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Things to do in Nuremberg with children – the best family activities

Things to do in Nuremberg with children – the best family activities

Top activities for kids in Nuremberg, Germany, from castles to theme parks, museums to festivals

Many people have only heard of Nuremberg (German: Nürnberg) in connection with its history.

It was of course the setting for the Nuremberg Trials held by the Allies against Nazi German leaders.

But it’s not only popular with history buffs. This city, located in the German state of Bavaria, has a lot of appeal for families too with plenty of things for children to do.

The Imperial Castle

A great starting point for any visit to Nuremberg is the Imperial Castle. It has been standing on a hill above the city since the 13th century.

In the past, it stood firm to repel visiting armies, now, it’s a peaceful spot. There’s a lovely garden around the edge, with benches and views over the city.

You can reach the castle by going through tunnels and gates which guarded the fortress in years gone by.

Inside there are tours of the castle or you can wander freely.

The cobbled streets around it are traffic-free and are a beautiful area to explore and imagine.

If your youngsters are interested in art, below the castle is Albrecht Durer’s House, where perhaps Germany’s most famous painter lived. The house is open to visitors.

Imperial Castle
Imperial Castle

City centre

Nuremberg’s historic centre is one of Germany’s most traditional. The area from the castle down to the main market square has some wonderful buildings, restaurants and is like stepping back in time.

There’s a market on most days in the main market square with stalls selling food, drinks, local produce and gifts.

It really comes alive for the famous Christmas Market, which is the city’s busiest time of year.

Nuremberg city centre river

Tiergarten Zoo

On the edge of the city is Nuremberg Zoo. You can reach it by tram numbers 5 or 11 from the city centre.

It’s one of the best zoos we’ve ever visited as it’s set in a forest so it’s a beautiful walk even without animals around every corner.

There’s lots of space so it doesn’t feel crowded. Among the highlights for us was seeing polar bears playing together in their enclosure.

We also watched a dolphin and sea lion show in front of a packed crowd in the sunshine which we enjoyed despite not understanding a word the presenters were saying (we don’t speak much German).

Another high point, literally for our daughter, was the bungee trampoline area. This costs extra but she was thrilled to bounce above the trees and have fun.

It’s quite a hilly site and there’s a lot of walking involved but being in the forest means it’s quite shaded even though it was 25 degrees when we visited.

There’s a cafe in the far corner of the zoo or you can bring a picnic.

A gorilla statue at Nuremberg Zoo

Playmobil FunPark

On the outskirts of the city is this large theme park, designed for children aged between four and nine.

There are different themed ‘worlds’ around the park with both indoor and outdoor areas to explore.

There’s a pirate ship to play on, knights castle to enjoy and other attractions based around the popular toys.

The park is open daily between 9am and 7pm.

Nuremberg’s Historical Past

If you’ve got older children studying World War Two then Nuremberg is home to two famous sites.

The first is the huge arena and area where Adolf Hitler and the Nazis held massive rallies for up to 700,000 people in the 1930s.

The arena is still on the site and there’s also a museum about the events which was being renovated when we visited.

You can also learn more about the Nuremberg Trials, where leading Nazis were prosecuted in 1945. You can step inside the exact court room, court 600, which is still being used for criminal trials today.

There’s a small exhibition about the trials on the floor above the court room. You’re given an audioguide to take round as the display boards are only in German.

Nuremberg Trials court room
Nuremberg Trials court room

Museums

Nuremberg is home to a host of museums – there’s a few which may suit children.

The Railway Museum is the oldest in the country.

Nuremberg has quite a history with rail travel as this was where the first steam train in Germany ran.

 You can see that train – the Nordgau – in the museum.

The Museum of the Future looks at how the world could be in 2050 with interactive exhibits for children.

Another museum instead looks back in time. Nuremberg has a tradition of toy making dating back 600 years. The Toy Museum features some of those toys from years gone by.

City Tour

A miniature train takes visitors around the old city from the Market to the Imperial Castle. It’s a walkable distance but the train is fun for younger children or to rest tired legs.

Festivals

We were lucky to visit when one of Nuremberg’s two annual festivals were on.

The Volksfest is a giant funfair with dozens of rides, a ferris wheel, large beer garden and stalls selling food and drink. It was a great insight into German culture and we loved wandering around and trying some of the rides.

The festivals are on for two weeks around Easter and also another two weeks in late August and September. Try and coincide your visit with them if you can.

Swinging on a ride at Volkfest
Volkfest

Nuremberg Cards

We used the great Nürnberg card designed for tourists.

The card offers free public transport and free access to most attractions for a set period of time.

Ours was €33 for an adult for 48 hours, and just €11 for children aged six to 11. Younger children are free.

It really made it easy to get around without worrying about individual tickets for different types of transport.

Nuremberg has underground trains, buses, trams and overground trains to choose from.

Just a visit to the zoo would cover more than half the cost of the card so if you’re going there it definitely makes sense to get one.

We got full value from our cards and found them easy to use and accepted everywhere we visited around the city, which doesn’t always happen with cards like this.

For more ideas of things to do in Nuremberg visit Tourismus-Zentrale Nürnberg

We visited as part of an Interrail trip and so arrived by train which works well as the station is in the city centre.

We stayed in an apartment hotel: Living Hotel Nuremberg, Germany: Review and tips

Living Hotel Nuremberg Germany GV Outside
Living Hotel Nuremberg

*We were given Nuremberg cards to try for the purpose of this review, all views are our own.

Interrail – our guide and top tips for travelling around Europe by train

Interrail – our guide and top tips for travelling around Europe by train

Everything you need to know before using an Interrail Pass

What is an Interrail Pass?

An Interrail Pass is a train pass that lets you travel as much as you want across most of Europe.

They are for European residents or citizens only, if you live outside Europe you need a Eurail Pass instead.

Different types of Passes

Location

Interrail Global Pass is valid in 33 European countries, perfect for if you are travelling across more than one country.

Interrail One Country Pass, is self-explanatory – it works across one country. It lets you explore all corners of one country to really get to know it.

Time

You can choose a pass which lasts for anything from four days to three months.

Class

You also have the option of first or second class passes and this depends on your budget.

Second-class is more affordable but the difference in price isn’t as much as you would think and the extra luxury when travelling can really be worth it. Also, meals are often included which you can take off the cost.

Mobile or paperless

Mobile Passes work on your phone if you have Apple devices iOS 13.0 and later and Android devices 6.0 and later. 

This means you can have access to your Interrail Pass straight away and should never leave it behind. It also doesn’t start until you travel.

Issues can occur if you are using the Interrail app and it crashes so keep your mobile pass code handy, it will be a six-digit PNR code.

Traditional paper passes can be ordered online or bought at railway stations. You have to state the start date which offers less flexibility.

What to take with you

Pack as lightly as you possibly can as you will be carrying your luggage around a lot. Backpacks are seen as a traditional option but many like us, opt for suitcases with wheels. We chose these ones from Amazon – the grey three-piece – really reasonably priced, attractive and sturdy, plus they hold a lot. We took the large one on our train trip and used packing bags inside it. We also took the small for spare items, rain coats and electronics.

While you need to limit what you take, don’t forget the essentials:

*Passports and European Health Insurance Cards.

*A steel water bottle that you can refill. This means there is no need to keep buying plastic bottles and everyone can see which is theirs.

*Travel adapters and multiple chargers. We took this European adapter for a British plug to use with my laptop and hair straighteners and this one with only USB sockets for phones and Kindles.

Make the most of sockets on trains and in stations to charge your devices.

*First aid kit – make sure you have painkillers, plasters and travel sickness tablets if needed, plus of course any medication you need and hand gel.

*Credit card/cash – We took some cash for emergencies, around 100 euros, but used specialist cards with no foreign exchange fees. Our preferred one is Halifax Clarity but there are others available. Take a spare card in case one doesn’t work. And always pay in euros never pounds, if you have the option.

*No matter how nice the scenery, nobody and especially children, will want to spend hours and hours on trains just looking out of the window, so make sure you take things to occupy you such as a Kindle or other e-reader (you don’t want to be lugging books around), tablets, card games, activity books, cards or travel games which won’t take up too much precious room. Download any books, podcasts, films or shows before you go, there is often WiFi but it can be sporadic.

*Headphones – the whole train doesn’t want to hear Peppa Pig.

*Comfortable clothes and shoes, this isn’t the time for worrying too much about what you look like and being fashionable.

*A random one, but if you like an uncommon tea, take a few bags with you, I take peppermint tea bags with me then can always ask for a hot water to put my tea bag in if they don’t have any.

Seat reservations

So the beauty of an Interrail pass is being able to hop on and off trains as much as you like. However it’s definitely worth booking seats on busy routes.

Some trains have compulsory booking including Eurostar, other high speed trains, night trains and many in France, Italy and Spain, so make sure to check first.

It also means you are guaranteed a seat, usually have access to a charging point and can sit with any friends or family you are travelling with, especially important when you are with children of course.

The price of seat reservations is sadly not included in the Interrail Pass and the cost can build up.

You can avoid paying seat reservation fees entirely by taking smaller regional trains but this will make the journey a lot slower. We preferred paying for speedier trips between locations but if you’ve got lots of time, it’s an option.

Interrail App

Download Interrail’s Rail Planner app to keep track of your journeys, book seat reservations and access your Mobile Pass.

It should also give you the latest information on train timetables although this relies on you keeping it up-to-date. Some people have also reported issues with the data being wrong in places like Poland.

Alternative sites for timetable data include DB Reiseauskunft.

There’s also a fantastic website which explains everything about European trains and tips and ideas for Interrail newbies called The Man in Seat 61 – we used it to plan a lot of our trip, especially reserving seats and looking at route options.

Accommodation

Book your accommodation in advance. If you are travelling with children you need to know you have a safe, welcoming space where you can all relax and recharge.

It also makes sense to book breakfast in the hotel if you’ve got a long journey that day so the children can fill up on food they like rather than relying on the train menu, which isn’t really designed for youngsters.

Night Trains

If you have a long journey and there is a sleeper train available, go for it! It is such a novelty for children and the cost is similar to a hotel.

However, don’t expect to want to do it again!

We took a night train from Munich to Venice. Boarding wasn’t until nearly midnight, then we had to make our own beds up in a very tiny compartment with a toilet down the corridor.

The beds were hard, the pillows very thin and the passengers getting on and off at the various stops, so noisy, it sounded like they were in a compartment with us!

Am I glad we did it though? Absolutely. It’s a night we won’t forget in a hurry.

When things go wrong

No matter how carefully you plan, something is likely to go wrong.

You can’t prepare for train delays or cancellations, except to try to allocate more time and vow to keep calm when plans change.

Our first day of travelling on our Interrail trip went very wrong before we had even left the UK – full diary here.

There were multiple train cancellations due to signal problems on the line and we struggled to even get to London in order to leave the country and get on the Eurostar. Thankfully, all went smoothly once we had boarded.

Try not to let children pick up on your stress, you don’t want to spoil the trip for them.

Let them know in advance that things might go wrong but that it is all an adventure.

