Useful Camping Tips for Families – Guest post ft. Tadej Kozar

Today on the blog I have the pleasure of welcoming Tadej, a camping enthusiast who blogs at Camping Valley. Tadej is sharing with us some useful camping tips for families. BattleDad and I have enjoyed camping but have yet to experience it with BattleKid, so these tips will come in helpful one day. Continue reading “Useful Camping Tips for Families – Guest post ft. Tadej Kozar”

Preparing for a Family Road Trip #TestYourTreads

As many of you will know we elected to drive ourselves from Wales to Portugal when we were making our move earlier this year. We had considered shipping the car but that would have meant not only booking flights for ourselves, but also coordinating our flights with those of BattleDog’s. Then there was the issue of getting us and him from Faro Airport to my parent’s place.

test your treads

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

Instead, we settled on a ferry journey from Portsmouth to Santander, booking the dog into a kennel, and then driving our car from Santander to the Algarve. But making such a long journey, which involved 166 miles followed by 608 miles, wasn’t just as simple as loading the car up and going. There was quite a bit of planning involved in getting just the car ready for the journey. We put new tyres on the car not long before we left the UK, but I wish we had known about www.tyreplus.co.uk at the time. More on that to come.

The first leg of our journey was from our home in Wales to Portsmouth Ferry Terminal, a journey of 166 miles as mentioned. To get the car ready for this we checked the tyre treads and pressures, that the lights were in good working order and ensured oil levels and all other fluids were topped up. The car had a service a little over a month before we left, but it was no harm in rechecking everything was still in order.

The car also had a recall job done on it just weeks before we left and, so we knew mechanically it was good to go. Before setting off on our journey we made sure we had enough fuel to get us to Portsmouth, and onto the ferry.

Once we hit Spain we topped up before leaving Santander to find our overnight accommodation an hour from the ferry. I was glad we did this as it took us two hours to escape the Spanish mountains the next morning before we hit the motorway which would take us south to Portugal covering 608 miles, and even more importantly, the services.

Along our mammoth 13-hour journey, we ensured we topped up with diesel regularly to ensure we didn’t get caught out. As it turned out we ran into some faults on the car and practically limped into Portugal and my parent’s place we were going to be staying at. But this problem with the car couldn’t have been foreseen.

While the car was being repaired we had a hire car from a well-known hire car company which shall not be named. After a few days of driving and feeling like the car wasn’t right, we realised the tyre treads were bare on the car we had. For some reason, we hadn’t checked the tyre treads when we took receipt of the car, despite regularly check the treads on our own cars. Whether it was due to our haste at taking receipt of the car and getting back to BattleKid and my folks, I don’t know.

It meant we didn’t feel safe in the car and when we pointed it out to the hire car company, we got stung for the cost of the replacements. I now ALWAYS check the tyre treads on hire cars before leaving their forecourt. And advised friends of ours who visited us in Portugal to do the same before leaving their hire car company’s forecourt.

Checking your tyre treads should always be part of a checklist you do before setting out on a journey, particularly a long one. Tyres that are worn or below the legal limit, which in the UK is 1.6mm, increases your risk of having an accident. Also, incorrect tyre pressures can add to this risk. We regularly check the tyre pressures on our car as it is a very heavy beast.  

If you find that you need to replace one or more of your tyres you could consult TyrePlus. Their easy-to-use website lets you pop your vehicle registration in and they will give you a list of recommended tyres plus you can see when they could be fitted. Their website can also tell you where your nearest fitters are located or offer you a mobile fitting service to have your new tyres fitted at your door. How handy is that!

As for other checks you should be making before setting off on a car journey, many of the breakdown service companies have suggested the following:

  • Tyres, as already discussed.
  • Toolkit, ensuring you have at the very least your spare tyre, jack and locking wheel nut if necessary to change a tyre in an emergency.
  • Engine Oil. Not all cars have dipsticks. Did you know this? Our Land Rover has an electronic oil indicator which requires a cold engine in order to display the correct oil level. If the engine is on or has been within the last 20 minutes, it won’t display the oil level at all.
  • Water or coolant.
  • Windscreen Wipers. Nothing more annoying in the UK than blinding rain and faulty windscreen wipers. Check them and replace if necessary. Your nearest Halfords will even fit them for you for a small fee!
  • Screenwash. Ensure it is topped up. Did you know that by law your screen wash system MUST work.
  • Windscreen. Check for cracks or stone damage and get this repaired or replaced. Often your insurance may cover some or all of the cost of the repair or replacement.
  • Lights. Check they are all working, including brake lights, indicators and your fog lights. Carry spare head lights at a minimum and know how to replace them. I learned how to replace the ones in the Land Rover and have often changed them in the driveway or in the car park at work if I notice one has gone.
  • Power Steering. Ensure the fluid is replaced during your service and that the levels are correct on a regular basis.
  • Bodywork. Check for damage or rust regularly, especially during the winter months when more salt may be on the roads to deal with icy conditions.

