My husband is famously a man of few words, but he kindly volunteered to put pen to paper and write about what we did on our holiday this October Half Term. We stayed at the Sol Katmandu in Majorca, courtesy of Jet2 Holidays. It’s always interesting for me to see things from his point of view, but it looks like he had a good time…
Being self-employed has its ups and downs. I am my own boss and I answer to no-one, but on the flip side I am totally responsible for everything at work. If I ever think about taking a sickie, the boss knows about it straight away.
Because I work for myself, I’ve had to work some long hours recently to get things ship shape before our first family holiday abroad. Over the October Half Term we packed our bags and went on a family holiday to Majorca courtesy of Jet2. It was eagerly anticipated, especially by the little fella as it was going to be his first time on a plane.
On departure day we woke early at 4am as the flight was due to depart at 6.30am. We jumped in a taxi and headed off to the airport. The check in at the airport and passing through security was a doddle and soon we were relaxing in the departure lounge with a coffee and sausage butty.
We didn’t have long to wait before our flight was called and we made our way to the gate and boarded the plane. I did wonder at this point if the little fella would be a bit scared by it all, but he was happy as Larry and took it all in his stride. He loved the flight, especially the take off, and soon we were landing in Majorca which again put a big smile on his face.
The transfer to the hotel was a breeze. We were staying at the 4* the Sol Kathmandu in Magaluf. The hotel was excellent, our only quibble was the lack of a balcony which we could sit out on, but I think everyone will always find something not to their satisfaction.
After we’d unpacked in our room, the lad wanted to go exploring as he’d seen the three outdoor swimming pools on our way into the hotel and couldn’t wait to get in the water, and his dad couldn’t wait to get on a sun lounger.
If you want to know what we did on our holiday, most of our days were spent relaxing by the pools; sometimes all of us splashing about in the water, sometimes Ben in the water with the new friends he’d made, while his parents topped up their tans, read their books and had a glass of sangria or two.
Twenty-four hours into the holiday, both my better half and I said that we definitely more relaxed in a hotel abroad than on our usual holidays in Devon. We usually go self-catering and in Devon we are the small boy’s only source of entertainment.
It was so nice to be away and to only have to think about when next to apply sun cream and not about the stresses of work, if only for a week. It was nice to spend time with my family, especially the missus, instead of rushing around badgering the boy to get dressed, or going back to work in the evenings to catch up with stuff.
Here’s to our next holiday abroad, which hopefully won’t be too far away. Thank you to the Sol Katmandu for putting up with us and Jet2 for getting us there and back safely and efficiently.
-What we did on our holiday by Matthew, aged 41 and a half
I’ve got this fancy newish camera which I’ve been trying to use and get used to. I had planned on taking it on holiday to Devon for a week to try and spend some time getting to know it a bit better, but I ended up with a fairly epic chest infection a couple of days before we went and I wasn’t really in the mood.
I decided instead to take my “old” camera, a Nikon Coolpix L820. It’s a bridge camera and whilst it really struggles indoors, outdoors it comes into its own.
Before we headed down the M6 towards the South West one of my friends challenged me to take 5 decent photos of Devon. I don’t think I’ve managed that, but I have chosen some pictures which will make me smile.
It wasn’t a particularly great holiday, we’d booked an especially skanky cottage and ended up having to leave after three days and go and stay elsewhere. It was a shame, after everything we’ve been through these past few months I just really needed a rest, a break from the norm and some time to reflect and recover. But maybe that’s something for another blog post. Back to the photos….
Day one of our holiday we got in the car and went for a drive to get our bearings. I’ve no idea where this place is, it’s somewhere in Exmoor, somewhere where we stopped for some air. There was purple heather everywhere, gorse in flower and the air was as clear as a bell. I love the colour and texture in this picture.
The first cottage we stayed in didn’t have much to recommend it, but it did have a huge buddleia outside the front door. It was teeming with butterflies and bees, so I snapped this little fella. Isn’t he lovely?
Day two, in an attempt to cheer ourselves up we headed to the familiar territory of Westward Ho! It was worth the drive of nearly an hour for the fresh air and the lift in our spirits.
