How To Prepare For A Holiday

If you haven’t already been on holiday yet this summer, you may well be preparing for a last minute or end of summer escape now, or possibly even an out of season trip instead. Or perhaps you are mega organised and are already starting to think ahead to next year and booking up early for then. Whether you are planning a short road trip staycation or long haul flight to exotic location, or somewhere in between, these tips will help ensure your holiday preparations go smoothly…

How To Prepare For A Holiday. Suitcases in background

Research the Location

Start with researching your location. Obviously you will have likely done this already, prior to booking your holiday, but once the main plans are in place it is useful to research specifics too.

Whilst an itinery might be a step too far for many holidays – although if you are doing a road trip or action packed holiday it might be necessary, or at least certainly useful – having a rough idea of how you may spend your time will help you make the most of your holiday.

Also, researching and finding recommendations for the best restaurants, beaches, and so on will help your holiday to be the best it can be. But don’t forget to also explore while you are there too – you may find your very own secret fave spot!

A beautiful holiday location. Greek style buildings near beach. Ariel photo.

Travel Documents

Make sure your passports are in date. Some countries require them to have at least x number of months left before expiry too, so be careful not to get caught out.

Also check any visa requirements. Make sure you apply for these in plenty of time, incase of any delays.

Insurance

It is important to make sure you have adequate travel insurance, especially if you are travelling abroad. Nobody wants to think about things going wrong, but it is important to make sure you are covered if they do. You can get a Bupa Global – Travel Insurance Quote here for example.

Immunisations

Check your immunisations are up to date and whether there are any additional ones you need for the country you are visiting. Make sure you book them in far enough in advance so you are fit for travel.

If you take prescription medication, make sure you have enough for the duration of your trip. Also bare in mind you might need a Doctor’s note to carry them on the plane too, if you are flying.

Booking Attractions

It is often handy to book tickets for popular tourist attractions in advance. This not only avoids lengthy queues, but can save alot of money too.

Practical Preparations

Call your bank or credit card company in advance to let them know where you will be and for how long, so that your card doesn’t get blocked for suspicious activity. This has happened to us before several times and it is so frustrating!

Change up your foreign currency. Be sure to shop around for the best exchange rate. Remember to be just as careful as if you were carrying cash at home, and don’t have more than you will need on you.

Packing

Most people pack way more than they actually need! Whilst it is good to be prepared, and essentials are a must, it is also much easier to pack light rather than lugging tonnes of cases around. And you don’t want to have to pay for excess luggage either, if your holiday involves a flight – or to find it doesn’t all fit in the car either!

I recommend making a checklist of what to pack, as it can be easy to forget the most obvious – and important – things in the rush and excitement of packing. I suggest you then take that list with you, to help remember to take everything with you when it’s time to head back home.

A row of suitcases and backpacks. Luggage.

My essentials list includes:

• Travel documents – passports, visas, insurance, tickets

• Medications and first aid kit

• Toiletries and cosmetics – I try to keep this minimal and as eco friendly as possible!

• Suncream

• Clothes – capsule wardrobe, underwear, swimwear etc…

• Camera

• Reading material – books and/ or kindle

• Kids essentials – favourite toys, games etc…

• Phone chargers

• Check whether you need to take any of your own bed linen or towels. A beach towel is usually a must even if the accomodation supplies others.

A pile of books, sunglasses on top, on table next to beach

Pets

If you have pets that you are not taking with you, then arrangements need to be made for them. Some people opt for pet boarding. If you prefer your pet to be kept in their familiar surroundings, you could hire a professional pet sitter. Or ask a neighbour or friend to help out.

Last Minute Preparations

Make sure you have booked a cab to take you to the airport, or arranged a lift. If you are driving yourself there, it is often best to organise parking in advance.

Ensure you have considered home security before you go away. If you have someone staying with pets, or just house sitting, this is is ideal. Otherwise ask your neighbours to pop in daily and keep a close on the place while you are gone. Make sure alarms and security cameras are on and working correctly before you leave.

Last but not least…

Relax and enjoy your holiday!

Back of person in large sun hat relaxing in pool

Do you have any tips for preparing for a holiday? Let me know in comments!

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Family Adventure Ideas for the Bold Parent

Having kids comes with its fair share of chaos at times! And going on a family holiday, or travelling with kids in tow, is certainly no exception. But there are a lot of things that can play a role in helping you make things more pleasant for the whole family, and the first thing to remember is that you need to consider their needs and pick the perfect vacation choices for them.

