Natural Health Travel Health Essentials For Your Hand Luggage

Here are 3 small, but incredibly useful additions to your summer holiday medicine kit. They are all ideally sized to throw in your handbag as you rush out of the door after the kids on summer day trips too.

Headaches

First up is a product to soothe your headache – the Arkopharma Migrastick, an all-natural alternative to conventional painkillers which uses 100% pure and natural essential oils to help relieve pain caused by headaches and migraines.

Simply roll over temples, forehead or nape of the neck using circular massage movements.

The Migrastick with its rollerball

I was a little sceptical, I admit but it has a refreshing smell and is surprisingly cooling and long-lasting when applied to the temples.  I think it would certainly help soothe a brewing headache when you are miles away from a pharmacy.

A note of warning though,  you cannot use this product if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or if you suffer from epilepsy.  And, it’s not for use on children under the age of 12.

Migrastick is small enough to have on you at all times. It’s also reasonably priced at £6.29 and is available from Amazon, Holland & Barrett and selected independent pharmacies and health stores nationwide.

Nausea and travel sickness

If you suffer from traveller’s tummy or are feeling a bit nauseous from too much sun, try The Ginger People’s Gin Gins CARAMEL – Tasty ginger and caramel sweets. They contain a massive 30% ginger per sweet.

Working mainly in the digestive tract, ginger helps to boost digestive fluids and neutralize acids, making it an effective alternative to anti-nausea medication, without the possible unpleasant side effects. These are ideal travel sweets to keep in the car’s glove compartment to calm wobbly tummies without having to break out the travel sickness pills.

Gin Gins from The Ginger People

They taste like a zingy, ginger, more chewy version of Werther’s Originals and certainly have a kick to them. The ginger may also help mums to be fighting morning sickness. Gin Gins Caramel are available from Amazon and Holland & Barrett stores nationwide.

Mosquito Menace

Finally, there is Zap-It!  I don’t know about you but mosquitoes and midges seem to love biting me in the hot weather. They have a way of putting a real dampener on things when you’re outside, with their dive-bombing and blood-sucking antics.

So whether you’re backpacking through South America, camping at a festival, out for a run or just barbecuing in your back garden (guess which one I do the most of!), Zap-It! is a handy gadget in your armoury against those big, angry red bites.

It can be used as and when required by all the family, but not on babies less than 2 years of age.

Zap-It! will stop the itching and reduce the swelling of the bite (but note: it will not remove toxins or infection).  You simply place the flat end of the gadget on to the bite on your skin, hold the Zap-It! between your first 2 fingers and squeeze the button with your thumb.

Press the button quickly, 5 times or more as soon as possible after being bitten for fast relief.  The Zap-It! will also work through light fabrics.

Each Zap-It! will relieve up to 1,000 bites – enough for many years of bites or itches! It is available in different colours from selected health stores, pharmacies, garden centres, all Asda shops and Superdrug. Zap-It! is also available online from Amazon or www.ecobrands.co.uk.

Three cheap, simple items that are easy to throw in your bag.  What are your must-have travel health essentials?

Tips For Coping With A Child’s Car Sickness

Now that COVID-19 restrictions are being gradually lifted, many of us are planning if not a holiday then a day out or too.  For longer stays this involves making endless lists, bulk buying toiletries and trying to summon up the energy to do the packing. On top of this, there’s extra stress if you are travelling long distances by car or if you or your children suffer from car sickness.

I wasn’t too bad as a child but my sister would be looking green before we’d travelled more than a couple of miles!  Cue much packing of potties and urgent pitstops in lay-bys.

My dad gave me some sensible advice about assembling a basic kit for coping with car sickness.  He suggested carrying a large plastic box in the boot with a change of clothes per child, including towels, wet wipes and also a big bottle of soapy water for quick clean-ups. He also advised carrying travel potties or old ice cream cartons.

My parents used to give my sister Sarah and I travel sickness pills and packets of Wrigley’s Double Mint chewing gum to give us something to focus on.  And we quickly learned that reading whilst the car was moving was a no-no!.

I asked some of my fellow parenting bloggers how they cope with the nightmare of car sickness and they had much wisdom to share.

Tips for dealing with car sickness

Here are a few of their suggestions which also include advice for travelling on ferries and planes.

Shannon says “maybe not for a child for fear of them choking. How about lollipops? Or even a chewy toffee or sweet?”.  [sarbthoughts.blogspot.com]

Mary says “My nephew used to really travel sick even on short journeys but it all stopped when he used child travel bands. He’s just left Uni so I don’t think it’s an issue any more, but they certainly saved us all having empty ice cream tubs in our car when we’d take him out!  With ferries – don’t sit at the front of the boat or look at the horizon.” [Over 40 And A Mum To One]

Claire says “I always had a pack of wipes, plastic bags and spare clothes. Keep a window open to let air in. Don’t let them drink milk, and strong juice before the drive or during. Keep snacks light.” [familypanelreviews.co.uk]

Helen says “I had really bad travel sickness as a child and the only thing that worked was a bobble on my wrist. The ones with the metal bit pressed on the inside of my wrist. Not sure how safe it is but it 100% worked”.

Lisa of Travellovingfamily.com has a great post about coping with travel sickness on aeroplanes.

Tips from a Flight Attendant – Preventing Travel Sickness

Mellissa says “When all else fails Kwells is great and suitable for those over 10. You can take one as soon as you feel ill although it is better to take one 20 minutes before the journey.” [Flydryexplore.com]

Rebecca says “Avoid dairy products before you travel if you suffer from travel sickness, they seem to make it worse! Two of my children suffer badly but not so bad if they’ve not had dairy products.” [www.mumof3boys.co.uk]

Sophie says “For ferries, I discovered that laying in a chair like you’re in a rubber ring (if that makes sense) helps because the sensation is more like bobbing along on a lazy river” [onetenzeroseven]

Coral says “I was only car sick in smooth cars never in land rovers or lorries. Was told sitting on a newspaper prevented it. Mind over matter I guess. Doesn’t help in a cyclone in Fiji though. Avoid reading and devices. Look at the horizon. I talked a person out of seasickness on a ferry. NLP and hypnosis can work.” [Travellingcoral.com]

Michelle says “My parents used to give me child travel sickness tablets & anti sickness wristbands.” [Looking For The Silver Lining]

Katy says “Distraction can be a fantastic way to ease the anxiety of a child who gets sick on long journeys. Often the anxiety can be what makes the child feel unwell. Packing toys, games or even a tablet can be a great way to distract a child!” [www.katykicker.com]

Rebecca Ali says “My mum used to keep a cool bag with ice-cold water or go to the on-boat bar and get some ice which used to help loads (especially on boats and planes). Cars I was okay with but my granny always uses limacol in the car – it’s a super strong lemon-lime scented thing that she’d rub on a cloth and breathe and apparently that helped her from her youth to now.” [Pocahontas Jane]

So there you have it – quite a few votes for wristbands which I’m off to try.  Otherwise, I’ll be relying on travel sickness tablets for children and a big bucket safely stowed in the boot!

Do you have any tips to add?  Please share them in the comments below.

Winter Family Travel Health Tips For A Happy Trip

Readers of this blog will know you are unlikely to find the Hobbis family in the wilds of the Serengeti nor running along the beaches of Thailand or scaling the foothills of the Himalayas.  Yet, at least.

One reason for this is that our track record, healthwise, when taking a holiday out of season is not great.

In fact,  The Husband has banned me from booking anywhere in the autumn half-term or anything pre-Easter after he was forced to take Ieuan to a glacial Pennywell Farm in Devon whilst I took Caitlin back to our holiday cottage to minister to her, and Mr Puke.

You can bet that if our two manage to avoid any school term bugs, they will surely hatch them for half term.

This does mean, however, that we know how to fully prepare ourselves for the bug onslaught and prevention is always better than cure as they say.

