Holiday Countdown

Choosing a holiday is a nerve wracking thing when you’ve got a tiny humans to consider – suddenly it’s not all about wine, fun and sleep. You’ve got to think about entertainment, meal options, sleeping arrangements and the possibility that you are about to spend a whole bunch of hard earned cash on a potential disaster. If that doesn’t make you crack open a bottle of wine then I don’t know what will……..

But help is out there and with a bit of searching around good deals can be found and ideal locations can be sought.

This year we are going for the hotel holiday instead of our usual self catering event. The last time we stayed in a hotel with Miss MIP she was 11 months old and when we arrived at the hotel it was still in the process of being built so we are coming at it with a postive foundation that anything has to be better than the last hotel we stayed in!

After much deliberation we’ve decided to go to the Aliathon Holiday Village and booked it through First Choice. We wanted a proven brand for this special break and are hoping First Choice will provide that extra reassurance.

So far the process has been great – the online booking was easy and there were plenty of photos to give an idea of what to expect. The thing that appealed to us most was the choice of rooms though – Miss MIP has a fragile relationship with sleep at the best of times and the Aliathon Holiday Village gave us the option of a room with a separate kids den for her to sleep in. This is perfect because we know from past experience that Miss MIP cannot, will not and shall not sleep in the same room as us. She just gets too excited and sits on our head singing Moana songs for 12 hours and frankly that’s not my idea of a holiday.

The hotel has lots of food options and we’ve gone all inclusive so I can drink cocktails, Mr MIP can drink a cold beer and the tiny human can consume her body weight in ice cream. It’s got a splash pool, a big swimming pool, a kids club and lots of activities aimed at keeping her asleep at night!

Aliathon 4

With only a couple of weeks to go I’m now looking at packing lists and what to take. This will also be our first holiday without Miss MIP in any kind of nappy which is super exciting! Our little girl is growing up fast and we are looking forward to this next adventure with her.

So off we go to Cyprus – if you have any packing hacks, must see places or travel tips I’d love to hear about them!

In the meantime I’m off to start a list. Maybe in Excel. With colours………….

Our first family camping experience……

Before Miss MIP came along hubby and I would often spend weekends camping away – it was a quick, cheap and easy way to make the most of a weekend and we really wanted to carry on when Baby MIP arrived. Sadly it became quickly apparent that Baby MIP and sleep were not going to be the best of friends and canvas wouldn’t contain her or her noise so we put it off…..and put it off…..and put it off.

She’s now four and while her and sleep aren’t friends they are at least mild acquaintances that are willing to occasionally be in each others presence. With that in mind we dusted off our camping gear from the garage and started to get excited at the prospect of spending weekends in sunny fields again.

Our tent needed replacing as it had gone to war with high winds in Snowdonia and was utterly defeated so while we were at the Outdoor Adventure and Camping show we brought a brand new inflatable Kampa tent which looked perfect for our needs. I do love a gadget and short of having wifi or bluetooth (maybe the next one?) this tent ticked all the boxes for us.

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Then we started to look around for a small and local campsite that we could test the camping water with. We hit the jackpot with the campsite at Watercress Lodges – it was less than an hour away so easy enough to abort Mission Camp if it turned out to be a 3am disaster, family owned, excellent facilities and in a great location. The booking process was easy and with a one night stay for less than £30 for the three of us very reasonable as well.

We packed up the car with a truly stunning amount of kit and drove through the pretty Hampshire countryside to the site.

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It was smaller than I expected from the website but just perfect for what we wanted – it meant no over crowded pitches and no noise from large groups. It was in an excellent location right in front of the Watercress Line – Miss MIP ran to the front of the tent to wave at the trains every time they went past even though they couldn’t see her. The bridge just down from Ropley station was the place to be if you wanted to wave at the train drivers and get a ‘toot toot’ from them and that was less than a 3 minute walk away so great for little legs.

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The facilities on site were great – spacious hot showers, wheelchair accessible toilets and button operated doors, lots of sink space and hairdryers that were free to use.

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Miss MIP mostly cooperated – she was very confused at going to bed when the sun was still up so I think we need to bear that in mind for next time. She woke a few times between 12:00 and 3:00 but Mr MIP and I agreed that was more because it got very cold (6c and one point) and she was waking up in an unfamiliar place. She adored the experience though – especially being able to bounce around on her space hopper without worry of cars, drinking from her special tin camping mug and wielding a mallet to get the pegs in!

