Thinking of Family Travel Plans for 2021

17.9.20

This year started out with so many exciting plans and possibilities. We were lucky enough to have two holidays booked - one being our first big holiday as a family of five. But of course, due to the on-going situation with the coronavirus, all of those plans didn't manage to happen. However, now we're nearing the last few months of the year, we're starting to think about what our family travel plans may look like for 2021.


Turkey
Like most families who didn't get to travel abroad this year, we're really hoping we can get on a plane in 2021. We have already discussed re-booking the same resort in Turkey that we were supposed to visit this year. The pools look amazing, there is a fantastic kid's club, and they had rooms suitable for a family of 5 (something that's actually harder to find than you might think). 

Disney
I think about booking a Disney holiday at least once a week - it really is my happy place! Disneyland Paris is now open again, but with new restrictions in place such as no fireworks or parades. Some of these changes have put us off booking a trip just yet, but we're hoping that by the later end of next year at least some of these will have gone away. I must admit I have even been pricing up a big Disney holiday to Walt Disney World in Florida. It would require a lot of planning, but I think it would really make up for everything that's happened this year.

America
The more Jack and I think about it the more we want to travel further as a family. There are so many wonderful places around the world that are family-friendly, so why stay so close to home? We have been looking into family holidays to Canada recently, as it's somewhere we both want to visit - me especially after watching Katie Ellison's family road trip last year. She made it look so easy with little ones which has really changed my mind on taking big trips with ours.


Staycation
Of course, I know that Covid won't be going away any time soon, so we're also considering our options closer to home too. We definitely want to plan a few weekend breaks like our mini trip to Weymouth this summer. It's lovely to get away to somewhere new, even if it's just for a few days! I have been looking into Center Parcs for a few years now, so I think this is somewhere we will look into more if we can't get on a plane. 

No matter what happens we'll have some amazing trips as a family in 2021. Whether that's jumping on a plane to an exotic destination, or just driving a few hours away for a British caravan holiday. As long as the five of us are together, amazing memories will be made!

This is a collaborative post.

Our Month - August 2020

14.9.20


I thought with the big two back at school and Lilah starting preschool in September, that I'd be more on time with these monthly round up posts. Turns out I'm busier than ever trying to fit everything in! I'm loving being back in our routine too but honestly I am missing the summer, as despite everything going on right now, it was such a wonderful few weeks.

Jack managed to book a number of days off over the month, which meant we got to enjoy lots of lovely family days out and enjoy being a 5 again. We were so lucky to have the most amazing weather in August too which really made a difference too. Of course the big days out were wonderful, but I loved the calmer 'homey' days too. The littles playing in the paddling pool, staying in our pjs all day and just enjoying the slower pace of summer.






We started August with a big celebration - Parker's 5th birthday! We couldn't have the big birthday party we promised him, but we did do a few mini get togethers with family and his school friends to celebrate instead. We surprised Parker with a trip to Legoland on his actual birthday which was a busy but fantastic day. We also spent a day at Chessington a few weeks later with my sister and all of the cousins. We are definitely raising a trio of mini adrenalin junkies, especially now Lilah is 0.9 metres tall and big enough for rollercoasters!

I also celebrated my own birthday in August, with a yummy afternoon tea as a family (the first time Jack and I have been back to our wedding venue since we got married!). Jack's parents kindly had the littles over night for us too so we could enjoy a day at Thorpe Park just the two of us. Rollercoaster aren't usually what people think of when they think date day, but it was so much fun and so lovely to spend time as a couple, especially after the last few months.





If you've followed my blog for a while you'll know that we were due to go to Turkey back in May and then Dorset in July, but of course due to Covid both had to be cancelled. We really wanted to get away somewhere over the summer though, so booked a Premier Inn for a few nights away in Weymouth at the last minute. It was nothing fancy or special (actually the Premier Inn itself was particularly awful as the air-con was broken and this was during the heatwave), but it was so good to enjoy somewhere new together. We went to the Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park, swam in the sea, tried our luck (and failed) at crabbing, and ate out a lot - thanks Eat Out to Help Out scheme! We visited the beautiful Kingtson Lacy on the way home which ticked another National Trust property off our list too.

