Mental Health Awareness Week: Anxiety 

Last week was mental health awareness week. Whilst I have written about this subject before, including most recently for Time To Talk back in February, I actually find it a difficult subject to write about. Hence the late post about it, well at least in part anyway!

Here’s the thing, I wholeheartedly believe that people need to know that they are not alone when it comes to mental health issues. The stigma that exists really does need to be tackled; people need far more support and understanding… and far less judgement. I consider myself a mental health advocate infact. But when I post information or words of support, I purposely don’t share details of our personal story. I initially thought it was perhaps obvious why this might be but as time has gone on, I have discovered that sometimes the lack of openness about this subject is met with confusion, as I guess it does perhaps appear contradictory on the surface, and sometimes leads to (wrong) assumptions, occasionally even suspicion. So I thought it might be useful to blog about why I don’t blog about it! 

First and foremost – it comes down to RESPECT. It is not my story to tell. Squiggle has an anxiety disorder, I am open about that fact. But whilst as a family we welcome sharing our feelings, encourage openess, understand and support mental health issues – and we certainly do not in any way indicate that it is something to be embarassed of – we do also respect her feelings on the matter. We respect her RIGHTS to privacy and respect the things she has shared with us in CONFIDENCE. It is about TRUST

In short, it is her perogative to choose who she wants to share personal information with and how much to share. As far as I am concerned, this applies to anyone sharing personal information about themselves in any context, regardless of age or subject. 

(Of course there are rare occasions it has been necessary to discuss and I have done so, for example when speaking to professionals to seek help for her, but that is an exception). 

The other thing is that I want my blog to be somewhere that I would feel comfortable with her reading. Today, next month, in a year, in a decade, even in 20 or 30 years… if she ever came across anything that I have written I want her to feel safe and comfortable reading it. I don’t want it to trigger her anxiety, or cause her stress. Especially not when she works so hard to overcome it! If she ever chooses to use her experience to help others, that is her choice. But it is up to her. And it should never come at the expense of her own mental health. You know what they say, you have to fit your own gas mask before you can help others! 

Ultimately, everyone is different. Some people choose to write about really personal things and that is ok. But it is also ok not to as well. We should all just do what we feel is right for our situation. And whilst I know I don’t need to explain my actions or reasons, I have chosen to because I hope in doing so, it might help people understand a little more about it. 

On that note, what I would like to share with you all are a few useful resources that we have found really helpful…

Self-help books that are really useful for children with anxiety or OCD:

What To Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck ~ £12.50

What To Do When You Worry Too Much ~ £12.50

What To Do When You Grumble Too Much ~ £12.50

Self- help book for parents:

Helping Your Anxious Child: A Step By Step Guide For Parents ~ £15.24

Thrive App: 

Thrive ~ I already love this app, even though I have actually only just discovered it! It guides you through meditation, deep breathing, muscle relaxation and other useful strategies. Plus my particular favourite; creating a zen garden. It also has great additional features like mood tracker and support network. In my opinion it can be used by the whole family. The app has various cost options: £4.99 per month, £9.99 for 3 months unlimited use or £1.99 per month for one year subscription. 

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Lastly, here are some recent blog posts written about mental health: 

The Parent and Pupil Coach (great tips for helping children with anxiety)

Pink Pear Bear (letter to anxious child)

Someone’s Mum (about her own anxiety)

A Blonde and A Baby (describing her anxiety

Two Little Misters (how to help a friend with anxiety)

Emma Reed (ending the stigma of counselling)

Surviving Life’s Hurdles (on how getting outdoors helps)


*The books are affiliate links.



Perfect Glasses: Review 

It had never occured to me to shop online for any type of glasses before, so when perfectglasses.co.uk got in touch with me, I was quite intrigued and keen to give it a go! As I don’t need to wear prescription eye glasses personally, and summer is (hopefully!) on its way, I opted to review a pair of sunglasses for myself.

