Category Archives: Parenting

family day out on the cutty sark explorer trail - photo of my hand holding out the brochure which doubles as a kid's guide to emboss at stamping stations throughout the ship

Family Day Out at the Cutty Sark in Greenwich

Since returning to our life in London at the end of September, we hadn’t really had much quality time as a family. After getting home from Valencia, my husband got sinusitis and then I ended up in hospital for a few days with asthma – something I’ve only developed in adult life. For at least two weeks I hadn’t been outside my house or the hospital. So we were really looking forward to having a family day out, courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich, on what turned out to be a glorious, hot Saturday afternoon in October.

We live a short bus ride away from Greenwich, a leafy riverside historic area on the outskirts of London. It is a place dear to our heart, as a couple and as a family.  When my husband and I were dating, we often went there for long, relaxed champagne picnics in Greenwich Park during the summer and in the winter we’d eat plates of whitebait in pubs by the river. We even considered getting married there at one point.

Since becoming a family of three, it has turned out to be an excellent family destination for us as well.  Not only are there plenty of museums and large public spaces, but there are lots of fun restaurants and independent boutiques.  We also like the central market where you can buy handcrafted artisan goods and street food – with lots of vegan options.  Greenwich Park is marvellously big and while younger children enjoy visiting the deer enclosure in the flower garden, older children love straddling the prime meridian line (Greenwich Mean Time) at the observatory on the hill.  Parents and couples will enjoy the beautiful views of Canary Wharf across the river.

Greenwich is easily accessible from Central London via bus, train, riverboat and the Docklands Light Railway.

Sitting at the heart of the waterfront is the Cutty Sark, the world’s sole surviving tea clipper.

It was one of the fastest tea clippers in existence. 

Built in 1869 to carry tea from China to London when the tea business was lucrative and speed was important, the Cutty Sark had a few years of glory before being replaced by steamboats and she was relegated to carrying wool from Australia to the UK.  In 1922 she was found and restored by a retired sea captain and had a few more useful years as a training ship until 1954 when she was laid in dry dock permanently and put on public display. Since then the boat has survived two fires, but after a lengthy restoration she perched atop a stunning architecturally designed glass dry dock which looks like a cresting wave.

When at the ticket desk, be sure to ask for a Cutty Sark explorer trail guide for each child you visit with.  The booklet is free and has a page for each main section of the ship with activities and an area to emboss at designated stamping stations throughout the boat.  My daughter really enjoyed doing this and although there are plenty of fun activities for kids on board it helped provide a bit of focus as we visited each area of the ship.

Those whose little ones under 4 who really love the ship (my 3 year old daughter is asking if we can go back to “the big ship” as I sit here writing this) can join the regular Toddler Time sessions held in the gallery under the Cutty Sark on Wednesdays during term times.  (See the bottom of this post for full details, prices and times.)

Copy of the cutty sark explorer trail guide for kids - a blue paper pamphlet with cool graphicsa copy of the cutty sark Explorer trail guide beside the explorer trail stamp embosser, in front of some carved ship figureheadsmy daughter embossing her cutty sark explorer trail guide

You enter the ship by walking across a ramp and through a hole cut into the hull of the ship.  You walk straight into the main cargo hold of the ship, where once 1,305,812 lbs of tea and later 4,289 bales of wool would have been transported from the other side of the world back to London.  There are loads of interactive stations and activities for kids and informative panels with facts about the ship for older kids and grown ups. There is even a theatre seating area where you can watch a short film about the history of the Cutty Sark.

entering the ship's hull where it is dark and full of TV screens showing the tea industrya tea history timeline stencilled onto reproduction tea crates

She was brave…there’s no way I’d be smelling and touching those “mystery” boxes!

My 3 year old daughter touching and smelling

There are beautiful antique pieces  on display, like model ships and the original ship’s bell (which was stolen but later returned).

a model ship in a glass casethe original ship's bell in brass, engraved with

There are also a couple of interactive toy models of the ship which children are free to play with.

child and parent playing with toy model ship inside ship's hull

The officer and crew quarters have been beautifully restored.  Some of them you can just peek into, like this one with a ghostly projection and voice of a crew member writing a letter to his family, and others which visitors are free to try out.  Those bunks were awfully small!

holographic ship's crew member writing a letter and speaking out loud

Ever the chef, I had to photograph the galley – the ship’s kitchen!

the original ship's galley filled with dirty plates and soup tureens

There is something quite surreal and a bit magical about being on a tall ship riding a crystal wave which captures the movement and reflection from the sky above, ever-headed towards the modern towers of the finance industry in Canary Wharf in the distance. Perhaps a fitting destination, given how significant a business tea was in the 19th century – it was a key source of tax revenue for the British Empire.

