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Category: Travel, Holidays & Days Out

  1. Ways to save money while on holiday

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    You may have found yourself a bargain of a holiday, but the money saving doesn’t need to end there.   Some savvy preparation before your trip abroad and clever advice when you’re there can prevent you from over-spending unnecessarily.  Read on to discover how to save money while on holiday.

    Save money with an all-inclusive holiday

    Choosing to book an all-inclusive holiday package with a reputable company such as Mark Warner can be a more cost-effective solution than choosing half-board or catering, particularly if you’ll spend a lot of time at the resort and drink a lot!  If you have kids then they’ll have access to unlimited ice-creams, snacks and drinks so you’ll not need to be pestered all day long or spend a small fortune at the bar.  When booking your holiday work out the average cost of buying food, drinks and snacks each day to see if the all-inclusive deal is worth it.  Many hotels will offer a packed lunch if you are going out for the day, so check if this is an option too so you don’t need to spend any money on food at all if you don’t need to.  We chose an all-inclusive family holiday in Spring 2018 and barely needed any spending money at all.  Don’t forget to book using a cashback website where possible to save even more.

     Ways to save money while on holiday

    Photo by Chris Lawton 

    Buy your own food

    If you’re on a self-catering holiday then visit the supermarket and buy your own food.  It’s always going to be a much cheaper option than paying for three meals out every day.  That’s not to say you can’t treat yourself to a nice meal out, you are on holiday after all, but if funds are limited then it’ll be much cheaper for you to take a packed lunch most days and then splurge on a restaurant every other day instead of daily.  Taking your own lunch out with you will also save you time as you don’t have to stop and find somewhere to eat and can carry on exploring.

    Find a competitive exchange rate

    Before leaving, make sure you shop around for a competitive exchange rate on your holiday money.  Using cash abroad can avoid bank exchange rates on debit and credit cards, as well as ATM fees withdrawing cash whilst you are abroad.  If you are taking cards with you then check the fees before you leave and try to choose a card that has no foreign transaction fees if possible, otherwise every time you pay for anything you are spending more than you need to by paying a fee just to pay!

    Ensure medical emergencies are covered with travel insurance

    If you are ill or have an accident that requires medical attention while on holiday, then it’s likely you will have to pay a medical bill upfront.  Make sure you have a quality travel insurance to cover any medical needs whilst you are away.  It’s easy to compare the best travel insurance deals online.  You could be seriously out of pocket when on your holiday if you aren’t adequately covered!  Even as a citizen of the EU you may need cover when visiting other EU countries.  My Grandad recently experienced this as he injured himself on holiday and the only hospital that was near to him was a private hospital where he couldn’t access free medical treatment.  Instead, he had to pay the medical bill upfront and then claim it back from his insurance on his return.  Ensuring you have the right insurance will save you having to spend your own money on any medical assistance whilst abroad.

    Pay in the local currency

    When paying abroad by card, you are sometimes given the option of paying in your home currency.  Whilst this may at first seem like the logical thing to do…  don’t!  The business or their bank can set their own currency conversion and it’s likely to be much poorer than your own bank’s rates, so always choose to pay in the local currency. 

    Use public transport instead of taxis

    Navigating public transport abroad can be a little terrifying and so the convenience and ease of taxis becomes appealing.  But as we all know, it’s far more expensive to catch a taxi than a bus.  By working out the local public transport available to you instead of relying on taxis, you could save quite a substantial amount of your holiday money.  Your hotel will more than likely have a schedule and can explain to you the process.

    Be strict with your budget

    We’re probably all guilty of being frivolous with our cash on a whim when on holiday and in that more carefree mode, but it’s not so good for our bank balances and we probably spend on things we don’t really need!  To stop this from happening it’s a good idea to set a holiday budget before setting off and to break this down per day.  Be strict and stick to it if you really don’t want to overspend.