Although he will kill me for sharing this, I adore this photo of my boy running towards his Dad who had just been for a swim in the sea. Again this is Westward Ho!
It’s not an especially lovely photo, but this is the view from the cottage we stay at in Welcombe in North Devon. Waking up to see the church, the sky and a tiny handkerchief of the sea always makes me happy, rain or shine.
On our last night we drove to Bude and had dinner at Life’s a Beach, which by day is a beach cafe and by night a popular bistro. We had a delicious meal and then walked some of it off on the beach afterwards. Here’s the small boy at his cheeky best.
The last night again, this time the beach at Bude, a harbour of sorts. It’s not a great photo, but it is a photo of one of my happy places.
And lastly, on our way home we stopped at Westward Ho! (are you sensing a theme here?) and had fish and chips on the beach for tea. Whilst we waited for dad to come back I took this panorama and the boy played with his new sword and shield. The result is this rather moody shot of a knight which will probably always make me smile.
A mixed holiday for us, some lovely moments, some disappointment, but lots of lovely cuddles with the boys. Looking back I didn’t take any or many decent photos, it’s probably reflective of our mood at the time. We did have fun, we did stick brave smiley faces on for the boy and we did our best to make the best of our holiday. I think he had a good time and that’s all that matters right now.
In the days before children, packing to go on holiday was a fairly simple task. Some clothes, a camera, passport and some money. Not forgetting the sun cream. Since the arrival of my little ray of sunshine, taking a sunshine break has become an altogether more complex affair.
We’re pretty good at packing and travelling as light as we can, but trying to part the small boy from every toy, game, book, puzzle and cuddly toy he owns, even on a temporary basis is something of a nightmare.
I always try and remember, but often forget, that wherever we go there will be shops to buy anything we forget that we can’t live without. I can buy toothpaste and clean pants almost anywhere in the world. Most places have a washing machine or launderette within easy reach, so it’s hardly any bother to pack less and do a few loads of laundry while we’re away.
To make life a bit easier we have a standard packing list on our computer, the things you always need to take, passport, money, clothes, hairbrush etc. We print it off and check things off the list as we’re packing. It really does make life easier and helps to ensure you don’t forget any holiday essentials.
Storebox have very helpfully put together this Travelling Checklist of holiday essentials. I love the idea of taking some cable ties with you, it seems such a sensible but lightweight thing to take on holiday or if you’re travelling. Portable chargers are also a must, especially in this day an age.
Whether you’re planning a camping holiday in Cornwall, backpacking in Bolivia or going on a beach holiday in Benidorm, it pays to be prepared and to pack for all eventualities.
As a slightly less able person (spinal injury, nerve damage, chronic pain), I need to pace myself and rest more often than I would normally. I have adapted my day to day life so that I’m able to manage myself properly, take my medication when I need to, rest and exercise appropriately and generally maximise my wellness. But holidays throw that tried and tested routine out of the window leaving me in more pain, more tired and out of my medication routine.
We are on holiday in North Devon. It’s one of our favourite places to visit and we come back year after year. But from Manchester it’s a minimum 5 hour journey. This time it took 6 hours, but it has taken 8 hours in bad traffic. Sitting in one position for 6-8 hours is bad for anyone, but with my ruined spine it gets very uncomfortable, then very painful and it takes days to recover from.
Once we get there, put me in an unfamiliar bed and I’m gobbling painkillers like they’re smarties. Combine that with a lack of routine, longer than usual walks which are usually on the beach on sand, shale or pebbles which are hard to walk on its all a bit ouchy. At home I can plan my week, if I’ve got an active day then I’ll make sure I’ve got a rest day after it. On holiday every day is an active day.
So what do my holidays look like? My holidays look like car parks. I often have to just sit in the car and rest while my painkillers kick in and the boys race off to do their thing. It makes me a bit sad that I can’t fully participate in holiday activities, but then I can’t always participate in normal life activities either. Stop moaning kid, these are the cards you’ve been dealt. Live with it.
