My Top 5 Places to Visit At Christmas With Kids In The UK

I love Christmas and over the last couple of years we have been to some fantastic places with the boys over the Christmas period. Some are our family Christmas traditions and others places we just love to go to as they are so magical. Here are my top 5 places we have been to so far….

1. Lapland UK

Lapland UK is so amazing! We went two Christmases ago and I was blown away. It is magical from start to finish and other then real snow I imagine it’s just as magical as Lapland itself. It’s quite pricey but in my opinion I would pay it time and time again. We had the most magical family day out and the boys, especially Oscar as he was 7 couldn’t believe it. You come away full of Christmas spirit!

2. Harrod’s Christmas Grotto.

We have been visiting Harrod’s Christmas Grotto since Oscar’s first Christmas. I eagerly await my booking email every year and book up straight away. It’s a Christmas tradition in our house as it’s the same Grotto I visited as a child too. Each year is so different with a different theme and decorations and the boys love it! We always buy the Harrod’s Christmas bear for our tree afterwards then have dinner together. It’s nice to have a special Christmas tradition as a family. You have to pay a deposit (this year was £20 a child) when booking the Grotto but get it straight back on your Harrod’s reward card afterwards to spend in store, we use it to buy more Christmas decorations. I booked our slot last month and can’t wait to go!

3. Santa Spectacular – Willow’s Activity Farm, London Colney, St Albans

Willows Activity Farm is such a great day out in general with so much to see and do. But at Christmas it’s amazing! The Grotto is fantastic and when you visit Father Christmas you get a key to his toy shop where you can choose whatever toy you like. There is also ice skating and you can meet their husky dog. Here’s my post from our visit to the farm last Christmas. It runs from 21st November – 24th December 2018 and costs from £30 a child, £19.50 Under 2s, £14 an Adult, £13.15 Seniors, £25 Disabled child & free carer and £12.50 Disabled adult + free carer. It really is a fantastic day out for everyone!

4. Santa’s Sleepover At Alton Towers

We love Alton Tower’s and had a weekend away there staying in the enchanted village back in April. At Christmas Alton Tower’s put on their Santa’s Sleepover. Within the package you get an overnight stay in our amazing accommodation, a unique visit to Santa (experience dependent on accommodation), their fun-filled Pantomime, Alice in Wonderland , A festive evening meal, a delicious buffet breakfast, One day Waterpark tickets, One day Theme Park tickets with selected rides and attractions including CBeebies Land, evening entertainment including character meet & greets, shows, a Christmas cinema and a farewell from Santa Claus! Plus 9 holes of crazy Extraordinary Golf.

5. Warner Bros Studio Tour, Hogwarts In The Snow

I love the Warner Bros Studio Tour and luckily for us its only ten minutes down the road from us. We have been four or five times now but no time is as magical as Hogwarts In The Snow. The Great Hall is set up for a Christmas Feast, snow falls as you walk outside and we usually go in November and it really gets you into the Christmas spirit. This year it is running from the 17th of November through to the 27th of January 2019. For any Harry Potter fan this is not to be missed! It is beyond magical!

Another fun event to go to with the kids is visiting the #holidaysarecoming Coca Cola Christmas Truck. Every year they realise tour dates and we went and saw it at a local supermarket. The staff make it a really fun event for the kids and we got a free downloadable photo.

Bassetts Omega 3+ Multivitamins

Every morning without fail Oscar and Archie have always had vitamins with their breakfast. As soon as they turned three they have had the chewy multivitamins. Giving them one that tastes good is always key as then they will willingly eat it.

Bassetts Vitamins have just launched new Omega 3 + Multivitamins Orange Flavour Pastilles for 3-6 year olds. I gave them to Archie and he ate it straight away and said they were yummy. Each pastille is soft and chewy, so easy for little ones to eat and they smell so fruity too.

Each pastille contains Vitamin B6 which supports normal psychological function and Vitamin B5 which contributes to mental performance, which is so important when Archie is constantly on the go all of the time and learning new things all the time.

One of the best things about the Bassetts Vitamins Omega 3 + Multivitamins Orange Flavour Pastilles for me is that they have no added sugar! Knowing Archie is getting a smart start to the day without any added sugar is great. They are made from natural flavours and colours and taste so orange and fruity.

We have been trying the new Bassetts Vitamins Omega 3 + Multivitamins Orange Flavour Pastilles for a couple of weeks now and they are just part of our daily routine. I would highly recommend these multivitamins to help support a smart start to the day which also taste good.

We have had great fun getting creative as Archie could demonstrate how he think the multivitamin tastes. After all, being healthy should be a way of life for children which enables them to have fun and make the most out of each and every day.

A packet of thirty multivitamins is only RRP £5.50 which is a small amount to pay to support Archies. There is a next stage that Oscar takes which is for children age 7-11. 

*Just a reminder, food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a healthy and balanced diet.

 

This post is in collaboration with Bassetts Vitamins.

