I remember one of our very first holidays – to St Lucia – Sam was about three and Charlie was about 9 months old. Little Sam’s legs were just the perfect length to make sure every time he moved, he kicked the seat in front of him. As much as I tried to get him to sit still or distract him, the poor lady in front eventually turned round and gave me a right earful – leaving me in tears. Luckily, things have moved on from those days and you’re more likely now to have a lot more gadgets and technology to keep the kids diverted and make family travel much more stress free than it was 15 years ago (and maybe even encounter some more sympathetic fellow travellers!)
So Sam and I are off on a trip on Sunday (don’t feel too bad for Charlie – we’re travelling together in April) on the delicious Disney Dream. Before I travel, I have a few little pre-trip rituals and pampering treats, and pack a few tried and trusted essentials. Here are my recommendations:
So if you pop in occasionally, you’ll know that Mr English and I recently spent a while in Florida, visiting the Macy’s stores in both Orlando and Sarasota. We particularly loved Sarasota – it’s a beautiful area and there’s bags of stuff to do as well as a really cool foodie scene. We whittled our favourite experiences down to five really fab experiences:
Often, the most stressful part of travel is getting to the airport. On my last trip, the flights were difficult to book and I ended up flying from Heathrow, but returning back to Gatwick. We always use APH meet and greet parking (I love being met at the airport by someone who whisks your car away leaving you free to walk straight into the airport, then magically returns it just as you walk out again after your trip) so I decided to drive to Heathrow, leave my car, then get an airport coach back from Gatwick on my return. APH were wonderful, and moved my car to Terminal 5, the nearest terminal, so I had the shortest journey possible to pick up my car again. I was delighted.
Our lovely visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando seems such a long time ago now. I’m already pining for the sunshine, for Anna and Elsa, and, more importantly, all that amazing food.
Once upon a time (see what I did there?) I think most people thought that all you could probably eat while you were at Walt Disney World parks and resorts was junk food, or maybe Mickey-shaped ice creams. Now, people are starting to realise that Walt Disney World features some of the best dining in the world, whether you’re after a snack, quick-service, grab and go option, or proper fine dining with table service.
So what can you expect?
We’ve all been there at the airport: screaming, crying and throwing all our toys out of the pram…not to mention what the kids are up to. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. You can plan for a much smoother operation whether it’s chilling out on the beach or pottering around the countryside together, all with your kids on side. Here’s a round-up of tips and essentials for family fun away from home.
So as I mentioned recently, I’ve been in Orlando for a few days with my friend Laura, experiencing the fabulous food (plus the odd ride, parade, and other lovely things) available throughout Walt Disney World.
One of the highlights of Walt Disney World for me is Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I adore the showbiz theming – it feels like a real movie set, with all the main areas seamlessly blending into each other.
One of the huge perks of my job is all the travel. I get to visit some wonderful places and cruise on amazing ships. I’m always pinching myself at how lucky I am. One of the bits that I enjoy the least, though, is getting to the airport. We actually only live about half an hour from Heathrow, but depending on how things are on the M25, that half hour can magically change into an hour or even longer.
So you know that one of my biggest obsessions is about creating snapshots: when we’re old and grey, we should all be able to look back on our lives and have lots of memories stores away, snapshots of people and places that meant a lot to us. My boys already love to travel and I really hope they both strike out into the world and have loads of magical experiences, the memories of which they can cherish forever.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve been having a bit of a moan about mobile data roaming when travelling abroad. Obviously, being online and staying in contact is really important when, like me, it’s your business, but just generally, most people want to be able to stay in touch when they’re abroad (although obviously tweeting when you’re on the beach is generally only the preserve of nutters like me).
Last year I visited Edinburgh, home of my fellow food-loving friend Erica. We toured some amazing restaurants and markets and decided to make our ‘Foodinburgh’ trip an annual occurrence. If you think Edinburgh is all haggis, neeps and tatties (not that there’s anything wrong with that – I had my first taste of haggis too, delicious!), then think again, it’s a serious destination for food lovers, with no less than five Michelin starred restaurants and a fabulous array of affordable restaurants and cafés. I’ve put together a list of my favourites so far, but I’ve got a feeling this could change – we’re already planning Foodinburgh 2014!
You know me. I love, love, love to travel. Whether it’s a gorgeous English country hotel like The Grove, a city break, or a Caribbean cruise – I love them all. Being somewhat overenthusiastic about it, though, has its downsides – mostly financial. Here’s how a keep a lid on my holiday spending, before I’ve even walked up the steps of the plane:
So we started January 2013 with a bit of excitement after my Dad’s Christmas Day proposal to his partner (by the way, the Dodgy Centre of Gravity reared its ugly head again after our cheese and wine tasting night when he’d had a few too many and fell over putting his shoes on at the end of the night).