Reading this back it makes me wonder why I bother going on a UK holiday at all. But it’s beautiful here and although I’m half cut on prescription painkillers most of the time, it’s nice to spend time with the boys, to get some sunshine and sea air and to take the boys out of their routine for a while. It’s hard enough being me and living with my limitations, it must be equally hard for them, so they deserve a holiday and a chance to relax and be free from my routine for a week or two.
North Devon: so beautiful, but you can only access this beach via a cliff path.
In May this year we were lucky enough to go to Bluestone Wales for a break (Monday 11th May – Friday 15th May). We were delighted to be selected as ‘Bluestone Bloggers’ and offered a break to review. We loved our time in Pembrokeshire and were sad to leave, here’s what we thought of Bluestone Wales.
We live in South Manchester and drive down to Devon and Cornwall several times a year, we are not strangers to a long journey and this took around 6 hours. It was a bit of a schlep and I’d be unwilling to drive all that way for a night or two, but for a Monday-Friday break it was tolerable. We drove over the Severn Bridge into Wales and I’ve put a clip on YouTube of the crossing. As long as you’re prepared for the journey with activities, drinks and snacks you’ll survive.
Arrival & Check In
Bluestone Wales was pretty easy to find, following the brown road signs we got there without getting horribly lost. We drove up the long driveway and up to the welcome gate, there was no queue (it was around 6pm) and we were given our lodge keys and welcome information pack and we drove straight to our lodge, unpacked the car and took the car back to the car park. We found check in really quick, simple and efficient. Though I think there might be queues if you arrived at peak time.
We were allocated a ‘Ramsey Lodge’ which sleeps four people and has two en suite bathrooms. The bedrooms and bathrooms are downstairs and the living areas are upstairs, which makes the most of the stunning views at Bluestone. The living area had a well equipped kitchen, dining area and lounge area, all open plan, all modern and stylishly designed.
We didn’t spend that much time hanging out at the lodge though, I think I cooked two meals there and everything I needed was available in the kitchen and pretty straightforward to use. We were supplied with a few essentials to help with the washing up. Everything was clean, modern and much nicer than home, sad to say.
Downstairs in the bedrooms, the small boy was delighted to have his very own bathroom which was a wet room. His bedroom had two single beds in it which were very comfortable and with really lovely bedding which felt quite luxurious. In the master bedroom there was a comfy double bed, again with the same luxurious feeling bedding and lovely furniture, this room had patio doors which you could open if you wanted, we didn’t because it wasn’t that warm, but it was a nice touch.
The en suite had a shower over the bath which I didn’t use. The small boy did as he prefers baths, but we enjoyed the wet room, it was nice to have a choice and with my disability it was easier for me to shower in the wet room. The floor does get slippy, so do take care.
The accommodation got a really big thumbs up from us, it was by far one of the best places we’ve stayed. The lodge was far superior to other lodges we’ve stayed in. It was clean and well maintained with everything we needed, apart from a hair dryer, though these are available to hire, but we took our own.
Village & Restaurants
Having stayed in similar lodge based holiday villages, we were pleasantly surprised with the layout of the village. We were used to large noisy bio-dome type places; but the Bluestone village was set out like an actual Welsh village, with narrow rambling lanes, shops in traditional looking buildings, with a smattering of places where you could eat and drink.
Over the stay we tried a few different places, our favourite was the Knights Tafarn which was a child-friendly pub. The food was hearty and they had a good selection of drinks, as well as colouring activities for the kids. You could sit outside if you wanted, it’s a good spot to sit with a pint while the kids play havoc in the huge playground next door.
One night we went to the Farmhouse Grill. We were expecting quite lovely things, the specials board outside listed some great sounding dishes made with local produce, so we booked a table and got a bit dressed up. We were pretty disappointed with the meal, we ordered the kids macaroni cheese which arrived looking good, but when we dug into it there was a thick black solid layer of cheese underneath the top layer, indicating that it was re-heated, which you do kind of expect, but serving a child a thick layer of burnt cheese is disappointing. My meal was ok with the sweet potato fries a highlight, but hubs ordered the fillet of sea bass off the specials menu. He loves eating sea bass fillets and has them all the time, however this was riddled with bones and clearly hadn’t been checked at all before cooking, after three mouthfuls and 8 or more bones he gave up. We complained to the waitress who said it was meant to be full of bones (it wasn’t), so we complained to the manager who didn’t charge us for the sea bass or the kids meal. We left feeling disappointed but I think the manager handled it well, which is all you can ask when mistakes are made.