A side view of the Cutty Sark tea clipper in Greenwich. There is a view of the towers of Canary Wharf in the background.artistic photo of a row of ship's ropes on pulleys

If you’re feeling particularly energetic after you complete your visit on board the ship, you can even walk to the Isle of Dogs in East London via the Edwardian era Greenwich Pedestrian Tunnel. There is something a bit Jules Verne-esque about the small brick, domed entrance to the tunnel which leads under the River Thames.

entrance to the greenwich pedestrian tunnel with the river thames and the shard in the backgroundarty photo of the ship's rigging with the town of greenwich in the backgroundme walking down a set of stairs holding on to a rope bannisterarty photo of the ship's rigging and the skyphoto of me in a black turtleneck and denim skirt and canvas slip on shoes on the deck of the cutty sark in front of the rigging and pulleys

After you’ve toured the ship itself, a gangway and a set of modern stairs (or a lift) leads you down to the modern gallery area under the ship itself.  I should say at this point that almost every area of the ship itself, aside from a couple of the original crew quarters are all accessible via lift for those who require it.

Under the ship is a small cafe where you can have a cup of coffee and cake, or even afternoon tea while admiring the beautifully polished underside of the Cutty Sark.

the tearoom underneath the cutty sark ship's hull in a big modern gallery spacearty photo of the ship's hull - all polished copper

Keep walking down the gallery and after passing a number of fun interactive displays, you can go up a viewing platform (only accessible via stairs I seem to recall, though I could be wrong about that) to get this amazing view.

the ship's hull, taken from underneath, showing the architectural ribbing of the dry dock supports and the crystal glass

At the far end of the gallery is a collection of ship figureheads, including the original “Cutty Sark”, seen in white below, holding a horse’s tail.  The figurehead now on the ship itself is a reproduction.

In case you were wondering about the unusual name of the ship, Cutty Sark comes from Robert Burns’ poem Tam O’Shanter, about a farmer called Tam who is chased by the witch Nannie who is dressed only in a ‘cutty sark’ – an ancient Scottish name for a short undergarment or chemise.

A number of carved figureheads from shipsthe cutty sark taken from underneath the crystal glass dry dock

We greatly enjoyed our visit aboard the Cutty Sark and as it has been designated as a toddler-approved museum by my daughter I’ll certainly be taking her to the Toddler Time sessions after term time starts up again so we can see this beautiful ship again.

Toddler Time at the Cutty Sark is held rain or shine (with songs, stories and playtime). The timings are 10.00-11.30am and 1.20-2.50pm. The cost is £5 per adult, but under 4’s are free (obviously accompanied by a parent!) but if a parent signs up to an annual membership for £44, you can go for free to as many sessions as you wish.

This post is a sponsored collaboration with Royal Museums Greenwich.

an open porthole in the ship's cargo hull

Resources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_tea, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cutty_Sark, https://www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/we-recommend/attractions/nannie-cutty-sark-figurehead#k8rUo4yTzSq73zLE.99

Eco Friendly Kids Room Ideas

We recently redecorated our daughter’s bedroom. I won’t say it was a total eco job, as due to her large scale artistic proclivities (i.e. she draws on the walls) we had to use special washable paint on the walls rather than a natural pigment paint like Frenchic. Also the gorgeous giant tree and animal decals on the wall aren’t very eco friendly, but I know she’ll enjoy them for a very long time. I was originally planning to paint something myself – like a totem pole mural – but my husband ordered them on a whim and she loves them, so that’s that.

1. Toy & Book Baskets

These beautiful baskets from the Sourced by Oxfam online shop are fantastic. They’re made from Kasia Grass by a pioneering fair-trade organisation called The Jute Works in Bangladesh. They empower socially disadvantaged rural artisans within the local indigenous community and those living with disabilities. They’re great for shoving toys and books into, but also make great laundry baskets too, really for any room in the house. Here’s the links for the smaller basket at £9.99 and the larger basket at £14.99. They’re beautifully made and are marvellous value, as I’ve spent far far more on similar items at Anthropologie and the Conran Shop in the past.

