A Sunday afternoon at National Trust’s Dyffryn Gardens

I’ve driven past the signs for Dyffryn Gardens a million times and always wondered what it was like…. my birthday a few weeks ago gave me the perfect opportunity to drag my other half and W there for a few hours…. and we all LOVED it!

It cost about £8 each to go in (W was free) – there’s a little play area before you even pay to go in, and a café and shop at the main entrance… but we headed straight towards the grounds… past the main house…

Dyffryn Gardens - the main house

Dyffryn Gardens – the main house

There was a large open space in front of the house… W loved running around, in and out of people playing croquet (eek!)

Dyffryn gardens

Dyffryn gardens

As you move around, then you enter a world of little small walled gardens of all styles… it was all so beautiful and well-kept, felt like magical secret gardens… here’s some pics….

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As you can tell, the weather was a bit overcast but we were still pleasantly surprised that it was very peaceful for a Sunday in school holidays – the area is so big I can’t imagine it ever feeling busy! We enjoyed it so much that we’re considering buying the annual National Trust membership (about £100) so that we can go here all the time – it’s only 20 mins or so away!

If you’re considering going with older children, I must add that I was very impressed – they had loads of activities running from making nests to cooking marshmallows on a fire, I can’t remember the rest but there was loads to do…. we’ll definitely be back!

Small print: We paid to go in with our own money, and opinions are my own. For more info visit their website

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REVIEW: Chicco 123 activity centre – baby walker to ride-on*

Baby W was very excited when this big box arrived….

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The Chicco 123 is basically a 3-in-1:

  1. A baby walker for babies aged 6 months old up
  2. A push-along ‘first steps’ for roughly 9 months up
  3. A ride-on for toddlers aged 18 months and older

As W was 14 months old when it arrived, we skipped the first step as he would be too big for it – and tried out the ‘first steps’ bit….

Chicco 123 first steps mode

Chicco 123 first steps mode

He went straight for the phone on the activity centre as you can see above and below… he wouldn’t let it go ;)

He quite enjoyed toddling around with the ‘baby steps’ version but because he was already walking confidently by the time we got it, he didn’t really ‘need’ it as a push-along. It would have come in really handy when he really was taking his first steps as I can imagine it’s great for their confidence… feels very sturdy and good to control, not too fast or anything!

I know he’s a little bit young for it but I wanted to try out the ‘ride on’ part so we put that together….

Chicco 123 ride-on

Chicco 123 ride-on

…and he LOVED it! It’s a little bit big for him so I had to push him along but he really enjoyed it and was bouncing up and down for more!

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On his tip-toes – a bit big for him

I think it’s great that all 3 parts have the activity centre as the main element – he loved this…

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….as well as his favourite element – the phone, it also has a mirror, a panda button and ladybird switch – I think it looks really cute

Chicco 123 activity centre

Chicco 123 activity centre

Now this activity centre also has sounds, but we haven’t experienced them yet as you need a screwdriver to put the batteries in and I have no idea where our screwdriver is! I’m always puzzled why brands insist on this screwdriver thing, they should make products as easy as possible for new parents!

Overall toddler W loved this… I think as he gets older we will get lots of use out of the ride-on, and I think we can officially call the phone ‘his first mobile phone’! Here’s some pros and cons I thought of if you’re thinking of buying it….

Pros

  • Great value for money – you should be able to buy it for £69.99 which I think is great considering you get 3 different uses out of it from a little baby to a big toddler!
  • In our case, if I’d got this sooner – I might have been able to do without the jumperoo we bought, and the vtech baby walker – saves you having to buy lots of different things!
  • Looks good, bright colours etc
  • Relatively easy to put together – things just slot together easily (it took me a while but I’m just rubbish at instructions!)
  • Feels safe and sturdy – not flimsy at all
  • Easy to clean as it’s all plastic
  • Height adjustable
  • A really cute function which we haven’t done yet, but we will – you can get a customisable sticker with your child’s name on it to stick on to the front – I think this is  a really cute touch!

