Every January when the rail fares are increased commuters collectively wince and dig a little deeper to pay to get to work. These days I work from home, so my commute is non-existent, but I used to travel by train to work.
It wasn’t an epic journey, it was from my suburban home into Manchester and back again. The journey was quicker by train but quite a chunk more expensive and not as reliable as it should have been. It got me to work quickly and I usually managed to grab a seat, so I couldn’t complain too much.
I used to buy a weekly ticket for around £20. At the time I was working as a temp; it wasn’t worth buying anything longer term because my contract could have ended at any point. The £20 a week was a decent chunk of my disposable income at the time too, so like most other commuters I resented it.
My train was on the airport line. I used to wonder on rainy grey days what would happen if I stayed on the train and found myself at the airport. Turning up with my passport in hand and a weekend bag by my side. Where would I go? Where could I go?
Love Holidays have recently created an interactive tube map. The map highlights some of the holiday destinations that can be enjoyed in exchange for a week of rent and tube travel in the UK’s capital and most expensive city – London.
All you have to do is enter a daily commute on the holiday finder tube map and discover some of the destinations that can be reached, based on average weekly rent and tube fares in the UK’s capital.
So where could I go? It turns out based on my old commute length I could go to Turkey. Shall I start packing now?
As a child I spent a lot of time in Blackpool. Living in Manchester it was our nearest bit of seaside and we had family there, so it was a regular haunt. We thought Blackpool was probably the most amazing place on earth. We never really did the Pleasure Beach, but Blackpool Tower, with its beautiful ballroom, circus and million mile views was somewhere we seemed to visit quite a lot.
Over the Bank Holiday weekend we took the small boy to Blackpool. Our first stop was SEA LIFE Blackpool, which was brilliant. After we’d left SEA LIFE he was keen to hit the beach, but I wanted us to have a quick trip up the Blackpool Tower before we all got covered in sand.
Although the Blackpool Tower is home to several famous attractions including the Ballroom, the tower circus, the tower dungeon and Jungle Jim’s, what we really wanted to see and do was the tower itself.
As Merlin Card holders we showed our cards and got into the lift up to the Blackpool Tower Eye. This is a fairly recent addition to the tower. The first stop was the obligatory before attraction photograph. I always say yes to having these taken out of politeness, but we never buy them and they always look awful and/or really unnatural. The people in front of us declined, so we decided to as well and we were just waved through.
We joined a short queue for the 4D cinema experience. There are no seats in this cinema, so be prepared to stand for the short showing. The short film shows you the history of the tower and is a whistle-stop tour/flight around Blackpool complete with wind through your hair and foamy bubbles being blown at you. I found it quite exciting, the small boy wasn’t quite as keen. I think he was a bit nervous about going up the tower.
Once you’ve watched the film you join the queue for the lifts up the tower. We had already decided to stay on the glass SkyWalk platform rather than climbing the stairs to the top. Both of my boys are a bit windy about heights and we thought we could go back another day and push it a little bit further with them.
They were very brave and both eventually managed to step out onto the 5cm thick glass. To be fair, the tower is 380ft tall and it is very strange standing on glass and being able to see all the way down.
I wonder how they clean the windows
It was a gloriously sunny day, the sky was a beautiful blue and you could see for miles and miles. On a clear day you can apparently see the Lake District, Liverpool and across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man.
We spent quite a bit of time walking around on the SkyWalk platform, admiring Blackpool and beyond from all angles. We talked about going even higher up the tower, but we decided to leave that for another, slightly braver day.
I would have liked to have spent more time exploring the attractions at the tower, but the boys were very keen to get on the beach, but we will be back another day soon for a proper look around.
For more information visit the Blackpool Tower website.
On Saturday I was invited to the Jet2Sunchester blogger event run by Jet2Holidays. It was a showcase of some of their hottest summer destinations including Majorca, Malta and Tenerife and an afternoon of food, cocktails, glitter, sunshine and palm trees and catching up with some friends. Oh and I won a holiday, but more of that later.
