Our five favourite Lake District walks to keep children happy around Windermere, Coniston, Ullswater and Buttermere
(90 minutes, suitable from aged three and over, no buggies)
You can walk this from the top of Bowness town centre near Booths supermarket, it starts across fields, then goes through woodland before a brief steeper bit as you reach the summit.
The reward is amazing views over Windermere and there are benches and space at the top.
You can descend along various different routes, some on roads. An ideal first ‘summit’ to do in the Lake District.
The view of Windermere from Orrest Head
(45 minutes, toddler friendly)
This is man-made but it looks as if it has been part of the Lake District for thousands of years.
There are glorious views around the lake, and the entire circuit is flat and gravelled, which makes it buggy-friendly and ideal for those learning to walk.
Youngsters will enjoy crossing the small bridge at the far end and sheep spotting.
There is a National Trust car park on site with toilets and normally an ice-cream or burger van too. As a favourite spot for families it does get busy in high season so try and go either early morning or late afternoon.
Tarn Hows is a simple walk for young children
(80-minute round trip, suited to children aged three and over, but keep children close as there are steep drops)
Just above the Western edge of Ullswater is the most famous waterfall in the Lakes.
The walk starts at a large car park with visitor centre, you go up through woodland, before passing open fields and then turning right to the falls.
Pause on the bridge for pictures before heading back down. Beware – the path is very open in places with steep drops so you need to keep an eye on little ones at all times.
Stop near the end to dip a toe in the babbling river or tackle some stepping stones before returning through woodland to the car park.
The streams and woodland of Aira Force
(Two-hour round trip, suitable from aged four and above)
Catch the Ullswater steamer to Howtown on the sparsely populated Eastern edge of the lake.
Turn right at the pier, follow the signs around the lake – there is a nice stony beach near the start – and then head up.
The wide fields narrow to a small rocky path as you climb up. It isn’t steep but some parts are tight and there are drops, then skirt the lake around Hallin Fell.
There are great picnic spots with amazing lake views and a fun section of exposed sandstone which children can clamber on.
You can either turn back at the sandstone for a shorter walk or head right the way around Hallin Fell and back to Howtown.
There is a lovely tea room in the small town – but don’t forget to check the steamer timetable to catch your boat back.
Enjoy great views of Ullswater on this walk
(Two-hour round trip, suitable from aged four and above)
In the less visited and harder to reach Western Lakes lies Buttermere.
It is a spectacular spot for a gentle round-the-lake stroll with amazing views. You can park in the village and follow the footpath to the lake.
Head for the western shore, first through Burtness Wood, which is the easiest part of the walk and gives you the chance to stop at the shore for a picnic or paddle.
When you reach the far end you can either turn back through the wood or continue around the entire lake, which is about a four mile walk.
If you’re doing the entire circuit you will have to walk along the road for a short distance and then the shore path is quite rough but there is a fun tunnel towards the end on the eastern shore which does get quite dark.
Buttermere is below the Honister Pass in the quieter Western Lakes
Do you agree with our choices? What are your family’s favourite walks? Comment below, we would love to hear from you.
How do you keep your children safe while travelling abroad – we give you all the options
It can be a major dilemma, you’re heading abroad but what do you about car seats for your children?
You could rent them, take your own or rely on taxis and public transport. We assess all the options.
Renting car seats along with your hire car
*The benefit of this is ease and simplicity, you pick the car up at the airport, pop the seats in (once you figure out how they work) and off you go.
*It can work really well as it did when we used Auto Reisen in the Canary Islands recently, the seat was brand new and it was included in the price. If you can get that abroad, it is probably the simplest option.
*The standard of child car seats varies hugely, we have seen some truly horrible seats on offer and you don’t know what you’re going to get until you arrive.
And even then, you don’t know if the seat has hidden damage rendering it unsafe, how it has been stored, if that model has been recalled, if it has parts missing. And you don’t know how to properly fit it unless you have the manual.
*The cost is also a complete lottery. We’ve been quoted an expensive £90 per seat for a week, because the car rental companies think you don’t have a choice.
We would carefully consider the total cost of renting a car including the car hire price and seats instead of just going with the cheapest headline rate. And make sure you read company reviews to see if the seats they rent are generally of a good standard.
If you are not happy with the seat you are given when you get there, ask if you can change it for another one.
Bring your own
We have tried this and it works pretty well.
*In the long-term, it will probably be the cheapest option. We have even bought new seats to use for just for this purpose – we didn’t want to risk our day-to-day seats getting knocked about and potentially damaged and made unsafe.
*Most airlines will now let you take a car seat in the hold for free – it doesn’t come out of your luggage allowance or cost extra. Both British Airways and Ryanair allowed us to do this recently.
*Some airlines let you take the car seat with you to the gate, it can be bulky to carry around but reduces the risk of damage.
*You may also be able to take the car seat on the plane for your baby or child to sit in, if it is FAA-approved. Check ahead with your airline and know the measurements.
*You have peace of mind that the seats are safe and clean.
