Next Stop: Tenerife?

We’re just home from a week on the Jurassic Coast line of Devon – I haven’t even unpacked all our bags yet – and here I am browsing the internet for our next holiday. I don’t know about you, but knowing there’s a trip to somewhere new in my future pretty much changes my outlook on everything. Hanging up laundry seems less tedious, hoovering the floors is exercise for that *cough* bikini body *cough*, whatever it is, knowing there’s a trip on the horizon just makes everything brighter.

tenerife

This year we’ve swum in the Indian Ocean, and the North Atlantic Ocean and since the Southern Hemisphere is a bit far for a second visit in one year, I’m turning my attention to a beloved holiday hot spot for UK holiday makers: Tenerife.

Now, I’ve never been to that part of Spain, which is all the more reason to go – especially since it has such a distinctive ‘top half’ and ‘bottom half’ split, where we can disappear into natural beauty, and still never be far from activity, fun and entertainment.

On our recent week away we only went onto the beach once because it was a pebble beach, which is just something I can’t get used to, and don’t particularly love, so I think the sandy beaches of Tenerife look rather perfect too.

Of course where you are and where you’re staying are only part of what make a perfect holiday perfect, so I’m quite drawn to the range of things to do in Tenerife too – from an aquarium to waterparks and shows, there’s something for everyone, really!

I’ve been spoiled this year with two beach holidays already, so I guess it’s a bit cheeky to be dreaming of a third, but like I said – the thought of spreading my wings and needing a passport colours the normal days.

So tell me, where will you be jetting off to this summer?

Four Tips For Planning A Group Holiday

For most of us, planning a holiday is very much a matter of wanting the best of something – be it luxury, comfort, experience, excitement or relaxation – that our money can afford us. For that week or two, we want to believe that we are kings of the world, with no problems that weigh us down, or limits that hold us back. That is, after all, why we’re going on holiday – to escape our every day, and enjoy something a little different.

When you’re travelling as a group – if that’s a family of four or a club of 100 – there are some things to keep in mind:

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Know what you want from your trip

When you’re planning your holiday, it’s important to first establish what you want from it. It’s no good looking forward to a backpacking holiday where you get to experience the local environment and explore something new and end up stuck in a resort where everyone just wants to lie by the pool. On the flip side, you don’t want to get home worn out from being dragged from museum to museum when all you wanted was to be pampered in the spa. What one person wants from the holiday may not be the same as the next, so arrange ‘group’ activities, and allow for free time.

Make sure there’s something for everyone in your party

An action adventure holiday may not be as fun for a mum with a new born as it will be for the rest of the group. Or for someone with a heart condition. If they have to sit on the side lines the whole trip, it won’t be much fun for them, or anyone else worrying about them.

Choose a resort like Delphin Palace in Turkey that caters for both the sightseers and the pool-lyers, the watersports enthusiasts and pamper party, the adventurous eaters and the simple palettes.

Prearrange your eating and dining plans

If you’re staying somewhere self catering, pack the basics like salt, herb pots and olive oil – having to buy it all fresh when you arrive at your destination is expensive, especially when you already have it all at home! Know if you have to pack your own dishwashing liquid and toilet paper so you don’t have to rush out to the resort shop to top up on those essentials. Know what’s available where you’re staying and if one or two people are going to be responsible for cooking for everyone, make sure everyone pitches in with the cleaning – no one goes on holiday to be everyone else’s servant!

When in Rome…

Capture2Or anywhere else, really, learn a bit about where you are. I’m not saying write an exam at the end of your stay, but learn something about where you are. What’s the local cuisine like? Is there a special dish known to the area? Is the architecture different to everywhere else. Expand your view of the world a little at a time.

Or go the whole hog, like the traditional Turkish Hotel Delphin Diva and really live yourself into the experience. You’re only there for a little while, you may as well make the most of it!

Understand that everyone is different though, and if there’s something you really want to do, and others don’t, utilise some of that individual time I mentioned above!

