With two boys aged nine and ten unplugging can be an issue sometimes. Not the time spent unplugged but the high tech tantrums when I tell them that it is time to turn off! We call it reluctance to transition in The Mad House. We recently had an unplugged weekend at Sherwood Pines (Nottinghamshire) with Forest Holidays and it was a huge success.
As a family we love picnics and just because the weather is cooler in Autumn and Winter it doesn’t mean that picnicking has to stop. No indeed for us it just means that we move to more warming food and sometimes we have them inside on a rug and sometimes we have them sat in the boot of the car! In fact having an Autumn picnic is in our Autumn Bored Jar! We also carry a pop up tent in the back of the car and it is great for picnicking in when it is windy. We keep the food simple warming and filing. We have a couple of flasks that more »
Did you see that we went to Blackpool as a family over the summer holidays? We had THE BEST time. Blackpool has really changed since I went there last 20 years ago. Blackpool is certainly back! Blackpool certainly is a wonderful place for families to visit and they have just brought out their ‘The Kids Resort Guide’, an interactive guide, written by Blackpool’s biggest critics… the kids. It shows Blackpool’s top attractions through the eyes of a child.
Family days out can be expensive, but they are also fun too and one thing I have learned is that experiences bring much more fun and many more memories than things. So I try and make sure that our family days out are as well planned as possible and to make them as inexpensive as possible.
My boys march on their stomach. They are at that age where they are bottomless and food is an important part of their day. They get ratty when they are hungry (we call it hangry) and also have adverse reactions to certain foods.
It is nearly 20 years since I have been to Blackpool and wow things have certainly changed for the better. We recently spent a weekend in the wonderful seaside resort and it blew our minds and the boys had THE BEST time.
We love living where we do in the NE of England and York is only an hour away from us and Leeds an hour and a half. However, if you live further afield take a look at Hotel Direct
e also did Merlin’s Tower, which was short, but AMAZING and the boys were smiling about it for the rest of the day and still keep telling everyone about it.
The adventure playground is great and perfect for larger children, not just the littlest one.
We had a great day, the only down sides for us where that we couldn’t fit it all in and that the food and service at the Coach House Family Restaurant was really poor. Our meals were not brought out together and everyone had finished before mine was delivered to the table, inspite of us asking where it was three times (it was only soup and a roll, so I do not understand why it was so hard). It was even more infuriating, as there was only three tables in use and all the rest were left with the detritus of precious visitors.
Our Top Tips
Get their early and book your tickets (free but timed entry) for any thing like the Princess Tower
Do the same for any paid activities, including Merlin Tower and the Dungeons.
Buy a refillable hot drink voucher. It was £7, but my boys love hot chocolate and it cost £2.25, so soon paid for itself with that and our teas and coffees.
See the free shows, they really make the castle come to life.
You can not do it all in one day if you see the shows. We didn’t get to do the dungeons or the Kingmaker exhibition, but are looking forward to returning
Book in advance online, that way you get a discount.
Keep an eye out for the special events online – We are really looking forward to the Horrible Histories Stormin Summer event, which runs from 20th July to 1st September.
We love LEGO and we are also huge fans o0f LEGOLAND. We go to the LEGOLAND Windsor once a year and Maxi and I were lucky enough to visit Legoland Florida earlier in the year too. On Fathers Day The Mad Blog Awards hosted their first #MadDayOut at LEGOLAND Windsor and we were lucky enough to be asked to come along and help at the event.
My boys are 132cm and 127 cm, so can go on every ride. Maxi, who is the taller child can go on them all independently. Mini can go on most independently, but needs to be accompanied by an adult on some of the others. We were also gifted a gold VIP wrist band, which I believe is the equivalent of a Q-BOT Ultimate. This meant that we skipped the queue on every ride. We managed to go on every ride in the p-ark in one day and there were no queues! Was it worth it? Well once both the boys are over 130cm we will buy then a Q-BOT Ultimate each, as it made the day so much more special and as a trip to LEGOLAND is a once a year thing for us I would rather save up and do it in style.
So What are our top tips for making the most out of your visit to LEGOLAND?
Get there early – The park opens for general visitors at 10am. Get there early for the park opening. It is quietest first thing on a morning.
Pick up a lost parent wrist band at the beginning of the park (Guest Services). These are invaluable. There are a lo0t of children and it is easy to lose one as Penny will tell you.
Head for the rear of the park first. The most popular rides are driving school and boating school, so it pays to get the queuing out of the way first and we found the queues much less on a morning. We start at the back and work our way forward.
If you stay in the LEGOLAND Hotel you get access to Atlantis 30 minutes early.
Be prepared to get wet. Splash rides include Pirate Falls Dynamite Drench, SQUID Surfer and Vikings River Splash. We use poncho’s to ensure that we have dryish clothes!
Take swim wear or UV wear for children. The new DUPLO Splash Valley and Drench Towers is a superb water area with slides, fountains, water guns and much more. There is a toddler area and an older child area. It is great fun and perfect for when your children are flagging. We managed to both grab a cup of tea whilst the boys made the most of the water.