We ended our wonderfully busy month with our first trip back to the big city this year. As Indiana had been learning about London at school, we treated them to a trip on The London Eye and then lunch at Rainforest Cafe. We spotted a few tourist hot spots such as Buckingham Palace and Covent Garden along the way, and although wonderful to see, it was so strange to see everywhere so quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of London in summer.






I'm SO pleased we ticked everything off of our summer holidays bucket list this year. With everything else going on I was so worried we wouldn't be able to give the littles an exciting summer to remember, but I think it's safe to say we definitely did just that. But now I'm just excited for Autumn and the fun ahead.. I just really hope we can make Halloween and Christmas just as special!

15 Money-Saving Tips & Tricks

10.9.20

Falling into debt is a very stressful situation for anyone to be in. Not only can it have an effect on your finances, living situation, and career, it can become all-consuming. For most people affected by this problem, mental health problems won’t be far behind. If you're worried that you might fall into debt, then hopefully by following the  budgeting tips below you’ll be able to stay on the right path.

So, what are some tips for getting out of this debt? Better yet, how can you avoid the civil litigation lawyers, and steer clear from being hounded by debt collectors all together? The trick is to not get into debt in the first place! Of course for someone who’s not used to saving their money, this can seem almost impossible. But, it’s really not, and these simple budgeting tips will help you to do just that!


Set a Budget
First and foremost, it’s really important that you set a budget for every month once you get paid on payday. This should include all your necessary expenses, and everything you are planning to spend in the month ahead, leaving room to treat yourself and for socialisation. A really good way to do this is by using the 50/30/20 method. This takes into account all the compulsory expenditures you’ll require, plus savings! So, you can use:

50 percent of your money for necessities (or however much you need)
30 percent of the leftover for any extras, like dinners out and new clothes
And the remaining 20 percent for savings.

Not only does this give you the opportunity to treat yourself, so you don’t feel like you’re missing out, but you’re also putting money aside each month. Over time, this will tot up, and you’ll soon have more than you know what to do with!

Write Down your Outgoings
It can become so easy to treat yourself here and there on little things, but these little things will build up eventually. This is why writing down everything you spend each month in a budget planner, providing a visual of where it’s all going, is a really good idea. Whether it be simply writing each spend down on a scrap piece of paper or notes page on your phone, or setting up a fancy excel spreadsheet, anything will do. This way, you can tot up how much you’re spending as you go, and it’ll become glaringly obvious where you’re spending too much.

Distribute your Money out as Soon as you Get Paid
Most of us will have multiple bank accounts for different purposes. This might include:

A current account for spending 
A savings account for the future (like your pension or a holiday)
And an account for immediate savings, like a house.

You may even have more accounts where that came from, which is why distributing your money out immediately after payday is such a good plan. So, as soon as the money comes in, pop your rent, bills, mortgage payments, and food allowance all into one account. Then, that’s there ready for all your necessities.

Once that’s out of the way, add some money into your savings for your future house, or any other saving pots. I would recommend that you put aside a few hundred in your savings, if you can. Then, anything left in your current account is a free for all! This way, all your money is where it should be before you can even overspend.

Have a Savings Goal to Work Toward
I really great way to motivate you to save could be to have a goal to work towards. Perhaps you’re trying to save for a house, or a really nice holiday somewhere next year? Once you’ve got the saving bug, it’ll be really hard to stop, and you may even end up with more than you need, and you’ll become a pro saver. 


Delete Banking Apps
It can be all too easy to access our bank accounts these days, as we now have access to them on-the-go through our mobile phones and tablets. This means it can become simple to transfer money from your savings accounts into your current account, ready for an impromptu purchase. As you can imagine, this is a recipe disaster, so if this is something you do a lot, delete these apps!

Or Keep your Banking Apps if it’ll Motivate You
For some, however, having these apps easily accessible can be a blessing. As mentioned previously, the saving bug is a real thing, and once you’ve caught it, it’ll be difficult to stop. Having your apps downloaded so you can log in wherever you are, means you can see your progress at any point during the day. This might be that push you need to avoid that tempting spend. Make sure to make the right decision for you and your needs.