Away In My Airplane – A Book To Prepare For Travel

This week we read Away In My Airplane a sweet little book about a boy who takes his airplane out for a spin through the rain, through the sunshine up and down. It’s a journey of imagination and the repetition of the phrases and concepts of ‘through the rain’ and ‘through the sun’ make the book almost rhyme like.

Written by Margaret Wise Brown, and illustrated by Sir Fisher Henry, the illustrations in Away in My Airplane are beautiful, bold, deep and striking. I love full page, bright colours in children’s books, and I think – for me – this book does it just right.

away in my airplane

As I said, there’s a lot of repetition, which makes it nice for children. Nursery rhyme like. It’s nice.

away in my airplane2

Each page has sun and rain/night and day/light and dark.

away in my airplane3

It’s the perfect book for kids preparing for a long haul flight, specially as you can draw parallels to the upside down time zones, and flying through the clouds, above the clouds, shortened or lengthened days.

The only negative from this book, in my opinion, is the font – it makes it quite hard to read upside down, which I often end up doing with two children who both want to sit in front of the book!

Away In My Airplane is available at Amazon UK, Amazon US and The Book Depository, which offers world wide free delivery.

I like doing a craft activity with the children when we’ve read a new book – it gives us time to discuss the themes in the book, and it gives us time to mull over a story, rather than just move on to the next thing.  For this activity I Googled a template for how to fold a paper plane, which the girls then took time decorating with stickers and paints before we took them outside to see how far and high they could fly. 640px-Paper_Airplane

Between you and me this was an interesting lesson in following instructions too: I had two pieces of paper, and followed the same instructions, and yet the planes came out different! Neither flew particularly well either, between you and me, but the kids didn’t seem to notice. They laughed and played and had fun. It was great, really.

Airplanes

*We received this book as part of the Paragon Book Buddies programme. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Three Tips For Senior Travels

One of my favourite memories and photographs of my grandmother is of her crawling on all fours in a camp site after a 7 month old Aviya. Every birthday my gran has had since I was a kid was her 100th birthday but  if I had to hazard a guess, I think she was around 75 when this picture was taken.  Since then she has done two long haul flights to Australia, shared a house with 3 grand children and 2 great grand children, driven in a combine harvester, and a whole bunch of things that most roughly 80-year old’s just don’t really do.

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Travel can be a huge undertaking, but if you go through a provider like Saga Travel you should be well taken care of, leaving you with a worthwhile vacation you can appreciate every step of the way.

Shop Around

It is essential to shop around and compare prices for the best travel deals before committing yourself. Whether you are considering a budget cruise for the family, a traditional package holiday or a group tour by coach or rail, discounts are often available. Early birds can often take advantage of discounts of up to 30% while those who have the flexibility to pick up last-minute bargains often get the best bargains of all. Look out for deals on extras such as airport parking and car hire; holidaymakers can save money by booking these items in advance and shop around when it comes to your insurance – on our recent trip to Australia we found annual travel insurance for the whole family to be cheaper than a single trip insurance!

Travel Light

Consider how you will manage your luggage at the airport. A wheeled suitcase avoids the need to carry heavy bags. Packing only the essentials makes sense for seniors as it is much easier to manage a small bag than a large one. You will also save money by avoiding having to pay for extra bags. Many seasoned travellers avoid baggage charges altogether by packing just one carry-on bag. Roll rather than fold clothes, buy miniature bottles of toiletries and seal in a zip lock waterproof bag, and take an e-reader rather than heavy books. Consider wearing the bulkiest items that you will need on your holiday while travelling. Also using air lock bags (those that you suck or roll the air out of to compress the contents) mean you can pack more into a small space. And don’t be ashamed to ask for wheelchair assistance at airports – that way you don’t have to carry anything!

Look After Your Health

Travel insurance is an essential for many destinations, and seniors with health problems should protect themselves from expensive medical bills with a policy that covers pre-existing conditions. Make sure that you take a good supply of any regular medications and pack these in your hand luggage. Travel can be tiring, so if you are not usually very active try to gently build up your levels of exercise in the weeks before you travel. Also, travel insurance for seniors can be exorbitantly expensive, so make sure you both factor the extra into your travel budget and make sure to shop around!

