Showing posts with label family travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family travel. Show all posts

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Shopping with Children at Ashford Designer Outlet

We have been in our new house now for two weeks but we are still living in a pile of boxes.  We need new furniture or different furniture in some rooms to fill the space better and I am having fun decorating a different home.  I have bought so much online but sometimes I want to go to a real shop instead - I want to see colours up close, feel textures and walk away with my items that day.

Last week we were invited to visit Ashford Designer Outlet and I was interested to see how it had changed and what we could tick off on our 'New house shopping list'.  Last time I visited was a few years ago and I knew there had been lots of changes.

Ashford designer outlet, McArthurGlen outlet, Ashford, shopping with kids

We took all four children with us as it was the very end of the school holidays and their moaning about shopping soon stopped when they discovered the huge playground by the entrance.  It worked as the perfect bribe and meant they happily walked around some shops with us knowing they would get time to run and climb afterwards.

There is a huge selection of shops ranging from high street classics like Marks and Spencers and Gap, sports shops like Nike and higher end designers too.  My favourite of the new additions is the Cath Kidston store and I bought an adorable robots sleepsuit for Cora.  The main thing we wanted to buy on our visit was some new crockery and we had a choice of stores, picking some beautiful blue stoneware from ProCook in the end and saving over 50% off of the RRP.  

Ashford designer outlet, shopping with kids

Over the summer there were lots of activities on and there was a small pool with water walkers that looked so much fun. Outside Clarks there were a series of beach huts designed for children to get their feet measured in which made the store much easier to navigate inside.  With the back to school rush it seemed like the perfect time to expand outdoors.

Last time I visited there was a selection of fast food choices in the food court, but since then two restaurants have joined the outlet, Wagamama and Pizza Express and we had a delicious meal at Pizza Express with excellent service. Over the summer the outlet is open from 9am - 8pm and 10-6 on Sundays.

ashford designer outlet, McArthurGlen Ashford

The enclosed shopping centre is so well designed with the shops presented in an oval shape and covered by tents with a car park in the middle.  You don't get wet when it rains, but you don't get that stuffy feeling from being inside too long either.  It cost us £1 to park for up to 4 hours and everything was well signposted.  

Thank you to McArthurGlen designer outlet for inviting us to visit, we had a brilliant time and we will definitely be back soon!

This post is in collaboration with McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Ashford

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Friday, 1 September 2017

Festival Camping with Children

Our recent weekend at Wilderness festival was not only our first family festival, but our first timing camping with children too.  We were apprehensive about having four children under six in a tent for four days but we had a brilliant time and the children loved camping.

We arrived later in the day than we were hoping to and there wasn't long before the sun would be gone, but a kind stranger helped us get our tent up (trying to pitch it whilst keeping the children together was a struggle).  We were sent the Eurohike Rydall 600 6 person tent from Blacks and it was perfect for our first festival experience.  It had one large bedroom that could easily be seperated into two and both halves accomodated a queen sized airbed with plenty of space.  The living area was spacious and had both a big entrance and a smaller one so it could be as open as you liked.

festival camping, camping with children, Wilderness festival, Eurohike rydall 600 6 man tent

It rained on and off throughout the four days but it didn't dampen our spirits and we were well prepared with full waterproofs for the children and wellies for all of us.  We quickly realised what were our camping essentials and what we could have left at home.  Here are our top 5 camping with kids essentials

festival camping, camping with children, Wilderness festival, polarn o pyret

1) Full waterproofs.  

There isn't much to do inside a tent so we were relying on the children being outdoors pretty much all day.  A full set of waterproofs meant that whatever the weather they were prepared.  It was an extra layer to keep them warm in the colder mornings and meant there was nothing to stop them rolling around and jumping in every muddy puddle they could find.

festival camping, camping with children, Wilderness festival

2) A big bucket

I brought a big plastic tesco containter with me and it was perfect as a welly holder.  We all took off our boots as we entered the tent and the bucket could fit all 6 pairs in there.  It meant we didn't tread mud through our living space.  We also gave it a good wash and used it as a makeshift bath for the children outdoors and I filled it up for them to splash and play in when they needed a bit more entertainment one day.

festival camping, camping with children, Wilderness festival, Eurohike rydall 600 6 man tent

3) A good tent

We hadn't been camping before and weren't really sure what we were looking for in a tent but this one ticked all our boxes.  It was spacious enough for the six of us, easy enough to put up and take down and it felt secure for the whole weekend.  We liked the flexibility with the two entrances and the built in groundsheet was essential.

festival camping, camping with children, Wilderness festival, Eurohike rydall 600 6 man tent

4) Your sense of humour

Everyone we spoke to recommended bringing a portable potty with us incase we didn't fancy taking the boys to the toilets in the small hours.  It was working brilliantly until we awoke to find the little two splashing in it one morning.  If you don't have toddlers (or you are going to keep them in travel cots) then a portable potty can be brilliant.

festival camping, camping with children, Wilderness festival, Crotec wagon

5)  A Wagon

This was invaluable during our weekend, we used it to carry the tent, mattresses and sleeping bags from the car to the campsire and then we used it every day to cart around tired children, coats and belongings.  All four napped in there at some point in the day and we had all four in there together on ocassions too.  We put fairy lights on to make it fun and easy to spot in the evening and the hood meant we could keep the sun out too.  (I bought this from Amazon and it says Crotec on the side).