Don’t Save your Card Details when Online Shopping
Similarly, online shopping has become way too quick and simple, as most sites will give us the option to save our details on our accounts at the checkout. This is bound to make it way too easy to purchase things on a whim. Instead, try and refrain from making these payments automatic, and make it so you have to fill in your details every time. The process of filling your online basket, going to get your purse or wallet from wherever you left it, typing in your details, and clicking pay might be what you need to avoid the purchase. This applies for payment sites such as PayPal too.

Use a Debit Card
Credit cards are a recipe for disaster if you already have bad habits with spending. This is because it can become so easy to think that a little bit here and there won’t hurt, but over time it’ll build up. So try to use your debit card for all purchases, and only use a credit card if you can pay it back immediately after.

Be Strategic with your Credit Card
I know for some a credit card is a necessity though - after all, we can’t deny that having one knocking about is great for building up your credit score. But make sure you use it correctly. Use it for work expenses, which means they’ll be paid off each month by your company. Don’t buy anything using your credit card that you wouldn’t be able to afford without it, and always pay it off in full each month.

Pack Lunches 
By cooking bulk meals at home, and saving some for lunches the next day, or packing a lunchbox with a sandwich, fruit, and crisps, you’ll be saving hundreds, maybe even thousands, every year. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it’ll fill you up and do the job, without spending you a small fortune. Buying lunches out can cost an average of £15 to £35 a week… that’s nearly £1500 every month just on food. 

Use a Round-Up Banking App
Have you ever heard of those mobile round-up apps? They’re fantastic for helping you to save money without you even realising it! They do this by rounding up any spends you make to the nearest pound, and then putting the rest away for safe keeping. So, say you spend £3.79 on your morning coffee or lunch, the extra 21p gets put away into a small savings pot. It may not sound like much, but this money will soon amount to a fair bit of extra cash over time.

Always Compare Prices
When it comes to big spends, like holidays, train fares, or even trainers, you want to get the best deal out there. There are plenty of sites for you to compare different holiday prices, and different retailers are sure to stock your newest shoe obsession for a lot cheaper. By getting into the habit of surfing the web for the best deals, you can still treat yourself, but with a conscious mind.

Use Cash Where you Can
If you’re a frivolous spender and are always tempted by last minute buys, only carry cash. If you only leave the house with a certain amount of cash in hand, and without your debit or credit card, it will be impossible to spend anything more. Having the cash in-front of you will make you realise how much you actually have, and might make you realise you don't need to spend it!

Ultimately it’s all about having a good mindset with money, so don’t be scared to treat yourself every now and again. These personal budgeting tips above should give you that happy medium between treating yourself, but also being sensible. So hopefully you’ll feel like you’re getting the best of both worlds, catching the savings bug while you’re at it! Once you start, you won’t be able to stop.

What's your favourite money-saving tip?

This is a collaborative post.

3 Ways to Make Family Roadtrips Easier

3.9.20

When you think of a long road trip with children, most people's first thoughts are probably 'oh no, what a disaster!'. But what if you could do some things that could make the trip easier? Once you have children you have to realise that children have more energy than we do, and less control and understanding of their emotions too. So you've got to make sure that you plan and think about every occasion. We've done many long journeys now - including driving to Disneyland Paris - and have therefore picked up some tips along the way. 


Dress Appropriately
Make sure that you have prepared for the types of weather you will be getting. Dress little ones in pyjamas or comfortable loungewear so that they can be in sleep mode when you are driving long hours in the night. This will help them sleep and get some rest, and means they can be easily transferred once you've reached your destination too. 

Pack LOTS of Snacks
You'll already know you can't go anywhere without snacks when you have children, so why would a car journey be any different? Fruits such as apples and bananas are a good snack as they have natural sugars, minerals and vitamins. Dry, easy to handle snacks are a better option too as they'll make less mess in the back of the car. I would advise against high sugar snacks and drinks as these are most likely to send little ones a bit crazy - something you really don't want in the back of the car!

Utilise Technology
We are very lucky these days that we have all different types of portable technology to utilise on long trips. Of course car games are great but there's only so much 'eye spy' and nursery rhymes you can take! So devices such as Kindles or iPads are great for everyone - just don't forget headphones! If your children are using screens for a prolonged period then make sure you are aware of eye strain https://www.eyeglasses.com. It can cause headaches and blurred vision, so try to limit their screen time and make sure that they are using the right settings for their late night or evening reading.