Our Parents vs Kids Little Tikes Family Games Night

To celebrate the launch of the brand new Little Tikes Board Game collection we were kindly sent the ultimate game package to have the best Parents vs Kids Family games night. The boys were really excited when I told them we were having a games night complete with brand new Little Tikes games, a movie and a take away.

We live in rather a competitive household so there was fighting talk even before the games began! We were sent two games out of the new range; Crazy Blender and Hot Hoops.

The Crazy Blender game is so much fun! You simply shuffle the cards and give each player three each and then turn the blender on that swirls around and around. Archie went first and he called out the fruit on his card and then threw it into the crazy blender, the next player then has to follow on with the last fruit the last player called and if they don’t have a card with that fruit on it they take on from the card pile. If they still don’t have the fruit you move onto the next player. As the game goes on it gets harder to throw your cards into the Crazy Blender and some fly out which the next player has to then have. The player with no cards left is the winner. It is such an easy game to play and even Archie who is 3, 4 in a couple of months played along easily too.

This is a great family game and so much fun, when the cards were flying around Oscar and Archie found it hilarious. Having quite a wide age gap of five years it is sometimes difficult to find games we can all play together, but the Crazy Blender is perfect and we really enjoyed playing it. The game itself is aimed at children aged 5+ but like I said Archie played along easily. It has an RRP of £16.99 and would make the perfect Christmas gift and the perfect family game to play on Christmas Day! It is available now at Argos, Smyths Toys and Amazon.

We were also sent a chalkboard to keep track of the scores. At the end of playing rounds of Crazy Blender the boys had taken the lead.

Our second game is called Hot Hoops. This was so easy to set up, you simply have to add a few sticker decals but then you are ready to play. This is a two player game so we went head to head, Parents vs Kids. You can also play the game on your own, practising like Archie has been doing ever since we opened it. He loves this game!

You simply have to aim your basketball into the hoop, each player starts with two balls and when you get the ball in the hoop it goes through a tube to your opponents side of the game. The player will no balls on there side of the court wins. This games is so much fun, the competitiveness really came out in the boys and the adrenaline was pumping when they couldn’t score and they were rushing to try and score again before we did. There little faces were so funny!

This is also a great game that you can take with you to play at family and friends houses as it folds up neatly, has storage underneath for the balls and a carry handle. It is each to store in the playroom cupboard too.

Hot Hoops has an RRP of £19.99 and is sold at Argos, Smyths Toys and on Amazon. I can see this being a supper popular game for Christmas as it is perfect for the whole family as well as being a one player game you can play on your own with too.

At the end of the evening the boys won!

We then sat down to watch a film on Netflix and ordered a Chinese of the Just Eat app.

We had such a fun family games night thanks to Little Tikes and it is something we all really enjoyed as a family and will be making it a weekly weekend fixture from now on.

Thank you Little Tikes!

This post is in collaboration with Little Tikes UK.

Our Visit To The Cutty Sark & Their New Toddler Time Sessions

Lats week we drove into London to Greenwich to visit The Cutty Sark. The Cutty Sark is somewhere I remembered visiting as a child and when I mentioned to different people about us visiting almost of all of them said they remembered school trips there as a child too.

We parked very easy about a three minute walk away and strolled along the Thames past the Old Royal Navy College and the Naval College Gardens which was lovely. As we approached the ship itself Oscar couldn’t believe how big it was. We got our tickets and the boys were given an explorer trail booklet to read and stamp around the ship. I also brought them a Royal Museums Greenwich Kid’s Handbook which is full of games, facts, quizzes and stickers.

The Cutty Sark is one of the top tourist attractions in London as it is the World’s last surviving ‘tea clipper’ ship which was built to carry tea from China to Britain between 1870 and 1878. It belonged to a man called Jock Willis who took over his Father’s shipping company in 1862. The Cutty Sark was one of the fastest ship’s on the seas at the time reaching speeds of 17.5 knots thanks to her sleek, narrow design. The ship also transported Wool and in December 1883 she left New South Wales and made it back to England in just 82 days! She carried other goods too such as beer, coal, candles, cork, clay, pickles, perfumes, pianos, paper, sugar, shoes, shark bones, screws and wine.

We started on the Lower Hold. When you walk in their is still a smell of tea in the air and this space would have been full of chests of tea from China. On the floor there were words written in Mandarin, as Oscar has just started to learn Mandarin at school he managed to read a few words himself, much to a group of tourists amusement, they couldn’t believe it! On each floor of the ship, facts are written all around and there is so much to learn about it. Not forgetting to get our booklets stamped on each floor too.

We then went up to the Tween Deck which has really low ceilings and this is where they would have stored most of the cargo. There are lots of interactive things to do on this deck. Oscar and Archie both tried to sail the ship to see how long it would take them to get back from Australia. Archie liked playing with the model ship and there was also a story telling time going on which the children loved.