We loved our first festival camping experience with children and we are definitely planning on taking them to another festival next summer - it will be even easier now we have all the gear!

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Monday, 21 August 2017

Wilderness as a Family-Friendly Festival

Ed and I met many years ago at a festival and ever since we have talked about going back to one with the children.  We were looking online at the best family friendly options and discovered Wilderness festival, set in Oxfordshire.  Looking on the website it seemed to be a really family friendly festival so we booked six tickets and hoped for the best.  Neither of us had been camping other than at festivals pre-children but we were excited to try something new with the kids.

Wilderness, family friendly festival, Tootsa macginty

Wilderness has its own family camping area which was fantastic.  Everyone was really respectful and kept the site clean and the evenings were quiet and calm which made settling our four much easier. It was a short walk from the campsite to the main arena and as soon as you entered, the children's area was in front of you.

family friendly festival, Wilderness festival

We spent large periods of our weekend at the children's area, the bigger boys loved the circus skills area where they could learn to walk the tightrope, balance on stilts, hula hoop and more.  There were dressed up staff helping them every step of the way and when the props were put away, it was only because a show was about to begin.  The shows were fantastic for children three and over I would say, they were funny, engaging and the audience was always participating.

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival

Next to the stage was a craft tent where the children could make playdough creations, design glitter art or create a festival skirt (Dylan made a ninja skirt) with strips of mesh and elastic.  The tent was manned and completely free and there was so many resources.  The kids area also had specialist shops selling animal tails, all manner of bubbles and bubble related equipment and a mini theatre.  We went to an 80s sing a long session at the theatre and the children sat at the front colouring in pictures of Dolly Parton and Prince.

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

All three boys loved the rides, especially the helter skelter in the children's area but of course you go to a festival to listen to music, and they loved this side of it too.  We watched lots of singers and bands and they really enjoyed it.  During the day there was space to dance around and in the evening the atmosphere was brilliant.  We found that lots of families congregated together around the main stage which made a little family area.

festival wagon, Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

We bought a wagon before we went and I would highly recommend them if you are taking children to a festival.  We bought ours from Amazon and it was strong enough to carry all four when they got tired in the evenings.  During the day they would take it in turns to nap in there and we filled it with blankets and coats.  It definitely took the stress out of the weekend as they could all rest as much as they needed.

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children, festival wagon

Our experience of festivals before Wilderness was very different to this weekend and until you have children I don't think you notice how much fun they can be through children's eyes.  I think we picked a great first festival for them all as there was so much to keep everyone entertained.  

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

A little more practical information

We managed to spend quite a bit of money whilst we were there as the food was quite expensive.  There was only one stall offering a kids size portion (a meatball and some pasta for £4) but there was a huge variety of food and the boys loved trying all the food.  As a general guide you would pay around £8 for a meal and £4 for a portion of chips.  Mr Whippy ice creams were £3-£4.  We took our own reusable water bottles and there were plenty of places we could fill these up for free, both on the campsite and in the arena.  You could also cook on the campsite (and many families did) so we will definitely think about investing in a little stove for next time.

We stuck mostly to the free activities like the circus skills and craft tent as well as the music, but there were plenty of workshops you could pay for (they weren't practical with four small ones).  The rides cost around £3 per go and a child under 3 needs an adult with them on the helter skelter (another £3). 

The toilets were kept clean and well stocked, but we struggled to find anywhere to change a baby despite the website claiming baby changing facilities were available. so mostly used our own mat in the tent and a blanket in the wagon.  

The music was on from around midday until 10pm and you could definitely hear the arena from the campsite (we were situated closer to the arena than the car park).  It was quite muted though and we had no problem getting the children to sleep, in fact I think they found the background noise quite comforting.  The family campsite had stalls selling coffee, breakfasts and snacks and a welfare area with a section for lost children.  The wristbands we were given as our entry ticket had space to write a parent's phone number on so that if one went missing, the parents could be found (somehow we didn't manage to lose any of ours!).

Despite the on and off rain all weekend, it really wasn't that muddy, but of course the children found the one muddy area and got completely stuck in (and just stuck).

