5 bargain UK family break ideas for February Half Term

February half term is always a tricky one - most of us are still recovering from Christmas, it's still freezing cold but there are glimmers of Spring teasing us and the summer still feels like a looooong way off. With that in mind, I've scoured the internet for 5 fun mini breaks that won't cost a fortune. 

Stay at Alton Towers

We are seriously tempted by the Alton Towers February half term deal. Although theme park tickets aren't included (as the theme park will be closed), I have priced a stay in the Alton Towers hotel including evening entertainment for the kids, entry to the Splash Landings Waterpark and entry to Sharkbait by Sealife plus breakfast for 5 people at just £165 which works out at £33 per person. That's a lot of fun for your money and it's all indoors too so perfect if the weather isn't the best.

Escape to Northumberland

Cottages in Northumberland are offering some bargain breaks this half term. Breakwater Cottage in Seahouses has caught my eye - £310 for up to 6 people for 4 nights in half term is a steal. A stone built cottage featuring easy access to the traditional seaside town. February half term is the perfect time to explore the region with the beaches remaining deserted and lots of cosy pubs to snuggle up by the fire. 

Image Credit - Cottages in Northumberland

Play and Stay at Warwick Castle

We have found a deal for 2 adults and 2 children to stay at the Holiday Inn Express Redditch including breakfast plus a 2 day ticket to Warwick Castle for £103 via Play an Stay. This works out at under £26 per person. This is a mega deal! There's always lots going on at Warwick Castle from birds of prey to Medieval tours. 

Diversity, Dick and Dom and Horrible Histories at Butlin's

We are huge fans of Butlin's and love how there is so much entertainment included in the price of your break that you don't really need to take much spending money. I've found a break at Butlin's Skegness for £360 for 4 nights in Half Term. This includes Diversity, Dick and Dom (hilarious), Horrible Histories plus many more character shows. There's lots to do when it rains too. £360 works out at £22.50 per person per night. 

Stay in a train carriage

There are lots of cool ideas and unique places to stay on the Canopy & Stars website. I love this quirky train carriage in Dorset which is available from just £90 per night for up to 2 adults and 2 children. What an adventure that would be!

Image Credit - Canopy & Stars

Will you be booking anywhere this half term?


Our Family Travel Bucket List for 2016

After reading a post by my lovely friend Mandy, I have been inspired to write a list of 10 places I would like to visit this year. I am maybe cheating a little as some of the places have already been booked but it's still nice to see them all in a list! Here are 10 places I would love to experience this year

1 - Calella de Palafrugal : Booked for June 2016

It is well documented now that this is where we are travelling for our main summer holiday this year. I am so excited - it's a traditional Spanish resort with little coves, seafood restaurants on the harbour, tapas bars in the village and a lovely swimming pool for the kids - Cannot Wait.

2 - Walk to Sycamore Gap : Planned for Spring 2016

My husband has said this is the only thing he wants to do this year - I don't really want to take the kids at first as I've read a few reviews to say that parts of the climb are a little treacherous so I think I'd like to see what it's like for myself before taking them. We'll probably go on a school day in Spring and take a nice little picnic for two. It might even be romantic if I don't die on the journey! HAHA!

3 - Snowdonia : Booked for April 2016

I've been to Wales a couple of times but we've always stayed in Cardiff. We are booked to stay at Barmouth Bay with Away Resorts this Easter and I'm really looking forward to it. Plans include taking the mountain train up Mount Snowdon, an Easter Egg hunt around a Welsh Castle and King Arthur's Labyrinth as well as some nice R&R in the beautiful Welsh countryside.

4 - Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester : Planned for Summer holidays

After reading lots of fantastic reviews for the Legoland Discovery Centre, I know our three would love it. We are saving Legoland in Windsor for when we buy our Merlin Annual Pass. You can book online for Legoland Manchester for less than £10 each which makes it a reasonable day out. Hopefully we will get there in the summer holidays.

5 - Loch Ness : Planned for October half term

This is something I've wanted to do for ages and 2016 will be the year! Really looking forward to taking a boat trip and hunting for Nessie with the kids. Cheesy by exciting!

