13 articles Articles posted in Days Out

Exploring London as a Family

Living where we do means that London is only about an hour away by train, which makes it really easy to get to for a day trip. However, London is so vast that it would be good to spend more than just one day at a time there. We’ve been a little bit London-phobic since the girls came along, not wanting to tackle the big city with changing bags and buggies, but both girls are probably big enough to need minimal luggage now and Burrito Baby has been stubbornly refusing to get in a buggy for about 18 months, so a weekend in London is definitely on the cards!

Urban Retreat Apartments offer short-stay, fully serviced apartments which would be the perfect base for a family wanting to explore London, because it would be like a home from home. You don’t have to worry about being crammed into one room with a tiny bathroom like you would be in some hotels, and you’ve got a full kitchen to allow you to make bottles or cater for small ones.

There are SO many places that I know the girls would love; the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum are firmly at the top of the list, but the National Gallery is somewhere I love as well and I think Sausage would get a huge kick out of seeing paintings by some of the world’s most famous artists in real life. Visiting London doesn’t have to be all about learning – I’ve still not been on the London Eye after all these years so that’s definitely something that I feel I need to tick off of the list!

I also know for a fact that both of my kids are desperate to visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Harrods; if you haven’t heard if it, it’s basically a magical beauty salon where kids can go and be transformed into a Disney Prince or Princess. It’s not cheap, but it’s one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences that I’d love them to have before they’re too old for the magic to have worn off! I’m pretty sure they’d also love browsing some of the huge stores like Harrods…and definitely Hamleys!

Where would you do if you had a whole weekend to spend in London? We’d love to hear your recommendations, especially places to eat and things to see which might not make the mainstream guidebooks. Leave me a comment below!

Educational Days Out For You And Your Kids

Having fun days out with your kids is great, but you can make them even better by ensuring they are as educational as possible. Here are some suggestions!

Forest Days Out
Forest days out are great for nature based learning. This allows holistic based development, and you can take your child to a forest school or head out alone. These sessions can take place on any natural environment, and they will help your kids learn more about things like geography and science.

Science Centres
Why not take your kids to a a hands-on science centre? This is so much more exciting than a classroom! You can inspire a passion for science and technology at places like the Science Museum London and the National Space Centre Leicester.

The Zoo
The zoo is designed with families in mind. You can all see animals up close that will have everyone in awe! Make sure you set challenges such as grouping by animal type and seeing how many different animals they can find.

Stonehenge
This is one of the most famous historical sites in the world. There are many theories about how it came to be, and some even say that magicians created it. Studies have recently shown that there were parties held here! Some people even think it was used as an astronomical calendar. It’s educational, but there’s not that much to do here other than look, so you might want to plan a trip to explore nearby towns afterwards. You can learn more about it from the infographic below!


credit to Stonehenge Tour from London with Golden Tours

How To Beat The Queues At Theme Parks

Theme park season is now upon us so we’ve asked Liz Walsh from Topdogdays to put together a few handy tips & tricks to help you get ahead of the queues.

1. Early Access

A number of theme parks now offer early access to select guests.  This can provide you with the chance to enjoy a number of rides & attractions before the park even opens to the public. When searching for Alton Towers Tickets and Deals look out for early ride time available to some ticket holders or check out the early access perk available to hotel guests at both LEGOLAND Windsor & Chessington.

2. Early Bird

The quietest time at any theme park tends to be the first 60/90 minutes of the day.  The car parks & ticket booths are generally open in advance of the park so ensure you are ready to go as the gates open for the day.  Look out for any information on ride closures and head directly for an attraction where queues are likely to build throughout the day.

3. Parent Swap Passes

Parent Swap Passes allow parent/carers with young children a chance to enjoy the thrill rides without have to queue twice through the use of a priority entrance, (parent 1 will still need to use the standard queue).  This free pass is now available at a number of theme parks including Drayton Manor & Thorpe Park and helps you to fit more into the day.

4. Fastrack Tickets

A fastrack ticket is a paid method to bypass the queues and is in addition to your entrance charges.  There are a range of packages available but look out for single fastrack passes that are often available for just a few £’s allowing you to get a couple of more popular rides under your belt.