On the Main Deck there was so much to see and learn about. This is where the crew lived, work, ate and slept. We went in the cabins which were very snug, obviously the Captain and officers cabins were much more comfortable. Animals would also be kept on this deck, mainly chickens in a cage. We went up to the Stern and Oscar got to ‘steer’the ship. He couldn’t believe how big the Ship’s wheel is. He then went on to ask a member of staff ton’s of questions which was nice to see as he is at the age now where he takes everything in and wants to learn about all that he sees.

Downstairs in the dock there is a lovely cafe that serves all sorts of food and afternoon tea. In the Dock there is a nice children’s corner with cushions and books where Archie sat for awhile whilst Oscar listened to all of the fact phones about this level. There was also a workshop on where you could draw and cut out your own characters/animals and make them into an animation, Oscar really enjoyed this.

We also looked at the different figureheads and learnt that Cutty Sark means short shirt in Scots and Nannie the Cutty Sark’s figurehead is wearing one. I was blown away that in 1869 when the Cutty Sark was first built it cost £16,150!

Also in The Dock they have a lovely toddler session called ‘Toddler Time On Board Cutty Sark’ which runs Wednesday during term time from 10-11.30am and 1.20-2.50pm. You can bring your little sailors along to enjoy stories, playtime and sing along to songs with the groups theme changing each week. Such a lovely group in the most amazing setting! The session is for Under 4’s and can be purchased on the day at the admissions desk. It costs £5 for an adult, with under 4’s being free or if you sign up to an annual membership for only £44 you will get these sessions free.

An annual membership gives you fast track and free entry to four world class attractions; The Cutty Sark, The National Maritime Museum, The Queens House and The Royal Observatory plus lots of members perks.

We really enjoyed our visit to The Cutty Sark last week and it’s somewhere we will definitely visit again along with the rest of the Royal Museums Greenwich attractions. A fun and educational day out is always a win from me!

This is a paid collaboration with the Royal Museums Greenwich.

Our Day At The NFL Kickoff On Piccadilly With Subway® & Subway’s NFL Kids Paks

On Saturday we got the train into London as we had kindly been invited to attend the NFL Kickoff on Piccadilly by Subway® . When we arrived at Piccadilly there was such a buzz and so many people! We walked down to the Le Meridien Hotel and went upstairs to a VIP section where we had welcome drinks and canapes. We went out onto the terrace which had great views of the street below and watched more and more people arriving and listened to the steel band playing.

We walked down to BAFTA where we watched the NFL UK Live presented by Subway®  and  hosted by Neil Reynolds with his special guests Matt Forte, Paul Posluszny and Ron Jaworski. Paul is a former NFL lineback who played in eleven seasons for the Buffalo Bills and The Jacksonville Jaguars. Matt is also a former NFL player who played ten seasons and played for The Chicago Bears and The New York Jets. Ron who they call Mr Philadelphia is a former quarterback. Over his career he played for lots of different teams but is an Eagle’s Icon. He wears his Eagles Superbowl ring with pride.

During the NFL UK Live Neil hosted a few games and then told the audience if you had a star under your seat to come and play on stage. Oscar was so lucky that he had a star and went up on stage and was paired with Paul Posluszny to see if he could throw the ball into a Subway®  bucket. With a little help from Neil he got it in and won an Official NFL Duke game football, he was so happy!

We were then taken into a side room where we got to meet Neil and his three NFL guests. Matt Forte and Paul Posluszny were absolutely huge, I felt tiny standing next to them. Oscar and Archie got to have photos and a chat with them and Ron even let Oscar wear his Superbowl ring. They also signed his NFL football that he won.

We then went back out onto Piccadilly to watch the Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders perform and watch the Mascot race between ‘Jaxson de Ville’, the Jacksonville Jaguars mascot and ‘Swoop’ the Eagles mascot.

Oscar then got to take part in his first ever NFL Flag training session in partnership with Subway®. I have written about these fantastic sessions before HERE. The NFL Flag programme presented by Subway® gives children between the ages of 8-11 exposure to the sport of American Football without the helmets pads and contact. Flag football is growing within the UK and Ireland and the partnership between the NFL and Subway® will enable the game to grow at an even faster rate. NFL Flag Presented by Subway® is currently operating in eight cities including London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, Gloucester, Peterborough and Cardiff, with plans to roll out the programme to more cities in England and Wales plus to Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. It was great for Oscar to take part in a training session and to see what it is all about. The session was full of fun and great activities that kept all the children engaged. It would be great for Oscar’s school to do it as he had so much fun and at the end of his taster session he wanted to have another go. You can find out more about the NFL Flag sessions presented by Subway®  and register your school HERE.

Afterwards Subway® had a giant ball pit where you had to jump in and catch a NFL football and if you downloaded the NFL Events app they sent you a free photo which was great. Each person then had ten seconds to search the ball pit for one of a few silver balls to win a prize. Every person who took part was given a Subway® NFL t-shirt and a Subway® foam hand. This will be perfect to take along to one of the NFL games that are at Wembley in October. Tickets are on sale now!