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The experience also showed us how much older she is getting now – she really wanted to help out and be part of the team and enjoyed the responsibility of the ‘jobs’ we gave her.

Spending time outdoors as a family is so important to us – it gives Miss MIP the experiences that we had as children and the chance to live a bit more ‘free range’ than she is able to at home due to school, her speech therapy and constant assessments on her development. When she is running around outside it doesn’t matter that she can’t meet those targets or isn’t quite the same as some other children – she’s just a little girl playing in the sunshine with her Mummy and Daddy.

In 2017 we are going to spend more time in the outdoors as a family and I feel sure that Miss MIP will only be better for it – and so will we.

If you are looking for that first step camping I couldn’t recommend Watercress Lodges and Camping highly enough. The site is friendly, well planned out, accessible and great for both experience and novice campers. We had a great time and I can guarantee we’ll be back……and maybe in one of these snazzy safari tents they’ve got!

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Details

Watercress Lodges and Camping – http://www.watercresslodges.co.uk/

Watercress Line – http://www.watercressline.co.uk/ 

Kampa Tents – https://www.kampa.co.uk/ 

Happy Camper Mugs – http://www.poundland.co.uk (brought from Petersfield store)

Unicorn Sleeping Pod – http://www.gooutdoors.co.uk

N.B – I was offered a one night stay for in return for a review of the campsite. All views and opinions are my own and I was not paid for this review

Cover photo credit – Watercress Lodges

 

My tips for a great Center Parcs break

We’re off to Longleat Center Parcs again this month and I’m so looking forward to our 4 night family break. It’s been a big year for us all so the idea of some family time out is very welcome right now.

If you are able to go term time it is possible to get a break at a reasonable price as well – we booked in January for a September break which came to £299 for a 2 bed standard woodland lodge. For a 5 day break this works out at around £75 per night which isn’t bad for self catering accommodation.

It’s possible to spend a fortune there and ram pack your days but we try to do no more than 1 or 2 activities a day and make the most of the free swimming, lakeside walks and bike rides. Last year I managed to get an early morning run in and while it was much much more hilly than my usual routes it was lovely to run around the lake in the morning.

Here are my top tips for your Center Parcs Longleat break.

Pre-book your activities

It is possible to book activities on site but if you want to make sure you can do things on the day you want to you should use the online booking system. This is a great way to keep an eye on your itinerary to make sure you aren’t booking too much in but also a good way to keep an eye on costs. You might not be able to get into your accommodation until 2pm or 3pm but you can book activities from 10am so you can get full use of your days. This goes the same for your checkout day – you have to leave your accommodation in the morning but you can book right up to the afternoon and evening of the day you check out so book your activities to make full use of your time.

Cafe Rouge

A sneaky restaurant in the corner or the main plaza that does a really lovely childrens menu and they’ll get to watch the fish swim past. They do an ace breakfast as well – my favourite is the freshly cooked bread with jam, butter and a cup of tea and hubby loves the granola. Many of the restaurants at Longleat can be very busy and full of stimulation for the tiny humans but Cafe Rouge is always very chilled out and a good place to spend some quiet time. The Grand Cafe is good for somewhere quieter than the sports bar as well.

Asda in Frome

There is a shop on site and it’s a really good little store but it isn’t the cheapest – I’d compare it to Sainsburys prices but without any of the deals. For us we find doing a click and collect shop from the big Asda in Frome is really helpful. You can order it all online before you leave and just drive in to collect it without any of the actual stresses of having to do a proper shop with the family in tow! Doing an online shop is also a good way of meal planning and keeping your meal costs under control – we usually plan for lunch out but dinner at home. Do bear in mind though that firewood and BBQ’s have to be brought from the onsite shop for safety purposes.

Bikes and trailers

The Longleat site is huge and there is a tractor train to get you around and about but for a bit of independance I’d recommend hiring or bringing your own bikes. They can be a bit of a slog – especially the hill up from the lake – but the site is well laid out with cycle paths and clear routes for you to use. We’ve always hired one of the trailers as well to make it easier to get around and about although now Miss MIP is 4 years old I’m not sure how easy it’ll actually be! Either way the trailers are fab for transporting swimming kit, shopping and stroppy children who refuse to walk another step…….