Bluestone is set in a small valley with a lake at the bottom of it. We were very lucky that we were less than 5 minutes walk from the village centre, which meant that the playground, spa, shops and pubs were all within easy reach. Lots of people hired golf buggies to get about in and we did enquire but they were all booked up. I was easily managing about 8k a day and because I’m not great on my feet I was starting to struggle after day 2. The small boy was finding all the walking we did quite hard work too, if we went again we would pre-book a buggy for the duration of the break, but it wasn’t terrible without it. There was a free bus which ran through the village and up to the car park, activity centre and Blue Lagoon. The bus was a godsend and the driver was really lovely.
At Bluestone they are busy building some new lodges which they are planning to open this summer. Our lodge backed on to the fenced off building site, which in some ways was brilliant for our digger loving son, especially as there was a viewing platform nearby where you could watch the diggers at work. We were given a call before we went to warn us that building work was taking place so we were prepared for it. I suspect if we had been unhappy we could probably have been moved, but we were fine with it, especially as for most of the time during the day when they were working we were out anyway. I made a little vlog (be gentle, I’m not a natural vlogger) about the building noise at Bluestone Wales.
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is a fabulous addition to Bluestone, it is open to the general public, but if you go before 11am it is open exclusively for Bluestone holidaymakers. It’s free to use, you just have to flash your lodge key and they issue you with a pass for your stay. It’s a brilliant pool with a wave machine and two water flumes, as well as an outdoor jacuzzi and a lazy river that meanders outside, plus a wet play area for little ones, there’s plenty to enjoy and it’s well worth a visit. The changing areas are good and there is a cafe by the pool where you can grab a drink or a snack. We went every day!
The Activity Centre
The Activity Centre is located at the top of the village. I took the small boy there for a morning and we enjoyed the huge soft play centre, which was free to go in. Later he joined the ‘Bluestone Buccaneers’ where he and his fellow pirates got to dress up and go on a pirate adventure, exploring Bluestone looking for buried treasure. He really, really, really loved being a Bluestone Buccaneer. The activity centre has a good range of activities for children and adults alike, I would have liked to have tried a few more out but there just wasn’t enough time.
The Well Spa
Both hubs and I managed to separately grab some time in the spa, located in the village centre it was minutes from our lodge. I have devoted an entire blog post to the spa, so you can read more about my experience and thoughts about it here. But yes, in short, I’d move in if they’d let me!
Things To Do in Pembrokeshire
The area around Bluestone is absolutely stunningly beautiful, with seriously breathtaking beaches and lots of family activities you can get involved in. Again, I’ve written a separate blog post about what we did while we were in Pembrokeshire which you can read here, but highlights were the stunning beaches of Tenby and Saundersfoot and a rainy day visit to Dylan Thomas Boathouse.
Bluestone was hands down the best holiday of that kind we’ve ever been on, and we’ve been on a large number of them. The accommodation, pool, spa and activities were spot on, the village was well designed and the shop was well stocked and the playground was by all accounts lots of fun. The problem with the meal was handled well and the on-site customer service team were lovely and very helpful.
What we commented on was that although judging by the full car park the site was obviously very busy, with most of their 300 lodges in occupation, it all felt quite quiet and peaceful which is exactly what you want in a holiday. Overall there were no real negatives about Bluestone, nothing we couldn’t live with and nothing which left us with a bad impression. We’re saving up for a return visit as soon as we can. We have very much fallen for the white sands of Saundersfoot and the calm clean air of Bluestone Wales.
Note: We were invited guests of Bluestone Wales and were not asked to pay for our accommodation. All food, activities and travel expenses were covered by us. All images and opinions are our own.
