Staycations in 2021 are already booming with bookings, so if you are thinking of getting away this summer, it’s better to get organised and book sooner rather than later. This is due to two main factors – people moving their 2020 holidays to 2021 and people preferring to stay in the UK with the wider uncertainty around travel.
Visit Cornwall boss Malcom Bell told the Telegraph that bookings for the holiday hotspot are up as much as 50 per cent, not just because of advance reservations but also from people moving their 2020 holidays to 2021.
Butlins has reported an increase in demand by 325% and Centre Parcs are charging £2500 for a week stay, compared to £980 last year, while Camping website Pitchup.com had 1,400 bookings for this summer - an increase of 500 per cent!
There’s also vaccinations to consider – while the UK is currently on track with it’s vaccination programme, many countries are lagging behind, so there is the real possibility of having to quarantine or isolate if you do go abroad.
If you are staying in the UK, you will want to make sure you are organised for the trip and ensure the kids are entertained to avoid any additional stress the travel might cause. The myXplorer organiser is perfect for you to take in the car – you can pack up all your food the night before, organise the toys and entertainment for the kids in one easy bag, then pop it into your car for the journey. The organiser is perfect as it slots in the back middle seat, so is easy for the kids to access and stop you having to turn around a million times to pass them things.
There are loads of virtual days out you can do with the kids right now. The great thing about this is that you can visit museums, theme parks and zoos while avoiding the queues, and see that the kids might be interested in visiting in person in the future. Most places are offering ‘extra’ activities at the moment, so you can make your trip more interactive too.
Here are my top 5 virtual days out!
1. Tate Modern, London
Tate Modern is always great for kids, but the website https://www.tate.org.uk/kids has a load of content to let the kids experience the museum at home. Take a tour and then break out the inner artist with the make section.
Our favourites are:
2. Natural History Museum, London
Always a popular choice for a day out, the online resources let your children experience the museum in a new and exciting way. Plus there are a load on online teaching resources available if you wanted to take your day out further
My top attractions are;
3. National Marine Aquarium
The National Marine Aquarium has been offering free online sessions on a Friday since the start of the year, so if you have missed them, this is a good time to catch up on their youtube channel. It’s really informative and educational for the kids, plus they cover KS2 plus early learning years, so it’s good if your kids range in ages too.
You can check it out here: https://www.national-aquarium.co.uk/learning-at-the-aquarium/home-learning-sessions/
4. Disney Land
As treats are few and far between at the moment, so how about a virtual trip to Disney Land with the kids for one of the days out! They can dress as their favourite characters, watch movies and then will take a ride on some of the virtual rollercoasters. There are loads to choose from on youtube, but we particularly enjoy the Frozen Ever After ride:
Then end the day with one of Disney’s famous parades. Again there are loads to choose from on youtube but we liked the 60th Celebration Opening Night:
5. Chester Zoo
If your kids are more into animals, be sure to check out Chester Zoos virtual zoo days. They cover loads of different animals from meerkats to tigers, my personal highlight being the elephant pool party! Loads to keep you and your kids interested – you can see it all here https://www.chesterzoo.org/virtual-zoo-2/
Be sure to tag me in any of your virtual days out on instagram by following @myxplorer of clicking HERE!
I look forward to seeing your adventures.
If you haven’t been to Willows Farm Park, it is just outside of St Albans and has a partnership with Peter Rabbit to feature the characters throughout the park.
It is incredibly well done and thought through, creating play areas for the kids to be like Peter and they can climb through Mr Tod’s house, explore Mr McGregor’s garden and more.
This is the first time we had been since Covid restrictions so I thought I would do a quick review to let you know whether it is worth the money.
It cost me £70 to go with the kids during half term – so I was quite worried that we were not going to get value for money, especially as most of the indoor activities, like the soft play and Cottontail village (an indoor imaginative play area) were shut.
How wrong could I have been? Willows went all out for their Pumpkin Festival and we had the BEST time.
There are outdoor trampolines and bouncy castles – all with hand sanitisers for the kids to use before and after. There was pumpkin picking, biscuit decorating, indoor ice skating, fairground rides and a short 3D film all included in the price. This is on top of the all the outdoor play areas (there is so much to do here, it’s the best farm park I have been to for outside play areas), tractor rides, animal feeding and the live Peter Rabbit shows. We did pretty much everything and the kids would have liked to stay for longer!
Everything was well thought out with covid, there was sensible queuing and hand sanitiser for things like the ice skating and most of the activities were outdoors. Tickets are limited so there were not loads of people there and that meant we could do more activities than in a normal half term.
My only concern would be that you have to book in advance – we were exceptionally lucky that we had a dry day. If it had rained all day it would have been difficult to have as much fun as everything is outdoors – even the picnic areas are outdoors (there are some in a tent but I didn’t fancy that in the current circumstances). That said, I will definitely come here again for a half term outing, the kids loved it and kept telling me how much fun they had.