There can be a lot of walking and waiting, so if you have a buggy take it. Even if your child doesn’t normally use it.
Make use of all your time. We stayed till closing time, a lot of people leave earlier so the queues get shorter.
Turn up for the Pirate of skeleton bay show early (20 mins approx before the start) and put down a picnic blanket a little to the right of the control booth on the corner. The show is brilliant and will be enjoyed by all. The harbour coffee shop does starbucks quality lattes. Even better this is the perfect place and time to have your lunch in front of the show, its fab! And bring a picnic as food is ridiculously expensive.
Ways to keep costs down
Take a packed lunch. There are areas for eating your packed lunch or snacks. You can also go back to the car to get it. There are also lockers at the beginning if you want to store your bags, but they do not refund your coins.
Kids eat free after 3pm in certain restaurants
Get a refillable drink for £7, especially if it is warm. You can use the drinks bottle once you get home too.
Get the shopping over with at the beginning. Set a budget and make sure you stick to it! You can also leave your purchases their to collect on your way home.
Keep an eye out for 2 for 1 deals by search on line.
If you are travelling the park have an affiliation with a number of hotels and you can get your second day free. It is worth checking out booking both hotel and park entrance with these hotels.
We had THE best time, in fact Mini called it Epic. To see more pictures why not take a look at our LEGOLAND 2013 Google+ picture album
We are booked to spend the weekend at Thorpe Park this weekend and Cass at Frugal Family visited with her family a couple of weeks ago, so I asked her to let me know what I needed and her tips. She was also kind enough to pop them in a blog post to share with you too!
The frugals at Thorpe Park
When I heard that Jen and the boys were off to Thorpe park this weekend, I was so pleased for them as we had a lovely weekend there a few weeks ago.
We planned our trip carefully as we wanted to get the most out of the weekend and I had loads to tell Jen about what she needed to do when she got there. Being a typical blogger, Jen told me to write her a post about what she should be planning for so here you go….
Before you go, make sure you’re getting the best deal possible as there’s lots of offers out there at the minute – Friij, Coke and using your Tesco vouchers are the main ones that I know of at the minute.
Getting there is really easy which is always a bonus when travelling with children! I know that Jen is driving down from the North East but we went by train which meant we arrived at Staines train station. There’s a bus that runs about regularly between the train station and Thorpe Park which costs £3.50 per adult return or £2.50 per child return. If you’d prefer though, you can get a taxi which is £2.50 each way (minimum of four passengers).
When you get to the park and you’re through the gates there’s a brilliant locker room downstairs in the dome where you can store your belongings in a large locker for £1.00. I had an empty carrier in my handbag so I literally took out everything that wasn’t essential for the day, popped it in the carrier and left it in the locker. There’s nothing worse than wandering around with a heavy bag!
If you’ve bought the fast track passes (which are excellent) make sure you know the time slots that you need to be at each of the rides and plan your visit around that because some of them are quite far away from each other.
One thing to be aware of are the height restrictions in place at Thorpe park as the minimum height restriction for the larger rides is 1.4m – very sensible decision to me looking at the scare factor of the rides but very unfair in the eyes of an eight year old who is just under the height and had to watch as his dad and sister went on some of the rides without him. I think the height restriction is higher here than in some parks we’ve been to but the rides are in a different class to the ones we’ve seen before. There’s plenty for all ages to go on though so don’t worry if your children are under that height – it really is just the larger rides they won’t be able to go on.
We saved a fortune buying two refillable drinks for £6 which we shared between us and carried round all day getting them filled from time to time. We also took a picnic to eat which would have been great as there were lots of places we could have sat except we ate it on the train on the way!
Oh, another thing. You get very, very wet on the water rides so it’s worth having a few pound coins so you can use the dryer things that they have near each ride. I would usually say that things like this are a waste of money but they were great and stopped any whinges about being wet.
If you’re staying at the Crash Pad, make sure you book a table for tea – we forgot to and the only bookings left when we arrived at 7pm to eat were for 9pm. Luckily the coffee shop sold some rather delicious carrot cake so we weren’t that gutted that we had to wait 😉
Also, make sure you take advantage of the early entry into the park if you are staying at the Crash Pad – the staff are great and literally start the ride as soon as you get strapped in so you can take full advantage of the 20 minutes or so before the park officially opens.
The App is great too – it tells you what the current queuing times for each ride are so don’t forget to download that before you go.
I can’t think of anything else but I’m sure Jen will have lots more to tell you when she gets back.
Have fun x x
I have to say we only told the MiniMads of our trip last night and they were jumping around with excitement If you have been I would love to know your top tips and be prepared to see lots of pictures and tweets marked #ThorpeParkMums over this weekend!