Cons

  • The biggest negative for me is the size – the baby walker might have been ok in our living room but there’s no way we could put the push-along/ride-on in the house – W would be going round in circles and banging into stuff lots! It’s perfect for us as a garden toy, but our house is just too small for using it indoors – so worth checking the measurements (if you have a big house you don’t need to worry!)
  • Because of it’s size and sturdy nature, it’s quite bulky to put away too – you could take it apart easily but the main frame needs a bit of space even if it’s flat against a wall- ours lives in the shed!
  • Only other slight negative is needing a screwdriver to get the sounds working!

For me, the pros outweigh the cons – it’s really good value for money when you compare it against buying things like jumperoos and walkers separately…. for more information, Chicco have a lovely webpage that describes it better than I did – like the height, security and customisation features!

If you enjoyed reading this, check out more of my reviews here – everything from breastfeeding equipment that I bought to spa treatments…

*Disclaimer: Chicco kindly sent me this 123 to review, but opinions are my own

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Toddler W and Mummy’s 15 month update

Can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last blogged…. busy, busy, busy!!

Since then baby W is no longer a baby and definitely seems more like a toddler so he’ll no longer be called baby W ;)

He turned 15 months old last week…

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Since our last update:

He’s of an age where we can’t stay in all day – if it’s raining we’ll go to softplay and he loves that (loves wendy houses and the little tikes cars!) but we’ve been blessed with some sunny days and over the last 2 months we’ve visited:

  • Cefn Mably farm
  • the Brecon Beacons (garwnant park),
  • family in Hay-on-Wye (that’s him with my auntie in the photo)
  • stayed with my mum for a week in mid Wales and he loved the paddling pool in Aberystwyth (it was during a heatwave!)
  • his first (mini) festival (Tafwyl in Cardiff)
  • lovely Penllergaer park in Swansea for our first father’s day without my dad
  • our family favourite, Roath Park!
Walking in Roath Park with daddy!

Walking in Roath Park with daddy!

When we’re at home, he’s going through a phase of picking up as much stuff as he can in one go! And passing things from one hand to the other, and hiding things in cupboards…. much fun! For example… helping me with the laundry….

laundry helper!

laundry helper!

It’s amazing to watch him, he’s like a sponge soaking things up and copying new things like trying to copy me feed the cats, or trying to put keys in doors!

Our current routine

  • He wakes up about 5/5.30/6 – we give him a bottle of milk to buy us another half hour in bed – so he’s up about 6/6.30
  • Breakfast about 7.30-8
  • He has a nap from roughly 9-11 (usually without any milk – I give him milk or water if he won’t settle) sometimes this can be a 3 hour nap!
  • 11/11.30 – snacks or a light lunch
  • He’s dropped his afternoon nap – he might have a power nap in the car/pram if we’re out and about but if we leave him sleep for more than half hour it disrupts his evening routine…
  • 2ish another light lunch/snacks
  • 5.30 – dinner
  • 6 – bath, bottle, bed
  • 7 – usually asleep by 7 and most of the time sleeps through :)

He’s still good at drinking water, I’ve not given him any squash/juice yet. He’s a pretty good eater – goes through phases! Still loves his cheesy pasta the most :)

Hates having his nappy changed, and getting dressed!

Loves books, remote controls, mobile phones.

Height and weight – still NO idea! Must measure him and weigh him soon! He’s in size 4+ nappies, and mostly 12-18 month old clothes, although in bottoms he’s still mostly in 9-12 month old clothes – not worried at all though, he was always going to be on the petite side :)

That’s it for now :) x

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Baby W’s first pair of shoes from Clarks

As you know, Baby W has been walking properly for about 6 weeks now. Since he started moving around (crawling and pulling himself up) I never put any shoes or booties on him so that they didn’t get in the way of his development but now he’d been walking for a while it really was time to get him shoes… as walking outside in socks is a little dangerous ;)

So on my week off last week I had the chance to take him to Clarks… where else would you go for that special first pair?! They have such a good reputation for baby and children’s shoes – I remember going there for all my school shoes when I was a little girl.

First shoes from Clarks

First shoes from Clarks

The experience itself was a bit underwhelming – I was expecting all the sales assistants to be as excited as me about getting his first, proper, pair of shoes… but of course they deal with this day in, day out – it must get a bit boring ;)

But I was still excited…. he got measured while he sat in his pushchair.. and he’s a 4F!