If you are looking for a treat day out and the weather is looking kind – then check it out! You’ll have the best time
Beale Park is not that local to us, but it is a great location just outside Reading/Newbury making it a halfway meeting point between us and other friends located around the country.
It has a variety of small animals for the kids to look at, train ride and a massive outdoor play park, sandpit and paddling pool (for warmer weather).
We visited this week for the first time since coronavirus, so I wanted to offer a quick review on how it is working with the current restrictions in case you are looking for ideas of things to do this half term!
Tickets are currently restricted and being sold on a first come first served basis – great if the weather is nice and you can get there early. It was quite a rainy day when we went and I was surprised about the amount of people still there – so I would guess it would popular on a good weather day and you’d need to get there early. It costs £12 for adults and £10 for kids over 2 – which makes it slightly cheaper than the farm park type places local to me.
Each entry gets a free ride on the open-air train, which they have made Covid safe by restricting the carriages so there is an empty one between each family. Daisy absolutely loved this and was really novel for her as we haven’t been on a train for so long. You get to see a lot of the animals from the train so it’s a good place to start to get your bearings.
The outdoor play park is huge. There is an area with little tikes cars and slides – hand sanitisers on the way in and out, then a big playground and sand pit area which are shipwrecked themed. There is a paddling pool but that is shut at the moment due to the weather. Daisy adored the play park and we easily spent over 2 hours there without her getting bored – it is the perfect age and difficultly for her at 3. She needed very little help from me on any of the climbing frames, but they were still large enough for her to find them exciting. I think Charlie would also enjoy it aged 5, but I suspect any kids older than about 7 would be a bit bored as it wouldn’t be challenging or big enough.
Due to Covid restrictions there is no indoor area to eat and only a takeaway food place. This was fine for us, but it would mean it would be difficult on a very rainy day.
I eventually dragged Daisy away to look at the animals, she particularly liked the giant tortoise and the lemurs, but there are loads of other animals to look at too.
Beale Park go all out for Halloween giving FREE entry to every child dressed up for Halloween with a paying adult. I thought that was a really sweet touch and a great way to save some money this holidays. There is a family trail about the animals linking it back to Halloween with a prize for all completed trails, a pumpkin carving competition with the winner receiving free season tickets for next year and the pumpkins going to feed the animals! There are a load of different Halloween activities everyday as well.
Overall I thought is a good value day out which we both really enjoyed, excellent value if you can get the Halloween special pricing with kids going free.
Let me know if you plan a visit – I’d love to know what you think too 🙂
As you may know, my children managed a whole 3 days back to school before we had to quarantine as they had been in touch with a positive corona test. We are all fine, which I know is very lucky, however it did take us back to lockdown times as we had to home-school and work. I know everyone will say people are all in the same boat, but as only my children had to isolate and the rest of the class are still at school, I am very aware of them falling even further behind than they have over the last six months.
I am going to be honest here, I am not a very good teacher, I have realised that I struggle to understand phonics, let alone teach it and I really struggle to get my children to do their work. The husband is much better at this, but as we both have to work, I do have to pull my weight at least a little bit on the home school front. I therefore wanted to share with you some websites and resources I found helpful incase you are in the same position. I’d also consider using these if I was going on a long trip, especially if I wanted to minimise packing!
1. Reading Eggs
Website (this is a referral link, so at no extra cost to yourself you'll be earning me a coffee if you like it and use it 🙂☕): Referral Link
Reading Eggs is a learning based website and app that is split into phonics, English and maths. While I am not a massive fan of apps for children due to screen time usage, I do think this is really well done. For both the English and Maths areas, your child starts with a test which assess their current level. After this they can start playing the levels, earning stickers, points and rewards which they can then use to play games on the site. Everything is educational though, even the games and a lot of time my kids just liked doing it to win the stickers. You can also turn the games and activities off if you just want them to concentrate on the lesson (I did this and just said I didn’t understand why they weren’t working anymore.
Charlie really liked the phonics area (which is a win as I really struggle with teaching this), where they get a yeti and as they progress through the levels they can upgrade his house. This gave some instant gratification which Charlie really enjoyed as he could see his progress easily – which showed a negative to other parts of the site as the maths and English lessons could be long.
Best part is that you get a free month’s trial of the site – I’ve included a link above – which is perfect for a quarantine period. The prices afterwards can be pricey for multiple children so I would have to wait until a deal personally. I think this would also be really good for a long journey where some form of screen time is going to be inevitable.
2. Oxford Owl
These have all the books the kids get for their reading practice at school available as free ebooks for them to read. You just create a parent log in which is super easy and you can see the books at your child’s reading band. If you are a child of the 80s like me, you’ll be pleased to know that Kipper, Biff and the gang are still going strong and your child can catch up on their adventures. They seem to involve a magic house and lots of cake from the ones we’ve read so far.
I was really pleased with this as it meant Charlie could keep up with his extra level of reading practice – our other books generally being too hard or too easy, and meant I didn’t have to buy phonics reading books which won’t last that long and are also super expensive.
