Unusual Child Friendly Travel Destinations

Our time here in Australia is careening to a screeching halt, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad about that. The kids are sad, I’m sad and well, we’re all a bit bummed. I’ve learned from the past though, and one thing I know for sure is that one way to deal with the sad disappointment of circling Heathrow in the cold/dark/gray/rain/snow is knowing that you’ll be jetting off somewhere soon again. And while our tans will quickly fade, the hopes and dreams of another new horizon keep us ticking over every time. While Australia and a 19-hour minimum transit time was very much a family requirement (my brother was getting married), there are many child friendly travel destinations, and here are a few that might not ordinarily spring to mind…. but they’re on our short list.

Burj al Arab Hotel, Dubai

hotel Dubai

We’ll spend a few night time hours in Qatar on the trip back, but I kind of wish we’d chosen Dubai, since we have family there. We’d really love a stay on a private island though, like the Burj al Arab Hotel. This Dubai hotel ranks as the most luxurious hotel in the world, and it really knows how to spoil guests of every age! While you pamper yourself in the luxury spa, the little ones can spend some time in Sinbad’s Kids Club, where they will be looked after by the hotel’s babysitters giving them something to do in between trips to Wild Wadi waterpark, camel rides on the beach, and visits to the aquarium.

Egypt

Egypt

Egypt is one of the most fascinating countries in the world, and for inquisitive kids, it’s entirely mesmerising. Not only can children learn about Egypt’s impressive ancient and modern history, but there are many extraordinary things to do that you can’t in other holiday destinations. Exploring the insides of pyramids and catacombs would be fascinating for kids – especially Ameli who surprised me at four years old by asking what a sarcophagus was! –  but you can also do simple things like wander through local markets and explore the desert landscape.

Egypt is also home to 21 protected areas of natural habitats where you can see elephants, hippos, leopards, and cheetahs, and there are excellent child-friendly resorts. Plus, you can feel good about supporting an economy that is still in recovery—there are many completely safe parts of the country to visit, and your travel cash will help local businesses to grow.

hotel LA

Los Angeles

Los Angeles has it all. By all means, experience the magic of Disneyland in nearby Anaheim, but don’t miss out on other exciting experiences for children. Dive into movie history in Hollywood, but you don’t even have to go to movie capital to find plenty of entertainment. You can catch live performances of plays geared towards children in several L.A. based theatres, or take a backstage tour in the magical El Capitan Theatre. And with a host of kid-friendly restaurants that allow children to eat for free, Los Angeles ranks highly for culture loving families.

belize

Belize

With a tropical coastline, dense jungles, fascinating Mayan temples and turquoise water, the Caribbean resort of Belize is a superb destination for all the family. Touted as one of the best snorkel and scuba diving experiences in the world, white-sand beaches provide a bevy of water sport activities, whilst the Belize Zoo and Baboon Sanctuary gives you a close encounter with animals. The chance to explore the underground water system in ancient Maya caves or a jungle trek should not be overlooked either and is a memorable experience for all the family.

Tivoli

Denmark

When a country has a national hero like children’s story writer Hans Christian Andersen, you can guarantee there will be plenty fun things to do with kids. So don’t overlook Denmark when deciding where to go on your next holiday. Regarded as the happiest country in the world, according to a 2013 Gallup poll, Denmark is home to Legoland, (no wonder they’re so happy!), an adventure park made from 59 million pieces of Lego celebrating the “toy of the century.” Closer to the capital of Copenhagen is Tivoli, a fairy tale amusement park which puts on live music and nightly firework displays. Just north of the capital is Bakken, the oldest amusement park in the world, where you can enjoy a horse and carriage ride to see the wild deer that live in the surrounding woods.

Hmmm.. if it’s up to the kids, it’ll be Denmark for sure, but I think we’ll have to put names in a hat, ’cause that spa in Dubai is sounding pretty good to me.

Premier Inn Family Friendly Budget Hotel Review

A few months back, Premier Inn, the largest budget hotel chain in the UK, contacted me to review a few of their hotels. As we aren’t able to go on holiday this year, we decided to use the nights for a few mini trips over the rest of the year.

Last weekend, we had our first night in the Tower Hill Premier Inn in London, ready for our day out at Lollibop Festival for Kids.

We had an absolutely wonderful stay at the Premier Inn.

Unfortunately this particular hotel didn’t have parking, so once we’d found somewhere to park, and walked back to the hotel, our stay officially commenced.

On arrival, the receptionist was really friendly and helpful. We confirmed our wifi for the night and were told that we had breakfast included in our room rate and that our two children would eat for free – two free child meals with every adult meal, which is fabulous for single parent or four child families! The children were given activity books and colouring pencils. In the lobby there were fliers with maps of the area, and discount codes for places to eat.

