Travelling with Young Ones - The Do's and Don'ts of travelling with kids


We love travelling as a family, but with three kids on the road, there are bound to be some travel breakdowns. We had to learn some things the hard way, so I’ve compiled a quick overview on the Do’s and Don’ts of taking your little ones on a trip.

Travelling with Young Ones - The Do's and Don'ts of travelling with kids


DO

Book ahead
I am always looking for good deals and, since I am a bit of a planning bee, we tend to book ahead. You can save a substantial amount on accommodation and travel costs if you keep an eye out for early bird offers and discounts. This is especially important for larger families, as costs can quickly add up. Also, booking ahead of time ensures you can find the best accommodation for a large family – you will be able to pick what you really want rather than frantically having to book just anything because it’s the only place that’s large enough and available.

Obsess over planning
Obsess, don’t stress. It’s important to have the whole trip sorted before you set off, because you will be dealing with hunger, thirst, boredom and the cry for a loo before even spending five minutes on the road. There are some simple things you can do, like keeping a list of available rest places on the road. Or, if you are flying, instead of driving around the airport car parks in search of a space with three grumpy children at the back, you could book a Meet and Greet service that will park your car for you. Over at Looking4Parking.com, you can search for different parking options at all the major airports around the world (they also offer cheap parking deals if you just want to save as much as possible).

Provide entertainment
We all know the dreaded five words: “Are we nearly there yet?“ (usually uttered right after departure). So always pack in some entertainment for your little ones. A tablet seems to be a popular choice these days; we use it mainly for films and educational games. Think about “off-screen” options, too, if you want to limit screen time. You know what your kids like best, but for us sticker and colouring books, and various games work very well.

Always have an emergency food plan
Yes, you just had breakfast, but soon one of the kids will pipe up “Mum, I’m hungry”. For this type of emergency, you need a back-up plan, preferably one that includes healthy snacks in your rucksack. Something like a cereal bar, fresh fruit or some nuts usually manage to hold food-related grumpiness at bay. When on the road, make sure your rucksack is not buried underneath all the other luggage and when at your destination, don’t forget to re-fill it daily. 

Consider going with the grandparents
Going on holiday with your parents or the in-laws (or both) can save everyone a lot of hassle. Especially large families often face the problem of parents being outnumbered by their little rascals. If you get two more pairs of eyes on board, looking after the kids will be much easier. Grandparents love to spend time with their grandchildren, so you and your partner will probably manage to have some time off parenting now and again, which is an added bonus.

DON’T

Travelling with Young Ones - The Do's and Don'ts of travelling with kids


Put it off
Don’t put off travelling with young children until they are older. It’s best if they get used to being outside the house and their routine as soon as possible. There are new challenges when travelling with babies and toddlers, but the sooner babies get used to travelling, the easier it will be for everyone in future trips.

Rush
You might have a lengthy list of things you want the kids to see, but don’t rush them or they (and you) won’t be able to appreciate your holiday. Take your time to really enjoy your time together and each of your stops. Don’t rush to each destination without breaks, as you can make the trip itself memorable by planning in some interesting stops for both children and adults alike. 

Start potty training long before your trip
A while back we got it wrong. It wasn’t pretty. Of course, with toddlers you can’t always be 100% sure it’s safe to get on the road again, but anything you can do to avoid the mess, do it. Starting potty training a few weeks before your next trip and packing a few more nappies could save you from having to stop every five minutes.

Think it all will go to plan

As seasoned travellers, we’ve had our fair share of mishaps (if I’m honest, I think they’ll always be happening). Even after all the planning, the various experiences and the extra caution, there will always be an element of surprise when travelling with children. So, as a final piece of advice, let me tell you – DON’T stress over it!