We then got to watch The Vamps perform live on stage and then headed home on the train.

We had such a fantastic time at the NFL Kickoff and I have never been to a sporting event that is so upbeat, fun and family orientated. I can’t wait for the games to start at Wembley!

In Subway® stores now are NFL Kids Paks. We went to our local Subway® last Sunday in Watford and had a lovely lunch. The boys each chose from the menu where they could pick from 4 different types of sub, their choice of salad and also got a drink and a BEAR Pure Fruit Yo-Yos. Greg and I also chose our Sub and salad and a drink. With the Kids’ Pak™ menu there are 4 activities to collect. Luckily the boys got a different one each so we only have two more to collect. Oscar’s was called Passing Practise, a touchdown game where you each have a player and have to flick the ball through the ‘touchdown’ card to win points. Archie’s is a Flag Football Pairs, with lots of different cards and a neat box to keep them all in, to carry around with you in your bag so you can play anywhere.

We had a lovely lunch and the boys want to go back this weekend to try and get the other two NFL Kids Pak™ they haven’t collected yet.

This post is in collaboration with Subway® 

Our NumNoms Smoothie Movie Night

Last night we had a lovely chilled evening after school. The boys had pizza for dinner and then a bath and then came back downstairs for our very own NumNoms Smoothie Movie Night. We were sent a lovely package last week full of goodies for the perfect movie night. The boys snuggled under their new fleecy throw, tucked into their sweeties and we downloaded The Greatest Showman as we hadn’t watched it before.

As well as our movie night treats we were also sent the new Num Noms Snackables Silly Shakes Maker Play set. Archie was so excited when he opened the box and the play set smelt amazing! The set is made up of a sweet kitchen where you can mix up slime shakes. You use the mixing bowl to put the jelly base into and then add your choice of scented colouring and glitter or sprinkles. Archie then slotted the mixing bowl back into the kitchen and mixed up his slime recipe.

You then pull out the oven shelf tray and transfer your slime mix into the plastic shake dispenser. This rotates and you can fill the dispenser with all different coloured slime shakes. The set comes with three mini silly shakes cups and you then use the the special dispenser to fill up your shake cup.

Its a great play set to get involved in ‘messy play’ and Archie loved making different shakes in different colours and then starting all over again. The pieces are easy to clean as everything slots in and out of place to keep your set looking great.

If your children, like mine love making and playing with slime this would make such a fantastic Christmas gift. Archie also plays with it along with his other NumNom toys when were not making the slime shakes. All of the NumNom toys make the playroom smell amazing. The Num Noms Snackables Silly Shakes Maker Play set has an RRP of £39.99 and includes everything you need to make your slime shakes. You get the jelly base, two glitter toppings, two colouring tubes, three shake cups plus a special edition NumNom.

We were also sent a NumNoms light surprise in a jar, which has a gorgeous smelling NumNom plush inside and a light surprise edition NumNom inside too. A great stocking filler at only £12.99.

Archie is a big fan of NumNoms and has been since we went to a special event back in April and he has played with them ever since. He loves how each one smells different and whenever were in Smyths Toys we always pick up a mystery pack to add to his growing collection. Again the mystery pack or the starter packs would make great stocking fillers.

We had the best Smoothie Movie night thanks to NumNoms UK!

 

We were sent the above mentioned products so we could have our NumNoms Smoothie Movie night and for the purpose of this review. All opinions are honest and my own.

My Post For Baby Loss Awareness Week

Every year, thousands of people in the UK are affected by the death of a baby or experience pregnancy loss, in fact statistically 1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage and 1 in 100 have 3 or more miscarriages in a row. I am one of the “1 in 4”. I have written about it a few times on my blog before, but I always like to write something fresh for baby loss awareness week as I really believe with so many women/men/couples talking about and sharing their stories we can help to break the silence and we can come together and help each other.

 

I had Oscar in 2010, my pregnancy with him was easy, my waters broke at 36 weeks and 5 days and after 48 hours he was born by emergency Caesarean section. We always knew we wanted to have two children and had always planned in our heads to roughly have a three year gap. In April 2012 we found out I was pregnant again, we were so excited and decided not to tell anyone until I was 12 weeks. We got to the scan date and took Oscar along with us so he could see too. I lay on the bed, the midwife was lovely chatting away and after a few seconds her face changed, she feel silent, I knew something was wrong. She went to get another doctor and then asked me to get myself up and took me into an office. They told us the baby had no heartbeat and I had had a missed miscarriage. Holding back the tears was so hard, I didn’t want to see dad in front of Oscar but inside I felt sick. After months of hell, with bleeding on and off I eventually had an ERPC.

 

I left it a couple of cycles and then we started trying again. We fell pregnant using a Clearblue fertility monitor and it worked the first month of trying. I got to 6 weeks and I was visiting my Nan when I started to bleed. I went to the early pregnant unit at Hillingdon Hospital and I was told I had twins, one without a heartbeat and one with. Obviously I was upset but a part of me thought at least one was ok. Two weeks later at a follow up scan I was told that I had miscarried both. I just couldn’t believe it! I naively thought this time it wouldn’t happen again. I booked in for an ERPC the next day so not to have all the problems I had last time. 