Here are our top winter family travel health tips to keep you and the kids happy, healthy and not desperately phoning around for a pharmacy at stupid-o-clock on your long-awaited holiday. (Have you noticed how kids always announce ear infections and other diseases at 5 pm on Fridays or as soon as you get in the car?).

winter family travel health tips - teddy bear in a suitcase

WINTER FAMILY TRAVEL HEALTH TIPS BEFORE YOU GO

Travel Insurance

Better to be safe than sorry but make sure you read the terms and conditions fully before you set off. For example, are pre-existing medical conditions covered on your policy?

European Health Insurance Card

This replaces the old E111 and gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland.

The EHIC covers treatment that is medically necessary until your planned return home. Treatment should be provided on the same basis as it would to a resident of that country, either at a reduced cost or, in many cases, for free.

This may all change, of course, depending on what happens with BREXIT.  Currently, no changes have been confirmed.

At the moment, the EHIC is free. To get one, just fill out an application on the EHIC website or by calling the NHS on 0300 330 1350.

Note that an EHIC is NOT a substitute for travel insurance.

Existing Prescriptions

Make sure you’ve enough to cover yourself when on holiday.  For me, it means making sure I’m not about to run out of my thyroid medication.  Also, consider contraceptive pills and any other ongoing medication.

Again, things may change depending on BREXIT.

First Aid Kit

We always keep one of these in the car boot but you need to make sure that it is checked and missing items replaced before you go. You can never have too many plasters.

Thermometer

Taking a temperature is always a good gauge of how bad a child’s infection really is – particularly in the case of things like ear infections or the sniffles.  In the case of a high temperature, see medical help as quickly as possible, especially with a very young child.

Allergy Relief

The Husband and Ieuan suffer from hayfever, I have a dust allergy and Caitlin gets covered in blotches if she eats certain sweets (Starburst, for example) so we pack the Piriton and, for the Husband, Beconase. Oh, and lots of tissues!

Child’s Pain Relief

Nurofen (Ibuprofen) and Calpol are family staples. Sachets are easier to pack than the bottles though. If you’re flying though you can only take liquids to the maximum of 100ml.

Sun Protection

Yes, they even have sun in Devon.  Obviously a basic if you are going anywhere warm.  If the kids are going swimming, pack water-resistant sun cream, hats, tee-shirts or even full body suits.

Probiotics

Children can’t take diarrhoea tablets like Imodium so the best way to help a child with a poorly tummy is to stick to the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast). You can also give them a probiotic.  I often give my two probiotics during term time too – you can get rather yummy tasting chocolate ones which they don’t mind at all.

Rehydration Drinks

Rehydration is really important to replace the body’s salt and sugar if you or your child do have the runs.  Rehydration sachets just need to be mixed with water and come in different flavours to help disguise the taste.

winter family travel health tips - child swimming in a pool

WINTER FAMILY TRAVEL HEALTH TIPS FOR WHILE YOU’RE THERE

You can’t protect against every eventuality, of course, but there are basic steps you can take to try to minimise the bugs.

Wash your hands

We are always horrified how many people in motorway services toilets just walk out without washing their hands! Make sure you wash your hands – especially before eating.  I always carry hand sanitizer in my handbag in the event of finding a less than pristine loo – which is frequent!  You’ll find more tips for health hygiene on the go in this post.

Make sure food is properly cooked

Buffets are notorious for being the source of food bugs, particularly where food is kept warm for long periods of time. I managed to lose a stone in weight whilst on holiday in Egypt many years ago due to a dodgy curry from the hotel buffet.

Be wary of ice in drinks

Another great source of bacteria and germs, ice in drinks and drinks glasses that haven’t been properly washed.  If you’re served a drink in a less than clean glass send it back and avoid ice if you can.

Stick to bottled water

In countries where the water might be less than drinkable, stick to bottled water, particularly for little ones.  Avoiding untreated water when swimming might also be a good idea – for example badly maintained swimming pools!

winter family travel health tips - man on beach with 2 children

IF YOU DO FALL ILL

If you are unlucky enough to fall ill, you might want to check out if you are entitled to make a legal claim by contacting a Law Society accredited law firm.

Don’t be taken in by touts or claims farmers – we’ve all read about the consequences of fraudulently claiming for food poisoning – nowadays you might find yourself holidaying at Her Majesty’s Pleasure!  Make sure you contact professionals who can explain your rights to you and properly assess whether you have a valid claim.

Did you know, for example, that claims for illness while on holiday are covered by ‘The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations Act’?

The Act says that if something you’ve paid for is not as expected, fails to meet standards or causes you illness or injury while on holiday, you can make a claim.

And in the cases of food poisoning claims (“foodborne illnesses”), you are only covered if you paid for an all-inclusive holiday package where you never ate outside of your hotel.

Which means I might well have had a claim all those years ago when I visited Egypt.  As it was I was visited by a doctor who gave me an injection in my bottom (or what I have no idea) and wrote me a doctor’s note diagnosing “psychic problems”.

It makes having to lug a vat of Calpol and plasters down the M5 positively a joyous day out, doesn’t it?

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Flying With Children – Here’s How To Cope

I love flying – the whole experience. Now, though, as a mum of two, I’m facing that challenge which can seem pretty daunting – flying with children.

flying with children - aircraft in flight in the sky

As a singleton, there was an undeniable buzz about rolling up at the airport, indulging in a little Duty-Free shopping and having a leisurely drink at the bar.  My reading matter of choice would be a selection of glossy magazines and the latest literary best seller.

Then there was the thrill of the flight itself, the runway taxi, the exhilaration of take-off.  I even enjoy airline food in those tiny trays accompanied (against the counsel of every skincare guru) with a chilled glass of wine.

Now a completely different experience awaits.  Oh yes.  It’s time to take the family on a plane and I’m now viewing what used to be a pleasure as something to be endured. The potential for chaos is there in spades – travel sickness, kiddy melt-downs, lost passports and the absolute nightmare scenario of lengthy flight delays.

This is before you even think of the cost of travel, getting to the airport and remaining married after the holiday.  The Husband says I am a complete nightmare in the build-up to any holiday.  As we women know, however, this is because we generally do all the organising and packing whilst our partners polish the Sat Nav.

So I have duly done my research and compiled some helpful advice on flying with children (and added some from my own experience of travelling with Caitlin and Ieuan) which is contained in the tips below.

Tips for flying with children

Get them enthusiastic at the prospect of flying

Here’s Gareth Williams, CEO of Skyscanner.net on the subject.  “Don’t forget that flying was once wondrous. To them it still is, so point out the small houses, the clouds, the setting sun…. And if you’re desperate, get them to count how many passengers are on the flight (I kid you not – it worked a treat). If you can, get a visit to the cockpit. Even adults enjoy it. Your kid may decide to be a pilot, which is fine until they dream up something else.”

Get your passports sorted in good time

Make sure you have the family passports sorted out in good time, especially if there is a risk of yet another strike at the passport office!

Photography specialists Jessops are offering a special baby passport photo service which you can read about HERE.

Don’t leave packing until the night before

It’s just too stressful and there’s a risk you’ll forget something.  Write yourself a checklist, making sure the basics are covered first – travel documents, passports, medication etc.

Know your luggage allowance

Make sure you know the luggage allowance for your airline. You can check this online by entering your booking reference.  Here is British Airways’ advice, for example. They say that a checked bag can be up to 90cm x 75cm x 43cm (35.5in x 29.5in x 16in) – including any bits that stick out, like the handle, pockets and wheels. Generally, for non-hand luggage, you can take a bag up to a maximum weight of 23 Kg (51 lbs) for a child under 2 and a bag up to a maximum weight of 32 Kg (70 lbs) for a child between the ages of 2 and 11 but please make sure you check.