Above all, make the most of this amazing opportunity to explore new places. And of course, have fun.

Now read our INTERRAIL DIARY: Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

*This article contains affiliate links to products we genuinely bought for our trip and recommend. We may make a commission if you make a purchase after clicking on one of them.

*We had complimentary passes for our Interrail trip to enable us to review a holiday like this, all views, as ever, are our own.

We would love to hear any other tips you have, have we missed anything? Please comment!

As UK airport drop-off fees soar – read our full guide and top tips including how to avoid them

As UK airport drop-off fees soar – read our full guide and top tips including how to avoid them

A new guide compares the ‘kiss and fly’ charges at airports across the UK

Finding a kind friend or family member to take you to the airport is not as cheap an option as it used to be.

Now, when weighing up the best way to get to and from the airport before setting off on a family holiday, you need to take into consideration more than just the fuel costs and time it will take your driver.

As your airport taxi service also faces increasing charges for using the designated drop-off areas at most UK airports.

Airport specialist Airport Parking and Hotels, is now helping designated drivers to plan ahead by revealing the range of so-called ‘kiss and fly’ charges at the 20 top UK airports.

It found that most airports charge a drop-off fee with the cost varying widely, for a set time, often just five or ten minutes, with extra charges for going over the limit.

The guide reveals costs and allocated times for dropping-off – as well as pick-up and parking – at UK airports including Manchester, London Gatwick, and Newcastle Airport.

Most expensive and cheapest airport drop-offs

​Of the airports investigated, London Stansted was among the most expensive, charging £7 for 15 minutes with Bristol, Leeds and London Gatwick charging drivers £6 for 10 minutes.

The cheapest airports, Norwich International and Southampton Airports, charge £5 for up to 30 minutes.

Free airport drop-offs

Only two were found to allow drivers the option of dropping-off outside the terminal for free – Cardiff International Airport and Birmingham International Airport – if drivers spend no longer than five minutes or 10 minutes respectively in the drop-off area.

Airports offering free drop-off may charge after a certain amount of time – Cardiff Airport charges £5 for every 10 minutes parked after the initial 10 minutes.

Free drop-off areas

Most airports do offer free drop-off areas however these come with a time limit and are usually located in long-stay car parks away from the airport forecourt, requiring a long walk or bus transfer to the terminal.

Our 8 airport drop-off top tips and how to avoid charges

  • 1. Research your chosen airport’s drop-off facilities before you travel so that you are aware of the charges, how to pay and stay times.
  • 2. Don’t park illegally on approach roads to drop off passengers, it can be dangerous and security cameras are likely to catch you.
  • 3. Many airports have a free area for drop-offs, you will have a walk though of up to 15 minutes or a shuttle ride to the terminal so this will not work for everyone or if you are short of time. For example, Heathrow Airport offers free parking for 30 minutes in its long-stay car parks and a free shuttle bus to terminals.
  • 4. It sounds obvious but make sure you park at the right terminal to avoid a long walk with heavy luggage – at Manchester for example, terminals 1 and 3 are only a short distance from one another, but Terminal 2 is further away – up to a 20-minute walk.
  • 5. Have any long goodbyes before you get to the airport, if you have an extended farewell when you get there, the costs could escalate – if you are at a Manchester drop-off area for over 10 minutes, you will receive a £25 fine.
  • 6. Make sure the driver has their payment ready, whatever the method including cash or card. Some airports only accept charges to be paid online, over the phone or by setting up an AutoPay account.
  • 7. If you are travelling by taxi, check whether the fare includes the drop-off fee.
  • 8. Don’t forget to consider other options before deciding how you will travel including public transport, off-site parking and shuttle services offered by nearby hotels. If you are parking at the airport it is normally much cheaper to pre-book.

Collection

When collecting loved ones, 14 airports permit collection of passengers from the terminal forecourt. Drivers at nine airports, including Bristol, must collect travellers from the short-stay car parks nearby, with the cost varying from free to £20 for up to one hour.

APH

APH conducted its research in February (2024).

Nick Caunter, APH managing director said: “Asking friends and family for a kiss and fly’ lift may seem like a good option, however once they’ve taken into account the cost of fuel, vehicle wear and tear and airport fees it may cost them a lot more than you think.

“Also, there is an environmental cost to consider from the extra return journey. 

“We advise travellers to do their research before asking friends or family as other options such as pre-booking airport parking can not only be cheaper, but also a more environmentally friendly way to travel.”

Related content

Flying with a baby or infant under two – our comprehensive guide will help you from the airport to the plane

Flying with children – 10 tips for keeping toddlers and young children happy on a plane

The 9 top tips to finding cheap flights for you and your family

English Heritage membership – is it worth it and what attractions does it include

English Heritage membership – is it worth it and what attractions does it include

We investigate English Heritage annual passes and where you can use them

Whether you love English Heritage and the sites it runs or know nothing about it (and them), we’ve got all you need to know when deciding whether to splash out on an annual membership.

What is English Heritage?

English Heritage manages and preserves over 400 historic monuments and places such as castles, stately homes, palaces, houses, abbeys, Roman forts and archaeological sites.

It also runs the Blue Plaque Scheme in London which commemorates the residencies of famous people of the past with over 900 plaques across the capital.

English Heritage was established in 1983 as a government body and became a charitable organization in 2015, allowing it to raise funds and operate more independently in its work to promote England’s history and heritage for future generations to enjoy.

Now, several million people visit its sites across England each year.

What is English Heritage annual membership?

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

It helps raise money for the charity while making access to its sites more affordable and accessible.

What do you get?

Unlimited access to more than 400 sites

Free car parking

Free entry for up to six children

A handbook

Children’s activity pack

Members’ magazine four times per year

Free or reduced entry to English Heritage events

How much is it?

A family membership for one adult and up to six children is £69 a year or £5.75 a month.

Family membership for two adults and up to 12 children costs £120 per year, £10 a month.

Individual memberships are £69 a year for an adult aged 26 and over, £63 for a senior aged 65 and over and £57 a year for a young adult (aged 18 to 25) or student.

Joint memberships start from £96 and lifetime memberships start from £1,350.

All up-to-date membership prices are here.

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 two to five English Heritage sites per year to start saving money.

Top Tips

English Heritage have sites in:

The North West including Hadrian’s Wall, Beeston Castle and Carlisle Castle.

The South West including Stonehenge, Tintagel Castle and Old Sarum.

The South East including Dover Castle, 1066 Battle Abbey and Osborne – Queen Victoria’s family home.

The West Midlands including Kenilworth Castle, Witley Court and Stokesay Castle.

The North East including Belsay Hall and Gardens, Lindisfarne Priory and Warkworth Castle.

Yorkshire including Brodsworth Hall, Whitby Abbey and Clifford’s Tower in York.

The East of England including Audley End House and Gardens, Wrest Park and Framlingham Castle.

London including Eltham Palace and Gardens, Ranger’s House and Jewel Tower.

For more ideas visit this page on their website.

Verdict

If there are English Heritage sites near to your or near to any holiday destinations you will be staying at and you think you will visit several in a year, then a membership is definitely worth it.

Having the pass will also encourage you to get out and about more to make use of it.

There are lots of English Heritage properties but if you have National Trust membership as well, do you really need both?

You could perhaps try National Trust for a year and English Heritage another year.

Related content

Our articles include reviews of Stonehenge and Tintagel Castle.

We investigate English Heritage and other popular family membership schemes including National Trust, Merlin, RHS and Chester Zoo – Annual passes and membership at top attractions across the UK in 2024 – our tips and advice

National Trust Membership – everything you need to know

National Trust Membership – everything you need to know

Is it worth getting a National Trust membership, what does it cost and is it worth it?

What is the National Trust?

The National Trust is Britain’s biggest charity and also the largest conservation charity in Europe.

It was founded in 1895 to protect heritage and natural landscapes for future generations,

It owns hundreds of large estates, historic houses and masses of countryside and open spaces.

What is National Trust membership?

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

It is staggering that over six million people are members of the National Trust.

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.

New members also receive a £15 National Trust giftcard.

How much is it?

A family pass for two adults living at the same address and their children or grandchildren (aged under 18) costs £146.40 per year, £12.20 a month.

A family pass for one adult and their children or grandchildren is £91.20 a year, £7.60 a month

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

Joint membership for two adults living at the same address is £139.20 a year, £11.60 a month.

Individual memberships are £10 a year for juniors under 18, £42 a year for a young person aged 18 to 25 and £84 a year for adults aged 26 and over.

You can also buy lifetime memberships from £2,020 and from £1,510 for seniors.

All the up-to-date membership prices can be found here.

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. We have just been to the Lake District where we used three car parks in one day, it all adds up.

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.

Having the membership really gets us out and about, we especially like the ones where dogs are welcome.

Top Tips

*You can buy National Trust Membership as a gift which the recipient can use again and again.

*We always keep our cards in the car as you never know when you will need them, for anything from an unplanned visit to a castle to a National Trust car park.

*National Trust venues are fantastic in the holidays – we particularly enjoy the Easter trails.

*If you apply to the National Trust for an Essential Companion card then members with additional needs can take one or two carers with them for free. Full details here. So a child with additional needs who is a National Trust member for £10 a year, can be accompanied for free by two parents, for example.

*You can take dogs to certain National Trust sites.

*The cakes are usually delicious!

Related stories

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.

We investigate National Trust and other popular family membership schemes including Merlin, English Heritage, RHS and Chester Zoo – Annual passes and membership at top attractions across the UK in 2024 – our tips and advice

Merlin Pass attractions, benefits, top tips and is it worth the money?

Merlin Pass attractions, benefits, top tips and is it worth the money?

We investigate the popular annual membership for Merlin Entertainment and its big list of popular attractions

There are a lot of perks to annual memberships for families. They can encourage us to get out and about more in a bid to make use of them and there are potential cost savings. Here we explore one of the most popular – the Merlin Pass. 

What is it?

The UK’s biggest annual pass offering entry to 32 Merlin attractions including Alton Towers, Legoland and more with prices starting at £99.

What do you get?

Entry to 33 attractions including:

The different types of Merlin passes offer other savings depending on which you choose including free parking, discounted fastrack and cheaper food and drink.

Children on LEGO Ninjago the Ride

Ninjago the Ride at LEGOLAND Windsor

Different Merlin Passes

There are four standards of Merlin passes – Merlin Discovery Pass, Merlin Silver Pass, Merlin Gold Pass and Merlin Platinum Pass.

The cheapest option is the Merlin Discovery Pass. It gives off-peak entry only (so excludes entry during school holidays, some weekends and special events) and access to Merlin attractions for over 200 days.  Excludes entry during school holidays, some weekend dates and special events.

Next cheapest is Merlin Silver Pass which also includes some weekends and school holidays, giving over 300 days of entry and 10 per cent off shops, food and drinks. It also includes discounted friends and family tickets.

The Merlin Gold Pass has even less exclusion dates, giving access over 340 days. It also includes free parking, fastrack vouchers and benefits like 20 per cent off shops, food and drinks.