Onsite childcare

A family holiday is a holiday for all of us but we do enjoy some time to ourselves as well. Each year Miss MIP has gone to the Pirates and Princesses party at the Creche which gives us 2 hours to enjoy breakfast together or to go for a swim while she plays with her new found friends. The childminders at Centre Parcs are just fab – they are experienced and Ofsted registered and were able to deal with Miss MIP’s speech delay issues without any problems.

Wifi and phones

If, like me, you pretty much always have your phone in your hand Centre Parcs can be a challenge due to its almost impossible to find enough signal to make a call. The good news is you can pick up Wifi in most places but be prepared to be uncontactable for most of your stay.

Accommodation

When you book your stay you’ll be offered a range of accommodation – we’ve stayed in standard and executive and rate both. For the three of us the standard is fine but if having a second bathroom would be useful to you then the executive rooms are good for a treat. I haven’t stayed in the the tree house accommodation but if someone at Center Parcs wants to upgrade our stay I’ll be happy to review it  😉 I’d particularly like the look of the treehouses and they could be amazing for special occasions or group hire.

 

I hope these tips help you enjoy your break and I’ll update it when we get back with any new ones we come across.

 

Flying with a tiny human

We recently flew to the other side of the world with our wilful, impatient and fun loving four year old. To me the idea of taking her on a 35 hour flight to New Zealand was terrifying – I’m not a comfortable flyer myself and I was worried she’d pick up on that.

I did loads of research on what to do and what to take and ended up taking far too much so I thought I’d do a little list of what I’d do next time.

Here is what I’d recommend.

Snacks

In over 35 hours of travel we weren’t served one thing that the tiny human would commit to eating. We are really lucky in that our daughter will eat almost anything that is put in front of her but as it goes the food we were given on the flight was either bland, too salty or just not very nice! I’m pleased we had planned for this though and had our failsafe box of snacks.

We thought long and hard about what to pack as we didn’t want anything too sugary, anything that would get sticky or anything that would be messy. In the end we filled up a sectioned off lunchbox with raisins, cocktail sausages cut in half, dry cheerio cereal rings, sausage rolls, squares of cheese, some blueberries and some plain popped popcorn. On any flight over an hour I’d consider taking snacks for children – anything to avoid a hungry tantrum.

Take a couple of bottles of water and some straws as well – those cups they give you on a flight are a wet lap waiting to happen! Sport bottles of water are great for helping popping ears on takeoff and landing.

Toys

This was a tough one – with our hand luggage allowance from Qantas was quite limited so we had to be really careful what we took with us. Some of the stuff we took was totally unnecessary but some of it helped us out of a few tight spots. The things I’d recommend would be –

  • Playdoh – they’ll probably eat it but the small tubs were great and easy to tidy up. It is quite heavy though so if you are tight on weight allowance some sticks of plasticine might be better as it lighter and flatter to pack
  • Playmobile – a couple of the little sets were fab to keep her distracted and filled up several hours with good imaginary play
  • Shopping List Game Shopping List Game – play for her brain as well as her hands. She loves this game and it was easy to pop it all in a zip lock bag to save on space while keeping everything safe.
  • Magnetic Transport Puzzle  – this was our favorite. Really easy to pack down, very light, came in its own packaging and lots of fun for us all
  • Stickers – because all four year olds need 60,00,000 stickers on their person at all times
  • Colouring – don’t rely on the ‘fun packs’ airlines give you and make sure you take your own pencils and a pencil sharpener as well. We also liked the water colouring books as they don’t involve plane seats or trays getting drawn on and no leaking pens in pockets either.

TV Entertainment

Everyone told us not to worry too much as she’d just end up watching films and TV on the behind seat entertainment systems. Which would have been true if she was around 4 inches taller. As it was she needed two pillows to be able to see the screen which wasn’t comfortable for her – for this reason alone I was so so glad we’d taken a tablet with iPlayer on it. She managed to watch a couple of films but it didn’t hold her attention for anywhere near as long as we’d hoped.

Tablet

This has now become an essential part of travelling with our tiny human. She loves to play the Cbeebies games, Mr Potato Head, Justin’s World, Jigsongs, Little Fox and Magic Fingers drawing games. Stay on the safe side and take a power bank charger with you as well in case your battery starts to run low. I’d also recommend taking a pair of headphones of your own that are comfy enough for your little one to use.