Long road trips can be horrible for everyone involved, but as I've showed above, there are ways to make them more enjoyable for everyone. Make sure to plan ahead, anticipate mood swings and just try and relax as much as possible. And remember, the destination will make it all worthwhile!

This is a collaborative post.

How Important is Family Life Insurance?

24.8.20

Whether you have one child or three like we do, family life is busy and hectic. When you're running around after little ones or trying to fit in housework around work, it can be really hard to get life admin done. But if you haven’t already arranged life insurance I really urge you not to put it off any longer.


Taking out a life insurance policy might sound too much like hard work, but protecting your family is always worth taking the time for. Think about it like this; if something were to happen to you or your partner now, how would that impact your children? Aside from the emotional trauma of losing a parent, there may be financial struggles that come with a total change of lifestyle and one less income. No amount of money could ever replace you or your partner but it can really help regain some sense of normality and security during the worst times, to cover costs and lessen the financial stress of losing someone you depend on.

Why is life insurance so important for parents?

Of course life insurance is important for so many people, but generally speaking if you have people who depend on you, you probably should have life insurance. That’s why life insurance is important for parents. Young children need all the care and attention that you can possibly offer. Not only this, but raising children costs money (more money than you might realise before going through it yourself). So having a regular, steady income is pretty vital when clothing and feeding a growing child.

And what about a roof over their heads? Mortgage or rent payments are arguably the most important outgoing each month, so if these cannot be comfortably paid with one less income then a life insurance policy becomes all the more important. The last thing that your family is going to want to deal with alongside a death is potentially losing their home because they cannot keep up with payments.

It’s also important to consider any debts and loans that you may have. Unfortunately, these don’t just disappear when someone passes away. They are passed to your dependents. This is just one more thing for them to worry about having to pay. Again, with a life insurance policy you can make sure that these debts can be paid off.

How do I get a life insurance policy? 

The first step is to make a few decisions about the life insurance policy that you wish to take out. Would you like a joint policy between you and your partner, or two single policies? A joint policy works out cheaper, however there can only ever be one payout and one claim. Hopefully, this is all you’ll ever need! But consider that something could happen to both you and your partner at the same time i.e. a car accident. It’s horrible to think about, but sensible to factor in. If you can afford the extra premiums, a single policy for each parent will give you maximum protection.

You also need to think about whether to choose a decreasing term policy or a level term policy. Decreasing term policies are designed to cover a debt that decreases over time, such as your mortgage or a loan. As your debt decreases, so does the payout designed to cover that cost. This makes it a cheaper option than a level term policy, as this pays the same agreed amount and lasts for the length of time that you choose. If you know that your family will need financial support for the next 18 years, then you’d take out a policy that lasts 18 years. It’ll payout enough to cover the important costs and help your children get by until they are financially independent. You could also buy whole of life cover. As the name suggests, this policy will last your whole life so that you are guaranteed a payout. This is of course the most expensive option though.

The next step is to find yourself a life insurance quote - easy enough to do via a life insurance broker. They’re experts in the industry so will know exactly how to find you the right policy at a price that works for you. And of course the final step is to take out your policy! 

Do you have life insurance?

This is a collaborative post.

Celebrating a Birthday with Moonpig

19.8.20


I have been a user of Moonpig for many years now, mostly using their site to send birthday cards to family and friends when I couldn't send one in person. It was extra useful during lockdown when I couldn't simply pop over to my mum's house on Mother's Day or see my niece on her birthday. Their personalised cards still meant that I could send something special and thoughtful.


It was only until recently that I realised that Moonpig actually offer much more than just personalised cards. Moonpig also have a whole selection of gifts, balloons, flowers and even experience days that you can send to your loved ones. I recently celebrated my birthday and Moonpig kindly sent me a selection of their wonderful gifts - and even a lovely personalised card - to help me celebrate.


I am a complete chocoholic and Moonpig definitely have you covered if the recipient of your gift is too. This giant birthday Cadbury's bar is going to last me a long time (unless I get help from three certain little people), and this Gourmet Chocolate Pizza Co. letterbox gift has such a lovely selection too. 