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They offer an excellent selection, including various designer brands, and have options across a range of prices. (Prescription glasses start at just £9!) The sunglasses can be ordered as non-prescription but are also available as prescription sunglasses too. I decided to have a little nosey at how this would work and it looked really straightforward; you simply enter the specifics of your prescription and they take care of it… so easy!

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The website sells lots of different styles. If, like me, you aren’t sure what shape will suit your face, there is a handy feature where you can take a selfie then look in the virtual mirror to see what they would look like. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this made it to decide, without needing to actually try them on. There are also clear accurate measurements in the descriptions, which is helpful to note when making your choice. As with any sunglasses, some styles/ brands are smaller than others, so this information is useful to help pick a pair suited to you.

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The website itself is easy to navigate. There are different categories, and the results can then be filtered based on materials, size, colour, type and shape, and can be sorted by price. In my opinion, I think there seems to be a bigger range than you would find in most stores. I am sure there is something to suit everyone!

I specifically wanted a metal frame as I personally prefer this over plastic, so I searched under this filter. (I probably would have opted for a wooden pair if that had been an option!) I had alot of fun ‘trying on’ the different styles and looking through all the various options. I found it far more enjoyable than going into a shop to buy some! Once the frame has been selected, there are various options depending on the type of lenses needed.

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The service was excellent and delivery very quick. The glasses came via a carbon neutral courier and were well packaged with enough packaging that they were secure and arrived undamaged, but without unnecessary packaging (which is a good thing of course!) 

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The sunglasses are exactly how I expected them to be, the virtual mirror and accurate description meant there were no surprises there. They are good quality; they feel nice and sturdy. They are also really comfortable. Ordering the glasses online was convenient and easy – I’d definitely be happy to order from the website again. 

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*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Growing Your Money Guide

One of the things I’m always very conscious of as a parent is our family’s finances. These are challenging times for the UK, and there seems to be growing conjecture that times are about to get even tougher. Whilst I try not to worry too much about the wider economic issues that are largely beyond our control, it is important to me to try to keep our own finances under control.

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If at all possible, there are two simple things you can do to help secure, and safeguard, your family’s financial future. The first is to put aside as much as you can each month. Then, as a second step, it makes sense to ensure that these savings are working as hard as they can. In terms of the latter, it’s easier said than done given that interest rates have absolutely plummeted over the last decade. Nevertheless, there are still some ways in which you can get a bit more bang for your buck.

Best interest deals on savings

The Santander 123 account used to be a real winner with an interest rate of 3%, coupled with some cashback offers on bills. Unfortunately, this rate was cut in half at the end of last year, although 1.5% is still one of the better deals out there. Bear in mind though that this has a £20,000 limit, and there is a monthly fee of £5.

Further afield, Bank of Scotland’s Vantage account offers 3% interest on accounts with £3,000-£5,000 in them, while Tesco offers 3% interest on the first £3,000 savings. Effectively you can take advantage of this for savings up to £6,000, since you can open two accounts per person with Tesco. However, perhaps the stand out option is the Nationwide Flex account, whereby you earn a more impressive 5%, but only on a fixed amount of £2,500 for 12 months (be warned; it then drops down to 1% thereafter).

Another smart way to earn good interest is to use a Help-to-Buy ISA. This is an account for which prospective first-time homebuyers are eligible, and has a built-in 25% bonus scheme on contributions. Aside from the bonus, interest rates are also more competitive than most, with Barclays paying 2.27% for example.

Switching bank accounts

It may seem like a pain, but switching bank accounts is actually easier than you think. Thanks to legislation passed in 2012, the onus falls on the new bank to make all the necessary arrangements like switching direct debits etc… All that’s left for you to do is follow a few easy steps, and it should all be done within seven working days. 

And the good news is that there are some very good deals on offer to those willing to switch account providers. For example, you can earn £100+ from the likes of Co-op or First Direct. Halifax’s £75 is nothing to be sneezed at either. TSB offer a package deal too, whereby you can earn £10 a month by switching to the Classic Plus account, with 3% interest on top of that on the first £1,500 you put in.