The most expensive option is the Merlin Platinum Pass which gives 364 days entry, with no excluded dates other than paid events. It also includes free parking, £5 off fastrack and Share the Fun vouchers and £19 tickets for friends and family.

How much are the Merlin passes?

Merlin Discovery Pass is from £99 per person.

Merlin Silver Pass is from £169 per person (renewals from £119 per person).

Merlin Gold Pass is from £239 per person (renewals from £169)

Merlin Platinum Pass from £299 per person (renewals from £229).

Can I pay monthly?

Yes you can spread the cost with a monthly membership, on all but the cheapest Merlin Discovery Pass option.

You need to pay a joining fee and then a set monthly rate.

Silver Pass – joining fee £39.99, £10.99 a month, total cost £171.87.

Gold Pass – joining fee, £49.99, £15.99 a month, total cost £241.87.

Platinum Pass, joining fee, £59.99, £20.99 a month, total cost £311.8.

What about the small print?

The passes are delivered digitally to your email inbox ready to use.

You still need to pre-book tickets to attractions online.

How much could you save?

This depends on which pass you go for and how often you visit Merlin attractions.

Merlin have an online calculator tool to show you how much you can save.

For a family of two adults and two children with Merlin Discovery Passes, visiting just Alton Towers once a month, could save £2,868, so a huge saving.

In fact just going to Alton Towers twice would save you £148. But you would have to go to a Legoland Discovery Centre five times to make your money back.

Nobody should be paying the full price for tickets though with offers available on cereal packets and in newspapers – although always check as often booking online in advance can work out cheaper.

Verdict

If you are a fan of Merlin attractions, know you will be going anyway and can afford it, these passes would seem like a fantastic investment which will encourage you to get out and make the most of them for a fun-filled year.

Carer passes

Carers of Merlin Annual Passholders with additional needs who require assistance, can receive a free Merlin Annual Pass.

The passes are transferable between carers. They just include the name, date of birth and a photo of the guest with additional needs.

You need to submit your request here.

Top Tip

Look out for Merlin Pass discounts – this usually happens in January and June.

Related stories

We investigate Merlin and other popular family membership schemes including National Trust, English Heritage, RHS and Chester Zoo – Annual passes and membership at top attractions across the UK in 2024 – our tips and advice

Our Merlin content on the site includes reviews and guides to Warwick Castle and LEGOLAND Windsor Resort.

Another popular article tells you How to beat the queues at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort with the Reserve & Ride (formerly Q-Bot) Ride Reservation System.

Annual passes and membership at top attractions across the UK in 2024 – our tips and advice

Annual passes and membership at top attractions across the UK in 2024 – our tips and advice

We investigate some of the popular annual passes for 2024 including Merlin, National Trust, English Heritage, RHS 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 2024.

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 33 attractions including:

The different types of Merlin passes offer other savings depending on which you choose including free parking, discounted fastrack and cheaper food and drink.

Different Merlin Passes

There are four standards of Merlin passes – Merlin Discovery Pass, Merlin Silver Pass, Merlin Gold Pass and Merlin Platinum Pass.

The cheapest option is the Merlin Discovery Pass. It gives off-peak entry only (so excludes entry during school holidays, some weekends and special events) and access to Merlin attractions for over 200 days.  Excludes entry during school holidays, some weekend dates and special events.

Next cheapest is Merlin Silver Pass which also includes some weekends and school holidays, giving over 300 days of entry and 10 per cent off shops, food and drinks. It also includes discounted friends and family tickets.

The Merlin Gold Pass has even less exclusion dates, giving access over 340 days. It also includes free parking, fastrack vouchers and benefits like 20 per cent off shops, food and drinks.

The most expensive option is the Merlin Platinum Pass which gives 364 days entry, with no excluded dates other than paid events. It also includes free parking, £5 off fastrack and Share the Fun vouchers and £19 tickets for friends and family.

How much are the Merlin passes?

Merlin Discovery Pass is from £99 per person.

Merlin Silver Pass is from £169 per person (renewals from £119 per person).

Merlin Gold Pass is from £239 per person (renewals from £169)

Merlin Platinum Pass from £299 per person (renewals from £229).

Can I pay monthly?

Yes you can spread the cost with a monthly membership, on all but the cheapest Merlin Discovery Pass option.

You need to pay a joining fee and then a set monthly rate.

Silver Pass – joining fee £39.99, £10.99 a month, total cost £171.87.

Gold Pass – joining fee, £49.99, £15.99 a month, total cost £241.87.

Platinum Pass, joining fee, £59.99, £20.99 a month, total cost £311.8.

What about the small print?

The passes are delivered digitally to your email inbox ready to use.

You need to pre-book tickets online.

How much could you save?

This depends on which pass you go for and how often you visit Merlin attractions.

Merlin have an online calculator tool to show you how much you can save.

For a family of two adults and two children with Merlin Discovery Passes, visiting just Alton Towers once a month, could save £2,868, so a huge saving.

In fact just going to Alton Towers twice would save you £148. But you would have to go to a Legoland Discovery Centre five times to make your money back.

Nobody should be paying the full price for tickets though with offers available on cereal packets and in newspapers – although always check as often booking online in advance can work out cheaper.

Verdict

If you are a fan of Merlin attractions, know you will be going anyway and can afford it, these passes would seem like a fantastic investment which will encourage you to get out and make the most of them for a fun-filled year.

Carer passes

Carers of Merlin Annual Passholders with additional needs who require assistance, can receive a free Merlin Annual Pass.

The passes are transferable between carers. They just include the name, date of birth and a photo of the guest with additional needs.

You need to submit your request here.

Top Tip

Look out for Merlin pass discounts – this usually happens in January and June.

Related stories

Our Merlin content on the site includes reviews and guides to Warwick Castle and LEGOLAND Windsor Resort.

Another popular article tells you How to beat the queues at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort with the Reserve & Ride (formerly Q-Bot) Ride Reservation System.

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.

New members also receive a £15 National Trust giftcard.

How much is it?

A family pass for two adults living at the same address and their children or grandchildren (aged under 18) costs £146.40 per year, £12.20 a month.

A family pass for one adult and their children or grandchildren is £91.20 a year, £7.60 a month

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

Joint membership for two adults living at the same address is £139.20 a year, £11.60 a month.

Individual memberships are £10 a year for juniors under 18, £42 a year for a young person aged 18 to 25 and £84 a year for adults aged 26 and over.

You can also buy lifetime memberships from £2,020 and from £1,510 for seniors.

All the up-to-date membership prices can be found here.

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. We have just been to the Lake District where we used three car parks in one day, it all adds up.

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.

Top Tips

*You can buy National Trust Membership as a gift which the recipient can use again and again.

*We always keep our cards in the car as you never know when you will need them, for anything from an unplanned visit to a castle to a National Trust car park.

*National Trust venues are fantastic in the holidays – we particularly enjoy the Easter trails.

*If you apply to the National Trust for an Essential Companion card then members with additional needs can take one or two carers with them for free. Full details here. So a child with additional needs who is a National Trust member for £10 a year, can be accompanied for free by two parents, for example.

*You can take dogs to certain National Trust sites.

*The cakes are usually delicious!

Related content

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 over 400 historic places including Stonehenge, Dover Castle, Tintagel Castle and more.

What do you get?

Unlimited access to more than 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. Plus free or reduced entry to English Heritage events.

How much is it?

A family membership for one adult and up to six children is £69 a year or £5.75 a month.

Family membership for two adults and up to 12 children costs £120 per year, £10 a month.

Individual memberships are £69 a year for an adult aged 26 and over, £63 for a senior aged 65 and over and £57 a year for a young adult (aged 18 to 25) or student.

Joint memberships start from £96 and lifetime memberships start from £1,350.

All up-to-date membership prices are here.

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 four or five English Heritage sites per year to start saving money.

Top Tips

English Heritage have sites in:

The North West including Hadrian’s Wall, Beeston Castle and Carlisle Castle.

The South West including Stonehenge, Tintagel Castle and Old Sarum.

The South East including Dover Castle, 1066 Battle Abbey and Osborne – Queen Victoria’s family home.

The West Midlands including Kenilworth Castle, Witley Court and Stokesay Castle.

The North East including Belsay Hall and Gardens, Lindisfarne Priory and Warkworth Castle.

Yorkshire including Brodsworth Hall, Whitby Abbey and Clifford’s Tower in York.

The East of England including Audley End House and Gardens, Wrest Park and Framlingham Castle.

London including Eltham Palace and Gardens, Ranger’s House and Jewel Tower.

For more ideas visit this page on their website.

Verdict

There are lots of English Heritage properties but if you have National Trust membership as well, do you really need both?

It will depend on how many English Heritage sites there are near to you and around any holiday destinations you are visiting in the next year.

You could perhaps try National Trust for a year and English Heritage another year.

Related content

Our articles include reviews of Stonehenge and Tintagel Castle.

RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) membership

What is it?

An annual pass perfect for people who love gardens and gardening.

What do you get?

Unlimited entry to the five RHS Gardens for the member and a guest or two children (four children for joint memberships), free entry to over 200 partner gardens at selected times, access to events, reduced rate tickets to RHS flower shows and a monthly magazine The Garden (worth £59). You also get unlimited, personalised RHS advice over the phone or online.

How much does RHS membership cost?

Individual membership starts from £74 (49.33 if pay by direct debit), joint membership from £110 (£73.33 by direct debit).

Student membership is £10 and life membership starts from £935.

Full details here.

Where are the RHS Gardens?

The five main gardens, all included in the membership, are Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire, Hyde Hall in Essex, Rosemoor in Devon, Wisley in Surrey and Bridgewater in Manchester.

Where are the RHS Partner Gardens?

There are over 200 Partner Gardens across the UK and beyond in Barbados, France, Japan, Singapore and South Africa.

They include privately-owned gems and some of the world’s most popular gardens.

All the Partner Gardens can be found here.

The small print

The free entry to 200 Partner Gardens is only for the main member in a joint membership and only at selected times.

Top tips

*At the time of writing RHS, keen to share the joy of gardening with as many people as possible, is allowing those who receive any of the following benefits, to visit RHS Garden Harlow Carr for just £1: Universal Credit, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

You can book £1 tickets for yourself and up to five people accompanying you which can be a mixture of children and adults. Only one member of the party needs to be receiving benefits. You will need to present proof of your benefits on arrival at the garden.

*Able to visit the gardens for free at the time of writing are:

Up to two carers with a disabled visitor

Under-fives

Schoolchildren on school visits

Affiliated horticultural societies

Community groups supported by the RHS Community Outreach programme 

Carers

There is free entry for essential carers accompanying visitors with a disability at the main RHS Gardens – Wisley in Surrey, Hyde Hall in Essex, Rosemoor in Devon, Harlow Carr in Yorkshire and Bridgewater in Greater Manchester. If your membership has a guest entitlement you can still use this in addition to your carer.

Carer arrangements vary at the 200 RHS Partner Gardens.

How much could you save?

A visit to Harlow Carr, one of the five RHS Gardens, costs £47.50 for two adults and two children (aged 5-16 – children under five are free).