Now, I hadn’t anticipated how expensive baby shoes were, but thankfully Clarks had a sale on… I picked the only pair of 4F’s they had in the sale which worked out well as I love them! And they were down from £26 to £8!

Baby W's first shoes from Clarks

Baby W’s first shoes from Clarks

I put them on him straight away…. and straight away he learnt how to take them off. I didn’t think this was going to go well at all, but I took him straight up to the park so he could run around in them… and run around he did :) It didn’t take him long to get used to them at all, they didn’t hinder his walking at all…

Toddling around Aberystwyth castle in his first shoes!

Toddling around Aberystwyth castle in his first shoes!

A week on and he still wears them when we’re out and about. Bonus points for being able to actually hear him walk about now – stomp, stomp, stomp! And he still tries to take them off when he’s sat in his pushchair or car seat!

As the sale was such a bargain, I got a couple of pairs in the next size up (4 1/2 F) – I don’t love these as much as his first pair but they are still cute…..

Bargains from the Clarks sale - £16 down to £10

Bargains from the Clarks sale – £16 down to £10

Clarks sale shoes - £18 down to £9

Clarks sale shoes – £18 down to £9

Not sure when he’ll wear those – it’s recommended they get measured around every 8-10 weeks. Hopefully the next shoe shop will co-incide with another sale – I do love a bargain!

My little baby is growing up fast!

Do you remember your baby’s first shoes?!

Small print: I wasn’t paid to, or asked to, write this by Clarks – just wanted to share our special first pair of shoes with you :)

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Taking a one-year-old baby abroad – including flying – tips and checklists!

Travelling abroad for a week with a one-year-old….

I’m a laid-back ex-backpacker. I used to travel light and ‘wing it’. I don’t think I’ve ever been so stressed as I was in the run-up to baby W’s first foreign holiday a month ago… so I thought I’d try and share everything with you, to hopefully ease your pain and stress!!

The ultimate guide to holidaying abroad with a one year old

Deciding where to go

Ok, you’ve agreed you *need* a week abroad – well, what next? Here’s how we decided on our destination:

  • We wanted to fly (not drive to Europe)- we were happy to fly from Cardiff, Bristol or Birmingham
  • We didn’t want the flight to be longer than 2 hours-ish
  • This also meant the temperature should be ok – mid-20’s
  • The flight times had to try and work within baby W’s schedule – we didn’t want any evening/late night/ridiculous early morning flights
  • These options basically led to mainland Spain or the Balearic islands (Majorca/Menorca/Ibiza)
  • Then we had to decide whether we wanted a hotel (various board types) or self-catering (‘aparthotels’ or villas) – think about what your evenings will be like – do you need more than 1 room? (we did ok with ours but an extra room would have been nice!)
  • We didn’t want the accommodation to be on its own, in the middle of nowhere – we wanted a beach within walking distance and ideally a couple of bars/restaurants/shops – but we didn’t really want to be in a big, busy resort
  • Transfer times – if you’re flying, how far is the accommodation from the airport?
  • Can you see yet why I was getting stressed?!
  • After looking at various flight-only options vs package holidays, we decided we wanted a hotel…. obviously you will have an overall budget that you need to work to
  • then we decided we needed a hotel with a crèche so that mummy and daddy could have a few hours off!
  • we decided the best value holiday for us was an all-inclusive week in Menorca with Thomson – in the Victoria Playa hotel – read all about our week here

So with the holiday booked a month before we were going… what was our…

Pre-holiday checklist

  • Make sure your passports are up-to-date and make sure baby has his/her own!
  • Make sure everyone has a free EHIC card – this entitles you to free healthcare within Europe – the official link is here, avoid any sites trying to charge you!
  • Even if you have an EHIC card, make sure you have travel insurance – in case your holiday gets cancelled, or they lose your luggage etc – I have a family policy free with my bank account but you can get it cheap enough from sites like Confused.com
  • If you need to, organise your airport parking – always cheaper to do it in advance. We went out of our way to fly from Birmingham as it was cheaper and the flight times were better – the money we saved meant we could spend a night up there before we flew- read about the Novotel stay and park deal  – remember that you will have a baby and extra luggage with you – we realised convenience of things like parking were more important to us than before, so you could even plump for a ‘meet and greet’ service?!
  • If you have pets like we do, don’t forget to organise a pet sitter 
  • Oh and don’t forget to give your nursery/childminder enough notice so that they don’t charge you ;)

Packing checklist for your baby’s foreign holiday!