It is important that your kids enjoy themselves as much as possible, and that they have a fun and enriching time, which still having plenty of opportunities for everyone to relax too. There are a few things you can do that will help you to take your holidays to the next level, so make sure you think about the best family travel ideas you possibly can. These are a few of the best and most impressive family adventure ideas for the bolder parents out there…

Family Adventure Ideas for the Bold Parent

Check Out London

There are so many excellent places in the world that you need to visit, but London is definitely one of the best. There are so many amazing things to experience and enjoy in the UK capital, and a day out in London with the kids can be one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable family adventures you are likely to have. There are so many things you have to bear in mind if you want to get this right, and you will need to plan your day well. The London Eye is often considered a must- do attraction for families. It is fun for all ages to see the sights of London in this unique way! You can also choose from museums, galleries, parks, tours, restaurants and other exciting attractions to create the perfect adventure for your family based on everyone’s particular interests; with so much to choose from, you will certainly find plenty to suit your specific family! The great news is that there are also a lot of family-friendly things you can do in London that are free of charge these days too, so it doesn’t have to work out expensive.

Tower of London, London Bridge, Thames, London attraction

Go Somewhere Exotic

If the big cities don’t take your fancy, it might be a good idea to check out somewhere a little more exotic. This is the perfect chance for you and your family to jet off across the world if your budget allows and absorb a new culture for a while. Check out G Adventures Costa Rica travel experiences to help you understand how exotic trips that you can take as a family make an enriching experience all round. There is nothing like learning about geography and cultures by being immersed in it first hand, so it is an excellent experience for children and adults alike.

Scenic photo of mountain in background, green fields and forests

The Beach is Your Friend

As a family, you have to think about what you can do that is going to provide hours of enjoyment without clearing out the bank account. One of the best options these days would be to head for the beach. This is something that allows the whole family to enjoy a day of sand, sea, and hopefully sun! It is brilliant for the entire family’s wellbeing to spend time enjoying the fresh air, sea breeze and therapeutic effects of the water. Plus you’re really only going to have to pay for parking (and possibly food). The beach is the ideal family adventure, so is definitely one to consider when making travel plans.

Gorgeous blue sea and sky, tropical island

It is so important to make the right choices when you are trying to do what is best for your kids. There are a lot of travel experiences that can enrich their lives and at the same time, help the entire family get the most from their vacation. This is why you need to think hard about the different family adventures, as careful choices can really make things ideal for the children and boost the experiences of the whole family.

*This is a collaborative post.

How To Keep Kids Happy On Long Car Journeys

It is the summer holidays and England is enjoying a lengthy heatwave, which most likely means fun days out and sunny staycations. However, it also potentially means braving long road trips with the kids too! If you are wondering how to survive the car journey and all stay sane, here are some of my top tips…

How To Keep Kids Happy On Long Car Journeys

Be Prepared

This motto is not just for scouts! Time your journey for evening, if your children sleep well in the car and don’t mind the disruption to their bedtime routine, or opt to travel whenever they are most likely to be chilled in the car. A badly timed journey is so much more stressful than it needs to be!

Comfort

If you are going on an exceptionally long journey, it maybe worth considering the actual car you are using. Comfortable seats, space and even down to basics such as air con, are more than just a luxury if you are planning a long distance road trip!

Assuming it is not going to be practical to invest in a new car specifically for this purpose, you could consider hiring one. This could also be of benefit for safety, reliability and fuel costs. For example, The New BMW 5 Series was voted WhatCar? ‘Overall Car of the Year’ 2017 and reviews well on space and comfort, and has surprising low running costs too. You could even look at secondhand deals on something like this BMW 5 Series, if you travel long journeys by car often. You can find BMW 5 Series For Sale here.

Interior picture of BMW

Have Essentials On Hand

Have snacks, drinks, (reusable) wipes and other essentials easily available on hand. It is much easier to organise this in advance than it is to have to make additional stops just to find essential items, and is especially helpful if you get stuck in traffic and your plan for a scheduled lunch/ snack/ dinner stop goes awry. Of course the driver will still need to take a rest too, but some careful organisation will avoid the inevitable hunger upsets if you do find yourself stuck in long queues!

