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I love this: The Muppets are announced as New York City’s new ambassadors

You’ve got to love those Muppets.  And fresh from their turn presenting at this year’s Oscars, it’s just been announced that they’ve been appointed New York City’s official family ambassadors.

For the whole year, they’ll be encouraging families to visit New York City.  I only wish I’d been at that press conference – can you imagine?  The poor Mayor of New York City, Michael R Bloomberg sharing the stand with Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo the Great and Pepe the King Prawn.   Hilarious.

And in the best soundbite in the whole history of soundbites, Miss Piggy had the following to say on the matter:

New York is the most fabulous city in the world. In fact, it’s almost as fabulous as moi. And trust me, that’s high praise indeed!  So don’t just sit there! Get ready world! You’re about to take the ultimate diva’s tour of moi’s favorite city! Lucky vous!

For more info, you can check out the Muppets’ personal views of New York at nycgo.com/family, including my favourite bit, the Swedish Chef’s pick of New York cuisine.

The Disreputable one and the nasty case of the travelator nun pile-up

My Disreputable Dad popped by for a cuppa today. He does make me laugh. He was telling me about his business trip to Santo Domingo (I don’t know either, you’ll have to look it up).

I’m really not sure he should travel alone. He was telling me about the amazing seats Iberia have in business class now – there are loads of buttons and apparently you can lie almost horizontal ‘although when I was just waking up, I pushed the button of the lady sitting next to me instead of my own and shot her bolt upright from her reclining position, in the process showering herself with hot coffee’. Oops.

He was also telling me about the nasty cut on his calf:

DD: ‘Oh, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you’.

Me: ‘Go on, try me’

DD: ‘Well, I was on one of those travelator things in the airport, and there were a load of nuns pushing wheelchairs…’

Me: ‘Rrriiiiggghhhht… empty wheelchairs?’

DD: ‘No! Wheelchairs full of old people and people with no legs and things.. So we’re all going along this travelator, and there’s a nun pushing a wheelchair in the front, then another nun pushing a wheelchair behind her, then an old man, then me, then another nun pushing a wheelchair…’

Failing to see how this could possibly have caused the nasty cut on the back of his calf, I allowed him to push on.

DD: ‘So we get to the end of the travelator, and the nun at the front doesn’t realise that you’ve got to lift the front wheels of the wheelchair over the little lip. So her wheels stick fast and her wheelchair stops dead, then the nun pushing the wheelchair behind her piles into the back of her, then I pile into them, the old man falls flailing to the floor, then the nun behind us rams into the back of me. Hence the cut calf.

Me: ‘OMG! What happened next?’

DD: ‘Well then the first nun realised her mistake, lifted the wheels of the wheelchair up and everybody started moving again and fell onto the floor in a big heap.’

‘Nuns’, he informed me solemnly, ‘are the worst drivers in the world’ (this is actually true – ask anyone who’s lived in Ireland).

You just couldn’t make it up.

The Gatwick Passenger Panel – our first meeting

To Gatwick yesterday, then, for the first meeting of the new Gatwick Passenger Panel that I told you about a while back.  We took a tour through the much improved, light, airy and enormous north terminal, with its huge, covered outside area and modern glass frontage.  After a slightly embarrassing journey through customs – who knew that I had three tubes of half-used handcream and four lipbalms (look, I love a lipbalm, I can’t help it.  One of these days we’ll discuss the merits of Carmex vs Blistex, but not now, okay – people are looking), dropping my magazine and nearly strangling myself with my security pass when it got tangled with my scarf (I know, classy) – we arrived at our meeting room in the lovely passenger lounge.

The meeting was hosted by the gorgeous BBC News 24 presenter and all round lovely lass Penny Haslam (bit like herding cats, frankly – the poor girl did well to keep us all in order).  We are a random bunch: John Carter (travel journalism LEGEND – who incidentally was a top bloke), the wonderful Jasmine Birtles from MoneyMagpie.com, incredibly knowledgable business travel journalist and editor Mike Toynbee and the Disabled Living Foundation’s Philippa Bromley with, of course, Gatwick’s CEO, Stewart Wingate (not forgetting the lovely Sarah from Gatwick and PR Ellie).

