Howletts – Aspinall Wild Animal Park

Today we were lucky enough to head to Howletts Wild Animal Park Near Canterbury in Kent, Howlett’s is Kent’s original Wild Animal Park having opened in 1975.

Once in the park it is clear to see that conservation underpins everything Howletts do. They work closely with the Aspinall Foundation, A conservation charity leading the way in the reintroduction of captive-bred animals back into the wild. Wherever possible they aim to return animals born at Howletts back to protected areas of their natural habitat , working with the Aspinall Foundation their Back to the Wild initiative has already seen the return of black rhino to Tanzania, Western Lowland Gorillas to Africa, Primates to Indonesia, European Bison to Romania and Spain and Clouded Leopards to Cambodia.

Rhino in large enclosure
Black Rhino

In the past few years they have released 8 black rhino, 49 Javan Langurs, 9 Javan Gibbon, 11 European Bison and over 60 Lowland Gorillas back to their natural habitat.

Deer in large enclosure
Lots of space to roam around

What is also outstanding is they protect an area in Africa roughly the same size as Kent! Something I did not know before I went. They have their own overseas projects in Congo and Gabon, Madagascar and Java.

The Park is covers 90 acres of ancient parkland is home to more than 400 animals! Which in my opinion appeared to be looked after really well, We even saw Gorillas eating a giant block of ice which they clearly enjoyed.

Gorilla eating Ice block
Delicious Ice on such a hot day!

Upon arrival parking was clearly sign posted and spaces available.

We entered via the gift shop and given a map, We then headed straight in, the girls were very excited to get walking to see all of the animals. My girls absolutely adored seeing Nusu the Elephant Calf a cheeky headstrong little guy.

Nusu the baby Elephant
Nusu was adorable

The park was very clean and pushchair friendly too.

Lions
So big in real life

There were also lots of opportunities to purchase food or drinks throughout the park, the choice was really fun too, Food like chips or pasta with your choice of topping or hot dogs/ burgers, they catered really well for vegetarians and vegans too.

My tip would be; Wear comfortable footwear, as lots of walking around the park and also to go on the climbing adventure * additional charge

The girls really enjoyed exploring the Ice Age area of the park with the giant models of animals that are now extinct. Which they had so many questions about and we were able to answer from the helpful fact board in front of each exhibit.

Extinct Mammal
Jake enjoyed pointing at this extinct Mammals
Extinct Mammal - Ice Age
The children were intrigued by the horn!

If you do go and love what you see, they have a second park called Port Lympne Hotel and Reserve. The pictures we saw for their short breaks looked fantastic and by staying there it helps support their vital overseas work.

We had a fantastic family day out at Howlett’s there is so much to see and do there all in beautifully picturesque surroundings.

We were kindly gifted our entry tickets in exchange for this review and social media coverage.

Paultons Park

Just the kind of exciting trip we needed during the School Holidays.

Paulton’s Park is a Family Theme Park situated on the very eastern boundary of the New Forest National Park, just off junction 2 of the M27 motorway, making it very easy to get to.

Our journey as a Family of five took us just under two hours coming from near Brighton, East Sussex. My Children are Chloe age 7, Katie age 3 and Jake age 1.

On arrival we were greeted by friendly Team Members directing us to car spaces, this was even when we arrived closed to 11am ( Paulton’s Park opens at 10am)

As we walked in, there were handy toilets which were needed after the drive and a coffee shop currently being built. Perfect location for it when it opens.

Paultons Park Entrance
Paultons Park Entrance

Once we had collected our tickets, we headed to the entrance. There was no wait to get in, It was clear to see that admission was well managed. On the left as you enter is the most amazing gift shop and on the right the Wild Forest Restaurant. Breakfast is served until 11:30am.

Once inside Paulton’s park you can pay to hire single or double strollers if required. We had our purchair with us on this occasion.

First of all we headed to Peppa Pig World, My Three Year old was especially excited! But my 7 year still got fully into the spirit of Peppa Pig and Co.