A little planning and preparation should help you make the most of your travels and hopefully the memories you make will transcend generations.

Great Sources of Secret Travel Tips

Travelling is, in general, exciting. People love it. We love it. But have you ever gone away and returned home seeing nothing more than the top five, ten, fifteen things in the tourist brochures? The things every tourist sees in the same place?

Have you ever wondered how people find out about gorgeous secret locations? How other people seem to find the best breakfasts, or know what’s happening in town as it happens.

Here are our top three tips for finding hidden doors to ‘local’ gems:

  1. Search Blogs

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Do a search for blogs on your location

This is the most obvious one, but make it less obvious. Look for ‘Must see attractions in Paris” sure – you should at least see the Eiffel tower up close once or twice – but then Google the unusual “hidden bars in Croatia”, “Best beaches in Perth” and so on. Be specific, and seek out the headings that attract your attention. Gloss over them and find all those ‘hidden gems’ those in the know often seem to struggle to keep hidden.

  1. Pinterest

    Pinterest

    Seek out ‘secret PLACE NAME’ on Pinterest for amazing images

Pinterest is a place of beauty. Almost every picture is exquisite, almost every destination looks heavenly – and pretty much every place on the map has had someone visit it. Start a pin board where you list all the beautiful and unusual, off the beaten track places that others have written about. Some you’ll get to, some you wont, but it’s a great way to find especially natural spectacles that you will probably never find in most travel guides. (Click on the Pinterest link, and replace ‘Isle of Wight’ with your destination.)

  1. Instagram

    instagram

    #hashtag your destination on Instagram for up to the minute information

Hashtags are your friend. Often when we find ourselves in a place we’re unfamiliar with, once we’ve done the ‘what’s on in XYZ’ and found ourselves uninspired, I’ll go on Instagram or Twitter and search by the name of the place we’re in. We’ve found festivals, outdoor concerts, and all sorts of entertainment – often free, too – this way.

It’s also helped us discover some fabulous places to eat – say someone says they’ve found the best milkshake ever, then we know the place they’ve tagged is a good place to try out. And we’ve rarely been disappointed.

Use your Instagram and Twitter hashtags. You’ll find many a holiday-making moment that way.

  1. Guide books

booksOkay, for all that about guide books, there are a few that are actually great. We have 1000 Places To See Before You Die, which has some of those you’d expect – but also many that you wouldn’t always think of first.

There are also many specialist books – if cream teas are your thing try AA Britain’s Best Afternoon Tea, if you want to follow in the footsteps of stars, The Ultimate Hollywood Tour book will make sure you don’t miss anything, and so each country and many interests are catered for – but don’t forget your web searches, and your hashtags.

 Great sources of insider travel tips

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.

Lost Down Under

It may seem like we’ve fallen off the face of the earth, but actually, we’ve been spending a bit of time at the bottom of it. The last five or so months have been a roller coaster for our family as we decided we wanted to do some slow travelling around Europe so that we could keep working, but move our walls and explore some of our world.  A week after giving up our house, however, my husband was told that his job would be ending and then his contract was ended a month early too, so all our plans came to a disappointing and grinding halt. More so because we were set to visit Australia for my brother’s wedding, but with the loss of income we could no longer do it.

Fortunately my little brother has a big heart and he bought four tickets for our family to cross the oceans.  Aren’t I a lucky big sister ?

So, for the last 6 weeks we’ve been bumming around Perth, trying to spend as little as possible – no small feat in December, with Christmas and feeling a little bit holiday-ish.

Like many people around Christmas time, we’ve  spent a lot of time running around:

Perth beach

And a lot of time just trying to keep our heads above water:

Perth Head Above

We’ve been hiding in the shadows:

perth wedding

Watching movies late into the evening:

Perth Movies

Yep, this has been a rather more austere Christmas than we had imagined:

Perth Christmas

And we’re really looking forward to returning to the UK and leaving scenes like this behind us*

Perth beach

P.S. In case you weren’t sure, I’m trying reverse psychology on myself, psyching myself up to leaving Perth!