*The seats may take a battering travelling through the airport and on to the plane. Some people send them on the plane as they are, but they risk getting damaged.
We used to take our children’s car seats in their original boxes or a padded box to try to give them some protection but it is a hassle to pack and unpack the seats and collapse the boxes for car journeys either side.
Now, we use special bags which have made life much easier – the Venture Car Seat Travel Bag has long carry straps and now our two are much easier to carry around. The bags also prevent our seats from getting scuffed or ripped.
Using the Venture car seat travel bags
*For more information about taking car seats on a plane, see this article.
Hire at your location
Increasingly, popular tourist destinations have outlets where you can hire seats from the airport. We tried one at Malaga Airport with Tots Store.
*With a specialist supplier the seats are more certain to be good quality and cheaper.
This is the entire business for a company like Tots Stores and they wouldn’t last long offering substandard seats at inflated prices like car hire companies can get away with.
*We found the service excellent, the seats were really good quality and they explained the fitting well. The staff were efficient meeting us and it was quick and easy to take the seats back at the end of the holiday.
*You don’t have to risk damaging your own seats.
*On arrival you have to head for a different part of the airport to collect the seats, which does add a little bit of time to your airport experience.
On drop-off, you can head for the departures area but it is impossible to carry all your luggage and two car seats in one trip so this could be tricky if there is only one adult.
*The cost is likely to be less than hiring from the car hire company but more expensive than bringing your own.
Taxis and public transport
*Using public transport or taxis means less to worry about. Instead of panicking about scratches on the hire car, navigation, parking in tight spots, driving on the wrong side of the road and all the rest that goes into driving abroad – you can relax a bit more.
*The key to this approach is where you are going. Driving around some busy cities is best avoided in favour of trains, buses or taxis. In other areas, you need your own car to get around.
*Public transport will be cheapest and can be the best option in big cities. On our visit to London it was great to get around via the tube, train or bus. It made for an adventure.
Taxis with car seats can be hard to find
*We have never found a taxi abroad which has a proper child’s car seat. The best you can hope for is probably a booster seat but it is very hit and miss. You can try to pre-book a taxi with seats but we have never been successful and the whole point of taking cabs is that it is quick and easy and relatively spontaneous.
*The standard of driving is so variable too, we had one particularly hair-raising trip around Florence in a taxi.
*The cost of taking regular taxis will likely be more than a hire car – unless you are paying a huge parking fee each day.
In the UK, if the driver doesn’t provide the correct child car seat, children can travel without one on and will not be fined. They must be on a rear seat. If they are three or over they need to wear a seatbelt but no seatbelt for under-threes (see gov.uk for more information). The law in other countries and areas varies.
However experts advise that it is always safer to use a child car seat. Using a travel booster seat or seatbelt adjustor may be safer than nothing.
There are a lot of options to weigh up, consider the location and what will work best for you and let us know your thoughts, tips and ideas in the comments.
*For a full guide to flying with a baby or infant under two click here. For our 10 top tips to flying with toddlers and young children click here.
Our best airport and aeroplane hacks to make flying with children an enjoyable experience
Lots of parents worry about taking toddlers and young children on a flight. You hope they will be comfortable and happy but fear they will be noisy, cry or have a tantrum and annoy people around them.
We’ve put together our top tips to make it as easy as possible for you. To read our comprehensive guide on flying with a baby or infant under two, click here.
1. The airport – make it fun
The airport is a big, noisy place for children, with long queues, long waits and people asking questions.
Try to ease the process by explaining ahead what will happen and make each part a game or a challenge. Maybe split up and take two different security lines to see who wins, sit by a window at the airport and do some plane spotting and let the children pull lighter suitcases if they are big enough.
Some airports have a play area for children, which can help pass the time. Also, keep them walking around, they’ll be sitting for long enough on the plane.
And buy them a magazine or book at the shops to take on board – which kills time in the airport and in the air.
2. Buggy/pushchair/stroller/car seat
Airlines normally let you have a pushchair and child car seat in the hold for free, check ahead to avoid extra costs.
Most airlines will let you keep your pushchair with you until you board if you prefer, then crew will put it in the hold for the flight. Buy a buggy bag, it offers some protection for the buggy, which is likely to get a bit battered. Plus, we have managed to fit extra bits like milk and nappies collected from Boots or even coats inside, to save carrying them on to the plane when you are juggling everything and trying to get the children on safely.
We also have protective bags for our car seats – for a full guide to hiring or taking car seats abroad see our article here.
3. Split your boarding
Children and families are often allowed to board first, this can be useful but also means more time on the plane for little ones so we prefer to wait until the end to get on.
Or consider this trick of ours. If there is more than one adult, one boards first with all the hand luggage, sorts the books, tablets/iPads, snacks and drinks out, then pops the bags in the overhead lockers.
The other parent stays with the children to burn off some energy at the departure gate and boards at the end of the process.
4. Where to sit on the plane
Airlines must aim to seat children close to parents or guardians, according to guidance from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Where they can’t, they should be no more than one row apart but there are no guarantees.