Peppa Pig World Entrance
Peppa Pig World Entrance

The entrance is super exciting, you cross over a little track where a train runs around Peppa Pig World.

We headed straight to the meet and greet for Peppa and George, On the day we were there Mummy Pig, Daddy Pig and Suzie Sheep were walking around the park to meet. All of the meet and greet times plus shows in the whole park were listed on a leaflet that I picked up at the entrance. There is also an app you can download, Something I will do for future trips.

Our first ride in Peppa Pig World was Grampy Rabbits Sailing Club a boat the floats round the most colourful river. The advertised wait time was 35 minutes however the queue definitely seemed quicker. We then headed for a look inside the Peppa Pig World gift shop, where there were lots of toys exclusive to the Paulton’s Park that I haven’t seen in shops.

Soft toys in Peppa Pig World
Soft Toys in the Gift Shop in Peppa Pig World
Sweets in Peppa Pig World
Gift shop sweets in Peppa Pig World
Grampy Rabbits Sailing Club at Peppa Pig World
Sailing with Grampy Rabbit at Peppa Pig World

Next we headed to The Queen’s Flying Coach Ride, again the advertised queue time was 35 minutes but did move quicker and lots to look at whilst waiting. This ride had Jake completely mesmerized! The ride felt like it lasted a while and got to take in views of the park.

Waiting to go on the Queens Flying Coach Ride at Peppa Pig World
Waiting to go on the Queens Flying Coach Ride
Queens Flying Coach Ride at Peppa Pig World
On the Queen’s Flying Coach Ride at Peppa Pig World

The park is the most child friendly that I have been to, with lots of toilets with baby changing facilities dotted around and lots of benches to sit and eat at. The Cafe’s are fun and lots of variety. Daddy Pig’s Big Tummy Cafe was a particular favourite! Especially the Chicago Town Pizza! Delicious. Chloe absolutely loved it and ate the giant slice of pepperoni pizza.

Daddy Pig's Big Tummy Cafe at Peppa Pig World

My tip would be take a picnic, but leave space for some of the delicious treats dotted around the park like Ice Cream in Miss Rabbit’s Ice Cream Parlour. There are also some fabulous quick service kiosks for hot food.

Mozzerella and Pesto Panini from the Haybarn Kiosk at Paultons Park
Mozzerella and Pesto Panini from the Hay Barn Kiosk to the side of the Peppa Pig World Gift Shop
Camper van in Peppa Pig World
The Girls loved the Camper van and me holding it with one hand!
Water fountain in Peppa Pig World
The girls enjoyed looking into the fountain

Miss Rabbit’s Helicopter Flight is right by the entrance and definitely worth a ride, plus some fantastic views of the park.

Great views of Peppa Pig World from Miss Rabbit’s Helicopter Flight

Once we walked out of Peppa Pig World we headed to the Lost Kingdom.

Home of the Dinosaurs!

The Dinosaur Tour Company is lots of fun, the girls loved the Jeeps, meeting lots of smaller dinosaurs on the route!

Temple Heights was super exciting and a short queue so me and Chloe ( age 7 ) went on a few times! This ride is perfect for more nervous riders.

Next was meet and eat! An opportunity to come face to face with a fearsome T-Rex! Sadly the girls were a little scared when it was their turn, However my Husband enjoyed the meeting.

Daddy with Dinosaur at the Lost Kingdom
Daddy with T-Rex

The girls also loved the water splash pad and activity park right before the Lost Kindom entrance, perfect on a really hot day.

We then headed to Critter Creek, where both girls went on the roller coaster numerous times with me, the queue moved very fast. There is also a little train for smaller children in this area too, plus the opportunity to go in the Beastie Burrow a real life creature emporium complete with fascinating insects, fish and lizards!

Roller coaster
Roller Coaster at Critter Creek

At the very end of the day Adam and Chloe watched a 4D Cinema show whilst me, Katie and Jake had a lovely walk around the beautifully kept gardens.

Our final stop was the most amazing gift shop that the girls absolutely couldn’t get enough of! So if you can save some money for a treat in there do. The girls both brought some Pez Sweet machines and Jake a soft George complete with his dinosaur.