Queue of traffic in rear view car mirror

Entertainment

Car journeys tend to be somewhat more relaxing if the children are not bored! Taking a couple of favourite toys to play with is a good start. Books are good in theory, but reading can make travel sickness worse so audio books might be a better choice for the car. A tablet with a favourite film, kids TV programmes or fun apps might well keep them occupied for a decent chunk of the journey, so that may help with at least some of the travelling time, but it is handy to have alternatives too. Travel games and card games (Top Trumps etc…) add some variety to a long journey; there are plenty to choose from. You can also resort to classics like ‘eye spy’ if you get stuck!

Boy sitting on top of car, through sun roof.

Emergency Supplies

It is useful to have some emergency supplies ready, that you will hopefully not need, but just incase of the unfortunate scenario that you do. I wholeheartedly recommend having a sick bucket and tissues in the car, even if your child/ren doesn’t usually get car sick. A change of clothes is also useful. If your child has any medications, keep a dose in the car – in the event of a delay at least you don’t have to worry about stuff like that then. Also keep a blanket in the car for any eventuality.

Last but not least, don’t forget paracetamol incase the journey still ends up causing a headache, despite all your best laid plans – but fingers crossed you won’t need it if you follow this advice! Enjoy your roadtrip!!!

What are your top tips for long car journeys? Let me know in comments!

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Forest Holidays: Our Winter Retreat to Forest of Dean

Back in January we decided to book a last second escape to the Forest of Dean for a winter retreat at Forest Holidays. This was our first time visiting but it came recommended from friends who have stayed at a different location on one of their other sites. Squiggle’s anxiety was high, so we figured some extra time relaxing outdoors might be just what we all needed. It didn’t work miracles in that regard (but then again, I am pretty sure they don’t claim to either though!) but it was still a lovely holiday! Here is our review…

Title written on image of Forest Holidays cabin.

The Cabin

There are three main styles of cabin; golden oak, silver birch and copper beech. The main differences between them are that silver birch has a hot tub, and golden oak has both a log burner and a hot tub. We intentionally wanted to avoid having a log burner for personal reasons, and silver birch was fully booked, so that made it pretty easy to choose!

Despite copper beech being their cheapest (and most basic) option, we were absolutely amazed by the size of the cabin! The whole place had a wonderful air of luxury about it, whilst also feeling very homely. I loved how beautifully in keeping the decor is; very natural. I was very impressed! And everything is eco- friendly wherever possible too, which we were really glad to see.

Eco friendy kitchen kit

I was quite worried that it might be chilly in winter but the underfloor heating took care of that! If anything, it was actually abit too warm when we arrived but the thermastat was easy to use and had separate settings for each room too, so that was soon remedied. I don’t know how hot the cabins might get in a heatwave with all that glass though! But given that they seem very well designed overall, I am assuming there are measures in place to maintain optimum temperatures. We were certainly able to do that during our winter stay anyway, despite having both sunny days and snow in the time we were there! They are really cosy and it is easy to feel right at home there.

Here is my video tour of the cabin…

The Setting

The cabin we had was in the meadow so it was very open, whereas some of them are tucked away amongst the trees. Honestly, in my opinion, regardless of where your cabin is situated, you can’t go wrong.

Our view from the cabin. A meadow with cabins spread out.

The site is in a beautiful location, in the Forest of Dean, with stunning scenic walks all around. Regardless of the time of year we visited, even in Winter, we couldn’t fail to be in awe of the forest setting. Here are just a few of my pictures taken, the first onsite and the others literally a few moments walk off the main site…

Stunning forest setting of the Forest Holidays site.

Beautiful views at the Forest of Dean

Winter scenes at Forest of Dean

Forest of Dean

By the way, the sheer drop on the above photos is less breathtaking and more heartstopping when your autistic child suddenly bolts!!!! Especially if you happen to suffer from vertigo as well, like I do! So I recommend if you explore this area with a young child, or one with SEND, that you not only have nerves of steel, but a very tight grip of their hand!

We don’t have a dog personally, but the site is very dog- friendly and it would be the ideal holiday to take a dog if you are an owner. This is probably also worth noting though if you are nervous around dogs though I guess! Squiggle loved seeing all the dogs about going for walks, she was delighted!

Facilities

Forest Retreat

The Forest Retreat is the main hub where you check in and book activities, and is home to the shop and restaurant. It also has pottery activities for children.

The shop sells a lovely range of gifts, books and activities that are carefully chosen to be perfectly on theme for the nature of the holiday. It also sells a wonderful selection of food and drink; including an extensive range of cider, wine and beer, fresh produce and a range of Cook meals for easy self- catering dining options.