We were invited to dress for summer but the Manchester weather hadn’t got the memo so was treating us to a day of wind and rain. However the sun shone inside and the Jet2 team had decked the room out with palm trees, deckchairs and a mini golf course. Around the room four holiday resorts had set up stalls and in one (very popular) corner you could get your nails done and have a massage.
But first, in true tour-guide style, let us take a whirlwind tour of the Mediterranean…
The Sol Katmandu Park & Resort in Majorca. It’s a new 4* family hotel set in an aquatic theme park, this vibrant hotel is a 5-minute walk from the beach. The Sol Katmandu Park & Resort is full of fun family things to do, including 3 pools, water slides, a soft play area, a 4D cinema and access to the theme park. It looks and sounds like the most fun family holiday destination in the world.
BH Mallorca was launched 2015 and has taken the holiday clubbing world by storm. The hotel guarantees a superstar DJs, stunning accommodation and the world’s first over 18s waterpark full of high adrenaline thrills. It’s the prefect party hotel.
Hotel Botanico and The Oriental Spa Garden in Tenerife looked and sounded like heaven. This 5 star luxury hotel combines luxurious accommodation, fine dining restaurants and leisure facilities, including the award-winning Oriental Spa Garden. It’s a beautiful looking hotel and I can’t think of a more stunning location for a spa.
Lastly there was Malta & Gozo – Malta has a rich history and lots to recommend it. It has almost year-round sun, 9 UNESCO sites – ancient temples, Roman ruins and medieval cities as well as beautiful coastlines and lively resorts sporting a mixture of old town charm and modern day attractions with a range of accommodation to suit everyone.
Tour of the Mediterranean over, I decided it was time to hit the cocktail bar, grab myself a still smoking and bubbling cocktail (it’s alive I tell you!) and go and get my nails done. After that there was no stopping me, I had an amazing massage (seriously Jet2, can I have her number?) and then got my face glittered, because it’s nice to shimmer sometimes.
The afternoon was drawing to a close, I was tired and ready to go home and wistfully flick through some holiday brochures. It was time for the prize draw and everyone gathered round waiting to hear who’d won the holiday. I never win anything so I hung back playing it cool (think Del Boy and Trigger at the bar) when my name was called out and I nearly fell off my deckchair in shock.
I had no words, I couldn’t speak and I was beyond delighted and excited and giddy, and, and, and completely lost for words. I’m so excited about being able to take my son on his first foreign holiday and on his first plane journey, there will be so many firsts for him and I can’t wait to share that all with him. Thank you to Jet2 and to The Sol Kathmandu Park & Resort for our prize, we are so looking forward to our visit to Majorca and I’m looking forward to sharing our experience with you on my blog.
You’ve got to be in it to win it or something like that.
Going on a family holiday can be quite an experience, and a world apart from trips you might have made before you had kids. There’ll be a whole lot of laughs, a whole lot of checking up on the little one(s), perhaps a complication or two along the way, and plenty of joy too.
Of course, the added bodies among the travelling party will have one other important impact – the cost of your family holiday will be a good deal higher. It obviously depends how young your children are, and costs for toddlers will be a whole lot less than those for older children. But with things inevitably becoming more expensive, it is all the more important to find ways to get the most bang for your buck, without negatively impacting on the levels of fun and enjoyment.
Here are 5 helpful hints to cut the cost of your family holiday…
Give tours a miss
They’re convenient, they’re all organised for you, and they’re often trumpeted as the ‘only way to see (insert name of destination)’. However, tours like these also tend to have a hefty mark-up on them too, and with an entire family to pay for, it really can get expensive. So rather plan your own trips and excursions. There are even peer-to-peer websites around whereby you can get locals to show you around for a fraction of the price. Chances are, the experience will be more authentic that way too.
Be a proper local
Doing as the locals do is an excellent way to save money, and avoid being caught out by tourist traps. This way you can avoid overpriced eateries, activities and tours, and immerse yourself in local markets and culture too. The best thing to do is to mingle with the locals, make some friends, and find out what the best things to do are. Just put yourself out there – and chances are the whole family will make some great friends along the way too.