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Peer-to-peer lending

There is another option to growing your money, which, it must be pointed out, is not quite the same as savings accounts. Peer-to-peer lending offers returns of up to 5% to those willing to lend their money directly to consumers in need of a loan, via an online platform. It sounds risky, and it must be kept in mind that there is no cover offered on these loans by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, as there is with ordinary bank accounts.

However, platforms do go a long way to safeguarding the funds of lenders. Borrowers are strictly vetted for creditworthiness, so you aren’t lending to just anyone. They also set aside provision funds to cover any arrears and defaults on repayments. And some have even gone the extra mile by setting up an insurance to supplement this; one which pays out for typical borrower default reasons like accident, illness, unemployment; along with darker forces like fraud and cybercrime. It therefore isn’t risk free, but historically returns have been stable from FCA-regulated platforms. So if you are willing to look slightly further up the risk spectrum, it could be a good solution for you.

However you decide to go about things though, what’s important is to be open to, and aware of, all of the various options available out there. That way you can make the most educated decision possible on the best choice for you, in order to make your family’s savings go that much further.

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Willows Activity Farm Easter Eggstravaganza 

Willows Activity Farm Easter Eggstravaganza event is a fun day out that we have been to every year for a number of years and yet it still works just as well as it is suitable for a range of ages. This year we were lucky enough to get a free family ticket through Herts Big Weekend but we did wonder whether this might affect the size of the crowd. Luckily, although it was busy, it didn’t seem particularly packed. And there is plenty of space and lots to do which helps it feel less crowded too.

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The schedule of events is carefully timed so that you can still do the majority of activities and shows even if you are only there for half a day, like we were, but there is certainly more than enough to do for a whole day out too. We were able to do everything we wanted without feeling rushed from one thing to the next but without much spare time to fill either! 

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Squiggle meeting Lilly Bobtail

Some of the highlights of this particular event include the Bunny Hop show, Easter Garden egg hunt, meet and greets with Peter Rabbit, Lilly Bobtail, Benjamin Bunny and Easter Bunny, and various shows by Peter Rabbit and friends – including a brand new show featuring all three characters on stage together. We didn’t see this particular show but we did watch the Bunny Hop show with the Easter Bunny.

Squiggle loved this show and got really into it. One song in particular about chocolate really made her laugh and it was really catchy; she has remembered alot of it to sing to herself after just hearing it that once! 

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Bunny Hop Show

The Easter Garden is open for most of the day, daily throughout the Easter Eggstravaganza event. Here you are given a basket on entry and then search the garden to find five different coloured eggs. Once you have completed the hunt you can exchange the five eggs you found for yummy chocolate prizes. 

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Easter Garden

This is also where the Easter Bunny makes an appearance for meet and greet sessions, so be sure to check the schedule if you want to time your visit right! (Entry to Easter Garden is only permitted once). 

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Squiggle meeting Easter Bunny

Other activities also available at Willows include Peter Rabbit playground, agility course, sand pit, funfair rides, bouncy castle and slide, animal encounters, tractor ride, indoor role-play village, tractors, soft play, and arts and crafts. Plus of course lots of animals! There is also a large cafe and gift shop. For further information see Willows Activity Farm website.

Fun Party Venues Ideas

As signs of Spring start to appear all around and the sun begins to make an appearance, there is no doubt that many of us are now looking ahead to summer; busy booking holidays, festival line-ups announced and summer events organised. Whilst I don’t personally have a do to arrange myself this year (although my 40th appears to be coming round rather quickly – only a couple of years before I will be organising that! Eek!) a few of my friends are already in the throes of summer party planning around London. 

