Paying for a holiday has become difficult for lots of families at the moment. Not only has the economy been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the travel industry itself is in turmoil. As job losses mount up, many are focusing solely on covering their household bills and squirrelling away enough cash to help them through the winter months.
On the other hand, it is the long summer holiday and with our kids having spent an unprecedented amount of time out of school and away from their friends, giving the kids some sort of break is just as important – not least to protect their mental health. Before the Corona Virus struck, many parent strove to take their children away at least once a year. Creating family memories is really important.
So what can we do?
Cut back on spending as much as possible
If you sit down and go through your day to day expenditure, you’ll probably be surprised at just how much can be frittered away without you really noticing. Few of us have the discipline to monitor every single expenditure but creating a household budget is never a wasted exercise.
What about travel companies that allow payment instalments?
Some travel companies allow people to pay for their bookings in instalments – either on a pay monthly basis or, alternatively, with a low deposit so you can secure your holiday. All of which seems like a good idea were it not for the fact that you will pay a hefty APR for the privilege. To give you an idea, Lastminute.com are charging an APR of 29.9%. That’s not such a cheap trip.
With the travel industry currently severely impacted due to COVID-19, you’d need to be extremely careful if you want to travel abroad – both due to the financial security of the travel companies and the ever-changing quarantine rules for countries in Europe and farther afield. Jobs are being cut left right and centre – British Airways, Hays Travel, EasyJet to name just a few.
Then there has been the news that some companies have been digging their heels in when it comes to issuing refunds. More excellent advice can be found on Martin Lewis’s Moneysavingexpert site.
All of which makes the prospect of travelling abroad a decidedly dodgy proposition – even if you can find someone to take your booking and actually deliver your holiday.
Have a staycation – explore the kids’ home country
Many would agree that a staycation at home in the UK is a much safer bet. We have some beautiful places on our own shores. Arranging a camping trip or something similar could ensure the children get a well-earned break. In most instances, the little ones won’t care about seeing the sights – they just want to spend time with their parents.
That doesn’t mean, however, that a UK staycation is cheap. Far from it. Rumour has it that accommodation in tourist hotspots such as Devon and Cornwall is booked almost up to September 2021! It has also been a boom time for Airbnb properties.
Your best bet is probably to scour the budget hotel websites to see if you can find any deals on accommodation for last minute travel. A quick Google search for Budget Hotel Deals UK reveals plenty of options still available if you are quick off the mark. Just make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for and check out their cancellation and refund policies.
You’ll find that the number of rooms available may be reduced to adhere to social distancing and yes, you will likely have to wear a mask in public areas.
You might also find deals on sites like Topcashback.co.uk or with subscription dining cards such as Gourmet Society and Tastecard. Experience companies like Buyagift.co.uk and Redletterdays.co.uk may also have some offers for short breaks.
Don’t forget to check supermarket loyalty cards too like Tesco Clubcard.
Stick to day trips
Many of the UK’s tourist attractions are starting to reopen, although you will need to book tickets online and observe social distancing when you are there. Generally, we have found toilets are available but no dining, just takeaway food. It’s just as easy to take a picnic.
We recently visited Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds and are planning another trip to Berkeley Castle next week. Bristol Zoo and Clearwell Caves are also on our list.
At least with a day trip you have a lower financial outlay and if you do need to cancel it’s not such a heavy financial loss – although the kids will be disappointed.
You may be yearning for the beach but, having seen the pictures of Bournemouth Beach, Camberwell Sands and Durndle Door in Dorset, I think we’ll be giving the sands a miss for quite some time to come.
A sand pit and a sprinkler in the back garden are cheaper options!
Finally, I think it’s important to explain to your kids the reasons why you can’t go on holiday and reassure them that they will be able to go a little later on (hopefully!). Kids are pretty astute at grasping these things and we parents have enough to feel guilty about as it is.
Have you got any suggestions for cheap and cheerful holidays in these uncertain times? Let us know!
After the recent heatwave in which the UK experienced the hottest June day since the summer of 1976, NHS England and the Met Office are reminding parents that a suntan is a sign of sun damage.
And a recent survey of 1000 parents with children under 11 suggests that a third of parents still believe going brown is good for children. Presumably, the same people who think slathering themselves in SPF 2 and stripping off as soon as the clouds part is a good idea.
A quarter has even encouraged their children to tan and, worse, a few have even allowed them to use sunbeds.
More than one in five (21%) of the parents questioned said they would only think about applying sunscreen if their child started to go red and burn.
Yes, it seems we still have an awful lot to learn about protecting ourselves against the damage the sun can do to our health, in particular, skin cancer.
