Toddler Travel Boredom Busters

Last week John and I headed off to London for a couple of days with Erin in tow. The last time we took her was last summer so traveling was much easier because she slept more! I’ll be honest, I was quite worried about how we would keep Erin occupied for 2 hours. Toddler travel has been a nightmare of mine for a while now.

toddler travel

One of the best things about being a blogger is being able to turn to others for help, advice and inspiration. So many bloggers were there to help me out with ideas for a long train journey:

I did 6 hours+ with a 16 month old and 6 week old a couple of years ago and it was surprisingly easy, though it helped that I had grandparents to assist (my husband couldn’t join until the next day). I would say make sure you have plenty of snacks and magazines/books, and try to plan it around nap time so that you get at least a little break. I found my toddler (at the time) spent almost the entire journey staring out of the window as she was so fascinated by the countryside (having only ever experienced the very urban train journey from home to central London before) so we played a lot of eye spy etc! Samantha – Chocolate & Wine & I’ll Be Fine

For her first Christmas, we took my daughter to London to spend a weekend with family and do some last minute Christmas shopping on Oxford Street. Our train from home to London was almost two hours each way; she was 11 months. We found taking books, a couple of toys and a few healthy snacks was enough to keep her entertained, with the occasional walk up and down the aisle to stretch her legs. We made sure to book tickets in advance, too, so that we had a table and window seats, so she didn’t feel stuck in a small space. Sophia – Tattooed Tea Lady

STICKERS! Also, crayola magic books. When those fail reach for your phone/ipad and fire up the Cbeebies app. Hannah – Hi Baby!

Always try to get a table seat so I can put them by the window and they are wedged in! Oh and take bribes, crisps, chocolate, whatever it takes! Laura – Five Little Doves

Sadly after my last experience I would say don’t forget some bags without holes in just in case they are sick!! Kelly – The Best Version of Kelly

If you have a little time before then create some train bingo cards. pictures of things they have find inside the train and outside the window during the journey. You can select the things based in how old they are. e.g. trees, clouds, black shoes on other passengers etc. Vicki – Tippy Tupps

A mini blackboard and chalk and a little picnic with paper plates and cups with their favourite characters on Lianne – Ankle Biters Adventures

The portable Aquadraw is a big favourite of ours, totally mess free yet the children feel as if they are getting to paint. Even better once it dries you can start doing it all over again! Victoria – Mummy Times Two

Draw a checklist of things you will probably see out the window- car, cow, train, shop etc. and get them to tick it off when they see it! Faye – Glossytots

For the first hour it was mostly spent eating. Erin was pretty happy with a couple of boxes of raisins for a while and a sandwich. We also went armed with toys such as her favourite books, one of those magnetic drawing pads (what are they called?!), toy phones and her favourite soft toys.

The problems came when Erin started to get too tired. Our train was at 11am which is  normally Erin’s nap time. She gets so excited though and doesn’t want to miss out on anything so she refused to sleep for ages. We had to pop her back in the stroller and John pushed her around for a little while. Thankfully, she did end up sleeping for nearly the last hour of the trip.

Luckily the journey home was a bit better. Erin was already super tired so we didn’t get her out of the stroller. Instead, John stayed near the doors with her and got her to sleep. She lasted until about 35 minutes until the end of the journey. Once she’d woken up she was hungry and needed changing so that took up the rest of the time.

We have a 4 hour journey coming up for BlogOn in May and I am dreading it! 2 hours was bad enough but 4?! What the hell are we supposed to do with a 17 month old for 4 hours? Toddler travel is not easy.

London Duck Tours

I have been to London many times before but something I have never done is to go on a bus tour. During my recent London Getaway I decided to change this. Me, my sister and her boyfriend were really excited to be heading off on a London Duck Tour.

London Duck Tours

When we arrived at the Duck Tour bus stop near the Southbank Center I was really excited. The ‘Duck’ was sat there waiting for us. I knew that it was a bit of a mix between a  bus and a boat seeing as it went in the water on the tour.

On the day of our booked tour there was a memorial service happening so we had to change from the Classic Sightseeing Tour to the City of London Tour. We were given the opportunity to come back later in the day instead but we were all happy to go along with whatever.