Forest Retreat photo strip showing selection in store.

Food

The menu has plenty to choose from, to either eat in the restaurant or take away. The food was consistently good and service was prompt.

Bike Hire

Bike hire is available onsite from £28 per break per adult or from £25 per child. It is recommended you book these in advance. We didn’t hire bikes on this occasion but Squiggle did ask about it (towards the end of the holiday!) so we would definitely consider it next time.

Cycle Hire building from the outside.

Play Area

The play area was sectioned off during our visit as they were carrying out work on it. It looked more suitable for younger children, but Squiggle would have had a quick go if it were available no doubt!

Bug Hotel

Granted not really one of the facilities per se (at least not for humans!) but I wanted to mention the bug hotel anyway. We have seen these in many places but this one is particularly well made!

Large bug hotel with information sign. Squiggle is stood next to it.

Activities

There are a range of forest ranger led activities available for various ages. Some are shorter at 90 minutes in duration, whilst one survival course is half a day. As well as daytime activities, there is also a night-time ranger adventure so you can spy on the nocturnal forest inhabitants after dark! Dogs are allowed on some of the activities but not all courses, and some have a minimum age for children, so do check details before booking. There are also a selection of activities off- site that can be booked through Forest Holidays as well.

Squiggle on the winter trail.

Squiggle wasn’t up for any of these due to her anxiety, so we opted to do their self- guided seasonal trail instead. This cost £6.95 and she got a prize at the end for completing it. This was a really engaging activity. She started off reluctant to join in but as soon as we got to the first few stops and solved the clues she was hooked! We really enjoyed it and it was definitely one of the highlights of our holiday.

Seasonal trail clue

Local Places To Visit

There are numerous walks nearby surrounded by beauty and tranquility. Aside from that, there are several local places to visit that might be of interest. Forest Holidays have some suggestions of what’s nearby. I would really love to visit Clearwell Caves and also Puzzlewood sometime in future.

We did go to Beechenhurst, mainly to go on the sculpture trail. However, Squiggle was very near tired and nearing meltdown, so we didn’t actually find any sculptures and ended up just having a quick wander instead. I would love to return when it is better timing for her though; it looked like a lovely place to spend a day and I really want to see the sculptures – from the photos they look brilliant!

One thing I will remember from our trip though was that, as we drove up into the carpark, something moving in the forest caught my eye. As I turned to look I thought at first it was dozens of rabbits scurrying into the bushes. But then I realised, whatever they were, they weren’t hopping – they were running. It was a huge group of baby wild boar!

Now I know they are very common to the area and especially at that time of year, but I had never actually seen any before. I was so excited! They were gone in a flash; no time to grab a camera or even point them out to Squiggle, but that was a personal highlight that I will always remember.

We also visited Symonds Yat briefly, on the bank of River Wye. I took a few photos, but I could have taken many more of these stunning scenic views…

River Wye

Stunning scenic view of river Wye

Symonds Yat

In Summary

We really enjoyed our stay at Forest Holidays and loved exploring Forest of Dean. We are very keen to return here sometime in the future, and also would like to try other Forest Holidays locations too. We would definitely recommend it – at any time of year!

Last but not least…

Here is a video clip I put together summarising the highlights of our holiday:

*Disclosure: I was given a discount when booking this holiday in exchange for a review post. However, as always, I have expressed my honest opinion and all thoughts are my own.

A Day Out in London With Kids: Guest Post by Emma – Wanderlust & Wet Wipes

I love London. I loved living there when I lived there (even though I was always ready to leave for our next adventure). Now that we live away, I especially love going back there to visit. It really is a city with something for everyone with millions of outdoor and indoor options for every eventuality.

There are museums and parks, soft plays and cafes, buzzing restaurants and historic sights, shopping galore and sniff new buildings…. Not to mention the ever popular riding public transport (true story – we actually did this one afternoon)! You could spend a couple of crazy busy weeks there and still not do everything! If you’ve only got the one day, here’s what I would do for a day out in London with kids…

A Day Out in London With Kids - a guest post by Wanderlust and Wet Wipes title with faded image of London background

Early morning
We’re usually pretty jet lagged when we arrive so the kids wake up crazy early. A cup of tea on the sofa while they watch CBeebies makes me feel right at home! Since we stay in Putney, I usually try to go for a walk or a run along the river. The views are stunning across the water and you can usually watch rowers skimming along as you run.