Times are a-changing for Gatwick.  No longer under the umbrella of the BAA, they are free to be competitive and want people to actively choose to fly from Gatwick.  They are investing hugely and are keen to provide a service second to none (the Apple effect, as Penny called it).  The positive outcomes from these panel meetings, though, will benefit all travellers and, hopefully, improve the experience for passengers at all UK airports.  No pressure, then.

We started off our panel discussions by listing the one thing for each of us that really makes or breaks our airport experience.  Considering our diverse backgrounds and specialisms our answers were similar.  It seems what most of us want out of an airport is information (but not an overload of it) and a general flow (as John eloquently put it) from checking in, through security, into departures and off onto our flight.  We don’t want to get lost, we don’t want massive holdups through security, complicated technology or surly immigration officials.  What we’d love is to see a friendly, helpful face or two – a nice light airy environment and an all-round pleasant experience.

From Stewart Wingate’s perspective, he was very open and honest about our views, telling us the feedback he’d received from other passenger surveys/complaints etc and he was, most importantly, really interested in what we all had to say.

From my own perspective, representing parents, the pitfalls of family travel are many and it was easy for me to list them: after setting off at 4am to the airport, your child has just fallen asleep in the buggy when the surly man at security wants to turf them out so that the buggy can go through the x-ray machine… You’ve just come off an 8 hour flight, with a child desperate for the loo, only to find a mile-long queue for just two toilets…

But then consider the business traveller – they don’t generally care so much about shopping or duty free – they just want to get to their destination as quickly as possible.  Things that would make the business travellers’ life easier aren’t so different to those of, say, parents, or the disabled – but maybe a day room where they can grab a quick shower between connecting flights would be nice – places to charge laptops, meeting rooms…

John also made a really valid point about older travellers – frustrated with huge queues, complicated check in procedures and invasive security checks, it seems that they’re moving away from the airports towards other forms of transport: the Eurostar being one of the major ones.  I found this fascinating – and a bit disturbing.

But the biggest eye openers for me were the points raised by Philippa Bromley of the Disabled Living Foundation about the very diverse challenges faced by the disabled traveller: imagine how upsetting it must be, when travelling with a disabled child, to be confronted by a massive queue for security when you know your child will shout out and make noises, and other travellers will stare and make comments.  Consider also how terrifying a disembodied automated voice could be for someone with, say, Autism or Alzheimer’s.  Think how daunting it must be for a person with learning difficulties when confronted with an automated check-in.  All these people must be considered, and Gatwick are determined to make travelling better for everyone.

All in all, it was an enjoyable, enlightening – and exhausting – day.  My journey home was delayed in a rather comic fashion when our train appeared to have no driver.  After a 20 minute hunt (and a bit of giggling during the announcements) a driver was found and I eventually got home safe and sound.  I do admire those that rely on trains and tubes to get them to work every day – I’ll need a sofa day tomorrow to get over it.

More information on Gatwick Airport is available on their website: gatwickairport.comand if there’s anything you’d like me to bring up at the meetings, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

The Gallery: a million paper butterflies

My buddy Taralara runs an online gallery with a different theme every week.  Not being much of a photographer, I tend to dip in and out a bit, but this week, the theme is ‘travel’ – how could I not join in!

This picture is the ceiling of the Dubai Mall, which took me by surprise when I looked up to see it filled with thousands of delicate paper butterflies.  It took my breath away.

For more entries to this week’s gallery, just click here.

The Sensatori Resort, Riviera Maya, Mexico. Part 1: getting there

Where. To. Start.