6 - The Lake District : Planned for May half term

We definitely fell in love with the lakes last year and I would love to stay for a a little longer this May half term. Depending on funds we may have to postpone this to the summer holidays too.

7 - Edinburgh at Christmas : Planned for December

I used to visit Edinburgh in December a lot before kids but we haven't returned since Harry was born. Edinburgh really is gorgeous at Christmas time and this is where I'd like to spend my birthday this year I think.

8 - Visit Fountains Abbey : Planned for a Summer Weekend

I've lost count of the number of people who have recommended Fountains Abbey near Ripon to me yet we've still never been! It looks like a lovely place for a picnic and it will be free too as we National Trust members.

9 - Take the kids to their first festival : Planned for a Summer Weekend

I am still undecided which festival to take the kids to - it's between Corbridge Festival and Deer Shed Festival - watch this space!

10 - Hire a VW Campervan : Booked for February 2016

This has been a life long dream of mine and in I am so happy it is finally coming true! We are only hiring Olive for a weekend and will probably end up somewhere in Yorkshire - look out for our review at the beginning of March.

I'd love to hear what's on your travel bucket list this year. 

You Baby Me Mummy

Walking for Happiness

It probably hasn't passed you by that January 18th was 'Blue Monday' which is said to be the most depressing day of the year. In fact the whole of January can be pretty glum. Summer seems like so long away and I am sick of looking out at grey skies.

I'm determined not to let the weather get the better of me though and really want to get out and about and enjoy the fresh air. If you take the time to open your eyes there are little things on your walk that will notice that will make you smile and instantly lift your mood.

Walking for happiness - how walking can improve your mood and wellbeing

The Benefits of Regular Walking

Walking has been proven to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type II diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers. The NHS recommend walking 10,000 steps per day for maximum benefit which can burn between 400-600 calories per day.

Enjoying a weekend walk in the forest

Walking can help chase those January blues away and benefits your mood by:-
  • Promoting the release of endorphins (happy hormones)
  • Releases Adrenaline (which naturally lifts our mood)
  • Helping you to get a better night's sleep

How to get started

You don't need any specialist equipment to get started, however I would recommend a pedometer to help you keep on track, a small backpack (this one is only £5) packed with a bottle of water/snack and a decent pair of trainers that are supportive and don't cause blisters. 

You can walk anywhere - I enjoy a 3 mile round trip with the kids when I walk them to school in the morning and enjoy walking with the family at the weekend too.  Sometimes it's nice to take myself out for 30 minutes for a bit of me time in the middle of the day too. After just 15 minutes in the great outdoors I already start to feel more alive. 

Taking it further

If you wish to take walking further, a lovely thing to do is to join a local walking group. There are groups for all levels and the groups are a fantastic way to discover your local area and meet new people. 

Walking can be challenging too and when you complete a particular route is fantastic for your self esteem. This spring, myself and Steve are going to attempt the walk along Hadrian's Wall to Sycamore Gap. I've read that it's slightly challenging at times but I think that the amazing view will definitely be worth it and one of those moments that will stay with me forever. 

Image Credit - Michael at Vindolanda

What do you think? Next time you're feeling a little glum and look outside, pull on your trainers and take a 15-30 minute walk. Open your eyes, look around and I guarantee you will return feeling refreshed and happy :-)


The Stick Man Trail at Hamsterley Forest in Durham

We are proud to be working with The Forestry Commission for the second year running as one of their ambassadors. Nothing beats getting out and about in the fresh air with the kids, whatever the weather and we love, love, love their new Stick Man Trail and can't wait to share our experience with you. There are over 20 Stick Man trails across the country with Hamsterley Forest in Durham and Kielder Forest in Northumberland being the two that are the easiest to access in the North East. The trails are FREE although we would recommend picking up an activity pack from the visitor centre for only £3 which includes lots of additional Stick Man fun. 