We usually holiday in England and it can be pretty hard to pack for, as you never know what the weather is going to throw at you, in this case layers are usually your friend. For most of my English holiday I can get away with shorts (because legs dry quicker than trousers), but it’s good to have a few nice things to take with me, just on the off chance I get taken out somewhere posh.
I love hats and scarves. A scarf is a really practical item whatever the weather; shading you from the sun or helping to keep you cozy if it’s cold, and hats make me look adorable, so I’m never too far away from a hat. I’ve long been an admirer of the slightly hippy boho-chic style of clothes from Joe Browns so I was excited to be given the chance to style up my own summer outfit.
I chose this beautiful maxi dress, it’s a really happy, summery colour, hides a multitude of sins and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Perfect for packing as it folds up to virtually nothing. I wore it on a night out and was told by the small boy that I looked like a princess. Bless him.
I loved this handsome, practical Santorini scarf and it contrasts with the dress, but I also know that it’ll be in year round use. It was always in my bag on holiday, ready to pull out to shade my shoulders, or wrap around me and the small boy if the clouds gathered and it got a bit chilly.
Likewise the hat was awesome. It’s a funky but feminine trilby and I looked pretty cool in it, but the small boy was forever stealing it for himself. I have a thing about shading my face from the sun, it’s a bit moley so I’m always cautious, and I know that sun ages the skin. If it’s sunny I’m always in a hat and this cute one will go with pretty much any outfit. I love it.
I like Joe Browns, you can always find something a bit different, something funky and practical. I’m not a girlie girl, but I like that I can find clothes that I love there, things that will make me stand out for the right reasons. So what do you think of my summer holiday look?
Disclaimer: Joe Browns were kind enough to send me the above items free of charge for review. This has not swayed my opinion on the items either way.
Growing up in the North of England, the go to place for short breaks and holidays was the Lake District. My Nan had a caravan there and it was, and is, a great place to take children. These days when we visit we camp, go glamping or stay in a B&B, depending on the weather.
What child hasn’t been enchanted by Peter Rabbit and the other Beatrix Potter stories; or wanted to go on Swallows and Amazons style adventures? We used to love going on the paddle steamers and the steam trains, as well as exploring the gardens of historic houses while Nan had a spot of afternoon tea and a few minutes peace and quiet.
Returning as an adult for what these days is called a “staycation”, there are other delights which I didn’t fully appreciate as a child. Hill walking, beautiful scenic views and drams of whisky in front of a roaring pub fire. The Lake District is full of great places to eat, real hidden gems and a rich foodie heritage, not to mention excellent pubs serving delicious local real ales.
There is something magical about the Lake District; for me it evokes a strong feeling of peace and tranquility. In all weathers I can find beauty; the sun shimmering on the surface of a lake, the hills wrapped in rainy mist and shadows cast by clouds on the velveteen hillsides.
It’s a special gift to be able to share this magical place with my son. He’s growing up fast and just like I did, he loves the sail on the lakes, to paddle in the streams and to explore the endless hills and valleys of the Lake District.
There’s so much to see and so. If you don’t fancy doing, there’s always a great spot to sit and enjoy a flask of coffee, a hunk of Kendal Mint Cake and just watch how the light changes on the water or sit and listen to the wind as it shimmers through the trees. It doesn’t take much to understand why the Lake District has inspired so many writers, poets and artists over the years.
It’s a place of rugged beauty, endless scenery, perfect serenity and adventure. I love the Lake District. I truly do.
For a year now I’ve been following Fiona @CoombeMill on Twitter. She takes the most beautiful pictures of the place where her and her family live and work, Coombe Mill. A couple of months ago I casually mentioned that’d we’d be nearby for our summer holiday, Fiona very kindly invited us to swing by and spend the day exploring. So we did.
Coombe Mill is a 30 acre estate in North Cornwall. Fiona and family have some lovely Scandinavian lodges and stone cottages which families can book for their holidays, the accommodation is beautiful, but the real reason people stay at Coombe Mill is that is it fantastic for kids. It has it’s own working (but very safe) farm, as well as a model railway, playground and play areas, and an under construction fairy garden. It’s ace.
