Last year, I saved my pennies so I could take my two boys away for a few fab nights to Q1 Resort & Spa on the Gold Coast. My expectations of this holiday were higher than the 78 floors of the hotel. I’d been hanging out for this time away with the kids, pouring lots of money and planning into the process. I was ready for it to be nothing less than perfect.
Spoiler: turns out a lot of things aren’t easy when the parenting maths doesn’t add up – or when you’ve only got two arms and one set of eyes for two busy kids. Those blissful beach trips I was desperate for? They’re pretty impossible when your toddler is scared of waves and your 9-year-old wants to dive head first into the surf. That drool-worthy room I’d been dreaming about? Sure, it was amazing – but trying to get five days of luggage up to your 10th floor room with a baby on your hip isn’t ideal.
It was a great trip, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve definitely learned how to holiday better since. So, I want to share some savvy tips, so you can make the most of your next family holiday, even if it doesn’t go exactly to plan!
Here are my tips on how to holiday better as a single parent.
1. Save now to save stress later
I know a lot of things feel out of reach when you’re going it alone, but I promise you a holiday is possible no matter what your budget is. Putting aside $5 or $10 a week could add up to a night or two away in a year’s time. I prefer doing this instead of feeling the panic set in when trying to find the funds a few weeks before the trip.
Insider tip: If you don’t mind sharing with your little ones, you can save a little extra by booking one room instead of two and popping that rollabed or portacot in with you.
2. Being prepared pays off
Take your time packing so you don’t have to re-buy the things you forgot while away (does anyone else routinely forget sunscreen?!). Being prepared will save you spending money on the incidentals you didn’t account for. Also, thinking ahead about where I could be thrifty really helped, too. Want the cafe atmosphere but can’t afford the price? Buy breakfast foods in advance, eat at your accommodation and just go out for a coffee or a juice together.
Insider tip: Click and collect will save you! Make an order in advance for the grocery store closest to your hotel and pick it up right before you arrive at your home away from home.
3. Quality over quantity
A holiday doesn’t need to be long or extravagant for it to be a good holiday. Sometimes one night is perfect, especially when you’re not stressing about the extra $$ spent or how you’re going to keep them entertained for a heap of time. We recently stayed off-peak at RACV Royal Pines Resort Gold Coast overnight and, honestly, it was far more relaxing than some of our week-long stays. We asked for an early check-in and late check-out to squeeze in all the holiday time we could get.
Insider tip: If you can’t get an early check-in/late check-out, ask reception if they can hold your bags so you can use the pool if they have one. I’ve found most places are more than happy to do this and it gives your kids some extra time to enjoy the facilities!
4. Make it easy for yourself
You just want some relaxation on a holiday? Same bestie, same. ‘Holiday’ and ‘relax’ should go hand in hand but we both know when you’re a single parent, they quite often don’t. So, when planning your holiday, take time to consider the location and on-site facilities. Pools are a BIG selling point for me. Shallow wading pools or sandy play areas? Another big tick. Hotels that have restaurants in the hotel or close by? Tick tick! If we can just nip down for a bite, save getting in and out of the car and be back by bedtime, I’m a happy lady!
Insider tip: If you do decide to eat at your hotel’s restaurant, it’s sometimes cheaper to book in advance for options like a buffet breakfast so lock that one in early and save some $.
5. Share the load
Yes, this term seems alien to single parents. Who are you gonna share the load with? My advice – your friends. If you’ve got mates with similar-aged kids, then holidaying together is a great option. It’ll help cut down accommodation costs, provide you with some adult conversation and give your kids some play pals while you catch your breath. My friends went to Byron for a week or so and we popped in on the tail end of their trip. Having more hands for cooking and child-wrangling meant I had time to enjoy myself and *gasp* even take a relaxing bath!
Insider tip: You don’t have to overlap full vacays, if that’s too much. Even a day or two (or a single, childless dinner!) can sometimes do the trick).
6. Let your kids lead the way
None of the holidays you see on Instagram are real life, I promise! Even on the best trips away, I’ve had tantrums, teething and long nights trying to settle kids in a new place. It’s just real life in a different destination, after all. So, just go with it. Don’t have a set amount of ‘things’ you want to tick off seeing or doing. Make your main focus spending time with your kids and let them lead the way. My fave thing to do is to ask them what they want to do on the trip. You can bet they’ll get ready 10 times quicker when they’re invested in where you’re going!
Insider tip: Leave room for flexibility in your day and don’t pack it full. Having ‘must-dos’ will put unnecessary pressure on yourself and your kids.
As hard as it can be sometimes, there is a world where you can take a break with your kids, take it from me! As for high expectations, I save them for my birthday, when it’s someone else’s turn to spoil me 🤪
Heads up! Due to COVID-19, government restrictions are in constant review and travel guidelines may change. We strongly recommend that all travellers seek further information about destinations and attractions before scheduling trips or making bookings, take extra care and follow all rules.