 

I went to see my GP afterwards who was lovely and told me all about the recurrent miscarriage clinic in London at St Mary’s Hospital. She referred me and I had about a four month wait. After a rough 18 months with all the problems it was nice to relax, stop trying for a baby and wait for our appointment. So in June 2013 I had various tests done and a hysteroscopy in the August to remove any adhesions or scar tissue from my caesarean. A blood test came back saying I had a clotting problem and I was told to go away and get pregnant, as soon as I had a positive test take 150mg of aspirin a day and contact the unit. They scanned me every couple of weeks up until 10 weeks and then passed me back over to Hillingdon. Greg and I excitedly went to the 12 week scan and again the doctors went silent. Back into the side office we went.

 

It was explained to us that our baby had a larger amount of fluid on the back of the neck than normal which is a cause for concern and is often an indication for Down’s syndrome. To be honest this didn’t phase me to much but I was told to go and have a amniotic fluid test. At 14 weeks I went to Queen Charlotte’s hospital for the procedure. It was terrible, in short they inserted a huge needle through my stomach into the amniotic sac to extract some fluid to get the baby’s chromosomes to see what the abnormality was. It was so painful and let me bruised for a few weeks. We were told the results would take around two weeks. They were the longest two weeks of my life. I held onto hope that it would all be fine and it was just a mistake.

 

The trouble is from the moment you get two blue lines on that pregnancy test, your already working out the due date, planning in your head for a baby that will never get it’s due date. That’s hard.

 

Christmas Eve 2013 I got the phone call that our baby had something called Ring 13, which is a rare chromosome disorder. In our case the baby had it severely with a lot of missing genes which meant he wouldn’t have lived very long. I went into see the specialist midwife at Hillingdon hospital who was amazing and she went through our options with us. Christmas was a blur, I made it as special for Oscar as possible but I was dying inside. Looking back on photos of Christmas that year, I look vacant and I hate those photos. New Years Eve was worse for me, in my brain I knew I had to go back to the hospital on the 2nd to start the process of delivering the baby and had almost boxed it off like that’s next year it’s fine. The New Year came, I took myself out of the room and sat sobbing on the stairs with my friend, it was awful. 

 

On the 2nd I had to take a tablet to stop the babies heartbeat as if I delivered him alive there would be nothing the midwives could do to save him and it would have been to distressing for us as I was only 18 weeks. I went home expecting to come back in the next day but that night around 8pm I started bleeding so we went back. I was taken into labour ward and felt so sorry for the midwife who started her shift expecting to deliver a healthy baby. I had to share a bathroom with a lady I could hear was having a baby which was so hard. I feel asleep and at 5am got up to go to the toilet, my waters broke and I delivered the baby. The midwives were amazing, he was put wrapped in a blanket and had a little hat and was put in a little wicker crib. They took photos for me and gave me a memory box. I was on autopilot I showed little emotion, I was exhausted and felt terrible for Greg. It wasn’t until a few hours later when I was ready to go home and it dawned on me that I was leaving my baby behind and had to walk out of the same door as everybody else who had their perfect babies in their car seats ready to go home. I felt sick. I broke down. 

 

When we got home my parents were looking after Oscar. I had to get myself together, as I didn’t want Oscar to know I was upset or that anything was wrong. Greg and I went to bed for a few hours as we were shattered and I put all my emotions in a little box in my head, walked downstairs and was Mummy to Oscar. 

 

We had genetic testing afterwards which came back clear. We were just bloody unlucky to have this happen after having the miscarriages before too. Hillingdon Hospital were amazing, honestly I couldn’t have paid for better care. They arranged the church service a week later that only Greg and I went too and the cremation as well. His ashes were than scattered at the Peter Pan children’s remembrance garden at a crematorium near us. 

 

A few months later I fell pregnant again, took my aspirin daily and I was so anxious. I had a specialist midwife on call and had scans from 7 weeks. Getting to 12 weeks and being told that everything was ok was a huge relief, I cried. We kept it a secret until 20 weeks as I didn’t want Oscar to know and then something go wrong. At this time he was 4 with much more understanding and always asked for a baby brother or sister. Up until now I felt I was failing him, the one thing most of his friends had and what he kept asking him and I couldn’t for sure know that we would give it to him. 

We flew past our 20 week scan. We told everyone, everyone was over the moon for us it was lovely. Every day I was anxious that something was going to go wrong and at my 20 week appointment I was given my elective caesarean date as I couldn’t bare to go back on the labour ward. We were told the 29th December 2014 although as the time got closer my anxiety mellowed a bit and I thought if I went into labour before that date I would try to have the baby naturally. We didn’t pick baby names as we didn’t want to jinx anything, until that baby was in our arms I wasn’t going to relax. Our little Archie came into the world on the elective section date and competed our family. 

