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National Trust now CLOSES its park and gardens to help stop coronavirus spread

National Trust now CLOSES its park and gardens to help stop coronavirus spread

National Trust closes its parklands from March 21

The National Trust has now CLOSED its parks and gardens to help restrict the spread of coronavirus.

The trust had been offering people free entry to its open spaces despite indoor areas being closed.

But there were crowds of visitors taking up the opportunity which made social distancing tricky.

Director General Hilary McGrady said: “Despite our desire to keep our outdoor spaces open, the health and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and visitors has to be our top priority.

“We have now sadly taken the decision to close all of our parks and gardens, in addition to our houses, shops and cafes, to avoid crowding that puts social distancing at risk.

“We know that people are likely to need space and fresh air in the coming weeks and months and we will do all we can to provide access wherever possible.

“Our countryside and coastal locations remain open with parking charges waived, but we encourage people to stay local and observe social distancing measures.

“Over the coming weeks our digital platforms – our website, social media feeds, podcasts and video – will become even more important, ensuring the places of nature, beauty and history that we care for on behalf of the nation can remain open for business virtually while we are temporarily closed.

“We will also be ramping up our efforts to help people connect with nature wherever they are and to find moments of joy in the world around them. We will be providing rich content and staying in touch with our members and followers throughout this time.”

For more information go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk.

Coronavirus home-school guide: How to teach your children, have fun and stay calm!

Coronavirus home-school guide: How to teach your children, have fun and stay calm!

What to do with children at home during schools closures and our top tips to educate them

Schools have shut and parents all over the country are wondering how best to look after their children at home.

It’s daunting to realise you are now their sole educator for the foreseeable future.

It’s also a challenging time for children – they can’t see their friends and have lost the security of their usual routine and activities.

But now they are away from playground chat about Coronavirus, we can shield them better from anxiety and make this as positive a time as we can for them.

After all, they are living through a period which will be remembered in history – one day they could be telling their grandchildren about the time schools closed.

So, let them remember it for all the good stuff, when they got to spend quality time with the people who love them most.

Where they played games, had fun and learned about things that really mattered to them and interested them.

Read, explored hobbies and passions but above all felt loved and secure at a time when the world around them was confusing and different.

We’ve put together some ideas to help you.

But whatever you do or don’t manage, please don’t feel inadequate or guilty.

EVERYONE is in the same boat. Children are not at school, remember, you are a parent not a teacher.

Timetables and routine

Children respond well to a routine. And their normal schedule has been taken away from them.

You can make a timetable to add structure to their days and a lot of children benefit from having a visual plan in place.

I’m going to attempt to get my children up and dressed first thing – wish me luck, they do love a pyjama day!

I’m also hoping to set aside periods for learning, reading, exercise and creative time but will be flexible and lead by them.

Make sure to set aside good chunks of time for child-led play.

Remember, this is NOT the time to be nagging or upsetting children if they really don’t want to do something.

And if they don’t learn much some days? Don’t worry!

Exercise

Children need plenty of exercise.

Besides keeping their fitness levels up, they’ll feel happier, more positive and more energised if they keep active.

*You could start the day with a PE session – body coach Joe Wickes is doing a free PE lesson at 9am every weekday on YouTube #PEwithJoe.

PE with Joe

*When allowed out, plan a daily walk or jog and try different routes, keeping well away from other people. If you are feeling particularly enthusiastic, make a treasure hunt of things to find or collect bits for a picture!

Keep a safe distance from others and avoid playgrounds and anywhere where children may touch surfaces.

*Plan your own PE sessions in the garden or obstacle courses.

Adapt learning to match their interests

Example: Harry Potter

I have two Harry Potter fans so, I am really thrilled to have found some amazing resources which will combine one of their favourite subjects with ways to learn and be creative.

The Ultimate Harry Potter Project – this blog gives some fantastic wizarding ideas as trialled by a Harry Potter-loving family like potion making, wand making, a Quidditch creation and how to make Mandrakes.

And this site provides loads of carefully made Harry Potter printables like crosswords, words searches, colouring pages and maths worksheets.

And of course, encourage them to dress up and play and let their imaginations run wild.

Topics

Take a topic and research the subject together then do different activities relating to it.

I’m going to try making our own volcanoes, write about them, make poems and paint pictures of them after being inspired by this great website Ways To Learn Through Play At Home (by SEN Resources Blog) and its fantastic YouTube videos.

Life skills

This is the best time you will ever have to learn life skills together such as:

*Gardening: A lot of children love helping in the garden. I’m not exactly green-fingered but I’ve bought packets of seeds and ordered biodegradable seed pots to get us started.

*Decorate (with care): This is potentially a good time to spruce up the house. I’ve splashed out on a huge tub of emulsion and a new roller and have optimistic visions of us all having a go at this together, which could all go horribly wrong. We are also going to have a go at painting the shed.

*Cooking and baking: My two always love to make cakes and biscuits but I’m hoping they’ll enjoy trying some other easy recipes.

*Even cleaning and housework can sometimes be fun!

Virtual playdates

Make sure they don’t lose touch with their friends by arranging regular video calls for them.

We are loving Facebook Messenger where you can do group video chats. There are some hilarious filters you can use too.

It’s also proved a saviour for me and my friends later on in the evenings, with wine in hand!

It’s easy to use, just open Facebook Messenger, select a friend/friends or a group as if you were writing a message then press the video camera icon. To get the filters, press the smiley face.

I saw one mum had asked all the children in a group call who could find various items, which proved entertaining.

One-on-one time

Set a timer and dedicate all your attention to one child.

Let them choose exactly what they want to do and be enthusiastic and supportive.

Do the same with all your children and give the others something to occupy them if possible while they wait their turn, without (good luck with this) interrupting!

Reading

Read to your children, get them to read to you and give them time to read alone. I’ve got two little book worms and it’s one of our biggest joys.

A girl reads a book

Also Amazon Audible has made hundreds of titles free during the Coronavirus.

And World Book Online has made its collection of over 3,000 ebooks and audiobooks available for free for children to access at home.

Plus, there are lots of children’s authors doing online read-alouds and activities, find out more here.

Coding

If your children like coding or want to learn, a company called Code Camp which teaches children aged 7 to 12 to code, has scrapped its subscription fees during this period.

LEGO

Loads of children love LEGO and it helps develop lots of skills including fine motor skills.

If they are really keen, you can print out a free 30-day LEGO challenge here.

30 day LEGO challenge

Make a diary

This is a time they will remember. Use this free printable stay-at-home diary.

Blue Peter Badges

If you have children aged six to 15, apply for a Blue Peter badge. And then they’ll have over 200 places to visit for free until they’re 16, once they are allowed out again.

Planet Earth

On BBC iPlayer they have episodes of Planet Earth. One mum played them for her children and quizzed them at the end of each episode.

Pictures in the window

Children have been painting a picture of a rainbow or something else of their choice to put in the window for their friends to see when they walk past to keep everyone smiling. It’s the #frommywindow initiative.

If you are working from home

Everything is far more challenging when you are trying to work too.

Make sure your colleagues and employers know that you have children at home with you so they have realistic expectations of what you can achieve.

If you have partner who is also working from home, try to take shifts.

Give children activities which don’t need as much supervision where possible.

Accept that the children will have more screen time.

Most importantly – have lots of fun

Try everything you all enjoy – have pillow fights, have a movie night, play music and dance, sing, play tig, make dens, camp in the garden, laugh and be silly.

Concentrate on your children as much as possible, let them mess up the house, give them the freedom to play.

Finally

There has been a great deal of advice and links and websites to help us muddle through this crazy time.

But this has been one of the best things I have read. The author is said to be an experienced home educator who wishes to remain anonymous.

Tips for PARENTS OF SCHOOL CHILDREN who might be spending a lot of time at home together in the near future, because 😷🦠.

Hopefully these are some useful tips/thoughts/experience from a HOME EDUCATOR’S PERSPECTIVE on what can work at home. NB: this is what works for us and all families are different, so take however much is useful to you and leave the rest. Bare in mind, if your child is receiving work to do at home from school, that external factor may give quite a different dynamic to home ed, so your experiences may differ too. But I still hope some bits of this might be useful.

1. Replicating school at home doesn’t work. This is a truth almost universally acknowledged in home ed groups by parents who tried it, including qualified teachers. Naturally sometimes parents begin home ed in a school-like manner, perhaps after removing a child from school, thinking that’s the way to go. But it seems 9/10 times families quickly discover this is a route to frustration for children and parents. So if this happens to you, don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal, read on for alternatives 🙂

2. It’s fine for children to be bored. Actually it’s good for children to be bored. Perhaps not all the time, but definitely sometimes. Boredom breeds creativity. Our minds cannot stay idle, so inevitably they find something to do, and often they find surprising and interesting things. Isaac Newton began his discovery of gravity at home when Cambridge University closed because of the plague. Shakespeare also wrote some of his best regarded plays while hiding in the countryside from the plague. Possibly if feeling bored is unusual for a child, they might find it uncomfortable at first, but rest assured it is good and valuable. Parents, we do not always have to ‘solve’ boredom.

3. Schools spend less time on learning than you might think. There are several calculations by teachers-turned-home-educators that attempt to quantify actual learning time in schools. When the breaks and moving around and getting things out and putting things away and controlling behaviour and setting expectations and golden time and school photos, and last day of term, and a million other things are taken into account, how much focussed learning time is left on average per day? The calculations range from 45 minutes to 2 hours. Consider scaling back your own expectations accordingly.

4. Learning doesn’t have to be at a table with a worksheet. Oodles can be learnt through cooking, gardening, household tasks*, reading stories to each other, board games, card games, toys and roleplay, sewing and knitting, art and crafts, DIY, servicing a car or bike, music, radio, discussing the news, magazines, documentaries… Some families find that things learnt in an active practical way can stick better than learning on paper.
* Yes cleaning really can be educational – think of all the science involved in descaling a sink, enzymes in washing up liquid, microbes on surfaces, dissolving stains in solvents…

5. You don’t have to already know everything your child needs/wants to learn. Welcome questions and try to find answers together if you don’t know. Actually you might want to search for answers together even if you do know, because how to find things out for yourself is a valuable skill for kids to develop. In periods when children’s questions aren’t forthcoming, try voicing your own questions out loud while you go about your tasks, or ask kids their opinion on something to start a discussion. For older kids (we aren’t there yet) it seems to be about helping them find resources (people, clubs, books, courses) that they can learn from. ‘Facilitator not teacher’ is a phrase sometimes used.

