Getting back into the school routine after a fun summer!

Does anyone else feel like they deserve a medal for surviving the first week of school?  At the beginning of the week we were really organised.  Bags packed the night before, and all up early with plenty of time to stroll/scooter to school.  By Wednesday we were back to our regular running around, trying to find lost school books, forgetting PE kit and making a mad dash for school in our car!  We had no problems in July settling into our summer holiday routine of carefree mornings and more energetic afternoons.  Getting back into the school routine however is proving a little more stressful!

The best thing about working as a freelance writer from home is that I am here for the boys in the school holidays.  This blog took a back seat over the holidays and I didn’t take on much freelance work because I wanted to make the most of the six weeks holidays with Charlie and Harry.  Last summer holidays we kept ourselves busy visiting big popular attractions such as Legoland, Warwick Castle and Cotswold Wildlife Park.  In contrast, this summer we took advantage of some of the smaller attractions in Gloucestershire.  My boys loved playing in streams at local picnic spots, visiting the Cotswold lavender farm and fruit picking at several fruit farms. Proof that you don’t need to spend a lot, or travel too far, to have a good time with kids!

Cotswold lavender fields

We started the summer holidays reviewing Livestock Festival, an annual festival which takes near Tewkesbury.   It was our first family festival and we had an absolute blast!  If you are considering taking your kids to a festival next summer and would like a gentle introduction, I can thoroughly recommend Livestock Festival.  We plan on attending again next year as we loved the small crowds, the spacious campsites and variety of free kids entertainment.  Although next summer we are going to take full advantage of the quiet family campsite, instead of pitching our tent near the main arena!

Livestock Festival Review 2016

We visited two other events this summer which we also intend to make annual family occasions – the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.  
RIAT takes place every year in Fairford, near Cirencester.  Richards love of aircraft has certainly rubbed off on our two boys!  They were in absolute awe watching the air show. (All 8 hours of it, I kid you not!)  

The Royal International Air Tattoo in photos and top tips

We spent hours walking around the airfield, talking to pilots who were all really chatty and exploring different jets and planes.  If you have plane crazy kids I thoroughly recommend attending the event.  To save money I would buy your tickets in advance.  I have just checked and they already have their super earlybird ticket sale on.  Prices are currently £29 for Friday 14th July ticket and £42 for Saturday/Sunday (15-16th July) which is a 25% discount on regular priced tickets.  To encourage a love of aviation in kids, children under the age of 16 are always free which we were most impressed by!  You can read more of our tips for visiting here. 

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta was unlike anything we have ever experienced before.  We have heard great things about the annual free event but something has always come up preventing us from attending.  This summer however we were absolutely determined to go and check it out!  After enjoying a few hours of pre event entertainment, including a fly over and games hosted by local radio stars, we watched over 100 hot air balloons take off into the sky to travel across the city and beyond.

Although we hadn’t intended to, we stayed until 9pm to watch the night glow which was INCREDIBLE!  We were just a few feet away from the tethered up balloons which lit up in synchronisation to some really catchy tunes.  It was one of the highlights of our summer watching our boys dance along to the Killers and Bob Marley.  The firework finale was also brilliant.  We ended up leaving Ashton Court around 10.30pm with two VERY tired but happy little boys.  They were asleep before we had even left the car park!

Getting back into school routine

After Bristol we headed up north to spend a week visiting family in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Although I feel privileged to live close to the Cotswolds countryside because I was brought up in a seaside town I really miss the beach, especially on a hot summers day.  My boys and I enjoyed a particularly memorable day in Blackpool with my mum, sister and her three children which cost us just a few pounds.  Keep an eye out, I will be sharing my tips soon for entertaining kids on a budget in Blackpool!

blackpool

At the end of the summer holidays, we were delighted to be asked by the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean tourism association to visit some of the best family attractions in the area.  We jumped at the chance and spent last weekend in an idyllic family cottage set in seven acres of private land.  I fell in love with the views!

Reviewed Parish Mill CottageReviewed Parish Mill Cottage

We visited four family friendly attractions over the weekend – Puzzlewood, Perrygrove Railway, Forest of Dean Sculpture Park with Creative Detectives and Dean Heritage Centre.  You can find our review and top tips for visiting the four attractions in the Forest of Dean here.

Thanks for sticking by until the end… that was a rather lengthy ‘summary’ of our summer holidays!  It’s certainly been a busy one.  I love the summer and I am gutted that the dark nights are starting to draw in.  I am thankful that we have lots to look forward to over the next few months.  In a couple of weeks I am leaving my three boys behind (two little boys and one big!) to travel to one of my favourite European cities – Barcelona.  Along with a few fellow family travel bloggers I am going to explore and report back on what the surrounding region, known as Costa Barcelona, has to offer for families so watch this space for inspiration for your next family holiday!

We are also counting down the days to our first family cruise which, as you can imagine, we are all very excited about!  After three years working at sea its been nearly ten years since Richard and I stepped foot onboard a ship!  As a little intro for our boys (and to get them even more super duper excited!), we are having lunch onboard P&O Cruises Britannia next week with an old friend of mine.  I have told him he needs to keep an eye on me because I cannot be trusted not to find a hiding spot where I can stow away!

I would love to know what family fun you have got up to over the summer!  Are there any attractions/family events which you can recommend we visit?  Please comment below and also share your tips for getting back into the school routine.  I need all the help I can get! 

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