Stick Man Trail Activity Pack

The Cross Keys Pub in Hamsterley for lunch 

The Cross Keys Pub, Hamsterley - exterior

A quick search on google told me that The Cross Keys Pub in Hamsterley was only 2 miles away from Hamsterley Forest so we decided to pop in for lunch. The pub was traditional in style with friendly staff and a dog lying by the roaring fire. 

The Cross Keys Pub, Hamsterley - interior

We dined from the 'light bites' lunch menu and ordered a hot beef sandwich with chips and gravy whilst the kids dined from the children's menu which was a bargain at £3.95 including a drink. Our bill was less than £25 including drinks (Steve even ordered a pint) for the 5 of us. Considering the beef had been carved from a proper joint and the chips for us all were homemade, this lunch has to be the bargain of the century! They also offer a delicious looking afternoon tea for just £5.95. 

The Cross Keys Pub, Hamsterley - hot beef sandwich and homemade chips for lunch

The Cross Keys Pub, Hamsterley - children's meal
Children's Meal at The Cross Keys

The evening menu is a little more expensive than the lunchtime menu so if you'd like to grab a bargain make sure you pop in before 5pm. 

The Stick Man Trail at Hamsterley Forest

Snow at Hamsterley Forest in Durham

After our delicious lunch we made our way to Hamsterley Forest which is a couple of miles from The Cross Keys. There is ample parking priced at £1.50 per hour, £4 per day or FREE for discovery pass holders. Despite the snow, the forest was filled with excited toddlers, children and dog walkers plus enthusiastic cyclists preparing for one of the forest's cycle trails.

Activities on the Stick Man Trail at Hamsterley Forest

As soon as you enter the forest there are lots of natural adventure activities that are a challenge for all ages and abilities. We loved balancing, climbing and swinging through the forest. Even dad had a turn!

Activities on the Stick Man Trail at Hamsterley Forest

Activities on the Stick Man Trail at Hamsterley Forest

The Stick Man Trail is well signposted and features activities throughout the forest to get everyone involved. We enjoyed various stick games, acting like animals and playing Pooh sticks on the bridge amongst others. The kids thoroughly enjoyed this and as soon as they noticed a board would break into a run towards it and read us the details of our next challenge. 

Stick Man Trail at Hamsterley Forest in Durham

Stick Man Trail at Hamsterley Forest in Durham

We were DELIGHTED when we spotted both the Gruffalo's child and the Gruffalo in the forest. I think my children were actually more excited about spotting them than they were on Christmas Day! We even witnessed a few children crying as their parents told them it was time to move on from the Gruffalo. Bless! 

Gruffalo's Child wooden sculpture at Stick Man Trail in Hamsterley Forest, Durham

Gruffalo wooden sculpture at Stick Man Trail in Hamsterley Forest, Durham

Pooh sticks at Hamsterley Forest

Adventure Playground at Hamsterley Forest

Adventure play area at Hamsterley Forest Durha

After the first couple of activities you will stumble upon a fantastic natural adventure playground with places to climb, poles to slide down, swings to try and even a few musical instruments. Our three love it here and we stopped for our first picnic of the year (and in the snow) at one of the nearby tables. 

Our Children's Trespass Jackets

Heidi is wearing her new 3 in 1 waterproof jacket  and the boys are wearing matching Sulivan Boys' 3 in 1 waterproof jackets which are both available from Trespass.com (currently in the sale too). Their jackets are layered with a warm cosy fleece which features technology that actually stops heat from leaving the body and can be worn separately. They are topped with a water and windproof jacket with zipped pockets and tapered seams to stop any water (or snow in our case) from entering through their cuffs. 

Girls Trespass 3 in 1 waterproof jacket

The trail was pretty chilly and our three didn't complain once about the cold (which is a first) and I like how these coats can be zipped right up over the chin for extra warmth or opened a little should they need to cool off. They also feature a detachable hood. Heidi wouldn't normally wear this style of coat but I haven't been able to tear her away from it and she has been wearing it every day for school. She loves it and I'm very impressed with the quality so I will definitely be looking at investing in Trespass coats for the kids again next year.