5. Queue Checker

Plenty of theme parks now provide apps/electronic boards that offer information on real-time queues around the park.  Use this information to plan your day, bypassing the worst of the queues at popular attractions.

6. Non Queue Attractions

As crowds begin to build, intersperse rides with non-queue attractions for some light relief.  Most parks today have a good range of playgrounds, themed shows or even zoo & aquarium experiences away from the crowds that can offer you all a much earned break.

Happy theme-parking!

A Mum’s Guide To What To Do With Kids In London

Children and huge cities often doesn’t sound like the best and safest of combinations. A lot of people move out of places like London to the countryside in order to give their kids a different sort of life, but at the same time we shouldn’t forget that London actually provides a whole lot of culture and some incredible experiences for kids. Here’s what you should do to make your trip to London a great time for you and your kids…

Introduce Them To Some Culture

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Like most capital cities, London has a lot of history and culture – take your kids to a museum like the Transport Museum, or the Natural History Museum, which is next door to the Science Museum and one of London’s most popular attractions for children. Check out the changing of the guard, and go to the half price ticket booth in Leicester Square to splash out on some cheap theatre tickets for an incredible West End experience.

Treat Them In The Shops

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London has some of the most incredible shops in the world. Depending on how old your kids are, different things will interest them, but there will absolutely be something for everyone. Hamley’s on Regent Street is the biggest toy shop in the UK, so you could give each of your children a small amount to spend in there. If you have older kids, you could spend an incredible afternoon browsing in the Selfridges beauty hall and shoe department with your teenage daughter. Alternatively, Forbidden Planet is perfect for any teenage boy who loves graphic novels and superheroes.

Find A Child Friendly Restaurant

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Finding appropriate restaurants to take your kids to is one of the ultimate challenges of having a family. Sometimes you get it horribly wrong, and get evil-eyed glares from the other diners if you dare to take your child to their favourite restaurant, even if your offspring is behaving like an absolute angel. On the contrary, there are some restaurants where the staff won’t bat an eyelid if your grumpy, tired toddler starts to have a tantrum on the floor. London is full of both of these kinds of restaurants, but it’s probably best to either stick to a chain that you know like Pizza Express or Zizzi’s, or to check out a restaurant guide like the Gourmet Guide to find a place that suits you.

Keep Them Safe

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One of the top reasons that parents don’t take their kids to London is the issue of safety. In a city that big, it’s easy to feel a little intimidated by the prospect of staying safe. But the truth is that crime rates are down in London, so if you keep your wits about you, you should be safe, unless you’re very unlucky. Keep your bag close to your side in case of any pickpockets, and make sure that you hold your kids’ hands tightly when you’re moving down packed streets or venturing onto the tube. Do your best not to use public transport in the rush hour – it’s incredibly crowded and you might get a few glares from commuters!

 

Win Four Tickets to Rave-a-Roo at Ministry of Sound!

Rave-a-Roo Ministry of Sound LondonI must admit, when it comes to kids events I’m definitely not your average ‘bunting and cake stands’ kinda Mum and I love to do things with the girls which are just a little bit different. That’s why, when I heard about Rave-a-Roo, I was very excited. Without even reading too much about the event, I came to the conclusion that ANY family event which is held at Ministry of Sound in London is probably ridiculously cool, and after reading more I definitely wasn’t wrong!

Here’s what the guys at Rave-a-Roo had to say about the events:

Rave-A-Roonies are in for a real treat, as the biggest and best family rave fest returns with a host of new dates! Taking place at London’s iconic Ministry of Sound club on Saturday 1st October and Saturday 15th October, Rave-A-Roo is back with an even more jam-packed line-up of family festival fun.

With live stage performances, madcap hosts and DJs including DJ Cuddles and Mr Ben, Rave-A-Roo focuses on the whole family partying and playing together. The incredible Jungle Jane and Tiger Tim (renowned comedy duo Kat and Matt) will also be performing their brand new hilarious show that’s not to be missed!There is also the chance for mini-clubbers and adults to take on the dance floor with resident artists Go! Go! Go! (Electro set) as seen on Nick Jr.