    Research free activities instead of paid excursions

    Paid excursions and tours can be pretty costly, especially when booked through holiday operators.  Instead, try to find cheaper and even free activities.  Many museums are free to enter and nearby towns and cities can be reached by bus.  Using an online guide you could organise your own tour of the city by foot instead of paying for an organised tour or taking a tour bus.

    Ask staff for their recommendations

    Ask local staff for their personal recommendations of what to do, where to eat and for free/cheap attractions in their city.  They will most likely know places that aren’t purely set up to make as much money from tourists as possible and you’ll discover hidden gems you’d otherwise not have found.  You’ll also likely get a more authentic feel of the place you’re visiting.

    Pre-book online to spread the cost or for discounts

    Many holiday excursions can be booked online before you jet off.  This enables you to spread the cost before you travel and not have to spend when you are there.  Also, look for discounts online.  Many companies offer cheaper tickets online and these can simply be shown on your phone whilst you are there.  You can even check online whilst you are on holiday if you find an attraction you want to visit.  Check their website to see if you can get cheaper entry and ask the hotel reception to print off the email if you need to print your tickets.

    There are lots of ways to save money when booking a holiday, but the saving can continue when we are abroad too.  Hopefully this blog post will inspire you to save money on your next holiday or even see that you can afford a holiday abroad without going crazy on the credit cards whilst there!

     

    What to read next

    Top tips for saving money on your 2018 summer holiday

    How to save money on family holidays and day trips

    Things to prepare in advance for your family summer holiday abroad

    ways to save money while on holiday

     

  2. EasySMX kids headphones review for travel and play

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    Whether you love or hate kids using iPads, there’s no denying that they are here to stay.  Sure, kids are using technology from a much younger age nowadays, but it’s a sign of the times and in some ways it’s important they are fluent in their use of these devices.  They are growing up in an age where technology is becoming more important than ever and we depend on it for so much.  Imagine just how much more technology will have evolved by the time our children are adults.  There’s no doubt in my mind that most kids nowadays will need to have skills in technology that is far more advanced than our understanding of it ever has been or will be, by the time they are adults.  I’m sure the future world of jobs will rely heavily on those with the necessary computer skills.

    EasySMX kids headphones review for travel and play boys

    The digital era is also infiltrating schools.  As soon as Bella started school she was assigned homework that required the use of a computer or iPad!  A website/app was to be used to practice maths and another for reading.  Luckily she was already used to using an iPad which helped her quickly get used to using a laptop too.  I heard recently that my old senior school, which I left 15 years ago, is now a technological school where the pupils use iPads in lessons!  No pens and paper, except for exams!  I must admit, even I found that crazy, but it is a sign of the times.  If we want our children to keep up to speed with how things are changing then they do need access to this technology and be competent in using it.

    I also think it’s just the games of today.  When I was younger we were on handheld electronic devices such as the Nintendo Game Boy!  I was never lucky enough to have one, but I remember having a handheld electronic Paperboy game.  I also often played on my SEGA Megadrive or Nintendo console.  My children don’t have these sorts of consoles, but they do have iPads.  We don’t let them have total free access to them just yet as they are only three years old and six years old.  But we do get them out every now and then so they can play their games.  They are also so useful to keep them entertained on long journeys or when they’d be bored and need to sit still – for example, when Reuben age three has to accompany me to Bella’s swimming lesson and sit nicely by the edge of the pool!  I’d be chasing him all over the place and hushing at him if it weren’t for the iPad!

    So yes, we use iPads and I think they are great.  I don’t agree for children to be on them ALL the time, but as part of a balanced lifestyle as with anything.  A good mix of indoor, outdoor and electronic play.  The best of all worlds.  Plus, they really are a lifesaver when travelling aren’t they?!

    Related - Try two of these kids craft subscription boxes for free

    Earlier this year we went on our first family package holiday abroad to Fuerteventura.  I’m not usually one for buying anything at the airport, but Ben fancied a look in the electronics shop and I spied some headphones for the kids.  I realised these would be amazing on the plane and we bought them a pair each.  They were the best thing we bought the kids for travelling as they were able to have the sound on their devices without disturbing other passengers and were totally entertained for the four hour flight.