Breakfast
Back home and we are ready to go pretty early having been up with the birds. Living the Middle East, we always go for big breakfasts with lots of pork products! My current favourite places are Muriel’s Kitchen and Carluccio’s.

Morning
There’s so much to do in London with kids, it’s ridiculous. I’m a huge fan of the museums partly because they are free but mostly because they are such amazing resources for parents. Our favourites are the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum which are conveniently right next to each other and down the road from Muriel’s Kitchen! I really want to try out the Transport Museum next time we are home as I think the kids will be the right ages for it by now.

Lunch
If the weather is nice, I say you can’t beat a pub lunch in a place with a really nice beer garden. Sitting in the sun with a proper pub grub type of meal is one of my ideas of heaven!

Afternoon
In the afternoon heading to the Tower of London is always a winner. You can download their app and complete a digital mission or you can do one of their activity trails. Alternatively head over to the London Eye for spectacular views of the capital. If the weather is nice and you want to make the most of being outside, take advantage of one of the many hundreds of parks (1700 apparently!) and let the kids run off some energy.

Dinner
There are literally so many options if you’re just coming off the Eye. The South Bank is packed with family friendly restaurants like Wagamama, Giraffe and Ping Pong. My kids can be quite fussy eaters so it’s great to have a place where I know there’s somewhere that we can all eat something!

Head home via public transport (to keep the kids happy) for a well earned, good night’s sleep.

Aerial image of London river Thames

About Emma
Emma’s a pushing 40, travel-mad mum to 2 young kids (aged 6 and 4) and a crazy dog. Originally from the UK she’s lived in 10 cities across 5 continents all over the world. She currently lives in Doha, Qatar. Emma started blogging about her family travels in 2017 when she had an epiphany about how to have successful adventurous family holidays.

You can follow Emma at:

Blog: wanderlustandwetwipes.com
Twitter: @wanderwetwipes
Facebook: facebook.com/wanderlustandwetwipes
Instagram: instagram.com/wanderlustandwetwipes
Pinterest: pinterest.co.uk/wanderlustandwetwipes

Essential Trips For All Music Lovers

Everyone says that they like music, but then there are people who LOVE music. For those people, music is life; their existence would be a little emptier without it. But music doesn’t just have to be something that you listen to and from work; you can make it part of your travels! From the history of music to today’s biggest players, there are destinations across the world that have music running through their veins. We take a look at some of these destinations below, which might just inspire your next trip…

Essential Trips For All Music Lovers title record image above

The Home of The Beatles

Where would music be with The Beatles? It’s not worth thinking about. The Fab Four from Liverpool changed the course of music forever. Listen to their records today, and you can still hear their influence in modern culture. To see where it all began, take a trip to Liverpool. There, you’ll be able to see the homes where they were raised, the areas that influenced some of their most popular tracks (specifically, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields), explore the Beatles Museum, and visit the famous Cavern Club, which is where they perfected their sound.

Modern Music Makers

People have the idea that music was better in the past, but is this true? It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Today, you can hear music from any and all backgrounds; music hasn’t gotten worse, there’s just more of it, and it’s more diverse. To hear the latest and best sounds, take a trip to the cities where all the best new music is developed. In places like London, New York, Los Angeles, and Berlin, you’ll be able to see the artists paving the future of music. And trust us, it sounds pretty good.

Through History

If you love music, then you’ll be aware of all the big movers and shakers throughout history. Virtually every big player has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and did you know that there’s a museum dedicated entirely to these musicians in Ohio? Book yourself into the nearby Fairfield Inn & Suites Akron Stow, and pay a visit. There, you’ll find a grand museum divided into seven sections outlining various aspects of music, from one-hit wonders, songs that shaped rock and roll, and special exhibitions devoted to inductees, among others. For music lovers, this museum will function as something of a pilgrimage.

Other Languages

We tend to focus on music that’s in the English language, but if there’s one thing that music has taught us, it’s that music is global. For your next trip, why not think about visiting a place with a rich musical heritage, even if it’s in a different language? Cuba’s music scene is a knock-out, as is the Spanish cities where the Spanish guitar still reigns. Desert Sahara bands and artists, such as Tinariwen, have also been increasingly popular with western audiences in recent years, too. Travel the whole world, and dig deep to hear the sounds they’ve been creating – it’s sure to be good.