A joint membership, allowing four children to visit with you, would cost £82.50 a year, so you would only need to attend twice in a year to gain. If you visited once a month you would save over £488.

Verdict

If you love beautiful gardens and live near one of the main five listed, then membership would be worthwhile.

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, 10 per cent discount in the zoo’s shops and cafes, experience discounts, , access to junior members’ events, free entry once a year at several other UK zoos (Bristol Zoo, Colchester Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, Newquay Zoo, Marwell Zoo, Paignton Zoo and Twycross Zoo). It also includes Member Days where you can bring friends and family at a discounted rate and access to Our Zoo where members are emailed exclusive content.

How much is it?

There are two available prices for all memberships – a standard price and a 10 per cent cheaper price if you pay by direct debit.

For example, the price for a family of two adults and two children is £320 or £288 if you sign up by direct debit.

One adult and two children is £215 or £193.50.

Children aged 0 to two are free.

Additional children aged three to 17 are £81 or £72.90 each.

For all the up-to-date prices visit the website.

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.

You still have to pay the same price for the Christmas light show The Lanterns and other special events outside of opening hours.

How much could you save?

A day visit to Chester Zoo is up to £116 for a family of four booked in advance. There are rarely offers and discounts available.

You must all visit the zoo three 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 tips

If you have visited the zoo in the last month, Chester Zoo will take your ticket prices off the membership cost.

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

Want to watch a basketball match in Orlando? Here’s all you need to know

Want to watch a basketball match in Orlando? Here’s all you need to know

We watch Orlando Magic play a home game at the Amway Center in Florida

On our recent visit to Orlando, we were keen to check out a proper American sports event.

Our son is a basketball fan, so we secured tickets and are so glad we did – it’s a night we won’t forget and the atmosphere was amazing.

Here’s our guide, if you are interested in doing the same.

What is it?

Our tickets were to watch Orlando Magic, a professional basketball team based in Orlando, Florida which competes in the National Basketball Association as a member of the league’s Eastern Conference Southeast Division.

It was their season opening game at home to Boston Celtics in front of a packed crowd of around 18,000 people.

Our children, aged 12 and 8, really enjoyed the experience which is totally different from a sporting event in the UK and extremely family-friendly.

Where is it?

Orlando Magic play their home games at the Amway Center. This big arena, which also hosts concerts, is in downtown Orlando about a 15 to 20-minute drive from Disney World or Universal Studios.

Children at the Amway Center, Orlando Magic, Florida

The Amway Center

What did we think

Our children loved this experience and are keen to go back to another NBA game in the USA.

It is very family-friendly with pre-match entertainment, food, activities on the big screen, gifts being thrown out into the crowd and more.

We didn’t hear any swearing or nasty chants like you may at a British football match. It felt really fun and safe.

Highlights

*Pre-match there were fun and games outside the Amway Center with a Fan Fest (this happens for the bigger matches at Magic). There was face panting, basketball hoops for children to shoot at, music from a DJ and merchandise stalls.

*Once inside, younger children could play at STUFF’s Magic Castle (named after the Orlando Magic mascot), a play area on the promenade level of the concourse.

*It isn’t hard to find children’s food at one of the dozens of stalls inside. There is pizza, hot dogs, pretzels, ice cream and more. We tucked into some pre-match pizza. A word of warning though – it gets quite overwhelmingly busy as it seemed almost everyone was having a meal before the match started.

*The atmosphere – we loved the countdown to tip-off, the last 10 or 15 minutes had light shows, music and more as the players were announced. Once the game starts there is so much to see, children won’t get bored.

*Apart from the action you get t-shirts fired into the crowd as prizes, games to play via the big-screen and chants to join.

*GIveaways – lots of matches have giveaways for fans with t-shirts or hats on every seat. Everyone at our match received a free t-shirt waiting on their seat for them – all adult extra-large but a great keepsake!

Our top tips

*Get there early. At a British sporting event, most people aren’t in their seats until the last few minutes. We got to the Magic game more than an hour before it started and it was packed!

Children at the Amway Center, Orlando Magic, Florida

Enjoying the match

*Bags aren’t allowed in, only very small handbags. Don’t bring your backpack from a day at the parks, you won’t get it inside.

*Food is similar priced to Orlando theme parks and portions are big so consider sharing to save some money. Drinks, including water, are very expensive in the USA and you can’t bring bottles in so this does add to the cost of the experience.

*Taxis are the best way to get to the Amway Center as there wasn’t much parking around.

*If you are worried about it being busy at the end, maybe leave a few minutes beforehand if it isn’t a close game to ensure children aren’t waiting around for a taxi, Uber or Lyft.

Our Lyft driver was able to pull up and collect us about 100 metres from the exit of the stadium.

Orlando Magic information

Food: There were all sorts of food options with a stall every 20 metres on different levels of the stadium. There was water and soft drinks available everywhere for children. You can eat food and have drinks either on the concourse or at your seat.

Opening hours: The stadium opens one hour before the match starts. Matches last between two and two and a half hours. So if a match is advertised to start at 7pm EST then arrive at 6pm and you will probably be there until 9.30pm.

Cost: Tickets depend on how close to the action you want to sit and who the opposition is. Tickets cost more for matches against more famous teams like Boston Celtics or LA Lakers. Tickets range from 15 dollars to 1,000 dollars.

Best for: Children aged six and above with the patience to watch the match, which lasts about two hours including breaks for half-time.

Time needed: Arrive one hour before the match starts. The game then last between two and two-and-a-half hours.

Access and restrictions: Fully accessible with seats available for wheelchair users and companions. There are two accessible elevators on the west side of the building, which services the Event, Founders, Terrace, and Mezzanine Levels.

There are also four accessible elevators in the NE, NW, SE and SW corners of the Club Level that provide access from the Club Level down to the loge and club seating areas.

Address: Orlando Magic, Amway Center, 400 W Church St Suite 200, Orlando, FL 32801, United States.

For tickets: If you’re planning on attending a game, you can contact an Orlando Magic Ticket Representative by visiting orlandomagic.com/tickets using the ‘Live Chat’.

Where to stay: We stayed at Marriott Village Orlando which was also a great location for Universal and the very expensive but very wonderful Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Disney World

More Florida content

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RELATED STORY: Clearwater hotel review: Winter the Dolphin’s Beach Club in Florida, USA

RELATED STORY: Marriott Village Orlando hotels near to Disney World and Universal Studios 

*We received free tickets from Orlando Magic for the purposes of this review. All opinion are our own.

The best things for families to do in Clearwater and St Pete in Florida

The best things for families to do in Clearwater and St Pete in Florida

Family-friendly fun in America’s St Pete and Clearwater

If you’re heading to Florida and want to stay by the coast then consider St Pete and Clearwater.

With 35 miles of award-winning white, sandy beaches, warm blue sea and a fabulous choice of hotels, it’s a great place for a family holiday.

It’s also ideal if you’re mixing your holiday up a bit, perhaps starting with the busy parks of attractions like Universal and Disney World and then heading to the sea for a change of scenery.

Here is our list of top things for families to do in St Pete and Clearwater.

Clearwater Beach

Aerial picture of Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach is regularly named the best beach in the US in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards.

There are lots of activities to keep everyone entertained including swimming, boating, fishing, jet skiing, beach volleyball and biking along the Beach Walk promenade.

At sunset, Pier 60 hosts street performers, live music, craft stalls and food every evening, we enjoyed a delicious meal at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill on the beachfront.

St Pete Beach

Enjoying the beach at RumFish Beach Resort, St Pete, Florida

Enjoying the beach at RumFish

St Pete Beach has also scooped America’s best beach honour – in 2021.

It boasts turquoise water and soft white sand. The sunset from the beach at our hotel Rumfish Beach Resort was stunning – here is our hotel review.

Little Toot Dolphin Adventure

Dolphin spotting with Little Toot Cruise

Dolphin spotting

Enjoy a Little Toot dolphin cruise from Clearwater beach with tours lasting 60 to 90 minutes.

The boats are built to provide maximum viewing areas for passengers with open netting.

Address: 25 Causeway Blvd, Slip 16, Clearwater Beach.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Looking after turtles at Clearwater Aquarium, Florida

Clearwater Aquarium

Clearwater Aquarium is famous as it was once home to Winter the Dolphin who was given a prosthetic tail and whose story was turned into a film, Dolphin Tale and its sequel.

It is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick and injured marine animals.

Visitors can see dolphins, sea turtles and otters. There are educational games, moving dinosaur models and a cafe.

Address: 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, FL 33767, USA.

Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise

Captain Memo Pirate Cruise, Clearwater, Florida

Captain Memo Pirate Cruise

This child-friendly cruise on a pirate ship from Clearwater Beach includes entertainment like treasure hunts and water gun fights for the children and free beer and wine for adults.

Salvador Dalí Museum

Salvador Dali Museum in St Pete, Florida

Salvador Dali Museum

This art museum on the waterfront in St Petersburg is dedicated to the work of Salvador Dali.

It holds the largest collection of his work in the US.

Address: 1 Dali Blvd, St Petersburg, FL 33701.

Urban murals

A St Pete Mural, Sewing Seeds by Taj Tenfold

A St Pete Mural, Sewing Seeds by Taj Tenfold

St Pete is brought to life by more than 600 murals which adorn its walls.

You can take a guided tour of the colourful street art in the Downtown area.

There’s even an annual mural festival each October called Shine.

Morean Arts Centre

The Morean Arts Centre in St Petersburg displays works by local, national and international artists.

Its roots date back to 1917 when it was the Art Club of St Petersburg.

Address: 720 Central Ave St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

The Great Exploration’s Children’s Museum

This interactive museum is aimed at young children up to the age of around seven and is designed to make learning fun and active.

It is located next to the Sunken Gardens.

Address: 1925 4th St N, St Petersburg, FL 33704.

Sunken Gardens

Next to the children’s museum is this site – four acres of botanical gardens in St Petersburg, which have been around for over a century.

The gardens boast hundreds of plant species, cascading waterfalls and even a flock of flamingos.

Address: 1825 4th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33704.

Watch a baseball game

Baseball at Tropicana Field

Baseball at Tropicana Field

To experience the excitement of an American baseball game, watch the Tampa Bay Rays at their home – the Tropicana Field stadium in downtown St Petersburg.

A great opportunity for baseball fans, The Rays play Major League Baseball games.

Address: One Tropicana Dr, St. Petersburg, FL 33705

Kayak through Fort De Soto Park

A great way to explore this beautiful park is by renting a canoe or kayak.

Newbies and experienced paddlers are welcome at the Topwater Kayak Outpost and you might get to see local wildlife including manatees, egrets and dolphins.

Address: 3500 Pinellas Bayway St. Petersburg, FL 33715

St Pete Pier

Home to a range of restaurants and a state-of-the-art playground, the pier is a huge draw for travellers of all ages.

We dined at Doc Fords Rum Bar and Grille, which is in a fantastic position at the end of the pier overlooking the water.