Honestly, I just like lots of trugs and baskets around my daughter’s room to make clean up easy for her.  At 3 years old she does have some household chores and one of those is the tidy up her own toys at the end of the day, to book any books back on the bookshelf and to put her dirty clothes in the laundry bin.  It doesn’t have to be neat or perfect or put away in the “right” spot, she just has to do it.  Does it reduce the amount of mess she generates during the day?  No.  Do I feel it’s good for her to have some routine and sense of ownership for simple responsibilities which will help her develop healthy habits as an adult?  Yep.

2.  Trade in Old Clothes for New

Surely I’m not the only person with the unsightly and ever growing bag of kids clothes my little one has grown out of.  I sometimes struggle with giving away “special” pieces to the charity shop, but I love the concept of Treasure House, where you can join up, get £15 credit to spend on second hand children’s clothes from their site, and they’ll send you a baggie in the post so you can send in your used and outgrown children’s clothes and they’ll give you more credit to use in their online shop.  I think it looks like a great idea and am excited to try it out. There’s everything from high street Zara, Levi’s and Boden to designer Chloe, Bonpoint and Marie Chantal. While I don’t really wear much designer stuff myself these days (nothing new at least), I must admit I do enjoying spoiling my little girl with pretty pieces and it does help declutter.

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3. Choose Natural Materials

Now, I’m not gettin’ preachy on y’all here.  We love our Playmobil, Tiger Trunkie, giant Melissa & Doug giraffe and plastic baby doll with matching stroller as much as anybody else.  But there is a gentle feeling to a child’s room which is filled with more natural materials.  It softens the space somehow. In our home, this means decorating with natural baskets, using unbleached organic cotton bedding, thick cotton drapes, a simple wooden bed, and more wood, felt and paper toys as well as a good wardrobe of dress up clothes.

Our daughter and her friends all love their wooden balance boards. They use them as side-to-side rockers, turn them into bridges and ramps and integrate them into their imaginary play.  We bought ours from a company in Hungary called Creatimber and they come in lots of colour options. They’re hand crafted, eco friendly, and they help improve children’s body awareness, spatial awareness, balance and coordination skills, they help build self confidence and encourage creative sensory play.

We are also about to commit to doing a regular nature table in our daughter’s bedroom as she loves collecting all sorts of seasonal bits when we go out – conkers, pebbles, leaves, sticks, seashells…you get it.  Setting these out on a table with a few decorations, such as naturally dyed play silks to create grass, ground, lakes and rivers (my grandmother bought our daughter hers from an Etsy shop) and some lovely Holztiger and Ostheimer  wooden animals from Germany looks quite magical.

 

The Natural Mama’s Beach Holiday Travel Essentials Guide

There’s no better way to get excited about your upcoming summer holiday than by going shopping for all your beach essentials.  Even the most eco-conscious of us aren’t immune to this pleasure, but some of us – quite rightly – temper that excitement with our concern for the environment and the health of ourselves and our children. So here’s some greener and healthier ways to join in with the summer joy of planning for your beach holiday.

Sun Protection

Sun protection of one kind or another is so important, especially for children.  Gettinghd_101323492_01
just 5 blistering sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer by up to 80%. So make sure you have a variety of ways to protect your skin.  Many drugstore sunscreens are full of parabens, oxybenzone and other chemicals linked to various types of hormone-disrupting cancers. But there’s no need to worry – there are plenty of options open to you. You can wear a beach cover up which covers the arms and chest well – and there are plenty of good second hand ones about, like this one which I’ve featured from the Oxfam online shop (click here to check out their full range of colours and options).

You should also invest in a good ocean-safe, reef-safe SPF sun cream each summer.  Some people make their own suncreams with coconut oil and essential oils, and if that’s your thing, go for it, but be aware there’s always the risk that you end up making a basting oil for your skin rather than a sun protectant.  While many oils and essential oils do have a natural SPF quality to them, there is no way you can guarantee that level of protection is still in the base ingredient product you’ve purchased without expensive testing. Instead, buy a non-nano, paraben-free, oxybenzone-free sun protection product which is as natural as possible. Suncreams like this new one from Weleda which I purchased at my local health food store last week are a great option.

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If Weleda is difficult to find in your area, consider the Thinkbaby and Thinksport sunscreens which I tried out on two separate occasions earlier this summer when visiting friends and I had to borrow some sun protection.  Thinksport do SPF 50 creams, but also a great SPF 30 face and body stick which is easy to apply to your face – kind of like a mini deodorant stick.  It’s a clean range of products which is easy to find in Canada, the US and the UK, and it’s been designed for serious athletes – so it will definitely be able to withstand your beach holiday demands! Plan ahead and make sure you have enough for your trip – you don’t want to end up like I did on my trip to Italy, having to buy horrible overpriced chemical-filled sunscreen at the pharmacy (you don’t want to know how much sun protection costs in Europe).