So I went a bit overboard here – I envisaged us being so busy that baby W would need 2 or 3 change of clothes a day and lots more nappies than usual. In the end we took way too much (because he slept so much – we’ll come on to that!) but in a nutshell I packed for him:

  • 2 outfits a day (t-shirts and shorts)
  • about 9 babygros/vests
  • 9 sleepsuits (we didn’t end up using any of these as it was too hot at night for him!)
  • a pack of day nappies (I think there’s 31 in a pack)
  • 10 night nappies
  • 14 swim nappies (we used about 3 of these!)
  • Nappy bags
  • 2 baby bath towels
  • 4 packs of wet wipes
  • his teething essentials – Calpol, Nurofen, Anbesol
  • a handful of bibs and socks
  • his Tommee tippee bottles and sippy cups
  • washing-up liquid (in a travel size bottle, so no leakage!), tea towel and bottle brush
  • his bathing essentials – bubble bath, shampoo, bath toys, toothbrush and toothpaste
  • baby powder – I’d never used this but heard it was good for getting sand off babies – it’s true!!
  • 3 x swim costumes (all UV50 protection)
  • 1 swim towel
  • 2 x sleeping bags (1.5 tog but we could have done with a 0.5 tog)
  • his bedtime essentials – comforter, sheepskin, couple of favourite blankets
  • Black-out blind (didn’t need it)
  • a buggy (ended up having to borrow one from the hotel as we’d forgotten the sun visor thing)
  • Snooze-shade – absolutely great product to safely cover your baby so he can nap in the buggy out of sun’s harm!
  • Baby carrier (Baby bjorn)
  • SPF50 – some quick-dry stuff
  • Sunglasses and sun hats (even though I knew he wouldn’t wear them – just pulls them off!)
half-packed suitcase for our baby!

half-packed suitcase for our baby!

Here’s a link to his holiday wardrobe –  I bought a lot of new (but generally cheap) stuff (I needed to stock up on his next size up anyway) to take with us as I couldn’t bear the thought of needing to do laundry on our first day back lol, and it meant I could start packing early.

Nemo swimsuit from Tesco (£10)

Part of his holiday wardrobe!

I think I only forgot two thing which would have been quite handy:

  • his thermometer
  • some muslin sheets which we could have soaked and used them to cool him down

In the end, like I said, I took way too much – but I had heard things like ‘they don’t sell pampers in Spain’ – I was even worried that they wouldn’t sell normal cow’s milk!!! As it worked out, the supermarket opposite our hotel sold Pampers, Ella’s kitchen food sachets – the works – but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry?!

Hand luggage

Neither me or my other half had anything in our hand luggage for ourselves (apart from money, passports etc!) – it was all stuff to keep him busy on the journey (and when we got there) so we had:

  • Bottles (for milk and water)
  • Snacks – raisins, baby crisps, bananas
  • Books – his favourite 2 plus  new ones I’d borrowed from the library
  • Wet wipes
  • Couple of nappies and nappy bags
  • His comforter an favourite blanket
  • Couple of small toys e.g. his toy tablet
  • A few change of clothes (for all temperatures – I didn’t know if he’d get cold on the plane! He didn’t!)

We both used soft bags, so we could stuff them underneath the seats in front – easier than needing something from the overhead compartment when the seatbelt sign is on!

And we split everything between the bags e.g. pack of wet wipes one, just in case one of us wandered off with a bag!

The airport – some tips

So I was dreading this part – our flight was at 7am so we needed to be there about 4.30am – even though we were staying right opposite and figured we’d be early, there was already a huge queue!