 The event is broken into three zones targeted at families with children up to the age of 12. Energy levels are set high in the Main Room with live music and entertainment, spectacular lights, Disco Ball Games, and an impressive confetti mayhem finale to top it all off.For mini guests who need a little time out from partying, the Glow Chill Room is the place to be! With neon crafts and a UV glitter tattoo station, this space provides the perfect environment to relax and take time out. Children under-three can also join the party in The Funky Softplay Room, featuring soft play, a mini ball pool, air jugglers and café del mar style music.

Jenny Kane, event co-founder said: “Since the first event back in February, Rave-A-Roo has gone from strength to strength and we’re delighted to be adding a host of new dates to the calendar.

“Rave-A-Roo gives kids and families the chance to let loose, be themselves and party together. From babes in arms to grandparents, the whole family is invited to Rave-A-Roo which is for everyone and all ages.”

With a fully licensed bar (and tea, coffee and snacks), spotless surroundings, a convenient onsite buggy park, baby changing with handy supplies, professional security and staff, carefully monitored sound levels and beautifully lit rooms, Rave-A-Roo offers a unique and safe environment for families. 

Sessions are 12pm to 2pm and 3pm to 5pm.

I absolutely love the sound of this – Husband and I spent a LOT of time in clubs in our youths and I definitely miss it at times so having the chance to convert that into something which is family friendly and can be enjoyed with the girls sounds like a stroke of pure genius to me. Now, here’s the good bit: I’ve got four tickets (two adult tickets and two kids tickets) to give away to the event on Saturday 15th October. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is complete the Rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! We can’t wait to pick a winner!

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UK Historical Day Trips – Closer To You Than You Think!

Travelling, seeing some new spots and getting a feel for your surroundings are all very worthwhile pursuits. However, in this day and age it isn’t always easy to get the time off to go anywhere far away and spend real time there. When time off does come it is often condensed into a few days here and there, and if you go anywhere in that time you’re leaving little space for relaxation.

For this reason, day trips are becoming increasingly popular. Most of us will know that there are things to do and see in our home country that we’ve never actually done. Perhaps because it is close by we take it for granted. But imagine living in England and telling an American pen pal that you’ve never seen Buckingham Palace other than on TV. In the UK, history is all around to be seen, felt and breathed.

Image from Wikipedia

Even if you’re not from the UK, and are just holidaying, there are still countless things that you can do and see on a whim. And it’s an excellent chance to get a feel for the long and storied history of the country.

The Houses Of Parliament

Image from Wikipedia

Often referred to as the Mother of Parliaments, the UK Parliament is separated into the House of Lords (upper chamber) and House of Commons. The Prime Minister sits in the House of Commons and this is where laws and bills get their first reading.

In the Lords, those same laws will often be given a further reading and be debated by more experienced heads and may then be referred back to the Commons. Located at the Palace of Westminster, Parliament is simultaneously modern and traditional.

Stonehenge

Image from Wikipedia

An endless mystery to many people, Stonehenge has sat on the earth near Salisbury for milennia. Its exact date of building is not known, but is presumed to be somewhere between 3100-2000 BC. Those interested in visiting can find out more from https://www.comparestonehengetours.com.

Because of when it was built, no written records pertaining to its building exist. This has allowed it to be the subject of much historical debate. What is known is that there are hundreds of burial mounds nearby. Analysis of skeletal remains there has led to speculation that Stonehenge may have been a healing ground.

York

Much further north than the previous attractions, the city of York in and of itself is an historical attraction. Its streets and attractions draw on the long history of the city. This includes reminders of its Viking, Roman and medieval history. York Minster is a Gothic cathedral, one of the widest in all of Europe, and it is a dominating part of York’s skyline.

From wherever you may be in the UK, there are historical locations to be found within a couple of hours’ drive. Although not a huge mass of land, the UK is home to so many attractions and so much history that you can pack a lot of sight-seeing into a single day. If you’ve not seen much of it so far, why not look at changing that today?

Planning A Family Day Out In London: Everything That You Need To Know

For a day out of family fun, London is the perfect place. This multicultural, capital city, has everything that you and your family could want, and more. The great thing about spending time in London is that no matter what you and your family are into, there’s sure to be an activity that you will love. To help you plan the most amazing day out, I’ve put together this insightful and useful guide to exploring London with the kids in tow.