In February, I travelled down to beautiful Blagdon to meet up with my Yeo Valley chums and have a nosey around their wonderful new HQ, and went on the adventure of a lifetime with my five bestest chums when we sailed the Caribbean on the frankly fantastic Liberty of the Seas (we’re Royal Mums, ambassadors for the Royal Caribbean brand and we take our job VERY seriously). As you know, I’m big on spending your time and money enjoying experiences that you can cherish, rather than stuff, and this was right up there, believe me. I came back with aching ribs from all the laughing (the horse riding through the surf in Jamaica might have added to that a bit, but oh, riding through an azure sea is one of my most treasured memories). I also felt incredibly lucky to have shared an incredible experience with such incredible friends. I love you guys.
April saw birthdays galore. Charlie turned 15:
And Sam celebrated his 18th with karting, a party at home and a pretty epic double chocolate curly wurly cake…
Then there was my Disreputable Dad’s wedding…
In May, I headed out to the Cote d’Azur to experience the gorgeous Chateau Saint Martin in Vence:
July was beautifully sunny and we spent a wonderful day aboard the Independence of the Seas. The boys adored the FlowRider and it was lovely to meet up with all my besties and their families:
I also spent a lovely weekend with my friend Erica doing an amazing foodie tour of Edinburgh. Foodinburgh 2014 is already in the early planning stages!
August was MENTAL with nearly three weeks of it spent abroad, in beautiful Brittany…
and then with the boys on the INCREDIBLE Disney Magic – a real trip of a lifetime:
We even managed to squeeze in a day in Barcelona with wonderful friends after desembarking:
In September, Mr English and I squeezed in a quick weekend at Nutfield Priory…
and then in October, we headed off on an immersive wine cruise of Europe on the really quite gorgeous Celebrity Infinity…
and then all that travelling squealed to an abrupt halt. Because this little dude came along…
In November, Glam C and I went to Hogwarts Christmas at the Warner Bros Studio Tour:
and before we knew it, it was freezing, wet December then… bloody January again! (to quote Flanders and Swann). We had a wonderful Christmas lunch at the Chequers Inn at Weston Turville: a seven course Christmas extravaganza with some amazing wine that really was festive, fun and very relaxing. My favourite course was this stonking turbot with a huge crevette:
So here’s to 2014. What’s on the agenda for this year, then? More travel, certainly, more time spent with family and friends, loads of exams for the boys, more eating, more cooking, more relaxing, walking in the woods with our gorgeous new pupster and… who knows? My wishlist still includes Las Vegas (Britney, b*tch!), Australia and Thailand.
Thank you to each and every person who has stopped by to have a read, followed me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, or just blundered here via Google. I’m immensely grateful. Wishing you a very happy and restful New Year. May 2014 bring you peace, happiness and new experiences galore xx
So we’re counting the days until our holiday now – we’ve paid the final payment on our (hopefully) lovely villa, the ferry is booked, and work on the packing list has commenced. As always, I’m slightly nervous about driving in France (I stick a post-it note on the dashboard which says ‘on the right, IN the right’ lest I forget), so before we go I’m getting everything organised. What’s the big deal? Well, there are a couple of things you need to do before you travel. Here’s my list:
Get your documents in order
Most important on any trip, this – make sure your travel insurance is up to date and take the documents with you, along with your car insurance and breakdown cover.
Get your car ready
GB sticker: you’ll need to show your country of origin clearly, so make sure that your car number plate shows either the GB Euroflag, or you’ve got a GB sticker on your car.
Headlamp converters: because you drive on the right in France, your headlights can dazzle oncoming traffic and must be converted with a simple sticker that fixes directly to the headlight. They can be a bit tricky to fit, but if you pop in to most motorists’ centres he day before you leave and smile sweetly at them, they’ll fit them for you.
Sort out your in-car kit
In France, you need to have certain items in your car at all times. These include:
Breathalyser: this must carry the French ‘NF’ mark of approval. You can buy packs of two on Ebay quite cheaply, so if you use one, you’ve got another spare. Check the expiry date too.
Hi-viz jacket: at least one, but ideally one for everyone in the car.
Spare lamps: you’re supposed to carry spare lamps for every light that can be easily changed. Obviously, if it takes a mechanic to remove a complicated headlamp unit, then this kind of negates the need for them, but anything easily changeable should have a replacement handy.
Warning triangle: a lot of modern cars already carry these, but double check or buy a folding one to stash in the boot.
First aid kit: this isn’t a legal requirement, but it’s handy to check to see whether your car has a first aid kit, or make up a simple one and pop it in the boot, just in case
Fire extinguisher: again, not a legal requirement, but worth considering.
Remember, legal requirements change so do check before you travel.
Just remember: ON THE RIGHT, IN THE RIGHT. Oh and don’t forget to pack the kids!