For kids I also recommend getting UPF 50 sun protection suits for the beach. When paired with a good wide-brimmed hat, it means you don’t have to worry about when they spend a bit too long in the sunshine – as they inevitably will.  I do buy these suits and shirts second hand for my daughter but do keep in mind that the sun protection factor in second hand suits might not be as high as it will be in a new suit.

Swimwear

You can get some great bathing suits and bikinis second hand like these ones at the Oxfam online shop (just give them a good boil wash after buying them). I’m a bit busty, however, so have never had luck finding second hand bikini tops that fit me.  In fact, finding any gorgeous bikini tops that will fit over a D cup is actually quite difficult. I wasIMG_20180723_124900.jpg gifted this beautiful black Boho Chic bikini from Hunkemoeller (I saw their gorgeous lingerie and swimwear boutiques all over Germany last month). It fits me so well – in fact this model ran a bit on the generous size, so I had return my first bikini top (thank you free returns!) and go a cup size smaller than my usual Panache bra cup size which looks amazing on me.  It ties at the top and the back , so you don’t need to worry about whether the band will be too tight or too loose, and the metal U bar in the front, allows the front of the bra to open easily for topless sunbathing (or easy breastfeeding, if you’re still nursing your child). They also had a variety of styles of bikini bottoms, so I was able to find the right cut to suit my derrière. (That’s not me below, btw!)

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After Sun

Don’t overthink this one.  Buy some pure organic aloe gel (like this one from Amazon which comes in a handy 200ml size).  Avoid those livid green and totally transparent Aloe-based concoctions you see at the supermarket and pharmacy – they have a lot of other stuff in them other than healing aloe. You can mix the aloe gel with a few drops of a good quality lavender essential oil (I use Young Living – see why here) to boost the skin soothing quality of the aloe. If you do get a bit too much sun, just rub in some of this into your skin and it will help cool you off and start to nourish your sun-damaged skin. Just keep reapplying as your skin sucks it in (and it will, depending on the severity of the burn).

Beach Bag

Don’t forget a beach bag to schlep around all your stuff. You don’t need to invest in something really134253_7 expensive – if you’re travelling on your own or with your partner, a small canvas shopping tote will work. If you’re travelling with kids the best thing are those big tacky re-usable supermarket bags which are fantastic for this purpose because they’re waterproof and hold tons of stuff like flippers, goggles, snorkels, sand-encrusted swim shoes, gazillions of towels, etc.

But I know that if you’re going back and forth to the beach club, you might want something a bit more chic than a massive orange Sainsbury’s bag proudly branding it’s elephant design emblazoned on the side. I’ve decided to splurge and treat myself to this black & white one from Hunkemoller UK to match my new bikini. It reminded me of some of the gorgeous bags I’ve seen in Anthropologie.  (I remember the days of disposable income. They’re long gone, but I do remember them!)

Sunglasses

For Pete’s sake, don’t forget a pair of sunglasses or you’ll be squinting in agony for the next two weeks. On my way back from Canada in June, I treated myself to a new pair of Oakley matte tortoiseshell Latch sunglasses at the duty free shop. (Yeah, I’ve given myself a few treats lately – what’s up with that?) I had been planning to get the folding Ray Ban Wayfarers, but discovered that they come in a leather case, which kind of didn’t flow with the whole vegan vibe.

Water Bottle

It’s pretty easy most places to access clean drinking water, so unless you’re travelling somewhere at particular risk for waterborne pathogens, just take your water bottle with you and for each member of your family so you can stay hydrated throughout the day.  Even if you go to a resort, its great having your own reusable cup bottle with you, so you can have the bar staff refill it with water for you from their filtered water systems.  I love my Yeti bottle because I can attach it to my bag with a carabiner – and yes, I bought it second hand.

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It’s also a great idea to take a reusable coffee cup (like a Keep Cup) or an insulated wine tumbler (yes, there is such a thing) so you don’t have to use plastic cups for your wine or cocktails, and they’ll stay cooler for longer in the sun. (Amazon have a wide range of insulated wine tumblers at various price points, and Yeti do a cool one too).