We made a little 90 second clip in the forest reviewing what we thought of our day, check it out below:-

All you need to know about the Stick Man Trail at Hamsterley Forest

Hamsterley Forest Postcode:- DL13 3NL

Hamsterley Forest Opening Times:- 8am-5pm October-March and 8am-8pm April-September

Information Point:- Open 9am-4pm/5pm daily. Here you can collect maps and leaflets

Hamsterley Forest Cafe:- Open weekends 11am-5pm until Easter and then daily until the end of October

Toilets - Located in Car Park

Parking cost:- £1.50 per hour, £4 all day per car

Cost of Stick Man Trail:- FREE but you can buy an activity pack from the information point for an extra £3

Other Forest Activities:- You can free run, cycle or ride your horse through the dedicated trails in the forest's 2000 hectares. Cycle hire is available from Woods n Wheels (open Friday, Saturday and Sunday plus school holidays 10am - 5pm)

Cross Keys Pub:- Postcode DL13 3PX Food served daily from 12noon. Walkers, children and dogs welcome.  www.crosskeyshamsterley.co.uk

Pin Me For Later
The Stick Man and Gruffalo Trail at Hamsterley Forest in Durham

Please let me know if you visit a Stick Man Trail and what you think :D


When Should You Book to Get the Best Price on Your Family Holiday?

If  like me you have children or work in a school, you’ll be well accustomed to the issue of booking trips outside of term time. You know it’s going to cost you extra, but what can you do to secure a good deal? Well, it depends on where you’d like to go, and what you’d like from your holiday. Whether you’re looking for a Portugal Property or Hawaiian hotel, I’ve a few tricks up my sleeve for you and yours…

Tip one: book later

If you’re looking for a package deal for your family, one of the best ways to do it is to book it as late as you possibly can! The reason is simple: tour operators buy up plane seats and hotel rooms a long way in advance. Then they need to sell them to you. If they don’t fill seats or book up the rooms, they lose money. Therefore, the later you leave it, the cheaper they’ll be prepared to offer your family plane tickets and hotel rooms.  

However, you’ll need to be flexible about your dates and destinations, so if you have specific requirements (such as a large numbers of passengers, or a hankering for a particular hotel) be careful. Your dream holiday may not be available on a last minute basis!

Best to book: 8 - 10 weeks before departure, or later if you’re more flexible. 

Tip Two: or book early

Very early. If you’re not comfortable with leaving it late, you can still bag a bargain for your family. The only caveat is that you’ll need to do it around nine months in advance (or even sooner) to win an early booking discount.  I've been known to stalk travel agents to find out when is the earliest I can book up and have booked up 16 months in advance before. I like doing this as it helps to spread the cost. 

The best thing about booking early is that you’ll have plenty of options to choose from, and can even take advantage of great early booking deals like 'buy-one-get-one-free' weeks (we used a buy one get one free option when we visited Sanguli a few years ago).

Just bear in mind that booking like this requires a bit of forward planning and an ability to commit up to a year in advance of your holiday. We recommend this option if you’re booking for large or extended families going on holiday together.

Best to book: 9-12 months before departure, or as soon as the flights become available.

Tip three: the last two weeks of the school holidays are cheapest

If there’s no way to avoid going away during the school holidays (or you don't want to risk taking your children out of school), I recommend saving your trip until the end of the kids’ time off. Prices tend to drop rapidly at the end of August into early September because most people like to go earlier (which will make sense if you’ve ever found yourself panic-buying school uniform in the first week of September). But, if you can get the kids organised and ready to return to school before you fly out, you could make the most of cheaper deals by spending the last week of the school holidays beside the pool. 

Best to book: last minute probably works best in this instance, but it’s worth negotiating with travel agents whatever the case.

When do you tend to book your holiday to get the best price? I'd love to hear your experiences (especially if you have bagged an amazing deal). 


