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Dear Daisy, It is your first day at school...

How To Survive The Summer Holidays

Firstly I should say this is slightly tongue in cheek. I value the time the children have off school, I wish I could have more time off with them rather than working but I also won't deny that it isn't easy every single day. It can be expensive, tiring and a day can feel like a week sometimes. And that can flip the other way too.

Thrifty summer holidays

My top tips for surviving the school holidays:

(1) Wear them out as much as possible in the morning. If you are lucky enough to have the children for the day during the holidays tire them out. Run them about, go to open spaces so they can be free and run around burning off pent up energy. I find the outdoors always wears them out that little bit more. Children that have exercised and are worn out tend to be more relaxed later on and hopefully will get nice early nights or give you quiet, relaxed, content afternoons.

(2) Exercise. This kind of links into the the first tip where the main idea is to tire them out a little. But Exercise, it stimulates them whilst also being beneficial for them and also yourself. Swimming is a hit in our house as in cycling, scooting, splashing in muddy puddles and so on. Even a walk into the woods getting them moving. When I sadly have to work around them this is something i will always do, I won't feel so bad then if they spend the afternoon drawing, playing or even having a little screen time.

top tips for the summer holidays

(3) Plans. Always make plans. This fills the time they have, it gives them something to look forward to but also yourself. You won't feel so alone if you plan to do some play dates down the local park etc. The key to this tip is to plan ahead and not on the day!

(4) Quiet Days are fine. Don't feel like you have to fill every single day with an activity. Children need down time as much as you or I. A day at home does everyone the world of good, so I couldn't do more than this usually as cabin fever strikes but time at home doing "jobs" (Think of things like watering your plants, washing up, doing the laundry and so on), crafting, play dough and so on is just what they need at times. Not to mention it will save you money!

(5) Look up free activities. There are lots of local groups and clubs that run activities during the holidays such as a reading competition at the local library, rock painting and so on. Make the most of free local activities near you, even if it only take up an hour or so.

free kid activities

(6) Pinterest Everything! That place is blooming wonderful for ideas, especially if you have crafty children like Daisy. Think painting rocks, making paper plate faces, pasta art and so on! The lists are endless and more often than not, cheap. Just google Pinterest kids craft ideas or similar and you will have hindreds of results pop up if you don't have the app yourself!

(7) Watch the weather!  If a week of rainy weather is forecast, phone round like minded friends and arrange a few play dates or organize rainy day plans such as the cinema! If it is sunny plan to do your free activities like long walks by the stream or camping out in a field to let the kids just roam free.

5 things to do in Shropshire this summer holidays

I have done this kind of post before and it has been taken really well. I mean we are all in this together aren't we? We have to entertain the kids far more during the summer holidays, some of you full time, others working around childcare and so on.

None the less some days out can be expensive so I have tried to find things that aren't massively dear or have short cuts to being a bit tighter on the money situation!

5 free things to do this summer
Image Source: Me and my Shadow

Cosford Air Museum

This is actually free of charge so should be on everyone's to do list this holiday. There is lots of hands on activities to do as well the obvious huge aircraft memorabilia that is dotted around the space.

*Worth noting there is a charge for the carpark though!

Ludlow Castle

These are some impressive ruins of Ludlow Castle which was once home to plenty of royalty. So if your little one fancies themselves as a princess of perhaps a king then this could be a great free day out. Take yourselves a picnic and you're bound to use a full day!

Lots of space to roam about here too for the littler ones.

Although it is free there is a request for donations :)

The Quarry Park

The Quarry park is a huge space to accommodate lots of people even on its busiest days. It is a great place to head if the weather is good because again there is plenty to do. Spend some time walking the river, rambling about the dingle, picnic on the field, maybe an ice cream and the play parks that recently went under a renovation.

British Ironworks Centre

This is one of our favourite spots in Shropshire to keep both kids and adults entertained! It has the biggest display of decorative metalwork in the UK. The cafe is really good too ut a watch out is that it can be pricey!

Carding Mill Valley

This is another attraction where you would visit if the weather was nice enough. You would ideally want it to dry here as there isn't much shelter to hide from the elements here. But it is great to just burn off energy.