Do you have a favourite place to go for the musical connections? Let me know in comments!

*This is a collaborative post.

Tips on Getting Some Sleep if your Flight is Delayed Overnight

If you are waiting for a delayed flight and it is night time, then you may want to get some sleep. However, sleeping in an airport is not at all easy due to the noise, light and discomfort. However, if you do need some sleep in these less than desirable conditions while you are waiting for your flight, there are things that you can do to help. Below are some suggestions which might be of some use…

Tips on Getting Some Sleep if your Flight is Delayed Overnight. Image of inside airport at night

Book into a hotel

The obvious solution would be to book into a hotel. Obviously this would only work if you knew that the flight was definitely not coming in for a certain amount of time. You would also need there to be a free hotel room nearby and one that you could afford. Sometimes an airline may pay for accommodation if the delay is their fault and for a long time, so it is worth asking before you book up a room as they may have specific terms with regards to reimbursing you. However, most of the time people will try to get some sleep in the airport.

Use earplugs or noise cancelling headphones

Airports are really noisy and this could stop you from getting to sleep. The best way to block the noise is to use good earplugs, or you may prefer to use noise cancelling headphones. If you do have some headphones, you can use them to listen to music, or something on your mobile device, and this will enable you to relax and hopefully sleep. It should help to block out any noise distractions.

Use an eyemask or hat

The light can be a problem as well. Even with your eyes shut it can still feel bright through your eyelids and make it hard to nap. It can therefore be good to cover your eyes with an eye mask or, if you do not have one, pull a hood down over them or just cover over with a scarf or something like that.

Make a pillow from jumper, coat or bag

Most of us will sleep with a pillow and therefore having one could make a big difference to whether we are able to fall asleep. Some people travel with them, but if you do not then you can roll up some clothing or see if you can use your bag instead.

Find a comfortable chair or place on the floor

Getting comfy can be tricky and you will need to think about whether you can get comfortable on the chair or whether you want to try lying on the floor. This will very much depend on you and what you find comfortable. It may be possible to lie across several chairs depending on how busy it is and how the chairs are designed.

Man sleeping on chair with earphones in

Make sure your bags are secure

It is worth making sure that your bags are secure. Not only is this a sensible practice, but it could help you to feel more relaxed knowing that they are safe. If you are worried that they might be stolen or interfered with, then it might stop you from being able to relax enough to fall asleep. Some people padlock their luggage, but securing it with your body can be a sensible thing to do as well. This will stop anyone taking it and mean they cannot put anything inside it.

Ask someone to wake you

You may also be worried that you might not wake up in time for your flight. If this is the case, then ask a staff member or someone waiting for the same flight if they could wake you up when you need to get ready for the flight. Of course you could set the alarm on your mobile, which is the easiest option, but with all the other noises – and the ear plugs or headphones on to drown that out – you may not hear it. This way you will be able to go into a deep sleep, knowing that you will wake up at the necessary time rather than having a restless sleep as you keep checking to see whether it is time for the flight or not.

Girl sleeping with headphones on

We all have different sleep routines, but it is difficult to imagine that any of us sleep in conditions like this normally. Therefore it will be hard to apply our sleep routines to this. However, do try to make it as like your normal sleep as you possibly can. Perhaps cover yourself over with something, make a pillow and things like that. If you use meditation to listen to certain music, see whether you can find that on your mobile device to use. It is important to try to relax before you sleep, so think of things that you can do which will help and therefore go to sleep.

*This is a collaborative post.

Green City Breaks: Guest Post by Sally – Life Loving

Hello all! I’m Sally and I blog over at Life Loving. My blog is my way to inspire others to get out and about and enjoy life more. I live by the motto ‘ketchup tomorrow, relish today’.

Sally at Life Loving outdoors

The lovely Katie has kindly let me put together a guest post about one of my favourite topics – travel. But today, I’ve given it a twist. I’m going to give you some inspiration for a green city break, so you can be a bit more environmentally-friendly, when planning your great escape.

Paris

One of the greenest options for travel is the train. We are lucky down here in Kent to have the Eurostar right on our doorstep. The travel time into Gare du Nord station in Paris is just over two hours, so it’s perfect for a day or two away. Eurostar trains also run regularly from London St Pancras. Paris is a wonderful choice for a city break. I love going up the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Arc de Triomphe and the Notre Dame. Paris is a city which you can easily take in most of the sites on foot. If you are visiting, I’d high recommend the lesser known Montparnasse Tower, as an option to see a different high-up view of Paris.