A fabulous day was had by all, please do also have a look at my IGTV on Instagram www.instagram.com/lifestylegemz for a video look at our day at Paultons Park

Childs entrance to the gift shop at the entrance to Paulton's Park
Children’s entrance to the gift shop at Paultons Park
Umbrellas on the Ceiling at Paultons Park Gift Shop
Coolest Ceiling in the Gift Shop at Paulton’s Park

New for May 2020 is Tornado Springs, a charming desert resort town a mid west family get away like no other, treat yourself to the experience of a lifetime. I can’t wait to go back and see it for myself.

All views are my own, tickets kindly gifted by Liz Lean Pr and Paulton’s Park.

Rainy Day Activities with Children

So often in the U.K it rains! and I can find the thought of getting all three children out, only to come straight back in moaning and soaking wet. Also the School holidays can feel long and can’t always be doing activities that cost a lot!

So here’s a few things I like to do with my Children most are quite obvious that I’m sure other Parents do too and don’t cost the Earth! Once they’ve exhausted playing with their toys and the “Mum/Dad – I’m bored” statements begin!

  1. Baking – Before the holidays break up and I only have one child to look after I’ll make a list of what I need to buy. Then use up what’s in the cupboards making cakes and biscuits.
  2. Cooking – Decorating their own pizza’s, give them a wrap, bowl of tomato passata and different toppings to make for themself.
  3. Indoor Picnic – Make sandwiches in fun shapes using cutters, get some fruit and crisps then sit on a blanket or rug to bring the outdoors in.
  4. Crafts – I’ll go to Poundland or The Works and buy some craft activities, like painting wooden shapes for example, they absolutely love this, I’ll try to keep it relevant to the season i.e Easter.
  5. Scrap Book – You can buy one for a £1 for the pound shop and the children can cut and stick leaflets, receipts or any other bits they collect into it and if old enough write along side it.
  6. In advance I’ll book an activity for them to look forward to and attend, For Easter I have booked my Sister into a Ballet dance session Or could just be going to soft play.
  7. Making den’s – They love this, getting blankets out etc and having fun playing in them
  8. Home Cinema – Letting them choose a film and eat popcorn
  9. Bedroom Makeover – If you’ve seen my stories I prefer to do this when they are at School, So that I can get the black sack out, However when they are off it can be made fun but taking a before and after photo and explaining how much space they will have made.
  10. If all else fails and boredom from being indoors strikes then get the wellington on and get out for a walk in the rain! At least it will tire them out for bedtime…

Disneyland Paris – Tips before you go

We’ve just arrived back from an amazing few days in Disneyland Paris.

It’s truly magical and a real treat for the whole family even when travelling in the School Holidays. I’ve written a post below that helped our trip go smoothly with 3 children with us ( one of whom is a 3 month old baby ) :

Travel 

We travelled by car on the Euro Tunnel, it was so straightforward for us. Approximately 1.5 hour drive to Folkestone  ( Little shops/ duty free etc whilst you wait to drive on ) then half an hour on the tunnel once in Calais the drive is 3 hours but we took a few stops and there are so many little rest stops with toilets it made the drive very simple and it’s a pretty much straight route. The toll was $22 each way which in my opinion was very worth it for the route is far simpler and has the rest stops easily available.

Food

Take the meal plan option either half board or full board if staying at one of the Disney Hotels, I believe this saved us a lot of money as actually kept to using the plan instead of eating the more expensive options whilst still going to the best restaurants in the park.

Book your restaurants in advance, it may seem crazy but everything is so busy there, it’s a relief to walk in somewhere and be seated straight away especially to get out the heat if travelling during the Summer.

Whilst using the plan if one person doesn’t like all of their options ( you get a starter, main, desert and normally one soft drink each) order it anyway as normally one of the party will like it.