The most important thing to bear in mind when you travel though is that children will be children. If your child is anything like mine you can be 98% sure that there will be a tantrum at some point and while it is embarrassing there isn’t anything you can do about it. They are young children who don’t understand what is happening and who are over excited and over tired – you can only try your best but you must also try as much as possible not to get stressed and overwhelmed by the situation. If you start to really struggle ask the cabin crew if you can move around a bit to give the people around you a rest but ultimately you and the people on that plane have to spend a few hours with each other and then you’ll go on with your separate lives. At the most you’ll be an inconvenience but as long as most people can see you are trying your hardest they tend to understand.

And get some wine or gin from the drinks trolley. It might not help with the tantrums but it’ll make the not caring part a little easier……. 😉

Are holidays with young children worth it?

I was talking to a friend recently and she said that she’d never been on holiday with her daughter because she didn’t see how a holiday with a child was worth it. She thought that a holiday with a family was just doing the same things you usually would just in a different location. I couldn’t disagree with her more though – I think family holidays are a special and important time for people to step away from their normal busy lives and experience something different together.

We are in the lucky position to be able to afford to go on holiday each year and I know this isn’t the same for everyone but I don’t think family breaks have to be expensive. You can camp, hire a caravan, book onto a coach trip or book a package and if you can’t get time off work then a one night weekend trip is just as valuable as a 5* break to Mexico.

Because for me it isn’t about where you go – it’s about the fact you go together. You could stay one night somewhere half an hour from home but it is still an adventure. It doesn’t matter that beds still need to be made, it doesn’t matter than dinner still needs to be cooked and it doesn’t matter than tantrums will still be had. By spending that time somewhere new as a family you are creating out of the norm memories and those are the things you will remember.

I once slept in a tent with a river of water running under it from the monsoon of rain that had been released overnight on a camping holiday to France. At the time it felt like the greatest adventure I’d ever had – I walked on the bubbling tent groundsheet the next day and thought that this must be what it was like to walk on a rain cloud.  My Dad threatened to wash my hair in the river running under our tent if I didn’t go to the shower block with Mum and being sorely tempted to see if he actually would just because it sounded like so much fun.

I don’t remember us going on those holidays because they were cheap at the time – I remember my Dad being there every single day for an entire week. My Dad has always worked extreme hours so for him to be there every single day was incredible. Some of my happiest memories of my childhood involve being sat in a field with my Mum, my Dad and my brother while we ate cheese and bread carved up with my Dads swiss army knife. It doesn’t matter where those memories took place but the fact I’ve got them and want to recreate them with my own daughter shows how powerful they were to me.

We’ve been really lucky to see some amazing places in the world before we had a family and I look forward to taking our daughter swimming with the fish in the Maldives, to visit the ruins in Tulum in Mexico, on safari in Tanzania and snorkelling in Egypt but these are all bigger dreams. I’m just as excited to take her out on a boat with in Penzance to see the dolphins and basking sharks, to take her to cheddar gorge to see the views, to take her to Snowdonia to see the looming peaks and to take her to the New Forest to see the ponies.

These are all things I want to share with her and I want her to remember but mostly I want her to remember us spending time with her, exploring new places with her and trying new things together as a family. Because those memories are precious.

 

 

Review – Qantas London to Auckland

So as some of you know we recently took a huge journey to visit family on the other side of the world in New Zealand. After much exploring we decided to take a non stop flight from London to Melbourne with Qantas, then another flight from Melbourne to Auckland (also with Qantas).

The flights with Qantas were £2,355 plus another £150 for seat booking -needless to say this was more than we’d ever spent out for flights for us all before and based on our research we had high hopes for our journey.

Now travelling for 35+ hours with a three year old is a daunting prospect at the best of times but being that I don’t much like flying it was always going to be a challenge.

Our booking process was really easy and Qantas were easy to reach by phone for our additional queries as well. We had some confusion about the flights as they were advertised as non stop but the receipt said that it had a stopover in Dubai – after a quick call we were reassured this would be a brief refuel stop and we’d hardly notice. This put my mind at ease as I didn’t relish the thought of 4 separate flights each way.

Once we’d booked we started to get excited – this was helped by the the Joey Playbox app which is designed for kids but if I’m honest we all enjoyed playing with. You can design your own airport, sticker up luggage with cool tags, design paper airplanes and play a game based on the old Nokia snake game where you collect baggage which my husband and I became quite competitive on! We were also promised a kids activity pack on the flight for the little one and we added this to the things for her to do mental tick list.