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Let’s talk transport

The first thing that you need to establish is how you’ll get to the city and how you’ll get around once you’re there. This will most probably depend on where you’re coming from. For instance, if you’re coming from one of London’s suburbs, the easiest option is most probably to take the tube into the city. If, however, you’re coming from a little further afield, it may be easier to drive. You can then park up somewhere and either walk, take the bus or use the tube to get around. Westfield shopping centre in London has free parking, so could be a good place to leave your car for the day.

Where to drink and dine

While you’re in London, the chances are that you’re going to need to find places to stop off for a coffee and a snack or a spot of lunch or dinner. The good news is that like most cities, London has plenty of family-friendly places to drink and dine. From chain restaurants like Jamie’s Italian, to places like Brick Lane Brasserie Restaurant, you have lots of choice. To find out how good a restaurant is, check out its reviews on TripAdvisor.

What are the best sights and attractions?

For history lovers, The Natural History Museum makes a fantastic family day out. Packed full of fossils, bones, and interesting insects and animals, this is the perfect place for the kids to explore. Best of all, it’s free of charge to visit – so if you’re on a budget, this is a great option. The Tower of London is also a great thing to see if you’re a family of history lovers, as it’s one of the UK’s most iconic historical landmarks. Or, could a fun and exhilarating day out at the London Dungeons be a good option?

For kids who love science, there’s no better place to take them than to the London Science Museum. Packed full of unique and interesting exhibits, the London Science Museum is the perfect place for kids of all ages. Especially, those that are science mad.

For kids, bus tours can be a little boring, but not the London Duck Tour. This one of a kind tour around London takes place both on land and in the River Thames in a bright yellow, amphibious vehicle. This is a fantastic way to see the city that’s fun, child-friendly, and unique.

London has a lot to offer visitors of all ages but is especially good for families. With so much to see and do, plenty of places to eat and drink, and an exciting atmosphere, this is the perfect place for a family day out with a difference.

 

Affordable Days Out For You And Your Family

When it comes down to it, I really love the UK. From the deadpan humour to the gorgeous countryside, I’m really quite grateful to live here. If I had to make a complaint though, it’s that it’s far too pricey! Britain is one of the most expensive countries to live in on earth, and this can make getting out a little tough. However, there are still many days out which won’t break the bank. Here are a few of the best.

Image from Flickr

 Harry Potter Studios Tour

If you haven’t heard of this day out, then I can only assume you’ve been living under a rock! Since Warner Bros opened the Harry Potter studios to the public, it’s quickly become one of the most popular attractions in the UK. Here, your kids will go wild when they get to walk past theactual Hogwarts Express, or look around Dumbledore’s actual office. The three-hour tour is sure to fascinate you and your children, and give you a fresh perspective on these timeless films. Buying direct from the studio is a little pricey, but you can get reduced tickets and deals from sites such as Trip Advisor.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

If you’ve never been to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, then I suggest you change this as soon as possible! Full of rides that will suit the whole family, along with some great restaurants and incredible live shows, coming here is a sure-fire start to a fantastic day out. If you or your partner were never that crazy about rollercoasters, just keep looking forward to the homely bars that are scattered along the beach. Of course, if you go to this popular tourist spot for a whole day out, the price can quickly begin to stack up. You can mitigate the cost somewhat by buying your park tickets in advance. If Blackpool’s a bit of a drive, then you can buy a “rainy day” ticket. This gives you free re-entry the next day if it rains for three consecutive hours.

Free London Museums

Image from Wikimedia

If there’s one place which is great for budget days out, then it’s London. The National Gallery, British Museum and British Library are all in the city. Although I find these three fascinating, your kids might find the whole thing a bit dry to put it lightly! To get around this problem, go to the Natural History Museum and Science Museum. Built right next to each other, the curators of these museums have certainly had a good go at making education more interesting. The Natural History Museum is full of life-size dinosaur fossils and models, and displays about our early ancestors which really get you thinking. The Science Museum has all kinds of tech and interactive displays, ensuring your kids don’t go into full-blown screen withdrawals! Entry is completely free, though a small donation is kind of a given.

