Published on April 30, 2024

So, the summer holidays are fast approaching and for many separated and divorced parents, the difficulties of holiday planning begin. In this article, I share my tips for planning the summer holidays to help ensure this process as smooth and conflict-free as possible. As always, the key to smooth holiday planning as a divorced family is going to be advance planning and early communication. Here are the top three things to keep in mind in preparing for the summer.

Photo by Limor Zellermayer on Unsplash

Have An Agreed Holiday Schedule

Here’s another example of the importance of having a clearly-defined parenting plan or Child Arrangement Order. Taking the time to discuss a clear and agreed-upon parenting schedule is the key to avoiding many post-divorce conflicts. While it is not required to have such a plan in order to divorce in the UK, there is no over-stating how useful it can be to have things as clearly spelled out as can be. It means that you are not having ongoing negotiations with your ex ahead of every single holiday, because you have an agreed plan that clearly stipulates who has the children when.

There are many apps out there, such as Our Family Wizard, that allow co-parents to document the parenting schedule in a single place and manage handovers in a structured manner. But even without leveraging technology, parents will benefit from making sure everyone is aware of each other’s holiday dates with the children many months ahead of time. This will avoid incidents such as one parent getting the dates wrong or booking a holiday at the wrong time. Having this type of calendar defined ahead of time does not mean that things are set in stone and that you cannot be flexible. However, it sets a baseline upon which everyone can rely as a default arrangement, including the children.

There will be times when dates need to be flexed to accommodate train or flight schedules, or special occasions. Your priority should remain ensuring that the children have the best holiday experience possible. If this means you have to see them from the Saturday to the Saturday instead of the Friday to the Friday, ask yourself whether the change truly matters or whether you are refusing out of principle. Delaying your handover might have little impact for you but allow your children to be present for their grandmother’s birthday, or to have an extra day at the beach!

Plan And Align Early To Make Sure Your Plans Are Well-Coordinated

Even if you are not usually an early planner, you might have to reconsider your modus operandi after divorce. By planning your holidays well in advance, you will both be able to compare plans before making any reservations or commitments. It will also give you enough time to get permission from the other parent if you are planning on taking the children out of the country, and to provide them with the necessary information to put them at ease. You’ll need to make sure the other parent is aware of where you are going to be, what your travel arrangements will be and how they will be able to reach the children. Early planning will also give you plenty of time to obtain written permission for international travel and provide the travelling parent with the passports.

Agree Handover Times And Locations

Another big advantage of planning and communicating plans with your ex ahead of time is that it will allow you to optimise handovers depending on where you are each going. For example, if you are both going to be in neighbouring countries, there is probably no need for you to take the children back home for the other parent to collect them there. You might be able to meet half-way or somewhere that makes sense to everybody.

The main objective is not to save each other trouble but to minimise travel time and backs and forths for the children. You will want to carefully consider the best location for handovers if they are not happening at your home or holiday residence. In general, it is best to avoid handovers at airports or at petrol stations along the motorway as this leads to very transactional transfers which can be emotionally disturbing for the children. Once again, be prepared to be flexible as handovers might not be possible at the exact time specified in your parenting plan or CAO due to transportation schedules or other uncontrollable factors. Once again, early planning will be essential to avoid these types of issues and ensure things go as smoothly as possible for the children.

While holiday planning might turn into a logistical jigsaw, there are many things you can do to avoid them turning into a cause of conflict with your ex. Remember that the main objective of going on holidays is to relax and to build magical memories with your children. Keeping them at the centre of your plans should remain your guiding principle, no matter how much negotiating needs to happen with your ex behind the scenes.

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The Impact On Children

It is so easy to be told that you need to put your children first when we are separating, but what does it actually mean? When your life is turmoil and emotions are running high this can feel daunting when there are so many things to think about. If you have a child with someone, then regardless of whatever you think of them or whatever they might have done, they will still have an important role to play in the life of your child. Exceptions to this are rare. Possessive language that excludes or minimises the role of the other parent can negatively impact the relationship between that parent and the child and can increase conflict and make it more difficult to co-parent. We know that conflict and/or parental absence in particular has a negative impact on children.

Parents need to create the right conditions for children to thrive.

For children, whilst separation will bring inevitable feelings of loss and change, they can still thrive if their parents work in partnership to create the right conditions. We know that children are more likely to adapt with fewer problems, and less emotional distress, when parents are able to part with compassion and continue to work together in partnership even when they are not together. On this hub you will find lots of article and tips on how to minimise the impact on children. For example; how do you set up two homes? How do you co-parent well? What does it mean to put your children first? How do you tell your child you are separating? What do I tell the school? What about holidays? And much more...

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