6. Learning doesn’t have to happen in school hours. You probably have the children with you longer than they would be in school, so you have the option to pick times when they are more receptive, or that fit with family needs. Some families come to consider all-day every-day as learning time, by noticing and using learning possibilities in all of everyday life.

(7. Because I can’t not mention it after 4 and 6: home learning doesn’t have to happen at home. Unfortunately right now there may be No, or Very Limited, options to go out – follow the advice for your country. But rest assured that there are some (many) home educating families who usually go out a lot, and they may well be having similar challenges staying at home as school families do).

8. Set expectations/ have a rhythm. This might be very individual, but what works for us, while not being too rigid, is to have a pattern of when we do activities together and when we don’t. Eg you might come together to do a joint activity in the morning after breakfast. And during meal prep and clear up might be independent play/activities that they choose themselves. I find I still need to remind frequently that I won’t be taking part in complicated parent-dependant activities when I’m in the middle of clearing up the lunch carnage! And reminding of the slots when we do those things together really helps.

9. Consider including quiet time/a break for everyone. Ours coincides with the toddler’s afternoon nap. But even before a younger sibling, we found it helpful to have a quiet break after lunch. This is when I get some quiet thinking/headtasks time (those things not being at all compatible with awake toddlers). The older one might have some screen time, and/or she usually has creative projects that she wants to work on. It took us some practice to get this going well.

10. Having a bad day? However crazy and distracting your household (younger siblings, pets, deliveries, illness, broken washing machines…) is it truly more crazy and distracting than 30 other kids? Or, if you feel like you didn’t give enough attention to your child today, was it really less than 1/30th of the attention of the teacher at school? Probably not. These can be helpful thoughts, especially on a bad day.

11. Minimise prep, or include the kids in preparing for future activities. Because, quite differently to a teacher, you have these kids with you *all the time*. If you can’t find a way to get it done together, it probably isn’t going to happen. I try not to use the quiet time/break for prepping because that isn’t a really a break and I wouldn’t emerge sufficiently refreshed for getting through the rest of the day.

12. Look for activities that you get something out of as well as the kids. This is how to stay sane. Do as many of these as possible.

13. Atmosphere. You can always subtly change how a situation feels by putting on music, changing lighting, opening a window…

14. Lead by example. Do you wish your child would show an interest in something (more) wholesome (than what they’re doing right now)? What might happen if you gather some interesting objects on the table, and some paper and pencils, and begin drawing? Or put on some exercise clothes and get out your yoga mat and video? Make sure to just casually happen to have some spare pencils & paper/floorspace nearby ready for any requests to join in. Play it cool and don’t be obvious about hoping they’ll take an interest, and keep an open mind about what follows. This can work with so many activities. They might choose to join in, or they might not this time. But chances are they’ll have noticed, and you hopefully got to do something you enjoyed for a short time, and you’ve set a great example, and… sometimes interesting responses emerge much later. 😉

15. Don’t compare. Inevitably we tend to share the highlights where a child made something we’re proud of. We don’t share the moment when the floor can’t be seen, every opportunity provided for doing something wholesome has failed all morning, both the kids are screaming because you dared to use the loo, lunch is hours late, and the toddler has smeared poo on the coffee table. 🤦 But even with the highlights, just because a friend seems to do lots of X or Y, doesn’t mean we all should. Families are different, so focus on what works for yours. Including, ignoring all of the above advice if you think that’s best!

Good luck and enjoy!

More ideas and free resources for home learning

Twinkl

This website has loads of great teaching resources and is offering a free access code UKTWINKLHELPS.

https://chatterpack.net/blogs/blog/resources-list-for-home-learning

https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/135609/list-of-education-companies-offering-free-subscriptions/

https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome/grades-1-2.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/tarahaelle/2020/03/15/101-ideas-to-keep-your-kids-busy-during-coronavirus-closures/#1ed3fe4774a4

https://blog.learningresources.co.uk/free-home-learning-resources-for-families/

We’d love to hear how you are getting on, let us know below!

Coronavirus school closures: Visit National Trust parks and gardens for free to keep children active

Coronavirus school closures: Visit National Trust parks and gardens for free to keep children active

Explore National Trust sites safely during the Coronavirus crisis

The National Trust has announced it is giving free access to its open spaces during the coronavirus outbreak.

It is closing indoor sites like houses, cafes and shops to restrict the spread of coronavirus.

But the trust is allowing families to enjoy its parklands and gardens, after the governent closed schools and asked people to social distance.

The trust is planning which gardens and parks will be open to the public based on factors such as whether they allow enough space for adequate social distancing.

Director General Hilary McGrady said: “The National Trust was founded 125 years ago for the benefit of the entire nation. We want to honour our mission – to enable people and nature to thrive.

“Over the coming weeks we will do all that we can to keep on providing public benefit through caring for places and giving people access wherever possible.

“While we will close our indoor areas to help fight the spread of coronavirus, we recognise that people are likely to need access to open space and to nature, beauty and history.

Outdoor space and fresh air is important for children and for everyone’s mental health.

Mr Grady added: “We’ll try to keep as many open spaces available as possible but this is a changing situation and we’re strictly following Government advice so please keep checking our website for updated information and always check the site before you visit any of our places.”

The trust has said that the wellbeing of its staff, volunteers and visitors is its top concern.

And many volunteers fall into the over-70s age bracket.

LEGOLAND Windsor launches the world’s first DUPLO roller coaster for young children

LEGOLAND Windsor launches the world’s first DUPLO roller coaster for young children

A new roller coaster aimed at pre-school children has opened at one of England’s most popular theme parks

The world’s first DUPLO rollercoaster has opened at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort.

The DUPLO Dino Coaster, for children aged around two to five, is part of the attraction’s bigger improved DUPLO Valley area.

The ride has dino-themed carriages which soar around supersized DUPLO dinosaur models, 18 times bigger than if you were to build them at home.

Legoland staff think it will be the perfect first rollercoaster experience for little ones, who need to be 0.9 metres or over to ride it.

The area has also has a new show and new supersized DUPLO models, great for family selfies, plus its own official character, Dexter the Dog.

Outdoor play area Brickville has become DUPLO Playtown with a new rocket play structure for budding astronauts and there is a new puppet show at the DUPLO Puppet Theatre.

DUPLO Valley Airport has a new look with with three coloured helicopters for little pilots to choose from.

Existing family rides at DUPLO Valley include the riverboat Fairy Tale Brook ride and the DUPLO train.

Duplo Valley, Legoland Windsor

Duplo Valley, Legoland Windsor

The area also hosts the resort’s outdoor water play areas – Splash Safari and Drench Towers.

Meanwhile the park has launched a new adult and toddler annual pass to be used while older children are at school.

For £49, a toddler (classed as under 0.9 metres) and adult can visit the theme park as often as they like during term time (Monday to Friday), with 20 per cent off at restaurants and a 10 per cent discount in the shops.

Children under 0.9 metres get free entry anyway to the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort all year round.

Day tickets are from £29 per person when booked online in advance.

Families can book a LEGOLAND short break at the unique LEGOLAND Hotel and enjoy the DUPLO Valley area with stays from £99.25.

The LEGOLAND Windsor Resort is aimed at children aged two to 12 and is open until November 1, 2020, visit here for opening hours.

It has over 55 interactive rides, attractions, live shows, building workshops and driving schools and 80 million LEGO bricks, all set in 150 acres of beautiful parkland.

We’ve got lots of lovely LEGOLAND content here at The Family Holiday Guide for you to enjoy:

LEGOLAND Windsor Resort – read our review and top tips here review and top tips

LEGOLAND Windsor – our 10 top tips to get the most out of your visit

How to beat the queues at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort with the Q-Bot Ride Reservation System

Will the home of LEGO live up to children’s expectations on a trip to LEGOLAND in Denmark?

Top tips for a family trip to the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark

New family attraction – magical woodland adventure park BeWILDerwood to open in Cheshire

New family attraction – magical woodland adventure park BeWILDerwood to open in Cheshire

A 70-acre unique woodland attraction is soon to open in South Cheshire

A family day out full of fun, imagination and adventure is set to open in time for May half-term.

BeWILDerwood Cheshire – A Curious Treehouse Adventure – is throwing open its wonky wooden gates on Saturday, May 23, 2020.

It is in a forest setting where children can ‘run wild’ and promises ‘no noisy rides, no technology and no junk food’.

Tree trails at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

It’s the second Bewilderwood site in the country – the first in Norfolk, has won a host of awards.

The sites are based on the magical children’s BeWILDerwood book series by Tom Blofeld, bringing to life a cast of captivating characters.

BeWILDerwood author and creator Tom Blofeld at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

BeWILDerwood author and creator Tom Blofeld

The Cheshire site, which has been in development for three years, will feature Curious Treehouses, Wobbly Wires (zip wires), Slippery Slopes and a variety of giant wooden play structures to navigate such as a Broken Bridge.

Slides at Tree trails at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

There will also be aerial ropewalks, climbing walls, balancing logs and mazes.

Slides at Tree trails at Swings at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Face painting and activities like interactive storytelling shows and crafting sessions are included in the ticket price and parking is free.

It is aimed at children aged two to 2 but teenagers and adults can enjoy the equipment too as the focus is on family fun.

Grandparents having fun at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Fun for all the family

Toddlers and children who are too small to go on the bigger bits have their own areas, Toddlewood on the Hill and Tiptoe Valley.

A todder at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Food can be bought at the Cosy Cabin and Munch Bar and picnics are welcome.

Tickets are based on height rather than ages and can be bought online.

Grandparents having fun at Tree houses at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Books from the BeWILDerwood series including A Boggle at BeWILDerwood, The BeWILDerbats and A BeWILDermuddle are also available to buy online.

Gate admission prices for 2020 are:

Born to BeWILD (Under 92cm): Free

Almost WILD (92-105cm): £16.50

BeWILD Now (over 105cm): £18.50

Still WILD (65 years+): £10.50

Address: BeWILDerwood Cheshire, Whitchurch Road, Bickley, Malpas, Cheshire, SY13 4JF.

We’ll be visiting to review soon and will report back!

Coronavirus travel tips: How to keep children safe from germs on aeroplanes

Coronavirus travel tips: How to keep children safe from germs on aeroplanes

How to protect your family from germs on a plane – all the precautions you need to take

I’ve always been a bit OTT when it comes to germs and my children – I’m the mum brandishing a hand gel at parties and soft play.

But the spreading coronavirus has seen us all improve our hygiene standards.

Getting ill can ruin a holiday – so how can we keep our children – and ourselves – as protected as possible when we travel?