I could regale you with stories of white-suited beach butlers, of 24hr gourmet room service (so personalised that the second time I rang they said ‘ah, yes, no onions in the burger for DWC, isn’t it?’), of the amazing Mojito bar (30 different varieties) and watching Pelicans clumsily dive into the azure Mexican Caribbean…

…but then you’d just switch off, or throw rotten veg at me or something.  So instead?  I thought I’d keep a diary of my trip, and now I can take you with me.  Grab your suitcase, then…

Day 1

Dublin’s new Terminal 2 is a gorgeous futuristic marvel.  There is a fabulous, sparkly mirrored bar, a Laduree wooden wagon (I resist a macaron thinking of my impending swimwear time) and tons of lovely posh shops.  Aer Lingus is fabulously efficient and in no time at all we are whisked to London Heathrow.  A quick wizz along the motorway takes us to Gatwick, and our overnight resting place of the fabulously swish Gatwick Sofitel.

We walk into an impressive central atrium.  Glass lifts shoot up into the air on either side of us and fountains twinkle everywhere.

I am greeted with a rather sexy ‘bonsoir, Madame’ by suavely dressed reception staff.  The place oozes Gallic charm and we are swiftly and efficiently checked in to our adjoining rooms.

There is a choice of three different restaurants: there’s Gatwick Oriental, serving a varied selection of Far Eastern fare, La Brasserie : a nice. laid back place serving classic French brasserie food, and Le Cafe serving a selection of pizzas/pastas etc.  We settle on Le Cafe and our food is fabulous.  My spicy crayfish tail pizza is delicious, and £65 for the four of us seems pretty reasonable to me.

Our rooms are modern, really nicely furnished and immaculately clean.  The bathrooms stock gorgeous L’Occitane Verbena smellies (you can tell a lot by the products in a hotel bathroom).  Sadly, we don’t spend a great deal of time there as we’re off early, checked out in seconds and through the very handy walkway straight into the North Terminal.

Day 2

A quick mooch around the shops and very shortly we’re up, up and away in a very swanky Boeing 767-300.  English Dad is the aeroplane officionado and declares this one to be ‘quite new and well decked out’.  I don’t know a thing about planes but am particularly taken by the turquoise leather.  Our seats are huge (in fact, they seem just as big as the ones in Premium Class) and the crew are really lovely and friendly.

The press office has very kindly sent word ahead and we’re extended every courtesy (which basically pans out as the Death Wish Child disappearing from his seat on a regular basis and coming back weighed down with armfuls of Peanut M&Ms and Pringles).  Gordon and his lovely team keep me in Mojitos the whole journey too.  I feel like a celeb.  Happy, happy bunny.

An easy journey means that the ten hours flies by (see what I did there?) and soon we’re peering out over the Florida Keys and then Mexico.

We’re met by a team from the Sensatori (A TEAM!!) and whisked into a private car for the short journey to the hotel, where we’re greeted with a blast of lemon-balm scented air conditioning and a chilled glass of champagne.  I think I might faint.

It gets even better when we’re shown to our room:

And then, the long journey just gets the better of me.  I’m afraid I succumb to a little sniffle when I walk out onto the balcony and see….

This:

Much, much more to come.

Stranded

Hello!

Well, we had a fabulous holiday – I’ve got all sorts of photos, stories, mentalness and even a spot of Danny Dyer stalking to tell you about, but sadly, we can’t get home.

A delay of ten hours in Cancun meant that we missed our onward Ryanair flight back home and Ryanair wanted – wait for it – £1008 to put us on another flight, even with proof from Thomson that we’d missed our connection because of a delay. Soooo after picking ourselves up from the shock, we decided to go to English Grandma’s for an impromptu stay and regroup.

Thanks to a lovely friend on twitter (@NailishRambling I owe you big style), we discovered www.sailrail.co.uk and have managed to book train tickets to Holyhead PLUS a ferry ticket to Dublin port for less than £80 for all of us. Bless lovely Marc at Thomson who was also haring around like a lunatic trying to find us a journey home.