Some Places we visited on the tour

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Monument to the Fire of London

Bank of England

Tower Bridge

MI6

London Eye

Houses of Parliament

Our tour guide was absolutely lovely and was happy an cheery the whole way through the tour. Although the tour had been changed quite last minute, he was very knowledgeable about the other route. What was really nice was that he spoke when there was something to see but he didn’t fill quiet gaps just for the sake of it. He did manage to squeeze in some Harry Potter trivia though which my sister was pretty happy about, especially as it was something she didn’t know.

The whole tour lasts around 75 minutes with the first 45 minutes or so being on land. Once you reach MI6 though it’s time to splash down and go into the Thames. This was my favourite part I think as you get fantastic views of London and I found it to be quite peaceful on the water. Something I will say though is take a coat or jacket with you. We went on a warm day but I was pretty cold once we hit the water!

We all had a fantastic time on our Duck Tour and I’ve since been looking at maybe doing the Christmas tour later in the year! Although the tickets could work out quite expensive for a large family, I wouldn’t hesitate to pay to go on another tour. Between the knowledgeable tour guide, spacious and comfortable Duck and the views, I couldn’t have asked for more!

Disclaimer: We received complimentary tickets for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own.

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My London Getaway!

Last week I did something I didn’t think I’d do for a really long time. I went away for a couple of days without Erin or John. Part of realising that I have PND also meant that I realised that I need some me time now and again. So, I headed off to London for a night to see my sister and her fiance (Nat & Chris). It was also a kind of late birthday present too.

London

I arrived late morning on the Thursday and we started off with a Wetherspoons breakfast before heading off to Jurassic Kingdom (Review coming soon). Even though Erin wasn’t with me, I still wanted to do a couple of things that maybe I wouldn’t have normally done before. We all had loads of fun, especially taking selfies with the dinosaurs. It was a beautiful day as well so it was nice to get out of the city and in a big, open space.

After Jurassic Kingdom I headed to my hotel, the Holiday Inn Express (Review coming soon) in North Acton, to check in and lighten my bags a bit. The hotel was a 2 minute walk from the tube station so that was great. It is about 20 minutes away from central London on the tube but I didn’t mind that at all.

On Thursday evening we had tickets to see Dreamgirls (Review coming soon), which was my birthday present from Nat and Chris. Before the theatre we went to Bills for dinner. Bills is one of my favourite restaurants so I knew the food would be amazing!

I was so incredibly excited about seeing Dreamgirls. Not living in London means never really being too bothered about seeing any shows. However, Dreamgirls is a favourite of mine and I was desperate to see it. Unfortunately though, Amber Riley wasn’t in it on the night we went but that wasn’t a problem. Come back to read the review in a few days!

On Friday we also had quite a few plans. I got up quite early and headed out for a roam about on my own before meeting Nat and Chris again. We were meeting near the Southbank Center so I went to look at the London Eye and to chill by the river. I think I got there at about 9am and it was so quiet and peaceful. It was a lovely place to be before everything opened.

At 11:30 we had tickets for the London Duck Tours. (Review coming soon) I’ve never done a tour of London before and I was so excited about this. This really didn’t disappoint and it’s one of the most fun things I’ve done in London.

Lunch on Friday was my favourite restaurant of all time, Vapiano. There are branches all over the world and they have the best pasta ever.

Vapiano

Of course, we had to do a bit of shopping so we went to Liberty’s and Carnaby Street where I finally got to go to Choccywoccydoodah. I was in chocolate heaven and could have bought everything. I didn’t though. Instead, we went to Bubblewrap Waffle in Chinatown. I had to wait an hour for a waffle but my god was it worth it!?

By this time we were all exhaused but we headed to Westfield Stratford as it’s not far from where Chris lives. He had to pick up some bits as he and Nat were coming back with me for the weekend. Nat and I did some wedding dress viewing and a bit more shopping but that didn’t last long. My poor feet were killing me.

My London getaway was bloody knackering but it was so needed. I got to do loads of my favourite things and also do something new and exciting. I can’t say I felt refreshed but I can quite happily go for quite some time now before needing some time to myself like that again.