Here we explain the extra precautions families can take to look after themselves while flying.

Passengers getting on a full plane

Aeroplanes and germs

Aeroplanes are pretty amazing – they transport us quickly to fantastic destinations all over the world.

But they can also be breeding grounds for germs and bacteria – the result of packing lots of people into an enclosed space for hours at a time.

Studies say that one in five people will get sick after flying, so how can we help prevent our children – and ourselves – from getting ill?

Before the flight

When you travel on a plane, your immune system is challenged by dehydration, lower oxygen levels and other factors, weakening your body’s defence against infections.

But you can boost your children’s immune system to prepare their bodies for flying.

If a child has plenty of sleep and eats healthily before the flight, their immunity will perform better.

Where to sit

Believe it or not, some seats carry a higher risk than others.

Passengers are more vulnerable to illness if they sit in an aisle seat – they receive the most contact and potential contamination from potentially poorly people walking up and down and holding on to head rests.

So put children by the window if possible, where there are less germs.

Also try to not sit your child next to someone who is ill, instead take the seat yourself or discretely ask a flight attendant if you can move seats.

You are less at risk sitting behind someone who is ill or coughing than in front.

Also avoid sitting too near to the toilets if possible as these areas are busier. Plus, people spending more time there may be the sick ones.

Aisle seats on a plane

Avoid aisle seats

Wash hands

Washing hands regularly, especially before you eat, is the BEST way to prevent illness, wherever you are. Help children to wash hands and teach them how to do it properly. Show them how to use warm soap and water, scrub all over for 20 seconds, then rinse and dry.

Discourage children from touching their faces as bugs can be transmitted to their mouth, nose or eyes. And tell them not to put anything in their mouths.

Hand sanitiser

Hand sanitiser removes most bacteria and viruses from hands so use it regularly and before eating and drinking.

Even if children have just been to the toilet and washed their hands, they are likely to have touched seats or other areas on the way back to their seats.

Tell children to rub the gel all over their hands until it is dry. Apply it thoroughly including between fingers.

Supervise young children as it is dangerous if ingested and store hand gel in a bag away from them and to avoid spillages.

A girl touching a plane window

Surfaces

Germs can last for up to seven days inside a plane.

Most germ viruses are transferred by touching not just breathing the air. There are several hotspots on a plane and one of the worst offenders is the tray table.

Children love a tray table. To be safe you can wipe it down with an alcohol-based wipe or gel. Experts also recommend you wipe armrests, seatbealt buckles, screens and remote controls.

There is often a quick turnaround time between flights so these areas do not always get thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

In-flight magazines and seat pockets

Passengers often use the seat pockets as bins and air crew find dirty nappies and used tissues in them among rubbish left behind, so try not to use them if possible.

They contain a lot of bacteria but wipes can’t properly disinfect the fabric of the pocket.

Seat pockets on a plane

In-flight magazines are touched by hundreds of people and are never cleaned so they are full of germs. Avoid!

Water

One of the best ways to stay healthy during a flight is to drink lots and lots of water.

Ensure children drink more than they would at home as they will get dehydrated and then the mucous membranes in the nose and throat will dry up which protect us from most diseases encountered.

Everyone should avoid coffee, alcohol and sugary drinks when flying, which will dehydrate you even more.

Toilets

Aeroplane toilets are a big source of germs.

Avoid touching surfaces in there and turn off the taps and open the door while holding a paper towel.

Aircraft air vents

Vents

The air coming out of the vents is meant to be cleaner than the air around your seat as it is filtered, so leaving them on a low setting can move the germs away.

However, you may want to use hand gel after touching the vent as it is another bacteria hotspot!

Blankets and pillows

Bring your own blankets and pillows for children to use. If you ask for them and they aren’t wrapped, they may not be clean.

Plus having a familiar blanket and pillow to curl up with may also make children happier.

Screens on a plane for entertainment

Entertainment

Bring your own entertainment for children so that they don’t touch onboard touchscreens which have a lot of germs from dirty fingers, coughs and sneezes. Or otherwise wipe them first!

Other Germ-Fighting Travel Tips

Hotels

Health experts suggest wiping down remote controls, light switches, telephones, doorknobs, toilet seat handles and taps to protect children.

Swimming pools

Chlorination does not kill all bacteria. Teach young children to avoid swallowing water in pools and water parks. And make sure they shower after getting out of the pool.

HOWEVER!

If you are going on holiday, do NOT let worry and anxiety spoil a trip.

Arm yourself with hand sanitiser and a bit of knowledge.

And don’t scare your children! Just make them aware of basic hygiene.

Wishing you happy, healthy holidays.

UK airline Flybe collapses into administration – all flights have been cancelled

UK airline Flybe collapses into administration – all flights have been cancelled

Coronavirus crisis is the final blow for struggling airline Flybe

UK airline Flybe has collapsed – all flights have been cancelled and passengers have been told not to go to airports.

Flybe told customers today its business had ‘ceased trading with immediate effect’.

“If you are due to fly with Flybe, please DO NOT TRAVEL TO THE AIRPORT unless you have arranged an alternative flight with another airline,” the company has told customers.

“Please note that Flybe is unfortunately not able to arrange alternative flights for passengers.

“If you have a booking sold by another airline that includes travel on a Flybe flight, please contact the relevant airline or travel agent to confirm if there is any impact to your travel plans.”

The budget carrier, founded in 1979, was once Europe’s largest independent regional airline.

The Exeter-based company operated nearly 40 per cent of UK domestic flights – more than 200 routes and around eight million people a year used its services.

The company

Chief executive, Mark Anderson, said the company had made ‘every possible attempt’ to avoid collapse but had been ‘unable to overcome significant funding challenges’.

“The UK has lost one of its greatest regional assets,” he said.

“Flybe has been a key part of the UK aviation industry for four decades, connecting regional communities, people and businesses across the entire nation.”

Coronavirus

The coronavirus has seen demand for flights plummet in recent weeks, putting added pressure on the company which was already struggling with rising fuel costs and competition from other airlines.

The government announced in January that it was in communication with the company about it finances and had announced a rescue deal.

The whole global airline industry is in crisis because of the coronavirus outbreak, which began in China.

Flight schedules have been cut and planes grounded.

Jobs

The collapse puts more than 2,000 jobs at risk.

The government has said it will help Flybe’s workers find new jobs and will work with other airlines to minimise disruption and replace services.

Help

Flybe passengers and staff are being offered free travel by all First Rail train operators, which consist of Great Western Railway, South Western Railway, TransPennine Express and Avanti West Coast.

EasyJet has offered rescue fares for passengers and free flights to Flybe staff to get home.

Passenger rights

Flybe customers who bought tickets directly from the company will not be protected by the Atol scheme.

But if you went through a travel agent or another third party you might be covered.

Some people may be able to get their money back if they paid by credit card or with some debit cards.

For all your rights go to the Martin Lewis MoneySavingExpert website,

Customers are also advised to monitor the Civil Aviation Authority website for further information .

You can contact the administrators by email at flybeadministration@uk.ey.com.

Easter 2020 ideas for children around the South East of England – our top picks

Easter 2020 ideas for children around the South East of England – our top picks

The best Easter 2020 entertainment from egg hunt to lambing activities, walks and spring festivals

Spring is a great time for family fun and adventures and getting outside with your children.

Here are our pick of the best Easter activities planned around the South East of England.

Buckinghamshire

Waddesdon Manor is having a Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt from April 4 to 13.

Discover fun facts about nature and new parts of the gardens while taking part in an egg hunt around the grounds. Children £3, grounds admission applies.

Children can also enjoy an Easter petting farm at the manor which runs from April 15 to 19.

Get up close and personal with new furry, hairy or feathered friends this Easter, as animals return to Waddesdon’s stable yard. Free with grounds admission.

Dorset

Farmer Palmer’s, just outside Poole, is planning family-friendly Easter-themed activities.

The Easter fun includes hands-on experiences with the animals that populate the farm and an Eggstravaganza featuring hundreds of chocolate eggs over the weekend (April 10 to 13).

Entry from £12.50, children aged two are £5.50 and children under two are free.  For more information go to the website.

East Sussex

The annual Marbles Match and Easter Bonnet Parade takes place in the imposing shadow of Battle Abbey, site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The marbles match at Battle Abbey

The marbles match

Visitors will be able to watch local teams lose their marbles in a traditional competition dating back to 1945. It starts at 10am on Good Friday, April 10.

Spectators of all ages will also be able to give marbles a try or take part in the Easter Bonnet competition. For more information go to the website.

Hampshire

Visit Gambledown Farm where in Spring, lambs are bottle fed, bluebells and daffodils are out and children can see baby chicks.

If you are looking for a family Easter break, the farm offers barn stays and glamping set in 270 acres of Hampshire countryside, go to the website for more information.

Chicks at Gambledown Farm

Chicks at Gambledown Farm

Gilbert White’s House Garden Bird Easter Egg Hunt runs from April 4 to 19. Children can hunt for painted eggs in the gardens and meadow, which are all based on the eggs of the birds which nest in the grounds. Find them all and claim a chocolate egg.

The cost is £3 in addition to the general admission price, adult £12, child under 16 £5, for more information go to the website.

Easter at Gilbert White's House

Gilbert White’s House

There will be an Easter Sunday Cruise and Egg Hunt on the John Pinkerton II canal boat on the Basingstoke Canal through beautiful Hampshire countryside on April 12.

Take a leisurely afternoon cruise to King John’s Castle where children can search out their Easter eggs. All trips are crewed by trained volunteer members of the Basingstoke Canal Society, a charity dedicated to safeguarding the canal. All proceeds are used to maintain the canal for the future. It is a two-and-a-half hour return trip.

The price is adults £12, children £6. Book online here.

The John Pinkerton II canal boat on the Basingstoke Canal

The John Pinkerton II canal boat

Jane Austen’s House Museum is arranging some family-friendly activities. There will be an Easter egg trail, family walks and a Young People’s Writing Workshop.  Booking is required for the workshop (April 4 to 19) and walks (April 8 and 15), go to the website.

Meet Bobtail Bunny and forest friends Betty Bunny, Hennie the Hedgehog and Red the Deer at Paultons Park from April 4 to 19, go to the website.

Easter at Paultons Park

Easter at Paultons Park

Butser Ancient Farm will be celebrating the ancient festival of Eostre and the goddess of Spring. Visitors will be able to meet the Saxons from Herigead Hundas with demonstrations, traditional crafts, cooking and DIY archaeology experiments. There will also be mini-mosaic making, wattling and more.