Also check hand luggage allowances- again, if you look at British Airway’s guidance, you can see all the rules and regulations laid out.  Anyone over 2 can have a cabin bag and a personal bag, whilst infants can have a cabin bag only for items required during the flight.

Know your banned and restricted items

Make sure you are familiar with liquids, banned and restricted items[HERE]. Briefly, when passing through airport security screen, each liquid you carry (for example contact lens solution) must be in its own container of no more than 100ml.  All liquids should be carried in a single, transparent resealable plastic bag of up to 20cm x 20cm (8in x 8in) with a total capacity of up to a litre.

If you are travelling with a baby or infant you can carry as much baby milk, powdered formula, sterilised water (must be in a baby bottle) and baby food as required for your trip, even if this exceeds the usual limit on liquids. This also applies to liquid medicines if you have a supporting prescription or doctor’s note.

Allow enough time for travel

Make sure you know check-in requirements for your airline.  Many airlines will also let you check in online usually 24 hours before your flight. For example, ebookers.com advise that for international flights you should check in at least 3 hours before departure, with 2 hours required before a European flight.  Domestic flights generally check in at least 90 minutes before departure.

Check that you have booked travel insurance for the whole family

Have you got your European Health Insurance Card? which replaces the E111?  This gives UK residents access to state-provided healthcare in all European Economic Area countries at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. If you have an EHIC, the UK healthcare system will cover the costs of any unexpected medical treatment needed as a result of accident or illness. You still need travel insurance before the EHIC will not cover you for repatriation to the UK if your illness or accident is serious. Travel insurance will also cover you for other events that could go wrong such as lost or stolen luggage.

Get breakfast ready the night before

If your flight is really early, it’s still a good idea to make sure there won’t be any rumbly tummies (with the accompanying bad temper) en route.  A carton of fruit juice, a piece of fruit, a wrapped brioche rolls and perhaps a Babybel cheese can all be packed up the night before.

Lay travelling clothes for the whole family out ready

This is a time for comfy old clothes where it doesn’t matter if they get stained.  Let Victoria Beckham worry about the Paparazzi. Remember to consider the climate you’re travelling to but don’t forget that the weather on returning to good old Blighty is often cold and wet!

Let the children choose one special toy to take with them

This could be, for example, a comforter in their hand luggage (perhaps a backpack).  But if it’s THE special toy, you might be better persuading them to leave that one at home.

Losing a favourite teddy can be heartbreaking. You can also add crayons and paper and a favourite book. Knowing my two, we will be better off relying on iPads / tablets loaded with their favourite apps or DVD / TV favourites.  To avoid annoying your fellow passengers, headphones would also be an idea.

Don’t forget to take the iPad / tablet chargers

Also, consider whether you’ll need an adapter at your destination. Also bear in mind that if you take a laptop, it will have to be removed from the bag for an x-ray.

Take Your Car Seat Along

If you have a baby or toddler you might like to consider taking your car seat along. There are many benefits to flying with a car seat.

The first is probably the most obvious: a car seat is the safest way for your little one to travel.

Secondly, your child knows their car seat and they will feel more secure and content in a space that is known to them.

Thirdly, if your child has reached the crawling or walking stage yet, you will understand how beneficial it will be to have them secured down with their car seat harnesses – especially when that seat belt sign comes on.

It is important to get a seat that fits the airline guidelines. Here is a great guide to help you find the right FAA approved car seat for your next flight.

Try to avoid unnecessary queues

You might want to budget for Meet & Greet Airport Parking, for example.

Take plenty of snacks

There will probably be loads of places where you can buy food but you can bet Ieuan will be having one of his “peanut butter only” days.  Mini sandwiches, bottled water and juice cartons if you have room are recommended.  I would also take some boiled sweets to suck during take-off in case of ear discomfort.

Make sure you have a toilet break before boarding

You can bet that kids will want to go before the “take off your seatbelt sign is lit up”. Another great piece of advice is to put your child back in pull-ups if they are potty training – just for the duration of the flight, of course.

Keep bugs at bay

Pack antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer.  You could wipe restaurant cutlery for example where you not sure about hygiene.

Track your kids

How about t-shirts printed with your mobile number on?  Very Paddington.  Or another suggestion I have come across is to write your mobile number in biro on their arm.

Mug up on games to keep them occupied

I-Spy is a perennial favourite or why not buy books of junior word searches and dot-to-dot.

Exude calm

Easier said than done if you’re a nervous flyer yourself but you can’t expect your kids to be calm if you’re a nervous wreck yourself.

This may well be your once a yearly break so it makes sense to plan and organise as much as you can in advance so that you minimise any less than fun travel experiences.  A bit of preparation up front (yes I know you’re busy) may save many hours of frustration on the day of travel.

I hope you have a great time.

Why It’s Better to Make Sure Your Hotel Offers Children’s Activities

When you go on holiday to you get your kids to join a kids’ club?

Whilst booking your hotel you check out certain features, offers and prices. A summer family holiday is great for the whole family, you get to both relax and enjoy new and exciting activities. Your kids get to socialise in hotel inclusive activities and the best part is that everything is organised in one place.

Young boy on a paddle board in a river - getting your kids to join a kids' club could make their holiday

Image from Pixabay.com

Get Your Kids To Join A Kids’ Club

You may not be able to entertain your children on your own for the whole duration of your trip. But booking a holiday where they can join a kids’ club means they will be spoiled for choice when it comes to entertainment. Get them excited about going on holiday and book them into the hotel’s kids’ club.

With most beach clubs in all-inclusive resorts you can enrol your kids for up to five days a week for full days, however this is very flexible. Drop the children off when you like and they can stay as long as you want. There’s lots of new activities for them to try and they can also learn new skills and whilst making lots of great friends along the way. It also gives you the chance to relax for a time whilst they are busy being entertained by others.

Do activities together as a family

When you book a summer family holiday you are ready to spend some quality time together. But you don’t want to be doing the same thing every day. By booking beach club holidays you can be sure to have plenty of activity options as a family.

Beach holidays have plenty of choice for families who love doing things together. Think about paddle boarding, swimming, volleyball, kayaking and even building traditional sand castles on the beach.

There are also other family friendly activities you can take part in away from the beach too. Dancing with kids, bike riding and activity classes such as painting and ceramics can be provided by family friendly hotels. So, there are a variety of choices meaning each day will be different.

Take excursions as a family

Although you are staying at the beach it doesn’t mean you can’t explore the local area and your hotel will help you with that. There could be anything from organised tours of villages and the coastline to trips to water parks and other fun things to do.

Not only can you join organised events but you can also take advantage of the activities on offer to help you explore. Why not try a bike ride or paddle-board around the local area or take part in a paddle cruise or dinghy cruise to discover more about your surroundings? We discovered stand up paddle-boarding (SUP) a while ago and it’s a great activity for all the family.  Look for wide sup boards for maximum safety and comfort if you are beginners.

Kids will love the different ways they can explore the area and it’s a great idea to get them out of the hotel complex and see what else is around them. They will also learn about local history and wildlife too.

Try new activities

When you go on an activity holiday it is the perfect time to try new things. But what kind of activities can you try at the beach? Water sports are a great idea and you can often try these activities for free as part of your hotel package. Think Sailing, Paddle boarding and kayaking as well as swimming and snorkelling.

If you’d prefer to stay on dry land, you can also take part in numerous beach fitness classes. Or perhaps try some dance classes on the beach, fun for the whole family. There are also activities that are not too strenuous. Art and painting courses, ceramics and language learning can be excellent breaks for kids.

Which destinations are great for family activity holidays?

You have quite a lot of choice when it comes to finding activity holiday destinations. But where are the best places to enjoy activities on the beach? Here are a few choices to consider.

Croatia

There’s so much to see and do in Croatia and you can see why it’s a popular choice for activity holidays. The beautiful crystal-clear waters, variety of beaches and abundance of historic sites make this country an excellent place to explore. Not to mention the amazing food and drink you’ll find here.