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Travelling with Young Ones - The Do's and Don'ts of travelling with kids

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Enjoy some 'me time' when the kids are at school with Rockcliffe Hall's Sneaky Midweeker Spa Experience

*This is a collaborative post

Like most parents I know, organising childcare can be an absolute nightmare at times. I generally don't have anyone who can pick the children up from school for me which can make things like organising spa days practically impossible. When Rockliffe Hall invited me along for a little bit of pampering, I was initially worried that I'd have to decline as most spa days I have enjoyed in the past run in half day sessions (morning or afternoon), twilight sessions or full days - this would have been a logistical nightmare for me. Then I spotted their Sneaky Midweek Spa Experience which has been designed to give busy parents like myself some much needed me time without disrupting their schedule. Perfect! 

Enjoy some 'me time' when the kids are at school with Rockcliffe Hall's Sneaky Midweeker Spa Experience Review


Why is Rockliffe Hall's Sneaky Midweeker Spa Experience perfect for busy parents? 


  • The spa experience fits around school hours - from 10am-2pm
  • You will enjoy a delicious brunch on arrival so no need to worry about breakfast
  • Enjoy complimentary use of robes and slippers for a 'true' spa experience
  • Full use of Rockcliffe Hall's spa and wellness facilities
  • Complimentary water, fruit and green tea throughout the day
  • A wide selection of complimentary magazines
  • Very affordable from £60 per person

Rockliffe Hall is around an hour's drive from our home in Northumberland. We set off immediately after dropping the kids at school and arrived in perfect time for our 10am brunch. It was our first visit to 5* Rockliffe Hall and first impressions were very good. The hotel has it's own dedicated spa entrance and we were welcomed by professional and polite staff who escorted us upstairs to the spa brasserie for brunch. The sun was shining and we decided to sit on the balcony which offered glorious views of Rockliffe Hall's grounds. 

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review - exterior

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review - brasserie balcony

I expected breakfast to be a continental buffet-style where we could help ourselves which I have experienced in other spas but Rockliffe Hall's was so much more than this. We really did receive 5* service. Our choice of hot drinks were ordered on arrival and we spent time completing our spa questionnaire and reading our brunch menu over endless coffee in the sun. All very civilised! 

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review - coffee in spa brasserie

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review - brasserie brunch menu

As part of our spa package, we were able to order a 2 course brunch with tea, coffee and juice. Our pastries arrived first and they were beautiful - still warm and obviously fresh from the oven. 

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review - pastries

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review

This was followed by Steve's favourite Egg's Benedict and a bacon sandwich for me. Again, both spot on and yes, there was a runny yolk. Rockliffe Hall uses local and high quality ingredients and it definitely shows. Brunch lasted around 45 minutes and it was the perfect leisurely start to our day. At around 11am we were escorted down to the spa where our pampering continued. 

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review - eggs benedict in brasserie

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review - bacon sandwich in brasserie

The Spa at Rockliffe Hall


I'll begin with the changing rooms - the women's changing rooms were spacious with lots of private cubicles, plenty of lockers (you just need a code so don't worry about needing change), hot showers, hairdryers, hair and beauty products, swim bags.....everything you can think of is provided. The lockers were the best I have seen with longer areas to hang your coat and dedicated shelves. 

As part of our package we were provided with snuggly robes (with pockets) and spa slippers. You can help yourself to towels. I showered and changed and headed to the main pool where I met Steve. 

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review - indoor pool

There are two pools in the main spa area (and another infinity pool in the spa garden). The main pool is perfect for those who enjoy a swim which is what Steve opted to do first of all. Me, I like a more leisurely paced life so grabbed one of the spa's loungers and started browsing the fashion pages of Cosmo from the selection of complimentary magazines on offer. Bliss! We visited mid-week and there were plenty of loungers around for us to use. The spa didn't feel overly busy at all. 

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review - outdoor hot tub

It was a beautiful day on the day of our visit and I was keen to make the most of the sun - something I don't often get the chance to do during a normal work week. There is a lovely outdoor area included as part of the outdoor spa with loungers, garden beanbags, sofas and that all important outdoor hot tub. It's a gorgeous place to relax and unwind and the garden beanbags were super comfy that I almost drifted off! Steve poured us some complimentary iced tea and we relaxed in the garden area before jumping in the hot tub for 10 minutes. The school run and our day to day life honestly felt a million miles away and we really did feel as if we were enjoying a real treat.