Paris arc de triomph

Venice

Keeping on the rail theme. Did you know you can travel all the way to Venice on a train? What’s even better is that you can travel overnight and wake up in your destination. You board a sleeper train at Paris’s Gare du Lyon. Your ticket will give you a bed in a cabin of either three or five other travellers. There’s also a restaurant and bar on-board. This will make the start of your city break really special, travelling in through France and Italy. Once in Venice, there’s a plethora of famous sites to take in including St Mark’s Basilica or heading up Venice’s tallest building, the Campanile, to take in the view. Whilst you are there, you must take a gondola ride – it’s iconic and if you go and don’t, you’ll regret it!

Manchester

Taking a coach to reach your city of choice is really good way of travelling greenly and cheaply. Coach operators like National Express have fares to cities like Manchester, Leeds and Cardiff starting at just £5 one way. Manchester is a great city break in particular. There’s endless shopping opportunities, including the huge Trafford Centre. Manchester is also known for its restaurants and nightlife, so it’s quite a grown up city break. You can add to your green credential by travelling around the city via its famous tram network too.

Copenhagen

This is a city which is famous for its investment into cycling. There’s plenty who would agree that the best way to see the city is by bike. Hire a city bike and you’ll get an electric bike, with built-in GPS and tourist information, so it’s really easy to get around and see what you want. It works out about £3.50 an hour to hire a city bike, but they are perfect to take in Tivoli Gardens or the Little Mermaid statue. If you are visiting in the summer months, make sure you head to the old port of Nyhavn. The surrounding houses are iconic as they have been painted in different colours. But it’s the restaurants you are after here. You can dine whilst enjoying great jazz music.

Scenic view of Copenhagen

Nice

For my final recommendation for a green city break, I will draw your attention to the French Riviera. You again can travel down on train. There’s a high speed service from Paris which takes just under six hours. You can be walking down the famous Promenade des Anglais before dinner time. The old town of Nice is great for exploring on foot or if you fancy a more leisurely option, the open-top bus tour will take you round the sites of the city. If it’s sunny, and it often is in Nice, you’ll be admiring the views from the top deck.

I’d also recommend hopping over to Monaco. The train ride takes about a quarter of an hour and you can take in some of the famous sites that you see televised on the Grand Prix – the harbour, the casino and the Palace. If you time it right, as we did, you can be there just in time for the changing of the guard ceremony, which takes place just before midday.

A picturesque view of Monaco

I hope this has inspired you to look at some different ways to explore some of Europe’s most interesting cities. If you can, I’d highly recommend looking for alternative ways to travel, rather than simply just flying or taking taxis. You really see more of a place when you use the public transport, whether that’s a train, bus, boat or bike. You end up using your eyes more and really understanding how a city works. Plus you’ll know how to get around!

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 4 Ways Camping Can Rejuvenate Your Soul

As modern people, we often do not get out into nature half as much as we should, and certainly nowhere near as often as even some of our more recent ancestors did. Instead, we remain indoors for the vast majority of our lives, whether at home, at the office, at the local cinema, or restaurant, or club.

There’s nothing wrong with the indoors, of course. Nature can often be savage and unforgiving, and electric underfloor heating is a tremendous boon in the midst of winter, when would be left fighting for our lives against the elements if we were still hunter-gatherers. Nonetheless, connecting to nature is essential, for mind, body, and soul. So here are some ways that a good camping trip – in as wild a place as possible – can rejuvenate your soul…

Title image with faded camping picture in background

It can wash away the preoccupations of daily life

Over the course of our normal 9-5 workdays and the lives that surround them, we are caught up between a near-endless number of obligations and concerns and preoccupations of various types. These obligations aren’t just all in our heads, either, although many of them are. There are real obligations placed on us by society to fill in the right form at the right times, complete our projects by particular deadlines, top up our cars, and attend parent-teacher meetings. All these preoccupations – each small in their own right – can mount and become the kind of chronic stress that leads to breakdowns and unhappiness with life in general.

Camping can wash all of that away for a time. Suddenly you are no longer “plugged into the Matrix”, but are out in nature, with your days and nights stretching before you. What do you need to do out here? Eat and sleep. Everything else is optional.

Leave your phone off and only switch it on for emergencies. Leave all your fancy gadgets at home. Go camping and let nature remind you of a more simple mode of living, and wash your soul clean of its usual preoccupations.