You’ll also find magnificent national parks which are the best places for hiking and trekking as well as mountain biking amongst the beautiful scenery.

On the coast, the Adriatic Sea opens up your choice of many water sports including wind surfing, wake boarding and water skiing. Croatia is an amazing place to enjoy what nature has to offer.

Greece

Greece is well known for water sports enthusiasts but can be great for the family too. The warm, calm waters and the choice of plenty of islands make it the perfect destination for anyone who loves the great outdoors.

Sailing and windsurfing are great for the dependable, warm winds and breezes. Kayaking and stand up paddle boarding give you the opportunity to explore the many bays found on the long coastlines as well as finding pretty secluded beaches.

It’s not just all about the coast either head inland and you’ll find greenery, towering pine forests and expansive olive groves. The perfect place to explore by bike or by foot.  Greece has such a diverse landscape and can be explored in so many different ways.

Italy

With its stunning coastlines with clear blue seas, pretty pastel coloured villages and long interesting coastline, Italy has much to offer its visitors including a great setting for family activity holidays.

In the south you’ll discover deserted beaches, mountains and three national parks, excellent for exploring the great outdoors. A wide range of activities are available along the coastline including dinghy sailing, windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding and kayaking.

Or perhaps you would like to try some inland activities such as mountain biking and road cycling through the pretty hillsides. Italy is a country of contrasts on the coast but it means you can pretty much do anything you like outdoors as you are sure to find the perfect location.

When to go?

The summer months are the best time to enjoy a beach activity holiday, but you might want to choose the slightly cooler months when it comes to doing very strenuous activities or when bringing small children along.

May and June tend to be at a temperature that is easier to deal with although the sea may not have warmed up enough for some. September is still warm but the temperature is dropping, however the sea is still warm enough to swim in.

The busiest and hottest months are July and August where you’ll need to keep hydrated and spend plenty of time cooling off if you want to take part in all the activities on offer.

Would you choose a summer family activity holiday?

When you book a family holiday, you want the peace of mind that there will be plenty of fun things for your kids to do. So, when booking your hotel, you should check and make sure there are activities included and that they are right for your family. Pick the right one and you will have the benefits listed above and a full, happy and exciting holiday. Getting the kids to join a kids’ club could make the holiday really special – for all of you.

Our Visit To Westonbirt Arboretum Enchanted Christmas Trail

We love Westonbirt Arboretum Enchanted Christmas Trail. Maintained by The Forestry Commission, The National Arboretum is situated roughly 3 miles south-west of Tetbury, Gloucestershire, it’s probably the best-known arboretum in the UK.  It’s also an easy hour or so’s drive from Cardiff for us.

Collage of Caitlin and Ieuan at Westonbirt Arboretum Enchanted Christmas Trail 2017

Westonbirt is home to 15,000 labelled trees (around 2,500 different types of tree) and 145 champion trees (the largest or tallest in Britain and Ireland according to the Tree Register of the British Isles) and also Westonbirt’s rare or endangered trees.

There is something to do at Westonbirt all year round but we particularly love visiting Enchanted Christmas, the illuminated trail which opens to the public at the beginning of December each year.

It takes roughly 45 minutes to walk the length of the trail during which you’ll find an exciting array of beautiful light displays scattered amongst the trees which makes the whole place truly magical.

Before and after the trail you can visit the Christmas Village, where you’ll have the chance to meet Father and Mother Christmas, listen to local choirs perform festive classics, have a ride on our traditional carousel or enjoy a warming meal in the restaurant or merry marquee.

The Christmas Village at the Westonbirt Arboretum Enchanted Christmas Trail 2017

We arrived just after 5 pm which was our official entry time.  It was already dark and the weather was crisp but, thankfully, dry.  We whizzed through the turnstile and then it was up to the Christmas village. Once the kids had done their traditional perusal of the gift shop we set off to experience the brisk wintry air and the magic of the lights.

Beautifullly lit scenes in the trees at Westonbirt Arboretum Enchanted Christmas Trail 2017

As you walk along you see various displays of lights hung amongst the trees, some of which are interactive.  For example, there was “12 Drummers Drumming” where lights lit up when enough force was applied by little hands drumming or another display where the power of your vocal cords was needed to illuminate the scene.  (Not a problem for most mothers in my experience!)

Video and sound are used to great effect and gives an almost other-world feel to the place which, were it not for the displays, would be in total darkness.

Impressive light displays at Westonbirt Arboretum Enchanted Christmas Trail 2017

How to book tickets for Westonbirt Arboretum Enchanted Christmas Trail

The event is so popular that entrance is by advance ticket only and I book ours in September.  This year’s Enchanted Christmas trails are almost over and completely sold out with the exception of Thursday 14th December if you’re quick!

Children under 5 go free and there are group discounts for advance bookings of 10 or more tickets. Friends of Westonbirt get a membership discount on Fridays.  No dogs are allowed.

This year, Adult tickets are £14, student tickets are £12 and children’s tickets are £7.  The event runs from 5 pm to 9 pm so once you are in you can stay until the end if you want to.

Our Tips

*Book well in advance.  Sign up to the Arboretum’s mailing list for notification about this event and the great music concerts Westonbirt plays host to every summer.

*Remember to print out your tickets if you can.  Printed tickets are preferred – it’s certainly quicker – but if need be you can show your tickets on your mobile phone.

*Make a note of the entry time for the trail you have booked – entry is staggered on an hourly basis.  We always go for the first entry time of 5 pm to avoid the later crowds.

*Allow plenty of time to arrive and park. Popular events at Westonbirt see high traffic levels which can create cues both in and out of the Arboretum.

*Depending on the weather, take wellies or walking boots.

*Wrap up warm  – blankets for little ones in prams and pushchairs; hats and gloves for everyone.

*Dogs are not allowed on the Enchanted Trail.

*Our two loved the LED lightsabers in the gift shop but savvier (and frugal!) parents wrap their kids in battery operated fairy lights.  Torches are also a good idea because it can be quite dark in places and easy to lose each other if you don’t stick close together.

*We ate at nearby Hunters Hall in Kingscote but we have eaten in the village ‘tent’ before.  There isn’t much choice and we found the burgers last year to be dry and uninspiring with the eating area to be crowded and consisting of rather rickety plastic picnic tables which needed a good clean by the time we got there.

Prices were rather high too, for both the food and retro sweets.  Prices in the main gift shop, however, are reasonable and there are a number of snack stalls selling things like hot chocolate and mulled cider on the way around the trail.

*There are plenty of toilets, although to avoid queues head for the toilets next to the gift shop rather than the ones just past the entrance turnstiles.

*The trail is just over a mile long and on hard paths. It is accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs, but the path can get muddy. The main event area is also wheelchair and pushchair friendly.

We were lucky to get to our Enchanted Christmas trail this year as the next day was “Snow Bomb Sunday” and that night’s trail was cancelled.  I understand that tickets were automatically refunded but, as with any outdoor event, be aware that nothing is ever guaranteed and have a contingency plan.

We’d highly recommend visiting Westonbirt Arboretum at any time of year as it’s great for families and the trees are beautiful.  Christmas is a particularly magical time though with all the nearby villages on the drive there decked in twinkly lights and, on this occasion, the wide-open fields covered in frost (and snow on the Sunday).

For more information visit Westonbirt’s website.  You can also telephone the Box Office on 03000 680 400 (Mon – Fri 9 am to 5 pm) or email them at boxoffice@forestry.gsi.gov.uk.

Have you ever visited the Westonbirt Arboretum Enchanted Christmas Trail?

Family Fun Christmas Holiday Ideas: A Perfect Ski Vacation

What could be more exciting than spending Christmas in a snow-covered chalet, complete with a cosy log fire and real Christmas tree? You want to spend time together as a family, so why not make the most of the Christmas break and book a ski holiday with kids?