A tan won’t stop the sun’s rays from causing harm and is our skin’s way of saying it’s damaged and is trying to protect itself.
It doesn’t even have to be warm. Since you can’t feel UV radiation, you can even get sunburnt on a cloudy day. The Met Office says that UV levels are usually highest between May and September and you can check the UV forecast on the Met Office website or app.
You know all those greyer, chillier summer mornings when you wonder whether you should slather sun cream on the kids before they go to school – well, you should.
We now know that repeated sun exposure can lead to skin cancer in later life. Caitlin and Ieuan’s grandad has had at least 3 cancerous moles removed, most likely due to the (typically male) insistence that they don’t need sun cream.
It was in 1920’s that having a tan became a sign of wealth and influence because it meant you could travel to warmer climes. Tanning was allegedly made popular by the French fashion designer Coco Chanel.
Prior to that, it was a sign of being lower class as you were most likely a labourer or worked on the land in the heat of the sun. A status symbol having a tan in past times was certainly not.
Funny how perceptions change, isn’t it?
So how should we be protecting our kids (and ourselves!) in the sun?
The basic advice is this:-
Infants under 6 months old should be kept OUT of direct strong sunlight.
From March to October in the UK children should cover up and spend time in the shade particularly from 11:00 am to 15:00 pm.
(I still find it gob-smacking that some school trips are organised for the beach at the hottest time of the day).
Kids should wear at least SPF15 sunscreen – mine get covered in SPF30 minimum. Face, ears, back of the neck, nape of the neck, arms and legs if they’re off to school.
Yes, it adds a good extra 10 minutes to the morning routine but it’s too important to miss.
Mine also wear sun hats and some of the best hats have a flap at the back of the neck to protect the delicate skin there.
Everyone should drink plenty of water to keep hydrated – that’s water not fizzy, sugary drinks.
You’ve probably heard, conversely, that we need some exposure to the sun to boost our Vitamin D levels but, according to Dr Nigel Acheson from NHS England, the recommendation is “that people spend no longer than 10 to 15 minutes in the UK summer sun, unprotected, several times a week”.
When that time is up you should apply sun protection.
A very handy mantra to use is ‘slip, slop, slap‘ – originally from the anti-skin cancer campaign in Australia in the 80’s featuring Sid The Seagull and recently updated.
Slip on sun protective clothing that covers as much of your body as possible.
Slop on SPF 30 or higher broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every two hours when outdoors or more often if perspiring or swimming.
Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
There are plenty of maps and information leaflets to help you.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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!!!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s no point booking to tour the mountains if your teens prefer to lie on the beach listening to their iPods.
And older relatives probably won’t want to stay in a noisy resort.
Sit down with the whole family and agree on a destination that has something for everyone such as Spain.
Spain is the number one destination choice for family holidays in Europe and it’s easy to see why.
The country is renowned for its long sandy beaches and has over 300 days of sun a year.
There are many beautiful cities such as Barcelona, Madrid and Seville and renowned cultural sites like the Moorish Alhambra Palace in Granada which is a Unesco World Heritage site or the Guggenheim Bilbao gallery designed by Frank Gehry.
Then, of course, there’s the food – tortilla, cured meats (jamon, chorizo, salchichón), Spain’s famous bean stews, paella, the seafood and the wine!
Create a budget
It’s easy to get carried away so create a budget which takes into account all the incidentals – airport taxes, transport to and from your resort, day trips, eating out, souvenirs, additional mobile phone charges…
That way you can prevent too many nasty shocks when you get home.
You may find that you need to compromise – say on the quality of your accommodation or on your airfares but there is plenty of great budget accommodation to be found, particularly if you are going self-catering.
Personally, I prefer to rent the best quality accommodation I can and then cut back on meals out or package day trips if need be.
Interestingly, the latest figures from the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (ine.es) show that British tourists to Spain spent an average of €130 per day on their holidays in 2016 (between January and November) with approximately one third of that being spent on travel (flights) and accommodation and another third being spent on food and activities.
That puts the cost of an average 10-day break at €1300 or £1128 according to the current exchange rate.
A great incentive to start seeing where you can cut some costs!
This is a huge bone of contention with parents of course and most of the time it is just not possible if you don’t want to risk the censure and possible fines of your local education authority!
All you can do is be as canny as possible with your budget and try to save as much as you can by booking well ahead and giving yourself plenty of time to save.
If there’s one area you definitely shouldn’t scrimp on it is travel insurance. You hear so many horror stories about holidaymakers who have been taken seriously ill and left stranded because they do not have the money to pay for their medical care.