As well as food gifts Moonpig has a whole selection of traditional gifts suitable for any age and gender. I received this fantastic Friends themed Monopoly, which is going to be so much fun to play with family. They have a few other versions too if you're not into Friends, as well as other games such as Top Trumps and puzzles. If you're searching for a younger relative they do have child friendly gifts too. I also received a gorgeous Yankee Candle in the Vanilla Cupcake scent, but they have a huge range if you're looking for something less sweet or girly.


Moonpig also have a whole range of flowers you can send alongside a card or gift. My husband was supposed to be working on the day of my birthday, so he surprised me with a Moonpig card and flowers (completely unrelated to the gifts Moonpig sent to me), and I love that they fit through the letterbox so it didn't matter if I was in or not when they arrived. You can even add balloons too for that extra special touch!


Did you know that Moonpig have an app to make ordering easier and quicker? I didn't! If you download the app to your phone or tablet (it's free!) you can make use of their offer to save 30% on personalised cards. They have thousands of custom card designs to choose from, which you can upload photos to directly from your phone. They deliver worldwide too so they are perfect for any occasion!


Use the code APPFREEWGIFT to receive 1 free card when you buy a gift too. Available until 13th September.

I received products in exchange for this post. All opinions are honest and my own.

3 Ways to Keep your Carpets Looking Fresh

5.8.20

As a family of five (plus a fluffy little member too) there are obviously certain areas of our house that look a little worse for wear than others. High traffic areas such as the stairs, dining room and bedrooms for example take most of the damage - especially as these carpets have had to suffer through weaning children and potty training too! Like most we have tried many different methods to tackle the carpets in these areas and in this post I'm going to share my top three.


Vacuum Cleaning
Of course the fastest and most affordable way to remove dust from carpets is to use a vacuum cleaner. Household appliances are only designed to deal with dust - they cannot cope with dirt and stubborn stains. Of course you can use washing vacuum cleaners, however these can usually be an inconvenience as you have to dry the floor for a long time afterwards, and the machines can be cumbersome and difficult to use.

Professional Carpet Cleaning
Possibly the best way to deal with any kind of dirt is to hire a professional carpet cleaner. Using special products, not only old stains are eliminated, but any unpleasant, stubborn smells are also removed - leaving the carpet looking as good as new. But why is deep carpet cleaning needed? You can only superficially clean the carpet with the help of available tools at home. It will not be possible to penetrate into the deep layer of pile, where dirt accumulates most of all without professional equipment. For this reason, in order to put the carpet in full order carpet steam cleaning is required. Professional carpet cleaning London is necessary in case of unpleasant odour from the carpet and tarnishing of paints.

Products
If you need to refresh between deep cleans or if there's an accident then certain cleaning products can really help. You can either try store bought sprays and products, or try to make natural cleaners at home. All are easy to use and very convenient, especially if you only have a small patch to clean. Another positive with these is that you can usually use the carpet immediately after cleaning which helps when you have children.

I thought it might also be helpful to share some basic rules for domestic carpet cleaning. Firstly, before applying any products to your carpet it is recommended to use it on an inconspicuous area to make sure there's no colour damage or fading. Make sure to only use warm water (never hot) and avoid hard brushes too as these can damage the pile of carpets. And most importantly if you think your carpets aren't able to be saved by yourself it's probably best to call in the professionals so you don't cause even more damage!

This is a collaborative post.

Our Month - July 2020

3.8.20


Can you believe that July is over and schools are officially out for summer already? After the slow repetitive days of lockdown I really feel as if time is on fast forward now and July went by in a flash. The littles broke up from school on the 20th (after only going back at the beginning of June), with glowing school reports and a few sad goodbyes. Thankfully they are both really excited about going back in September already though, to meet their new teachers and *hopefully* have their whole classes back together again!

But as schools closed for the summer so many more lockdown restrictions were lifted, opening up parks, theme parks, restaurants, hairdressers and more. Before we got the all clear for these openings I was really worried about how the summer holidays would be - especially having 3 young children and being unable to drive. But now life really does seem a lot more 'normal' for everyone. We really made the most of this change, visiting the park nearly every day since and even having our first family meal out since the very beginning of the year!