Two fingers to Ryanair *shakes fist at Michael O’Leary*, then, and I’ll see you all tomorrow. Mwah xx

Our amazing trip to Thomson’s Sensatori Resort Mexico, and packing for holidays, with a little help from The Online Stylist

So it’s just one more sleep until we jet off for our fabulous holiday in Mexico!

It’s an amazing opportunity – we’re going to check out Thomson’s 5T Sensatori Resort Mexico (it’s a funny link – scroll down).  Located on Bahia Petempich beach, the spa hotel and resort is Thomson’s flagship Sensatori property in a long haul destination.  There are six restaurants in the property, and I’m planning on visiting each of them at least once – especially the Mexican restaurant… well, when in Rome, eh?

I’m not just visiting for the luxury though, oh no…  The Sensatori Resort Mexico has achieved ABTA’s coveted Travelife Gold standard.  The businesses with this award ‘display a very high commitment to sustainability. They encourage others to get involved, constantly seek new opportunities for improvement, and actively communicate their progress to others’ and I’m looking forward to seeing this sustainable approach to hospitality in action.

While we’re there, we’re going to have the most amazing experience: a visit to the villagers of Chumpon to see first hand how their new ‘jungle jams’ project is getting on.

Thomson recently helped this co-operative of Mayan women to set up their own jam-making business.  They supply local hotels and tourism businesses and the best thing is that they can earn an income without moving away from their village.

I promise I’ll take tons of photos (and maybe even a vlog *cough*) so you can hear all about our big adventure.

But wait – what to wear to such a fabulous location?  Being somewhat fashionably-challenged, I’m very lucky to have a most gorgeous and stylish friend in the form of The Online Stylist, and – excitement! – she’s written a blog post just for me to give me lots of advice for my trip:

‘Dear Wardrobe Mistress’  - The Online Stylist

It’s a hand luggage only affair – we’re only going for seven days and we’ve got to fly from Dublin to Gatwick to catch our flight.  This has caused a bit of head scratching, and sadly the inflatable dolphin has had to go back in the cupboard, but I think I’m there.  Plus, of course, travelling light isn’t just handy for avoiding the dreaded luggage carousel, if a third of holiday makers left that extra 25% of unused luggage at home it would save 7,537 tonnes* of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere each year.  This equates to taking a staggering 2,216 cars family cars off the road each year.**

Here’s my guide to packing light for a week away, with fantastic suggestions by the Online Stylist:

Clothes:

Daytime: hopefully I’ll be on the beach, so I’m taking two bikinis (one drying, one to wear – see below), a couple of cover ups (check out the gorgous kaftans in the Online Stylist article), vest tops, t-shirts (I’ve just been told that the lovely chaps at EcoCreeper are going to send me some of their fabulous 100% organic t-shirts), and a pair of linen shorts. I’d usually take a denim skirt, but weight is an issue (the bag, not me.  Cheeky).

Shoes:

Don’t go mad.  I don’t wear heels, as I look like a drunken giraffe when I do (it’s something about the leg to body ratio – don’t ask), but will be taking a pair of sparkly sandals to do me for evenings.  Add my flip flops (below) for the daytime, some Converse trainers for travelling and for our trip and I’m done.

Beachwear:

The best people to talk to about the world of swimmers are the lovelies at Figleaves.  They always know what’s going on, and I grilled gorgeous Hayley to find out what’s going to be big this summer:

‘In terms of this season, green is a massive beach trend – across all shades lime to grass!’  So these Havaianas from Office should be just perfect:

Hayley mentioned that ‘floral prints were also big news on the Miami swimwear catwalk’, which is good as I have a flowery bikini from Next, and that ‘the nautical theme is always a good bet’, which is also a bonus because it just so happens that I already own Monsoon’s ‘Stella’ stripy tankini top.

I’ve got plain blue bikini bottoms, but they do the complete set too.