Sun Hat

Sun hats are such a personal thing, I’m not even going to show you an example here.  I have a great soft brushed cotton baseball cap I love from ethical clothing company Absolutely Bear which I wear for day trips and hiking all the time, but I probably won’t wear it on the beach on my trip to Spain, as I might want something which channels a bit more of a Sophia Loren vibe.  But whatever suits your style.

One thing I will say is, just take a sun hat.  Something foldable might be wise, so you can pack it in your luggage.  I have a gorgeous Panama style hat which I love, but it isn’t the easiest to travel with because I have to wear it for the whole flight, or make sure it doesn’t get crunched up in the overhead luggage compartment.

Sun hats are such a great and easy way to keep the sun off your face without worrying about whether your SPF cream has worn off and panda eyes are developing.  And as the (not so) proud wearer of many, many panda eyes in the past, may I say I have expert knowledge that it is worth avoiding.   (No make up will really cover those puppies up.) Just wear the hat.

Reading Material

It’s really important to have enough reading material on your trip.  On shorter trips I’ll usually just take a library book, but I also have started to enjoy borrowing my husband’s Kindle and I absolutely love Amazon Audible, so I can listen to audio books on my phone while on the plane and so I can keep an eye on my daughter on the beach. (Getting lost in a book isn’t really possible when you’re looking after children near the sea, lakes or the pool.) Here’s the link I used to get a free 90 day trial of Audible so you can see if it’s the kind of thing you would enjoy too – at the very least it will last you your holiday! They’re often read by the author or by someone with a delicious reading voice, like Mariella Frostrup. I recently listened to Swing Time by Zadie Smith and can highly recommend it.

And have a great holiday!  For more tips, check out my posts on eco travel, how to pack light and travelling with kids. Have I forgotten anything?  Let me know in the comments below.

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Resources/References:

Sun Protection – https://www.nhs.uk/news/cancer/just-five-sunburns-increase-your-cancer-risk/, https://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/16/health/sunscreen-report/index.html

Photo Credit: Hunkemoeller bikini shot – from https://www.hunkemoller.co.uk/uk_en/47-boho-chic-bikini-bottoms-black-123295.html, Hunkemoeller beach bag shot – from https://www.hunkemoller.co.uk/uk_en/47-doutzen-beach-bag-black-134253.html

 

 

 

Travelling with Kids

I don’t write as much about travel as I would like to. I usually plan to do amazing YouTube travel videos which never get edited or posted and I take lots of photos which I think would be great here on the site…but rarely does a travel post I’ve planned or started ever materialise. Which is a shame, because my husband and I travel A LOT and we’ve learned tons about travelling with kids. So that’s what I am going to share with you today. (If you’d like some general zero waste travel tips, check out this post I wrote a couple years ago.)

1. Planning & booking your trip

My husband and I love planning our trips. We think about where we want to go and then read lots about it (not just Lonely Planet* guides, but relevant novels, poetry, historical literature, etc. about the area) and really draw the process out with a sort of childish delight. If you have no children you can spend hours doing this during weekly date nights, but if you have a child, like we do now, all I can say is good luck. (I’ve been trying to read a Costa Rica guide for like a year now.) Once you’ve decided where you want to go and when, try to find a child-free hour when you can book your trip with a clear head, free from distractions. Your flight schedule, free time from work and school, and accommodation availability all have to align and stupid mistakes are so easy to make at this stage. I’m not being patronising here, but this is one area where multi-tasking is fairly risky.

If you’ve booked a package holiday, life should be simple – you’ll get collected as per whatever arrangement your package holiday company has made and you get taken straight to your hotel. We do very little package holiday travel (although we have done so occasionally) and have found its not always the best when travelling with small kids.

Its easy to get lured into the belief that you’ll have loads of kids clubs to watch your kids all the time and you don’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning. The reality is that unless your kids are older, they’re often too small for kids clubs and you end up having a screaming hot baby/toddler with you on the beach/poolside while everyone glares at you. When dinnertime comes you can either eat ridiculously early at 5 or 6 o’clock or wait until later and take your cranky/hyper kids with you to dinner at 7.30 or 8 and watch in horror as spaghetti is flung onto the lady at the next table (it happened). Or you can book a babysitter every night and have a peaceful dinner with your partner, but that gets pretty expensive pretty quickly. You’ll probably also be sharing a room with your kid(s) and bedtime can be just…um, awesome when you’re away from your usual environment and routines. Evenings with your partner will be spent huddled on the balcony, whispering and playing Uno whilst sneaking up all-inclusive cocktails from downstairs, and being extra quiet while your kid(s) try to get to sleep. But don’t worry, they’ll start getting used to the new routine just by the time you’re packing to leave and go home. So yeah, I’m not really recommending the package holiday that much. Maybe once they’re teenagers?