It can get you back in touch with the cycles of nature

Chronic insomnia is one of the major issues plaguing modern man in the developed world. The reasons aren’t too hard to fathom, either. Instead of our days following a natural rhythm, we find ourselves in an “always-on”, world. We can wake up before dawn, watch YouTube videos, organise our days on our planners, have a strong coffee, and leave for work. After working for an entire day, we return home, switch on the blinding artificial lights, and watch Netflix until the early hours.

Camping gets us back in touch with the natural cycles of nature. We rise with the sun, are active while it shines, and then get sleepy – and sleep – moments after it sets. Things seem to fit into their proper categories and positions, and our mood and health begin to improve rapidly.

A tent pitched up on a large open field overlooking the beach and ocean below

It can remind you of your connectedness to the great web of life

We buy our food from the local grocery store wrapped in plastic. We hear about environmental crises, but it doesn’t really register. It can be easy to forget, when living in the city, that we are not just detached individuals floating through the world, but are in fact connected to the great web of life all around us.

Camping reminds us of our place in the order of things. It can make us feel more whole, less alone, and more in touch with the planet we occupy. It can remind us that we are part of a greater whole and have an important role to play in the world.

It can give you space to dream

One of the most damaging consequences of being caught up in the constant flow of information and distraction that makes up modern life, is that we are so drawn into the everyday complexities of things, that we completely lose our perspective and forget, or can no longer manage, to dream the big dreams that make life truly worth living.

Getting out camping in a wild location can truly give us a different perspective on life. Now, we see our normal lives as if from a great height. We’re in a different place, somewhat outside of space and time, and we can see more clearly than we did before. From this perspective – this place outside of our normal routines – we may once again find the space to dream, to wonder, and to plan our lives from a transcendent place of hope and excitement.

A tent in the forest

*This is a collaborative post.

Days Out in Newcastle Upon Tyne

Are you planning a trip to Newcastle? If it is your first time visiting (or even if it’s not!) here are my ideas for a fun packed, family- friendly day out in Newcastle…

Days Out in Newcastle title with image of Tyne below

(Please note I have not yet been to all of these places myself, some are still on my travel bucket list for next time we visit Newcastle!)

Life Science Centre

This science museum is situated in Times Square right next to the train stations and is also close to a large carpark, so it makes a good starting or finishing point for your day if you are based outside of town (Toon!) It looks like an absolute must if you have kids; it is full of hands-on activities. Be warned though, I hear it gets busy!

Quayside Walk/ Open Top Bus Tour of Gateshead Quays

From the Life Science Centre, take a walk along the Quayside to enjoy the scenic views. Once you arrive at Guildhall and Merchants Court, jump on an open top bus to cross the Swing Bridge then continue your sightseeing along Gateshead Quays.

Quayside walk with views across the Tyne river.

Baltic Centre For Contemporary Art

Jump off the bus tour at Baltic Art Centre to take in the sights of River Tyne from new heights via their viewing platform. You can also grab a bite to eat for lunch while you are here. If you have time, check out their current exhibits too of course!

Open Top Bus Tour (Continued)

After lunch, hop back onto the open top bus tour to travel past the impressive Sage building and across the famous Tyne Bridge. I am not a fan of heights myself, but despite that I still recommend it! End the tour at Market Street.

Sage Gateshead

Sightseeing or Shopping?

Depending on how late in the day it is, you could fit in a quick visit to Laing Art Gallery. It also has a recently refurbished play space for younger children, so good if you have little ones. You could also see Greys Monument or check out Blue Carpet Square. Another option would be to take in a theatre show at Theatre Royal.

If shopping is more your thing, there are plenty of shops around to choose from and a large shopping centre or three. Whilst the huge intu Metrocentre is further away, you could grab a bus or cab there. Or just head to nearby Eldon Square intu instead. If you prefer boutiques and specialist shops, then definitely pop to Eldon Garden Shopping Centre. Alternatively, visit Grainger Market for something abit different.

Eating Out

After all that, finish off the day enjoying a delicious dinner at one of Newcastle’s many restaurants. There are loads to choose from! If you are looking for discounts on food, as well as activities and attractions, then check out Groupon to see what deals they currently have on things to do in Newcastle. Enjoy!

A photo of Newcastle at night. Colourful lights illuminate the river Tyne

Have you been to Newcastle? Where would you recommend? Tell me in comments!

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.