This is a beautiful place to visit on a good day,  for half a day or a full day. The valley caters for a whole range of walks and activities, whether it be paddling in the stream, taking a gentle stroll to the reservoir, or a more strenuous walk to the waterfall.

3 packing tips for a holiday with young kids

Exploring the world with your family is an invaluable experience, as you get to spend some precious time together and make memories that will last a lifetime. Your kids will get to immerse themselves in a completely different culture and try new activities and foods that they wouldn't get at home. 

Booking the holiday itself is the exciting part and you can start planning the excursions and the amazing locations you intend to visit. But it's the part that comes before the flight that most people dread. Packing can be an arduous task, especially when you have to pack for yourself and the rest of your family. Making sure you've packed all the essentials is stressful, particularly when you've left it all until the night before. 

Here are three toptips on packing for a holiday with young kids, guaranteed to make your life so much easier:

source: https://unsplash.com/photos/TVllFyGaLEA

1. Be strategic with your carry-on luggage
Picture this: your baby is crying and the only thing that can console them is their dummy, but you realise that you've packed it away in your main suitcase. The next few hours are stressful and you whisper numerous apologies to the other disgruntled passengers on the plane. However, this entire situation could have been avoided if you packed your carry-on luggage more efficiently.

If it helps, write a list so that you don't forget the essentials like bottles and baby milk. However, check the airport hand luggage restrictions before you set off to make sure you're carrying the legal amount of fluids. It might also be worth packing some wet wipes and a spare change of clothes for the kids, just in case an accident or spillage should occur. 

2. Pack for all weather

The forecast could be sunshine all week, but this is subject to change and the weather can turn at any second. This could be potentially disastrous if you've only packed shorts when the heavens have opened outside, so make sure you’re prepared for all eventualities. 
Another great tip is to makesure you pack appropriate footwear for every child, including sturdy shoes that will keep their feet feeling comfortable even after walking long and muddy distances. Sun cream is one of the most important items you'll pack, as it will protect your family's skin from sun damage. It’s a good idea to pack some waterproof sunscreen so it won't wash off even when your kids play in the pool. 

holiday tips for kids

3. Entertainment is essential
Children need constant mental stimulation, especially on flights and long-haul journeys when they can quickly become bored. Or if they are anything like my children anyway! 
 It could be worthwhile investing in an electronic tablet for your children, so they can watch their favourite TV shows and movies during long hours of travelling. Unfortunately for my children I don't like them to have too much technology so they don't have their own but when travelling I do give them our ipad to keep them amused, for our own sanity! 
 It might even be worth packing your child's favourite cuddly toy as this can be of comfort to them if they ever get distressed. Packing some snacks for the flight will also be a good idea as airport food can be expensive as well as unhealthy. 

My Top Tips For Visiting New York

I recently did a blog post all around New York and the Best free things to do in New York and I thought I would continue my little series with my top tips that I would suggest when hitting NYC!

They are a real mixed bags but I stand by my tips, even if some of you may disagree. Of course we all go to New York for different reasons with differing expectations so your tips may vary slightly to mine. I would love to know what your top tips would be too though...

My Top Tips For Visiting New York

(1) Look at the different area of Manhattan when deciding where you stay. Getting around the city is fairly easy so you don't need to worry about being too close to one particular landmark, unless you want to of course. People appear to be sucked into the Times Square area because it is what they know, but you can get far superior accommodation by moving outwards from that zone for far less $! Definitely visit the area and soak in the sights, but it is busy and noisy and well there are far nicer areas to go to bed in!

(2) Don't be afraid of the subway. We put it off until our last day and honestly, it was super easy and we wondered why we hadn't used it previously.

Rooftop bars by the brooklyn bridge

(3) Get out and explore Manhattan. Our favourite thing to do was to just walk. Walk, walk, walk the streets and see where you end up! Most of the time we had a vague idea of where were heading but were not worried if we strayed off the path a little. There is much to see and if you are relying on tubes etc to get you from one end to another you may miss that special something. Of course the tbe is great at times and very, very handy but when you can, try to amble a bout a bit.