    EasySMX comfortable kids headphones review

    EasySMX kids headphones review for travel and play

    I was recently contacted to see if we wanted to try the EasySMX comfortable kids headphones and I knew the kids would be ecstatic!  I didn’t tell them about them and just left them on the table one day for their return from school.  As I imagined they both were so excited as soon as they saw them with Bella exclaiming ‘Mummy I love them!  I love the hearts!  They’re pink, look Mummy!’  For first impressions and the look of them, they score a big tick!

    Of course, the children immediately wanted their iPads to test them out and they were more than happy with the sound quality. 

    ‘Kids, do you like your new headphones, are they good?’

    A resounding ‘YES!’ from both the kids with big smiles!

    These headphones are definitely a hit in our home and the kids are super impressed.  They also have some great features that us parents will appreciate: ­­

    • The volume is limited at 80-85dB so the kids can’t turn them up too loud and damage their ears.
    • The ear pads can be removed for cleaning if they get mucky.
    • The headband is adjustable to grow with your child and fit different ages.  They are a great fit both on my three year old and six year old.
    • They have super soft and squidgy cushioning on the ear pads for ultimate comfort.
    • There’s an 18 month warranty for extra peace of mind.
    • Great value at only £14.99 to £15.99 per pair as I type this.
    • Lightweight design means they are not bulky or uncomfortable when wearing.
    • The headband twists so is hard for children to snap or break.
    • Best of all, they will keep the kids entertained and quiet if you need them to be!

    Overall I think these are a great pair of headphones for children with responsible features such as volume limiting and the ability to twist the headphone band without breaking it.  They seem robust, but also comfortable to wear.  At less than £20 a pair they are great value too.  The kids love them!

    They are currently available on Amazon by clicking here.

     

    Related

    A list of 50 free and cheap things to do in the summer holidays with kids
    9 Free Things to do in Gloucestershire (with kids)
    Peppa Pig World Review 2017 (and where to stay for under £100 for 2 nights)
    My Very Honest CBeebies Land Hotel Review
    We The Curious | Bristol Science Museum Review

    EasySMX kids headphones review for travel and play

  3. Plan your next unique get away

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    As the sky is becoming greyer and the nights are getting colder, you can’t help but begin to think of your next holiday. There are your classics: a European city break, a couple of weeks by the beach, or perhaps just escaping to the English countryside. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, but have you considered going on something slightly different for your next destination?  You’d be amazed at the number of ways you can see the world.

    Glass Igloo, Iceland

    1024px-Kakslauttanen_Igloo_village

    By Tarja Mitrovic (Flickr: Rovaniemi - Igloo village) [CC BY 2.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

    The Northern Lights manage to make their way onto many a bucket list. It isn’t hard  to understand why, the natural beauty can illuminate the sky and creates an unforgettable moment. Most people aim for a remote spot and hope for the best - you need a clear sky and no light pollution. Did you know you can stay in a glass igloo in Finland and sleep under the stars? It is a luxurious experience, bringing you all the wonders of nature in a cosy and comfortable setting.

    Opera Tours, Italy

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    If you have a passion for classical music, why not combine it with your next get away? There are some amazing opera holidays available. You can explore the beautiful country and experience opera the way you’re meant to, in beautiful, historic buildings with just the right acoustics. Take a sip of Italian wine, listen to the opera and take in the scenery. Your senses will be blown away and you’ll leave with memories that are sure to last you a lifetime.

    Biking and Barging, Croatia

    Plan your next unique get away

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    When you hear Croatia, you’re most likely to picture crystal blue waters and ancient cities. You can get the best of both worlds by exploring the beautiful country by bike and boat. It can be a tour like no other as you get to experience the best that Croatia has to offer. You can cycle through pieces of history, before boarding a boat and absorbing all of the beautiful sights of this gorgeous country .