It started to get a little too hot outdoors and we hadn't packed any suncream - oops! So we decided to head back indoors and into the wet spa which is home to a hydro pool and various spa experiences.

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review - hydro pool

We both loved the Hydro Pool which is a warm indoor pool with various massage stations. The jets are super powerful and the next day I actually felt as if my back had enjoyed a professional massage. The Tepidarium was without a doubt my favourite experience room. You get the chance to lie on heated tile beds (they are way more comfortable than they sound) in a darkened & heated room with changing twinkling lights above you and soothing spa music. It was SO relaxing and if I ever win the lottery, I'll be installing a room just like this in my house. 

Steve and I then had fun using the Foot Spas which use a mix of hot and cold water before being brave and alternating 5 minutes in the Igloo with 10 minutes in the Sauna. If you really want to stimulate your senses, I 100% recommend giving this a try. I would normally shy away from doing something like this but Steve convinced me it would be good for my health. So into the igloo we stepped - it was FREEZING cold and we scrubbed our bodies with the ice from the fountain in the middle of the room before heading next door into the sauna for 10 minutes and repeating 3 times. Hot and cold therapy is supposed to provide increased energy and circulation, detox the body and clear negative energy. I'm not sure I experienced any of this but we did have lots of fun.

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review - hydro pool

After shocking my senses in the igloo I was ready for some calm and relaxed in the Caldarium which is a super hot steam room before retreating back into the Roman Sauna for a final 10 minutes (minus the ice this time). 

The spa is packed with facilities and everything you might need. There are plenty of hooks to hang robes, there's a bar where you can order drinks and snacks and lots of hot and cold showers and loungers dotted about if you just need to chill. A friendly spa attendant is always on hand too and if there's anything you need, just ask. Nothing is a problem for the staff here. 

We ended our experience with another iced tea in the outdoor spa area. 2pm came around all too quickly and I really had to drag myself away. 4 hours is the perfect amount of time if you are busy and it was enough time for us to feel relaxed, however I do think we would have benefitted a lot more if we didn't have to rush back for the school run. We really weren't ready to leave. Steve and I have been looking at Rockliffe Hall's various overnight spa packages and have already decided we'll be booking one to celebrate Steve's birthday in July. I can't wait! 

Rockliffe Hall midweek spa break review - spa garden

With the Sneaky Midweeker Spa Experience, you do have the option to add on various treatments or a 2 hour Spa Garden Experience (pictured above). We did toy with the idea of doing this but in the end I'm pleased we didn't. To squeeze anything more into a 4 hour break would have made us feel a little rushed I think which defeats the object. I'd recommend saving the spa garden and treatments for when you have a little more time on your hands. 

To sum up, Rockliffe Hall is the best spa I have ever visited. There are lots of facilities to help you unwind, you truly feel like you are enjoying a 5* luxury experience and brunch in the brasserie was perfect too. Steve still thinks Aqua Sana is his no1 spa of choice due to their numerous experience rooms but for me, Rockliffe Hall is definitely the best. Their Sneaky Midweeker Spa Experience is just what I needed to relax and I can't believe I managed to fit a spa day around the school run! Miracles do actually happen. 

The Sneaky Spa Midweeker Spa Experience is available Tuesday - Thursday until 29th June. It's the perfect way to relax with your school mum friends, partner or mum this summer. You can find out more here. 


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Pirates of the Caribbean Playsets | We Review Jack Sparrow's Pirate Ship and Battle Figures by Spin Master

*Jack was kindly sent these items for review. Post includes affiliate links

Pirates of the Caribbean is one of our favourite movie franchises. We are super excited for the final instalment  'Dead Men Tell No Tales' and have already booked our cinema tickets as a half term treat later this week. Jack is particularly obsessed - I think it's partly down to the fact that he shares his name with the star Jack Sparrow. He spends a lot of his free time running around the house pretending his is the Kraken and when we visited Scotland last year, he wasn't interested in finding the Loch Ness monster, for him, it had to be the Kraken.