  • So, we paid about £10 each to go ‘priority’ – this meant we could jump the check-in queue, security queue and our luggage would be first off – money well spent for us!
  • we checked our buggy in at check-in and carried him in the carrier – but you can take the buggy with you right up to the gate (so have a think about logistics, what if they fall asleep in the buggy etc?)
  • Now, I knew at security that they would let you take formula milk through – but I had no idea about cow’s milk?! Well they do let you take baby bottles full of the stuff, so we filled ours up at the security desk (so now you know, you can do it in advance)
  • Don’t forget your bottle insulators to keep the milk fresh for a couple of hours!
  • After security we headed straight to the comfort of the airport lounge – another perk that I have with a bank account. I’m not sure how much these cost as a ‘day pass’ but if I were you I’d seriously consider it – you’re guaranteed somewhere comfy to sit and you help yourselves to hot/cold/alcoholic drinks and snacks (bacon rolls in our case!) – so when you add up how much you might spend at an airport it could be a good deal?

We started giving baby W his milk in the lounge, hoping he’d fall asleep but he was still wide awake when we got on to the plane, which is what I was dreading the most!…..

The flight – with a one-year-old!

Lots of people had said that giving your baby a bottle for take-off/landing was a good idea as it helps with their ears popping. This seemed to work a treat for baby W, plus he eventually entered his usual milk coma not long after take-off and slept on his dad’s lap for a good hour (so half of the flight). The other half was taken up with a walk up and down the aisle, and using all the toys and treats from the hand luggage to keep him entertained.

He wasn’t happy about sitting still for landing, but at least it’s only about 10 minutes of moaning ;)

PS I really enjoyed reading/watching this blog post and video from Knott bump and us about navigating airports and flights with a baby (similar age to baby W) – worth a watch!

Transfer to your accommodation

We had transfers included in our package holiday but we could see from the website that it could take up to 90 minutes (because of all the drop-offs etc) so we figured we’d speak to a rep when we arrived and pay for a taxi (30 euros, 30 minutes) if it was really going to take 90 minutes.

Well, we had a lovely surprise on arrival – because our holiday was with Thomson but our flights were with Thomas Cook, we were in a minority and so the Thomson rep gave us a taxi slip and we got a free taxi to our hotel, instead of getting a bus :)

The taxi ride ended up being the hardest part of the day – baby W having to sit on our lap for 25-30 minutes. It was hot. He’d had a nap but hadn’t slept as long as usual, so he was grouchy and basically wanted to be on the move – he’d sat down for way too long by this point! So he cried and moaned most of the way and nothing would distract him but we got there in the end!

So have a think about how long your transfer might be on a bus etc. Our luggage came off early (as we’d paid for priority) but in hindsight, it might have done baby W some good to run around and burn some energy in the airport before we jumped into the cab….

On holiday – our new routine

We expected the weather to be about 20-25 degrees, but we arrived during a heatwave and for the whole week the temperature was 30-32 degrees! This was tough and basically baby W was not himself for the week, which I think was a combination of the heat but also teething (his back teeth were coming through). It wasn’t too bad, he was ok and did have some fun, he just wasn’t his usual, happy self.

Within a day we’d fallen into a new routine, we all know how much babies/toddlers love a routine – I’ve shared ours below, but you will of course find your own routine – I guess the point is, that your baby/toddler might be very different on holiday to at home so be prepared for that in case you were hoping to do excursions, go out at night etc!

6am – wake-up!

6.30am – 8am – play-time (softplay/wendy house area) or one morning we went to the beach (the swimming pool didn’t open til 9ish I think)

baby W loved his car in Victoria Playa!

baby W early morning play

8am – breakfast

8.30-10 – walk and a nap – we’d have a lovely walk along the sea, and after a while we’d zip up the snoozeshade (turned out to be a holiday essential!) and baby W would have a 30-45 minute nap

10-12 – baby W went into crèche 3 mornings, played with us the other 3 mornings. As I said in the post about the hotel, the crèche was brilliant and meant we had a little break from him (and most importantly, he loved it!)

12-1 soft-play!

1 – lunch

1.30 – 3.30/4 – nap time. Before holidays he’d cut right down on his afternoon nap but the teething/heat combo meant he basically slept all afternoon, every afternoon! This worked out great as daddy caught up with sleep and mummy caught up with sunbathing and reading books!

4-6 playtime – swimming/softplay

6.15 – dinner!

6.45-7 bath, bottle, bed for baby W – we tried to stick to him home routine as much as possible here.