Tap water is free! So we often ordered this just at meals to keep hydrated and I only drink water anyway, so would give my soft drink to whoever fancied it. Also there are water fountains dotted around the park so take an empty bottle to fill up. ( we had no issues with anything from drinking the water in the resort )

If you want to save time in the parks it’s definitely worth booking the Character restaurants well in advance, we went to Auberge de Cendrillon, Inventions and Cafe Mickey , the Interactions the children had were priceless. If you are only going to do one Character restaurant i’d probably say go to Inventions in the main Disneyland Hotel just because the atmosphere was wonderful and the buffet food made it simpler and some fun puddings.  As these restaurants were an ‘upgrade’ on top of the pre paid plan price of approximately £100 per time.

Bread! You get a lot of it – Everywhere! at one meal ( the Cinderella one! ) bread came as you sat down, starter and a side. In the end we had to try to limit the girls as they only wanted bread, which didn’t do them any favours.

The children’s meals are well catered for as everything is separated i.e pasta from the sauce.  The starters for children weren’t  great as usually some form of salad covered in dressing. (But maybe this is my fussy children!)

 

Shortbread

Adult Desert from Auberge de Cendrillon ( Princess Restaurant )

Rides / Attractions 

We loved the rides in Fantasyland, probably because they appealed the most to our girls age 3 & 6 so head to the areas that appeal most to your party first.

If staying in a Disney Resort hotel make the most of the Magic Hour before the park opens to the public, we were able to go on some rides two or three times with no queue’s, Then queue at the end of the Magic Hour for any other rides/ attractions to cut down queue times. We loved the Peter Pan ride and went on it multiple times!

 

Use your fast passes then arrange to come back and get straight on your ride, it’s so easy and quick!

If wanting to watch the parade, shows or illuminations get there at least 45 minutes in advance ( for this reason it may be worth packing snacks, drinks etc to keep children busy ) this will ensure you get a good view or get in to shows like Mickey and the Magician which is amazing.

There are character meet and greets dotted throughout the park, if you see an umbrella and a cast member standing around it usually means a meet and greet is imminent.

 

Hotel 

We stayed at Disneys Sequioa Lodge which for us was perfect. I love the style and theme of the hotel like an ‘Aspen Lodge’

We booked to stay there, because A) It had a pool indoor’s and outside, which we loved as a great way to cool off after a busy day at the Parks  B) The hotel was very close to the park which made it really convenient.  The hotel staff were pretty accommodating, We arrived early on our first day and were allowed to check in a couple of hours before the normal time of 3pm to our room which was great after such an early start.

Video – Standard Room 

Shopping 

I brought a few items in H & M and Primark before we went as the price difference was huge ( Mickey Mouse Ears £2 in Primark vs $24 in the park,  although saying that some of the items sold in the park once their were quite unique. I also took a few of the girls Princess dresses with us.

Snacks – You can take these into the park and worth taking with you. We run slightly low and brought some biscuits for the girls whilst they were Mickey Mouse ones they were $7.99 for two relatively small packets.

We have put together a 30 minute video of our trip to Disneyland Paris.

Let me know if you have any questions.

What’s in my suitcase? – Disney trip!

Disney image suntan lotion

Packing is one of the most exciting parts of planning a holiday for me, I especially enjoy writing lists before. Making sure I don’t forget to pack anything essential or that may be difficult to source in a different country or substantially more expensive.

So, before the holiday I’ll write a list of items needed for the Children and us, then a separate list of what I need to remember to pack.

This is the list of items I’ll pack / ensure I buy in advance broken down:

Snacks – My girls like a snack so I’ll pack some for when out and some for the room. As we are travelling by Car I will pack several packs of water (I managed to find some cool Disney ones!) For food it would be snacks such as popcorn, rice cakes or the little fruit stars generally foods that are quite light so that where possible they eat well still at meal times.

Clothes – Always allow extra and a change of clothing when travelling with children either by car or plane as there is nearly always a spillage or leakage of some form. I also went to H&M and Primark and brought lots of the cheaper T-shirt style dresses for them to wear each day as well as packing 3 of their Princess Dresses each for the meet and greets.  Then as it should be hot when we go away I’ll only take us all x1 Hoodie style top each plus a pair of leggings for my girls in case the weather turns cold. Also a buy them a packet of new trainer socks to save time searching for enough pairs that they already have. I found some trendy ones in Primark with bobbles on the back and a rather funky pattern!