Make sure you have a valid European Health Medical Insurance Card which gives you the right to have state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland.
The card 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.
Check your passports now
Are your passports in date? Do you have passports for the kids? We are all familiar with the logjams that tend to hit the passport office toward peak holiday season and the rush to either get to your local office or a hefty extra charge to get your renewal sorted out in time.
Personally, I am a huge fan of self-catering and it would always be my first choice where family accommodation is concerned.
You can come and go as you please. You don’t have to eat out or eat at times that don’t suit you and you don’t have to leave your room to let house-keeping in!
You also don’t have to worry about little ones making a noise and there’s no competition for sun-loungers around the pool.
Spain-Holiday.com is the leading holiday rental website for Spain and it has 1000s of family-friendly villas and apartments to choose from. You can even contact the owners directly with any special requirements you may have.
You can even refine your search for a holiday rental property according to the distance from the beach.
Join up with another family
You can save costs by booking a joint holiday with another family. I’d make sure that you really get on though, but you could take it in turns to babysit, cook or do the driving.
Shop locally and eat in
Experience authentic Spain by shopping at the local markets and trying some of the local produce.
For example, there’s Feria, Seville’s oldest food market which sells produce in two market buildings beside a beautiful 13th-century church.
Or then there’s Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, Barcelona where you can see hanging jamons and pass fresh fish stalls as you make your way to sample fresh tapas at one of the bars near the back of the Boqueria.
Whatever type of holiday you are looking for, Spain has loads to offer and there are plenty of opportunities to keep your budget on track.
Readers of this blog will know that I have terrible trouble packing.
Or rather I have trouble fitting in clothing to the metric tonnage of toiletries and tablets I am compelled to take on holiday.
For our approaching week in a log cabin in the wilds of Malvern, I am obviously preparing for sudden climatic change and an outbreak of some terrible fever or ice-cream related injury.
There will be an outdoor hot tub (will it have a mosquito net?) and a hammock (with a gym mat underneath in case of falling out, I’m hoping).
What has all the hallmarks of a really fun place has turned, in the wry twisting of my neurotic mind, into an endurance test a bit like “Ninja Warrior” mixed with “The Cube”.
Needless to say, the Husband, who travels around the world with a spare vest and a toothbrush, cannot comprehend how I could possibly be allowing the dark clouds of holiday anxiety to roll not just over my head, but over the whole family.
But then, men rarely do the packing, do they?
Mind you, the Husband says he spends most of the time taking stuff out that I put in so that the car will actually move and we can fit the kids in!! That’s after one of his comprehensive car maintenance sessions of course. Cue much huffing and puffing and shouts of “where is the tyre gauge”?
It’s ridiculous because nothing usually goes wrong on our infrequent trips I did, to be fair, spend my 25th birthday in bed in an Egyptian hotel room in Luxor with terrible travellers’ tummy.
That particular anniversary was marked by my managing to ingest one finger of a Twix.
An Egyptian doctor was sent to my room who gave me a strange injection in my bottom and wrote a sick note which said I had “psychic problems” (true, my tarot reading is very dodgy).
I was duly flown home by British Airways and felt better as soon as I put one foot inside the plane.
Is it any wonder, then, that I am a bit nervous when travelling, health wise?
My coping strategy is shopping for toiletries and medications and I have been whiling away the odd half hour internet shopping at Chemist Direct, which carries a surprising large range, including an online doctor service and offers a prescription service for both you and your pets. (You simply order your prescription and post the prescription slip to them).
The brands include the usual favourites such as Colgate, L’Oreal and Vaselinebut also some surprises such as La Roche-Posay and Roger & Gallet.
I also found some TravelMAX travel tablets for motion sickness and traveller’s tummy which contain ginger as the main ingredient – a bargain 60 tablets for £1. I’m planning to use these instead of the full strength travel pills to see if the ginger plus the ‘placebo effect’ might work.
I placed my order on 8th July and received it two days later via courier, on the 10th July.
Everything was well packaged and as I had ordered it.
Delivery is free over £40 or otherwise £3.49 for delivery within 5 working days.
Next day delivery options start at £4.75.
I thought the service was great, the prices reasonable and, unlike shopping in store at the two main big name UK drugstores, there’s less of a risk of being lured in by BOGOFs and promotional gifts which tempt us toiletry addicts to spend far more than we should, or need to.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be having another quick ‘check’ before we go though.
Doesn’t hurt to be prepared for every eventuality, does it?
*A voucher was received for the purposes of this review.