And Butser’s Roman IX Legion will be in residence in the Roman village with fighting and marching demonstrations, archery, Roman cooking, crafts and more.

It runs from April 10 to 13, prices are from £9 for adults and children aged three to 16 are £5. Go to the website for more information.

Kent

There will be Easter fun at Hever Castle from April 2 to 19 April.

Children can hunt for colourful carrots and bunnies in a free Easter trail in the castle or take part in two free Easter egg hunts in the grounds at 11am and 3pm.

They can also create an egg-shaped decoration to hang on the Easter tree in a free craft activity.

Admission prices, castle and gardens: adults £18.80, children aged five to 15 £10.70 and under-5s free. See the website  for more information.

Easter at Hever Castle

Easter at Hever Castle

Spa Valley Railway in Tunbridge Wells is having Easter activities from April 10 to 13 April.

Spot all the Easter bunnies alongside the railway between Tunbridge Wells and Eridge. A chocolate egg will be available (whilst stocks last) for all children taking part.

Resident steam engine ‘Ugly’ will be in action each day and standard fares apply.

Adult tickers are £10, children aged two to 15 are £5 and a family ticket for unlimited travel on the day is £28.00 when booked online in advance here.

West Sussex

Easter sees the return of the Worthing Observation Wheel. Standing at a height of 46 metres, the WOW is the tallest wheel on the south coast offering views of up to 10 miles across the South Downs and along the coast. See here for information.

Whatever you do, have a fantastic time!

Thorpe Park will reopen in March 2020 with the world’s first Black Mirror experience

Thorpe Park will reopen in March 2020 with the world’s first Black Mirror experience

Surrey theme park to open in time for the Easter Holidays

Surrey theme park Thorpe Park is reopening on March 27, 2020 in time for the school Easter holidays.

The family attraction in Chertsey, built on an island, has more than 30 rides, attractions and events.

It is adding to these with the world’s first experience based on the Netflix show Black Mirror.

Black Mirror Labyrinth, designed around the world of programme creator Charlie Brooker, is a digital maze which uses cutting-edge visual technology.

It is said to use ‘sensory-defying environments to reveal an uneasy truth that manipulates and displaces your very existence’.

Black Mirror Labyrinth ride experience at Thorpe Park theme park

The park already has the UK’s fastest roller coaster Stealth and the country’s only winged coaster.

It also home to the world’s first horror-themed roller coaster Saw – The Ride, featuring a beyond-vertical 100ft drop.

The park is running various events this year.

HYPERSpring is between April 4 and May 31, 2020 and Supercharged Summer is from July 18 to September 6 .

And its Halloween event Fright Nights is returning from October 3 to November 1, 2020 giving visitors the chance to ride coasters in the dead of night and take on award-winning live action scare mazes and experiences.

Thorpe Park Resort is in Chertsey, England, 20 miles from Central London.

Top tips for a family trip to the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark

Top tips for a family trip to the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark

All you need to know when visiting the home of LEGO in Billund, Denmark

Billund in Denmark is the home of Lego.

It is where the very first Lego toy brick was made in 1932. And where the first Legoland Park opened on June 7, 1968, next to the original Lego factory.

Legoland Billund is smaller, flatter and easier to get around than Legoland Windsor. Plus it’s just a 90-minute flight from the UK so makes a great alternative for Lego fans.

If you are planning a visit to Legoland Billund, make sure you read our 14 top tips below first and then our review.

1. How to get to Legoland Billund in Denmark

Legoland Billund is across the road from Billund Airport. You can fly there from Manchester, Heathrow and Stansted Airports. Ryanair fly from Stansted and Sun-Air, a British Airways partner, goes from Heathrow and Manchester.

We flew direct from Manchester with Sun-Air (which works in partnership with BA) on a tiny plane. The flight took 90 minutes.

2. Where to stay

It is expensive but you can stay stay at the park – at Legoland Hotel or Legoland Castle Hotel, a stay which can include park tickets, parking and early park access.

There is also Legoland Holiday Village, 450 metres from the entrance to Legoland.

But we stayed over the road at Lalandia Billund – an amazing water park resort, so got the best of both worlds. We stayed in a fantastic two-bedroomed lodge.

Lalandia

Lalandia

3. Best time to go to Legoland Billund

The busiest days at Legoland Billund are Tuesdays and Wednesdays while Saturdays are the quietest.

If you want to go over the summer, go as late as you can as Danish children usually go back to school towards the end of August so it will be quieter.

We found queues manageable despite visiting during the Easter holidays – there are lots of rides and plenty of space.

4. How to avoid the queues

Most people enter the park and start going on rides as soon as they see them so head straight to the back to avoid the crowds.

The longest queues when we went were in the Ninjago area which did mean a wait for Lloyd’s Laser Maze and the Ninjago Ride.

The Ninjago Ride

The Ninjago Ride

If you have Ninjago fans you could head there as soon as the gates open. Alternatively, the most popular rides are often quieter in the last 30 minutes before the park closes, although you may miss out altogether if you leave it too late.

To really save time queuing, splash out on the Q-Bot Reserve and Ride system. Instead of waiting in a queue at each attraction, you spend the waiting time elsewhere in the park. An Express pass reduces your waiting time by 50 per cent and an Ultimate pass means almost no waits in queues on your chosen rides, which can be a game changer when you have young children.

5. Layout

Legoland Billund is divided into themed areas.

The Miniland area is at its heart with recreations of everything from old Amsterdam to Star Wars, made out of Lego, which everyone will enjoy.

This park uses 65 million of the little bricks to build its displays.

There is a Duplo Land, Imagination Zone, Pirate Land, Knights’ Kingdom, Polar Land and Legoredo Town.

Duplo Land at Lego Billund

Duplo Land

Lego Ninjago World and Adventure Land are really popular.

Our favourite ride was the competitive Falck Fire Engine in Adventure Land. You work with your family to use a pump to move a fire engine and then spray out ‘fires’ while racing against other visitors on their fire engines.

Falck Fire Engine ride

Falck Fire Engine ride

The farthest end of the park is the quietest and we found a nice picnic spot by the penguin enclosure where we could watch them swimming while we ate.

6. Age appropriate

Unlike some theme parks, there is lots for little ones including Duplo Land for toddlers and Imagination Zone.

There are also enough rollercoasters to keep teenagers happy – so this suits all ages from two to 16.

A rollercoaster at Legoland Billund

There’s plenty for older children

Don’t forget to be aware of height and age restrictions, so children aren’t left disappointed on the day.

7. Food and drink

There are food and drink outfits but the options can be pricey. Plus they get very busy after 12.30pm so take your own food and drinks where possible, to enjoy in one of the picnic areas.

8. Language

This is obviously a Danish theme park but some of the 4D films are in English – check the times for these in advance.

9. Pushchairs

It’s a nice flat theme park and not overly huge but if little one’s legs get tired, there are pushchairs to hire.

10. Aquarium

If the weather is bad or you want a break from the rides then there is a good aquarium in the Imagination Zone called Atlantis by Sea Life.

Atlantis by Sea Life in Legoland Billund

Atlantis by Sea Life

It takes you on an expedition under the sea with a few bricks to find along the way. It doesn’t take very long but is a good spot to dry off or warm up and includes a tunnel under the water.

11. Special needs

The park is flat and all roads and paths are paved so wheelchairs users can go everywhere.

Those with a hidden disability such as anxiety, autism or ADHD can collect a ’show consideration’ wristband.

Disabled and ’show consideration’ access to rides is via the exits or sometimes through the Q-bot entrance.

12. Buying tickets

Buy online to save money and to save time queuing for tickets and download the free, official app to plan your trip.

13. Don’t miss the new Lego House

If you are after another Lego experience – try the big Lego House, which has opened in Billund and is within walking distance of Legoland.

This 12,000-square-metre house is filled with 25 million Lego bricks.

Here, children learn through play with Lego. The house also includes three restaurants and a Lego store.

Lego House in Billund

Lego House

14. The history

You can go to other Legoland parks, but only one place is the home of Lego.

Almost every visitor stops for an iconic photo outside the main entrance sign. Save time getting in by doing this at the end of the day not the beginning, when the shot will be more clear of people.

Conclusion

This park is not huge but it is historic and has enough to keep you entertained for a full day or a couple of days.

Advance entry starts from around 300DKK – about £30 – per person. For tickets and information visit the Legoland Billund website.

RELATED CONTENT: Will the home of LEGO live up to children’s expectations on a trip to LEGOLAND in Denmark?

RELATED CONTENT: We review a water park holiday resort opposite LEGOLAND in Denmark called Lalandia Billund

The entrance to Legoland in Billund, Denmark, when it opened in 1968/1969.

The entrance to Legoland when it opened in 1968/1969.



We visited as guests of the park to review it, all views are our own.

Is the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2020 good for children?

Is the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2020 good for children?

A family day out at the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2020

The Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2020 is a popular event every year with families.

The UK’s biggest display of leisure vehicles, static holiday homes, lodges and tents is spread over five halls at the NEC in Birmingham.

We’ve been today with our children – it was very appealing given the constant rain that has plagued the half-term holiday.

It’s a great price – adults are just £10 on the door this year (seniors £9) and children under 15 are free. Parking is free at the NEC but it is a long walk from the car park so consider getting one of the free shuttle buses especially if it is raining.

Once you get inside there are scores of caravans and motorhomes to explore – ours loved climbing inside, trying out the seats, working out how the beds worked and imagining they were ours.

There are lots of tents you can buy too, you can see all the different sizes and types all set up.

There are also extra activities, which make it more worthwhile taking children.

A climbing wall at the Children in a motorhome at the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2020

There is a climbing wall, a nine-hole mini golf course made out of miniature UK landmarks and a small circuit to try out electric bikes and electric scooters.

Mini golf at the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2020

The Haven stand had a fantastic ranger from Nature Rockz teaching fire lighting.

A ranger teache fire lighting at the Mini golf at the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2020

There is a theatre area with special guests like Shane Richie, Matt Allwright, adventurer Darren Hardy and chef, author, and Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain.

We watched a chat with the rather lovely Dr Hilary Jones from ITV’s Lorraine, who was discussing the benefits of breaks and holidays, fresh air and exercise.

There was also a dog arena where we saw an agility demonstration and made friends with some gorgeous cocker spaniels.

The dog arena at The show runs until February 23 2020 at the NEC in Birmingham.

Plus there are holiday lodges and glamping tents and representatives from holiday parks and other destinations offering ideas for family trips.

And lots of stands selling everything you need if you go camping or caravanning.