Lastly, ‘…the fashion catwalks were big on bright colours, clashing bold shades’, which is fantastic if you want to mix and match a little.

Evening:

dresses are the order of the day – nice and light to pack, easy to wear and you can choose what suits you, from a cover-all maxi dress to a little strappy cotton number.  I got this beauty from Asos.com (free delivery, even to Ireland.  Magic).

I also got a gorgeous stretch jersey wrap from Zara, which I shall be using as an extra layer on the plane and a quick cover-up on the beach, plus I’ve got a cardi in case it’s nippy.  I’m going to do as I’m told and wear lightweight trousers for travelling and also for our trip into the jungle.  Sadly, I haven’t got the bottom (or the budget) for Houlihans, so I got some linen ones from Vero Moda instead.  I hope the Stylish One approves.

And so to packing.  Here’s my top tips:

Roll don’t fold – everything’s going to get squished, but if you roll a couple of items together, it minimises creasing.  Hang it all up in a steamy bathroom when you get there and it’ll soon uncrease.

Stuff all the little edges with your underwear (keep it neutral) and add a sun hat.

Stick your shoes in plastic bags to stop them making your clothes dirty, and pack them next to the wheels at the bottom (if you’ve got wheels).

Electrical items:

Don’t forget the appropriate travel adaptor, and all your chargers – in our case, that’s about 20 with all the phones, iPods, PSPs, laptops, etc…

Skip the straighteners. In fact, skip the hairdryer. Most hotels provide them and if there’s not one in the room, you’re bound to be able to borrow one at reception.  Pack some hair clips and be creative!

Toiletries:

Remember that everything in your hand luggage has got to be under 100ml.

Make use of multi-use items. My favourite is Dr Bronner’s liquid soap, which can be used for everything from shampoo and shower gel to washing your smalls. You can even use it as toothpaste (the minty version is obviously best for this!).  They do a travel size of 59ml too.

Decant!  It’s always cheaper to buy bigger sizes, so buy travel bottles (check out www.icklebockles.co.uk) and decant into 100ml measures.

Don’t take the mini antiperspirant sprays, they’re a waste of money and don’t last the week.  I like the solid antiperspirant sticks, but if you prefer a roll on, take one of those.

Pack wet wipes. They’re great for freshening up when travelling, and taking make-up off when you get there too.

Before you fly, split your make up and toiletries into a couple of different clear bags. Remember each bag can’t be more than 20 x 20cm and must seal at the top.

I’ve been using Marks and Spencer clear toiletry bags with no problems for several flights, but in Cologne they made me throw them away and use plain ziplock bags, which was annoying.

Towels:

The decision on whether or not to take a towel will depend upon where you’re headed.  I got a fabulous thin hammam wrap/towel from The White Company that doesn’t take up much room but does the job.

Suncream:

I’m sure you can buy 100ml suncreams and after sun lotions, but honestly, if you’re headed to the beach, you know you’re going to need loads more than that – at least 1 bottle per person per week, in fact – so I’m going to buy them at the airport – that way I can buy decent sizes.  My friend, Poppy’s Mum told me recently that she buys ALL her toiletries when she gets to the resort.

Add your camera, sunglasses, a bit of jewellery, a bag for the beach and a small first-aid kit (this will depend on the age of your travellers – I got a little ready-made one from Boots and just top it up when necessary) and you’re done!

My little luxury is a gorgeous travel candle to make the room smell nice (I adore the Jo Malone shop at Dublin airport – I wish I could live there).

So that’s me, then.  I am packed, waxed and ready.  I’ll see you very soon xx

*Based on 1/3 of Thomson’s airline, Thomson Airways passengers packing 25% less luggage. Fuel and carbon calculations based on popular mid haul route flying 223,724 hours.