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille, St Pete restaurant, Florida

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille, St Petersburg

Fairgrounds St Pete

Fairgrounds St Pete is an art and technology museum.

Made by 60 artists, it is described as an immersive world of playful art and technology exhibits based on original Florida stories.

Address: 800 28th St. South, St. Pete, Florida 33712

Getting to St Pete/Clearwater:

St Pete/Clearwater is easily accessible with British Airways offering daily flights between London and Tampa (30 minutes to Clearwater) and Virgin Atlantic operating daily flights from the capital. Or you can fly to Orlando Airport (90 minutes to Clearwater) from London and Manchester.

Where to stay

We stayed at Winter The Dolphin’s Beach Club in Clearwater, where rooms are around £165 a night, read our review.

We also stayed on the heart of St. Pete Beach at RumFish Beach Resort, where rooms are around £230, here’s our review.

More information

For more information visit the area’s official travel website – www.visitstpeteclearwater.com

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RELATED STORY: Legoland Florida Resort – park and hotel review, guide, video tour and top tips

RELATED STORY: RumFish Beach Resort on one of America’s best beaches – St Pete in Florida

RELATED STORY: Clearwater hotel review: Winter the Dolphin’s Beach Club in Florida, USA

RELATED STORY: Marriott Village Orlando hotels near to Disney World and Universal Studios 

*Photo credit: Thanks to VisitStPeteClearwater.com for some of the images used.

 

Universal Orlando Resort – guide, video and top tips for one of the most popular attractions in the world

Universal Orlando Resort – guide, video and top tips for one of the most popular attractions in the world

A beyond magical experience for Harry Potter fans at Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay in Florida

Name

Universal Orlando Resort

What is it?

Universal Orlando Resort is one of the most famous and popular attractions in the world, welcoming millions of visitors a year.

It includes two theme parks – Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure – plus Volcano Bay water park.

Based mainly on the themes of film and tv, there are loads of amazing rides, attractions and shows.

A huge draw these days – and certainly for us – is the Harry Potter areas known as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The American resort also includes a shopping area called CityWalk and eight hotels.

Where is it?

It is in Orlando, Florida, US.

What did we think?

We absolutely loved our time here and were especially blown away by the Harry Potter parts as three out of the four of us are fans.

Highlights

*We loved, loved, loved the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Diagon Alley (Universal Studios)

We explored Diagon Alley first, which is in the Universal Studios park. It can be found through a gap in the wall which would be easy to miss. There is so much to see and do there – a multitude of shops like Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and places to eat such as the Leaky Cauldron.

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Diagon Alley, Universal Studios Universal

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes

What first catches your eye though is the tremendous dragon above which sits astride Gringotts Bank or more specifically, the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride. Every 10 minutes or so it breathes fire which can be quite a shock if you’re not expecting it. He emits a loud roar to warn you and it’s a great moment to capture on your phone. The Gringotts ride itself is spectacular, part roller coaster and part 3D experience, it’s perhaps too scary for young ones.

The dragon breathes fire over Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando

The dragon breathes fire over Diagon Alley

At Ollivander’s Wand Shop, there is a small show where Ollivander selects someone from the group and everyone watches while the perfect wand is chosen for them. He tries three different wands, the first two with disastrous results while the third provides a satisfactory and magical reaction. Our son was the person taking part, which made our trip even more special.

There are mountains of wands to buy in the shop itself, but if you buy a more expensive interactive one, you can do spells in set places which you find on a map.

Wingardium Leviosa with an interactive wand at Diagon Alley, Universal Studios Orlando

Wingardium Leviosa with an interactive wand

There is so much to see and do here that you might miss fun elements like talking to an interactive goblin in the little Gringotts Money Exchange or tasting butterbeer.

The interactive goblin in the Gringotts Money Exchange, Universal Studios Universal

The interactive goblin in the Gringotts Money Exchange

We also caught a show from Molly Weasley’s favourite singer Celestina and the Banshees.

Celestina and the Banshees at Universal Studios Orlando

Celestina and the Banshees

The Hogwarts Express

To get to Hogsmeade in the other theme park – Islands of Adventure – you can board the Hogwarts Express. This is a memorable ride in itself.

You enter Kings Cross station, walk through a wall to platform nine and three quarters, thanks to mirror trickery. I don’t know how this works but make sure to send your children through while you video it for them to watch afterwards. Then you emerge on to the platform to see the train itself.

The Hogwarts Express between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Orlando

The Hogwarts Express

Once on board, the windows are screens which make you feel you are passing scenes and characters from Harry Potter while the corridor side of the carriage you are in, features shadows and voices of characters as if they walking past. There’s even a dementor on the way to Hogsmead. The return journey is different again.

Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure)

When you arrive at the other station, you are in the Islands of Adventure Theme Park. Here you will find a snow-covered Hogsmeade wizarding village with more shops like The Owl Post post office, Dervish and Banges and Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods.

There’s another Ollivander’s Wand Shop here as well along with the Three Broomsticks restaurant.

Hogsmeade is where the popular roller coaster ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is located, which takes riders into the Forbidden Forest. This has the longest queues of any ride at the park so if you are keen to do it, then get there early or wait until last thing in the evening.

Also here is the Flight of the Hippogriff Family Coaster which is a good first roller coaster for younger people for try – although can still feel very fast and dramatic!

And this park is where you get to see Hogwarts castle itself.

Hogwarts Castle at Islands of Adventure, Universal Resort Orlando

Hogwarts Castle

You only enter to do the ride there – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

*Other rides

Other rides we enjoyed at Universal Resort were the classics like ET Adventure – it opened in 1990 and can seem quite dated to adults but it’s a relatively gentle ride and was one of our daughter’s favourites so we rode it twice.

ET Adventure, Universal Studios, Universal Resort Orlando

ET Adventure

Next to the ET ride is one of the two areas of the park for younger children. Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse rollercoaster is a nice gentle one to start with and there are opportunities there to have your picture taken with film characters.

In another part of the park is an area dedicated Dr Seuss with a series of smaller rides in a nice colourful area. We enjoyed the Trolley Train which gives a good view over the whole site. This is a good, slightly quieter spot to eat a picnic or rest for a few minutes.

Shows

One great way to rest your legs and escape from the heat is to go and watch a live show.

We loved Animal Actors on Location. Talented animal actors from films and tv including dogs, cats, parrots and more perform mischievous tricks.

There are other shows around both parks, including the Bourne Stuntacular which is very popular.

Top tips

*How long do you need

We had two days at Universal and that felt plenty for us. But if you are a group who love the biggest and most popular rides including roller coasters and screen-based simulators, then you may need longer. The second day felt amazing. We got there early and walked in confidently, knowing what we were doing and where we wanted to go.

*Park-to-Park ticket

If you are a Harry Potter fan then you are going to want to visit both theme parks and have a Park-to-Park ticket. Universal has cleverly split the Wizarding World of Harry Potter into two, with Diagon Alley at Universal Studios and Hogsmead at Islands of Adventure, connected by the Hogwarts Express (which you can only ride with a Park-to-Park ticket).

*Express Pass

This is a way to skip the long queues and enter a much quicker line on around 14 listed rides in each park. There are two versions – regular which lets you miss the queue once per attraction and unlimited, which offers unlimited times you can use it per attraction. We had Express Passes and it made our visit so much more enjoyable, so I would really urge you to consider this if your budget allows and if the rides you are keen to try are included.

Express pass entrance, Universal Resort Orlando

*How to get there

If you are not staying in a Universal hotel on site – and we weren’t – the best way to arrive and depart, if you are within a few miles is by using Uber or Lyft taxis.

There is a specific drop-off and collection point and it works very efficiently.

This works out cheaper and easier than a hire car if you are staying quite near.

*Lockers

You aren’t allowed bags on some rides but there are lockers near to them. There are also big lockers near the entrance that you pay to use.

Lockers at Universal Resort Orlando

*When to get there

Make sure you get there before ‘rope drop’ – the actual opening time – as you can’t believe the amount of people pouring into the parks and to enter when it’s a bit quieter is bliss. You can then head to the Harry Potter parts first – we got there really early on our second morning and Diagon Alley is a completely different experience – it starts to get more unbearable mid-morning.

Flourish and Blotts, Diagon ALley, Universal Studios Orlando

A quiet Diagon Alley first thing in the morning

Volcano Bay

There’s a third park at Universal Orlando – a water park called Volcano Bay. It has a South Seas theme with a big volcano in the middle and feels like a tropical paradise.

Water slides at Volcano Bay, Universal Resort Orlando

Volcano Bay

Instead of queuing, you wear a TapuTapu on your wrist to book a ride time.

A Tapu Tapu watch instead of queues at Volcano Bay

A Tapu Tapu

There are lots of amazing rides but our favourites were the wave pool and the lazy river.

There is a slide section dedicated to younger children under a certain height, but we couldn’t find any of the next level up to build confidence – just much bigger slides. 

But it was brilliant for a change of pace and to cool down.

To get there you need to get a free bus from the City Walk transport hub at Universal.

Tip: Beware of extra costs. Take your own towels or pay $5 per towel. Locker rent is $20 so if one member of the party isn’t swimming, get them to watch the stuff from the sunbed.

For eating and drinking there are a couple of restaurants and a nice ice cream stall.

Video

Universal Orlando Resort information

Where to stay: We stopped at two nearby hotels – the reasonably priced Marriott Village Orlando and the very expensive, but absolutely fabulous Four Seasons Resort Orlando.

Food: There are loads and loads of places to eat, including the Leaky Cauldron (Universal Studios) and The Three Broomsticks (Islands of Adventure) from Harry Potter. Bring snacks with you if you want to try to save money.

Opening hours: Varies daily, check before you go as you want to arrive early: Universal Orlando hours

Cost: Prices start from $70 for Volcano Bay and $109 for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. A Park-to-Park ticket covering two parks starts from $159 for children. Look out for offers such as four days for the price of two – Universal Orlando tickets, packages and prices

Best for:  There’s something for everyone, even rides and activities for toddlers. Plus all the rides have a child swap (also known as kid swap or baby swap) option. This means even if a younger child can’t or doesn’t want to go on a ride, the rest of the family does not need to miss out. There are different ways this works depending on the ride so check first. We used it effectively on the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts Ride.

Time needed: Two days

Access and restrictions: Accessibility Information Universal Orlando Resort

Address: Parking address for the theme parks and Universal CityWalk: Universal Orlando Resort, 6000 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32819.

To book: Universal Orlando Resort

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*We received complimentary or reduced prices for review purposes, all views are our own.

Canal boat holiday guide for beginners – EVERYTHING you need to know

Canal boat holiday guide for beginners – EVERYTHING you need to know

Our 14 most important tips for first time canal boaters

You don’t need a license or even any training to ‘drive’ a narrowboat but it can be a daunting experience to take the helm of such a long vessel for the first time.

Boat hire companies should tell you the basics before you set off but the more you know, the less stressed you’ll be to enjoy your holiday.

We recently took our two children on our first canal boat holiday and made plenty of mistakes!

Here’s what we wished we had known – read our full guide for novice canal boat users.

