Booking a family holiday can be tricky at the best of times. Finding something kids and adults will love, all within a budget, is enough to juggle, without the potential financial penalties and challenges when you're the only parent.
But as holiday companies catch on to the fact that solo travel is a growing trend, they're finally realising that means catering to single parents too. As the UK has nearly 2 million lone parents with dependent children, it's about time.
So with more choice than ever, here are my tips for single parents booking a holiday.
Single parent friendly or single parent specialist?
If you want to guarantee you won't be surrounded by happy couples, especially if it's likely to upset your kids, stick with a specialist company like Single with Kids. Not only will everyone on the trip be in a similar position, companies often have networks and forums if you want to stay in touch afterwards.
Who else is travelling?
For group trips, even those focused on family or single parent travel, it's worth calling up and asking who's signed up. Turning up with a five-year-old when there's only two other 10-year-olds for company isn't going to keep anyone happy. Most companies should know who's typically booked in the past as well as those who've committed to this holiday.
Where do you want to go?
There's no shortage of choice for different budgets, from UK glamping and seaside hotels like The Sands in Cornwall through to a family-friendly tour of Thailand with G Adventures or a riding safari in Africa with Aardvark Safaris.
If your child already has another holiday planned, consider a trip that's a total contrast so you and your ex aren't tempted to compete. There's more inspiration at www.101singlesholidays.co.uk.
Do you want an active holiday?
Long summer days on the beach are what childhood memories are made of. But if you (or your kids) go stir crazy after three days of building sandcastles, try an activity theme. It could be something specific like skiing or cycling – Esprit Ski has single parent offers and there are family-friendly bike trips from Saddle Skedaddle.
The National Trust has family working holidays which let you mix rock pooling, scavenger hunts and survival skills with protecting the countryside.
Is there childcare?
There's nothing like a holiday for the chance to enjoy quality time together but everyone needs a break sometimes, especially when you're travelling and parenting solo with small children. As well as babysitting or baby listening, is there a kids' club or organised activities (a great way to make sure your child will have company of their own age too)?
What about adult company?
Solo me-time can be parents' holy grail, but the novelty may wear thin if kids spend all day with their new friends then fall into bed. More resorts are introducing communal dining, while group tours and single-parent holidays ensure you get readymade company if you want. Check out the Single Parent Travel Club too which puts you in touch with other one-parent families to book together.
What about the cost?
There's nothing more infuriating than free child places which suddenly don't apply if there's only one parent travelling – check whether your child will be charged as an adult or if you have to pay a single supplement, and whether that changes during school holidays.
This article is by Cathy Winston, editor of www.101singlesholidays.co.uk