 

 

I’m not going to lie it was a tough journey getting there but we are so grateful for the amazing care we received on the NHS. We are so grateful to have two beautiful healthy boys and it’s only brought us all closer together as a family.

There were moments where I felt so down but Oscar kept me going and occupied. I genuinely have no problems taking about it or sharing my story as if I can help one person then it’s all been worth sharing. 

 

Tommy’s charity is a great source of information and advice and if you need someone to talk to they are there. They have community groups and you can chat to other people going through the same experience so you can talk and not feel alone.

Let’s share our stories, support each other and make a difference. Let’s come together for change. #Miscourage 

 

Our Review Of The TUI Sensatori Atlantica Rhodes Resort

Back In July we stayed at the TUI Sensatori Atlantica Rhodes Resort for two weeks. We booked it back in February and at the time the hotel itself was still being developed. It was due to open in May but ended up opening in June. To be honest I was worried as a new hotel can come with teething problems, but on the upside everything would be brand new! The photos I had seen posted online looked amazing and we couldn’t wait to get there.

Before I get into everything about our holiday on our return my iCloud had a glitch and lost over 2000 photos which about 400 of them were of our holiday. I have a few so will share those but am gutted that I can’t share with you the videos I made.

This was our fourth Sensatori resort, we had been to Crete, Tenerife and Ibiza previously and know when booking a Sensatori hotel you are getting a 5* hotel with ultimate luxury with lots for the children to do as well.

We flew out to Rhodes from Luton which was fairly easy. I booked the priority lane as always which is £3 a person if you pre book and slightly more expensive if you purchase on the day. It allowed us to fly through security and into the shops! We were lucky to be the first on the plane and the pilot invited the boys into the cockpit. Archie refused but Oscar couldn’t believe it! We arrived in Rhodes quite late and the transfer to the hotel was about 45 minutes. Once we arrived, we had welcome drinks and were offered to go to the restaurant but as the boys were tired we were taken to our room by golf buggy where our luggage was waiting for us, along with a fruit platter and dessert tray.

We booked a family suite with a swim up pool and when we got to our room it looked amazing! A large main bedroom for us with a TV, mini bar which is stocked up everyday and is included in your all-inclusive, a second bedroom for the boys with another TV, desk and wardrobe inside. Hidden between the wardrobes in our room was the entrance to the bathroom which had a large bath/shower, two sinks and a separate toilet cubicle. The sliding doors then opened out on to out terrace and swim up pool. The boys loved having this and we used it everyday. There is tons of storage in the room, two wardrobes in the main and one in the kids room which was great to keep everything organised and room nice and tidy.

Within the resort there is the main buffet restaurant ‘Mesogios’ where you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have different themed nights and the food was really good. I especially loved the fresh honeycomb at breakfast, that was so yummy! The other five restaurants you need to book for either using the screens in the hotel lobby or using the TUI Sensatori app. Caprice is a lovely Italian restaurant, Gaia is a healthy option restaurant, Kuzina is a greek restaurant and Liberty is an American restaurant. The last restaurant, Citrus is an adults only restaurant. Other than Citrus we ate at all of the other restaurants and the food was lovely. You can also eat lunch at Liberty or Kokumi cafe without booking. We were on an all inclusive package so you can eat and drink as much as you like. This is great with kids as they can eat and drink as much as they like and throughout the day waiters/waitresses came around to our sunbeds and took our drink orders and brought it to us.

In the evening there is a entertainment programme which you can view on the app two weeks in advance. For children they have Playhouse Live, movie nights and fun sleepovers. On the boardwalk each night there are different shows either from the Sensatori show team or acts that have been flown in to perform for you. During our stay we also had the World Cup and they showed the England games on the huge screen in the boardwalk, had a BBQ and brought beers around to everyone. The atmosphere was amazing and the Sensatori team made it really special and great fun!

During the day there are so many pools to choose from; the adult only pool (obviously not for us), the splash park and spray ground which was absolutely amazing for the boys with so many great flumes, the indoor pool, the ‘quiet pool’ which wasn’t that at all it was more like another family pool and this is where we spent most of our time, the main pool by the family rooms and the activity pool where they had lots of activities in that ran throughout the day. There was also the beach which is shingle but the sea was lovely and warm and there is also water sports you can do. Oscar and Greg went on the jet skis and Greg learnt to Water Ski, which was rather funny.

There is also a full activity programme for adults and children that run throughout the day as well. There is a kids club and stay and play sessions over in the nursery. I didn’t use this myself as the boys have never been in a club on holiday but other parent’s we spoke to said it was really good. Oscar did go with Greg to the sports hub to take part in a Nintendo DS racing competition which they loved.

An activity which Oscar wanted to do was learn to Scuba Dive. You can do this in the dive school which is located in the indoor pool. He had a lesson in the indoor pool for about 70 euros and then a few days later he got to do it in the sea which was amazing, this was about 100 euros for the hour. He absolutely loved it and can’t wait to do it again, he was a real natural and the instructors were lovely.