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Last minute getaway to Cambridge

John and I were supposed to go to Cambridge for a weekend for my birthday/ Mother’s Day but it never happened due to illness. I managed to get a rare Saturday night off work though last minute so we decided to go away quite last minute.

cambridge

Travel

Silly me didn’t think about checking trains before booking a hotel. It turned out that we happened to go on the one weekend where there was bus replacements part way, making our journey about 40 minutes longer than it should have been. Erin actually was quite good the whole way there but she did want to run around quite a lot! Train travel with a toddler is certainly interesting (post to come soon!)

Accommodation

I booked us in at the ibis Cambridge Central on the recommendation from my sister. The hotel is right next to the train station but a good 15-20 minute walk away from the city center. I’ll be writing a full review soon but we really enjoyed our stay and will be back next time we’re in Cambridge!

Day one

We arrived in Cambridge at about 9:30am so we had the full day ahead of us. As we couldn’t check in to the hotel until 2pm (found out after that we could have stored bags there) we didn’t want to do too much. We headed into the city center and just explored pretty much. We loved walking around the market and listening to music being played. We also took in a lot of the beautiful buildings and history. We were also quite lucky in that we got to see a bit of a graduation happening at King’s College.

Erin got quite grumpy about 2pm so we decided to let her have a run around in a park and then head back to the hotel for a bit of a rest. We all had a much needed catnap before heading out for some more fun.

A 10 minute walk from the hotel is a little leisure park with some restaurants, cinema and bowling alley. Although I used to be the manager of a bowling alley it has been years since we went. Erin was very unsure about bowling but she did like sitting on the motorbike games in the arcades! For dinner we went to Bella Italia (again, review coming soon). It’s always a safe bet for us because we all like the food there!

We got back to the hotel about 7pm and we were all exhausted. John and Erin were both snoring away by about 8pm and I even had an early night myself.

Day two

Day 2 started at 6:30am with us all being well rested. We’d paid for breakfast at the hotel because I knew Erin would want food straight away. I was so impressed! All you can eat breakfast is always good but this one I really enjoyed.

Sundays are a bit hard when you’re away in the UK because nothing is really open until 10am. We took this opportunity to walk around the streets of Cambridge before going to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Entrance was £5 each for me and John but Erin was free. There was a cute Easter Lindt bunny trail for us to follow too which got Erin some free chocolate at the end. The gardens were gorgeous and we were lucky to go on such a sunny day.

We didn’t have much time for anything else after the gardens so we headed to Wetherspoons for lunch where I, stupidly, ordered breakfast again forgetting about my food earlier! Getting home at a decent time meant leaving at 2pm. I didn’t actually mind this too much though as we were all exhausted! The bus replacement from Cambridge to Ely was horrible though. It was a ‘proper’ bus and not a coach and there was not enough room for people and their luggage. Erin did not want to sit down but there was no room for her to move so she clambered around on me and John. Thankfully, the people sat behind us helped to keep her entertained. I may have cried if it wasn’t for them.

Would i go again?

Absolutely! I loved our little getaway to Cambridge. John and I both loved it, Erin just liked staying in a hotel and eating loads of breakfast. I’d love to go back and see more of the university and colleges and get a few more activities in.

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You have to be short to have a stroller

We’re currently in the market for a new stroller. We have 4 trips to London booked already this year, a trip to Manchester for Blog On and a holiday to Majorca booked for next year. While I love our Quinny Moodd, John finds it hard to push due to the handlebar height. He much preferred our Mamas and Papas Armadillio Flip XT. Instead of a pushchair we need a lightweight stroller to take away with us that is also easy to fold and small too.

strollers

I have been looking for weeks and I still can’t decide. Last Thursday I took a trip into John Lewis to have a proper look at what was available instead of just looking online. I did have one specific stroller in mind, the Babyzen YoYo but wanted to look at all of the options, keeping John in mind this time.

John is 6’1 so a pretty tall bloke. I asked the woman working on that department on the day which would be suitable for my husband. Her honest answer was none. Out of everything available in a stroller, she said nothing was suitable for a man of John’s height. I was a bit speechless.