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If you are one of the many people looking to get your party on this summer, Venueseekers is a handy site for finding places to hold an event in and around the capital. See their website for more info: Party Venues London. And here are just a few of their fun venue ideas in central London to inspire you and get you started…

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Madison: This award-winning New York style restaurant and bar overlooks St Paul’s Cathedral. It holds 120 people (seated) up to 900 (standing).

Oxo Tower: Floor two of the famous OXO tower is a brilliant place to hold events in the summer, with riverside balconies and stunning panaromic views of the Thames from inside too. It can hold functions for anywhere between 50- 400 people, with the adjacent gallery offering additional space for larger parties.

The Artillery Gardens: If you are looking for somewhere to host a larger function, this venue holds up to 2000 people and is very cool, it even has a funfair! Well worth checking out. 

If you are looking for somewhere near London but a little more suburban, here are a few other ideas…

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St Michaels Manor (Credit: Jenny Murray)

St Michaels Manor: Set in the heart of historic St Albans, surrounded by pretty parkland and next to a lake view, this lovely manor hotel is popular for weddings and other functions. It is a short, direct non-stop train route into London and is situated not too far from the St Albans City station so is ideal for those travelling from further afield. 

Four Seasons Hampshire: Set in the countryside with amazing views over Dogmersfield Park but yet highly accessible from London, this lovely venue has ample natural daylight flooding the indoor spaces and an outdoor terrace that can be used for functions too.

Do you have a summer party venue recommendation? Leave in comments!

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 40 (After Home Education: Going into Adulthood)

Please note this was originally published in March 2014 and has not been updated.

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People often wonder whether being home educated will somehow prevent access to higher education or otherwise limit future career prospects in some way. However in reality this is far from the case.

Here are some examples of various subjects that older home educated children have recently taken at university: Art, Medicine, Music, Veterinary Science, English, Child Development, Humanities, Psychology, Sociology, Media Make up and Special Effects, Law and Photographic Journalism.

These are a few of the careers that home educated people are now doing: Musician, IT technician, IT consultant, photographer, shop manager, professional athlete, carer, cinema manager, artist, music producer and BBC technician.

One such person was home educated in America from aged 9 onwards, using a part autonomous and part structured approach. When he got to high school age, his parents gave him the choice of going to school or choosing between various home school programs which would give him a high school qualification. He chose a program which had some structure and his general life experience also counted towards his studies.

He then took dual credit classes at a community college (university) that counted towards both high school credit and an associates degree. He now lives in England with his wife and children, where he works as consultant for a company’s Cloud product and is also mid IT degree, via part time study with the OU.

Compare the two lists above to any group of schooled children and you will see very little difference in the type of higher education courses typically taken up or in the nature of employment opportunities after compulsory education is complete. The only difference is that home educated children, generally speaking of course, often have greater freedom to pursue their own interests and gain life experience sooner. 

The alternative approach to education might also enable individuals to tune into their unique strengths earlier on, which perhaps might enable them to develop a particular expertise sooner. This means that in some cases these children may be more likely to follow personal passions and/or find their particular niche in life earlier on. In these instances, being home educated supports long-term career satisfaction and personal fulfilment.

Lastly some famous people who were apparently home educated:

  • Hilary Duff (actress, singer songwriter, author and entrepreneur)
  • Tim Tebow (quarterback for Denver Broncos)
  • Venus and Serena Williams (tennis players)
  • Agatha Christie (author)
  • Thomas Edison (inventor)
  • Franklin Roosevelt (president)
  • Jennifer Love Hewitt (actress, producer, director, singer songwriter)

Surprising (and not so surprising!) Ways That Couples Spend Valentines Day

Do you spend Valentines Day on a romantic date with your partner, or are you a Valentines ‘grinch’ who would rather forget it even exists? Do you plan months in advance, or go with the flow? And parents, do you reach for the phone to call the babysitter or do you include the entire family in the occasion? Read on to find out what these couples do…

Date Night At Home

A date night at home is a popular choice. Some couples, such as Angela from The Inspiration Edit, and Kate from Modern Mum, love to chill at home with a bottle and a movie with their partner. Katie from REOLife agrees, she also opts for a simple night in, doing some gaming together and watching a movie. As Angela says

“Chilling out is lovely, and just spending time together on an evening when we are usually so busy is a special thing to do.”

