Booking a great family break during school holidays can be a tricky task at the best of times. Not only do you need to find something everyone will love, there's high prices (or the risk of a term time fine) and the knowledge the best trips book up well in advance.
So doing all this as a single parent - with the potential financial penalties for travelling as the sole adult - can seem like a huge challenge. But now there are around two million lone parents with dependent children in the UK, more travel companies are waking up to the demand.
Here are my trips on booking a holiday for single parents, whether it's your first or fifth, and whatever age your kids are.
Start by researching who the holiday is aimed at, or asking the company for details of families already signed up. A beach break to delight a toddler isn't necessarily going to keep a tween or teen happy and vice versa. And if you're hoping your own kids are going to make friends, there's nothing worse than discovering the only other children are five years older or younger.
If your child has another holiday planned with their other parent, it can be best to book something totally different, to avoid the chance of comparing or temptation to compete.
Doublecheck if free child places still apply when there's only one parent travelling or will they be charged as a second adult? And it's worth making sure that there aren't single supplements applied during school holidays - even if they're discounted the rest of the year.
Single parent friendly - or single parent only?
Start with the specialists if you want a trip that's only for single parents, especially if seeing lots of happy nuclear families is likely to leave someone in tears.
Single with Kids, for example, has holidays in the UK as well as Europe, along with an online forum to chat before and after the break. Around three quarters of the group have never met before on holiday so it's a good way to find others in a similar position, plus they offer optional activities to help break the ice.
Solo friendly accommodation
If you don't want an entire holiday aimed at solo parents, how about a hotel which specialises in single parent breaks? Check the facilities on offer - is there babysitting, baby listening or a kids' club if you fancy some me time? How about communal tables if you'd rather not eat alone? After all, it's your holiday too. Somewhere like The Sands Hotel in Cornwall has regular offers for single parents of younger kids.
What activities are there?
Long lazy days in the sun are probably high on most holiday wishlists - whether it's kids making sandcastles on the beach or parents getting the chance to relax. But will that keep everyone amused after day three? For older kids, a holiday based on an activity can be a fun alternative.
The family working holidays from the National Trust mix countryside conservation with rock pooling, scavenger hunts and survival skills. Or see the country from your bike with family-friendly cycle trips from Saddle Skedaddle. Consider add-on activities as well such as Family Twist guided tours of Paris, London, Rome and Florence, tailored to different ages, or the parent-and-child cookery courses at Lucknam Park.
Looking for adventure?
A family-friendly holiday needn't mean sticking to tried-and-tested locations across the Mediterranean and the UK. G Adventures has small group tours of Thailand for five-year-olds and up, as well as trips to Tanzania and the Galapagos.
All images courtesy Pixabay
Cathy Winston is editor of 101 Singles Holidays