(4) Avoid the big fast food chains if you can. You may just find the best meal you have ever had at an authentic New York restaurant. There are some great Facebook groups where people are giving their reviews on attractions, cafes etc so head over there and wee what they have to say. I won't lie I had a cheeky McDonalds breakfast but it was out of desperate measures one morning at around 6am! (Jet lag.... )

Best Food in NYC

(5) This may sound a little odd but get out of Manhattan and wee what else is around. We walked over the Brooklyn Bridge one afternoon and spent quite a few hours milling about Brooklyn. We just wish we had longer to explore more. The atmosphere and pace was different and it was a really cool place.

(6) be aware of the tipping culture. All I would say on this is having a read up on the etiquette before you go!

Best street art in NYC

FLYNYON - The Ultimate Helicopter Experience in NYC

When we recently visited NYC we pre-booked a helicopter trip with FLYNYON for our last day before we headed home.

We contemplated for a while on whether we do it, if we do it with doors on or off, is it worth the money? And so on. It took us a few weeks to decide but finally we came across a discount code for 50% off and just jumped into booking a doors off experience. I have come to realise that these discount codes are forever flying about and if you sign up to their emails that you are bound to get one every few weeks, just hang on in there if you're wanting to book too as the discount will come in good time.

Now, I know not everyone has this kind of money "spare" and that maybe it could be seen as a bit extravagant but hands down it was worth every single penny for us. We would do it again in a flash without a moment of hesitation.

helicopter trip with FLYNYON

I will put some photos up and also a video I created which shares some of the footage I got on the flight and I think that will speak for itself. For a while before we went on our trip I had followed FLYNYON’s Instagram feed and they always share the most beautiful shots, I think it is pretty difficult to get a bad picture of Manhattan from that angle!

I do think the company itself could work on a few things such as organisation but to be honest the flight itself erased all of the negative little thoughts that I may have about them. When you get to their hanger (it is over in NJ so a bit of a drive away from central NYC) it is a little bit unorganized, no one knows where they are going, you're rushed into various briefings and then someone tried to sell us an upgrade, I am pretty sure it is normal procedure for them. I can't blame them for trying!

helicopter ride in NYC

We actually snapped their hand off with the upgrade and got a much longer flight for an additional cost and again it was really worth it.

We had been very unlucky with the weather for a day or so and it had meant we hadn't done everything that we really wanted to do such as the Empire state of the Top of the Rock as the fog was just too bad. So when we had glorious day with no clouds in the sky we couldn't really say no!

So what was it like hanging your legs out of a helicopter? Exactly as you would imagine it to be. Incredible and unreal all in one go. The speed it goes is unbelievable and for the whole time we were up there it just didn't feel real somehow! Obviously while flying a helicopter over New York without doors it does mean you need to be strapped into a harness for safety, you really do feel very secure. Your camera gear is also attached to yourself so it doesn’t fall or get tangled anywhere. We managed to fly past some of New York’s most amazing landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, Battery Park, One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, and Central Park.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely.  If you have the money or you can justify the expense, do it.

This post is in no way sponsored (sadly!!), the flights were paid for with our own money! 

5 Free things to do in New York

Most of you who follow me over on social media will know that I recently went to New York on a girls trip for a few nights. We had the most amazing time and I wanted to share some of it with you, in the hope that if you ever chose to visit then you'll have some tips and tricks to help you on your way.

This post is the first in a series that I will be sharing over here so keep your eyes peeled and stay following if you want to read more. First up; 5 Free things to do in New York

(1) This is not only free but it was actually my top thing on our itinerary, I absolutely loved it. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge. You should expect the walk to take about an hour (two hours round-trip) as you will be stopping along the way first to get the gorgeous views of Brooklyn but then central Manhattan behind you. Don't forget to take your camera along to capture some nice views of the Manhattan skyline that you obviously wouldn't get from within the city.

One thing I would note is that if you decide to start on the Brooklyn side and walk toward Manhattan, be sure you know how to actually get on the bridge, it can take some time. Failing that ask someone :)

Once we were there we headed for a rooftop bar to soak up the sunshine and watch over Manhattan. Definitely a highlight for us!

5 Free things to do in New York

Best rooftop bars new york

Is the brooklyn bridge free

(2) Ride the Staten Island Ferry. This actually something we had planned to do after being given the tip numerous times. However the day we were due to do it it was so foggy that we wouldn't have seen good old Lady Lib anyway so gave it a miss. We were very lucky to have a helicopter ride planned over the weekend so didn't feel too hard done by but it was definitely something we would have done had we had the time and weather for it.