Using this on holiday would be great as it would mean not falling behind but also not packing tons of books, giant tick all round!
3. Phonics Play
This is a site normally used in class that has allowed free usage during the national lockdown and remains free to use at the moment. Again it’s a phonics base site (clue is in the name) that is essentially lots of games. The positive parts are that it follows the curriculum so it is familiar to the kids and has lots of levels, so I could swap between Daisy and Charlie both using it. It would be great if your teacher can tell you the level they are on, I had to guess a bit.
It is more basic than reading eggs, both in terms of graphics and rewards, however both my children really seemed to like it and I thought it was good to give them some variety. I doubt it would keep them engaged for long on a journey though and the parent does have to guide – it doesn’t automatically progress your child through levels, which is a real selling feature of reading eggs.
Phonics play normally charge for usage – so it’s free for now but this will change in the future!
Let me know if you are in quarantine – you have all my sympathy – or if you have any other sites you have found helpful!
Lots of love,
I am not a massive fan of tablets for kids – research shows that they find them addictive and to be honest, Charlie and Daisy get enough screen time from the TV (working parents in a pandemic, needs must), without me introducing more.
However, we have been looking for something that would encourage drawing and writing skills that we could use on the plane without needing loads of pens and paper and came across these LCD writing tablets.
The best way I can describe the tablets are like those drawings you would do as a kid that you would then cover with black crayon and scratch to reveal – this is the modern version of those. They have a colour gradient underneath that the kids show by using the pen provided. When they are bored of the picture they just click the button underneath and the screen goes blank. Best thing for me is that they are not backlit, meaning that they don’t have any blue-light radiation like your phone or tablet – so they are much better for kids eyes and less addictive.
I had thought these would be a great gimmick to keep them entertained on the plane but the novelty would wear off. I was very wrong on this – both kids have continued to independently play with theirs on a daily basis since we introduced them, which I think is great as it encourages pen control and creative thinking. I can’t think of a downside to these to be honest!
LUCY GIANT TICK I would buy these again – link below if you are interested
I find sticker books great for keeping the kids entertained – they need concentration to peel the stickers, creativity and generally give you 5 minutes peace! They are easy to have in the car, don’t take up much space and don’t have lots of bits that kids can drop on the floor.
I want to go through my recommendations of which books work really well with minimum fuss and intervention from an adult (i.e. me), so you can enjoy a cup of tea on your own for once!
My review focuses on younger children up to 6 years old, however some of these still have great appeal to older age groups as well. Just go with what they like and you should be laughing.
✨TOP TIP - Remember to peel away the white reverse side if your kids are a bit younger – it means they can peel off the stickers on their own without tearing them or generally getting the hump about not being independent
LEGO, MY FAVOURITE STICKER BOOKS
The lego sticker books are fantastic value for money, you get over 1000 stickers per book and they have a wide variety of different types. They have different themes by page, like Disney Princess animals and castles, meaning that the kids don’t lose interest too quickly, but also provided us with lots of chat while the kids talked me through what they were sticking, who the characters were and what they were doing.
The wide range meant I could buy different ones for each child but as they are the same in terms of sticker quantity and both still be ‘lego’, it minimised arguments about whose is whose and whether one was ‘better’ than the other.
GIANT TICK ALL ROUND ? I will definitely keep buying these!
ALSO GOOD: USBOURNE STICKER BOOK STOCKING FILLERS
Usbourne do a range of sticker books which are good for kids, you can generally find something suited to their particular interests. There are normally great deals on these and you pick them up for around £3-4.
My kids like these but find they can get a bit bored, the general jist is normally just sticking animals to a background and there isn’t much variations between pages.
Personally I think these are therefore great for stocking fillers, especially when you might be travelling to friends and family over the festive period, but like most stocking fillers – don’t expect them to last for ages
BONUS: STICKER BOOKS FOR BOYS: Usbourne Build Your Own Sticker Books
These were a revelation to me – Charlie received one of these for his 5th birthday and sat there the next day, on his own, being quiet, concentrating on doing the whole book! This may happen to other children but I was shocked, he normally always wants us to look at what he is doing, be included etc ? . Each book comprises different characters/items, like monster truck or superheros, which need a variety of stickers adding in order to complete the picture. What Charlie likes about these most is that they feel grown up, you are making quite big characters and he can do it independently to us which helps build his confidence as well.
? STICKER BOOKS I WOULDN’T BUY AGAIN!
I have bought some of the Julia Donaldson sticker books for my kids as they love Gruffalo and all the other characters. However, these are not just pure sticker books and have a variety of activities including spot the difference, dot to dot and pattern matching. These are great if your children are older but generally I found that they were slightly too difficult for the 3-4 group that Gruffalo and friends normally appeals to. My daughter got slightly frustrated while using these, which meant she was super grumpy and turns what is meant to be a fun activity into a bit of a chore for both of us. I wouldn’t both buying until they were much older and then I doubt they will like the characters as much.
Have fun and let me know in the comments if you have any other recommendations for books!!