**Source:http://communicationcentre.thomson.co.uk/2010/07/21/packing-tips/

Havealovelytime.com’s Twenty Family Activity and Travel Sites

I”m absolutely delighted to see that English Mum has been included on Have a Lovely Time’s list of family and activity sites ‘packed with summer fun’.

If you’re having trouble entertaining the kids over the holidays, or you’re looking for inspiration for days out, do check out this fabulous website (and no I’m not just saying that because they’re nice about me *cough*).  The great thing about it is that for every recommendation, there is a proper review, so you can see what real Mums and Dads thought of each day out before you decide to go there yourself.  Bonus.

And as well as days out, you’ll find reviews for holiday destinations – from the UK to more exotic climes, museums, shows, theme parks – even the odd review by yours truly.

So what are you waiting for?  Go Have a Lovely Time!

The International Travel Photographer of the Year awards 2010

Poras Chaudhary, India

Daisy Gillardini, Switzerland

Courtney Krawec, Australia

So here’s one for my lovely photography-mad friend, Tara Cain, and her absolutely fantastic Gallery‘ contributors: The 2010 International Travel Photographer of the Year awards (TPOTY) are now open for business!

The competition is open to anyone, anywhere – whether you’re a professional photographer, or just an enthusiastic amateur, and whether you’re 4 or seventy four!

There are some utterly amazing prizes to be won, from worldwide travel to software and for new and emerging photographers there’s even the chance of bursaries and representation by professional photographic agencies.

All the previous winners of the TPOTY awards can be seen in the Winners’ Galleries on www.tpoty.com, and in the ‘Journey’ series of books from Travel Photographer of the Year.

Full details of the awards categories, entry fees, bursaries and all the information about how to enter can be found on www.tpoty.com.  Entries close on October 9th 2010 and the results will be announced in December. Images can be uploaded online or entrants can submit prints.

And to whet your appetite, I’ve got the latest in the Journey series of books, containing entries and winners from 2007, 2008 and 2009, worth £25.00 to give away!  It’s a really beautiful, 29cm x 29cm heavyweight hardback book filled with gorgeous, glossy images.  Just leave a comment to be entered into the draw.

So what are you waiting for?  Grab that camera!

Travel News: Thomson and First Choice launch green brand ‘Holidays Forever’

Wouldn’t you love it if it was easier to choose a greener holiday?  As a family, we love travelling, but we’re also well aware of the damage tourism can do to the environment.  Let’s face it, we holidaymakers can be a thoughtless lot, using up vital resources, creating mountains of rubbish and clogging up the atmosphere with our carbon emissions (well, not personally, but you know what I mean).

And that’s when we’re actually ON holiday – what about those armfuls of holiday brochures we gather up in the travel agent, only to sling half of them practically unread, and all the packaging we take in our suitcase and end up discarding abroad?  How do we teach our children to be responsible travellers?

I was really interested, then, to hear that Thomson and First Choice have unveiled a whole new holiday brand called Holidays Forever.  Their plan brings all their green initiatives together under one roof, and aims to raise awareness about sustainable tourism, both at home and abroad.

Holidays Forever encompasses all sorts of commitments including the reduction of weight and carbon emissions from their airline, Thomson Airways (hopefully not by taking the seats out, a la Ryanair), recycling cans used onboard and raising £10 million for the World Care Fund.

Interestingly, Thomson and First Choice launched Holidays Forever after a customer poll found that 96% of holidaymakers cared about protecting the local environment and wildlife in the resorts they visited, and  83% welcomed advice about how to make their holidays more environmentally and socially responsible.

I’m surprised and delighted by the figures, frankly.  Who knew we travellers were such a thoughtful bunch?  We’ll be knitting our own hammocks on the beach next.

What do you reckon, then?  Would you book a green holiday?

DWXUDM8D7TZS

Travel tips for the disaster-prone

So hot on the heels of my pretty darned wondrous trip to Disneyland Paris, I’m off again shortly. Sunday sees us heading off to Morocco for a lovely week’s family holiday (‘this is what I did on my holidays’ pictures will surely follow – apart from the aforementioned Pilsbury Dough Boy/small Zebra/Russell Brand genetic mutation that is me in my bikini).