One night we tried taking him out, asleep, in the pushchair, so we could enjoy a sunset drink, but he stirred too much for our liking, so every night we’d just sit on the balcony with beers and books instead! A couple of nights my other half went to watch the footie, which was fine with me – we’d be in bed for 9.30-10 anyway!

Read more about our week in the hotel here

Coming back – and home, sweet home!

Our flight home was at 1pm, so it was a nice time to travel. The taxi transfer was less stressful this time, but baby W was a bit grouchy in the airport and we had to queue a fair bit – we didn’t have the cash for priority queue-jumping here, and there was no airport lounge in menorca airport!

A bit of milk on the plane, and baby W then slept for most of the flight this time! Picked up our luggage, a trolley is a must as of course you have an extra suitcase, transfer bus to the car park and eventually home sweet home!

Summary

Holidaying with a 13 month old is great fun, but does need a bit more planning and preparation than usual! If you choose the right place for you and settle into a new routine, you can all have rest and some fun :)

I hope I thought of everything, and hope you found this useful – if you did, I’d love it if you could share it with your friends and peers on Facebook/Twitter! (And if you want to follow me, I’m @yummyblogger on Twitter) and if I missed anything, please do leave a comment!

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Posted in parenting, travel | 2 Comments

REVIEW: Hotel Victoria Playa, a Thomson family hotel, in Santo Tomas, Menorca

We recently had our first holiday abroad with our 13 month old baby W and apart from him suffering from the heat and teething, we had an absolutely great time! This hotel has mixed reviews, so I thought I’d give our take on it….

Rooms

The rooms are as described on the Thomson website – pretty basic but very clean and functional. A few reviews said that there isn’t much storage room and I would agree with that – but we had a set of bunk beds in there which we used for storage! There was a travel cot ready for us in the room (on wheels so we put towels around ours to stop it moving!) and we rented a fridge for baby W’s milk at the cost of about 2 euros per day.

We were in room 209, we had amazing views over the sea and saw some cracking sunsets. This side of the hotel gets the sun in the afternoon so when the boys were napping in the afternoon I could sit on the balcony catching some rays :)

View from our room in Victoria Playa

View from our room in Victoria Playa

One downside of this side of the hotel is that in the evening you can hear the entertainment from outside the hotel next door – but it’s not too bad and always finishes by 11pm.

Balcony #selfie - hat bought in San Tomas :)

Balcony #selfie – hat bought in San Tomas :)

Restaurant, bar and lobby areas

I have to mention the lobby – only because – at the Thomson rep desk, they have a crate where people leave their unwanted goods – I thought this was a great idea, and we left books and our inflatable toys there, I saw everything from clothes to swim nappies in there!

They seem to be half way through doing this hotel up – so the main bar area looks a little bit dated, but it’s still absolutely fine and I love how you just help yourself to soft drinks/lager/wine without having to be served – oh and help yourself to free tubs of ice cream! Next to the main bar, there is another bar (cocktail bar?) which has been renovated – it’s clean, modern and very-well air conditioned – this area was always really quiet and a lovely respite from the heat!

Our view from the new bar in Victoria Playa, Menorca

Our view from the new bar in Victoria Playa, Menorca

I hadn’t realised til we got home (otherwise I would have taken photos) that the restaurant photos on the website are out-of-date – the restaurant is in the style of this bar – airy, clean, modern – really nice. They have an area for families with highchairs at the table ready – much fun watching baby W babbling to the other babies in the vicinity!

Food 

We absolutely loved the food and couldn’t work out why the food would ever get bad reviews – we’ve stayed at a few posher all-inclusives than this one but this food was excellent – always a fish of the day, always meat, always pasta (baby W’s fave!), always something child-friendly like chicken nuggets, always an amazing choice of salads and a few desserts. My favourite meals of the week were their paella, local meatballs and their chicken fajitas… oh and I had nutella pancakes for breakfast every day – yum!

Because of the huge choice of food, there was always plenty for baby W to eat – from cheese slices to his watermelon! The staff there were lovely – giving baby W lots of attention (and we left them a nice tip at the end of the week as they’d spent so much time helping us clean up after him ;))

My only bugbear about the restaurant was that it didn’t open for lunch til 1pm – noon would have been better for us as we’re up so early with baby W! But you can free toasties/sarnies in the bar between 11 and 1 so I couldn’t really complain!