5 hen party ideas in Newcastle


It is at this time of year that I start to get itchy feet and want to start planning breaks away for the year ahead. You may remember that I am trying to be good and not book anything just yet however some deals are just too good to resist!  I'm lucky this year that two of my good friends are getting married and I have been given the task of organising a hen weekend. There are actually some real bargains to be had at the moment and here are the top 5 breaks I am considering at the moment:-

A night at Slaley Hall

There are lots of fantastic deals to be had with SpaBreaks.com from only £25. My favourite deal is a spa break at Slaley Hall in Northumberland which includes dinner, bed and breakfast, a 30 minute treatment and spa access for only £89 per person. Bargain! Now that I am aged 30+ and a fan of the quiet life, a weekend in a spa with my friends is the dream!

Image credit - Life in Geordieland

Go Ape at Matfen Hall

If you are looking for something different and your hen is the outdoorsy type, you are likely to thoroughly enjoy Go Ape at Matfen. Their tree top adventure involves zip wires, swings, high ropes, tunnels and crossings in the spectacular Northumberland countryside. After your afternoon of fresh air you can chill out and relax in the hotel spa and enjoy afternoon tea which we hear is pretty special.

A night at Newcastle Malmaison

The Malmaison sits in the heart of Newcastle's quayside and is a perfect place to chill out or party. We spent a night at the hotel last year and were very impressed with the stylish surroundings, brasserie with a view and cocktails in the bar (avoid the painkiller cocktail if you don't like them strong!). Newcastle Gusto and the Pitcher and Piano are next door if you'd like to head out for the evening but don't want to walk far in your heels and for something really special you could cross the Millennium bridge and enjoy drinks in the Baltic bar with unrivalled views of the Tyne.

A city break to Amsterdam

The lovely folk at DFDS Seaways are offering 2 for 1 mini cruises to Amsterdam which works out at less than £45 per person for 2 nights. I'm not sure you'll find a 2 night city break for a better price anywhere. I know Amsterdam isn't technically Newcastle but the ship does leave from the port of the Tyne. There's lots to keep you entertained on board from live music and cinemas to cocktails on the top deck mermaid bar and it's not every night you can dance the night away with your friends whilst crossing the North sea. Once in Amsterdam you can take inspiration from This Could Lead To Anywhere's blog who has lots of ideas of where to visit in the city.

Book a budget hotel and hit the town 

Newcastle is home to over 100 hotels and search engines like Expedia can often find you a bargain deal you won't get elsewhere. There are many budget hotel chains to choose from in the city centre too, including Premier Inn who in fact have 11 hotels in and around Newcastle City Centre. If you save money on your hotel you can afford to splash the cash in some of Newcastle's best champagne bars and enjoy cocktails and live music at the likes of The Botanist.

So those are my suggestions for a hen party in Newcastle, I must admit, I am leaning towards a bargain 2 night cruise to Amsterdam! Where would you book?

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What it's really like taking your kids to a Newcastle Eagles basketball match

We were invited along to watch Newcastle Eagles basketball team play Surrey Scorchers last week and provide an honest review of our experience. Here's what we thought:-

Why haven't I been before? 

When I posted on our facebook page that we were going to be watching our first Newcastle Eagles match and what should I expect, the response was very positive. Comments included:-

'The atmosphere is fab, kids love it' - Angela

'My boys go regularly and really enjoy it, they're 7 and almost 5' - Julie

'Great night out, been a few times' - Claire

'You'll love it. Great atmosphere, fab for the whole family' - Joanne

With everyone singing their praises it did make me think why we'd never done this before. I think our main barriers were the fact that Jack was 4 (although he's just turned 5) and it was a late night in the centre of town and he his liable to play up when he's bored so I was a bit scared to take him. Plus the cost (it's £40 for a family ticket) was something I considered and wondered whether it would be good value for money. However after enjoying a fantastic Friday night with the family, I can say that these reservations were definitely unfounded.

Where do Newcastle Eagles play their home games? 

Newcastle Eagles play their home games at Northumbria University Sports Central. If you just pop their postcode into your sat nav or follow the signs for Northumbria University Sports Central (city centre campus) you won't go wrong. There was plentiful free parking in the campus car parks and it is just a short walk from Newcastle Haymarket bus station or Metro if you'd prefer to use public transport. Friday night home games tend to start at 7:30pm with doors opening at 6:30pm. Some games are a sell out so it is definitely recommended that you pre-book tickets here

Sports Central,
Northumbria University, 
Radnor St, 
Newcastle upon Tyne 

Newcastle Eagles - simply the best!