When I asked the lady to show me some in more detail I soon realised why they weren’t suitable. Only 1 of the strollers, the SilverCross Reflex, had adjustable handlebars. Even then, it barely went up at all and still would have been too short.

Now, John won’t use the stroller all the time so I guess it doesn’t actually matter too much. However, why should he suffer just because he is tall. If he wanted to take Erin out for the day or anywhere really, he has to be bent over no matter what we pick. How is this fair? More so, why has no one designed a stroller with a higher handlebar. it’s not like they add on much more weight.

There are loads of proper pushchairs that are taller, like the Mountain Buggy for example but why should we, or John on his own, have to lug around something heavy and bulky. It is so frustrating! Why aren’t strollers designed with everyone in mind?

I’d love to know if anyone knows of any strollers that are taller than most! Are you a brand with a stroller that would suit a tall man? Get in touch: we’d love to be proved wrong!

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5 year travel plan

2016 was the first year in a long time that John and I didn’t go on holiday. Things were very different last year. I don’t think either of really felt like we were prepared to try to take a baby on holiday. We went to London for a couple of days and that was hectic enough. However, I feel like we’re now finding our feet as parents and we’re getting back into the mood for going on holiday again.

travel plan

2017 – Centre Parcs

We do actually have a holiday booked for this year. We’re going to Centre Parcs for 5 days in October. I am so excited. As we’ve had to book a lodge with 2 bedrooms we’ve invited my sister and her boyfriend to come as well. They come to visit us and Erin so much and spend so much on train fares from London so this was something we could do for them!

None of us have ever been to Centre Parcs before but I know Erin will love the swimming. There’s something we all want to do and I’m very much looking forward to a spa day with my sister!

2018 – Beach holiday

I haven’t quite decided where we should go for this holiday. Erin will be 2 in 2018 and I want to make sure we go somewhere where there is enough for her to do. She has also never flown so I want her first flight to be quite a short one. I’m thinking we’ll probably end up going somewhere like Tenerife or Lanzarote. At least these plaes are only a couple of hours away and Erin can swim loads and play on the beach. John and I can also sort of relax with a fruity drink!

2019 – Disneyland, paris

travel plan

We’ve always said that we wouldn’t take Erin to Disney until she could at least maybe remember some of it. In 2019 she will be 3 and I think Disneyland, Paris is a good way to start. John and I have never been either so I think it would be a lovely family holiday. I also think we’d probably stay in the city for a couple of days at the same time so it’s not a holiday completely filled with Disney.

2020 – Caribbean Cruise/ Florida

travel plan

We’ve sort of been planning this one for a little while. I gave a savings account going for it and everything seeing as it will cost quite a lot! My mum hits a big birthday in 2020 and we thought it would be fantastic to go away as a  family. My sister really wants to go on a Caribbean cruise again and John and I are desperate to go back to Orlando. This way we both get what we want and we can cruise from somewhere in Florida.

2021 -Wedding tbc

This one is a maybe and a bit of a ‘who the hell knows’ kind of plan. My sister and her boyfriend got engaged last month and they’re throwing around ideas about where to get married. New York has popped up a couple of times, which I’m personally routing for! It could happen anywhere really knowing my sister. There is a good chance of it being abroad though and if it is, it will be our holiday for the year!

Where do you plan on going on holiday over the next couple of years?

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A trip home to Grimsby!

This past weekend John, Erin and I took a trip back home to Grimsby for a couple of days, along with my sister Natalie and her boyfriend Chris. John and I haven’t been back since Christmas 2013 and Erin had never been before!

Natalie and Chris (who drove) hired a car and drove up from London to pick us up on the way. It was absolute hell! It took us forever to get to King’s Lynn where we stopped at Wetherspoons for lunch. Erin had her very first meal of her own. Unfortunately, she was more interested in everything else that was going on.

Natalie and Chris left their house before 8am and we didn’t arrive in Grimsby until about 7pm. If I thought it was a long day, I can only imagine how they felt. Erin would normally have been in bed at about 630 but she was so excited to see my mum that we let her stay up late, which NEVER happens.