    Asturias & Covadonga Convent, Spain

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    This recently has been voted as Europe’s top hidden treasure.  It has something for everyone: historic sites, glorious beaches for sunbathing,  numerous hikes and delicious dinner spots. It is adrenaline, adventure and ancient all wrapped into one. You can make your holiday exactly what you want to be. You can go kayaking or quad biking. Equally you can spend an entire day exploring important places of Spanish history. Just make sure you go out and discover this gem for yourself.

     

    Related

    A Luxury Family Villa in Sicily
    Why I’ve added Ireland to my bucket list
    6 reasons I want to visit Oz
    My 2018 family travel plans and bucket list
    Obscure travel destinations bucket list

     Plan your next unique get away

     

     

     

  4. Would you walk the Camino de Santiago?

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    Coincidences.  Are they really just coincidences or do you believe it is fate trying to tell you something?  I’m not sure if there’s an exact term for it, but I’m talking about when two things happen in a short space of time.  For instance, you think of someone you haven’t seen for ages and then you bump into them.  Or you’re humming a song in the shower one morning and then it comes on the radio.  The one that happens to me most often has actually happened with this blog post - it's where something I've just learned about pops up again.  Until a few weeks ago I had never before heard of the Camino de Santiago, known in English as the Way of Saint James.  A colleague at my husband’s work booked a six week sabbatical recently to walk one of the pilgrim’s ways of the Camino de Santiago.  It really interested me to learn more as I’d never heard of it before.  Then, out of the blue, I was contacted to see if I wanted to write about this very walk on my blog!  What a strange coincidence.  Or perhaps it’s a calling for me to do the walk myself?  In this blog post I will explain to you what the Camino de Santiago is.

    Whilst six weeks may seem like a long time and you may not be able to take such a long break from work, it’s also possible to do a route that only takes 6 or 7 days which is arranged by a tour company such as Santiago Ways.  This company will organise your trip for you by organising the route and accommodations for you, leaving you to enjoy the trip without the hassle of trying to arrange these yourself along the way.  They take this bother out of the pilgrimage for you, but still provide you with a unique experience of the walk (or cycle if you prefer).  They provide a meal plan and even luggage transfer, leaving you to walk without the weight of heavy bags between rest stops.

     Would you walk the Camino de Santiago

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    What is the Camino de Santiago?

    The Camino de Santiago is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, north-western Spain, following ancient pilgrim routes created in the 9th century.  It is believed that the remains of the apostle Saint James the Great are buried there and were discovered in 812 AD.  There is not one exact route as pilgrimages begin from all different points, but with the end goal of ending up in this same place.  Both the French Way (Camino Frances) and the Routes of Northern Spain are listed as a UNECO World Heritage Site.

    Why do people walk the Camino de Santiago?

    Hundreds of thousands of people walk the route each year for all sorts of reasons. According to Wikipedia over 300,000 people walked it in 2017!  That’s an incredible number of people and I can’t believe I have only just come across its existence.  The French Way is 800km which is quite a task.  So why do people want to walk it?

    Many people choose to walk it for religious reasons, which is why Ben’s work colleague took up the challenge as she is a Christian, but there are plenty of other reasons why people from all walks of life take part each year:

    • Religious reasons – this is the most obvious reason to want to walk the Camino de Santiago, but it’s not the only reason.  I find the walk intriguing and inspiring and I’m not a religious person.
    • A break from modern life – an escape from reality, from the internet, from news, from social media, from work and from the hustle and bustle of life in general
    • A challenge – some of the walks are very long, 800km, and so to any of us to walk this distance continuously is a huge challenge.  Even the shorter week-long walks will prove challenging as we are not used to walking all day long every day.
    • Exercise - for hikers, walkers, cyclists and those of us who like to stay fit and healthy, it's an amazing health and fitness journey.
    • To see the sights – some of the walks are listed as World Heritage Sites which makes them an important part of history the walk is an attraction in itself.  The routes are filled with history and plenty of culture to see along the way.
    • For a spiritual journey – not in a religious way, but in a self-discovery and self-reflection way.  It’s the perfect way to think deeply and learn more about you without being surrounded by constant distractions.