Going on holiday soon? 

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Before your trip, sign up with Groupon.com to find discounted offers while you’re away. We found a dinner and a day trip for our stay in Perth.

Five Great Christmas Events For The Family

For the first few years living in the UK, I found the whole cold winter, dark days, early nights and crazy commercialism of Christmas utterly strange. Four years ago we had our first Christmas back in the Southern Hemisphere, however, and I was surprised to find that I really missed the post card Christmas, the log fires, and mulled wine. A winter Christmas had truly become Christmas the way I like it.  This year we’ll be in Australia for Christmas, and there’s quite a bit we’ll be missing out on here in what’s meant to be a very cold winter, so I thought I’d share some of the things that are still on my bucket list for Christmas activities with my girls.Christmas EventsRead more: Five Great Christmas Events For The Family

Jurassic Nozstock: The Hidden Valley 2014

What feels like forever ago now, we made our way to Nozstock festival early in August, for our third year in a row. The theme this year was Jurassic, and the festival itself was just that.

Unfortunately, as luck would have it, on the day we were set to go, our car was giving trouble and we had to offload all our camping gear and take it to the mechanic before we could head off. Nine hours and £600 later, we decided to spend the night at home, and head out first thing in the morning, but we hit torrential rain on the way, so even our early departure didn’t see us getting to Nozstock before mid day.

Never the less, we decided to make the very best of what was left of the weekend, and at Nozstock, that’s not hard to do.

camping

On arrival, the first thing we noted was that the live-in vehicle section looked much larger than previous years, and much better organised. The traffic and security people also seemed to have a better grasp on what was going on and where everyone should go, which was much improved too.

Heading into the festival and camping grounds, we discovered a gate down to the Dingle Bar – I’m not sure if that was new this year, or had been there previously, but it was a winner for us! A nice short cut to the area we wanted to be.

As is always the case with Nozstock, so much effort has gone into ‘theming’ the event, and the huge Dinosaur welcoming you to the event area was brilliant. All around the festival site, there were homages to the theme. The kids loved it – I know. Girls who loved Dinosaurs. Thank heavens for that.

Nozstock Decorations

We tend to spend most of our time at Nozstock in the Bandstand area and surrounds, and between the Dingle Bar and the Bantam of the Opera Stage, our weekend is pretty full.

We watched a stage show by the Outlawed Nomadand while I’m not sure she really followed it, 4 year old Ameli was so mesmerised, she made us go in and watch it with her again on Sunday! The Little Wonderland Kids Area was amazing again. Even I picked up new skills in some of the craft sessions.

There was, as always, so much going on for kids, from ‘cave painting’ to gladiator games (with foam clubs!) to making dinosaur bone drumkits and treasure hunts and all sorts, just so much to do. My girls love their arts and craft, and by the end of the day, they were decked out with (foam) bones in their hair, shell and bone necklaces, and prehistoric dream catchers to decorate our tent.

To burn off energy they were entertained by climbing frames, hula-hooping and beatboxing, as well as going on an imaginary dinosaur hunt, which they were thrilled by.

All in all we had action packed days.Kids Nozstock

Even though we had camping tickets, we’d all been unwell the week before Nozstock, so had decided to get accommodation off site, about 4 miles away, so when we were all dirty, and exhausted, we stopped by Hot Rocks Pizza for a 4-minute stone baked delicious pizza, before heading off for a hot shower and a comfy sleep. It’s a different way to do the festival, and you lose out on some of the festival spirit for sure, but it wasn’t a bad option for our under-par health family – and good for the local economy, I tell myself!

While all the traders and artists and everyone else at Nozstock have such a positive and cheerful attitude, especially towards the children, we were particularly impressed by one of the stallholders at L for Leather. Ameli had been given some spending money, and wanted a ring made from leather. I don’t know his name, but he was so patient with my little girl, allowing her freedom to choose the ‘wrong’ side of the leather, and choose to her likes and dislikes without telling her how it ‘should be’ or dictating in any way. I thought it was magical how both amused, and sweet he was about her uhming and ahing over what colour staples to use – an important decision after all- when he was only making £2 out of the deal.