Before we knew it the few months between us booking and travelling had passed and it was time to go. We’d been able to print off our boarding passes quickly and easily and checking in with our luggage was great. We had a luggage allowance each of 30kg so 90kg between us which was plenty for our 10 days in NZ. The hand baggage allowance was slightly harder at 7kg per person and we found this a challenge – most bags weigh around 1kg or 2kg so this really cut the allowance down and when you are flying with a 3 year old the hand baggage is hugely important. On top of this hand baggage allowance you are also allowed to take on a small personal piece of luggage such as a handbag, laptop computer, overcoat, small camera, a reasonable amount of reading material or a small amount of duty free goods where permitted though. We made use of this extra bag but really a couple of extra kgs in hand luggage would have made all the difference.

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We were flying economy in an Airbus A380 and we weren’t overwhelmed by the legroom available – as with so many flights it was fine until someone reclined their seat and then we became very short on space. Even the smallest of our group struggled once the seats in front were reclined and as we were primarily on a night flight this was most of the time.

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The plus side to the flights are the staff – the Cabin Crew on Qantas were superb. They were constantly racing around answering calls and helping people out. We watched them help out a family with an unhappy child and a woman who was feeling very claustrophobic and they did this with a smile and without an ounce of panic or short temper. The service was friendly and felt as personal as it can be with hundreds of people for the team to try and please.

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Sadly the downsides did outweigh the good points for us though. Qantas have recently relaunched their menu and while none of us are fussy eaters but I have to say we did struggle. Particularly with the children’s menu – on all flights both outbound and inbound our daughter didn’t find one thing she enjoyed. It was all very bland and nondescript and we found the limited options quite challenging which is tough when you are on a long flight. The other thing was they never stopped feeding us! We said no to crisps, wraps and rolls many times as it was just a constant bombardment of meals and snacks. When you are already cramped on a plane the last thing you want is to be feeling all heavy and full as well.

The fact that 70% of the flight was at night is tough as well – I know this can’t really be helped but it meant we couldn’t walk around as much as we’d like and our daughter didn’t get an opportunity to play quietly and chat to us as much as we would have like. This created a difficulty later down the line as it’s impossible to ask a 3 year old to stay still and quiet for 13 hours!

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The other thing was the non stop element of the flight – the ‘brief fuel stop’ in Dubai turned out to be over 2 hours each time. This, to us, isn’t what we expected from a ‘brief fuel stop’ – it was a struggle to get everything off the plane for two hours to then come back to your seat afterwards. It might not sound like that much of a deal but with an overtired 3 year old at 10:30pm it really is hard work. We’d hoped for a route that would avoid lots of getting on and off of planes but this particular route couldn’t do that for us.

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So the crux of it is – would I fly Qantas again? The answer is yes but not back to New Zealand. The flight times make a long flight with a child even more hard work, there isn’t enough space in economy, the food isn’t good, the hand luggage allowance is restrictive when you are travelling as a family and the fuel stop is too long for the flight to ever be considered non stop.

Would I fly Qantas again anywhere else? Yes I would but only because of the staff – we’ve flown with many of the big airlines over the years and the thing that makes Qantas a success must be the friendly, approachable and incredibly professional staff.

So all in all – 2/5 for the flight but 5/5 for the crew.

If you have a flight with Qantas coming up and I can answer any questions or queries for you then get in touch using the comments or email me on muminpractice@gmail.com

 

Counting down to 11,700 miles

In just a few weeks we will be boarding our Qantas flight in London and travelling 11,700 miles to Nelson in New Zealand. This is a huge trip for us. Over 3 years ago my brother in law and his family moved to New Zealand and this will be the first time we’ve seen them in person since they left and I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am about the trip.

