spirit! But, when the time came, they totally stepped up, even my three year old. And, safely back on English shores, I can honestly say it was a victory. Here’s what I learned about surviving a holiday as a single parent.
  • If you can, go somewhere you have been before. We returned to Club Letoonia, in Turkey, a beautiful all inclusive resort we’ve been to three times previously. Knowing the resort, the people and the structure made it so much easier for that first holiday as a single parent. It took away a lot of the anxiety, acclimatisation and made us all feel safe.
  • Get your kids on side. Your kids are never too young for you to help them understand that going on holiday with just one adult is different. I started talking to them about this a good couple of months before we went. When we were out and about at home and they misbehaved, I reminded them what could happen if they pulled this kind of stunt in the airport or in the resort. When they behaved impeccably at check-in, much to my surprise, I realised some of it must have  gone in.
  • Help your kids stand out. My girls wore these ridiculous hairbows when we were travelling. I mean, you’re not going to lose your kids when they look like this, are you?
  • Travel light. With kids in tow, you do not also want to be worrying about umpteen bags as well. Forgo the five pairs of shoes you might otherwise have packed, plan your outfits, keep your kids’ clothes to a minimum (remember they’ll mostly be wearing swimwear during the day) and use a lightweight suitcase that doesn’t take up 10kg of your precious luggage allowance. I took Samsonite’s amazing Cosmolite suitcase, which weighs less than my handbag and is so light my five year old picked it up with one hand, like it was a party bag.
  • Pack a bag for the airplane with activities for everyone (and headphones for you). I bought three Crayola Mess Free colouring packs, which kept them quiet. I packed plenty of snacks too and a few bags of sweets for bribery purposes. Note: do NOT buy hot drinks on the airplane, no matter how much your kids convince you they will not spill them. These will end up everywhere but in their mouths. Trust me.
  • Be prepared for things NOT to go to plan and believe in your abilities when they don’t. Of all the things I had worried about, my eldest having an allergic reaction to a nut she mistakenly ate in her airport breakfast was NOT one of them. I had to leave all three kids with a neighbouring table, whilst I did an emergency dash to Boots for Piriton. She was sick on and off for two hours and we had to get First Aid to clear us to fly. Somehow, I handled it and remained calm. We even laughed about it, after she’d recovered. So, whatever happens, know that you are more capable than you ever realise and when the time comes to stand up and be counted, you will stand tall.
  • Ask for help. You are a lone parent in unfamiliar circumstances. With this comes some practical obstacles, especially if you have more than one child. You will not be able to parent on holiday like a family with two parents. Make your peace with that, early on. You will have to do things that feel slightly riskier, like trusting one of your kids to go to the toilet on their own. Allowing them to get their own drink, whilst you supervise any younger ones. Leaving them with someone, whilst you attend to a medical/poo/tantrum emergency. I had moments where I worried other parents might be judging me for being a bit ‘slack.’ The truth could not have been more different. They were mostly impressed that anyone was attempting to do a holiday alone with three kids and they were always willing to help out.
  • Make rules and establish trust. Tell your kids what you expect of them and prompt them, often. Kids lose themselves in the moment and gain confidence easily so I found mine needed reining in, occasionally. That said, they really understood the need to work together as a team and I was proud to see them becoming more independent and taking responsibility for some small things.
  • Bring back nap time (disco naps). If your destination/resort has amazing evening entertainment like Club Letoonia did, your kids will be staying up later than they do at home. A few days in, I noticed everyone was getting tired so I brought back naptime for my youngest and middly. They didn’t love my insistence, but they were always asleep in minutes. Funny that.
  • Lifejackets. This is by far the best thing I did. For my sanity and their safety. Drowning was probably my biggest fear of holidaying alone because I know it only takes a second and I knew I wasn’t always going to be able to keep my eye on three kids, simultaneously. My eldest, at aged 8, is a good swimmer but her 5 year old sister and 3 year old brother wore proper lifejackets for the entire time. It meant I could relax around the swimming pools and even read a few pages of my book.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back. Going on holiday alone with your kids is no small feat. It’s a little strange to begin with. There will be wistful moments, when you see other families together. There will be overwhelming ones, when you wish there was someone else to shoulder the responsibility, alongside you. But these are fleeting. Mostly, there will be empowering moments where you realise that, not only can you can do this, but you are actually enjoying doing it. Your kids are happy. You are happy. You are spending more quality time with them than you ever get to do at home; the responsible and fun parent all rolled into one. You see a different side of them. They see a different side of you. And there is a new and deep-seated respect for one another. Make sure you take a moment to recognise your success. Because, one day, your kids will draw great strength from these holidays you championed as a single parent, where you showed them it isn’t just holidays that come in many different and wonderful packages. But families, also.

Club Letoonia, Fethiye, Turkey

  • Club Letoonia is a 45 minute transfer from Dalaman airport
  • You can book an all inclusive package through Thomas Cook or First Choice or book flights separately and all inclusive accommodation directly with the resort. Easyjet, Thomas Cook Airlines, BA and Monarch fly to Dalaman from all major UK airports
  • The facilities are immense: Family bungalows with one/two rooms, Mini-club, Mini-disco, 3 restaurants, 7 bars, 3 outdoor pools, 1 indoor pool, Water slides, Daytime activities programme, Children’s playground and pool in kids’ club area, 3 private beaches in addition to the vast peninsular with sun loungers and hammocks, Evening entertainment, Spa
  • 4 km to Fethiye town by shuttle boat, departing every 30 minutes
  • 4* plus rating, 4.5 Tripadvisor rating

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