 

The Family Occasion

Devon Mama jokes that she just wants hubby to take the baby so she can sleep! But in reality they tend to cook a meal together and buy each other a card. This year that will extend to their little one too, to start his Valentines Day card collection early! Tracey from Witts in the Wild also likes to involve their daughter too…

“My husband usually buys flowers for both me and my daughter, and buys her a soft toy with a love heart, we decorate the table and the walls and have a themed dinner together making it special for the three of us.”

 

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The Couples- Only Night

Nomipalony on the other hand explains why Valentines Day is important couple-only time for them and they prefer to go out; they grab a babysitter and splash out on a fancy restaurant…

“We always celebrate valentines as both of our birthdays and anniversary are all in the same week, so we never end up celebrating our anniversary; so Valentines makes up for that in our house. It’s not about the kids at all for us, it’s mammy and daddy time so usually we will arrange for a babysitter and head to a really nice restaurant for a lovely meal and drinks. The past two years we have been to a Michelin starred restaurant for their tasting menu. We normally wouldn’t be able to justify the expense of that so its a real treat for us and we are both foodies so we love it.”

 

The Sentimentals

Many couples like to return to a spot that means somewhere to them as a couple personally; for example the place where they met, or proposed, or maybe even shared their first kiss! Laura from Oh So Mummy and her fiance, who go to the pub where they first met to reminisce. How cute!

 

The Mutual Interest/ Hobby Date

Some couples choose to spend the day or evening doing something that may not be typically romantic, but is a hobby or activity that they both enjoy doing together so is the perfect way to celebrate for them personally. For example, Kirsty from Life With Boys intends to spend Valentines Day at the Bingo, which is somewhere she enjoys going with her partner.

We’re 23 going on 80, plus who will ever turn down the chance to win the valentines jackpot….

 

The Surprise Date

Whether it is the same person who organises the date each time, or the pair take it in turns to arrange, some couples opt not to decide together and instead one person surprises the other. Such as Ed, who surprises Emma- Louise from Even Angels Fall each year with something different. He has made it tradition to choose something that is not considered typically romantic, but ironically this idea in itself has a rather unusual but romantic ring to it. She tells me:

We’ve been horse riding and to a shooting range so far. No idea what this year will be but looking forward to the surprise. It’s nice to do something not typically romantic on Valentine’s Day and it’s become our tradition.

 

Something Different

A day out is another nice way to enjoy Valentines Day. There are lots of possibilities, such as the zoo, or even a theme park for example. Beth from Twinderelmo agrees this is a great idea, this year they are going to the Harry Potter studios. Very romantic!

 

The Grinches

Jen and her fella are being somewhat more unromantic about Valentines Day this year; rather than their usual meal, he is going to football and she will be at at home watching TV with a cuppa! Trying to rivel them in the grinch stakes is Emma from Me and B Make Tea who will spend the evening blogging whilst her partner plays xbox! Now that is romance 😉 They are not alone though; many people view Valentines Day as an over-commercialised money-making exercise and choose to ignore the whole thing! Duvet day until it’s all over anyone?

 

So what type of Valentines Day couple are you?! I would love to know in the comments below!

The (Not So) Little One Tag

I was tagged by Amy & Tots to do this fun quiz with Squiggle. Here are the questions, and her answers…

What is the best thing about being 8?

Lots of things! Having Pierre the seal!!! (Beanie boo cuddly toy). All of my Christmas presents!

What makes you laugh?

When daddy was still dancing after the music stopped!

Who do you love and Why?

Loads of people! I need to think about that question, it’s a very tricky question. Erm… mummy, daddy and the cuddler (a cuddly toy seal) because he jumps for cuddles!

Whats your favourite book?