This weekend we went to visit Eureka. It’s the National Children’s Museum in Halifax, West Yorkshire. We were given the tickets by Money Supermarket Vouchers in conjunction with the Tots100 before Christmas and had intended to visit over the festive period, but flu and colds put paid to that and then the snow cam and today was the first day we could venture further than our village school!
We are great lovers of Dinosaurs and this year Chester Zoo have a new exhibition featuring 19 amazing life-like robotic replicas of the creatures that roamed the earth 200 million years ago, including the giant Brachiosaurus, the iconic Stegosaurus and the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex.
You get to roam round the fantastic exhibition at your own pace and there are superb Presenter-saurus (staff) who make the experience even better. Even better is that entry is included in your zoo admission price.
What could be better for my train loving boys than a Harry potter themed half term at The National Railway Museum in York. We are regular visitors to both the York site and the Locomotion site at Shildon and love the specials that they put on over the holidays.
This half term is especially fun, as Mini loves Harry Potter and is a big fan and they have the Outon Hall, the steam train which was used in the Harry Potter filmns running for rides and we even cat in one of the carriages used in the film too.
We are no strangers to the National Railway Museum in York, in fact I visited the NRM this time last year with Sandy and her boys from Baby Baby.
This half term the museum is celebrating Big fun with little trains and we were given the opportunity to have a look round and experience some of the attractions with the boys. Entry to the Museum is free and parking is around £10 for the day and you really do not need to spend anymore than that if you take a picnic with you. There are places both indoors and outdoors for you to eat any picnic you might take, which is what we usually do.
However, this time we were treated to a free meal in the restaurant, which was a little hit and miss. We made sure we got the restaurant early as the queues can be terrible, so were served pretty quickly, however, MadDad’s cobbler wasn’t all that nice and had quite a bit of gristle in it. The boys and I had fishcakes and they were really nice, but I would expect no less when paying £7.99 for an adults meal and £5.99 for a children s meal, plus drinks. The boys also had a chocolate muffin each, which I paid for at just under £5 for the two. The tea in the restaurant is great, as it is made with real leaves and teapots, so right up my street.
There is something for every age this half term at the museum. If you have younger children there is a hands on Chuggington area, where they can play with the range of toys and have loads of fun. even my boys at 5 and 6 enjoyed it.
There are loads of model railways dotted around the Great Hall and the volunteers and demonstrators are really knowledgeable and really talk to the children a
The boys were super impressed with the Ben 10 Chaos Coaster. What is it with children, especially small ones, they always seem to want to go on rides that are far too scary or just safe for them to go on. My boys have no understanding of fear. I am not sure they have yet learned that emotions. So were delighted to find out that you can go on the ride as long as you are over 90 centimeters and can go on independently sans adult once you are 1.1 meters
It is a really super ride and Pippa has an explanation of the techical name for the ride on her blog A mothers Ramblings and she has a great video of the children and their verdicts. We also managed to get a phot of Sally and Flea from Who’s the mummy? on the coaster.
My boys verdict? Well the fact that they have asked everyday since if they can go back again, I would say it is a big huge thumbs up.
Disclosure: we received free entry to Drayton Manor Park and access to the Ben10 Ultimate Alien Mission ride for the purposes of this post. The boys also received a great goody bag including a Ben10 jacket . MadDad and I recei
I have had a lovely day this week at the NRM in York with MadDad and the boys. We were lucky enough to be able to meet up with Sandy and her boys too. The NRM in York is a fantastic day out for anyone who has children, especially ones like me who have children that love trains. As you would expect the museum is jam packed full of trains, but there is so much more to see and do, especially if it is raining. The museum always make sure that half term and school holidays are jam packed with family events and we had great fun watching the turntable work more »
We are lucky enough to live a mere 20 minutes away from Whiby and thankfully the boys love the place as much as MadDad and I do. We take every opportunity to escape the humdrum and melt in to the old fashioned perfectness of Whitby, but we don’t often go to the Abbey, in fact I can not remember the last time we went. So on Friday as the sun was shining, school had not yet started and MAdDad was off, plus we were looking after my 5 year old niece (as her Nanna is terminally ill), so we decided Whitby was where we were going. We loved it, yes it more »
I have blogged before about our secret favorite place. Well we have been back and it was magical as always. The water was lower and my Niece took a tumble, but all we could here were the birds and the slow, slow trickle of water. We drank tea from the flask and water and I drunk in the boys playing together, imagination running wild and Enid Blyton childhood I want for them. Long may it continue.
Amble is a real gem, a small fishing village on the Northumberland coast, with a brill rocky area, which is great for playing, rock pooling and jumping on and a small secluded beach too. We had the whole beach and rock area to ourselves and enjoyed a pleasant morning. I had a great time taking photo’s of the rocks, the wonderful amazing patterns that the sea makes on them. Next time I will be taking paper and crayons to take rubbings of the rocks.
Just perfect, made even better by meeting with Crystal Jigsaw and Amy. Mini has declared his love for Amy to anyone that will listen and is running off with her to some far away place.