The show runs until February 23 2020 at the NEC in Birmingham.

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis reveals clever Ryanair booking tip to save money for families

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis reveals clever Ryanair booking tip to save money for families

Martin Lewis trick could save up to 60 per cent for families flying with Ryanair

Financial guru Martin Lewis has unveiled a money-saving trick passengers can use when booking Ryanair flghts. The advice particularly benefits families with children under 12.

The budget airline may offer regular cheap flights but the price can rise when adding on extras like cabin bags, seat reservations and priority boarding per person per flight.

It offers different levels of fare including regular, value and plus and generally pushes the ‘regular’ price through advertising, where customers can pay around £20.85 for the extras.

But Martin Lewis has revealed on ITV show This Morning and his website that if you choose the ‘value’ fare first and then add on the extras, you could save money.

And while this is a process we at The Family Holiday Guide always try, Martin says many don’t and instead ‘buy the ticket the airline wants you to buy’.

Martin Lewis told viewers: “In tests we’ve done, 16 out of 20 times you would be better off to get its ‘value’ fare – its cheapest fare – and then add on these extras yourself. In one case it was over 60 per cent cheaper.”

“So when booking with Ryanair, start with the value fare then add on – that’s usually the best way.”

Why this works best when travelling with children

The trick works best when travelling with children.

This is because children under 12 automatically get ‘free’ reserved seating with Ryanair, thanks to its family seating policy, which is designed to ensure children sit with their parents.

With this, at least one adult must reserve a seat (at a cost of around £4 to £6) if travelling with under-12s, and up to four children can be seated next to him or her for free.

Martin Lewis says: “As a result, there’s usually little point selecting a ‘regular’ fare, which has to be applied to everyone in your group, if you’re travelling with children this age.

“On the 10 bookings we checked where kids were part of the group, adding seats, cabin bags and priority boarding separately won every time – even when we selected only the priciest seats in rows 18-33.”

The Money Saving Expert website features 20 other Ryanair cost-cutting tips.

Children’s television favourite Peppa Pig inspires families with her top 25 adventures to have around England

Children’s television favourite Peppa Pig inspires families with her top 25 adventures to have around England

VisitEngland and Peppa Pig team up to launch a top 25 for under-fives

Peppa Pig is inspiring young children and their families to plan adventures around England.

The TV favourite is sharing 25 top experiences, based on her own travels in the popular programme.

It is part of a new Peppa Pig hub which has been launched on the VisitEngland website.

There is a downloadable activity sheet and tick list to help families follow in Peppa’s footsteps. plus young fans can also watch clips from the show.

The ideas, from becoming a King or Queen for the day at one of England’s castles to spotting creepy crawlies at a nature reserve, showcase the huge potential for family breaks across the country, whatever the weather.

A family at Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

There are also some ideas picked by Mummy Pig, Daddy Pig, Granny and Grandpa Pig plus Peppa’s younger brother George, to inspire the whole family to make memories.

According to recent VisitEngland research, spending quality time with family and friends is the main reason for families taking a UK break.

Among favourite activities highlighted by the survey are with visiting attractions, getting outdoors and going to the beach.

Peppa Pig is currently shown on Channel 5 Milkshake and Nick Jr.

Peppa Pig and Visit England map

Visit the new Peppa hub or view the interactive map.

Peppa Pig’s top 25 experiences to have on an England break

  1. Have a play day at a museum

    The Natural History Museum, London

    The Natural History Museum, London

  2. Be King or Queen of the castle
  3. Have a picnic at a stately home
  4. Drift along canals on a boating holiday
  5. Go on a steam train journey
  6. Go paddling in the sea
  7. Enjoy an icecream on a pier
  8. Go rock pooling
  9. Build a sandcastle bigger than you
  10. Get competitive at crazy golf
  11. Jump in muddy puddles in a forest
  12. Spot Creepy Crawlies at a nature reserve
  13. Smell flowers at a garden
  14. Go camping in the countryside
  15. Be a strawberry farmer for the day
  16. Get crafty at an art gallery
  17. Hunt for dinosaurs at a museum
  18. Sing along at a theatre show
  19. Listen to your voice echo in a cave
  20. Eat cakes at afternoon tea
  21. Sing and dance at a family festival
  22. Splash about at a water park
  23. Ride on the top deck of a tour bus
  24. See how high you can fly a kite
  25. Visit a petting farm
Top 10 canal boat family holiday destinations for Spring 2020

Top 10 canal boat family holiday destinations for Spring 2020

Holiday from a narrowboat this year to explore the countryside with children

Britain’s network of inland waterways wind through thousands of miles of countryside.

And they can be explored on a family trip with a difference – staying on a narrowboat – your own floating holiday home.

Emma Lovell from Anglo Welsh, one of the largest canal boat holiday companies in the UK, thinks Spring is one of the best times to take a narrowboat trip.

“In Spring you can enjoy seeing waterside hedges and trees coated in blossom, birds building nests and rearing their young and spring lambs playing in the fields as well as ducklings, swans, coots and moorhens bobbing along on the water and bluebells in waterside woodlands.”

The company has compiled its top 10 Spring canal boat holiday destinations for 2020.

1. Navigate through Shakespeare country and Warwickshire farmland

Start from Anglo Welsh’s narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden. It takes around six hours, travelling through 17 locks, to reach Stratford upon Avon.

Travel over the Edstone Aqueduct and on through the Warwickshire countryside and stop off at Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm in the canalside village of Wilmcote, where Shakespeare’s mother grew up.

Once in Stratford, there are overnight moorings in Bancroft Basin, perfect for enjoying all that Shakespeare’s birthplace has to offer, including riverside parks, theatres, shops, restaurants and museums.

2. Staffordshire to the Peak District

Cruise into the Peak District on a week’s break from Anglo Welsh’s barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire.

From here, you can reach the beautiful Caldon Canal and travel into the Peak District.

The journey takes boaters up to Stoke on Trent, passing Wedgewood World along the way, and, once on the Caldon, through hills and wooded areas alongside the River Churnet.

Here there’s the chance to spot kingfishers, herons, jays and woodpeckers, as well as otters which have recently returned to the area.

The return journey along the Caldon to Froghall, takes around 43 hours, travelling a total of 72 miles and passing through 70 locks.

3. Worcestershire

Travel round the Stourport Ring through stretches of Worcestershire countryside – on a week’s break from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove.

This popular circuit takes boaters on an 84-mile, 114-lock journey, in around 56 cruising hours.

Much of the route is rural, cruising sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals.

Rural highlights include Kinver Edge with its extensive woodlands and National Trust Holy Austin Rock Houses, idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn and a dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge, climbing two-and-a-quarter miles with views of the open countryside all around.

This circuit also takes boaters through central Birmingham, Kidderminster and the ancient City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral.

4. Yorkshire

Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales and explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle, from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire.

It takes just over three hours to reach Skipton with its medieval fortress and acres of woodland trails to explore. For nearly a thousand years, Skipton Castle Woods provided fuel, food and building materials for castle inhabitants. Today there are at least 18 species of trees flourishing there and hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells in the Spring.

The journey along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Silsden passes through the typical Yorkshire stone-built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill and on into a dense wooded area famous for its bluebells and deer.

5. Bath to Pewsey

Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey – it takes around 19 hours to reach Pewsey Wharf from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat rental base at Brassknocker Basin on the Kennet & Avon Canal just outside Bath, perfect for a week afloat.

Along the way, boaters pass through miles of Wiltshire countryside, with a series of waterside villages and country pubs to visit along the way.

Highlights on this route include the mighty Caen Hill Flight of 29 locks at Devizes, cruising along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest and the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and home to prehistoric Avebury.

The journey to Pewsey and back takes around 38 hours, passing through 74 locks (37 each way).

6. Llangollen

Travel to Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. It takes around 12 hours to reach this pretty town from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire.

Along the way, travel through the Shropshire Lake District and across the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Once in Llangollen, boaters can moor up to enjoy exploring the town including its regular markets packed with local produce, shops, restaurants, steam railway and famous Horseshoe Falls.

The journey to Llangollen and back passes through just four locks (two each way).

7. Four Counties Ring

Start a week’s break at Anglo Welsh’s canal boat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire and  travel round the popular Four Counties Ring, one of the most rural canal cruising circuits.

Travelling for around 58 hours and passing through 96 locks, this route takes canal boat holidaymakers through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire and travels sections of the Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals.

Rural highlights include panoramic views from the flight of 31 locks (also known as ‘Heartbreak Hill’) between Middlewich and Kidsgrove on the Trent & Mersey Canal, stunning views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal, acres of farmland on the Middlewich Branch, wildlife spotting at Tixall Wide on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal and the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall with its extensive waterside gardens.

8. Shropshire Lake District

Cruise to the Shropshire Lake District from Anglo Welsh’s narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales on a short three or four-night break (three or four nights). You may catch a glimpse of heron chicks and other water birds and wildlife.

Llangollen Canal in Shropshire

Llangollen Canal in Shropshire

The journey to the medieval market town of Ellesmere takes around seven hours, passing through just two locks and over two magnificent aqueducts, including the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

This Wonder of the Waterways, carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres high above the Dee valley, with magnificent views of the valley and Welsh Mountains beyond.

Formed thousands of years ago by the melting of the glaciers during the retreating ice age, the meres of the Shropshire Lake District, including The Mere at Ellesmere, are particularly beautiful in Spring.

And every Spring, Moscow Island on The Mere is home to the Heron Watch Scheme, with live images allowing visitors to watch the birds build nests and raise chicks.

9. Abingdon and Oxford

Take a Thames boating holiday to Abingdon from Anglo Welsh’s narrowboat hire base on the River Thames near Oxford.

It takes around five hours, passing through six locks and travelling 15 miles to reach the historic riverside market town of Abingdon – perfect for a short break.

Along the way, as well as cruising through the outskirts of the ancient city of Oxford, you will pass through stretches of Oxfordshire countryside, with meadows, stretches of woodlands and the chance to hear cuckoos calling.

Once moored up at Abingdon, boaters can enjoy exploring riverside walks, parks and eateries, including the popular waterside Nag’s Head.

10. Stockton to Stoke Bruerne

Travel through the Northamptonshire countryside to Stoke Bruerne on a four-night break from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire.

Narrowboat families can cruise to the village of Stoke Bruerne and back.

The journey takes around 12 hours, travelling 28 mostly rural miles and passes through 16 locks, as well as the 2813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel.

Once in Stoke Bruerne, you can visit canalside pubs, browse the waterway history collections at the Canal Museum and follow the village’s woodland walk and sculpture trail.