I’m excited but I’m also worried – it is such a long way and part of my concern is about spending 26 hours on a plane with an excitable 3 year old.
We’ve booked to go with Qantas because the price was the best and because we liked what we read about them. All in all the flights were less than I thought they’d be at £2,355 for two adults and one child but it’s safe to say we won’t be taking the upgrade to premium economy as its an eye watering £4,700 extra to do so. What on earth happens in premium economy that you could justify paying £7,000 for three flights?
N.B – if anyone from Qantas is listening and wants to bump us up to Premium Economy in a row of three I’d be delighted to take that upgrade and blog about it…….  😉 
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As well as a really competitive price we were really pleased with the 30 kilo luggage allowance, a decent amount of leg room with foot rest, a snack cabin to help yourself from during your journey  (helpful when you are travelling with a small human who doesn’t stop eating. Ever) and a really good selection of films and TV for us all to watch. If from reading this you have any intention of emailing me telling me off for letting my child watch too much TV then I’d advise you to stop right now. It’s 35 HOURS people – if watching Frozen for 35 straight hours is going to stop us and anyone else around going insane then that is what is happening.
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From a family travel point of view we were also impressed that a child ticket gets the same luggage allowance, proper food portions on an actual plate which comes out before the adults, an activity pack on board and a great little app which has really helped her to get excited about the trip. Maybe too excited in fact – she has asked every single day if we are going on holiday since we booked it. Which brings me to my very first travel tip –
Don’t tell children you are going on holiday until a week before you go
Seriously. Don’t do it. We booked in January and she has asked every single day if we are going yet. Major mistake on our part.
I’ll be blogging about the whole trip as we go along – booking, airports, flights, comfort, connecting flights, luggage, service and anything else that comes up. I’ve found it pretty difficult to get the up to date information I was looking for so hopefully this blog will answer any questions other families might have as well. If there is anything specific you’d like me to cover then please email me on muminpractice@gmail.com and I’ll do what I can to help.
With less than a month to go, 5 pages of packing lists and to do lists, three suitcases, two travel books and a whole bunch of hopes and wishes I’m getting ready for this amazing trip. I hope you’ll enjoy sharing it with me.

Review – The Goodwood Hotel

It was our 8th Wedding Anniversary last weekend and we booked a one night stay at The Goodwood Hotel in West Sussex.

Since becoming parents our requirements have changed a little for our anniversary breaks – we used to like self catering in a town or village where we could explore a bit and then wander along to a local pub in the evening. Now we prefer to arrive somewhere, put down our bags and move as little from that spot as possible! We chose The Goodwood Hotel as it’s not far from where we live, it has a pool and a good wine list. These are all our priorities now – food, wine, pool, sleep and total lack of movement!

The Goodwood Hotel is based near Chichester in West Sussex and it is a great location to explore the local area. It has a selection of rooms varying from suites, to garden rooms with a terrace to signature double rooms – all rooms have ensuite bathrooms, modern furniture, cosy throws and a selection of books to read.

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We stayed in a Garden Room and were impressed with the amount of space – the rooms have high ceilings, lots of light and are furnished beautifully. We had tea and coffee making facilities with delicious morning brew from Tea Pigs, lovely bathroom products from Elemis as well as a safe, hairdryer, ironing board and iron.

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I’d recommend the rooms with a garden terrace – although it was cold when we were there it was great to be able to sit outside with a book and a cuppa.

We went for a swim in the pool and were also able to use the jacuzzi, sauna and steam room at the health club as part of our stay. You can also book in at the in house spa which is called The Waterbeach which has treatments for men and women from manicures to massages and all at very reasonable prices. I didn’t use the spa on this occasion but if we have the opportunity to go back I’ll be sampling from their treatment menu for sure.

The hotel offers a range of restaurants – The Richmond Arms, The Kennels and the Bar and Grill and as staying guests we were offered the chance to eat at all of them. We chose the Bar and Grill as we wanted something slightly more casual and we were delighted with our choice. The restaurant is open plan, warm and friendly with a good selection on main, light bites and dessert menus.

Our food arrived quickly and was delicious – I opted for the chicken burger (a rare treat for me as I’m trying to steer clear of bread) and my husband had steak. Both were cooked to perfection and the accompanying sides were very tasty as well. Add in a nice dessert, a few glasses of prosecco and a cup of tea to finish and we were very happy customers ready to slope off to bed for 12 hours sleep in a comfy bed.

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5

The food is great, the rooms are nice and the hotel is lovely but the thing that makes The Goodwood Hotel exceptional is the staff. From the moment we were checked in by the helpful and professional front of house staff to the friendly and approachable manner of the team at the restaurant you are made to feel like they all really care about your stay. The small touches of some chocolates in our room to wish us happy anniversary, the knock at our door in the afternoon to check our room was ok and to give us a weather report the following day right the way through to the bigger efforts like a special dessert to help us celebrate our anniversary all added up to an astonishing level of service I’ve only come across a handful of times before.