Get clever with accommodation
It isn’t a universal truth, but hotels really aren’t likely to be the best way to go as a family. True, there are some good package and all-inclusive deals out there, but booking through Airbnb, or similar websites can save you a truck load compared to booking two hotel rooms. It also tends to be more conducive for family activities and eating too. With a kitchen facility of your own, you can eat what you want and when you want; and you’ll probably get some great inside information about the city or town from your host too.
Get familiar with your destination
The last thing you want is to regularly end up lost in a destination city with no idea where you are, and where to go. The kids will get restless, the stress levels will rise, and invariably an expensive taxi ride will be the default method of getting you from A to B. So put in a bit of time beforehand to familiarise yourself with where you’re going, and download some navigational apps like Pocket Earth to your phone. Getting around by public transport and/or walking really can save a chunk of budget.
Again, you don’t want to scrutinise every penny to the point that you no longer even enjoy your family holiday. It’s a break you all no doubt need, and it’s important to make the most of it. But plan ahead with a daily budget, taking into account all planned an unplanned excursions, and try stick to it. And if you’re using finance in order to fund the holiday, that’s okay too. But be sure to shop around on price comparison sites for the best-value loans you can find, with repayments that suit you. You don’t want a cloud of expensive debt hanging over you while having fun with your loved ones.
We have recently returned from a short family holiday at Bluestone Wales which is located in Pembrokeshire, a stunning part of the world with beautiful, lush landscapes and pristine sandy beaches. It’s just gorgeous and we hope to go back again soon. I’ve pulled together a list of things to do in Pembrokeshire, or rather some of the things we did which are worth a look if you’re visiting Pembrokeshire or Bluestone Wales.
There are some simply stunning beaches in Pembrokeshire. They are renowned for being clean and having soft pale sand. We always feel that if the sun is shining there is no better place to spend an afternoon than on the beach building sandcastles, paddling in the sea, beach combing and looking for sea glass. Within 20 minutes drive from Bluestone Wales you can find the stunning beaches of Tenby and Saundersfoot. Both have harbours and a good selection of shops, cafes and restaurants.
I have to say that both South Beach at Tenby and Saundersfoot were the most accessible beaches I’ve ever found. As someone who struggles to walk on uneven surfaces these days, having a wooden path down to the shore was a godsend. Well done Pembrokeshire!
Just a few minutes drive, or half a mile walk from Saundersfoot is Wiseman’s Bridge where you can find the Wiseman’s Bridge pub which serves very good pub grub with an even better view. It’s a great place to while away a few hours over an evening drink and a nice meal, their kids menu is good too.
Dylan Thomas Boathouse
This was a bit of an unexpected find, but well worth it, I wrote a blog post about our visit to Dylan Thomas Boathouse in Laugharne. It’s a slightly longer drive from Bluestone Wales, but well worth it for the views alone.
The Coastal Path
We both used to be keen walkers, so we had a small jaunt along the coastal path in Tenby, which is well signposted and beautiful, especially at this time of the year. We couldn’t walk for long because the small boy was tired and we were tired of carrying him, but a little was better than none at all.
The Blue Lagoon
Although this is located within the grounds of Bluestone Wales, it is open to the public each day, so if you’re staying nearby you can still enjoy this lovely pool. Sporting 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 Blue Lagoon is the only pool the small boy has been upset to leave!
The Well Spa Retreat
Family holidays can sometimes err on the side of hectic rather than relaxing. I managed to spend a morning in the spa while the boys went swimming and enjoyed the playground. If you can manage to slip away for a few hours, then it’s well worth a visit to the Well Spa. I’ve blogged about my blissful morning there. Truly. Blissful.
So those are some of the things we did while we were in Pembrokeshire. There are tonnes of other attractions and things to do, but the sun was shining and the beach was calling, maybe we’ll get round to exploring a few more things next time we’re there!