There was also a Costa coffee cafe with snack food we could buy for dinner or lunch and the restaurant was available for dinner too. Since we were in London, however, we availed ourselves of the opportunity to take a walk along the South Bank and grab something to eat in Covent Garden, for which we received 20% discount from the fliers we were given at the reception, which was welcome.

Our room was fantastic. I opened the door and let the family in and Ameli’s reaction was pretty fabulous. She walked in saying ‘this is amazing!’

That’s always a good start!

The room was huge, and contained a king sized bed, a single sofa bed and a floor bed. Ameli immediately claimed the floor bed for herself and Aviya and I had the huge king. There was more than enough room on the bed for my tall husband too, but he fell asleep reading on the sofa bed, so we all had plenty of space.

The room came equipped with a desk and room service menu, television, kettle, cups, coffee, tea, sugar, extra cushion if you prefer a firmer or softer pillow, extra blankets and a room safe. I think there was an iron and ironing board too, but we didn’t use those, so I didn’t pay much attention.

The bathroom was basic, but amply sufficient with a basin, toilet and shower. In the shower there was a dispenser with hair and body soap and I used that as shampoo too. The water pressure in the shower was amazing. Quite frankly, it may have been one of the nicest showers I’ve had in a long, long time.

We were worried that we were going to have a noisy night as we were just below street level on the one side, and on the major thoroughfare to the breakfast room on the other, but no, we didn’t hear a sound all night. It was pure bliss. Even Ameli slept through the night.

The next morning we went to breakfast, where there was a choice of hot breakfast, cereals and continental breakfast, as well as juices, milk and a help-yourself Costa machine. Yum.

We ate as much as we could stomach, so that we wouldn’t be starving by the time we arrived at Lollibop and the food was really very good. Ameli had a lot of fruit, Aviya had a small bit of cereal and egg, and the husband and I had a cooked breakfast and yoghurt each. I thoroughly enjoyed the breakfast.

We had to wait for the croissants to come out the oven and watching the chef was like watching a classical dance on stage. Seriously, he moved non-stop, one hand pouring, one scooping, then lifting, then flipping, then turning, then swapping, then dishing, then serving, in and out, open and closed – it was mesmerising watching him!

Checkout couldn’t be simpler – we walked to reception, handed over our key and walked out with a friendly ‘goodbye’ from the receptionist.

Overall, we had a really fantastic stay, and Ameli wanted to back after our day out. She was quite upset that we had to go all the way home!

A few months ago I had the good fortune to stay in a really expensive, five star hotel. It was incredible, with things like a turn down service and mints on the pillow. It was wonderful, but at £175 for me I was very glad not to be paying, specially since I still had to pay for the bar snacks in the room.

The Family Room at Premier Inn ranges from around £1o9 to £133 for the whole family, including four breakfasts. It was supremely comfortable, spacious and certainly didn’t feel in any way like a budget hotel.

If I was spending someone else’s money, of course I’d like the £175 hotel for a night on my own, but as a family holiday hotel, a budget hotel, and affordable night out, the Premier Inn, and specifically the Tower Hill Premier Inn, wins hands down.

We have a few more nights booked over the next few months, and we’re looking forward to them!

5 Travel Essentials For Children

As the summer holidays start and everyone heads off on their vacations, I want to share with you the wisdom gained in four years of travelling with children. As my (almost) four year old has been to 20 countries, I feel particularly qualified to say something on this topic, and feel especially smug that I’ve never resorted to drugging any of my children for any part of any travel – call me judgey if you wish!

Here are my top five travel essentials for children:

1) Trunki

A Trunki is a travel suitcase with wheels, handles and a pull-string which is suitable as hand luggage for all airlines I’ve come across. It is a fantastic invention. The Trunki is a hard case, suitable for your toddler to sit on as you pull them through the airport, which is such a relief from carrying them. It’s not really easy enough for a small child to open, so you won’t have the contents strewn across your mode of transport when you’re not looking, but as they get older, they can get their travel accessories in and out themselves. The Trunki holds loads too. Enough for one child on a 20 hour flight, certainly. You can keep a change of clothes, activities and whatever else you feel you’ll need for the trip.

Trunki Review

There is a scooter-variety on the market, but a lot of the space needed for carrying stuff is taken up by the scooter handle, so that’s futile in my view. There are also ‘fake’ Trunki’s on the market – I wouldn’t buy those, simply because your child is going to want to use the Trunki as a ride-on: you don’t want the wheels coming off.  (See the range of Trunki designs from Littlewoods for a good idea of the multiple options available.)