And if you are taking children don’t miss: Our 10 top tips for taking children on a canal boat holiday

Which side of the canal to travel in your boat

Navigate along the middle of the canal where the water should be deeper but when passing another moving boat, stay on the RIGHT – remember it is the opposite side to road travel in the UK.

Speed

The speed limit is 4mph, walkers will overtake you. Slow down when passing moored boats, other moving boats, when going around corners and approaching tunnels. If you make a breaking wash behind you, you are going too fast.

How to stop

You use reverse to slow down and to stop a narrowboat. Small thrusts on the throttle and then back to neutral will slow the boat down quickly and smoothly.

Right of way

When approaching a bridge or a tunnel with room for only one boat, the craft nearest has the right of way. When waiting, stop and keep to the right.

Give way to non-powered craft like canoes and rowing boats.

Steering

The tiller is at the back of the boat. Move the tiller in the opposite direction to the way you want to go – pushing it right sends the boat left and left sends it right. It can be hard to remember this when you are panicking!

Try to always think ahead as a canal boat can be slow to react to a turn, especially at low revs when you will have less control. The turn will continue after you want it to if you don’t centre the tiller before the turn is completed.

Also be aware that as the boat turns in the middle, the front might be okay but the rear may hit something. To move the back of the boat (the stern), push the tiller the way you want the rear to go.

If you are in danger of hitting something put the throttle in reverse to slow down or stop.

How to park/moor a narrowboat

You can park where you like as long as it does not create an obstruction such as just before a lock, near to a bridge, on a corner or at a water point.

Approach slowly and when you are parallel with the side, use reverse gear. Get close enough so that a passenger can step off safely with a rope.

Look for mooring points with rings in the ground as these are the simplest to use. Otherwise you can use a mooring pin/metal stake which you hammer into the ground. Make sure you hammer the mooring pin right into the ground or it may be pulled free by the weight of the boat.

Tie the boat at the front and back, I asked our instructor to show me twice how to tie the ropes to ensure I got it right and was very glad I had.

Keep the rope tight – if it is loose, the boat will bang against the side when other boats pass or can come away altogether if not knotted properly.

Askrigg narrowboat from Anglo Welsh, bond class

Bond class narrowboat, Askrigg

How to turn your canal boat around

If you need to turn your narrowboat around, there are turning places every few miles called winding holes or swinging areas.

These are wider parts of the canal, marked on maps that you can plan for in advance.

When you are turning, keep the propeller and rudder away from shallow water and debris. Aim to put the bow/front of the boat into the winding hole, reverse and then go forwards and away in the other direction.

Look out for the wind or current causing difficulties and if necessary, someone can step on to the towpath and use a rope to help.

The wind once prevented us from making a turn and a friendly man on the side asked us to throw him a rope so he could help out. He said it had happened to several boats before us which made me feel better!

Tunnels

Listen and look out for boats already heading towards you through the tunnel if it is too narrow for two boats.

If the way is clear, put on your headlights and sound the horn before entering the tunnel. Turn the internal lights on too.

Make sure nobody is on the roof or the side of the boat.

Coming out from a tunnel on the Llangollen Canal

Coming out from a tunnel

Small bridges

When heading towards a small bridge, the space to navigate through can appear alarmingly narrow.

Do your best to line up the boat as you approach, get the front end into position and under the bridge. Then steer the back through. You may hit the sides but it shouldn’t do any harm at a slow speed.

Swing bridge

You use a lock key to wind the bridge up, it can seem as if it is not fully open if it hangs a little over so be careful when navigating underneath it.

Close the bridge behind you unless there is another boat waiting to use it.

Canal swing bridge on the Llangollen Canal

Canal swing bridge

Locks

A lock is used to raise or lower a boat to the level of the water ahead.

They can be pretty daunting the first time you use them as there is a lot to think about.

There is usually a queue of boats so wait your turn and don’t be afraid to ask someone to help you. We did and having expert reassurance from seasoned boaters made the lock experience more relaxing.

Remember, if you are going up, the lock needs to be empty first and if you are coming down, the lock has to be full.

One person needs to get off the boat before the lock, armed with a lock key called a windlass. They slowly and carefully open and close the gates and the paddles which let the water in and out, in the correct order.

The person at the helm has to steer the boat into the lock and keep it as far forward as possible as there is a ledge/cill at the back which the boat can get caught on – look out for the cill marker to show you where it is.

 

The view from up high in a lock on the Llangollen Canal

Navigating a lock on the Llangollen Canal

Water

Filling up water is simple but there aren’t that many places to do it. Boat hire companies recommend you fill up every day, we found that wasn’t essential but every other day is a must.

You can stop at a water point (marked on the map and signposted) and operate the tap using the Yale key your boat hire company should have given you.

You connect one end of the boat’s hose pipe to the tap and insert the other end into the hole of the boat’s water tank.

We were told the water can be drunk but we had taken bottled water.

Pump out

Canal boats have chemical toilets which hold the waste in a tank on board.

We did not need to empty ours but check with your hire company how to  at a pump-out point if you are staying on the boat long enough to need to do so.

Have fun

Work together – we naturally found which jobs we were best at and got much better at mooring and doing all the necessary checks.

Take it in turns to steer and relax and make sure you enjoy the slow pace of life, the surroundings, the friendliness of people you pass and have fun.

RELATED CONTENT: Top 10 canal boat family holiday destinations in England and Wales

RELATED CONTENT: Our 10 top tips for taking children on a canal boat holiday

RELATED CONTENT: Canal boat family holiday review – we take our children on a 67 foot barge

RELATED CONTENT: We review an Anglo Welsh canal boat with our children – is it family friendly?

Our 10 top tips for taking children on a canal boat holiday

Our 10 top tips for taking children on a canal boat holiday

How to keep children happy and safe on a narrowboat trip

To our children’s great excitement, we recently took them on a narrowboat holiday  – the prospect of our own barge for a few days really captured their imagination.

Home for the break was a 67-foot boat along the Llangollen Canal between Shropshire and Wales (full story here).

We loved the sense of freedom and slow pace of life and learned a lot in a short space of time.

But how do you keep children happy and safe on a canal boat holiday?

First off – are children safe on a canal boat?

We felt that at aged nine and six, our children would be safe – they both swim and follow instructions, plus they were happy to wear life jackets.

To be honest, I would not have wanted to take this holiday when they were toddlers.

It would be hard work and you would need to keep an eye on them at all times. Plus you would need more than two adults when going through locks for example – one to helm, one to operate the lock and another to look after the children.

How to prepare children for a canal boat holiday

You will want your children to be excited about the holiday and all they can do to help.

But also make sure to give them some general safety advice.

Talk them calmly through the dangers and how to stay safe. You could also show them a video.

General safety advice for children on narrowboats

A girl wears a life jacket life vest on a canal narrowboat

Children should wear a like jacket

*Wear lifejackets and non-slip shoes

*Don’t run by the water

*Don’t lean too far over the side

*Step on and off the boat when it is safe to do so, don’t try to jump across a gap.

*Be very careful at locks and listen to instructions. Locks have steep sides and water comes in and out quickly.

*Children should always be supervised by an adult.

What to pack for children on a canal boat holiday

*Comfortable clothes including shorts and fleeces.

*Anorak and waterproofs.

*Non-slip shoes.

*Life jackets/buoyancy aids – check with your boat hire company if they are provided, ours were with Anglo Welsh.

*Sun cream.

*Scooters or bikes if allowed as large sections of the canal towpath are flat and have a hard surface. You can send one adult off with the children while the other steers the boat. But check with your hire company how many are allowed and where you can keep them.

*Most importantly, pack activities for the children to do while travelling (see next section).

What activities to take for children on a canal holiday?

It’s a fantastic novelty for children to be in a floating home, relaxing, playing, watching the world go past, helping with some of the jobs.

But there are also hours spent travelling where kids can get bored.

Take reading books, activity books, board games, toys, paper and pens with you plus tablets or whatever else your children enjoy to pass the time.

If there is WiFi and a television, they may not work.

Pack a camera children can use to take photos, but not an expensive one in case it falls in the canal!

Take some binoculars. You can get children wildlife spotting and feeding the ducks.

And there will be plenty to teach them about the history of the canals.

Or take hats and pretend to be pirates.

Don’t go too far

It’s tempting to power on to new destinations with a tick-list of achievements.

But be flexible, the best times on our trip were when we ended up in a random spot in the evening and headed off in the fresh air to explore nearby footpaths, fields and woods.

Children exploring the countryside at St Martin's in Shropshire

Exploring the countryside at St Martin’s in Shropshire

So don’t be too rigid and build in plenty of stops if the weather is dry, so that children can stretch their legs and whoever is at the helm can relax.

Tunnels

If children are inside, make sure the lights are on when you go through a tunnel else it will go very dark very quickly and they won’t be able to see.

If they are outside, ensure an adult is with them and they stay seated as tunnels can be very narrow and low.

Our two loved the tunnels and we played an echo game to keep them entertained but they can be very long and dark so some children could be scared.

Warn them that you will be turning the headlight on and sounding the horn before entering.

And obviously ensure nobody is on the roof or side of the boat.

Going through Chirk Tunnel in Wales

Going through Chirk Tunnel in Wales

What jobs can children do to help on a boating holiday

There are different boating jobs children can help with depending on their age.

They can help plan the route, keep the boat tidy, cast off and tie the ropes.

Older children can help with the steering under supervision.

They can also help with working the locks as long as they know how to do so safely.

However, don’t get them doing every lock with you because they get just as much fun from sitting on the boat as it rises or falls in the lock.

Younger ones can look out for tunnels, bridges and oncoming boats.

We got our children to keep tabs on the number of each bridge because that tells you whereabouts you are on the canal.

Our daughter helps lift a bridge at Froncysyllte in Wales

Our daughter helps lift a bridge at Froncysyllte in Wales

What route to take with children

Pick places which will entertain children – work around stopping points which have family attractions where possible.

For instance we made sure to stop at Ellesmere because of its lake walk, playground and sculpture trail.

Pick spots which are near to playgrounds, woodland walks or leisure centres.

Blakemere at Ellesmere

Blakemere at Ellesmere

Have fun

Most importantly have lots of fun. You can feel like a real team on this sort of a holiday and it will certainly be one they remember.

RELATED CONTENT: Canal boat holiday guide for beginners – EVERYTHING you need to know

RELATED CONTENT: Canal boat family holiday review – we take our children on a 67 foot barge

RELATED CONTENT: We review an Anglo Welsh canal boat with our children – is it family friendly?

RELATED CONTENT: Top 10 canal boat family holiday destinations in England and Wales

 

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 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.

Top 10 canal boat family holiday destinations in England and Wales

Top 10 canal boat family holiday destinations in England and Wales

Holiday from a narrowboat 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.

Here are some of the most popular routes to inspire you from Anglo Welsh, one of the largest canal boat holiday companies in the UK,

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.

RELATED CONTENT: Canal boat holiday guide for beginners – EVERYTHING you need to know

RELATED CONTENT: Our 10 top tips for taking children on a canal boat holiday

RELATED CONTENT: Canal boat family holiday review – we take our children on a 67 foot barge

RELATED CONTENT: We review an Anglo Welsh canal boat with our children – is it family friendly?