Anglo Welsh

Anglo Welsh offers over 160 canal boats for hire from 11 bases across England and Wales, with accommodation for between two and 12 people.

Boats have kitchens, fresh water flushing toilets, hot water and showers, beds, TVs, DVD players and WiFi.

Hirers are provided with life jackets on request and boat steering tuition as part of all its packages.

2020 boat hire prices start at £530 for a short break on a boat for four people, £755 for a week.

For more information visit www.anglowelsh.co.uk or call the bookings team on 0117 304 1122.

Top 20 family-friendly European holiday destinations revealed – and a UK hotspot is second

Top 20 family-friendly European holiday destinations revealed – and a UK hotspot is second

A holiday favourite in England is one of the best in Europe for family trips with children

Portugal’s Algarve region has been named the top family-friendly destination in Europe in a new survey.

The Algarve won top spot in the Columbus Direct analysis.

In second place was Cornwall, with its beautiful beaches and fantastic attractions.

St Ives, Cornwall

St Ives, Cornwall

Majorca, Corsica and Tenerife complete the top five.

Popular Spain and Greece were named the most family-friendly countries.

The analysis measured each area’s family-friendly hotels, child-friendly restaurants, flight times from the UK and number of children’s activities available.

The Algarve was rated highly for its hotels, restaurants and activities. The area is popular with families because of its beaches, attracting around four million visitors a year.

The Algarve

The Algarve

Stuart Lloyd, Travel Insurance Expert at Columbus Direct said: “It is great to see so many destinations provided by our European neighbours that cater to families on holiday and help make parents’ choice far easier and stress-free.

“It is also great to see Cornwall appear as one of the top places to go to as a family, with the rise of the staycation and also for outside of the UK wanting to holiday here.”

Here is the full top 20 destinations. Which is your favourite?

1. Algarve, Portugal

2. Cornwall, UK

3. Majorca, Spain

4. Corsica, France

5. Tenerife, Spain

6. Costa Brava, Spain

7. Rhodes, Greece

8. Corfu, Greece

9. Gran Canaria, Spain

10. Amalfi Coast, Italy

11. Malta

12.Ibiza, Spain

13. Menorca, Spain

14. Zante, Greece

15. Lanzarote, Spain

16. Malaga, Spain

17. Madeira, Portugal

18. Halkidiki, Greece

19. Mykonos, Greece

20. Fuerteventura, Spain

Don’t miss our reviews of Corsica, Majorca, Malaga, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.

Ryanair launches three new routes from Manchester for summer 2020

Ryanair launches three new routes from Manchester for summer 2020

Ryanair extends its summer schedule with three new routes for 2020 on sale now

Ryanair has announced three new Manchester routes to Denmark, France and Ireland, starting in March 2020.

The airline will be flying to Copenhagen (daily), Kerry (twice weekly) and Paris Beauvais (four times a week), as part of its extended UK Summer 2020 schedule.

It is also increasing flights throughout the summer to Shannon in Ireland, from five to six times a week.

Ryanair’s Eimear Ryan said: “Manchester consumers and visitors can now book their summer holidays on 66 routes as far out as October 2020, flying on the lowest fares and with the greenest/cleanest major airline in Europe, with the lowest CO2 emissions per passenger/kilometre.”

To celebrate the new Manchester routes, Ryanair has launched a seat sale on its European network with fares from £14.99 for travel from now until the end of March 2020, which must be booked by Thursday, January 23, only on the Ryanair.com website.

Competition – win family tickets to the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2020

Competition – win family tickets to the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2020

We have tickets up for grabs for the February show at the NEC in Birmingham

It’s competition time! We have teamed up with the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2020 to give you the chance to win tickets to this great family day out.

The winner will be able to choose a date to visit the show, which runs for six days, from February 18 to 23 at the NEC in Birmingham.

We have two sets of two tickets to give away which will allow two families free entry as children 15 and under don’t pay.

How to enter on Facebook

To enter, go to our Family Holiday Guide Facebook page and comment on the competition post, telling us why you want to win. Don’t forget to like our page and tag friends and family who would love to win!

How to enter on Twitter

To enter you need to make sure that you have liked the Family Holiday Guide Twitter page and then RT the competition post.

Our emails

Sign up to our emails here. When you sign up, we’ll also automatically enter you into our current prize draw!

All you need to know about the show

The UK’s biggest display of leisure vehicles, static holiday homes, lodges, tents and more will be spread over five halls.

There will be lots going on for families with activities like climbing and crazy golf for children to enjoy.

Plus there is a new area where children and adults can try out some of the most cutting-edge electric ride-ons, from bikes to scooters, skateboards and even unicycles on a special indoor course.

There is a theatre area with special guests like Shane Richie, Matt Allwright, adventurer Darren Hardy and chef, author, and Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain.

Dog lovers can watch canine agility demonstrations and see the famous Springer Spaniel trio Max, Paddy and Harry, who have thousands of followers on social media.

Guests can try their hand at towing during free one-to-one sessions with experts from The Camping and Caravanning Club.

The Caravan and Motorhome Club will also be offering visitors the chance to get behind the wheel with campervan test drives and motorhome maneuvering sessions.

Plus the Holiday Park Experience and Glamping Village will be giving ideas and help for planning your 2020 trips.

A family at the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2020

Tickets

If you don’t win our prize then tickets for the show are available now and priced at £8 for adults and £7 for seniors.

Tickets on the door cost £10 for adults and £9 seniors – children 15 and under go free.

Competition terms and Conditions

We have two sets of two tickets for any day of the show.

Entries close at 11.59pm on February 10 and the winner will be announced on February 11.

No prize or part of the prize is exchangeable for cash or other services.

Entrants must be aged 16 or over and UK resident only.

The first correct entry selected at random after the closing date will receive the tickets.

More information

For further information about The Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show, the latest news or to buy tickets visit the website.

Big plans for Orlando for 2020 – new rides, resorts, restaurants and more

Big plans for Orlando for 2020 – new rides, resorts, restaurants and more

What is new for the Theme Park Capital of the World this year at attractions including Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld

Orlando in Florida is welcoming 30 new additions for 2020.

There will be a theme park expansion, the world’s tallest slingshot ride, an ‘acoustically perfect’ theatre, a new celebrity chef restaurant and one of the largest booms for hotel growth in decades.

Theme Parks

Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Walt Disney World Resort)

*The first-ever Mickey-themed ride-through attraction, ‘Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway,’ will open.

*Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance’ has opened and is the second attraction for the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land.

Epcot (Walt Disney World Resort)

Epcot is undergoing one of the biggest transformations of any Disney park in history, bringing a host of new attractions and experiences in 2020, including:

*Three new films from January 17: Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360 and Awesome Planet.

*Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens in summer 2020, shrinking guests to the size of Chef Remy and racing them through Gusteau’s restaurant on a wild adventure.

*Epcot’s new nighttime spectacular HarmonioUS, the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park.

*La Crêperie de Paris, a new restaurant located in the France pavilion at Epcot, debuting in summer 2020, offering both table and quick-service crepe options.

Universal Orlando Resort

*The Bourne Stuntacular, a cutting-edge live-action stunt show based on Universal Pictures’ blockbuster Bourne films, will debut in spring 2020 at Universal Studios Florida.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

*Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando, opening spring 2020, takes riders on the steepest vertical drop in Florida.

*Riptide Race at Aquatica Orlando will be Florida’s first-ever dueling water slide, featuring side-by-side racing lanes through nearly 650 feet of slide.

New Entertainment Beyond the Parks

Outside the famous theme parks, Orlando is reaching new heights this year, from some of the world’s tallest thrills rides to one of the most acoustically perfect spaces on earth.

*Steinmetz Hall at the Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, opening September 2020, will achieve an N1 sound rating – the lowest level at which humans can detect sound.

Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

*ICON Park, located on International Drive and home to The Wheel and Starflyer attractions, will welcome more record-breaking attractions in 2020, including two major thrill rides:

The Orlando Slingshot will catapult guests 450 feet into the air and is set to the be the World’s Tallest Slingshot ride.

The Orlando Gyro Drop Tower will reach 400 feet, making it the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower. Riders freefall at up to 75 miles per hour.

*The Orlando Science Center’s ‘Pompeii: The Immortal City,’ runs June 6 to September 7, 2020 and is one of only four US sites for the interactive exhibit.

Orlando Science Center

Orlando Science Center

*’Drawn to Life,’ a new Cirque du Soleil show, transports guests into the world of Disney’s animation in Cirque’s signature style, opening at Disney Springs in March 2020.

*Wild Florida’s 75-acre drive-through safari park brings visitors nose-to-snout with giraffes, wild boars and other animals. The safari area will include a zipline over a grazing area.

*Two Orlando malls are set to undergo enhancements in 2020 – Pointe Orlando and Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets.

New Resorts and Hotels

Orlando has the second highest number of hotel rooms of anywhere in the US and is undergoing a huge hotel expansion.

*JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa opens February 2020 with 516 rooms, a Spa and a rooftop terrace with nightly views of theme park fireworks.

JW Marriott Orlando kids room

JW Marriott Orlando

*Universal Orlando Resort’s 2,050-room Dockside Inn and Suites opens March 2020. It is a coastal-themed budget hotel with rates starting at $76 per night.

New Restaurants

There are a host of new eateries adding to Orlando’s diverse food scene.

*Knife & Spoon at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, is a concept from chef John Tesar, opening spring 2020.

*Ole Red, a new restaurant by country superstar Blake Shelton, will open at ICON Park in 2020 and merge southern hospitality, good food and live country music. Also coming to ICON Park in 2020 is Ox Grill, offering contemporary fare with steaks, pasta and a selection of international dishes.

*Camelo Pizzaria opens on International Drive in early 2020. The Brazilian thin-crust pizza place is the first location outside Brazil.

*Sixty Vines, a restaurant with Napa Valley-inspired seasonal cuisine, will open in spring 2020 in Winter Park and offer guests 60 varieties of wine on tap.

*Norman’s will be moving to Restaurant Row. Created by celebrity chef Norman Van Aken, the concept will open in the Dellagio Plaza spring 2020.

*Kavas Tacos + Tequila at Pointe Orlando opens September 2020. The locally owned restaurant will feature Mexican comfort food, tequila flights and entertainment. Also opening at Pointe Orlando is The Hampton Social, themed after the New York coastal resort region.

*AG’s Market, a lakefront food hall opening late 2020, combines retail, beverage and food options with a second-floor seating area showcasing the theme park fireworks.