Overall, and once again, we loved Nozstock: The Hidden Valley 2014, and even though we only dipped in and out of it this year, we had a fantastic time, and the kids still talk about it, and pretend play that they’re heading off to Noztock, dino-bones in hand.

P.S. The headphones the girls are wearing in the pictures are brilliant for kids in noisy places. These kids ear defenders come highly recommended.

Planning & Preparing For ‘In Case Of An Emergency’

It’s finally happening. We’ve handed in our notice. We’ve bought boxes. Slowly but surely, this whole moving thing is happening. We’re in the extremely lucky position that we are able to work from wherever we have an internet connection, and it’s taken us a few years to move beyond the realisation that we don’t need to plough all our money into the same four (or more) walls, month after month, paying off someone else’s mortgage to actually doing something about.  And so we are moving our stuff into storage, and taking our lives, and our children, on the road.

UntitledIt’s fun to plan, exciting to dream about, and downright terrifying. It’s not like we’re starting with the biggest budget in the world, and in fact, we still have more debt than is sensible, but part of our reasoning for downsizing our lives and our outgoings is to try to bring that debt under control. We did this a few years ago, actually. We took out a Santander bank loan, consolidated all our debt and spent three years paying it off. It worked well, because at the same time we cancelled two of our credit cards, and in the space of three years, on low income, with a baby on the way/newborn/toddler, we managed to more than halve our debt. Somehow. It’s pretty epic and we’re proud of ourselves.

One of the biggest things I’ve been working through in planning for this new adventure, however, has been emergency preparedness. As a family of foreigners living in  England, we’ve managed to create friendships and get to know people, so that if something happened to my husband and I, there would be someone who knows to get in touch with one of our families, and how. As people of no fixed address for a while, that becomes a little more tricky, and being prepared has become a big thing for me.

We need to know that we have access to ’emergency money’, should something go wrong. Whether ‘wrong’ is that we suddenly need to find accommodation off plan, should the car break down, should one of us become sick – none of them are options we want, but they can happen. Being unprepared for them is foolish and probably the quickest way to end our romantic travel dreams.

We’ve worked hard selling off extra and unwanted, no longer required household goods, toys and baby stuff, and we’ve put all that money into making space on the remaining credit card, so that should we need it we have access to funds. Not millions, mind, but just enough to make sure the unexpected isn’t more stressful than it needs to be.  Crashing on a friend’s sofa for a week is one thing when you’re a singleton – but a family of four take up substantially more space than most families with kids can comfortably accommodate. Our car isn’t young anymore, and while she’s well serviced (and has already cost us a fortune this year!) sitting on the side of the road in Spain sounds no more fun than sitting on the side of the road in England.

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Being prepared for a huge family adventure is certainly about more than sandwiches and drinks bottles. It’s about packing lightly, but with enough of the right stuff. It’s about making sure your GPS is up to date. It’s about doing a LOT of research – there’s nothing quite like running out of fuel somewhere on a back road in Slovenia because you were trying to avoid the toll fees you didn’t know you had to pay to put pressure on a family road trip! (By the way, if you’re religious, that’s also one of the quickest ways to really get you back to focused prayer, praying for a fuel station! I’m totally not throwing eye daggers at the Mr as that memory returns! 😉 )

And it’s about knowing who to contact – or more importantly the children knowing who to contact, and how, in the case of a real emergency, and it’s about having the financial reserves, or at least a back up plan, if or when you need it.

As a couple we were avid travelers, but I realise  now, in planning a trip with a family, that the ‘basic needs’ are very different to what they were for two people. What constitutes ‘necessities’ are different. What constitutes an emergency, is different, and plans need to be put in place.

Well… we already have the girls memorising ‘I’m from England, please take me to my embassy‘… words I hope they’ll never, ever need to use… but all part of being prepared, I guess.

I know we’re not the first family to take on this challenge, so let me know… what would you do to plan for all eventualities on a family road trip?