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.

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!

 

The 9 top tips to finding cheap flights for you and your family

The 9 top tips to finding cheap flights for you and your family

We reveal how to save money when flying

As families think about booking flights for 2020 trips, we share some top tips for bagging a cheap fare.

Secret Flying, which specialises in uncovering discounted plane tickets, has compiled its guide to saving money on a family holiday.

You will get a cheaper flight if you do the following:

1. Travel midweek

The cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

2. Book a round-trip/return trip on a long haul airline

Round trips will usually be cheaper than two one-way tickets if you are flying further than Europe.

3. Check one-way on budget carriers

Occasionally, two one-way tickets with separate budget carriers around Europe will cost less than a round-trip ticket. For example, you could fly out to Malaga with Ryanair but return with EasyJet.

4. Booking last minute can work with charter flights

Companies which specialise in flying package holidaymakers, like Tui, can be heavily discounted at the last minute.

This is because if the package holidays haven’t sold then there will be extra space on their planes which they want to fill with flight-only passengers. We have seen prices as low as £249 to Florida and £299 to the Caribbean.

5. Last minute is rarely cheaper with scheduled or budget airlines

Most long haul airlines like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic raise prices the closer you get to departure. It is the same with budget carriers. In these cases, it probably pays to book in advance.

6. Use Skyscanner ‘Everywhere’ to find a bargain

The SkyScanner website lets you search every departure from a specific airport. For example, you can search every flight from Manchester between May 23 and May 30 (half-term week) to see which destination is the cheapest option.

7. Stop over on a long haul flight

You can save on airfare taxes, which often make up the bulk of any long haul fare, by taking a short flight to a European destination and going long-haul from there.

For example, flying from Birmingham to Amsterdam and then going with KLM to the Far East or the USA can be cheaper than going directly from the UK. You must stay over for at least 24 hours in Amsterdam in this case to benefit from the tax saving.

8. Be flexible

The more flexibility with dates you have, the more your chances of saving money will be. This is tricky with school holiday dates but try searching midweek departures in the summer holidays or leave it until closer to September for cheaper flights.

9. How to get an upgrade

According to Secret Flying, the best ways to boost your chances of a free upgrade to business class is to be a member of the airline’s frequent flyer programme, dress smartly and only check in at the airport.

If you check in online, your seats will already be allocated and the airline is less likely to move you up a class.

Secret Flying is a free service for users who get daily flight deals to their inbox every evening. Alternatively there is a new app. For more information please visit www.secretflying.com

Harry Potter Studio Tour London – EVERYTHING you need to know

Harry Potter Studio Tour London – EVERYTHING you need to know

We answer ALL your questions about Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter

The Warner Bros. studios in Leavesden near London were home to the hugely popular Harry Potter films for over 10 years.

And now fans can go ‘backstage’ at the Harry Potter studios where the magic was made.

Here we answer all your questions about Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.

Also, don’t miss our full review and all our top tips here and watch our exclusive video of our day out at the studio tour below:

Is there a Harry Potter World or theme park in England?

No, there is the Harry Potter Studio Tour – a multi-award winning UK attraction near London.

What is the Harry Potter Studio Tour?

It’s a huge self-led back stage tour at the studio where a lot of the filming for the Harry Potter movies took place. You can see real sets from the films, costumes, props and creatures, plus take part in some interactive green screen fun.

Is this one of the best Harry Potter experiences?

Yes, the Harry Potter Studio Tour is great for adults and children because it is authentic. Many of the sets, costumes, props and creatures you see here were used in the Harry Potter films. They show the work and craftsmanship that went into the films.

Where is it?

It’s at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden, where much of the film series was shot, home to the movies for over 10 years. Leavesden is 20 miles from London, near Watford, England. The full address is: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, WD25 7LR.

How to get there

You can drive by car and park in the car park directly outside or take a return bus tour from London or other parts of the country. You can also get a train to Watford Junction and then a shuttle bus, run by the attraction.

When did Harry Potter Studios open?

The studio tour opened on March 31, 2012. Unusually, the crew had saved a lot of the sets, props, animatronic creatures and costumes in case they were needed again for future films. They are now on show for the attraction, next to the working film studios where all eight films were made in Leavesden.

What can you see on the tour?

There’s far too much to mention but it includes The Great Hall, The Forbidden Forest, Gringotts banking hall, the Griffindor common room and boys’ dormitory, Snape’s Potions Classroom, Dumbledore’s Tower, the Weasleys’ Burrow, Hagrid’s Hut, the portrait of the Fat Lady, the Mirror of Erised, and the giant clock pendulum.

Dumbledore's office at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London

Dumbledore’s office

There is also Malfoy’s Manor, Dolores Umbridge’s pink office, the Hogwarts Express, The Knight Bus, Privet Drive, the Hogwarts Bridge, Godric’s Hollow House, the Ford Anglia, Diagon Alley, Buckbeak, Aragog, the scaled model of Hogwarts Castle used in the films. Plus thousands more animatronics, props and costumes.

Children get on the Knight Bus at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London

Trying out the Knight Bus

Amsterdam’s top attractions and activities for children

Amsterdam’s top attractions and activities for children

What to do with children in Amsterdam – our reviews and top tips

Amsterdam isn’t just for hen and stag dos, it is a family-friendly city with lots for children to do. We had a great time with our two, here’s our video and lots of information below about what we recommend.

NEMO Science Museum

This is a fantastic hands-on museum. NEMO looks like a giant ship rising from the harbour where it is situated. Inside there are four floors of interactive activities.

Floor one demonstrates how science works with pulleys, the chance to create electricity and an hourly show which is great fun, showing how a chain reaction works. One young volunteer gets to set off a reaction which spreads around the stage.

Floor two explains everyday technology such as how water is purified – children can collect water in a bucket and tip it in and out of various systems. There is also a great perspective room with altered height ceilings and angles where you can make children look like giants and turn the adults tiny.

The third floor has a display about planets and a brilliant science lab. The whole family put lab coats and goggles on to create their own experiments showing how rockets can fire and how sun cream works. It is hands-on learning at its best.

The fourth floor was closed when we visited but will be all about the human body.

There is a fifth floor with a nice cafe – the food is good quality with a wide variety. And don’t miss the roof terrace, especially on a sunny day – take your food out there to eat. There are panoramic views of Amsterdam and children can play in various water features.

Nemo Science Museum roof terrace

NEMO Science Museum roof terrace

*Entrance to the museum is free with an I amsterdam card or book tickets via their website.

Hunter Street house

The popular Nickelodeon children’s series Hunter Street is set in Amsterdam. The actual show is filmed elsewhere in the Netherlands but the exterior of the Hunter house is a real home.

A girl stands in front of the real Hunter Street house from the television series

The Hunter Street house

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

It is best reached via a tram to Nieuwezijds Kolk stop and is then about a five-minute walk, through some side streets and over a canal. Our children enjoyed having their picture taken outside but did complain the black door in the series had been painted dark green!

For our full story on the Hunter Street house click here.

Pancake Boat

This is a great way to mix a river cruise, meal and a soft play.

The Pancake Boat

The Pancake Boat

De Pannenkoekenboot (Pancake Boat) is moored across the IJ river from Amsterdam Centraal Station (catch the free NDSM ferry 906 from the far left pontoon at the station).

It is a 75-minute cruise along the river past Amsterdam Central Station. Once on board you can eat as many proper Dutch pancakes as you want (the record is a huge 15, which considering how filling they are is barely believable). There are three types of pancake – plain, with apple and one with bacon – plus lots of toppings you can put on.

Pancake toppings on the pancake boat in Amsterdam

About 30 minutes into the cruise, they open a big ball pit with slide in the bowels of the boat, which kept our daughter entertained for most of the rest of the journey.

Tip: There are two levels – the top deck is cooler and has better views but the pancakes and ball pit are downstairs. But once you have eaten you can sit wherever you want.

Cruise times vary but there are at least four a day in high season, book via their site

ARTIS Zoo

This glorious zoo in the centre of Amsterdam is a tropical delight to walk through. It has some of the usual animals you see at English zoos such as elephants and giraffes but other species you don’t see very often.

I liked seeing the armadillos – having only ‘seen’ one before when Ross dressed up as the holiday armadillo on Friends!

Fennec foxes

Fennec foxes

Little Fennec foxes with huge ears and a black jaguar were other highlights.

We also felt we could get much closer to the animals than usual. There are a few areas under cover, great for hot or rainy days, including a big space to watch the sea lions underwater.

Entry to the zoo is free with an I amsterdam card or book via the zoo’s website.

Van Gogh Museum

This popular museum houses the largest collection of works by Van Gogh in the world – over 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 of his letters.

It is a wonderful collection including famous paintings like Almond Blossom, Sunflowers (which was on temporary exhibition) and my daughter’s favourite there, The Bedroom.

The Bedroom by Van Gogh

The Bedroom (credit: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

But it is not ideal territory for a lot of children, you may have to work hard to sustain their interest.

The museum is fairly spacious and if they are old enough, we would recommend the audio guide (5 euros for adults, free for children aged 6 to 12) to keep them interested for longer.

Once they have seen enough of the artwork, the Van Gogh Museum does have a couple of good areas for little ones. They can pose in front of a giant sunflower picture in the entrance hall and also the shop has an easel where they can sketch their own portrait.

Children can enter for free so if they get fed up it isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t a huge museum, so you can get around it in an hour.

Book a time slot in advance – if you have an I amsterdam card, book through their link not on the museum website.

Pirate Canal cruise – Blue Boat Company Kids Cruise

You have to do a canal cruise in Amsterdam and this was the only company we found which specifically catered for children.

Despite being a 75-minute journey, our two were entertained throughout.

The Blue Boat Company in Amsterdam

The Blue Boat Company

Every passenger gets a new set of headphones to plug in and listen to a commentary in a language of their choice. But there is also a great children’s Pirate commentary to select (in English).

And children are given an activity pack including binoculars and an activity book with answers to be heard within the commentary.

Plus, our captain was very accommodating and happy to chat and answer questions and also pointed out places of interest along the route.

Most tables are under cover, there is also space to sit at the back in the open, plus there’s a toilet on board.

The cruise is a great way to see life in Amsterdam.

This cruise is free with an I amsterdam card which offers one free standard canal cruise per ticket. Or book via the website.

Parks

There are lots of parks to enjoy in Amsterdam to stretch young legs, including the largest, Vondelpark.

Vondelpark in Amsterdam

Vondelpark (credit: Klapfilm.nl)

It is the most popular park in the Netherlands and has a great children’s play area. The main areas for children are in the centre of the park.

Many of Amsterdam’s parks have small petting zoos, one of the largest Amstelpark, to the south of the city centre also has a small train to ride.

I amsterdam cards

The simplest and most cost-effective way of getting to around Amsterdam’s attractions is with an I amsterdam cty card. You can buy then in 24 hour periods for as long as you need.