For all the updates and tips for planning a trip go to VisitOrlando.com

Visit Orlando is the official tourism association for the most visited destination in the United States.

The best holiday destinations in April for families

The best holiday destinations in April for families

We’ve put together a selection of the best destinations for Easter breaks

April is a great time to travel – whether you are tied to the Easter holidays or not. You can jet off for some sunshine, enjoy a staycation in the UK or depart for a city break. We have rounded up our favourite April options.

Denmark

Time from UK: 90 minutes

Temperature: 10C

We visited the original LEGOLAND in Billund, Denmark in April, it was chilly but there was plenty to do and crowds were low. Read about it here.

The entrance to Legoland in Billund, Denmark

The entrance to Legoland in Billund, Denmark

If you stay at Lalandia next door there is a giant indoor water park and ice rink. Read about it here.

Billund is now known as the Capital of Children and is regarded as one of the most child-friendly places to live and work.

Texas

Time from UK: 10 hours

Temperature: 25C

Rio Grande River, Texas

Rio Grande River, Texas

If you only associate Texas with 1980’s American soap opera Dallas, then think again.

The second largest state in the US, has loads of appeal for a family holiday.

But get to Texas before it gets too hot – April or October are the best times.

You can hit Houston – the home of NASA with children’s museums and parks. Then head to the coast at Galveston or Corpus Christi for sea and sand.

Malta

Time from UK: 3.5 hours

Temperature: 18-20C

Aerial shot of Popeye Village in Malta

Popeye Village in Malta

This island nation in the Mediterranean between Sicily and North Africa may be small, but Malta has lots to offer for a family holiday.

You can split your time between Malta and its quieter sister island Gozo.

Families can explore Malta’s capital – the old town of Valletta and see dolphins and sea lions at the Mediterraneo Marine Park.

There is also a Playmobil Fun Park for little ones.

Plus Popeye Village Malta, a former Popeye film set, is now a tourist attraction with a number of activities for children.

Portugal

Time from UK: 2.5 hours

Temperature: 17-20C

Lisbon

Lisbon

The Algarve is the traditional favourite for a family holiday to Portugal, but what about Lisbon and its coast?

You can enjoy the old trams around the city, visit Europe’s largest aquarium and then head for the beaches at Cascais and Guincho.

Pricewise, it is one of the cheapest options in Europe for families.

UK – Bath

Temperature: 10C

Why not try a mix and match Easter break centred on the historic city of Bath.

Explore the Roman baths and the Royal Crescent landmark in this south of England city, in the county of Somerset.

And then if you get some spring sunshine it’s not too far to the beach at Weston Super Mare for some old fashioned seaside fun.

If it rains, you could visit some of nearby Bristol’s indoor attractions like SS Great Britain, the Planetarium, Aerospace Bristol and We The Curious, the city’s science museum.

Where do you like to go in April? Tell us below!

Best family holiday destinations for warm weather and sunshine in March

Best family holiday destinations for warm weather and sunshine in March

Where to travel in March for the best family holidays with your children abroad in the sun or here in the UK

In March, the promise of warmth is coming and you won’t have to go quite as far to seek out the sunshine.

Here are our top picks for family trips in the third month of the year.

Morocco

Travel time from the UK: 3.5 hours

Temperature: 17-25C

Aerial view of Agadir, Morocco

Agadir, Morocco

Morocco is nicely warm in March.

You can choose the explosion of sights and smells in Marrakech or Casablanca.

But there are also more straightforward bucket-and-spade holiday options in a ready-made tourist resort like Agadir with sweeping beaches and large all-inclusive hotels.

Los Angeles, USA

Travel time from the UK: 10 hours

Temperature: 20C

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

LA in California is hot and humid in the summer but ideal in early spring.

There’s a Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios of course but also the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the beaches of Santa Monica and museums with everything from dinosaurs to space shuttles.

Florida, USA

Travel time from the UK: 10 hours

Temperature: 20-26C

Hogwarts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Florida

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Florida

Florida is at its best when it isn’t too hot to hit Disney World.

In spring it isn’t too hot to queue for rides but is warm enough to be on the beach.

There are so many activities for children and make sure you consider alternatives to Orlando and its theme parks, like the Tampa Bay area, the Gulf Coast from Naples or south to the Florida Keys.

Madrid

Travel time from the UK: 2 hours

Temperature: 16C

Madrid

Madrid

The Spanish capital is warming up in March for a city break with a difference.

You can explore the parks and squares as well as sample some tapas.

Madrid also has an excellent zoo and aquarium, a cable car and on the outskirts there is the Warner Bros theme park.

Windermere, Lake District, UK

Temperature: 8C

Windermere in the Lake District

Windermere

March means daffodils across the beautiful Lake District in the northwest of England.

Yes, it’s still cold but there is so much colour.

We visited Windermere in March where you can balance spring walks with indoor attractions like the World of Beatrix Potter and the Aquarium of the Lakes. Read our article here: Five family-friendly activities around Windermere in the Lake District

Where do you like to holiday in March? We would love to know!

The best February half-term holiday destinations in the UK and abroad

The best February half-term holiday destinations in the UK and abroad

Where are the best holiday destinations to take your children in February half-term?

Half-term in February is often the toughest month to find a break – it’s cold, money is tight after Christmas but there are some good options to enjoy a fabulous holiday with your children.

Gran Canaria

Travel time from the UK: 4 hours

Temperature: 18-21C

Maspalomas in Gran Canaria

Maspalomas in Gran Canaria

This island has the most activities of any in the Canaries.

There is a wildlife sanctuary in the hills, Palmitos Park, plus watermarks, camel rides on the dunes of Maspalomas and much more.

We went in February and the weather was great.

*The other Canary Islands are also great options including Tenerife, Lanzarote (read our review here or ) and Fuerteventura (read our review of a holiday in Fuerteventura here).

Oman

Travel time from the UK: 7.5 hours

Temperature: 22-26C

Oman

Oman

Quieter and less developed than Dubai or Abu Dhabi, Oman offers an authentic glimpse into the Middle East.

There are plenty of family resorts along the coastline and the capital Muscat is worth a visit too.

*It is a good time of year for other Middle East destinations as well such as Dubai or Abu Dhabi, where the temperature will be a similar 22-26C.

Malaysia

Travel time from the UK: 14 hours

Temperature: 28-32C

Malaysia

Malaysia

There is loads to see in Malaysia. You can spend a couple of days in the buzzing capital Kuala Lumpur with the Petronas Towers which were once the world’s tallest building, then travel to Penang for its beaches, resorts and colonial Georgetown.

New Zealand

Travel time from the UK: 22 hours

Temperature: 22-25C

New Zealand

New Zealand

The furthest family trip but it will be worth it. February is ideal for the North and South Island. Don’t miss the beaches of the Bay of Islands, the bubbling geysers in Rotorua, whale watching in Kaikoura and adrenaline fuelled fun in Queenstown. You need two weeks minimum but this is the time of year to take it.

Liverpool, UK

Temperature: 5C

Liverpool

Liverpool

Winter is a good time to try a big city like Liverpool with plenty of indoor attractions. You can meet some dinosaurs at the World Museum Liverpool, find out about the history of the city at the Liverpool Museum, pop into the Beatles Experience, take a tour of Anfield the home of Liverpool FC and cross the Mersey on the famous ferry.

The city centre is compact and the waterfront spectacular even in bracing weather.

*Where do you like to go in February? Let us know below!

 

Gangsta Granny: The Ride comes to Alton Towers based on the popular book as part of the new World of David Walliams

Gangsta Granny: The Ride comes to Alton Towers based on the popular book as part of the new World of David Walliams

Grannies go free at Alton Towers in 2020 to celebrate the opening of the World of David Walliams

Staffordshire theme park Alton Towers has revealed that the star attraction of its soon-to-open World of David Walliams themed area will be Gangsta Granny: The Ride.

The world-first ride experience is inspired by Walliams’ biggest selling children’s novel Gangsta Granny.

Fans will also be able to stay overnight in one of four Gangsta Granny themed bedrooms in the Alton Towers Hotel.

Stay overnight in a Gangsta Granny room

Stay overnight in a Gangsta Granny room

We revealed last year that the World of David Walliams will be arriving at Alton Towers this Spring (2020) with a host of rides and attractions, bringing to life much-loved characters from the author’s children’s novels.

To celebrate the launch of Gangsta Granny: The Ride, Alton Towers is offering a new Grannies Go Free pass for 2020.

Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, Gangsta Granny tells the story of Ben who discovers that his Granny is secretly an international jewel thief.

David Walliams works with Alton Towers on the new Gangsta Granny ride

David Walliams works with Alton Towers on the new Gangsta Granny ride

Comedian, actor and best-selling author David Walliams OBE said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that Gangsta Granny is becoming a ride at Alton Towers.

“I never imagined it would happen so it’s a real delight to see my characters brought to life in a ride.

“I’ve worked really closely with the team at Alton Towers to make sure the ride is just as funny and exciting as the book. I think children and their parents and even their grandparents are going to love it!”

The new 4D ride experience will see guests join the main characters as they attempt the greatest heist in the history of the world: to steal the Crown Jewels.

On-board a royal carriage, they will set off on a Crown Jewels tour only to be caught up in Ben and Granny’s adventure.

The ride will whizz, twist and spin passengers 360 degrees through a series of scenes where they will see, feel, hear and even smell an electrifying and unique retelling of the Gangsta Granny story.

Using state-of-the-art special effects, 3D projection-mapping and animation inspired by the artwork of Tony Ross, passengers will descend with Ben and Granny into the sewers, be chased through the streets of London and even come face to face with the Queen.

Gangsta Granny The Ride at Alton Towers

In other parts of the David Walliams area will be Raj’s Shop, a Royal Carousel, Raj’s Bouncy Bottom Burp and other surprises.

John Burton, Creative Lead for Alton Towers Resort, said: “David’s stories are full of witty characters, intrigue and exhilaration so it’s been a fantastic challenge to build all that into a new ride experience.

“It’s the first time we’ve attempted such a complex combination of a physical ride experience, high-tech special effects and brilliant story-telling to ensure guests feel they are with Granny and Ben on every step of their adventure.”

Alton Towers in Staffordshire, a member of the Merlin Entertainments family, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

It opens for 2020 on March 21.

The park says the new area will open in the Spring but has not given an official launch date yet.