The safest way to be sure you are sitting together is to pay to book your seats online in advance. Otherwise, check in early, as soon as free online check-in opens (usually between four days and 24 hours before departure depending on the airline).
When deciding where to sit, look at the aircraft layout plans online and decide the best solution for your family. Many short haul flights are a 3-3 seating arrangement. As a family of four, we prefer to sit in two pairs rather than three together and one across the aisle, allowing us to concentrate on one child each. And we put each child in a window seat.
We never sit our children in aisle seats in case a passing trolley bumps them or catches their fingers or a hot drink is spilled. But also young children will be tempted to keep getting up and running off if they have easy access to the aisle!
If you are sitting one row behind another, consider putting a younger one who may be tempted to kick the seat in front, behind, so they aren’t annoying a stranger!
5. How to get extra seats for free
Ask when checking in and boarding whether the flight is full. If there is space, ask the crew if you could have a row of seats to spread out.
Another trick when booking seats if there are three across, is to book an aisle and a window seat, leaving a seat in the middle. These middle seats are usually last to be sold so if the plane isn’t full it may remain empty. If someone has booked it, they will usually gladly swap to be by the aisle or window.
6. Bulkhead seats
A bulkhead is a divider between sections of the plane such as a wall, curtain or screen.
Some people love bulkhead seats and some hate them, there are pros and cons.
Pros: Bulkhead seats can give more leg room and there is nobody to lie back in front of you. You are also among the first to be served food and drinks. You may be nearer to the toilet.
Cons: The arm rests don’t move, tray tables are often stored in them. There isn’t room under the seats for bags. So if the airline doesn’t allow hand luggage in front of you – always true during take-off and landing – you have to jump up and down a lot to fetch changing bags, activities, food and drink.
7. Entertainment options
Spend time preparing what to take on board to keep children entertained – else you may pay the price in the air when it is too late.
You can buy packs already made up such as the Keep em Quiet bags. But you know your children best and what holds their attention, such as colouring books, plain paper, activity books, pens, crayons and little games (not any with lots of little pieces you will be scrabbling under the chairs to find). I sometimes print out free word searches and colouring pages from the internet to make a little personal pack up for them.
We split the flight into sections. We don’t give our children anything when we first board, else they get engrossed and miss out on the fun bit! We encourage them to look out of the window and take in the excitement of lifting off the ground and being in the air. We just give them drinks to stop their ears from hurting.
When they start to get bored, we begin to bring out the entertainment. Ours love children’s magazines so we start with a new one and try some reading, colouring and puzzles while they’re still fresh.
Later on in the flight, when they start to get restless, we wheel out the iPads. When taking tablets, remember to check batteries are fully charged and their favourite programmes are downloaded and not just available via Wi-Fi.
And take proper children’s headphones which are designed for small heads so don’t slip off and are also much quieter to protect their ears.
Break up the screen time with a sandwich and snacks and use toilet breaks as an excuse to explore the plane and stretch legs.
8. What else to pack in hand luggage
Don’t forget drinks, snacks, sandwiches, nappies/pull ups for children still in them and comforters.
Remember wipes and proper anti-bacterial hand wipes (we get Lacura travel wipes from Aldi and stock up whenever they are selling them) or hand gel to keep hands germ free on board.
Put children in comfortable, loose-fitting clothes or pyjamas and take spare clothes, extra layers and extra socks in case they are cold.
Consider taking a blanket and an extra blanket or use the onboard one to make a canopy to shield children from the lights if they want to sleep. Just slot it into the headrest (this won’t work in a bulkhead seat).
And don’t forget a Kindle, book or tablet for you, you never know, you might get a few minutes to relax!
You can pre-order holiday essentials including nappies, baby milk, dummies etc to collect at a Boots airport store as you are allowed to take one shopping bag on board. Go to the Boots website, add items to your basket and choose the Collect in Store delivery option. Type the name of the airport in the ‘Find your nearest store’ box. Make sure you choose the ‘after security’ option and the correct terminal if there are more than one. Choose the day of the flight as the collection day. The order needs to be made at least three days before you fly.
9. How to stop those ears popping
There are various tricks to deal with the air pressure during take-off and particularly landing.
Boiled sweets used to be a favourite but they are a choking hazard for younger children.
We give ours drinks. It’s important they drink throughout the flight anyway – but we encourage ours to drink lots of water during take-off and landing, as the swallowing eases the pressure build-up in their ears.
Yawning when your child can see you so they reciprocate, also helps.
Younger children can also have milk or a dummy to help them.
10. And relax
Above all, try to relax and enjoy what you can about this shared experience, a big part of your holiday for them. If you are a nervous flyer, try your best not to show it else they will pick up on it and it will affect how they see it too now and in the future. Treat it as an adventure and a fun part of the holiday.
Fingers crossed and happy holidays!
MUST READ: Flying with a baby or infant under two – our comprehensive guide will help you from the airport to the plane