When they were building the hotel they came across ancient ruins from 5AD. They excavated it and have built a glass bridge above it so you can walk above and look at the archeological site. The main part was the village that had a church, two live presses and around 80 houses. You can even look down one of the wells. It is an amazing thing to see and we walked across it each night, its beautiful.

On site there is also a car hire office where we hired a car for the day, I think it was 140 euros and we drove to Rhodes Old Town. It was free to park and then you walk inside the medieval walls and there are so many lovely shops and restaurants. We spent the whole day here and also dove to see the Acropolis. I brought lots of bits in the town for the unique shops and we also had a man in the main square draw a picture of Oscar and Archie which he delivered to our hotel the next day. It’s absolutely amazing!

We also ventured to Lindos on one of the days. We got a taxi from the hotel as it’s not to far away. It’s a beautiful town full of little quaint streets, hidden away churches and at the top of the hill an ancient castle. Oscar and Archie had a donkey ride to the castle and back down again.

The rest of the time we spent at the hotel which was lovely and with so much to do you can you won’t get bored.

One thing the TUI reps sold to us was the VIP Lounge at Rhodes airport as it is a nightmare. It was around £150 for the four of us and yes it did get us through check-in much quicker but after that it’s a waste of money. The VIP lounge was small and cramped, the food was terrible and then it was so disorganised getting from the lounge to your boarding gate, at one point the stewardess just pushed us into the queue and everyone behind started moaning and it was a bit embarrassing to be honest. One man even missed his flight. I wouldn’t bother purchasing this if it’s offered to you, it’s a waste of money.

Overall apart from the journey home (Rhodes is famous for being a terrible airport) we had an amazing holiday and would go back and stay again. With all the Sensatori resorts you know you are getting luxury. It’s a beautiful hotel and obviously as it was brand new everything was sparkling clean. We had a fantastic holiday!

*This is a honest review of our holiday and I was not compensated in anyway for this post.

My Top Christmas Advent Calendars For Kids 2018

With less than one hundred days until Christmas (95 to be precise) and the shops filling up with all their Christmas decorations, I have already started my planning for the festive season. Next week I can book our annual trip to Harrod’s Christmas Grotto and slots are already open with Pines and Needles to book your Christmas Tree delivery, so the planning starts now!

I have been looking at Advent Calendars for both Oscar and Archie. They both get a chocolate calendar and a toy advent calendar. Last year they had a Playmobil one and a Lego one, which they loved!

This year there are so many great advent calendars on the market to choose from but here are my favourites;

This one we will be getting for Oscar as he is Smiggle obsessed. It is £25 and has £40+ worth of goodies inside. If you find one of the 25 lucky tickets hidden inside the Calendars you can win a £500 Smiggle shopping spree! These flew off the shelves last year so your best to buy it now and hide it away.

For Archie this Christmas we have got the Schleich 97702 – Wild Life Advent Calendar 2018. He loves animals and whenever we go to the toy shop he always chooses another Schleich animal to add to his growing collection. It is £24.99 And features 24 compartments containing gifts of Schleich Wildlife toys and accessories. He will love it!

LEGO 60155 City Advent Calendar 2017 Construction Toy. Lego sell a variety of different advent calendars all with 24 gifts inside. We had a Lego one last Christmas and Oscar loved it! They start at around £20.

For the creative children Play-Doh and Crayola have a fantastic advent calendar this year. The Crayola 04-6808-U-000 Christmas Advent Calendar Kit is Packed with craft projects, homemade gifts, finger puppets, and colouring activities, this set helps kids get into the spirit of Christmas. It is £19.99. The  Play-Doh Advent Calendar is £15 and features 24 hidden surprises. The calendar comes with several small pots of Play-Doh including two glittering colours for a festive touch, with a new addition/accessory to discover every day.

Playmobil Advent Calendar Santas Workshop. Playmobil also sell a variety of advent calendars.Oscar has had this one before and over the 24 days you build up a Santa’s workshop play scene. It’s a really lovely calendar! It is £19.99 and has 106 pieces inside.

This advent calendar would have been my dream as a child! The Barbie advent calendar is £35.00. In the Barbie Advent Calendar as well as Barbie herself over the 24 days it includes everything she needs to be a ballerina, baker, ice skater, pet vet and professional skier. It helps kids to understand different careers while living the magic of opening a present each day! I love this one!

This is the perfect advent calendar for your little car lover! It is around £19.99 and Contains 8 different Hot Wheels vehicles, plus stickers and surprise accessories.  Hot Wheels Advent Calendar with Mini Cars Toy Mattel

The Happyland advent calendar is perfect for the younger children from 18 months. It is £25 and as you can see comes with lots of toys inside to make up the Christmas play set. It’s very cute!