I do have one caveat to this. If you can afford to book a villa at a resort, you can get many of the advantages of having an apartment with a kitchenette and separate bedrooms, with the conveniences of being on a resort (including access to resort babysitters and kids clubs for older kids, etc). I’ve not done this, but my friend Katie swears by it and for her family of 4, its the preferred way to travel. Its definitely not an inexpensive way to go, but I wanted to share as many options as possible.

Another friend of mine travelled in a minivan from Glasgow to the Peloponnese with her husband and 3 children (all under age 6) and they stayed at a range of types of accommodation ranging from bizarre British guest houses to luxury spa resorts, but they enjoyed the private apartments and houses they rented the most. It gave them more freedom to enjoy their destination and a more relaxed experience while travelling with their young children.

Personally, I prefer independent travel because I happen to like going to local shops and markets and experimenting with the local foods, and in some small way, ‘living like a local’…or at least pretending to.

If you are doing independent travel (which is what we highly recommend when travelling with babies and smaller children), you can rent your own house or apartment with Airbnb. This can range from fairly basic and simple accommodation to extreme luxury. It provides all the reassurance of booking a hotel, but you get your own house or apartment wherever you want to be. This is great because you can keep your home schedule (nap times, meal times, etc…) with your children and you can make meals and packed lunches that you know they will eat and best of all you can pack your little ones off into their own beds before having a leisurely evening with your partner with the full run of the house/apartment and its garden, pool, hot tub, etc.

I’m not affiliated with Airbnb, but feel free to click here and you can save £25 or $31 off your first booking.

Make sure you read all the reviews for the Airbnb accommodation you’re considering. Make sure its suitable and safe for children. Often they will be able to provide travel cots so you don’t need to schlep one around with you – just make sure you check in advance if your hosts can provide this for you. You can even arrange for a cleaner to come in periodically at some properties, for an extra charge.

If your accommodation is fairly far away from the airport where you’ll be landing and your flight gets in late at night, it might be advisable to just book a hotel near the airport and crash that first night you get in and worry about picking up car rentals* or travelling long distances by car/train/boat the next morning. This is what we do. It keeps the continuity of domestic bliss – travel-related frustrations are a prime time trigger for spats and domestic arguments.


We like using Lonely Planet* guides when we travel, and highly recommend them for researching interesting things to do in the area where you plan to travel. Most libraries have them, so you don’t necessarily even need to buy them. Trip Advisor* can also be very helpful.

2. Packing

Pack Light – You’ll know best how to pack for your family and for what you plan to do when you get to your destination, but I do recommend that you pack fairly light. You’ll all usually end up wearing the same 3-4 outfits over and over and if you’re staying at an Airbnb you’ll likely have your own washing machine (and perhaps dryer) so you can wash your clothes as often as you need to.

Layering – Bring clothes you can layer. I’ve gone to ‘cold’ destinations to find I was boiling in an unseasonal heatwave and have gone to sunny destinations where it was colder than London (and I only had a beachy sort of wardrobe packed).

Two Pairs of shoes (max) – Keep shoes to a minimum. I often waste suitcase weight/space on shoes that we simply never end up wearing. You’ll have much better memories of your holiday if you and the kids all have comfortable shoes that keep your feet pain-free after lots of walking around and sight-seeing.

Compact Toiletries – I do travel with all the toiletries and make up I need, but my rule is that it all has to fit inside my size medium LL Bean toiletries bag. (As a former Vermonter, I do love my LL Bean!) My husband has one too for all his toiletries and shaving gear. I did lots of online research and read lots of reviews on these toiletries bags before deciding on this one. Some people have had theirs for 15 years plus and they are still in top shape. They also unzip and have a little built in hanger so you can hang them off a towel hook and keep everything tidy (and above toddler reach). I’ve recommended these to so many people, I should be getting a commission on these things! When my daughter gets older, she’ll get her own, but meanwhile she just shares with one of us because all she really has is a toothbrush, a tangle teaser, some Owie* for bumps and bruises (which you can order wholesale here), a couple of bandaids and a small bottle of Calpol (just in case).