The new changes meant we could spend more time with family and friends too, so we spent a lot of July enjoying well needed catch ups and playdates with friends. Not only did this make a huge difference to the littles, but it really made me realise how much I missed coffee mornings with the school mums and having other human contact outside of our family.

With that in mind though, we did have some really lovely family days out in July too. We went on our annual strawberry picking trip, this time visiting a new farm called Lower Ladysden in Goudhurst which was fantastic. Towards the end of the month we visited Hever Castle for a full day of fun in the sun, and also enjoyed a beautiful evening at the seaside as an end of school treat. I finally picked up a new bike for Indie so we have enjoyed bike / scooter rides, parks trips and just time in the garden during the mini heatwave.







Every year I share our summer bucket list so of course this year was no different. We've already managed to tick off a few as Jack has had some time off, but we're hoping to complete the rest over the next 4 weeks. One we're all the most excited about is heading to a theme park - made all the more exciting as we finally took the plunge and purchased Merlin Annual Passes in July too. August is definitely going to be an exciting one!

A Summer's Day Out at Hever Castle | July 2020

30.7.20


We received Press Tickets in exchange for this review.

Once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle is now a fantastic place to visit for a family day out. And living in Kent we are lucky to have it practically on our doorstep, so we were thrilled to be invited along this summer to enjoy just that! Of course with current circumstances there are a few changes in place at Hever at the moment, but we still managed to have a fantastic day out with so much to see and do.

The first big change at Hever Castle right now is having to pre-book your visit to help keep visitor numbers low. This is really simple to do on the website, and requires you to pick a day and then a time slot for you to arrive. As well as this there are well marked one-way systems in place in certain areas, lots of hand sanitiser available to use and enhanced cleaning routines too. Despite this most of the attractions are now open including the castle, gardens, play areas and water maze, shop, restaurants and boat hire.






The last time we visited Hever Castle was during the winter season so it was so lovely to experience Hever in the summer this time. Everywhere you look at Hever is picture perfect whatever time at year, but definitely on a whole other level when in bloom during the summer. We chose a mid-week 10.30am slot and were really surprised at how quiet everywhere was when we arrived. We managed to explore the Rose Garden and the Italian Garden and only see one other family the whole time - such a rare and special experience!

Of course having three children we headed straight for the playgrounds first. Current restrictions in place mean that you have to experience them a little differently now, but they really are a highlight of Hever Castle. The playground has been split into two to minimise numbers and make cleaning easier.

The smaller park (Acorn Dell) features a sandpit, climbing equipment and slide and is more suitable for younger children. The bigger area (Tudor Towers) has a fantastic 9 metre tall wooden play castle as well as other play equipment and even a small cafe serving hot drinks and snacks. You have to queue for which park you want to visit and then groups are given a 30 minute slot to play. Between these slots the park is completely emptied and equipment is cleaned. Of course it's not the same experience and the queues could be long, but I think this is a great system for current circumstances.





The restaurants and food stalls were open during our visit to purchase food, but no summers day out in complete without a picnic in our eyes so we brought our own food. We managed to get a picnic table very easily, but as Hever has so much green space to enjoy it really wouldn't be an issue if you can't. We did treat ourselves to ice creams at the end of the day though which were reasonably priced and super tasty! 

The highlight of our visit was definitely getting to enjoy the water maze. I have such fond memories of the maze myself as a child, so it was extra special to take my three and experience it with them. The water maze has the same system in place as the playgrounds so definitely something to think about if you visit on a really hot day, as I can imagine it could get very very busy! Also make sure to pack swimming costumes / spare clothes as you will get absolutely soaked (especially if you have a child take an extra little dip like we did...oops).






Despite a full day out there were still many areas of Hever we didn't get to enjoy, but that just gives us the perfect excuse to visit again (not that we needed any more convincing). The added changes and restrictions made us feel incredibly safe, and actually it felt like we were just experiencing a 'normal' family day out which was exactly what we needed! I would 100% recommend a visit to Hever Castle whether you're looking for a family day out, history or just simply a beautiful place to explore. Thanks for having us Hever!

Click here to watch our vlog from our visit.