    I am definitely interested in walking one of the routes one day, but perhaps when the children are much older or have left home!  I'm not sure it would be so fun with a three year old and six year old!  For myself though, it's definitely a challenge I'd like to complete.

     

    More travel blog posts:

    Securing travel from the airport to your accommodation

    Travel in luxury for less

    My 2018 family travel plans and bucket list

    5 amazing family-friendly travel destinations

    Careers you can travel for

     Would you walk the Camino de Santiago_

    Collaboration

  5. My very honest review of Cotswold Wildlife Park

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    At the end of August I visited Cotswold Wildlife Park with the kids, my mum and sister. It’s a place that I’m familiar with and I’m sure I’ve been once per year since having the children. We have fond memories of going with my late mother-in-law and enjoying a picnic in front of the rhinos. It was at that moment we told her we were expecting another baby - Reuben. I’m sure we went a second time with Ben’s mum and we also went with my mum. Bella even went on a school trip there! In this blog post I will share my very honest review of Cotswold Wildlife Park.

    My very honest review of Cotswold Wildlife Park 5

     

    My very honest review of Cotswold Wildlife Park 3

    I even remember the first time I went with my husband Ben as we totally planned it wrong! Having been to a few other zoos and wildlife parks that only took a few hours to wander around, we decided to head to Cotswold Wildlife Park near to lunchtime. Big mistake! There was so much to see that we couldn’t fit it all in!  According to the website today it says they are home to one of the UK’s largest zoological collections.

    You can probably guess this is going to be a highly positive review as I’ve been so many times! I usually prefer to go somewhere once and then try somewhere new, but this is a place we like to return to every year as it’s such a wonderful family day out.

    There are so many animals to see. Bella absolutely loves the penguins and my favourites are the giraffes and wolves. The experience with the animals is very interactive. It’s possible to go up to head height with the giraffes to really experience them. For the wolves there’s a wooden bridge over their enclosure.

    My very honest review of Cotswold Wildlife Park 1

    My very honest review of Cotswold Wildlife Park 7

    The children’s farmyard is also great. It’s a petting zoo and you can even go in with goats! We have more great memories here such as a little perhaps two year old Bella clinging to Ben as she was scared of the Pygmy goats!

    One part of the park I love is the gardens, plants and flowers. It’s exceptionally maintained and always looks beautiful. I can always tell a lot is invested into the upkeep and it’s always spot on. Some gardens in similar attractions leave a lot to be desired, but at Cotswold Wildlife Park they are always on point. The cactuses and tropical flowers always stand out to me as well as the ginormous leaves which look larger than our three year old Reuben!

    For the kids there’s also a humongous activity playground which is hard to drag them away from! For around 50p each, if I remember that correctly or maybe one pound, we had a ride around the park on the Bella train! It’s actually called Bella!

    My very honest review of Cotswold Wildlife Park 6

    My very honest review of Cotswold Wildlife Park

    My very honest review of Cotswold Wildlife Park 4

    The park is always so clean and well maintained which definitely makes a big difference. We normally take a picnic, but there’s plenty of food options there with a large restaurant. 

    It’s a great family day out and I really can’t think of any recommendations for them or any negatives, which is rare.  I’ve barely even touched on the number of different animal exhibits, but visit their website for more information and to learn more: www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk

     

    More honest reviews

    My Very Honest CBeebies Land Hotel Review
    Peppa Pig World Review 2017 (and where to stay for under £100 for 2 nights)
    We The Curious | Bristol Science Museum Review
    First Choice Premier Family Holiday Review: Club Jandia Princess Hotel in Fuerteventura
    A Kid Free Weekend: Hot tub glamping and zip wire fun at Chepstow Quarry
    My Very Honest LEGOLAND Windsor Review
    All Things Wild Nature Centre Review
    My very honest review of Sudeley Castle and Gardens – Family days out in the Cotswolds

    My very honest review of Cotswold Wildlife Park (1)