By packing light, you’ll have room to bring all the things that really matter – enough eco-disposable or cloth nappies (if your little one is still in them) and any food items you know that you or your kids couldn’t do without. I’m vegan, so I always pack a few chocolate chip Cliff bars so I know that I have something protein-filled to snack on, some Ningxia Red* packets (to provide antioxidant support after the radiation exposure on the flight) and I also bring a small box of UHT plant based milk, for my tea/coffee on that first morning we are at our destination. My daughter is a huge fan of strawberry Yoyos, a natural version of a Fruit Rollup they sell here in the UK. They come in paper & card packaging so aren’t the most zero waste of snacks, but they aren’t too bad and they travel well in both hot and cold climates. This is also your chance to pack the ‘right shape of pasta’ or whatever your kid’s particular non-negotiable foible is. (For us, its porridge oats which are milled to our daughter’s exacting specifications – not too flaky, not too jumbo.) Don’t overdo it, but just be prepared.

3. Getting to the Airport

If you live in an urban area near your airport (and don’t have a kind family member to drop you off) its probably just easier to order a cab to collect you, but make sure its a very reputable firm you trust to show up on time. I’ve had local car companies let me down before. Companies which specialise in airport cars are more reliable in my experience and you can pre-pay for them. Give yourself more time at the airport than you think you will need – if you have an extra 45 minutes hanging out past security, big deal. Go to Starbucks or Pret (with your reusable cup) and have a coffee, or peruse the duty free shops. Whatever floats your boat. Its so much better to be a bit early.

You can also pre-book airport parking which is usually a really cheap option if you do it far enough in advance, but be aware that the transport vans which take you from the car park to the airport terminal are sometimes not too spacious (think tiny babies in bulky car seats) and don’t have safe booster seats for toddlers travelling – its a short distance, but still usually is about 10-15 minutes of driving from the offsite car park to the terminal and its often on a stretch of busy road.

If we have an early flight from Gatwick we pre-book an overnight at the Premier Inn at the North Terminal. (I’m not a budget hotel gal, but this chain is so so clean and comfortable in my experience.) They have a SleepParkFly package* which includes up to 15 nights of free parking when you stay overnight there (with free meet & greet parking upon your return), so the cost of staying over is negligible (often the whole package is cheaper than the standard car parking package) and your car is waiting for you at the airport when you get back. Check if your local airport budget hotel does something similar. For us its amazing waking up and simply walking our sleepy toddler across the zebra crossing to the airport entrance – no early morning panic.

There is also the option of taking public transport which I find is just all too much for me when throwing a child and luggage for three people into the mix. But if you know your public transport is reliable, there’s no planned delays or works on the line, and it will get you there quickly without too many changes – then go for it.

Oh yeah…and before you leave for the airport, just make sure you have your kid’s stroller packed. I’m not kidding…this has happened to us before and we ended up having to find a stroller rental shop at our destination.

4. Flying to your destination

This can be really hard, especially if you’re flying with your little one(s) on your own, as I often do. When my daughter was a baby, I’d simply nurse her during take off and she’d fall into a deep sleep which would last most of the flight. Now that she’s three, its a bit harder to keep her happy on long flights. Some kids seem to get locked in to the inflight entertainment or an iPad, but that can often frustrate my little one and it makes her edgy, cranky and eventually ends in total melt down. We’ve found that old school entertainment like magic painting books (only water required!), a few dinosaur toys,  and some crayons and colouring books work well. I don’t usually buy disposable literature, but its become a bit of a tradition (and a treat) for my daughter to get a Cebeebies magazine at the airport before each flight and it is worth every penny for the hours of entertainment it provides. It also includes a couple of toys which won’t induce a lifelong trauma when they inevitably get lost. (But if you know that the iPad or Kids Kindle will make your flight a harmonious one, then just go for it – just put it away when you get to your destination and don’t let it dominate the whole holiday.)

There won’t be any food served on budget airlines, so I usually go to Pret a Manger or Leon at the airport and stock up on some yummy sandwiches and snacks to keep everybody happy during the flight. I love starting my flight off with a coconut cappuccino!

If I’m really super organised I’ll have prepped a meal at home, at least for our daughter. I pack it in our eco-lunchbox which is also handy to have at our destination for making snack boxes to take down to the beach or on day trips. (Even if you’re staying at a hotel, you can load it up at the breakfast buffet to create a snack box for your toddler who will inevitably want to eat at the most inconvenient time imaginable.) Its never been something I consider a mistake to bring or a waste of space and it saves us a lot of money buying expensive, junky snack food while we’re out.