I’m not good at organising stuff, so have decided in advance to make a really good ‘what to take on holiday’ list, which will be really useful should you ever feel the need to travel with a teenager, a tweenager, a grumpy husband and a mildly bonkers mother:

1. Factor 50 suncream: I’m a really strange cocktail of English, Scottish and Irish roots, which manifests itself in skin so pale it’s practically blue. I do tan, but this is only when my freckles get so big they kind of merge together to cover some of the red. This happens in odd splodges on my face too – giving me a kind of embarrassed Dalmatian look. Not the most flattering.

2. A first aid kit the size of Wales. There will be vomiting. There always is. When we went on holiday to Goa, #1 decided to be violently sick on Christmas Day. I read the instructions on the rehydration sachets wrong and tried to get him to whoof down a whole glass of it every time he was sick. Hence, he was sick even more. We’ll also need lots of plasters because someone (generally The Death Wish Child) will do a backflip in about 3″ of water and scrape all the skin off his spine, or impale himself upon a piece of broken shell or something. Happily, in India we needn’t have worried because it turns out that you can buy just about any prescription medicine (and probably crack cocaine too) over the counter just by vaguely describing your symptoms with hand-signals and gurning. I kid you not. The Hubby got two packs of Valium for his bad shoulder (and being the hysterical type, I flushed it, just in case he got the habit).

3. Five sunhats. They always disappear, and I’m prone to burnt partings which then fester and finally peel, making me look like I have a horrible attack of scabies (on the plus-side, I can always get a sunbed). My sister in law told me recently that she’s always horrified when she remembers once waving lovely little Turtle and Jackson off on a camel ride with some random beach guy when they were toddlers. The camel guy could have been a trader in little blonde twins and she would have been none the wiser. Happily, he came back with them. Turtle, however, was minus her sunhat, which had blown away towards a man on the beach who had picked it up and then, just when she thought he was bringing it to her, had promptly pocketed it and walked off.

4. Everybody’s passport. It’s in my genes: as a family, we have passport-related lunacy in our blood. My Disreputable Dad once got all the way to the actual check-in desk at London Gatwick before realising that he had in fact got his passport and his spare passport, rather than his other half’s. Luckily, my Dad usually aims to get to the airport a good 12 hours before the flight (he’s a forward planner of epic proportions – many a time I can remember childhood holidays commencing with being bundled sleepily into a taxi at 4am – very exciting when you’re a kid, but I now realise the flight probably didn’t leave until tea-time), so he had time to bimble all the way home (an hour and a half), leaving his seething girlfriend waiting anxiously at the counter, pick up the passport and pootle all the way back again without missing the flight.

5. My phone. And no, I won’t be allowed to use it (not at £1.37 per minute roaming I won’t be), it’s purely for the music. I like to sing along, but I seem to have a very bad case of malapropitis when it comes to lyrics. The Brethren constantly despair of my inability to remember the words to any song, and it absolutely kills them when I fill in my own instead.    I also use it to drown out the sound of other people’s children (I’m toddler intolerant).  Hence, I shall be happily grilling myself to a crisp on the beach, singing ‘I kissed a girl and I liked it, the taste of her cherry chopsticks’, or ‘let’s pee on a corner… let’s pee on a spot.. light… choosing my religionnnnnn’ while my children go bright red and wander off to choose some other, less embarrassing parents to sit near.

Then finally, when I’m nice and red and crispy and slightly flaky, I will be home for just one day of confusion and then I’m off to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, the beautiful Discovery Cove and Aquatica in Florida with a raggle taggle (but gorgeous) bunch of fellow bloggers: Erica, Liz, Laura, Linda and Jo.  I predict snorty laughter, screaming on roller coasters and other aquatic shenanigans.  Watch this space…