2) Sticker, paint and colouring activity books

In your Trunki, put loads of new books – they’re easy to get at a Pound shop or similar. Sticker books, colouring books, activity books and even books with the paint pallets on the pages themselves are ideal for travel and will keep your little explorer occupied for ages.

3) Snacks

Most of us eat more when we’re bored. Have a variety of snacks available for your child. It will make for a much happier trip. Things like nuts, dried fruit, bars, flapjacks and the like are easy to prepare ahead and package individually, in snackable sizes. Airplanes and airconditioned cars will also dehydrate your child, which will lead to difficult behaviour from them. I don’t tend to buy juice boxes regularly, but I find the already-thinned-with-water juice varieties are great for trips.

4) Something from home

A blanket, favourite story, loved teddy bear or familiar night light or lullaby player is also a godsend on trips away from home. It reminds your little one of the stability they may be missing when travelling, and can be very reassuring. We carry a Winnie the Pooh projector night light along with us for just this reason.

5) You

Travel is hard on everyone, children especially. Back in the day I would board a plane, fall asleep and not wake till breakfast was served an hour or so before landing. Travel was blissful. Now I spend the entire trip sticking stickers, licking paintbrushes for on-the-page-pallet books and reading stories to keep my children happy. It’s exhausting, but people always compliment me on the children when we’ve been flying.

If you’re driving, have a repertoire of games up your sleeve. “I spy with my little eye” can be about colours, about ‘something starting with the letter… ‘,  about shapes. It doesn’t have to be boring and frustrating. You too can have fun with your child in cramped quarters.

What is your must have travel essential for travelling with children? 

We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday…

Actually, we’re not. That’s been the worst part of having children for me: the loss of holidays. I know you’re saying ‘say WHAT!’ or something like that, because we seem to have done nothing but travel over the last three years, but we haven’t had a holiday in over two years!

Oh, how we used to travel. Did you know that’s how I started blogging? Maaaaany moons ago? Now, when we do go away, we’re pretty much reduced to local trips, weekends at the inlaws, and if we’re lucky, an overnight blogging trip. Oh, the rock and roll life.

No such thing as light travel with children

I’m seriously, seriously, seriously… SERIOUSLY hoping for a better summer than last year – I know I shouldn’t really complain after six months in Australia, but I will. I long for a decent break somewhere, just stress free peace.

If we have a good summer, we can take the children camping, at least, and as Ameli will be almost four and Aviya coming up for 18 month  it seems the perfect time to get away – in the UK July holidays .

Oh, how I long to walk through Florence again. Or cycle along lake Constance. Or drift in the waters around Dubrovnik, or Sresser, even better. One day these will be our holidays again, I know. In the meantime though, we need to find a solution because this mama is going stir crazy with no travel plans on the agenda! I guess we could always try Butlins this year. The girls are really the right age for that.

Before children the thought of a resort holiday would have been enough to send me packing – in the opposite direction! But I’ve been thinking about it and I remember various holidays as a child and teenager myself: making friends with people in surrounding chalets, joining in in holiday activities, pouring over the week’s programme. The stuff family holidays were made of. So, maybe we need to embrace family holidays and destinations after all. Some how, I don’t think the children will enhance the peace of an afternoon spent on the Somme.

I guess the time has come to embrace the change, huh?

Oh, and by the way, here’s my first ever blog post. And here are some of our adventures in Europe, much of which was written on a phone while on a train or bus, so excuse all the cringe worthy bits 😉

Tips for Travelling with a Baby

We’re travellers at heart, really. Over the years we’ve covered most means of transport and stayed in every standard of accommodation imaginable. Most recently, at 7.5 months pregnant we camped in England. Then, when our daughter Ameli was 5 days old, we travelled to Bath to visit the in-laws. At 11 days we stayed in a hotel with my parents, and a good few trips in between, at 8 months, she had her first camping experience.

Read more: Tips for Travelling with a Baby

365-98 to 365-104 A Week in Pictures

Our weeks are sometimes so diverse, it’s hard to find a common theme. This is one of those weeks. From Folkstone to Norway, a bit of London, some nature and some routine, but always two constants: the people I love in the life we live.

Read more: 365-98 to 365-104 A Week in Pictures

Just Have to Share – Easter Egg Nests

These are really simple, easy and quick to do. With a little supervision, these are great to do with toddlers too.

Last year I wedged a name card between the two eggs in the nest for Easter Sunday lunch place settings and they served as lovely table decoration tooas well as  an after desert snack. Read more: Just Have to Share – Easter Egg Nests