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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. 

Family Travel Inspiration

Do you remember when you could just stick a pin in a map, chuck some belongings in a case and head to anywhere your heart desired. Once you have children your choice of holiday destination will depend on various factors such as how far you can travel without having a meltdown (you or the kids!), how warm it will be, entertainment options, food choices etc. The list goes on. 

You are in no way stopped going anywhere you wish to but you do have to think about it a little more and I guess you need to think that it may not quite be the same as it may have been pre-children.

Travel with babies

menorca hotel reviews

The below points may help lead you to decide on what type of holiday may be best for you; self-catering, all inclusive, villa etc. For me it would completely depend on where you were going and the amenities available. They all have their pros and cons; will you want to do any cooking? Will you need the extra space that usually comes with self-catering?

The Weather
Before you make your destination choose look up the weather for that time of year. Will it be too hot for young children? Too cold? You want to be able to enjoy your holiday without panicking 24/7 if your baby is going to overheat. If you have your heart on a country then look up the best time of year to go that will suit your family’s needs.

The Travel
Children are actually pretty resilient when it comes to flying, they don’t tend to have the annoyance and fear that some of us grown-ups can be instilled with. More often than not they will cope with the journey and surprise you with their patience. However you have to think if you struggle on say a 4 hour flight then think about how a child may feel being contained in a small space with a short attention span. If you feel you can entertain them then be brave and go for it.

We have flown a few times with our young children from as young as 3 months old and never had any issues, we just go armed with lots of snacks and new things to look at – books, toys etc.

Food Choices
Sadly all the exciting stuff that drew us to a country like exotic foods, challenging the local lingo etc. has to be considered. Will you be able to offer your toddler foods that they will be happy with? Babies are obviously fairly easy if they are either being breastfed or bottle fed as long as there is equipment such as kettles available. You can get some simple sterilising bags now of any gear you need to take, so easy and cheap.

Personally we have stuck to Europe with our little ones just because we know what to expect when it comes to all of the above. We always travel either early or late summer mainly due to cost but also the temperatures are low enough to make the most out of the days and not worry about the children too much when it comes to sun protection.

There will be a time in the future when we can become more adventurous and spontaneous with our destinations but we have just accepted that for now we need to plan a little more!

Venice with Children

Venice is pretty spectacular. That's not the kind of word I tend to use very often but it just seems to fit in this instance. 

Venice with kids is perhaps not the same kind of romantic trip as it might be as a couple, but it can still be enjoyed with little ones and it's still just as amazing.  

If we are honest it is fairly unlikely Daisy will ever remember her trip to Venice, she was just under 2 years old after all. But she had a great time while we were there and we captured some memories for her to look back on. 

We found ourselves just walking about taking it all in but did end up on the main square a few times. We aren't made of money and so the idea of a coffee in Piazza San Marco wasn't too appealing, as much as I would have loved to have sat and watched everyone scurrying past while having an Aperol. It just wouldn't have been worth it with a toddler to have to chase about. But we did spend quite a lot of time say in the square and wandering about. Daisy had a little boogy to the orchestra outside one of the cafes, chased the pigeons around the square and sat on the step to enjoy a gelato in the square. She may not remember those moments but as parents we will. 

We didn't visit the museums and do much of the "adult" type visits because Daisy just wouldn't have been interested. But if I'm honest I was happy to just roam about and explore the city. We hopped on water taxis from one side to the other and just enjoyed the time rambling about stopping for a coffee, gelato or pizza en route! 

We had Daisy in her carrier most of the time as I really would not recommend a pushchair in Venice. The grounds uneven, it's busy and there are lots of obstacles to tackle and I can't imagine it would be pleasant trying to do that with a buggy! I did a review here all about how we used it on our travels. 

Venice is a bit of a maze, albeit a very pretty one that makes you feel like you're in a story rather than real life. It’s fairly small, and even if you do get lost, you will soon find signs on the walls pointing to the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco, or Ferrovia (train station) which helps you to guide yourself.  

We did just two days in Venice before heading to the lakes and we stayed outside of the main city in a hotel, mainly because hotels within the canals are crazy money and secondly we wanted to be by the train station for our transport links.

One day I would love to return for the weekend and just take it much slower, eat more food, drink more coffee and Aperol (I was pregnant with Alex when we were there last!)  and ideally stay in the city to see how different it is when you experience it that way.

Hayley X