On Saturday morning me, John and Erin went for breakfast with my sister which was lovely. Erin had a stack of American style pancakes to herself and LOVED them! She’s a bit of a fan of getting her own meals while we’re out now. After that we went to see my dad and step-mum and their dogs Leo and Scout. We also managed to see my step-sister and her boyfriend for a little while and also my step-brother’s 1 month old daughter! Saturday evening was much more chilled out with some quality time for Erin with her Grandma!

On Sunday we had booked a meal at Millfields Hotel for all of us and also my Nanna and Aunt. There will be a full review to come over the weekend but it was super disappointing for various reasons. However, it was lovely to see family and for Erin to finally get to meet them! The rest of the day was really chilled out and was spent with a lot of playing with Erin!

Monday morning and time to leave came around far too fast. It honestly felt like a bit of a whirlwind trip. I wanted to see Jenny from Accidental Hipster Mum but I knew I wouldn’t have had time. I never thought I would ever find another blogger from Grimsby so I’m quite sad I haven’t been able to meet her. Next time I go home it’s a must! It took us a long time to get back home, leaving at about 8:30 and getting in at 1:30. We were all exhausted but it’s also nice to get back to normality as well.

This was Erin’s first really long trip away from home and it wasn’t too bad. I think we could have done with maybe a few more stops in the car just to break it up for her but otherwise, she was so good! Now to plan another trip!

Hassle free holidays with HomeExchange

Erin is now 7 months old and summer is in full swing. This is the first year that John and I haven’t had a holiday. We were too scared to book one/ go on one with Erin in tow. If I had known about HomeExchange a bit earlier in the year, we would have probably been somewhere else right now.

HomeExchange

HomeExchange makes it possible to go anywhere in the world without the hassle and cost of a normal family holiday. Instead of being stuck in a stuffy hotel, villa with shared pool or tiny little B&B, HomeExchange  gives you the option of a property share with like-minded people. I wouldn’t want crazy party animals in my home. Unlike other similar sites, you swap homes instead of paying to stay in someone else’s house!

A HomeExchange holiday is something John and I are looking into for next year. We live in a lovely, quiet little town in Norfolk and I’m sure families would love to stay here. We would love to go somewhere like Portugal, Spain or France and swap with another family. What really draws me in is that we would have the option of choosing a very family friendly home.  Other members have already shared their experiences on the blog.

HomeExchange

Home in France – Photo from HomeExchange.com

John  and I never really had holidays as children and we want Erin to experience different countries and cultures. This may be our only way of showing her what is out in the world because of the cost of proper holidays.

HomeExchange

Cabin in Sweden – Photo from HomeExchange.com

There are so many advantages to going on a HomeExchange holiday, especially with a baby!

PACKING IS EASIER by borrowing travel beds, strollers, baby carriers, changing mattresses, baby hammocks, toys… so you don’t have to take ALL your equipment with you.

AVOID LAST MINUTE WORRIES as everything is in one place and ready for you; the same as when you visit the grandparents.

ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY and stay for free knowing you can keep to your family and baby’s usual routine, just the same as if you were at home.

SLEEP WELL AND RELAX without the concerns of staying in a hotel where your baby may wake up guests.

GET MORE SPACE as baby and parents have their own rooms; no more stays in a cramped hotel room.

AVOID TIME PRESSURES as there’s no need to rush downstairs to catch the hotel breakfast.

HAVE A WELL-DESERVED BREAK and enjoy meeting new friends by venturing beyond your neighbourhood, your exchange partner may even introduce you to their own friends with kids.

RETURN TO PEACE AND QUIET for your baby’s afternoon nap while you prepare the next activity or just relax.

GET INSIDER TIPS from your exchange partner on the best baby friendly parks, activities and workshops.

HAVE YOUR OWN KITCHEN with microwave, dishes and spoons to cook and prepare your baby’s food rather than buying readymade supermarket porridge.

GIVEAWAY

I have a fantastic opportunity for one of my readers. HomeExchange are allowing me to giveaway a year’s membership to HomeExchange.com (worth £100). If you’re looking to travel either on your own, or with your family, this would be a great thing to try.

Enter through the Rafflecopter giveaway below. A winner will be drawn on 27th August and their details will be passed on to HomeExchange.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post. However, all opinions are my own.