The pool areas, grassy area and beach

As you might be able to see from the photo from our room, there are 3 pools – a play pool with little slides etc, a small baby/toddler pool and the main adult pool – all good!! The reps do dancing and games every afternoon – you’d never catch me getting involved but it was fun to watch ;)

Loved these posters at the bar/pool area

Loved these posters at the bar/pool area

I’ve seen a few reviews moaning about not being able to get a lounger – by the end of our week we struggled too but we just put our towels down on the huge grassy area instead – which was perfectly fine :) As well as the pool-side loungers and grassed area, the gorgeous sandy beach is just a minute or so away! We didn’t spend long down here but it was lovely, and you can hire loungers here too.

Creche

On of the reasons we chose this hotel is because it has a creche. We thought we’d put baby W in for 4 out of the maximum 6 hours a day (!!) but because of his teething etc, we only put him in for 3 mornings but he loved it! The 2 girls working there, Terri and Ashleigh, were absolutely great – warm, calming and put you at ease right away – we all loved them!

We had pre-booked our sessions before we went and just sorted out the times when we got there, but you can do it all when you get there and they’re pretty flexible if you need to switch etc. They only take a max of 6 babies/toddlers per session but when we were there it was never full.

Softplay

One of Baby W’s highlights of the holiday was the softplay area between the pool and bar. The photo doesn’t really do it justice – it’s quite small but perfect size for babies/toddlers of baby W’s age – a ball pool, and some big foam things to move around – ace!!

Softplay at Victoria Playa, Menorca

Softplay at Victoria Playa, Menorca

Play areas

So for older toddlers/kids, there seems to be 2 x kids clubs (I’ve no idea what the difference between them is) and 2 little park/play areas. For baby W there was a hidden bonus – by one of the kids club was a little area which 2 x wendy houses and a car – he loved it!! And a part of it was always in the shade – as baby W had just started walking before the hols, this area was perfect for him and kept him entertained.

Outside one of the kids clubs, Victoria Playa

Outside one of the kids clubs, Victoria Playa

baby W loved his car in Victoria Playa!

baby W loved his car in Victoria Playa!

Other baby-friendly facilities

Next to the creche (on the first floor, near the restaurant) there is a baby room which has a steriliser, microwave, kettle…. cot…. little ball pool, books and some toys, and a changing area. This was great for us, before or after dinner baby W would love playing in the ball pool – oh and there’s a TV/DVD player in there so he loved playing with the remote control too!

The other baby-friendly thing I must mention is that you can hire a buggy from the hotel. We had taken our brand new Chicco lite stroller with us but stupidly forgot the sun canopy and quickly realised we’d be buggered without it, so we hired one from the hotel (they have a room full you can choose from including a double buggy!) and I think it was only 2-3 euros per day which I thought was a bargain!

The resort – San Tomas

So we couldn’t really fault the hotel – and we LOVED the location! Santo Tomas is a tiny little resort so don’t there if you’re looking for ‘action!’ – it only has about 5 restaurants/bars and a handful of shops but we loved it – our highlight was our twice-a-day walk down the promenade, the sea on one side and lovely hotels and houses on the other. I think the resort has a mix of hotels and self-catering accommodation so as well as lots of other young British families we also saw backpackers, and older European travellers – I always like a good mix of people!

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While I remember, the hotel is right opposite a supermarket, pharmacy and doctors surgery… and a bus stop  – great location!

Me and a sangria in San Tomas, Menorca

Me and a sangria in San Tomas, Menorca

In the opposite direction to the prom, there is a cliffside walk over the next resort – we walked about half of it while baby W was in creche this morning – was lovely (there’s me on the rocks there!) and would have been ace to have the time to do the full walk!

Must also mention that a few minutes from the hotel is a softplay you can pay 3euros for – baby W was a bit small for it really but it would be great for older children, and they also had a trampoline etc.