There are still Christmas deals to be had so you can enjoy a winter holiday in the Alps, skiing with your family and children of all ages.

ski holiday with kids - family skiing on the piste

A family ski holiday is certainly an adventurous, yet traditional way to enjoy your Christmas break. There are family-friendly resorts with tour operators who specialise in families with young children, thinking of every last detail so you know you will be in good hands.

Here are a few destinations in the French Alps you should consider for a fun family Christmas holiday.

ski holiday with kids - Aravis Mountain Range

Aravis Mountain Range From Les Gets

Christmas in Les Gets

A beautiful Alpine town which transforms into a village of twinkling lights at Christmas time. A truly magical experience, especially for the children. Les Gets is home to the Enchanted Forest where Father Christmas and his Elves are working hard making toys and presents.

During your Christmas week stay, you can take a guided tour of Santa’s home and workshop and meet the big guy himself! Tour operators and Chalet staff understand how important a family stay is at this time of year and they certainly pull out all the stops.

You’ll find beautifully decorated Chalets, Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and you don’t have to lift a finger, everything is taken care of.

Les Gets is always an excellent choice for a family ski holiday with kids, but at Christmas, it transforms into a pretty winter wonderland.

ski holiday with kids - Les Menuires

Les Menuires

Christmas in the Three Valleys

Whether you choose the traditional villages of Reberty 2000 and Les Bruyeres or the resort centre of Les Menuires, Christmas in this area is fantastic. Les Menuires probably offers the best Christmas experience for children as you are in the heart of all the action. Throughout the week you can enjoy shows and entertainment, carol concerts and Christmas crafts such as decoration making. Unique to the area is the visit from Santa with a twist on Christmas Eve. Santa and his Elves will ski down the pistes into the village holding flaming torches to light the way as they ski. Probably a sight you never expected to see! This fabulous spectacle is followed by fireworks and local drinks to finish off the evening nicely. Then on Christmas day, you get to enjoy a home cooked roast dinner provided by your hosts. Perfect.

ski holiday with kids - La Plange

La Plange

Christmas in La Plange

Another pretty Alpine town that glows and sparkles at this time of the year. Skiing here is excellent for beginners so the kids can have some lessons while you enjoy the slopes too. In the town, you’ll see Christmas lights and decorations everywhere and hear live music and carols almost all around. Christmas markets are set up for you to browse and explore and there are lots of activities for the little ones to try. La Plange is especially great for those who want to attend church at Christmas time as there’s a church in the centre of town where Christmas Mass services are held on Christmas Eve. The Ski lifts operate on Christmas day so you can enjoy a Christmas morning Ski before settling down for dinner and gifts. That will certainly work up your appetite.

ski holiday with kids - an alpine town in the snow

An Alpine town

Christmas in Valmorel

A lovely car free town that is an excellent choice for family skiing. Most of the places to stay here are right on the slopes, so you can enjoy ski-in ski out chalets stepping right out onto the snow. It is a small purpose-built resort which is centred around a single street. But there are plenty of amenities and entertainment to keep you busy as well as excellent skiing.  Due to the draw for family holidays, there are lots of Christmas activities to enjoy here too. Throughout the holiday period, you can see the amazing daily show of the Christmas parade in Valmorel. Other highlights include the Atelier Cirque which is a circus show by three of Santa’s elves performing acrobatics and juggling and the Yule log tasting of an enormous dessert made by a local artisan.

Christmas in Chamonix

A popular resort at any time of the year, Chamonix is a well-known family ski destination. There are many different accommodation and entertainment options that as a family you will be spoiled for choice. But at Christmas time the fun and entertainment increases with the arrival of the Christmas Village. You’ll find a market made up of small wooden chalets, selling local produce including sweets, spices, teas, cheeses and array of Christmas gifts. There are also many stalls selling food and drinks so you won’t go hungry this Christmas period. For entertainment, there’s ten days of shows parades and activities for the whole family to enjoy. Write letters to Santa, watch dancing magical fairies, and of course, see Santa and his reindeer driven sleigh. There are other special events going on around the town and your chalet tour operator will most likely provide you with further details.

Christmas in Les Saisies

This fairy tale village close to Mont Blanc is the typical postcard picture of the Alps at Christmas. The resort has excellent snow conditions for skiers and still has a traditional feel that some of the bigger resorts lack nowadays. The landscapes are breath-taking and the perfect setting for a Christmas holiday. During Christmas week there are shows games and entertainment including the opening of Santa’s Christmas Village. Here you can try the traditional Savoyard dish of raclette, meet Santa and take part in a Gingerbread house making workshop. There are also Christmas market stalls to browse, carol singers to join and also enjoy the plentiful après ski, this large village resort has to offer. Christmas is not just for children so enjoy – make sure you enjoy yourself too. Chalet stays are the best here and if you take a catering option then even better.

Why Skiing at Christmas?

If you love the traditional idea of Christmas, then a ski resort can give you a home from home environment. You still get all of the things you hope for in a family Christmas, open fires, snowy scenery, beautiful decorations and a visit from Father Christmas, but you don’t have to organise it yourself. The beauty of a Christmas ski holiday with kids is that you can sit back, relax and enjoy a fabulous family Christmas without having to do the hard work. No squabbling about doing the washing up or forgetting a certain item on the list. Everything is taken care. One more bonus is you have the time to burn off the overindulgence by spending quality time on the slopes.

So, where will you be spending Christmas this year?

Well, there you have it six amazing destinations in France where you can enjoy a Christmas ski holiday as a family. Now all you have to do is choose which resort, not so easy that part with! With so many options available which one would be your favourite for a ski holiday with kids?

*PR collaboration.

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Five Reasons Why City Breaks Make Great Family Holidays

Many families stay away from the idea of a city break, thinking that they’ll be too overwhelming for the kids, or that there simply won’t be enough to do, but this is far from the case. City holidays provide a completely different experience to a beach or activity holiday, and it’s one that no member of the family should miss out on.

Eiffel Tower, Paris photographed from Trocadero
Image credit

Here are just a few reasons why you should consider it the next time you come to book your family getaway…

Experiencing different cultures

Let’s not forget that one of the main reasons we go abroad is to experience a new culture. We want to sample local delicacies and learn a little of the lingo. Arguably you have a greater opportunity to do this when you visit a city. Whilst you might meet a few locals on a beach holiday, these types of vacation tend to mainly cater to tourists.

When you visit a city, who knows what museum you might stumble upon, who you might meet or which new dishes you might try. It’s a far more fluid experience, perfect for adventurers.

Making education fun

Speaking of trying new cultures, let’s not forget that opting for a city break opens up a whole new world for your children, and it’s your chance to show them a little more of the wide world they’re yet to experience. Taking them to a museum in London, an opera in Rome or a modern art exhibition in Vienna is a great way of helping them to learn in a fun and engaging way.

The Trevi Fountain in Rome

Location is important

From a practical perspective, booking a city break often enables you to pack more into your stay, simply because of the location. Most attractions will be in walking distance of one another, making things a lot easier when it comes to day-trip planning. Plus, because of the nature of a city, you’ll easily find restaurants and cafes for you to stop and grab a bite to eat, which isn’t the case with remote resorts.

Public Transport Will Save Your Money

Speaking of proximity, transport systems are often far better in cities than they are further out towards quiet coastal regions. Not only does this save you money in taxis every time you want to go somewhere, but it means you can book certain journeys (such as those on trains and coaches) well in advance of your trip to get the best rates.

Bicycles in Amsterdam
Image credit: Bicycles in Amsterdam.

Cities to suit all budgets

While it might be true that cities will cost more than sleepy little towns, they won’t be that much more than port or coastal areas close to the sea, where land is at a premium. Plus, you aren’t confined to activities by the coast which could be pricey, such as water sports. Many museums, galleries, parks and so on are cheap if not free, so you’ll be able to find plenty to do within your price bracket.

