Travel Tips

Thinking of traveling solo with your children? Here’s how I did it around Ireland and Italy

It began in 2022, I wanted to do some road trips around Ireland with my 8-year-old twins. After the arduous isolation periods of the pandemic, I felt claustrophobic and needed to pack up my car and just drive. And I needed to do it on my own.
I always wanted to explore Donegal in particular, a place I went to as a child on a family holiday. One beach in Gweedore has never left my memory. I wanted to see the Bád Eddie ship wreck again in the Gaeltacht region of Bunbeg. Firstly, I needed a good base to plan my day trips and also to think of the necessities I would need for a road trip with two children for one week.

I decided on Rossnowlagh, near Bundoran and Rory Gallagher country, Ballyshannon. We rented a cabin at the back of a local couples’ house up in the hills, only five minutes’ drive to Rossnowlagh beach. The journey with no stops from Dublin is under three hours but…we stopped a few times for snacks, toilet and photo breaks. The car was full to the brim of blankets, food, chargers, pillows, shoes, flipflops, towels and toilet rolls (you just never know what you might need)
That first trip was the beginning of many more over the next 18 months. The more I did, the further I travelled. We went through mountain passes where we only saw sheep for an hour, we drove up and down steep cliff roads, we trekked across fields and sand dunes to get to the beaches I only saw on Instagram pages, like Keem Bay, Inch Beach, Fintra, Tramore, Dog’s Bay, Gurteen, Shell beach and so many more along the coastline.

As my confidence in driving grew, so did how much I needed to bring with me. Three separate suitcases became one middle sized one. A grocery shop before I left with the basics, was handy for snacks for the car and also to have food on arrival (I could be in very remote places with the local shop a few miles down a winding dark road) The last thing the children wanted to do after a 4–5-hour drive was to go to the shop for groceries.

From a recent trip to Dunfanaghy via Cariggart, we stayed in a cabin I saw on Instagram – Davey John’s Forge, I learned of new items to always have with me. It was in quite a remote place beside a lake and while there, we encountered a power outage, a first for the children. I have since bought a good torch, batteries, candles, a lighter and a blow-up bed with a pump as some places don’t have a fold out couch, so be prepared. Three of us have slept on a double bed! But this is all part of an Irish road trip. This particular cabin had a hot tub on the porch and my twins had never been in one so this was a huge bonus to staying here.

After venturing to many counties in Ireland during 2023, I wanted to go further afield with the children on my own. I had to do it alone, as not many people will want to go away with you with two young children. I was feeling very confident one day, I had saved up some money and I went on to the Love Holidays website. I checked the less busy off-peak months and settled on a week away in Italy. I had never been to Lake Garda so I booked a complex called The Garda Village in Sirmione.

I am very meticulous about Googling info on things like the distance from the airport (which is really important BTW as this can add on huge costs on transfers if not booked ahead) I was flying into Bergamo and my accommodation was an hour from the airport. I looked for local taxi companies before I left Dublin and was getting quotes of up to €800 for a return pick up for the three of us in a shared taxi/van. I also asked in a travel group on Facebook called Rory’s Travel Club for some advice and tips and I received great advice back. I did get my transfers cheaper at around €300 for a return with Go Opti. If you left it to when you landed at the airport, I would assume you could be in for a hefty taxi fare before your holiday even begins.

For the airport in Dublin, I gave my twins a back pack each which they packed all their consoles, games, chargers. I flew with Ryanair and booked one large case for the three of us as it was the cheaper option instead of three separate cabin cases. You can only have a handbag or back pack each on the flight for free. I also picked a later flight so we had our lunch before we went to the airport. The twins had a budget for treats in duty free which were also their snacks for the plane.

Sirmione in Lake Garda is beautiful and we were right beside the lake where we jumped off the many piers each night, while watching the stunning sunsets. We did eat out a lot but there was a shop in our complex that had the basic requirements like milk, cereal, bread, ham etc so we had breakfast at our bungalow each morning. It’s essential to have plenty of change for the bus fares as they are mainly cash only. I do feel, if at all possible, to know some of the basic language wherever you go, they do like when the tourists use some basic words. I also bought tickets to a big theme park, Garda Land, online before I left Dublin and this was cheaper for three of us. Because it was off peak (October) not all the rides were open and not open every day either. We went midweek as it would be quieter than when the locals go at the weekends.

We had a fantastic holiday and it did go seamlessly from the airport, flights, transfers, accommodation, dining out etc. Whether it’s a road trip at home or a holiday abroad, research and plan out as much as you can. Be prepared for the weather changes in Ireland; throw in the heavy coats, as Donegal and our rugged coast line can be windy and cooler than inland. If you like social media, make sure to share where you visited as some of these tourist places need the exposure in the less busy months. I have met some amazing people on my travels whom I keep in touch with and I have returned to the same counties to discover more unique stops, which I always find. A positive of solo traveling is you are the driver and can pull into that viewpoint sign you spot or the brown Trá arrow – this is where you find the magic places, which is what holidays are all about.

Posted in Beautiful places to see, Family, Lone Parenting, Outdoor fun places for kids, Places to stay in Ireland, Twins, Wellbeing.