And if doing a long car journey within Europe, there are additional checks and things you need to have in your car to remain legal on the roads. test your treads

Driving can be an enjoyable way of getting from A to B, or as a road trip as we discovered in America, but you should always ensure you check the car you are travelling in BEFORE you set off to keep both you as the driver, and your passengers as safe as possible. At the very least #TestYourTreads

Cath x

*This post is a collaborative post for the #TestYourTreads campaign in association with TyrePlus.

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Planning Tips For Your First Family Cruise – Guest post ft Olivia W Jones

Planning a first family cruise can often be both nerve wracking and thrilling. From booking to disembarking, there are many aspects to keep in mind, since any of them could make or break the whole vacation. On a brighter note, a wide array of activities, amenities and food can potentially satisfy anyone, no matter whether it is a newborn baby or a seasoned grandpa. Those who want to stay on top of these aspects quickly find out that cruises are the ultimate family vacations. Here is how to take the stress and frustration out of the process and navigate the minefield of decisions.family cruise blog

Across the seven seas

Some basic rules of travelling always apply, although many specifics are different. For instance, packing techniques help just like with any other vacation, but when cruising, it is also highly advisable to pack a tote bag with all the essentials you need ‒ namely because it takes a few hours for your luggage to be delivered to the cabins. Also, getting off a ship is not like checking out of a hotel. There is again a process of waiting involved. Speaking of which, cruise lengths vary from a couple of days to two weeks.

family cruise - Suitcase open on the floor with holiday essentials almost packed!
Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Decide how many days makes sense for you and your family, depending on your preferences and free time. Another thing to take into account is the selection of the arrival and departure ports. The basic dilemma comes down to either visiting just one destination or hitting many with one fair. Some of the most popular bucket list destinations are the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, South Africa, Northern Europe, North America, etc. In any event, pick a destination the whole family is on board with.

The bottom line

Next, it is time to look around for the best deal out there. Choosing the right cruise line is the cornerstone of a successful cruise. The lines differ in terms of quality of service, size of the ship, and offered amenities. It is not uncommon to stumble upon shabby offers that are complete duds. You want to steer away from shore excursions that are basically glorified bus rides. Also, keep your eyes open for discounts, special offers, and deal alerts from reputable agencies.

Family Cruise - ships in port

Do your homework and utilize websites like Onboard.com that allow you to research and book cruises as well as read reviews on them. For families, it is important to note that some cruise lines stand out from the rest because of what they offer to young kids. Carnival cruises, for example, have a great line-up of kid programs, activities, and features that’ll keep the little ones entertained and engaged.

Once the cruise is booked, you need to figure out the itinerary. As for the time on board, there should be a variety of possible activities, including pool, cinema, skydiving, roller skating, bumper cars, golf, etc. Ports offer excursions such as snorkeling, kayaking, city tours, shopping, and horseback riding. Some cruises are marketed and tailored to be all-inclusive. Even then, however, you cannot expect not to have extra expenditures on board, such as pay-extra eateries, gift shops, beverages, various activities, etc.

From stem to stern

Some people overlook the fact that the location and the type of the room on the ship do play an important role. Staterooms are a budget option for those who do not plan on spending much time inside. If you are willing to pay a bit more, though, you can opt for balcony rooms, suites, and deluxe packages. Cabins on the low decks are a nice solution for people who are prone to seasickness.

Family Cruise - Boy on balcony of cruise ship

The good news is that with the marvels of modern technology, you should be able to find high-quality pictures of the rooms or even go on virtual tours and watch live video feeds. Just remember to book the room well ahead of time and reserve the tickets before boarding. The most popular tours sell rather quickly and you do not want to miss the opportunity.

Finally, landlovers should not fret once on deck. Cruising is something that quickly grows on you, even if it feels scary at first. Rely on the crew to help you and provide you with all the necessary information. Make sure to let the kids rest after all the fun and games. Do not forget that you can (and should) stay in touch with your kids in case you want to do some activities separately. True, the cell phones won’t work, but Walkie Talkies will do the trick just fine.