Now I don't know anything about basketball (well I didn't until last week) and I was delighted to see that Newcastle Eagles sit comfortably at the top of the BBL championship where they have been unbeaten in all 18 games so far! Wow! This is an achievement our city can definitely be proud of and it is lovely going along to a game to show your support. 

The players are fantastic role models for children in our region - they spend half of their week in the community visiting schools and providing workshops to encourage health and fitness. Chances are, they have probably visited your child's school at some point. Harry immediately spotted the player on court who had visited his school last year. There were lots of young fans in the crowd who you could see really looked up to the players - pointing when they were on court and cheering their name. It was lovely to see. All of the players stick around at the end of the game to sign autographs and pose for photographs too which is a very nice gesture. 

Thanks Angela from Monkey Mayhem Softplay hire for sharing this pic of her family with Fab Flourney after the game. 

What's the atmosphere like? 

There were lots of kids there and the game is super fast paced - with four quarters of 10 minutes each. There are mini intervals, time outs, a 15 minute interval at half time and lots of times where the timer is stopped (sorry this isn't technical - see here for the basic rules) meaning in total you are there for around 1.5 hours. 

The crowd are fantastic and there are obviously lots of regulars. You can drink alcohol but people weren't going OTT at all. There was no swearing too which was refreshing for a sports game! There is a guy with a drum who gets the crowd chanting, people blowing horns, a commentator who gets the crowd cheering and stamping their feet, visual graphics on the score board encouraging you to cheer, music, kids with foam fingers.......I could go on! It's honestly fantastic and just as good as people had said it was going to be. 

Whenever there is a slight pause in play, Metro Radio's Dan Black is on hand to oversee the entertainment and jumps onto the court with lots of mini games and shoot outs that the crowd could get involved with. There was one particular game that everyone went mad for where you could buy a rubber duck for £1 and 'chuck a duck' onto the court to win some prizes.

'Chuck a duck'

Of course there was a squad of cheerleaders to wow us with their many routines throughout the night too which we all enjoyed. Two local schools are invited a long to play their own match on court at half time and it was by coincidence that our children's school were playing on the night we were there. The crowd cheered both teams on and you could see that both schools were loving the limelight. In the end, our school won (yeah!!!) in a penalty shoot out and were presented with their very own trophy on court before the main game resumed. 

Back to the action though. The Sport's Hall seats 3000 people and you can get really close to the action. We were 4 rows back from the court and felt really close to the action. 

The game is very fast paced with the ball constantly going from one side of the court to the other and whenever the opponents had the ball the crowd but break into a chant of 'de-fence' *clap, clap, clap* 'de-fence' *clap, clap, clap* which the kids (and us grown ups) loved joining in with. What we especially found amusing was that every time the scorchers were awarded a penalty, the crowd were encouraged to try and distract them by shouting, making noise and waving their hands behind the net! HAHA all good fun!!

Our final verdict

Harry (aged 9) absolutely loved his night and was really getting into it. Fist pumping when the Eagles scored and tutting in disappointment when the Scorchers did. It was refreshing to see him take so much interest in something that wasn't Minecraft, Star Wars or Avengers for a change. Myself and Steve had a fantastic evening and I can see us going back for date night (and would recommend a match for couples looking to do something different in the city). I loved the atmosphere and watching the fantastic skills and energy of the players was inspiring. Heidi (6) and Jack (5) did enjoy it too and loved joining in with the chants and countdowns but they were getting a little restless towards the end and tired. It had been their first week back at school after Christmas so this was partly to blame. I would most definitely book tickets for us again though. Tickets are £40 for a family of 4 which is en-par with a Friday night trip to the cinema so for us, the cost is most definitely worth it. 

You can follow Newcastle Eagles on facebook here and find out more via their website below. Thanks for inviting us along, we will be back! 

I forgot to say! Newcastle won 99-66. Yeah!

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