We arrived just before 9am and Fiona treated us to a massive mug of much needed coffee. We were waiting for her husband, aka Farmer Nick to come round with the tractor, so we could join him and all the other children staying at Coombe Mill for the morning feed run.
We hopped aboard the tractor and headed off across the stream to feed the animals. The small boy is obsessed (understatement) with farms and animals, so he was utterly delighted to meet the the pigs, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, peacocks, donkeys, deer and wallabies at Coombe Mill.
We pootled around feeding them all and collected eggs from the chickens which he loved doing. He met some baby chicks, hopped after the wallabies (Bruce and Sheila, naturally) and fell in love with the cheeky goats.
The highlight for us was the “deer hunt” which was not as sinister as it sounds. They have a herd of fallow deer and a few of the ladies were pregnant and due any day, Farmer Nick had an inkling that we might find a newborn deer if we were very good, very quiet and very lucky. We searched through the bracken, around the trees and rocks and we found, nestled in a gap in the rocks, a baby deer. I tried to take a picture but it was impossible to get a good look at it. But it was a real privilege.
After feeding time with Farmer Nick, the small boy got to help drive the tractor back to Coombe Mill, and we took of freshly laid eggs and had egg of toast with Fiona. It’s a simple but rare pleasure, a freshly laid egg, but it was a real treat.
Fiona then gave us a little tour of the site and the lodges (which are beautiful and spacious), she then took us to the little railway they’ve constructed, which wasn’t running until later that day, but even that provided a good half hours entertainment for the small boy.
It’s such a beautiful place. In truth we were eyeing it up with a view to staying there next year and I think it’s the perfect holiday spot for anyone with little ones. The small boy had an absolute ball and has talked of nothing else since which is always a good sign.
We had a lovely day and send a big thank you to Fiona and Farmer Nick for including us in their busy day. Coombe Mill is a great place, I can see why everyone adores it!
As I sit and type this I am wrapped in a blanket, sat in front of a blazing fire. I can hear the rain bouncing off the windows. The whole family is collectively wearing more layers than a bag of onions and we just want to be somewhere warm.
I want more than nothing else to sit on a beach listening to the waves, feeling the warm sun against my back, heating up my old bones. I want to see my lovely husband emerge like Daniel Craig from the sea and I want to build sandcastles and paddle with my 3 year old son. I want not to shiver when I slip out of bed in the morning.
In short, I want to be here.
Here in this instance is North Devon. It might not be exotic or far-flung but it is beautiful. It is so restful and it is, in our eyes, just perfect. On the horizon you can just make out Lundy Island. If you follow the cliff path you’ll find your way to Hartland Quay, like we did.
I love this picture, it was taken a few years ago on a beautifully warm summers day. We’d spent most of that day in Hartland Quay, sat on the beach listening to the waves crash on the rocks, we’d paddled and swam. We’d walked up to the pub and had a pint and some lunch. The warm sun on our backs and our hair, thick and wild with the salt water. We’d never felt so relaxed.
Of course this was pre-baby, but we’ve taken him there since and he loves it as much as we do, though it is slightly less relaxing when you’re on toddler-drowning watch. It must be stunning if even my 3 year old says “oh wow” when he stands at that gate.
We’ve just got back from Center Parcs and I can confirm an excellent time was had by all. Since the small boy appeared on the scene three years ago we’ve been eagerly anticipating the time when he was old enough to appreciate Winter Wonderland Center Parcs. The lights in the trees; Christmassy activities; meeting and chatting with Father Christmas. This year was our chance, so in August we booked it. Four magical nights in the Winter Wonderland at Whinfell village, we couldn’t wait.
When we first started going to Center Parcs around 8 years ago, we had stacks of disposable income. We were young(ish) with decent(ish) jobs, earning ok(ish) money. Since then we’ve added the small boy to our ranks; my husband’s business has taken a knock during the economic downturn and I’ve quit my old, miserable, but fairly well paid job in search of self-employed happiness.
This means that from now on our holidays and leisure activities need to be more budget than barnstorming. With this in mind we set to work figuring out how to have an amazing time without spending an awful lot. I confess there were somewhat mixed results with this, but if you’re going, you might learn from our mistakes.
