Back in 2014, I made the daunting decision to take my (then) 10 & 13-year-old daughters abroad – on my own.
Now I don’t know about you guys but I still don’t feel like a ‘real’ grown up around 99% of the time, so the idea of jetting off to a foreign country without another adult to help me negotiate the airport, paperwork and the alien world of public transport was scary, to say the least.
However, I was determined not to let my fears stop us from making memories so I headed to the Thompson website and booked our trip to Italy. I found the site easy to use and even bagged myself a little discount.
As we began our holiday countdown, I realised just how much prep we had to do. Now, I know that at this age, travelling is a little easier than when they were babies and toddlers yet there were still a fair few things on the list.
Personally, I love to fly. I get far too overexcited! The liberating feeling of being in the air is something that I look forward to almost as much as the holiday itself. I can, however, appreciate that not everyone enjoys it as much as I do, including my youngest daughter.
Lucie has a genuine fear of flying so I had a little brain storm to see how we would combat this issue. I began by sitting down with her and together, we made a list of all the things bothering Lu. They ranged from ‘what if the plane crashes?’ to ‘I get claustrophobic’. We had a look at the statistics of plane crashes and I tried to rationalise her fears by explaining that the odds were incredibly low (you have more chance of being in a car accident on the way to the airport) and that technology and the skilled cabin crew were on our side. Sadly, Lu’s nerves got the better of her as we began takeoff but a lovely air hostess came over and sat with us, holding Lucies hand and talking to her about the positives of flying until she calmed down. I will be forever grateful for this small act of kindness.
I had invested in a few quirky colouring books from Amazon for the journey so we sat and amused ourselves with these, along with some books we’d all picked to share and some snacks (Reece’s Pieces fix everything!) I also bought some boiled sweets to combat pesky earache and Bach Rescue Remedy pastilles to help take the edge of Lucies anxiety which seemed to help a little. We were so distracted on the flight that before we knew it,we were landing at Naples Airport.
The flight home was easier – apart from me sulking at the idea of leaving the beach behind – and Lucie even sat in the window seat, peering out as we took off.
We booked on a bed and breakfast basis as we rarely spend much time in our hotel whilst abroad. On the first day in Sorrento, I found a local supermarket and stocked up things like bottled water, fresh juices, cold meats, fruit and cheeses that we kept in the mini bar, bread, crackers and a few packets of local sweet treats. This was a godsend after our long days out exploring, when the kids just wanted to sit on our balcony and snack rather than trek out again for a meal.
I’d downloaded plenty of movies onto my iPad, which kept the girls amused at bedtime or if anyone needed some time out, headphones and music provided some solitude. Sharing a family room is great but sometimes you just need a little space from each other, even if that simply consisting of enjoying a bath alone. If I’m completely honest, I found myself getting a little lonely and missing adult company on occasion so a quick Skpye to friends in the evening really helped.
There was an element of compromise on the rare days we did choose to stay in the hotel grounds. Being a little bit older, Megan was keen to spend a few hours on the private decking area sunbathing and reading, as was I. Lucie is a complete mermaid and wanted to spend as much time as possible in the pool. Almost all of the other guests were two parent families and couples and I was very aware of our situation. We still managed to make plenty of friends regardless and after a while, felt like we fitted right in.
Out and About
As previously mentioned, when on holiday, we like to explore the country as much as possible. We would rise early in order to make the most of our time and were lucky enough to visit Sorrento, Amalfi, Ischia, Capri, Pompeii and Positano on this particular trip.
For days out, planning ahead was important. I packed snacks, maps, plasters, bottled water, insect repellent, baby wipes, cooling sprays, sun cream, sunglasses, an extra pair of shoes each amongst other essentials. The shoes may seem a little over the top but when your child starts moaning that their feet are rubbing or a sandal strap snaps on the beach, it definitely makes you glad you brought them along. The snacks also came in handy, as a hot, hungry child can be an utter nightmare at any age! The other bits are obvious as dehydration, bites and sunburn are no fun either. I also took along travel sickness tablets as Lucie can be prone however I forgot to give them to her before a choppy and humid 90-minute boat trip and frankly, this did not end well for any of us. I’ll leave the details to your imagination!
I did my homework before we left and made a list of places we could stop to eat that would keep us all happy, without blowing our budget. Lucie is a big fan of seafood, I like authentic Italian food and Megan is somewhere in the middle. We ended up mainly dining on gorgeous fresh pizza, fish and pasta dishes with the odd night out to my favourite steak house in the world – Meating, Sorrento. I even got the girls to try medium rare steak which they both surprisingly loved. We enjoyed the obligatory gelato, eating several cones a day. Well, we had to try out all of the flavours on offer, just to be sure!
At times, I did feel overwhelmed with being solely responsible for two (not so) little people when outside of my comfort zone but we managed to negotiate all of these new places and have an incredible time together. I personally found that the key to our success was to plan, plan and plan some more. This helped me feel more confident and able to relax more once we arrived. Travelling ‘alone’ is actually one of the most liberating things I’ve done and within six months, we’d done it all over again by spending Christmas in Paris as a family of three.
If you are thinking about taking children on holiday as a lone parent, I’d say go for it. Be brave, take the leap and have an amazing time! Our adventures together bonded our little unit even further and we came home with cherished memories.