Goodie Bags – I like to take little presents for them to unwrap if on a plane ( don’t make the mistake I did and wrap up play dough! as this got me lots of questions at security last year!)

This year I’ve been and brought lots of Disney merchandise from the high street mainly Primark  and H& M where it is substantially cheaper again, For example Mickey Mouse ears in Primark are £2 and in Disney they are £20 plus ( yes I’m sure the quality may better however how often they would wear them it wouldn’t be worth it ) Also included would be presents that are activity based like colouring books etc. This time we will place these on the children’s bed in the hotel for them to open when they arrive.

We have the car so can take more with us. If travelling by Plane I would add to the suitcase or hand luggage.

Essential’s in my opinion if travelling with young children / Adults:

  • Suntan lotion
  • Hats
  • Sufficient Nappies
  • Same for Wipes
  • Swim Nappies
  • Calpol
  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Diarrhoea Medication
  • Insect Repellent
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo / Conditioner
  • Shower gel (Can double up with kids depending on ages and skin type)
  • Face wipes
  • Face moisturiser that’s also a Sunscreen
  • Sanitary protection if needed
  • Little wind up / battery powered hand-held fan
  • x4 Way Multi Socket travel adaptor
  • Make up!

If going to Disney – Face glitter and a pot of Vaseline (I was given this tip by the Manager in our local Claire’s Accessories to apply the Vaseline first, then the glitter stays put)

Then lay it all out on the bed and assess whether I’ve enough outfits per day plus a few more spares.  My two girls have a Trunki each which I’ll pack as must of their clothes in as possible then aim to share a large suitcase with my husband and our baby will most likely need another bag for extra nappies etc.

Do you have any tips for travelling? What do you think is essential to pack?

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment below:

 

 

Flying with Children

About a month a go we took our two children who are almost four and nearly one to Cancun, Mexico.

We thought both their ages were a good time to travel long haul because the eldest was able to sit and watch films, play nicely with colouring books/ craft type activities and my youngest still sleeps quite a lot and didn’t want to get on the ground as wasn’t crawling then.

She just started this week …..

Before the flight I gave my eldest lots of warning we were going away and that the flight would be long but if she kept busy and slept it would go much quicker. We got a taxi to avoid too much lugging around of suitcases and the double pushchair. Once at the Airport we had breakfast then brought some magazines, sweets and small toys then played in the soft play. ( LGW )

About a week before we went away I went to the Pound Shop and spent about £10 on various activities/ toys such as colouring books the small travel type ones, small puzzles, stickers. and also some other bits to play with once at the hotel in the room. I wrapped all the presents and put them in my husbands ruck sack, we then staggered all the presents being opened as soon as she got a bit bored or used them as a bribe if her behaviour started to change ( not ideal in real life but on a packed plane a bribe was a godsend!)

Planning ahead really is key!

We also used the opportunity of saying there’s a meal/ snack / ice cream coming to encourage something to encourage her to think about the next thing on the agenda. We were lucky enough to be travelling in Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Economy on the way to Cancun which meant we had a little more space and I could hold both the children on me if necessary and the cabin was smaller so more of a calming effect on the children I think.

Another thing is to go on a walk of the plane ( I know more parents do this anyway!) which can use up quite a bit of time if you get talking to other passengers as it was a large double decker 747-400.

If travelling with an infant under one, request a sky cot it’s excellent as you can strap them in ( my baby slept the whole 9.5 hours straight of the flight home ) you then have your hands free to eat.  The eldest ate her meal,  watched one film ( The Good Dinosaur) and slept the rest of the flight as well, it really wasn’t as bad as some make out, although as much as I dislike night flights when travelling with children it really helped.

At the end of the return flight we had several compliments about how well behaved our children were (I could see their faces when we first say down near them thinking ‘oh no two children for the duration of the flight’).

Luckily for them all went smoothly! Thanks for reading!