So these are my advent favourites for Christmas 2018! I hope you enjoyed the post and maybe have got some inspiration for your little one’s calendar this year. Expect lot’s of Christmas posts coming your way soon!

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Sea Life London Aquarium Review

Yesterday we got the train into London up to Westminster to go to the Sea Life London Aquarium on the South Bank with my parents. It’s in a great location surrounded by other attractions such as The London Eye, Shrek’s Adventure and The London Dungeon plus loads of lovely restaurants. The South Bank is always such a fun place to visit with amazing street entertainers and musicians.

We arrived at around 11am and had we were booked in on one of their new ‘Behind The Scenes Tours’ at 11.30am so we made our way to -2 in the left and started our Sea Life adventure. Oscar and Archie also had a Mission Pack each on a lanyard (don’t forget to get your Sea Life pop badge) and contains all you need to be Junior Ranger. It includes Ranger accessories, a pencil, magnifying glass, Shark height chart, Activity book and Ranger Cards. Within the explorer book are different missions to complete on your way around the aquarium, these are also marked around the aquarium so you don’t miss them. The Mission Packs are a great way of getting children to really engage with the fishes and read all the information and learn as much as possible. Also with the rest of the bits in the pack, learning can continue at home. Each Mission Pack is £4.

The aquarium is so well laid out with plenty of space to manoeuvre a pushchair or a wheelchair. Each tank has information for the respective animals inside. Oscar was fascinated by the sea urchins and how they move and the newborn tank had the cutest smallest starfish I have ever seen. One of my favourite exhibits has always been the Ray pool, I just love how elegant they are gliding around the pool. The tank is huge and you can get a great view of them beneath the water too.

We then met our Behind The Scenes guide Dom at the big sign located by the Ray Pool and then were taken through a staff door into the workings behind the aquarium. In one huge room there are so many different species. Some that can’t be exhibited as they are so sensitive to light and sound, some that are in breeding programmes and some that have been rescued. Listening to Dom it was unbelievable to hear that in the last 30 years we have lost half of the World’s Coral and seeing what organisations like Sea Life are doing to help the situation is marvellous. The Behind The Scenes tour is a really informative way of seeing just how much hard work goes on at aquariums like this and how much they are doing to save our planet! My favourite thing I learned on the tour was how dangerous two of the smallest animals were; The Mantis shrimp has such a punch on it it’s like being shot. They move up to 23 metres per second and accelerate faster than a bullet! The other was a Scorpion Fish, these are found in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean. They blend in with their natural surroundings and if you stepped on one the venomous spines would likely kill you. To go on the Behind The Scenes tour it is £8 each or £7.20 if you book online beforehand.

Afterwards we visited the rock pool where you can touch a few of the animals. As the boys had their Mission Packs on they were also given game cards to take home. Opposite the rock pools is the huge central tank that can be seen from all three floors with the sharks in it, amongst other fishes and turtles. The turtle in the tank is absolutely huge! You can then walk through the tank tunnel to get really up close to the animals.

We then went through the Rainforest Adventure, which has everything from piranhas to poisonous dart frogs. If you dare you can even put your hand in a ‘Piranhas’ mouth! We found out on our behind the scenes tour that in the rain forest there is a type of Piranha that is vegetarian and has human like teeth so they can eat nuts and fruit that fall into the water from the trees.

Next up was the penguins. They are just so adorable, some huddling together others were diving in and out of the water. There is a viewing globe where you can go in and be amongst the penguins.

On the top floor there is a shark cage that you can get a great view of the sharks in. Sea Life also now offer an amazing experience from £130 where you can swim with the sharks. You get to have a 15 minute snorkel with magnificent sharks including Sand Tiger Sharks, Grey Reef Sharks and Black Tip Reef Sharks. Oscar is desperate to this so we will bring him back so he can have ago. All participants have to be 1.3 metres tall or above. If your feeling really brave you can even propose under the sea!

We then went through the Jelly Fish section. They are so amazing to watch. I found it fascinating that Jelly Fish have no brain or heart. The biggest ever recorded Jelly Fish was a whopping 37 metres! I don’t fancy being stung by one of those!

We had such a lovely day at the Sea Life London Aquarium. There is so much to see and do and more importantly so much to learn about. Oscar and Archie absolutely loved it and its a fantastic day out for the whole family.

Admission ticket prices are £26 but if you purchase online before they are from £21. There are fantastic deals that you can purchase so you can visit Sea Life and other Merlin attractions at a discounted price. For instance you can book Sea Life plus one other attraction, you can choose from The London Dungeon, Madame Tussauds London, Shrek’s Adventure! London and The Coca-Cola London Eye and you then have 90 days to visit again and use your voucher. You can also purchase an annual Merlin Pass from £139 per person which gives you unlimited visits and access to 32 major attractions such as Thorpe Park, Lego Land and many more. You can make a huge saving!

Image result for list of merlin attractions

 

We were gifted entry into the Sea Life London Aquarium but all opinions are honest and my own and we loved it and had a fantastic day!