Happy New Year to you! I hope you enjoyed the Christmas holidays? It’s the first time I’ve sat down at my computer since my boys broke up for the Christmas holidays. It’s been a really fun and relaxing few weeks with family and friends, although the first couple of school runs have certainly been challenging after getting used to mornings at a more relaxed pace!
We’ve spent some of our time off together making plans for family holidays in 2019. (Surely the only good thing about January is planning the fun for the rest of the year?) Before I share our plans I thought I would recap on our family travel highlights of 2018. Maybe it will provide you with some more 2019 family holiday ideas?
I am a firm believer that you don’t need to leave the UK to have a thoroughly memorable family holiday. We enjoyed some cracking UK staycations in 2018 including a fun mid week stay last January at Darwin Forest National Park in the Peak District. It was a lovely way to start the year and it even snowed, much to the delight of my boys, niece and nephews! Our review – Darwin Forest.
It was a real honour to be invited to enjoy a family break in Durham in the North East over the Easter holidays and check out the brand new Hotel Indigo Durham. Prior to a £15million transformation, the grade-II listed building was the Old Shire Hall, built-in the 19th century as the headquarters for Durham County Council. It is now a stunning luxury boutique hotel. You can check it out for yourself below… (How amazing is the Marco Pierre White restaurant?! It was a stunning spot to enjoy breakfast).
It was our first time visiting Durham and to be honest I knew very little about the city prior to our visit. I certainly didn’t realise how much there is to do in the area with kids. You can read about our short break in Durham on the Visit Durham website here. I’ve also reviewed all of the attractions we visited – Raby Castle, Beamish Museum, High Force Waterfall and The Bowes Museum. Our favourite Durham day out was definitely the Beamish Museum, it’s a brilliant interactive attraction. My hubby and I enjoyed it as much as our boys did.
We also absolutely loved our visit to the Isles of Scilly in June. One of the prettiest places we’ve ever visited and it’s literally just 28 miles off the coast from Cornwall. Just look at the colour of the sea, sand and sky!
You can travel to the Isles of Scilly by Scillonian ferry, Skybus or by helicopter. When over there you can stay in a hotel, guest house or even camp, as there are lots of campsites to choose from. I’m telling you this as prior to visiting the Isles of Scilly I’d heard it was quite an expensive place to visit but actually travelling by ferry and staying at one of the campsites you could experience this utterly beautiful part of the UK very reasonably.
I’ve published a guide which you’ll find useful if planning a family trip – Family holiday guide Isles of Scilly: travel, accommodation advice & best days out. I also published this rather gushing article just after my husband managed to drag me back onto the ferry for our return journey. I really didn’t want to leave! It’s an utterly magical place. Isles of Scilly family holiday: Island hopping, seal spotting & white sandy beaches.
Our city break at the new London Stratford Roomzzz in October was a new experience for us and one we will definitely repeat again soon. It was a self catering apartment, (so loads of space to chill out in the evenings when kids were asleep) with all the benefits of a hotel. You can take a look around our aparthotel suite below and check out our full review here – Review Roomzzz London Stratford Hotel.
We enjoyed lots of other road trips in the UK in 2018. Made the most of the Gloucestershire attractions on our doorstep and had several family days out in Stratford upon Avon which is one of our favourite places to hang out. We also visited the SS Great Britain for the first time in Bristol which I can thoroughly recommend for a fun day out. (If you buy a day pass it’s valid for a year too, so definitely a budget friendly option to keep in mind!)
As well as some memorable UK family adventures I also spent a fair bit of time over in Europe in 2018… (With and without my boys!)
In March I left my boys for a long weekend with 12 friends at a 100-year-old Tuscan farmhouse, recently converted into a luxurious rustic country villa. We ate delicious food, did a spot of sightseeing in Florence and stayed up until late dancing, singing and drinking Italian wine. It was utterly brilliant just to let my hair down and not have any children to worry about!
If you fancy a luxury retreat in Italy check this stunning country villa out…
Family holiday Brittany, France
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that we are huge fans of Brittany in France. We only discovered the stunning coastline last summer during a fortnight motor home road trip around Brittany. Since then we’ve returned twice. Our first return visit was in May when we stayed at a great family friendly Siblu caravan park near Pont Aven. (Review Domaine de Kerlann Siblu Village). It was the perfect spot to base ourselves for a sailing trip to the Glenan Islands, a kayak trip along the Odet River and to be able to explore the many surrounding villages and market towns.