Sylvanian catalogue

Favourite Food?

Don’t know.

Favourite Song?

I can’t pick one favourite, I love them all! If I had to pick one I would pick the seal song.

Favourite Outfit?

All my clothes.

Favourite Tv Programme?

N/A

Favourite Toy?

Big Pierre (the beanie boo cuddly toy seal). I just about picked! Obviously that is just one of my favourites, I love all of my toys!

Favourite thing to do?

Ah, so many things! Erm, obviously this is just one example because I have so many favourite things to do! Seeing the seals at Donna Nook. And going to Sealife Centre.

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Donna Nook

Thanks for taking part Squiggle!

I now tag the following fab mamas to take part with their littlies…

Home with Mrs Harvey

Mayflower Blogs

 All The Beautiful Things

Mumma Hub

Emmys Mummy

Valentines Day: What Do Women Really Want?

Do you celebrate Valentines Day? And if so, how? Of course everyone is different, and no doubt there is no exception when it comes to this special occasion, but Rattan Direct are seeking to discover more about Valentines Day preferences and habits by carrying out a survey. 

(Click here to take the survey)

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The survey asks questions such as how and where you would choose to spend Valentines Day, how much your budget usually is, who you think should organise and pay for the date, and what your thoughts are on this special occasion. Do you think it is all a making money con, or do you throw your heart and soul into it? Would you rather go out to the cinema, have a nice meal, head to a bar for a few drinks, snuggle on the sofa for a cosy night in, or spend the evening having some time to yourself? Do you think under £100 is ample enough budget or do you splash the cash to the extreme and budget £500 plus for it?!

Personally, I think the budget range should have started much lower; the first option was 0-£100, which I honestly think is a massive range and imagine most people I know would fall somewhere in this category probably! If I were celebrating, I would say a budget (well) under £50 would be enough.

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I personally think both people in a couple should treat each other equally, so if one person organises and pays then that shouldn’t always be the same person! Or plan the ideal night together and split the cost. For me, equality all the way…

As for what I would choose to do, all of the options sounded nice to be honest! I think it’s more about spending time together than about what you do specifically. 

And what do I think of Valentines Day generally? Well, I think it’s nice for couples to spend time together obviously! But I also think that should be something that occurs regularly, not just a big gesture on one day of the year. I admit that I do think Valentines Day is over commercialised, but then again, it is what you choose to make it!

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with Rattan Direct.*

Home Security Tips For Peace of Mind

It’s that time of year when people are thinking about booking a holiday, and starting to plan ahead for their next trip. As stated on Police.uk homes with no security measures in place are five times more likely to be burgled than those with simple security measures. Therefore if you spend alot of time on days out or travelling, or if you are simply planning  your next holiday, it is important to think about home security. There are many ways to leave your home more secure when unattended. Here are some top tips for home security to leave you feeling reassured while away from home… 

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Simple Measures

  • Make sure all doors and windows are locked, including gates.
  • Leave keys and valuables out of sight.
  • Be part of a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme or informally agree with neighbours to look out for each others’ properties.
  • Have a visible security system in place, such as this Panasonic outdoor camera.
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Night Security

  • Arrange for curtains to be drawn at night then opened in the morning.
  • Make sure you have good outdoor lighting. Outdoor solar lights are relatively cheap and eco friendly.
  • Put indoor lights on a timer or use an app to control them.
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Holidays/ Travelling

  • Arrange for Royal Mail to hold your post using their keepsafe service. (Or ask a trusted friend/ neighbour to keep it safe for you).
  • Have a neighbour park their vehicle in your driveway.
  • Avoid using pet sitting companies that advertise their services on their vehicle – this also alerts potential thieves that you are away!
  • Avoid talking about specific details of your travel plans publicly or posting about it on social media.
  • Remember all of the simple security measures and night security tips above also apply here too. 

    Happy travels everyone! Do you have any top tips to share?

    This is a sponsored post. It also contains an affiliate link.