A Brief History of Package Holidays

A package holiday traditionally consists of a return flight and at least a week’s hotel accommodation.  The first was arranged by none other than Thomas Cook way back in 1851 and is still going strong today.  And the secret of its success?  Probably its value for money.  Personally, we’ve not been on a package holiday, choosing instead to select a destination, book a hotel, and then find the cheapest way of getting there.  So far, we’ve done Eurostar, ferry, coach, car, and flight.  Not all on the same trip, mind!  Having thought we were getting the very most out of our precious pounds, I’ve just had a little look here, out of interest, and found that we could have found similar holidays cheaper on almost all occasions.  Currently in Amsterdam, this trip would have cost us £100 less had we booked via Expedia. Ah well, you live and learn!

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Lower prices aren’t the only draw of the package deal; they also save time when booking.  We tend to go for the very cheapest, which means compromising on times and locations, whereas a package holiday would offer something of an upgrade for a similar price.  Those who are on less of a shoestring budget could find that booking a package deal saves a lot of time trawling the internet for the best flights and hotels their money can buy them.  Also, if you book everything at once, it’s easier to keep track of how much your holiday has set you back, especially if you’ve paid for add-ons like car hire and meals upfront too.  It must be a lovely feeling to leave the country knowing that all you need to worry about is where to go and what to see!

The next couple of trips we have planned are to visit friends and family, so we only need to sort transport.  After that, I would seriously consider using Expedia to find us the best deal, especially on our summer holiday.  The biggest dilemma is choosing where we would most like to go next!

 

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Amsterdam – Initial Thoughts

I hadn’t intended to blog about Amsterdam before we were home, but there are a few thoughts I’d like to record before I forget.  Amsterdam is not how I imagined it, and I think James feels similarly.  It is different to other cities we’ve stayed in.  It is calmer than Brighton, cleaner than London, feels safer than Paris.  It does not feel like a city at all, for the most part.  It is more reminiscent of a quaint French town, akin to Honfleur, but with more to see and do. Quality of life seems to be of paramount importance to the people of Amsterdam.  There is no litter worth mentioning, there is so much space.  There are few crowds.  I’m not sure if we have just been fortunate with our time of arrival or whether it is always this quiet, but we are very happy to be here.

In short, Amsterdam is fast becoming one of our favourite places to be.

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It’s like your ideal home (bright, clean, spacious) inhabited by your best friends (helpful, kind, approachable) and with an attitude that screams not just family-friendly but everyone-friendly.

Guest Post – Allotments and Children

Second in our series of guest posts is from Sam at Happy Homebird and is all about allotments, and getting children involved.

“After a long wait, we finally got our allotment when our son, Little Bird, was a baby – he’s 5 now.  We were presented with an overgrown patch, full of weeds but were lucky enough to have rows of raspberry canes along one edge. In those early days we would simply park the pushchair up and weed whilst he slept.

Then the next years became a little tricky as Little Bird who has autism did not like the allotment at all and was always running off and crying. We spent more time chasing and cajoling him than tending to the plot. Plus, LB was just not interested at all in ‘helping’. We did everything we could from him having his own little gardening set, encouraging him to dig in the soil, plant seeds…… nothing worked. In the last 12 months, LB is slowly become more at ease spending time at the allotment, running around and generally being happy. What we did do was to start having day trips to fun gardens and events, especially those with a large emphasis on children and creative gardening. Here are the pick of my favourite events to look out for inspiration for and to encourage children in a love of horticulture:

Urban City Gardening events:

In Manchester there is Dig the City, a festival of urban gardening encouraging people to garden, no matter the size of garden even if you just have a window box to tend to. There are balloon flowers towering overhead, show gardens, entertainment, quirky displays and yummy food. We have been twice now and it was a wonderful day for us all and LB enjoyed himself running around the natural style playgrounds and laughing at some of the creative displays like a plant swamp monster. This year it looks like there is even more to entertain such as crazy golf and many interactive displays and activities.

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Open Days at allotments:

Many allotments host open days for the general public to come along and have a nosy. My father’s allotment and one of our local ones do an excellent job of showing just how fabulous allotments are and the fun, especially for children that can be had. Decorated artistic plots gave me an idea of LB having some creative input into our allotment – maybe we could design a plot sign or paint the side of our wooden composting area with pretty colours. The open days had lots of input from local schools who made scarecrows and we were treated to free vegetables from a friendly plot owner and some BBQ food at my dad’s allotment family get together. LB thought it was very funny that the allotment had names on the sections, such as Pumpkin Place and Beetroot Boulevard. Lots of ideas can be gained from these open days and we all love a nosy around at other plots, I know I do.