I took a lot of photos so here are some more from our first family-friendly festival experience

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children, Hatley raincoat

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children, Hatley raincoat

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

Wilderness festival, family friendly festival, festival with children

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Monday, 14 August 2017

Eurocamp for a larger family

Nowadays we have to consider a lot more when choosing where to go on holiday as having four children makes us a larger than average family.  Not everywhere caters for families of six and often accomodation can be a struggle.  Our recent holiday with Eurocamp was fantastic for our larger family and everything from the accomodation to the activities was easy.

We stayed in a three bedroom mobile home that can accomodate up to 8 people if you include the pull out sofa bed.  Ideally we don't want to be using that as we enjoy having some space once we have put the children to bed, so we used the three bedrooms, having one single bed and one cot in each of the children's rooms.  Our mobile home had an indoor and outdoor table, both with four chairs but we were provided with two fold out chairs so that we could eat at either (and a highchair too). 

When it came to the swimming pools, there was no information about ratios and the staff had no issue with us having the four in with us.  In our local pools we are not allowed to take them all in unless they are all in floatation devices and they remain in them, but in the Eurocamp pools they could splash about as much as they liked.  

Being a larger family means the children already have playmates, and there was so much for them to do together.  I loved watching them bond in different ways and in different environments, the big two racing on their bikes, the little two sitting out on the decking each morning playing with the toys they had brought with them. 

The restaurant easily accomodated us, the hire centre had plenty of bikes with child seats or trailers and we found the holiday parc perfect for families like ours.

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Friday, 11 August 2017

Our Week in France with Eurocamp

We picked the La Croix du Vieux Pont Eurocamp parc for our recent holiday for many reasons; the closeness to Calais and therefore a short drive, the fact that the parc was really family friendly, the free learn to ride sessions they offered and the good reviews I had read online. We left the morning after Dylan broke up from school armed with a boot full of clothes and scooters and the footwells packed with trunkis full of toys.

It was an easy journey and it took us less than 6 hours door to door.  When we arrived the sun was shining and the thermometer read 28 degrees.  The boys have always loved staying in mobile homes and this was no different, with the added bonus that as soon as we stepped outside our little space we were right on the lake and there were ducks swimming around looking for leftovers.  We got changed into our swimwear and headed straight to the man made beach.

With the absence of a coastline this close to Paris, the parc created its own beach and it is perfect for building sandcastles, splashing about and swimming in.  The children were desperate to move after three hours in the car and our holiday couldn't have started better.

Unfortunately the weather took a dive after the first day and it rained on and off for the rest of our stay.  It certainly didn't stop us having fun though and we found so much to do in spite of the weather (I have written about some of our favourite activities here).  Our days seemed both relaxed and full at the same time with no pressure, no time we had to be anywhere yet lots to do.  It felt great to not look at the time  all day, eating when we were hungry and moving on to a new activity when we felt like a change.

The swimming pool was a big hit with us all, and having four so close we are not able to take them all easily at home.  There were no rules on ratios though and the children's pool was well designed so we felt confident having all four in the water there.  The boys had the option to go to the free kids club every day and they did a few sessions, Dylan really enjoying it.  Whilst it states from 4 years old, I think it was more suited to a child who was already at school.

One of my favourite things about the holiday was watching the bond between the children develop.  Dylan and Archie have been seperated for 5 days a week but suddenly they were together 24/7 and I saw them both change as they reconnected and encouraged each other.  Archie pushes Dylan physically to keep up and Dylan's play has evolved through school and I have seen Archie follow his lead and mature even more.

Finn and Cora have always been close, but this week gave them time to play with their big brothers too and Finn is desperate to be one of them with Cora not far behind.  They three boys played together so well (most of the time, they fought too of course) and I loved watching them experience these things together.

Our days started with fresh croissants from the on-site bakery and ended with either a Berny burger take away or a meal in the amazing restaurant.  We stayed on site other than an afternoon wander down to the nearest town one day and we had ice cream at any opportunity.

I took too many pictures, I always do,  but I have so many memories captured and I love every one of them. 

baths out on the decking are an important part of holidays and Eurocamp offer highchairs, cots, baby baths, potties and bed rails for hire.

The boys asked to go for a dip on our way home from dinner one night and I couldn't think of a good reason why they shouldn't. They loved splashing about as the sun went down.

Cora started to get her confidence with walking with lots of encouragement from her brothers.

This photo is only metres from our mobile home, they all spent ages just sitting and watching the lake and the wildlife.

You would not believe how fascinating a drain can be when you are two and a quarter.

My child who has never ridden a bike before was riding down the road with no stabilisers after only a couple of lessons.  He still has some learning to do, but he was so proud of himself and we couldn't have been more proud of him.

Our week in France was courtesy of Eurocamp but all thoughts and opinions are completely my own.

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