Pirates of the Caribbean Playsets | We Review Jack Sparrow's Pirate Ship and Battle Figures by Spin Master

So Jack was super excited when I told him he'd been asked to review some Pirates of the Caribbean playsets. He currently owns no pirate-themed toys at all and relies on his imagination. You can see by his face how happy he is. 

Pirates of the Caribbean Playsets | We Review Jack Sparrow's Pirate Ship and Battle Figures by Spin Master

We were set two Spin Master playsets which can be used separately or together. The first is a set of 5 Pirates of the Caribbean 3" figures from the movie Salazar's Revenge. Figures include Jack Sparrow, Henry, Carina, Captain Salazar and a ghost crewman. They're all equipped with their own pirate swords and can move into various positions. The figures can team up together or fight against each other. They feel very robust and like they will stand the test of time.

Pirates of the Caribbean Playsets | We Review Jack Sparrow's Pirate Ship and Battle Figures by Spin Master

The second playset is Jack Sparrow's Pirate Ship. This set comprises of a pirate ship, ghostly shark figure, Jack Sparrow (and sword) plus a cannon and cannonballs.

Pirates of the Caribbean Playsets | We Review Jack Sparrow's Pirate Ship and Battle Figures by Spin Master


These playsets do not require batteries and are aimed at aged 4+ which I think is fair. I think children aged 4-8 years are the perfect age. Jack has had lots of fun recreating epic battles from his favourite movies. The cannon shoots real cannons and the boat is on wheels so when you push it along a hard floor it replicates real waves.




I love that the girl character also has her own sword - there are no gender stereotypes here!


Jack has already spent hours with his playset and it's been his favourite toy to play with this half term. He has even taken it in the bath with him!




I like that these playsets offer a lot of variety so there are endless options for play. There's a ghost crewmate who can haunt the ship, Captain Jack Sparrow who leads the way, a scary shark that could attack at any moment and so much more. As a parent, I like that the figures can be stored inside the ship and everything can be kept together.


If your son/daughter is aged 4-8 years old and is a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean, they won't be disappointed with these playsets. Jack gives them his seal of approval.

Shop Pirates of the Caribbean here






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The Doddington Dairy Milk Bar Wooler | Award Winning Ice Cream & Treats near the A697 in Northumberland


The Doddington Milk Bar is just the cutest place to stop off if you are travelling around North Northumberland (especially along the A696 - it is literally by the side of the road before you pass the bridge into Wooler). We paid them a visit during our recent stay at Riverside Park. The Milk Bar is right on your doorstep if you are staying here. 

The Doddington Dairy Milk Bar Wooler | Award Winning Ice Cream & treats near the A697 in Northumberland

The Milk Bar is small but perfectly formed. There is a car park next door and parking directly outside for bikes and motorbikes. The interior is reminiscent of a 1950's diner with booths and seats at a bar. There are picnic tables and smaller bistro tables outside too.

The Doddington Dairy Milk Bar Wooler | Award Winning Ice Cream & treats near the A697 in Northumberland

The Doddington Dairy Milk Bar Wooler | Award Winning Ice Cream & treats near the A697 in Northumberland

The main reason for our visit was to sample some famous Doddington Dairy Ice Cream but there were plenty of other snacks and drinks on offer too. The Milk Bar is open from 7am and serves breakfasts, light lunches, a variety of homemade cakes and scones, soups and smoothies alongside Pumphrey's coffee, various ice creams and milkshakes. There's also a small local cheese counter which took a lot for us to resist!

The Doddington Dairy Milk Bar Wooler | Award Winning Ice Cream & treats near the A697 in Northumberland

There were about 10 different ice cream varieties to choose from with a variety of cones, sizes and tubs on offer too. I spied the salted caramel which is my all-time favourite and this one was perfect. Steve ordered the dark chocolate and mint which he thoroughly enjoyed whereas Heidi went with plain chocolate. We really enjoyed them sitting out in the sunshine.