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Open gardens and country estate gardens

We love visiting National Trust gardens as throughout the year they have such interesting events like their scarecrow festivals and of course the great Easter egg hunts which we love. Super ways to get out and incorporate gardens and fun. We love looking around kitchen gardens and at our local estate there is often a treasure hunt, so we are learning as well as running around and having a laugh. The more we have frequented these types of events, my son has become rather fond of exploring them and less stressed. In Cheshire we have a huge variety of gardens that we like to visit and we could find an activity nearly every weekend whether it’s a sensory garden with a squelchy bare foot walk at Trentham garden or looking for fairy sculptures.

Community Gardens

Look for local community gardens where you can get involved. These hidden away small urban spaces have so many activities and are great for children to make new friends and learn some hands on skills. A great cheap day spent on the school holidays or for homeschoolers like me, a place to arrange meet ups. So much new knowledge can be gained – beekeeping, pond dipping and small mammal conservation. A great mix of gardens and wildlife combined. My fantastic community gardens cook lunch outdoors from their home grown produce and host events such as The Big Lunch every year with live music and cake. What could be better than that!

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These of course are just a few ideas, there are plenty more and for fun next month we are going to partake in a bit of guerrilla gardening and armed with our homemade seed bombs hope to pretty up some local patches. My son will love this and hopefully we will see our wildflowers bloom over the summer.

Sam www.happyhomebird.com”

To catch up with Sam and her family’s adventures, check out their blog and Twitter feed.

Guest Post – Sensory Fun for Babies

As we are away this week, I am honoured to share a series of lovely guest posts from some truly great bloggers. First up, we have Hannah from Budding Smiles, who is sharing with us some sensory play ideas for babies:

“Toby is nearly 9 months old and sensory play is something I’ve always been really keen to do with him because not only is it loads of fun but it also provides stimulation for his senses and helps to develop loads of cognitive skills such as vocabulary and understanding patterns.

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When we’re playing, I’m constantly talking to Toby about what we’re doing and whilst his vocabulary is currently limited to “Abababa”, “EEEEEEEEEH!” and “Bubu” – the last one being coupled with excited waving – he will be slowly taking on board the things I’m saying to him. I describe the textures and colours of objects, I let things go quiet then tell him to listen as I shake a bottle of rice somewhere out of sight and the joy of watching him develop from looking here there and everywhere for the source of the noise to him now understanding that it’s behind my back or around the side of the sofa is amazing.

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Sensory play doesn’t need fancy equipment, as much as I would love to turn our living room into a beautiful all singing all dancing sensory room! Everyday objects such as scarves, bottles with dry rice or glittery water in them, boxes, water and lights can provide hours of stimulation and entertainment for your baby, right from their newborn days. I took Toby to a baby sensory class from about 2 months of age but to be honest, whilst it was lovely for him to start to engage with other babies, myself and the other mums knew that we could save a heap of money and do it ourselves so we now get together regularly and watching the babies grow and explore together over the last few months has been wonderful.

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Here are a few simple ways to engage your baby in sensory play:

  • Baths in themselves are a sensory experience with splashing around in the water and playing with bubbles, you can further enhance this by putting glow sticks in the water and turning off the lights, it’s great!
  • Collect empty drinks bottles and put things in them for different sounds and visual effects – rice, pasta, sparkly bits, food colouring, anything really! Don’t forget to tape the lid on though
  • Use scraps of material or scarves to play peek-a-boo and encourage your baby to explore the textures. Voils, cotton, wool, fire blankets and velvet are all good
  • Boxes of all sizes are brilliant for exploring. Toby bashes cereal boxes and loved shuffling around inside a massive box. You can also poke holes in them and make light shows with fairy lights or watch how the sun filters through and makes patterns
  • Food is fantastic, let them explore with their hands and if the place gets covered in porridge or spaghetti then so be it, your baby will have loved their experience!
  • Get outside. Trees, flowers, birds, twigs, animals all provide loads of sensory stimulation and you have so many learning opportunities.

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There are endless ways to engage your baby in sensory play and as they get older you can start creating artwork with them and acting out puppet shows, making homemade play doh and gloop or building dens. There is so much fun to be had and learning to be done, without spending loads of money.”

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To read more of Hannah and Toby’s adventures, visit their blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

My Sunday Photo

It took me 26 years and 51 weeks to find my big sister.  When I found her, I gained a nephew, too.  My little people gained a much-loved and much-wanted cousin.  We told them about their new aunty and cousin at Christmas and already it is as though they have always been in each other’s lives.  My Sunday photo this week celebrates cousins. My children and my nephew. Here’s to many more photo opportunities like this one!  We have a lot of catching up to do.

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