Are you heading on a city break this summer? Let me know where in the comments…

Review: Butlins Minehead – Fun Stands The Test Of Time

When I was a child in the 1970s, my sister and I were taken to Butlins Minehead several times by our grandparents.

Those were the ‘Hi Di Hi’ days when accommodation was a small but comfortable prefab chalet with a tannoy to summon campers to their meals with gusto at 7 am in the morning.

Linda Hobbis, Sarah Jasper, Harry Setters & Phyllis Setters at Butlins Minehead circa 1974
My sister Sarah and I with our grandparents, Harry and Phyllis at Butlins Minehead circa 1974

There was an impressive network of cable cars which seemingly floated over the camp as well as a Gaiety Ballroom and a Gaiety Theatre.

Sarah Jasper & Linda Hobbis plus large monkey at Butlins Minehead circa 1974
Sarah and I – gran always dressed us as twins!  Can you tell I’m shattered?

Food was everywhere, particularly, I recall, freshly made mini doughnuts.

The fairground was free and when we weren’t there or in the arcades playing slot machines for a penny, we would religiously attend the Donkey Derby, the Glamorous Grandmother competition, It’s A Knock-Out and I think there was even the traditional Knobbly Knees competition.

The Red Coats were friendly, glamorous and talented.

We ate ourselves into oblivion, attended a show every night and stayed up far too late dancing in the disco.

Fast forward almost 40 years and I’m back at Butlins’ kind invitation holding on tight to my memories and wondering how the camp would have weathered the passing decades.

Promotional leaflet advertising the return of the chalet to Butlins Minehead

And this time I’ve got two kids with me who are roughly the same age as my sister Sarah and I were when we visited.

ARRIVAL & CHECK-IN

Our initial impression on arrival was a sense of overwhelm.  I had forgotten just how big the site is and finding our way to West Lake Villages where we had a lake view chalet involved a little too-ing and fro-ing up and down the car park and a little heated marital discussion on the basis that the Husband had a map.  Give a man a map and he automatically becomes Roald Amundsen.

We had a Lakeview Chalet in West Lakes Villages

But everything is signposted and eventually, we found the chalet accommodation office where we were required to book in.  If you do get lost return to the large Guest Check-In centre at the front of the complex and they’ll be able to help.

The site is a collection of ‘villages’ with designated check-in points so you have to make sure you go to the right place.  You park your car, check in and then drive round to your accommodation where there is a designated parking place and you can unpack.

Our tips: if you get lost, return to the central Guest Check-In and they’ll direct you.

ACCOMMODATION

We were based in West Lake Villages, a complex of new style chalets built surrounding a man-made lake with a fountain.  Everything was well laid out and pristine – and incredibly peaceful. You pay an extra supplement for a chalet right by the water but ours, with a lake view, was very pleasant.

Our chalet was on the top floor.  The chalets are built in small runs of one-up, one-down and entered via a contactless key card.

Butlins Lakeview Chalet interior, bedrooms, bathroom and sofa
The bedrooms, bathroom and comfort family sized sofa

There was a double and a twin bedroom, a bathroom with a toilet, a combined bath and shower and a generously sized lounge/diner with a fully equipped kitchen including a fridge and a microwave.

Kitchen and retro detailing - Lakeview chalet, Butlins Minehead
A generously sized kitchen and lots of retro detail

A balcony looked over a green central area towards the lake and was visited by ducks, geese and rabbits.  There was a table and chairs on the balcony so you could just relax whilst the kids played football in the green space below.

Kids being kids, it didn’t take long before they were out making new friends.  Top tip – take a football.

Our chalet also had housekeeping and towels were supplied. The bathroom had a small pouch with toiletries but you would need to bring your own and particularly a bar of soap.

I was really impressed with the quality of the chalet’s fixtures and fittings.  The chalets are, of course, reasonably new, but the accommodation was a world away from the prefab days of the 1970s.

There were several clever little touches too – a chalkboard with chalk for the kids to play with, coat hooks running around the rooms for all those towels and coats and when we arrived our towels had been turned into an Easter bunny.

We didn’t take food with us, although we did take teabags and biscuits plus a bottle or two of wine. The site is well equipped with supermarkets which carry all the basics you could possibly need.

In any case, you will find you are amply fed if your package includes dining, with only lunch and snacks to provide for.

WiFi was free for us for two devices, however, depending on your package you may only have 30 free minutes a day and need to pay for top ups.

Our tips: bring soap, tissues and toiletries. If you don’t have housekeeping with your package, don’t forget towels and bring extra ones for swimming. Caffeine addicts should bring their favs with them plus some milk if you don’t like milk capsules.  And there was a corkscrew, but a spare never hurts. Bring a ball for the kids (although you can buy one on site)

Butlins Minehead site map
There are plenty of maps and information leaflets to help you.

DINING

We had the Premium Dining package which meant that breakfast and dinner were all in and we could choose between two restaurants, The Deck or The Yacht which were situated in a block a short walk from our chalet.

Caitlin and Ieuan enjoyed the food at The Deck, Butlins Minehead
Caitlin and Ieuan testing the food at The Deck

The dinner menu changed daily and for the duration of our stay, we dined in The Deck which is the bigger of the two.

Both restaurants are on the ground floor with a bar situated just outside and toilets inside.

The food is served buffet style and there are stations for grilled food such as steaks and burgers, wok-based food and pasta.  Dishes are cooked fresh for you if you want to wait or you can help yourself from the dishes already laid out.

The Yacht & The Deck Premium Dining Restaurants at Butlins Minehead

There is also a large well-stocked salad bar, various soups in tureens and cabinets full of desserts, primarily cheesecakes or if you’re quick, cheese & biscuits.

The children’s buffet food is laid out separately and I would say that it is geared for kids much younger than Caitlin and Ieuan.  There are plastic plates and knives and forks available and the menu is pretty much chips, nuggets, sausages and standard kiddy fare.

My only gripe with the food we had is that the temperature of the children’s food could have been much hotter and the chicken dish laid out one evening had gone completely cold.

My suspicion is that given the number of adults to kids, the adult food gets replaced far quicker and far more frequently than the kids’ food does.

The temperature of the adult food can also be a little hit and miss depending on what you choose. One evening we had freshly cooked chicken, noodles, veggies and soy from the wok station which was lovely but on another, we had a vegetarian Jalfrezi curry which was just hot enough.

Dining runs from 4.30 – 7.30 pm so you take pot luck depending on when you choose to dine. Sunday night seems to be the night for early dining as there was a pool party starting at 7 pm in Splash Waterworld.

But the desserts…… apologies to Butlins at this point for Caitlin and Ieuan emptying the ice cream machine and the cheesecakes were lovely.

Teas and coffees are available from a self-serve machine as squash for the kids and these are free of charge.  Alcoholic drinks are available from the bar outside and have to be paid for by cash or card – you can’t add the cost to your room.

Occasional fluctuations in temperature aside,  the food was lovely, great quality and varied enough so you didn’t have to eat the same thing each meal.

Breakfast offered pastries, fresh fruit and yoghurt, cereal and a buffet style full English with the works – including fried bread and kippers.

Breakfast is served from 8 am up to the very reasonable 10 am but, again, towards the tail end of the time period, you may find some of your favourites have gone.

Caitlin and Ieuan loved going off to get their own food (particularly the ice cream and squash) and of course, you can refill your plate if you are extra peckish.

Our tips:  come early for the hottest food and biggest choice and don’t forget cash/card if you plan to buy drinks from the bar.

ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES

As I child I remember being so tired getting back on the coach to return to Plymouth that I could barely speak.  (The Husband can only dream of this now).  I was expecting a jam-packed few days and there are certainly plenty of things to do.

The central hub of the camp is the Skyline Pavilion – a massive white tented structure which houses a shopping mall, the stage areas, numerous cafes and restaurants, arcade type machines, a pool and bowling hall and more toilets.