Another great idea is camping, even if it’s in your back garden! Kids will love the novelty of sleeping in a tent and it’s dirt cheap once you’ve invested in some camping gear.

Any one of these solutions will make a great day out for less. Keeping your days off both fun and affordable may feel tough, but it’s certainly not impossible!

 

Fun Activities for the Rest of Summer

deckchairs-355596_1280Summer is nearly over, and if you are just back from your dream summer holidays, the thoughts of the things to do at home has surely crossed your mind. You can keep yourself and the kids busy in the last few weeks of summer before you get back to your work routine and the kids head to school by planning various exciting and fun summer activities that you could be doing without having to leave your house.

It would be a shame if you let the pleasant summer nights slip away without taking advantage of it.  Summer is the ideal time to plan an adventure that the kids will remember well into the start of the next school year, and it requires travelling no further than your very own back garden. You can help your children to unravel the cosmos by planning a sleepover party for them in your backyard with their sleeping bags and telescope. You could explain the Roman mythology behind the planets’ names, and also focus on locating constellations or planets.

Why not invite some friends over for a gaming evening? You can have two tables; one for the kids and the other for adults. The kids can have fun by playing games such as table top soccer or air hockey, pool, table tennis, board games, etc. On the other hand you can have a great time with your friends by playing poker, and you could make it even more interesting by getting everyone to dress up to a particular theme. If you wish to have some bingo action anytime you want, you may just go to Bingo Extra, the mobile bingo site where you can play 90 Ball, 75 Ball, and even 5 Line Bingo using your computer, tablet or mobile. At Bingo Extra, you may enjoy free bingo thanks to the free £10 Free + 50 Free Spins that you get by registering on the site without any deposit. Other games to keep you entertained at Bingo Extra include numerous slots, poker, roulette, blackjack, and scratchcards.

Another brilliant activity that you could organise is a summer BBQ party with great people, good food, and plenty of sunshine. You may gather your friends and family for some sipping, grilling and celebrating. You may provide the grilled meats and cold drinks, while your guests may bring side dishes and drinks that can be shared. You may get the speakers outs and put on some summer music to get your party guests in a great mood all afternoon and evening long. You may also set games like croquet, corn hole, bocce ball, horseshoes, or badminton in the backyard, and these games may bring out the kids in everyone.

If you want to have some quiet family time, you may organise a puzzle race where each of you can try to solve 100 or more puzzle pieces and see who finishes first. Other great activities that you could do along with the kids this summer are cooking, gardening, or just taking big naps to make the most out of your free time for the rest of summer.

Keep The Kids Happy on Long Journeys

This time of year means lots of day trips for us, as a family. That also means that we have to find lots of ways to keep Sausage and Burrito Baby entertained while we’re travelling. BB isn’t so difficult to cater for – she tends to go to sleep within 10 minutes of setting off and on the rare occasion that she does stay away, she can usually be kept happy with a cardboard book or something with flashing lights!

Sausage, now that she’s almost 7, is a little harder to keep stimulated. Reading for long periods of time whilst in a car or on a train tends to give her a headache and although we love a good bit of tech, taking iPads or portable media players with us can be a pain once we reach our destination if we don’t want to carry them around all day.

That’s why, when we saw the new kids’ travel games created by TransPennine Express, we were excited to print them out and give them a whirl. Last weekend, we went to Colchester Zoo and printed them off before we went. The journey isn’t too bad, roughly an hour from where we are, and the pre-printed sheets went down a storm!

Sausage’s favourite was the Train Window Bingo, where kids gaze out of the window and tick off anything they see as they pass. In fact, the whole family ended up getting involved! Sausage also loved Brainy Dots and Boxes, which is one that none of us had ever played before, and having the pre-printed sheets with everything on made it so much easier – all we needed was a pencil and luckily I always have one of those in my bag.

To get your very own copies of all of the games, in handy .PDF form to print off at home, simply follow the link above and download them to any computer which is hooked up to a printer. They’ll save you hours of “ARE WE THERE YET?!” and will hopefully mean that the whole family is still talking to each other once you reach your day-trip destination!