Having been a single parent since Hux was 6 months old – he’s now nearly five – I thought I’d seen the worst of the solo mum struggles. The routines you have to get into to make sure everything gets done, the logistical nightmares of picking up two kids from different nurseries when you’re working late, the financial juggles you do to make your money stretch far enough… been there, done that, got the baby sick-covered tshirt.
It’s certainly true we’ve tackled many things as a threesome that in a previous life I would have balked at the thought of. We’ve moved house together (twice!), travelled abroad, endured sickness bugs in unison. Once you’ve gone through a certain number of experiences you almost feel infallible, unbreakable.
And then we planned our Mark Warner ski holiday ;)
To be fair, I didn’t worry about taking the children skiing alone at all. Aside from the fact I knew I’d have to be meticulously organized, I didn’t think there’d be anything out of the ordinary that would faze us. I made lists, packed the kitchen sink, prepared the kids for a bit of their own elbow grease: with five suitcases between three of us I knew there’d have to be a bit of give and take (and muscle power!).
The travel was the first big hurdle. Again, I made this as pain-free as possible with valet airport parking (the second time I’ve done this and essential), and a terminal hotel the night before the flight. We stayed at Bloc – a hotel we love – and our room with 8 days parking all-in was around £160, which I thought was a good deal.
And forget ankle-bashing Trunkis; this time the kids took LittleLife wheelie suitcases with us and they were AMAZING, so easy to be pulled behind, even for Hux.
Gatwick-wise the first leg of our journey was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Did you know they have a special family security lane for those travelling with kids? I always worry the children will stress over the strange process of our belongings being scanned and searched so this was a real treat – the staff on this lane had obviously been trained in making kids feel safe and comfortable and it really made the difference.
Despite our flight time of 5.55am (YAWN!), the Mark Warner charter flight with Small Planet Airways was fab – full of families who didn’t bat an eyelid at the odd tantrum over who’d be getting the window seat.
Tiny Grenoble airport was a challenge, with no luggage trollies and kids who’d been up since 3am, it took all I had to navigate to the Mark Warner buses without losing my marbles (or one of our five cases). But we made it in the end, and thanks to iPads and a couple of snoozy kids our three-hour transfer was fairly pain-free.
On arrival at our hotel, Mark Warner’s Chalet Hotel L’Ecrin (more on this next week!), I realised with a happy jolt that I hadn’t once worried about being the only single mum in a sea of happy families. And there was no reason to, either; skiing is such a social sport and there were always people to chat to.
I met some lovely people in my lessons, and spent each night having raucous fun on the social table at dinner. There were the ski fanatics but also the fairweather skiiers like me, who were happy to drink wine and natter about anything and everything. The relaxed suppers were some of my favourite parts of the holiday – it was brilliant knowing the kids were being happily looked after in the evening kids club while I could have fun with other grown-ups.
Ski holidays can be fairly regimented, which suited us well. We all like a routine and, though the day started a little earlier than perhaps I would have liked – 7am starts on a holiday? I was constantly dragging the kids from their beds in the morning and that never happens at home – it was good to know what we were supposed to be doing and when we were doing it.
Breakfast started at 7.30, and the kids were due to meet their nannies at 8.30, who would suit them up with me ready for their ski lessons at 9am. My lesson was an 8.50 start, and I’d be there until 12pm which was when I took the opportunity to collapse in a fur-covered chair on the side of the mountain for a Vin Chaud. I’d then have the afternoon to myself – reading, having beauty treatments, napping, taking long baths for the sore ski muscles – before afternoon tea at 4.30 and picking the kids up at 5.
A couple of afternoons I picked the kids up before lunch and took them off for pizza, swimming and snowball fights: a ski holiday is a busy one and I felt we all needed that time to spend together relaxing. In fact, one of my favourite times was the Thursday evening which is the chalet staff’s night off: we went off into town to share a Raclette and had the most wonderful time. It was snowing (Hux kept saying “happy Christmas!” to people he passed), the fairy lights were twinkling… it was magic.
The most difficult thing about holidaying alone with two kids this time around was the sheer amount of stuff we needed to have organized every day. Each one of us needed 2 base layers, ski socks, ski coats, ski pants, ski goggles, a helmet, gloves, a scarf, sunglasses, boots, skiis, reflective vests… it was mind-boggling, and the only option was to be incredibly regimented when it came to laying out our clothes the night before. I’m still amazed that neither child lost one or both gloves: I’d brought extra pairs, so convinced I was of this happening.
We hired our skis and boots from a ski store half a mile away from our hotel; this might not seem like a difficult walk to make but when you’re travelling with a 4 and a 6 year old who have never skied and have no inclination to carry their own equipment it becomes a lot trickier. This was the only down point for me: with three pairs of skis, three pairs of boots, three helmets and a set of poles to carry on my own, that half a mile went on for EVER. It would be great if the hotel could offer some kind of assistance for solo travellers with kids in this respect.
Would I go on another ski holiday alone with the kids? Definitely. It was such a wonderful experience that we’ve been talking about ever since. We all made tons of memories (and friends!) and I loved giving the children the opportunity to learn a new skill – and a really fun one at that! It was a challenge for sure, way more challenging than our summer holiday, but with a bit of organization it was nothing that couldn’t be overcome.
I loved staying in a hotel situation – the Mark Warner service was second-to-none as always, and the fact I felt so comfortable with the childcare, the food and our lovely room took a lot of the stress away. We’ve just booked our third Mark Warner holiday for the summer – we can’t wait! – and I’m holding out hope that we’ll return to L’Ecrin in Tignes next year.