Smooth sailing

When planned and done right, a cruise is the perfect vacation for the whole family. To make the magic happen, you have to know where and when you want to go and what you want to get from the vacation. All ships are not created equally and your choices matter a great deal. So, first-time cruisers, brace yourself. Do not skip the research if you want to have the time of your life and explore new horizons with winds in your sails.

Family Cruise - Waves made by a ship in the sea
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
sydney oliviaOlivia is psychologist, traveller and entrepreneur from Brisbane. Mother of two beautiful children and proud owner of two silly boxer dogs, Teo and Mia. She is passionate about writing and always inspiring her readers to be clever in their lives. Her motto is “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Olivia is a regular contributor to High Style Life.
You can also follow on both Twitter and Facebook.
*no remuneration has been received or given in return for hosting this guest post.
** unless stated, the pictures have been provided by the writer for use in this post.
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What to pack for 6 days in Portugal

Easter has been traditionally a time when I’ve gone home to Ireland for the long weekend to visit family. However, this year I’m breaking with tradition and heading to an all-together sunnier climate. My parents have been going to Portugal every year in March but normally around the 11th which is my mum’s birthday. However they decided late last year they’d like to go over Easter in order to bring my nephew with them as he’d be off school on holidays.

With that in mind it threw my usual Easter plans into disarray. If my folks weren’t going to be home then I wouldn’t go myself. I didn’t want to miss them so decided to stay at home this year and just chill out. They then said they’d cancel Portugal but I wouldn’t let them, it wouldn’t be fair on them or my nephew to miss out. That’s when BattleDad recently came up with a brilliant idea. Seeing as he usually does a bike trip while I’m away over Easter, why didn’t I just meet my parents in Portugal instead of staying at home on my own with BattleKid? Genius! I called my parents to ask if that would be ok and proceeded to book flights for myself and BattleKid as my mum had secured a 2 bedroom apartment so there would be room for us. We’re on!

Sunrise

As you read this I’m now there enjoying sunshine (I hope) but the week leading up to it has been a bit hectic for me. Firstly I’ve never been to Portugal, let alone in March, so I’ve had no idea what to pack for myself or BattleKid. Do I pack shorts or should I bring trousers? Will it be hot so we only need t-shirts or do we need cardigans and jumpers as well? I rang my dad earlier in the week but he said he wears light trousers out and about, and shorts by the pool so it sounds like both might be needed.

Also, as I’m flying solo with BattleKid I want to bring just one suitcase and the minimum amount of hand luggage than I might normally do when we’re travelling with BattleDad. That means no Trunki stuffed with toys. They’ll need to go into the main case with a few things in the cabin bag to entertain him during the two hour flight. I’ve loaded up his little tablet with plenty of Curious George and Thomas the Tank Engine episodes so hopefully these will do. I’m also bringing snacks to distract him with on board. I did pick him up a monkey backpack so might be able to put a few toys in that.

As he’s now fully weaned onto cow’s milk it means I don’t have to bring formula nor do I need to bring any food in my case for him like I have done in the past. I also only need to bring the minimum amount of nappies as my mum is planning on buying them and swim nappies the day we arrive so that saves a huge amount of space. However, as BattleKid is too big for travel cots now, I’m bringing a toddler blow-up bed so that needs to go into the case.

But as for clothes I’ve been rightly stumped as to what to pack. Not knowing what the weather will be like has been a bit unnerving for me. So I’ve had to pack a mixture. I don’t need to worry about dressy clothes as we won’t be going out late for dinner with BattleKid in tow. We’ll most likely be eating at our apartment or dining early in nearby restaurants. But I do think I’m still probably bringing more than I need as I normally do! I always over pack.

So here’s what I’m bringing with us, in brief:

Mum: 1 jeans, 1 shorts, 1 capri trousers, 8 t-shirts, 2 dressy tops, 1 dress, flip flops, 1 pair of sandal shoes, 1 bikini, 1 swimsuit, 1 pj’s, 1 hoodie, 1 cardigan, 1 hat.

BattleKid: 3 shorts, 2 trousers, 1 hoodie, 8 t-shirts, 2 swim sets, 1 sandal shoes, 2 shorts pj’s, 2 long pj’s, 2 hats.20160320_214617_001

Hand luggage will consist of  a change bag containing 1 change of clothes for BattleKid, tablet, few toys, George, a beaker and snacks, and travel documents. That’s about all I’ll be able to carry on my own! If I’ve forgotten to pack anything I’ll just have to get it when I’m there. And of course, there will be a holiday diaries series when we come back telling you what we got up to out there. Completely unplanned until this week and exciting all the same.

Wish me luck and have a great Easter!

Cath x