Grannies (and Grandads) go free

Alton Towers is offering one free adult (aged 60 and over) ticket per full price child ticket when bought by March 20. The free tickets can be used during the 2020 season (March 21 to November 1, 2020). For full terms and conditions, go to www.altontowers.com/tandcs

Gangsta Granny-themed rooms

There are four themed rooms in the Alton Towers Hotel. They cost from £281.50, based on a family-of-four with bed and breakfast, book via altontowers.com

Gangsta Granny Facts

It was first published on 27th October 2011.

The anniversary edition was published in 2018.

Gangsta Granny was David’s first children’s number one bestseller.

It stayed at the top of The Sunday Times top ten for 24 weeks.

Overall sales of Gangsta Granny are 1.75 million in the UK alone.

Gangsta Granny has also been adapted for the stage by the Birmingham Stage Company.

A television adaptation was commissioned by the BBC in 2013 and first aired on BBC One on Boxing Day 2013. The cast includes Miranda Hart, Rob Brydon, David Walliams as Ben’s Dad and Joanna Lumley as The Queen. It is currently available to view on Netflix.

David Walliams

David closed 2019 as the UK’s biggest-selling author. His titles took three of the top 10 overall bestselling books of 2019 as well as the top three bestselling children’s books of the year.

He is one of the most influential children’s writers and has revolutionised reading for children.

Since the publication of his ground-breaking first novel, The Boy in the Dress (2008), global sales of his books have exceeded 37 million copies.

Across his titles, he has celebrated a total of 55 weeks at number one in the overall book charts and more than 150 weeks at number one in the children’s charts – more than any other children’s writer.

His most recent novel, The Beast of Buckingham Palace, was published in November 2019 and went straight to number one in in the overall industry bestseller charts where it remained for four weeks and included the coveted UK Christmas number one spot.

*For more information on Gangsta Granny: The Ride and other new attractions inspired by the books of David Walliams visit  www.altontowers.com/Walliams.

Finding the real tv Hunter Street house in Amsterdam

Finding the real tv Hunter Street house in Amsterdam

We take our children in search of the actual Hunter Street house in the Netherlands

Hunter Street is a popular Nickelodeon/TeenNick children’s television series, set in Amsterdam.

The first series started in March, 2017 when a boy called Max joins the Hunter family.

When he and the four other children Anika, Sal, Tess, and Daniel, wake up the next morning, they discover that their foster parents Erik and Kate have disappeared.

They turn detectives to try to find out what happened to them while keeping up appearances that everything is fine.

It’s a family adventure following clues, boat racing through canals, exploring tunnels and finding lost treasure while fighting off bad guys.

Their grand home also houses a museum, which the family run.

In real life though, the Hunter House exterior is a real home.

Our two children love this comedy/drama so when we visited Amsterdam they were keen to find this actual Hunter House.

The address is Singel 140-142, a small canalside road just outside the heart of the city.

We got there via a tram to Nieuwezijds Kolk stop and it was then about a five-minute walk, through some side streets and over a canal.

The exterior of the actual Hunter Street house from the Nickelodeon tv series

It’s a big, tall building on the canal. Our children were excited to see it and enjoyed having their picture taken outside but did complain the black door in the series had been painted dark green!

The house is private property so you won’t be able to go in and see inside.

Plus you won’t spot any of the stars as the actual show is filmed elsewhere in the Netherlands, in Aalsmeer.

The exterior of the actual Hunter Street house from the Nickelodeon television series

Hunter Street stars Stony Blyden, Mae Mae Renfrow, Kyra Smith, Thomas Jansen, and Daan Creyghton. Wilson Radjou-Pujalte and Kate Bensdorp join the cast in the second season, and Eliyha Altena and Sarah Nauta join in the third season.

It is produced in the Netherlands by Blooming Media and was co-developed with the Nickelodeon Netherlands television series De Ludwigs.

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s top attractions and activities for children

RELATED CONTENT: Our full guide to getting around Amsterdam with children

RELATED CONTENT: Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s park and ride service – all you need to know

Annual passes and membership at top attractions across the UK in 2020 – our tips and advice

Annual passes and membership at top attractions across the UK in 2020 – our tips and advice

We investigate some of the popular annual passes for 2020 including Merlin, National Trust, English Heritage and Chester Zoo

There are so many amazing places to take children across the UK but the cost can really add up, especially over the holidays.

So is it worth splurging on an annual pass so you can visit your favourite places as often as you want? We investigate the most popular options for 2020.

Merlin Pass

The Octonauts ride at Alton Towers

Alton Towers

What is it?

The UK’s biggest annual pass offering entry to 32 Merlin attractions including Alton Towers, Legoland and more.

What do you get?

Entry to 32 attractions – London Eye, Chessington World of Adventures, Thorpe Park, Alton Towers, Warwick Castle, Sea Life Centres, LEGOLAND Windsor, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres, Madam Tussauds sites, Blackpool Tower, five Dungeon sites around the UK, Shrek’s Adventure.

You also get free car parking at theme parks and Warwick Castle (with a Premium Pass), 20 per cent off food and drink inside and discounted entry for family and friends.

How much is it?

The Standard Pass is £179 per person, £139 per person for a family pass for 3 or more people (maximum three over-12s).

The Premium Pass is £229 per person. £189 each for a family pass.

If you renew the pass after 12 months, the family price drops to £109 (standard) and £149 (premium).

Can I pay monthly?

Yes you can, with a new monthly membership option.

For the Standard Pass it costs £29.99 per person joining fee and then £8.99 per month per person.

The total cost over a year would be – £137.87 per person, similar to a family pass cost.

For the Premium Pass the cost is £34.99 joining fee and then £11.99 per month. The total cost is £178.87 per person, similar to an annual family pass.

Note: you have to sign up for a minimum of 12 months.

What about the small print?

The Premium Pass gives you entry to all attractions at all times plus priority entry to venues, a fast track pass voucher and free parking.

With the Standard Pass, you ARE restricted on which days you can use it at certain attractions.

In August and all UK Bank Holidays: No entry to any central London attractions including London Eye, Sea Life, Shrek’s Adventure, the London Dungeon and Madame Tussauds London.

Valentine’s Day: No London Eye entry.

October half-term weekends around Halloween: No entry to London Dungeon.

Friday, Saturday or Sunday in August and September 1: No entry to Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington, LEGOLAND Windsor, Warwick Castle.

No free parking at any attraction with a Standard pass.

How much could you save?

The standard pass costs £46 per month for a family of four (2 adults, 2 children).

If you visited one attraction a month, Merlin’s website claims you will save £684 over a year compared with on-the-day entry.

You can use the Merlin Pass official calculator here.

However there are lots of 2 for 1 offers available online and via cereal packets and newspapers for most of these attractions, so nobody should be paying full price.

That makes the pass roughly the same price as a monthly visit to a Merlin attraction.

Verdict

In order to save money with this pass you need to visit more than 12 attractions in the year. If you are going to manage that then it could be good value.

Top tip

Look out for Merlin pass discounts – this usually happens in January and June. You can save between £20 and £50.

(For our reviews, tips and advice on LEGOLAND Windsor, click here).

National Trust membership

deer outside Dunham Massey

Dunham Massey

What is it?

An annual pass giving free entry to more than 500 National Trust parks, gardens and houses.

What do you get?

Free entry to National Trust sites, free parking at most car parks, a handbook and a National Trust magazine three times per year.

How much is it?

A family pass for 2 adults and up to 10 children (living at the same address) costs £126 per year.

For 1 adult and up to 10 children it is £78 per year.

Children under 5 go free anyway, so take that into account. You can pay by monthly direct debit if you prefer.

What about the small print?

It is relatively simple but there are some car parks not included for free. Sites like Stonehenge and Tatton Park, which aren’t exclusively run by the National Trust, can incur some charges.

You have to sign up for a year at a time and can only cancel when your renewal is due. Be sure to mark your renewal date in your diary so you don’t miss it.

How much could you save?

Average entry price to a large National Trust place is around £30 for a family of four so you can save a lot.

Car parking can be costly too, from £3 to £7 at a lot of places.

Membership costs £10.50 per month for a family with two adults and £6.50 for a family with one adult, so if you go to a NT site once a month or more, you canstart to save money.

Verdict

Good value for the sheer number of sites and car parks you can use, especially if you have a good selection near to you, as we do.

(We have lots of National Trust articles on this site, including reviews of Dunham MasseyQuarry Bank MillTatton Park, and our Famous Five trail in Dorset).

English Heritage membership

A visitor does a handstand in front of the stones at Stonehenge

Stonehenge

What is it?

A pass allowing access to 400 historic places including Stonehenge, Dover Castle, Tintagel Castle and more.

What do you get?

Unlimited access to 400 sites, free car parking, free entry for up to 6 children, a handbook, children’s activity pack and members’ magazine four times per year.

How much is it?

A family membership for 2 adults and up to 12 children costs £105 per year. For 1 adult and up to 6 children, it is £60.

What about the small print?

Not all events at English Heritage sites are free for members. They do get a reduced rate though.

You will get a reminder  letter one month before membership renewal. You must cancel at that time or pay for another year in full.

How much could you save?

Entry to each site varies in price. There are some for less than £20 for a family of four, but others come to £50.

You need to visit at least five English Heritage sites per year to start saving money.

If you need ideas then this is a good page on their website here.

Verdict

Lots of properties but if you also have National Trust membership as well, do you really need both?

(For our review of Stonehenge, click here).

Chester Zoo membership

An orangutan and a baby orangutan in a hammock at Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo

What is it?

Annual membership to the most popular tourist attraction outside London.

What do you get?

Unlimited access to Chester Zoo, Fast track entry, 10 per cent discount in the zoo’s shops and cafes, a quarterly magazine, access to junior members’ events, one free entry annually at several other UK zoos (Bristol Zoo, Colchester Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, Newquay Zoo, Living Coasts, Marwell Zoo, Paignton Zoo and Twycross Zoo).

How much is it?

Individual adult membership is £95 and it is £53 per child, if paying by direct debit and £105 and £59 if not.

So family membership for 2 adults and 2 children is £245 per year by direct debit.

What about the small print?

Fairly straightforward, the zoo is open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. You can go anytime. If you are using your free visit to another zoo you must take your membership card and membership letter.

How much could you save?

A day visit to Chester Zoo is up to £85 for a family of four booked in advance. There are rarely offers and discounts available.

You must all visit the zoo at least four times per year to start saving money.

Verdict

If you live close enough to visit regularly and have children who enjoy it, a Chester Zoo pass is a great family treat. Plus if you are members, you don’t feel you have to see every single animal and area each time and spend a whole day there for every visit, which is far more relaxed.

Top tip

If you are planning to visit, don’t miss our popular article Chester Zoo – our top tips to save you time and money.