The secret to saving money or not spending it in the first place is planning. We formulated a two-pronged attack. I was responsible for meal planning and catering. Together we chose which would be the most fun activities with the best fun-to-cost ratio. Husband was responsible for paying for it and remembering to put all the holiday food in the car before we left. Remember that.
Food at Center Parcs
Center Parcs does indeed have its own little supermarket, most of the products are reasonably priced and in line with maybe Tesco, but in this house we run on an Aldi budget. The plan was to stock up on staples at home and buy fresh fruit and veg etc there.
The night before we left I sent Hodge to Aldi with a perfectly detailed list of essentials which he dutifully bought. These essential essentials were neatly packed in a bag ready for popping in the car before we left. I was to pack up a few fresh things that were floating around our home kitchen, such as bread and milk before we left that morning, which I did do. Jobs-a-good’un.
The flaw to this plan, and I suspect you’ve already picked up on it, was that the large bag of essential foodstuffs bought especially for our holiday was left beautifully packed at home. Meaning that on arrival we had to re-purchase said foodstuffs at the ok-but-slightly-more-than-we’d-normally-pay prices. Ouch.
Activities at Whinfell
If you’ve got kids then the secret to a budget-friendly break at Center Parcs is the exotically named “Subtropical Paradise” or “swimming pool” as we call it. If you can tear yourselves away from the pool-side cafes and state of the art cabanas, then you can while away a few hours each day enjoying the waves, rapids, canyon rides and water slides. This was the key to our master plan and by jingo it worked!
The small boy loved it, we all loved it. There was a little something for each of us. I got to swim properly in a small roped off area. Husband, the ageing adrenaline junkie loved the rides and slides and the small boy liked bobbing up and down in the waves and pouring buckets of water over my head. You could really easily spend the day here.
In terms of forking out for fun we booked two things which we thought he’d love. The first was “Woodland Tails” which was brilliant; we had a walk through the woods with a ranger who then took us back to the Rangers Lodge to meet a polecat, a hedgehog and a very tame and beautiful tawny owl. The small boy loved it and it was worth every penny.
Ok, so we did massively push the boat out on an absolutely non-negotiable part of the break. Husband and I wanted, needed, insisted upon having a spa session together. This meant the small boy needed to be put in the crèche (or go to a brilliant party, which is how I sold it to him). Together our three hours of spa-bliss and a crèche place cost almost £100, but by-heck it was worth it. We really needed that afternoon of relaxation.
Center Parcs is littered with playgrounds and is incredibly bike friendly. You could easily get away with not booking and paying extra for any activities at all. There are a few free things around the village, trim-trails and so forth to keep you occupied. Or you could just spend your time bouncing from one Starbucks to another.
Winter Wonderland What’s On
During the “winter wonderland” season at Center Parcs they have a twice weekly firework display. I’m not a massive fireworks fan, but it was free. It was the small boy’s first display and it was absolutely lovely. There were lots of oohs and aahs from the watching crowds and the look on his little face just about says it all. Totally worth the £3.95 each for a mulled wine and mince pie while we waited at the pub.
Our second Winter Wonderland toddler activity was a visit to meet Father Christmas. Priced at £10 we thought this was actually really good value for money. You could explore Santa’s Workshop before going in to meet the man himself. You had a nice chat with him, got a pretty decent present and your picture taken, all included in the price. His workshop was located in a beautiful winter wonderland which we spent a few hours exploring.
After this we all felt incredibly festive and it was worth going to Center Parcs for just for that experience alone.
We do really love Center Parcs. I think as the small boy gets older we’ll start giving him a small activity budget so he can decide what he wants to try or do. We can’t wait to go back. We’re going to book a return visit for the spring. Hopefully this time my husband will remember to pack the food.
I’ll admit, it wasn’t the bargain-basement break we were after; but it was the slightly more expensive but brilliant holiday we needed, and that’s what counts.
I’ve also had a separate article about our winter wonderland Center Parcs break published in Mums & Dads Magazine, you can read it here.