The trip between Staten Island and Manhattan takes about 25 minutes, and doesn't cost a penny. You'll get views of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and the skyline of lower Manhattan.

(3) Another of our favourite things to do was to head to Grand Central Station. This was pretty much on our doorstep and we visited numerous times. Our favourite time was first thing in the morning (usually pre-7am thanks to jet lag!) and we would head downstairs under the cavernous pillars for coffee and a croissant. It has such a lovely feel about it and feels somewhat nostalgic, no doubt from the endless films that feature it. Grand Central Terminal is one of the world's most famous train stations, and also among the busiest apparently at rush hour time, we didn't experience this as we loved the quietness.

Staten Island Ferry

(4) Walk Central Park. I mentioned in an earlier post about the weather and sadly as well as the fog we had rain. A whole day of downpours. Our plan was to cycle the park and take it all in but the weather just put us off completely. Instead we got a big brolly (thanks to the lovely concierge at The Plaza as we walked past!) and had a wonder through the park until we ended up at the Boathouse for a hot chocolate to warm us up. On a nice day you could easily spend a few hours in the park people watching, looking at the big fat squirrels running about and enjoying the free street entertainment in there. Even on a miserable day we sat and listened to some musicians.

Boat house Central park

(5) The area around Ground Zero. This is a different side to New York, one that will make you stop and reflect for a while. Where the Twin Towers once stood,a beautiful pool structure has been built in their footprints, with engraved names of all the victims of that awful day. It is a beautiful yet heart wrenching site but one I would urge all tourists to head to if they get chance.

How to Save Money When Buying Furniture for Your First Home*

Have you just bought your first home? In that case, your bank balance is probably a little bit depleted. Of course, you still need furniture for your home. More than likely you are wondering how to save money when buying furniture.

First of all, make a list of what furniture you need. Keep the list with you at all times and tick each item off when you have found the right piece of furniture.

How to Save Money When Buying Furniture for Your First Home
Image not my own

Great Places to Pick Up Furniture

IKEA is not the only place you can pick up cheap furniture. Still, it is a good idea to look out for special offers in your IKEA store. You can normally find furniture offers advertised on the IKEA website. Offers change from week to week, so check out the website on a regular basis. Don't forget to sign up for the IKEA Family Card which will give you further discounts.

Carboot sales are great places for picking up cheap furniture. You may not be able to find major pieces such as beds and kitchen tables. However, many car boot dealers try to get rid of smaller pieces like bedside tables and smaller bookcases.

Charity shops are an endless resource for many new homeowners. Many of them do sell furniture and most of the time, the furniture is of good quality. On top of that, you can find little knick-knacks to compliment your furniture buys.

How to Save Money When Buying Furniture Online

Saving money when buying furniture online is not difficult. Leading discounts sites like Groupon and Wowcher often have offers on furniture. You may even be able to save money when you buy furniture on eBay. Stick to your local area to avoid delivery charges.

Shpock is a cool app which can be used to find stuff for sale locally. You can find everything from sofas to kitchen chairs. Best of all, you deal with the seller directly and transactions are easy to complete.

Finally, don't forget to set yourself a budget. It is easy to spend too much money on one particular item, and you want to make sure you get value for money as well as great furniture.

*This post is a collaboration

Puerto Mogan in the winter

A few weeks back we headed to Gran Canaria for what we hoped was a week of sun. A week to get our arms and legs out and gain a bit of natural Vitamin D. Thankfully we got just that.

We went to a small town, Puerto Mogan just half an hours drive from Las Palmas airport. Obviously if you are travelling with kids and just endured a 4 hour + flight this transfer is pretty appealing. Puerto de Mogán is a quaint little resort and fishing village where there are things to do aside from the beach, which was also lovely.

We tend to hire cars when we go within Europe as you can find some really cheap deals for a week and more often than not it is comparable with what you would pay for a transfer or very little more. We picked up the car from the airport and went to our hotel in Puerto Mogan. We stayed in the Apartmentos Cordial Mogan which was just up a pedestrianized road/ walk way from the main town and beach.