 

 

The Goodwood Hotel  is a wonderful place and at £205 for bed, breakfast and dinner for the both of us it also gives great value for money.

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If you are looking for a getaway I’d highly recommend it and would also like to take this opportunity to thank the staff at the hotel for making our weekend so wonderful.

5/5 – great value, great service and a lovely location.

I was not paid for this opinion and all views expressed are my own. If you would like your product or service reviewed then please contact me directly on muminpractice@gmail.com 

 

The Car Seat Geek

I recently ran a car seat Q&A on my Facebook page.

The world of car seats is such a confusing place to be and in my experience it is also a world full of guilt. When we brought our daughters car seat we got the best our budget could stretch to but like many parents I always felt guilty I couldn’t get her the very best on the market.

Without doubt the safest option for most children is to be rear facing and thankfully they are much more affordable with a greater variety of seats available.

In this confusing world it is comforting to know there are people out there who can answer your questions. Louise aka The Car Seat Geek is one of these people – she started out working for Mamas and Papas where she learned about car seats and fitting them in a variety of cars. While she was on maternity leave with her second baby she started researching rear facing and returned to Mamas and Papas with this knowledge. Louise has now worked for Mamas and Papas for five years advising customers on car seat safety, fitting and training other members on staff on different brands and types of seat. Through her training sessions she met an expert from Good Egg Safety and now also works with them running fitting sessions and making sure car seats are properly fixed at clinics.

Safe to Louise knows what she is talking about!

Louise was kind enough to offer to answer some questions from my Facebook ‘likers’ and here are her responses for you.

I was just wondering how long is too long for a newborn baby to be sat in a car seat? We have a maxi cosi cabrio fix and so far have used it once on our buggy chassis for a stroll around town. If we’re at home we only use his carrycot but it’s not practical when we’re out as it doesn’t fit in my car. I worry about the length of time he is in the car seat for. What’s the recommended time? Thank you

Louise says –

The maximum amount of time a newborn should be in a car seat is 90 mins. Studies conducted show that, among other things,  oxygen desaturation is apparent after just one hour in a car seat. This website talks more about using car seats safely and I’ve linked to a report on a study too: http://babybwell.co.uk/infant-car-seat-safety/
When moving a baby from an infant (newborn car seat) to the next stage, which is more important, height or weight?

My daughter is 14 months and still comfortably fits in her newborn seat, but she’s the right weight to go into her next stage up?

Louise says –

Height and weight are equally important.  Your infant carrier should have an orange sticker on it (normally underneath) which will tell you the weight limit.  Most are a group 0+ with a weight limit of 13kg,  but there are still some group 0, 10kg seats around. They are outgrown by height when the top of the head is level with the top of the seat.  Make sure any removable inserts are taken out and baby is sat with their bottom against the crotch strap for correct positioning. You should use the seat until its maximum height / weight limit (whichever comes first ) before moving to the next stage.  The safest option for the next stage would be an extended rear-facing seat as it’s much safer than forward facing. You can read up on rear-facing and why it’s safer at www.rearfacing.co.uk and www.securatot.co.uk. There are some rather eye-opening crash test videos on YouTube too.

We ERF our 2.5 yr old in a cybex sirona and have no plans to turn him round yet. We wouldn’t be able to safely fit the same seat behind the driver’s seat because of dh’s long legs. Are there any ERF seats suitable for smaller cars with less leg room that would take up less space behind the driver’s seat. We’re in a Clio sport tourer and expecting DC2 later on this year. Thanks!

Louise says –

The cybex sirona is one of the most compact seats available. You can look at the axkid minikid too.  It’s a belted, rear-facing only seat that harnesses to 25kg and has passed the swedish plus test. It can be installed with less legroom and is allowed to touch the front seat gently which can save space. Your eldest could move into the minikid and youngest use the sirona. Alternatively,  turn off your airbag and put one in the front (would have to be the minikid if no isofix in front). I actually have these seats in a Renault modus which is similar to a Clio. You can get a bit more legroom in the front by making the back rest a bit more upright too

Is there a light weight/portable car seat my 5 yr old and 7 yr old daughters could use on a coach when going on school trips? Are lap belts in coaches safe? Is it ok for a child to sit in a seat in a coach with a three point seat belt which is not height adjustable, without a car seat ie the seat belt therefore cuts across their neck. I am worried about the safety of my children when they are on school trips but a told by the school that local authority approved coach operators are used.