In July we hopped across to Brittany again, this time to Nort-sur-Erdre, just north of Nantes where we picked up a 39-foot boat from Le Boat and spent 7 nights cruising along the River Erdre, Canal de Nantes à Brest and River Vilaine. It was a fun week that we’ll never forget, with beautiful scenery, incredible wildlife and overnight stops in 7 different marinas.
This four minute time lapse video gives you a good idea of what it is like to go on a boating holiday in Brittany. (I love how it makes the locks look like they fill up really quickly when in fact they took approx 15 minutes each).
We really made the most of our boys being that little bit older this year and being able to take part in more adventurous holidays. At 4 & 7 years old, it felt like the perfect time to introduce them to boating.
We were asked alot of questions from friends and readers when we returned home from Brittany. Many people keen to give it a go but understandably apprehensive about living on a boat with young kids and navigating along the rivers and canals. I’ve tried to answer all of the questions in these articles –
80’s cruise – Royal Caribbean International
I absolutely adore cruising and I also love belting out a good 80’s song at the top of my voice! So when I got the chance to review a 80’s cruise with my youngest son, featuring some of my fave 80’s acts, I was absolutely over the moon as you can imagine! Especially when the lovely Claire from Tin Box Traveller was also invited onboard with her two girls.
We fully made the most of the week by dressing up in our brightest lyrca to strut our stuff along to Belinda Carlisle and Tony Hadley. We rode in a tuk tuk in Lisbon, enjoyed a private tour of the Bridge and even donned climbing gear to scale to the top of the onboard rock climbing wall!
You can read more about our week cruising with RCL here – Navigator of the Seas with kids: Everything you need to know and Back to the 80’s Cruise Highlights.
In June I was invited as an editor of Cruising with Kids by MSC to join in a very different cruise experience…
Exploring the MSC Bellissima whilst she was being built at the STX ship yard is an experience I will never forget. I’ve been on many cruise ships during my time working at sea but it was my first time seeing a ship as a shell. It was the strangest feeling being able to stand under the ship and touch her propellers!
You can read more about it here – Exploring MSC Bellissima at the STX shipyard in France.
UK family festivals
Our highlight of the summer for the last few summers have been family music festivals. I just love pitching up a tent, loading up our wagon and heading to the festival to soak up the atmosphere and listen to live music. This summer we returned to Cornbury Festival and experienced The Big Feastival for the first time. Both were thoroughly enjoyable weekends, (although our wellies and rain macs came in very handy whilst we were at the Big Feastival!)
Phew this is turning into quite a lengthy post! I had no idea how many trips we experienced in 2018 and I’ve not even included them all!
We also splashed out and visited Lapland UK in Ascot. At £300+ for the four of us it wasn’t a cheap festive afternoon although it was truly magical. If you are considering visiting do check out our review – Lapland UK: Is it worth the money?
So 2018 was a fun and jam packed year of boating and cruising adventures with a few family festivals and UK breaks thrown in for good measure!
2019 is so far shaping up to be an epic year of attractions…
Whilst we save up to go on our family holiday to Orlandoand our old home town Savannah we intend to make good use of our new Merlin annual passes. We visited Blackpool Tower over the Christmas holidays and already have weekend trips planned to Legoland, Alton Towers and Chessington theme parks. (We may love roller coasters by the end of the year or we may be sick to death of them! Either way I’ll be sure to share our reviews and tips on here:)
We don’t have long to wait until our first proper trip of the year… A long weekend at Center Parcs celebrating my father in laws 70th! We spent ages researching different ideas from city breaks to short cruises and finally decided on Center Parcs as it’s just so relaxing and convenient with everything in one place isn’t it? I can’t wait to get to the incredible spa!
The only other firm plan I have in place at the moment is a press trip in March with some fellow local bloggers. We’ve been challenged to find out what The Valleys of south Wales has to offer for adventurous families. Watch this space if you want to see sweaty pics of me climbing and biking in the Welsh countryside!
If you are still around thanks for reading this huge round up of our favourite family trips of 2018 and a little sneak preview of our 2019 plans. I would love to know what family holidays you have planned for 2019? And if you have any tips for making the most of Merlin annual passes please do fire them my way (or just pop them in the comments section below!)
Disclaimer – Many of the trips featured in this round up are hosted press trips. All words and opinions are, as always, my own.