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

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Port Lympne Dinosaur Forest

We recently visited Port Lympne Wildlife Reserve and I was prepared to enjoy seeing the animals and the safari, I wasn't prepared for how good their 'Dinosaur Forest' would be.  For four children who all love dinosaurs (Cora may not be talking but give her a toy dinosaur and she knows to start roaring) it was fantastic.  As the UK's biggest outdoor dinosaur exhibition it was bigger and better than any of the ones we have previously visited.


You walk through the forest following a path that traces the different eras of dinosaurs so you can really see how they have evolved.  What made this brilliant for young children is how hands on it is.  Whilst there are signs asking you not to climb on the dinosaurs, you are able to touch them, walk around them and study the different features.  It is so much more interactive and that is perfect for these four explorers.  Port Lympne have designed it so well with plenty of information one each one and even my non-reader could understand some of it.


Each dinosaur's weight is compared to other animals and you can see that it weighs 15 rhinos or something similar by the 15 pictures of rhinos in the box.  The boys loved counting and comparing as they walked round and Dylan could read them more of the information too.


There are dinosaurs in the trees up high, tiny ones on the floor and some where even the tallest of my boys barely reached his knee.  There was so much to see and I know if we were to return, this is what they would most like to see. Towards the end of the exhibit there were dinosaurs that you could climb on/in which was fun and made a great picture too!


I have written already about our experience at Port Lympne and about staying overnight at Bear Lodge but I really wanted to share how impressed we were with the Dinosaur Forest too.






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Sunday, 12 November 2017

Staying Overnight at Bear Lodge, Port Lympne

We recently spent a night staying at Bear Lodge in Port Lympne wildlife park and it was such a fantastic experience for the children and us.  It wasn't our first time glamping, but Bear Lodge was definitely the most glam thanks to the en-suite shower and toilet and the running water in the kitchen sink.  We slept overlooking the bears as well as being able to see out 40 miles towards the coast and we had our entry to Port Lympne included the next day.

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

We were expecting the tents to be big and from the outside they looked similar to others we had stayed in.  Inside they were quite different though, so much bigger and better.  Being a family of six, we had one of the largest sized tents which sleeps up to 8.  There was a master bedroom, a second bedroom with bunk beds and a bed built into what looks like a wooden crate.  It had a storage/crawl space underneath and you could close the shutters both sides to make it fully coccooned.  There was a small 'kitchen' with cupboards, a fridge and a sink, a dining area with a large table and a living area with a sofa.  Outside the tent were tables and chairs so we could sit and enjoy the view.

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

All of the beds were made up with thick winter duvets and fleece blankets which we were really grateful for as we stayed at the end of October and it got pretty chilly! Whilst the previous day was mild, the night was freezing and we slept wrapped up in the warm layers.  I would definitely recommend taking warm layers if you are going outside of the summer season.

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

There were around 20 tents all grouped together with a communal playground in the middle which all four children loved.  It was really great to be able to let them run around out there as soon as they woke up in the morning too.  

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

Just behind our tent was a small meerkat enclosure and towards the bears was another one with small mammals (I have forgotten their names) that the children loved watching run around through the wire tubes.  Whilst the area felt safe and serene at times, you were very aware that you were sleeping in a wildlife park and we heard the bears growling through the evening too.

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

The views were breathtaking and my photos do not do them justice.  The sun set just in front of us so it was the perfect spot to sit and watch it.  As occupants of Bear Lodge you can book in to do a later safari so rather than queing with the day customers, there were later safaris for the guests to go on an hour tour of the reserve taking in animals such as the giraffes, rhinos and deer.  We were staying at Bear Lodge as part of a project I have been doing with Panasonic so we had dinner with them, but there is a restaurant on the campsite that sells dinner and breakfast and had a bar.  The tents don't have any cooking facilities so you do have to eat out.

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

If you are thinking of a visit, then don't forget to pack warm pyjamas, wellies and some marshmallows to toast! We had a brilliant time and I would love to take the children back.  From one year old up to six, they all found different things to amuse themselves and there was a lovely atmosphere in such a small site with the children all playing together.  

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

You can stay at Bear Lodge at Port Lympne from £210 a night and that includes entry into both Howletts and Port Lympne for the duration of your stay, all bedding and towels and the safaris.  You can read more about our experience at Port Lympne here.  I have also written about the amazing Dinosaur Forest

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping
Bear jumpers for Bear Lodge - It had to be done! All 4 are from Tootsa Macginty
Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping




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Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Experience Fresh at Port Lympne with Panasonic

Panasonic are passionate about cooking with fresh ingredients and as part of their Experience Fresh campaign we were invited along for an overnight stay at one of the glamping tents at Port Lympne.  Our trip combined fresh food straight from some of their brilliant small kitchen appliances, fresh air and a chance to see some endangered species up close.

Daniel from the Naked Nutritionist talked to the children and us about the importance of eating fresh foods, getting lots of vegetables into your diet (you should be eating far more vegetables than fruit) and how the Panasonic small kitchen appliances can help make this a possibility from green juices to pumpkin soup.  He used fresh and in-season produce and we were able to taste his creations.  The blue cheese and walnut bread from the bread maker was a hit with all the kids and the purple juice was perfect for Halloween as well as being quick to make in the slow juicer (named that because of the way it juices the food to retain the most nutrients).

Experience Fresh, Port Lympne, Tootsa Macginty

After our chat we were shown to our accomodation for the night, a glamping tent in 'Bear Lodge' which looked out onto 40 miles of countryside including the resident bears of Port Lympne who we could hear growling during the night.  We have done glamping before but these tents were even more amazing with ensuite toilet and shower, warm duvets and a log burner.

Guests of Bear Lodge are able to go on one of the later safaris, after they have shut to the public and it was fascinating seeing the incredible enclosures, the different species and hearing about the  amazing conservation work that Port Lympne are doing as they prepare to release animals back in to the wild.

Experience Fresh, Port Lympne, Bear Lodge, Tootsa Macginty

Experience Fresh, Port Lympne, giraffes

After our overnight stay, we had a day to explore the zoo and we all loved it.  Having done the safari the day before, we were free to discover the rest of the park on foot and we started with the tigers.  The boys were captivated by the different species and we spent ages watching the monkeys behaving in an all too familiar way as the smallest ones started getting cheeky and the elder ones chased them around.  Most of the animals at Port Lympne are endangered species and they work hard to breed the animals and release them back into the wild with plenty of success.  

Experience Fresh, Port Lympne

Experience Fresh, Port Lympne

Panasonic had talked to us about experiencing fresh and the weekend gave us the opportunity to do this in different ways, sleeping closer to nature in our tents and exploring the huge green park on foot.  We found one of the play areas and the children loved having the freedom to move and climb as they pleased.  We found the park really well set up with areas to sit and eat and a few different playgrounds to break up the visit

Experience Fresh, Port Lympne

Experience Fresh, Port Lympne

We loved exploring Port Lympne with the children, it was such a brilliant place to get up close with the animals and the Dinosaur Forest was their absolute favourite, filled with lifesize models of dinosaurs throughout the different ages.

Experience Fresh, Port Lympne

Experience Fresh, Port Lympne

Staying at Bear lodge in October meant it was really cold when we woke up in the morning and I would have done nearly anything to have stayed under the warm duvet and fleece blankets they provided.  By the time we got home the next evening the children were covered in mud, snoring on the back seat and Daniel's pumpkin soup fresh from the Panasonic food processer was exactly what I needed!

Experience Fresh, Port Lympne

Thank you to Panasonic for inviting us along to learn more about experiencing fresh.

Disclosure - This post is in collaboration with Panasonic
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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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