Checking out the softplay competition in San Tomas Menorca

Checking out the softplay competition in San Tomas Menorca

Overall summary

Because of the mixed reviews we’d read, our expectations were exceeded of Hotel Victoria Playa – we loved:

  • the food
  • the softplay and other play area
  • the creche – Terri and Ashleigh were ace
  • the baby room and being able to hire a buggy
  • overall a very baby-friendly hotel
  • friendly staff
  • our view overlooking the sea
  • the location – San Tomas was a real nice surprise for us, we loved the seaside prom – the whole place was so chilled and clean, lovely, quiet atmosphere
  • hotel has free WIFI – I didn’t use it, enjoyed an internet break!

The only real downsides I can think of:

  • the rooms are a bit small and basic but they look exactly as described, so I’m not really complaining!
  •  would love to have lunch at 12, and dinner before 6.15 (baby W normally eats at 5.30pm at home) but we got by fine!
  • it didn’t bother us, but it’s quite a bustling hotel and obviously with it being a ‘family’ hotel, the majority of guests are young families – as you might expect, the clientele is a right mix which is fine for us – if you’re going there for peace and quiet you might struggle ;)

Hope you found this useful, if you’d like to know anything else about the hotel/area, leave a question in the comments and I’ll get back to you :)

Small print: I wasn’t asked to write this and I certainly didn’t get a free holiday (or any form of payment!) for this, I just wanted to share our experience with you!

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REVIEW: Novotel Birmingham airport (stay and park and fly)

We stayed here a couple of weeks ago before going away with 13 month old baby W for the first time- so the logistics were very different to our usual holiday arrangements.

I’d usually look for the cheapest hotel/parking airport deal, and end up in a random car park miles from the airport but now for us it’s all about convenience and ease…. and this is why this Novotel must be the closest hotel to an airport ever – you literally cross a road to get to the terminal – awesome!

Here’s a  quick summary:

Check-in process – I’d had an email before arrival asking if I wanted to check-in before arriving, I did this so when we got there we were just handed the key without any forms to fill in – lovely!

Parking logistics etc – as we’d bought the parking package, we were able to pull up right outside the hotel for 15 minutes, unload all of our luggage before moving the car to car park 5 in the airport and then we were able to walk back to the hotel – just a 5-1o minute walk but shuttle buses are also available. When we arrived back from our holiday when we left the car park, we just had to give the Novotel booking reference and they opened the barrier for us and off we went – very straightforward!

Rooms – the photos on their website are very accurate – clean, simple, modern rooms – comfy bed, fridge, TV, kettle etc. We requested a cot and had one, lovely bathroom – all in all, very good! Bearing in mind it’s so close to the airport, we couldn’t hear any aeroplanes – the soundproofing is excellent, as are the blinds – nice and dark!

Bar/restaurant – they have both a bar serving food, and a restaurant. The bar area is lovely – again, modern, spacious, comfortable with TV’s and newspapers there too. As we were having an early dinner, we chose to eat in the bar and the food was ok – nothing special – I had a curry which was tasty but a bit watery. I’m sure the restaurant quality would be a bit better but also as you’re just a minute away from the airport you could stroll over to eat in All bar one or Frankie & Benny’s there.

The only photo I have of Novotel Birmingham airport- baby W tottering around the bar area - he had just started walking!

The only photo I have of Novotel Birmingham airport- baby W tottering around the bar area – he had just started walking!

Other facilities – the other thing I wanted to mention as we were travelling with a little one, is that tucked away around the corner from reception, they have a little play area! There’s a table with interactive games built in, a toy chest and book corner – I thought this was a really nice idea, and lovely touch – not sure if I’ve ever noticed anything like this in a hotel before (not that we’ve stayed in many with Baby W)

Location – as already said, it’s a 1 minute walk from the airport hotel – I don’t think you could get any closer to an airport!

Value for money – I think our package cost about £150 – I think a room only is about £60-£70. Having paid for numerous airport hotels, and parking deals – often separately, I think this deal represents good value for money – overall it’s a really lovely hotel and the location of both the hotel and the car park being on the airport makes life so much easier.

So thank you Novotel for a very family-friendly, good quality and value stay – we will be back!! (PS Readers – sorry for the lack of photos, writing this review was a bit of an after-thought!)

Small print – please note I wasn’t asked to write this review, and certainly didn’t get a free stay – just wanted to share our experience with you!

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