The card includes one free canal cruise, public transport around the city centre and access to more than 40 museums.

We used a 72-hour card for two adults but not for our children as a lot of museums are free to children and a public transport ticket is only four euros per day.

We found that three was the magic number to save money. If you are going to visit more than three attractions on the I amsterdam list (all major attractions are included except the Anne Frank House), then you will definitely save money.

*Read the full review of our stay in Amsterdam here: Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

*Read about our journey to Amsterdam via mini-cruise: We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

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

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

RELATED CONTENT: We review Efteling – the biggest theme park in the Netherlands – and give our top tips for visiting

RELATED CONTENT: Deserts, fairytales and glamping – a family trip to Efteling and the Brabant region of Holland.

Have you been to Amsterdam with children? What did they enjoy most?

Disclaimer: We were given I amsterdam cards, entry to Nemo Science Museum and a discount on the Pancake Boat for the purposes of this review. All opinions as always, are our own.

Our full guide to getting around Amsterdam with children

Our full guide to getting around Amsterdam with children

Top tips for navigating Amsterdam with kids – car, tram, foot, bike, taxi, or ferry?

Amsterdam in Holland is a good size in many ways but for navigating with children it can be awkward.

The city isn’t huge like London or Paris where you have to get public transport to most areas. And it isn’t compact enough to just cover on foot with little ones.

Trams

We found the quickest and simplest way around was to catch the trams. You can buy an hourly or daily ticket. A child’s daily ticket costs 4 euros. If you have an I amsterdam card, travel is included but only on GVB transport (that is every bus or tram which is blue and white).

The trams are a fun option for children as you don’t see them that often in the UK. They were almost always on time and clean when we visited, however there isn’t much ventilation so they get a bit stuffy in hot weather.

Walking

If you do end up walking and you will do for some journeys, watch out for the cyclists.

I know it is an Amsterdam cliche but bikes are literally everywhere and the cycle lanes are between the road and the pavement.

It is easy to forget about the bikes when you cross the street, when already looking out for trams, cars and other vehicles. Plus they don’t seem to often stop for red lights.

Car

Even the most confident of drivers avoids driving in Amsterdam. The roads are confusing and hectic and parking is scarce and really expensive (around 5 euros an hour). So it’s lucky that Amsterdam has such good public transport.

We had our car with us as we had travelled to the Netherlands by ferry (review here), so used a park and ride to get into the city. These are a bargain in comparison. Read our 10-steps to using Amsterdam’s park and ride system for more information.

Cycling

Bicycles parked in Amsterdam

Dutch cyclists are very, very confident and quick and really know what they are doing and where they are going.

The pace is full-on, it is definitely NOT the place for youngsters to be practising their skills, so make sure children are really, really competent if this is how you plan to get around.

Or get them to sit on your bike. We saw children riding in seats in front of the adult cyclists, not behind like is common in the UK. There are also cute bike  trailers or cargo bikes (where a large container is attached at the front of the bike for the children to sit/play in).

More cycling in Amsterdam tips:

*There are lots of places to hire bicycles in Amsterdam.

*Cross tram lines diagonally else you could get your wheel stuck.

*Remember to stay to the right and most cycle paths are one-way

*Helmets are not required by law (I didn’t see a single one), but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear one.

Taxis and Uber

You can’t just hail a taxi in Amsterdam, there are specific taxi ranks or you have to call to order them. We tried an Uber (the popular taxi app) for one journey and the vehicle arrived immediately. Just remember that they probably won’t have children’s car seats or booster seat and fares can be unpredictable. The main city centre has priority given to cyclists and pedestrians over cars so what on the map can look like short taxi journeys may take quite a long time (and therefore cost more).

Ferry

You can get free ferries across the River IJ. They are blue and white and can mostly be caught behind Amsterdam Central Station. See here for routes and schedules.

We caught the free NDSM ferry from the far left hand side of the station which took us to a Pancake Boat cruise but the short 20-minute return journey would be fine for some free sightseeing from the river.

*Now find out what to do in Amsterdam with kids with our guide: Amsterdam’s top attractions and activities for children

*Read the review of our stay in Amsterdam here: Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

*Read about our journey to Amsterdam via mini-cruise: We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

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

RELATED CONTENT: We review Efteling – the biggest theme park in the Netherlands – and give our top tips for visiting

RELATED CONTENT: Deserts, fairytales and glamping – a family trip to Efteling and the Brabant region of Holland.

The best places to holiday with children in August

The best places to holiday with children in August

Where is best for a family holiday in August – in the UK and abroad

North Wales

Temperature 18C

Dinas Dinlle beach in north Wales

Dinas Dinlle beach in north Wales

On sunny days, there are not many places that beat north Wales’ destinations like Abersoch (The 8 best beaches in and around Abersoch) and Anglesey (Anglesey review).

You can walk the length of the Welsh coastline now and summer is the best time to explore it.

Visit the sandy, unspoilt beaches of the Llyn Peninsula where there are dozens of quiet coves.

Or inland there’s Snowdonia, the mountain railway to the summit of Snowdon and the charming Ffestiniog Railway Ffestiniog Railway review and tips) in Porthmadog (Hotel review: Premier Inn in Porthmadog).

For a more bustling feel consider the seaside town of Llandudno with its pier, dry ski slope and beaches.

The Lake District

Temperature: 18C

A boat on Coniston Water

Coniston

In August, the Lakes get busy, but you can head further west to escape the crowds.

Coniston is a good option, the stony lake shore is good for setting up a picnic, the water (just) warm enough for a dip.

There is mountain biking, a high rope course and walking in nearby Grizedale Forest – or for a more leisurely stroll – the picturesque Tarn Hows is perfect for little legs.

Read our list of activities for children in Coniston.

The French Alps

Travel time from the UK: 1 hour

Temperature: 20C

The French Alps in summer

The French Alps in summer

If you want to head for Europe in high season then go high above sea level.

The French Lake District is a little cooler and quieter than the Riviera.

The snow is gone and the scenery is amazing around Lac Annecy.

The ski runs higher up are transformed into spectacular walks with all the infrastructure to cater for family fun.

Vancouver, Canada

Travel time from the UK: 11hours

Temperature: 22-25C

Vancouver

Vancouver

Canada’s west coast is a vibrant city with beaches, gorges and parks.

And in August, Vancouver is not too hot in the city but warm enough to go to the beach.

Some of the family attractions include the Capilano suspension bridge, Grouse Mountain cable car, Stanley Park and Kitsilano Beach.

Man-made fun can be had at the water park on Granville Island. Families can enjoy day trips to Vancouver Island as well.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Travel time from the UK: 12 hours

Temperature: 22-26C

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

Temperatures are at their most bearable in August – Rio’s winter – but the city but remains at its bustling best.

Children will love the beaches on the touristy south side of the city, Copacabana is the most famous but Ipanema is probably the safest for families.

Must-see sights include the Christ the Redeemer statue and a trip on the cable car.

Where do you like to go in August? Comment below!

Can you go on a cruise pregnant? Read our full guide

Can you go on a cruise pregnant? Read our full guide

Once past the dreaded morning sickness stage, a cruise sounds like a blissful holiday when pregnant.

Lots of rest, swimming, food prepared for you, afternoon naps in the cabin.

But as a Mumsnet poster found out this week: “I’ve just discovered that many cruise liners don’t let you sail if you are over 24 weeks (pregnant).

“I’m going on a cruise in 11 days’ time (cost a fortune), will be 24 weeks the day before disembarkation, have checked their T&Cs and sure enough it’s a no no.”

So is a cruise a fabulous, relaxing holiday while pregnant or a danger to mother and baby and what are the rules? The Family Holiday Guide investigates.

The pregnancy policy of cruise lines

Cruise ships have strict pregnancy policies.

Women having a healthy pregnancy, in the first or second trimester are usually allowed to sail.

They must inform the cruise line before, or risk being turned away.

The cruise line usually wants to see (sometimes two months before), a doctor or midwife’s letter confirming the mother and baby are in good health, fit to travel and the pregnancy is not high risk, plus the estimated due date.

Most cruise lines will not let passengers sail who will be in or past the 24th week of pregnancy at any stage during the journey. These include P&O, TUI, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean.

It may sound strict but when you think about it, this makes sense. Ships do not have the specialist facilities to deal with pregnancy complications or a new premature baby out at sea.

There are some ships which sail close to land or river cruises, which may allow women in later pregnancy, with a doctor’s approval.

But make sure you check and follow the rules – you may be asked to sign a health form when booking or boarding to agree that you are aware of the pregnancy policy.

You find out you are pregnant after you have booked a cruise and no longer want to go?

If you no longer want to go and have only paid a deposit, you can normally cancel the cruise and get a refund.

If you have paid in full, you will need to check the company’s cancellation policies and you may not get a full refund.

If you have travel insurance in place then you should be able to cancel or reschedule sailing.

You will be in the first or second trimester but aren’t sure whether to go?

Check with your doctor. If you have had any complications, are expecting more than one baby or have had preterm deliveries before, it may be safer to stay on land where medical facilities are close by.

Also, fully research and consider the health risks at all the destinations you will be visiting as well as the health care available at them.

There will normally be doctor-led medical facilities on the ship which can handle minor emergencies. If there is an emergency, patients are transferred to hospital (often for a fee – have insurance), but this could take a long time.

If you do sail while pregnant

*You must have travel insurance – make sure you disclose your pregnancy and check it covers you in the event of an emergency. Also make sure it covers your unborn baby.

*Always travel with your maternity notes and doctor’s letter and carry copies of prescriptions and the emergency contact number for your doctor with you too.

*Be wary of drinking the ship’s water.

*Always use hand sanitizer regularly as viruses can spread quickly on cruise ships. Take care to avoid food and water-borne conditions like stomach upsets and remember some medicines for treating things like diarrhoea aren’t suitable when pregnant.

*Don’t feel you have to do all shore excursions, stay safe and listen to your body. Sometimes pregnant passengers are not allowed on some excursions for their own safety.

*Remember, seasickness may be worse when pregnant.

*Many cruise ships have launderettes so you don’t have to splash out on lots of maternity holiday clothes.

*Be careful in the sun, keep cool and check your sun cream is suitable for pregnant women.

*You can enjoy the swimming pools but avoid hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms.

*Take a list of what you can and can’t eat as you may not be able to ‘Google it’. And be wary of buffet food which has been out a while.

*If you are flying to the cruise port, check the airline’s policy too.

In conclusion

Thoroughly consider all the issues before deciding whether to sail and choose a cruise which isn’t at sea for days on end.

If you go, pack a maternity swimsuit, enjoy the restful side of cruising including afternoon naps in your cabin, don’t overdo it and have a great time!

What about ferries?

Ferry companies have their own restrictions and usually won’t take pregnant women past 32 weeks. Check the company’s policy before booking as restrictions vary.

Brittany Ferries, for example, accept pregnant passengers under 32 weeks except on their high-speed sailings when they must be less than 28 weeks.

It also depends on the route and in some cases, the weather – if the sea is very rough, a pregnant traveller may not be allowed on board.