Louise says –

This is a link to the law regarding coach travel :
https://www.gov.uk/child-car-seats-the-rules/when-a-child-can-travel-without-a-car-seat Unfortunately, children can be on a coach without a seat belt or car seat. That doesn’t mean that it is safe 😦 Seat belts are made for adults, not children. Many coaches just have lap belts and there are no booster seats that can be used with them. The britax eclipse can be fitted with a lap belt, but it’s a group 1 seat so your children are most likely too big for it now. If the coach does have 3 point seat belts then I would ask to use a booster. Obviously a high back booster would be best ( the britax adventure is quite slim), but if that isn’t practical then a booster cushion like the bubble bum or the trunki boosterpak are portable.
When do the new rules on extended rear facing come in?
Louise says –
They are already here, but it only affects you if you have/will buy an ” isize ” seat.  I have written a long post on my page about it,  but basically we have 2 car seat regulations running side by side at the moment. The new one requires mandatory rear – facing travel to 15 months whereas the older one has a minimum weight of 9kg for forward facing. Car seat companies can currently approve their seats to one regulation or the other. If unsure which seat you have,  the orange sticker will say either R44/04 (old reg) or R129 (new reg). Experts recommend rear-facing to at least 4 years old
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I’d like to thank Louise for taking the time to answer our questions and to everyone for taking part in the Q&A. If you have any other questions you’d like Louise to answer she’d welcome you contacting her through her Facebook page.

Thanks Dad

I didn’t send my Dad a Fathers Day gift this year – I looked around and saw lots of little things but nothing that really spoke to me about my Dad. My Dad is a very clever man who is good with words so the best gift I could think to give him were some words that I don’t think I say often enough.

Thank you Dad.

Thank you for teaching me how to be an adult,  thank you for forgiving my terrible behaviour and thank you for teaching me how important it is to think about others and how I act has an impact on them.

Thank you for letting me cry when I needed to, for picking me up when I didn’t think I could get up again and thank you for encouraging me to find my own way – even if it did take me while to get

Thank you for teaching me about music, thank you for letting me try to be musical even though I was mostly terrible (the violin for example) and thank you for passing on your love of lyrics and melodies to me.

Thank you for making me laugh at Christmas cracker jokes – you are the only person who can read them out to me and make me laugh while you do it. You are also the only person who likes to try and work them out.

Thank you for letting me take risks (tiny motorbikes and haystacks come to mind here), thank for you for letting me laugh at you when you took risks that also ended in disaster (getting stranded in the mud when we all went kayaking in Florida) and thank you for encouraging me to climb trees, ride bikes and play in the woods.

Thank you for taking me to Fratton Park and sharing your love of football with me (even if I didn’t understand), thank you for taking me out on the Topper in the Solent and teaching me to respect the water and thank you for teaching me to snorkel in Greece – even if we did almost get eaten by an unnamed giant fish with teeth.

Thanks for indulging me in the millions of careers I wanted (traffic warden*, vet, teacher, marine biologist, astronaut and cabin crew) and never telling me that none of them were possible even if they were in fact impossible.

Thank you for all of your words – even the cross ones. The cross words were never pleasant but sometimes just as important as the kind words.

Thank you for understanding that I’m not the same as you – I’m not good with numbers or languages or anything academic really and thank you for showing me it was ok to be myself even when I didn’t know who I was.

Thank you for the late nights, the early mornings, for the pick ups and the drop offs, for reading to me, for reading with me and for brushing my hair when I couldn’t get the tangles out.

Thank you for working immensely hard to provide a home for all of us. You spent too many hours at work (you still do now) but it was all to make sure we were fed, safe and warm with a nice home to come home to.

Thank you for being a brilliant Pops to Emma. Thank for for cuddling her, for holding her hand, for playing guitar while she dances along and thank you for making her giggle.

Thank you for all of it Dad.

I’m sorry I didn’t get you a gift but I just couldn’t find anything that could possibly reflect exactly how thankful I am that you are my Dad.

I love you Dad x

* just to clarify I didn’t actually want to be a traffic warden, I actually wanted to be the police officer who gets to direct traffic in snazzy white gloves. Except I didn’t know what it was called and said a Traffic Warden. Which my Dad has never let me live down. Ever.