Collage of pictures in the Skyline Pavilion Butlins Minehead
The Skyline Pavilion is the hub of the camp

There is also a handy information desk which helps you get your bearings and tells you the day’s available activities and what shows are available at the Skyline Pavilion (which has a large stage area surrounded by seating), Centre Stage and Reds.

The Skyline Pavilion stage is home to the Skyline Gang (a Butlins version of Lazy Town) and Silent Cinema.  Centre Stage hosts the bigger, music based shows, for example, The RollerBoys and Freddie In Concert (A Freddie Mercury tribute act) whilst Reds hosts shows for the little ones such as Justin Fletcher’s Just Sing & Dance and Billy & Bonnie In The Wizard.  Billy and Bonnie are Butlin’s resident bears.

We saw three shows, wrestling, Sam & Mark On The Road Show and the Teletubbies.  I say we,  I watched the Teletubbies whilst Ieuan muttered: “I am SO too old for this”.  I enjoyed it.  Both the Teletubbies and the wrestling were in the Skyline Pavilion where, again, the noise levels were an issue for me.  I much prefer the Centre Stage venue which, though spacious, is more intimate and hosts fewer visitors.

Our tips: plan your shows in advance so you can use your B-Line passes if you have them and secure early entry and better seats.  Some of the shows don’t start until around 8:30 pm.

DAILY ACTIVITY SCHEDULE

Each day has a full timetable of activities included in the price of your break, details of which are available on the leaflet “Butlins When And Where”.

In it, you’ll find lists of daily activities and shows all handily designated with the age range these are best suited for.

On first sight, these are primarily geared towards tots and I was initially worried that there would not be enough for Caitlin and Ieuan’s age group to do.

I needn’t have worried. For example, there is archery, shooting and crafting for the over 9s.  There’s also a circus school, drum workshop, magic workshop and numerous science workshops.

The Husband took Caitlin to the code-breaking workshop hosted by Bletchley Park.  In this, they had to crack the code by breaking into three safes to assemble a six digit code to break into the master safe.  They also wanted to go to the Bath Bomb workshop hosted by The Royal Institution and L’Oreal UK & Ireland to investigate the science of fizz but it was fully booked.

As it was Easter, there was also an Easter Egg Hunt where youngsters had to crack the code by finding crates in secret locations around the camp and solving the puzzle to get part of the code.

There is something on right throughout the day, whether it’s a sporting activity, crafting or a show and the programme spans from 8 am through to 12:30 am with live music in one of the complex’s pubs, Inn On The Green.

Not everything is free, however, for example, the Adventure Golf, Ten Pin Bowling, American Pool, Go Karts and Bungee Trampolines all have a charge.  The golf is £3.50 per person and go-kart hire is £9.50 per half hour per kart.  It’s worth getting an All Action Pass which includes all these activities a £17 per person.

Caitlin, Ieuan and Mathew Hobbis at Butlins Minehead
We loved the go karts

You can also buy B Line fast passes from £20 per person for 3 nights which allows priority access to Centre Stage, Reds and Splash Waterworld.

We absolutely love the Go Karts which we hired twice and which brought home my dismal level of fitness quick nicely.  Cycling round on these is a great way to get your bearings and to appreciate just how big Butlins Minehead is.

Our tips:  get there early to get your pick of the best go-karts.  The outdoor activities get busy early. Plan your day to make sure you get everything in!  

EATING AND DRINKING

Because we have breakfast and dinner in our package, the only thing we had to provide for was lunch, snacks and drinks and there is plenty to choose from.

There’s Ludo’s Restaurant (Italian), The Diner (50’s themed burger joint) and the Firehouse Grill as well as the Sun & Moon family pub, Soho Coffee Company and Inn on The Green (drinks only).

We ate in both the Sun & Moon family pub, the Firehouse Grill and the Soho Coffee Company and found the food in all three good quality and good value.  The children’s menus were adequate and the portion sizes generous.  In fact, after a full breakfast at The Deck, we didn’t have all that much room for lunch!

Children’s menus are priced around the reasonable £6.50 mark for a main, dessert and a Ribena Mini.

Our tips: we found the Sun & Moon to be quieter and more relaxed than the food venues around the Skyline Pavilion.

THE POOL

The outdoor lido with the fountain I remember has been replaced by the huge Splash Waterworld, an indoor heated pool complex with a wave machine, a disco beat and a number of very long and exhilarating water slides.

The queues to get in were long although given that it was Easter weekend this was not surprising. (so a B Line pass is a good idea). Once through the door, you are given an allotted time frame (we had an hour and a half) and a coloured armband in the good old fashioned British style.  (Yellows out of the pool now!!!).

retro Butlins postcard

There are multiple changing areas with cubicles and lockers which require a pound coin to get your key out.  Due to the number of people who had already been there that day, the changing area we chose was a little less than fresh but this is a common problem where there is lots of nappy changing going on!

The Husband took Ieuan on the waterslide but, again, there was a queue.  There are three slides of varying length and Ieuan waited 20 minutes to get on his.  A lady in the queue behind him had waited 45 minutes to go on another of the slides so she was clearly earning her mummy stripes.  Despite the wait, haring down a waterslide with his dad in a small inflatable boat was one of the highlights of his holiday.

I stayed with Caitlin in one of the three smaller pools.  The main pool has a continuous current and a wave machine and is definitely not suitable for non-swimmers.  We were in the second pool, smaller, no current and well manned by lifeguards.  There is a third kiddy pool nearby.

I was really impressed by the lifeguards who were really attentive and not afraid to usher swimmers back into the shallows if it looked like they were not confident swimmers.

On a personal note, as a tinnitus sufferer, I found the volume of the pool absolutely deafening – not helped by the disco music played to encourage swimmers to circle round the wave pool but this is not a criticism of Butlins.  If you do suffer from tinnitus I would suggest you take ear plugs.

Our tips:  be prepared to queue, both to get in and to get on the waterslides; don’t forget pound coins for the lockers and if you are a tinnitus sufferer, take your earplugs.  Parents of non-swimmers – make sure you stick to the designated non-swimmer areas.

The Fairground

Again, this is free.  It’s smaller than I remember and I was hoping for a ghost train but there is a carousel, a helter-skelter, dodgems, waltzers, go-karts. Chair-o-Planes and the Rockin’ Tug.  Kids have to be tall enough to go on each ride and if you don’t like fast rides you are rather limited to the safer choices of the helter-skelter and dodgems.

Carousel and helter skelter at Butlins Minehead
You’re never too old for a carousel

The fair closes at 5 pm during the week but is open till 8 pm on Friday nights which coincided nicely with our arrival.

Little ones have their own Little Stars Fairground.

OUT AND ABOUT

Should you find the time to actually leave Butlins, Minehead beach is literally just across the road and is a lovely soft sandy beach.  Nearby there is Dunster Castle and Somerset Valley Railway sends its steam trains along the perimeter of the camp.

Collage of Minehead Beach with Caitlin
Minehead beach is literally a stone’s throw away – shame about the lack of sun!

BOOKING YOUR NEXT BUTLINS BREAK

The kids absolutely adored our 3 days at Butlins and were shattered by the end of it.  I asked Ieuan what was his favourite bit and his response was “there’s so much to do.  I’m struggling”.  Both Caitlin and Ieuan asked to come back and, not surprisingly, Butlins Minehead is pretty fully booked for the rest of the year.

Caitlin & Ieuan with Butlins Easter Eggs

There is, however, an on-site Holiday Accommodation office where you can book your next Butlins break with an up to 40% discount.  You can also secure your next booking for just £10pp.  This makes subsequent bookings even better value if you rebook whilst you are there.

Front cover of Butlins booking folder

We have a 3-night break on the same basis (lake view chalet in West Lakes Village and the premier dining package) for just over £800 – with a significant saving of around £400.