The Doddington Dairy Milk Bar Wooler | Award Winning Ice Cream & treats near the A697 in Northumberland

The boys fancied milkshakes which were freshly made using Doddington ice cream and served in takeaway cups with a lid (much appreciated) and lots of chocolate sauce and cream. They didn't last long at all.

The Doddington Dairy Milk Bar Wooler | Award Winning Ice Cream & treats near the A697 in Northumberland

Our total bill for 3 ice creams and 2 milkshakes was £11 which we found to be excellent value for money. The Milk Bar definitely lived up to my expectation and we'd 100% recommend you pop in if you're in the area or passing by.

The Doddington Dairy Milk Bar Wooler | Award Winning Ice Cream & treats near the A697 in Northumberland

Let me know if you've ever paid The Milk Bar a visit. Follow The Milk Bar on Facebook here. 
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20 experiences for children aged 7+ to enjoy at the Just So Festival 2017

*This is a collaborative post


We just LOVE the Just So Festival and it was definitely one of our highlights from 2016. Check out our video below to see what we got up to:


The Festival returns this summer between 18-20 August at Rode Hall in Cheshire. It's around a 3-4 hour drive from the North East so not too much of a trek like some of the other family festivals are. Tickets are on sale now.

Our children were aged 5, 7 and 9 last year and we all had a fantastic time. In fact, I think us grown ups enjoyed ourselves just as much, if not more than the kids. Here are the experiences we can't wait for this year:

To be honest, this is just the tip of the iceberg and there is a so much going on for younger children too. We loved the pillow fight last year and the kids are super excited to take part in an actual jelly fight this year too. 


As a family, we are quite highly strung and although we practise our own mindfulness exercises sometimes, this is never together so I am definitely looking forward to trying some calming family yoga, relaxation and tai chi.


We're heading to the National Space Centre for the day next month and I just know it's going to inspire H, H and J to reach for the stars. I'm hoping they'll be keen to learn about how to hack themselves into space - definitely a new skill to add to their CV!


Obviously, we are huge foodies in our house and the food experiences at Just So are top of our list - learning how to forage, a midnight feast and discussing food waste are all activities we are very much looking forward to. 

As you can see, the Just So festival definitely isn't just for smaller children. It's an inclusive family festival for all ages and if you attend, I promise it will be a highlight of your summer. 

Tickets are available from £20 (child) or £50 (adult) per day or £140 (adult) for the weekend including camping or £50 (child). Under 3's are FREE! There are various ticket options available here.

Credit - Andrew Alcock

Another good thing about taking older kids to family festivals is that you can stay up late and enjoy the music and have a couple of drinks without worrying about drugs/alcohol/unruly behaviour ect... that you might find at non-family festivals. The footlights where one of the highlights of our Just So experience last year - nothing beats dancing around in a field with your family to live music.

Let me know if you fancy the Just So Festival this year. 




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The FA WSL Spring Series | Why you should watch a Sunderland AFC Ladies football match with your family

*This is a collaborative post

After a once in a lifetime trip to watch the SSE Women's Cup Final at Wembley a few weeks ago, we were inspired to find out more about where we can watch women's football locally. We are working with the FA as part of their campaign to double girls' participation in football by 2020 with their For All initiative and were pleased to hear about The FA WSL Spring Series which is happening right on our doorstep in Sunderland.



The FA Women's Superleague (WSL) is the top tier of Women's Football in England, so kind of like the men's equivalent of the Premier League I guess. There are 19 teams split across two leagues and the players are all semi-professional or fully professional. This year, the teams are playing in a special Spring series in preparation for September when their league will run parallel to the men's game. If you're wondering why we went to watch Sunderland Ladies and not Newcastle, it is because Newcastle aren't playing at this top level (yet) so aren't part of The FA WSL Spring Series. The FA Women's Premier League consists of 72 teams playing across 6 different leagues. It's a fairly complicated system I think that has undergone a fair few changes recently so if you'd like to know more, this is the best article I have found that explains the format.