Puerto Mogan itself is definitely geared up for all year round tourism. The sea front is lined with cafes, restaurants, bars and some beautiful stores to shop in. To be honest the stores appeared to be rather high end, we don't tend to shop much when away but they looked really tempting full of fragrance and designed clothing.

The cafes and restaurants were all really welcoming in a non annoying way. There was so much to choose from, far too much for a weeks break. i think even if we had stayed for a fortnight there would still be places that we would like to have eaten in that we hadn't managed to squeeze in. If you are travelling with your children then be content in knowing that they welcome them too and make them feel very much welcome.

The harbour itself is beautiful. Absolutely full of all kinds of boats that you can watch from the beach coming and going all day. It was lovely to walk around there during the day when the kids needed a break from the beach, to grab some lunch or for a change of scenery. In the evening it was lovely too and this is where you will find some higher end restaurants which we didn't dare grace with our over tired children!

which canary island

It is important to remember that most of the beaches in Gran Canaria are volcanic and so a grey colour. This beach is actually man-made and fairly small but that doesn’t stop the hundreds of tourists enjoying it and on a weekend you can see the locals flooding there too.

We pretty much camped out at the beach all week long and didn't go much further than that. We had intentions of using the car to explore a little but it’s far too easy to walk into Puerto Mogán and stay by the sea all day long. I think one day we will back and perhaps go a little further than down to the beach, see what else Gran Canaria has to offer.

how to hula hoop

Puerto Mogan in the winter

Hayley x

5 things everyone should do before travelling when pregnant*

A lot of people have started to go on babymoons. Babymoons are a bit like a honeymoon that’s taken before your baby arrives. Change is a wonderful thing, but it's always nice to have a bit of alone time with your partner before your little one makes an appearance. Nowadays, it's safer than ever before to travel while pregnant, but there are a few things you should do before you travel.

Travelling when pregnant

1. Get travel insurance

Or, if you already have it, double check it covers you for anything pregnancy-related. Some travel insurance companies have specific requests that you need to do before travelling. Most travel insurance companies, and airline companies, require a doctor's letter to certify you fit to fly. This is more rigidly insisted upon when you are more than 27 weeks pregnant, but it's also just best to get your doctor's okay before you travel. Your GP will know whether or not you're safe to fly, and what precautions you should take, if any.

2. Choose your destination wisely

It's best to choose a destination that is safe, comfortable and has access to good healthcare.

Destinations in Europe are your best option: flights are relatively short, there are no specific vaccinations you need before travelling, and you should have relatively good access to hospitals. Also, what's nicer than just lounging in the sun in Spain or Italy? Not to mention the delicious cuisine!

3. Travelling in the different trimesters

Most women will travel between their 4th and 6th month of pregnancy, as this is often the safest time to travel. Your first trimester (1 to 12 weeks) is when side effects such as morning sickness are most common, and your risk of miscarrying is higher. Between weeks 13 and 27, any sickness will have subsided and you're not likely to go into early labour.

From week 28 onwards (your third trimester), you will have to get a letter from your doctor to say you're fit to fly. By week 36, it's advised you don't fly at all.

4. Find out about any health considerations

While it's always exciting to eat new and interesting foods when you're on holiday, there are certain foods you should not eat while you're pregnant. Some foods are more prone to lead to food poisoning, no matter who eats them, but again, not worth risking while you're expecting.

Patê is to be avoided at all costs, because there is a high chance it might contain listeria, which can affect pregnant women more than anyone else. Cold cured meats are also advised against because they are not cooked, and can contain parasites.

5. Check out the accommodation

There’s a chance you'll find travelling while pregnant more tiring than before you were expecting, so it's important to make sure you know what type of accommodation you'll have. Avoid hotels that have no lift, and definitely don't book into a hostel. Read the reviews for the accommodation online before you book, and look for 'family-friendly' hotels or villas. These are more likely to be quiet and homely, instead of a hotel full of hen and stag parties!

Why don't you see if your hotel comes with a spa? You could indulge in a manicure, pedicure or pregnancy massage while on holiday to pamper yourself.

Travelling while pregnant used to be a no-no, but with careful planning, you can have a great holiday with your bump!

Image Source: http://www.pregnancyview.com/planning-an-international-babymoon/

*This post is a collaboration.