Our tip:  if you want to come back, secure your next break for the minimum deposit of £10 per person.

So, did Butlins Minehead 2017 compare favourably to the Butlins I remember in the 70’s?  Yes, it did – it’s a lot more comfortable and nobody shouts at you over a tannoy to get you up for breakfast. Come to think of it though, that tannoy might be very useful on school mornings.

Big thanks to Butlins for our break and for giving the Husband a chance to laugh at my rubbish cycling abilities.

Things will be different next year.  You’ll see.

Find more information and to book your break go to  www.butlins.com.




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Reasons To Choose A Family Staycation This Summer

If you haven’t yet booked your summer holidays as you can’t decide whether to hop on a flight or get in the car, these key reasons why you should stay in the UK with the family just might sway you.

Foot of a baby playing on a beach

Get more for your money

One of the most topical reasons to stay in the UK is the cost-benefit. There’s been much debate about whether UK holidays are in fact cheaper than going abroad but if you factor in the current exchange rates and the fact you don’t need to pay for flights, then more expensive accommodation is generally outweighed.

There’s even more opportunity to save money by going self-catering in the UK. You also don’t need to renew your passports or get one for the kids. An adult passport costs £72.50 and child passports cost £46, or more if you need it in a hurry, which all adds up.

Young girl jumping into a loch

The beauty of the UK

It’s easy to forget just how beautiful and historically-rich the UK is when all we see is where we live and the main roads to nearby cities. From ancient castles and country houses to stunning steam railway journeys, breathtaking walks and some of the best beaches in the world, our fine country has a lot going for it.

Walking around any of our national parks  is a treat, but some of my favourites are The Lake District and my former home grounds of Dartmoor and Exmoor. And as for our beaches, there are so many that rival those abroad, even if we don’t have the guaranteed sunshine. Try the North Norfolk coast for seal spotting, Cornwall for coves and surfing opportunities, the caves, stacks and rock-pools of Yorkshire, the vast stretches of sand in Devon and the craggy beauty of the Gower peninsula.

A craggy coastline

Do lots or do nothing

One of the best things about holidaying in the UK is there’s less pressure to make the most of every second, as you can always come back for a long weekend some other time. This means that you can head out to some of the local family attractions or just walk around the countryside. A day in your pyjamas doing puzzles and playing board games isn’t out of the question, either!

If you get a rainy day and you don’t fancy spending it in the holiday home, somewhere like Legoland Windsor or the Warner Bros Studio Tour is a fab option that Harry Potter fans of all ages will love. There’s plenty of indoor Hogwarts action, like visiting The Great Hall, Diagon Alley and Platform 9 ¾ sets, plus learning how the films were made and getting pictures of you flying a broomstick in the green screen.

Two girls out hiking down a pretty country lane

Convenience

Lastly and by no means least in terms of having a stress-free break, UK holidays mean far less travelling, no time differences or language barriers and fewer uncertainties. As for travelling, you don’t even have to staycation for a week to make the most of it as you won’t be travelling for a day each way.

Other convenience factors are that you know the culture, you’re probably familiar with the area you’re going to and you’re certainly familiar with the food. While part of the charm of going abroad is trying all the different flavours, you really can’t argue with fish and chips and clotted cream ice cream by the harbour (teaching the kids how to fend off seagulls is a rite of passage). Plus afternoon teas, pub lunches and all the takeaways we like.

Are you going abroad or staying in the UK this year? And have I missed any of your deciding factors off the list of why to staycation? Let me know below.

Treat Your Kids to a Weekend Holiday

The weekend is a time for relaxation and unwinding before we prepare for yet another busy work week. However, there are some great and exciting ways to spend the weekend that don’t involve sitting around the television watching a movie or playing video games with your children. In fact, if your kids are still young, it’s beneficial to take them out more often so they can experience more of life and soak in all the sights and sounds of the world.

Going on holiday with your kids is a fantastic opportunity to bond as a family and create some wonderful memories. Thanks to digital cameras, Facebook and online photo storage services, you could create long-lasting memories and come out of a holiday with hundreds of photos, dozens of souvenirs and a refreshed mind before working hard at your job again.

Young girl and two baby brothers playing on a beach

Photo Source

Ask your kids what they’d like to see

Whether it’s the beach, a museum or somewhere fun like a fairground or theme park, ask your kids where they’d like to go and try to meet their requests. You have to consider how practical it is as well. For instance, if you drive then you’ll probably be able to take them to a nearby city or a distant city, but if you need to fly, then you might have to reconsider the location because the weekend will be over before you know it and the last thing you want is to spend an entire day flying to and from the location.

Set a budget

If you’ve been saving the pennies and you’ve built up some additional income, then you’re probably financially able to afford a weekend holiday with your children. However, it’s important that you set a budget so you don’t go overboard and end up spending more money than you first anticipated. Make sure that you check prices for travel or fuel, the price of admission into whatever events and shows your kids want to see, and also the costs of accommodation.

Pick a place to stay

Try your best to pick a reputable location sleep in. For instance, Dorsett Hotel is a well-known chain of hotels that has several locations in the world, giving it a solid reputation as opposed to random unknown hotels that are converted from houses; they might function as a hotel, but the point of a holiday is to have a fantastic memorable experience and that includes the sleeping arrangements! If possible, try to pick a location that is close to public transportation so that you spend less time moving around and more time enjoying yourself.

Don’t forget technology

Make sure you take your smartphone or a camera so you can snap up pictures wherever you are. A spare battery is also handy, but you could also take a portable battery bank to keep your devices charged up so that you can take pictures, record videos and keep in touch with relatives and friends. Remember that roaming costs for data in other countries can add up very quickly, so take care when using mobile data and always try to use a WiFi connection when possible.

Are We There Yet? Holidaying With Kids Without The Stress

Everyone has fond memories of family vacations that they took when they were younger. You can remember the amazing places you discovered, the games you played, the fun you had. For many people, these are often some of the best memories that they have. 

Of course, one thing that you’re never going to remember is the level of stress that your parents may well have been dealing with the entire time! Let’s not beat around the bush here, traveling with kids can be a seriously stressful experience. Of course, it’s also absolutely wonderful, and family vacations really are the best things in the world. But in an ideal world, you would be able to do everything that you can do avoid any problems getting in the way of creating those wonderful memories. 

Well, don’t you worry because there are things that you can do in order to do just that! Here are some simple ways that you can take the stress out of traveling with your little ones.

Pack in advance

Lady sitting on a bed trying to close a very full suitcase

Picture From Flickr

Packing is often the first, and perhaps biggest source of stress when you’re planning on traveling with kids. That’s why the best thing that you can do is to get started on it as early as possible. That way you avoid the mad rush to get everything thrown into a suitcase at the last minute. So that you don’t have to do it all yourself, why not make a list of everything that your kids need to take, they can even help with it, and then have them pack the bag themselves. That way, even if they miss things, you’ve got plenty of time to check it over and make sure that nothing ends up getting left behind.

Be careful with your money

One top of all of the other stress that often comes with traveling with kids, you don’t want to have to deal with the money worries that travel can sometimes bring. There are plenty of travel tips out there on how to save money while on vacation and by being careful with your money you can take that load off your mind and focus on the fun you’re having with your family.

Set up travel entertainment

Little girl in a car seat

Picture From Pixnio

As much as kids love taking trips and vacations, one thing that they simply cannot stand is long journeys. Now, if you’re really lucky then your kids will simply sleep through the entire journey, but if it’s especially long, or they’re just too excited, then you’re going to need a way to keep them entertained. 

Make sure that you have plenty of books, comics, magazines and travel games at your disposal. That way you can keep their attention focussed for as long as possible. You might even want to invest in a portable DVD player for them so they can watch their favorite movies on. If you can keep them entertained, then you just might be able to go the entire trip without a single “are we there yet?”