Back to Sunderland though. They play at the very top level of Women's Football in the FA WSL 1. They play their home games at Hetton Park near Houghton le Spring and tickets are a huge bargain at just £10 for a family of 4. There are lots of savings to be made if you plan on supporting the team regularly including FREE entry to some games (see here for details). At time of writing, Sunderland AFC Ladies are 7th in the league (of 9) with a goal difference of -10. There are two home fixtures left in The FA WSL Spring Series:

  • 31/05/2017 (7pm) - Sunderland AFC Ladies vs Manchester City Women
  • 03/06/2017 (3:30pm) - Sunderland AFC Ladies vs Reading FC Women

Tickets are available from just £2 via the Sunderland AFC Ladies website and I would personally recommend watching the match against Manchester City Women on 31/5 if you can as they are the FA Cup Champions so it's a chance to watch women play who are at the very top of their game. 

How family-friendly is a Sunderland AFC Ladies football match? 


Watching the women's game is very different from the men's game. For starters, the crowd is a lot less. There were 775 people in attendance on the day of our visit where Sunderland AFC Ladies played Chelsea Ladies. If you're not a fan of crowded stadiums, Hetton Park where Sunderland AFC Ladies play their home games is very chilled out. There is unreserved seating in the stands and families had brought blankets and their own mini footballs to play on the grass around the pitch. It feels very open and laid back. 


On entering you can buy programmes, banners and noise makers at low cost and there is a range of FREE activities including football face-painting and banner making with the Creation Station. We arrived a little too late to take part but would definitely advise arriving early to make the most of these additional activities. The banners are judged at half-time and everyone who takes part receives a prize (on the day of our visit everyone received a Sunderland AFC Ladies cup). There'a a raffle to win a signed football shirt, music at half time and pre-game too. Lots going on! If you are really keen you can also sign your children up to FREE SAFC skills session which take place before kick-off. Children aged 5-16 can learn new tricks and skills on the pitch with professional coaches. You can sign up to these FREE sessions via the Sunderland AFC Ladies website here.

We settled watching the team warm-up and opened our snacks. There were young mascots on the pitch and the teams all greeted each other warmly before the match. 



There were children and families of all ages in the crowd and a big mix of boys and girls too. Most of the children were obviously huge football fans and had their faces painted and were wearing football strips.

The main difference between watching this match and the final at Wembley was that we were able to get very close to the action here and see the skills on display right in front of our eyes. We were super impressed. Again, the atmosphere was very good and there was a little bit of gentle banter between the children supporting Chelsea and those supporting Sunderland as each tried to cheer the loudest. 

At half time, there is a cafe where you can buy hotdogs, chips ect.... which pleased the kids. The prices were cheap too and I had change for a fiver! 


Unfortunately, Sunderland lost 7-0 on this occasion. This didn't really matter though as we all still thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon. I think it's important for children to realise that we can't always win either and Sunderland AFC Ladies all showed strength and determination until the end. We still cheered when Chelsea Ladies scored too - it's all part of the spirit and the whole experience was still and uplifting and inspiring one.







An afternoon watching professional football will set you back £10 for a family - this includes entry, banner making with the creation station and FREE football skills session. Spend just £10 more and this can include hot food, noise makers and raffle tickets to win a signed shirt. I don't think you'll find many places that are as inspiring to the younger generation and provide such fantastic value for money.

Need to know.......



The next stage in our football journey is going to be Heidi signing up to a local SSE Wildcats Girls' Coaching Session herself. She took part in some professional football coaching with school last year and thoroughly enjoyed herself so I am hoping she gets a lot from this experience too. I'll share our Wildcats experience with you all soon.


NB I am working with the FA and Britmums on a paid basis to write these posts. All thoughts, photographs and football enthusiasm are my own. 
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