We also try to keep things reasonably zero waste, so I usually choose to have no in-flight meal for my daughter and myself (my husband always gets one) if its a flight under 7 hours. I find the amount of waste produced by in-flight meals really distressing and its not like the food is that great anyway. Just pack lots of yummy things from home supplemented by a few special treats picked up at the airport (if that’s your idea of a treat). My daughter loves the reassurance of having food that mommy has made and it makes the trip far more peaceful for her and for us. As long as any liquid or soupy consistency foods are kept under 100ml in containers which hold no more than 100ml maximum, you’ll be fine. Bring water bottles for everybody and fill them up at the filtered water fountain after you pass security. This way you won’t have to drink the plastic bottled water on the plane – at least until you exhaust your own supplies.

For babies drinking formula, you should be fine getting those past security. Be aware that you are entitled to bring a reasonable amount of formula to meet your baby’s requirements for the journey and the 100ml limit does not apply here. If you are travelling with a formula fed infant, you’ll find it far more comfortable to bring enough of your own supplies with you in your checked luggage rather than relying on buying formula at your destination. Babies can be so funny about tastes and brands and although the formulas being sold in other countries are likely to be safe and fine, you might not be able to read the ingredient list, and you’re really best off having an adequate supply of the product you know brought from your home country. For more details, check out this article from Hipp Organics which sets out all your rights and has some good advice.

When it comes to pumped breastmilk, you never know what stupidheads you might encounter though, and many a mama has had to dump her precious stash. Although the rules vary from country to country, in the UK, US and Canada you are entitled to pack breastmilk in your hand luggage. Here are the UK, US and Canadian rules for travelling with pumped breastmilk in your hand luggage, as they vary on quantities allowed and how the milk will be screened by security.

5. Once you get there

If you’ve gone for the Airbnb or private home rental route rather than a resort or hotel, sometimes your host will meet you at the property, but most hosts simply install a key safe and will email you the necessary security codes to access the keys. (Write these down somewhere just in case your phone battery dies or you lose your phone.) Your little one(s) might be exhausted when they get to the property (or hyper and overtired). It might be a good idea to encourage a nap or some quiet down-time while you unpack and get yourself situated into the property.

This is a good opportunity to look at the information folder your host will have left you and see if there is a local supermarket they recommend. Otherwise, you should be able to find one on Google. Personally, I love grocery shopping in foreign countries, seeing what the local foods are like and trying all the local vegan brands. I always pack a couple of lightweight reusable shopping bags and reusable produce bags in case we’re lucky enough to come a farmers market.

We don’t like to over-schedule or over-plan when travelling with young children. Its actually no fun for anyone if you try to cram too many activities into each day, as you’ll end up dragging screaming, overtired children out of museums or attractions you’ve spent a fortune to see. But you also don’t want to find you’ve left your destination without having done any of the activities or having seen any of the sights you wanted to. We sketch out a rough schedule (we’re talking back of an envelope here) of the things we want to do and build in a few relaxation days or unplanned days. This allows for spontaneity and in the mornings we can wake up and check the weather before deciding to spend the day at the beach or going on a hike or seeing a cultural site. You definitely can do all these things with kids, but just don’t push it. Remember its their holiday too. We always plan in a special day of stuff just for our daughter, even on short breaks. It often ends up being our favourite day of the holiday.

Let snacktimes and mealtimes happen as usual – pack enough food, snacks and water for yourself and the kids for day trips or outings and if it looks like the kiddos are getting sleepy, try to allow time for a bit of a snooze – in the buggy, on a picnic blanket in the shade after lunch or in the car while you’re driving. Remember, they’re little, and seeing all new things and their little brains are working hard assimilating a lot of new information and maybe even hearing a new language. They deserve a little down time and you’ll probably even find its good for you too.

There are a couple of affiliate links here to help support me keeping this blog going.  They’re marked with an asterisk  By using my affiliate links you don’t pay any more and I get a small commission. I’ve also included an Airbnb discount code for you, but most of the links are just stuff I wanted to help guide you to find easily.  Nothing is sponsored, gifted or guided by a particular brand’s influence – its all just stuff I like and use.  



 

Zero Waste Travel

One of the things I love about travel is the feeling of freedom and how you realise that you can actually live without most of the stuff you own.  But making sure you actually leave a small footprint behind you when you go home is even more important.  I’m sure there are other ways to travel zero waste by hiking cross country and camping, or staying at youth hostels with shared kitchens, etc.  But I’m in my 30’s and I have  a young child.  And I like to be comfortable.  So I’m going to share what works for us.

Where to Stay

When we first book a holiday, as soon as the flights are confirmed, we go onto the AirBnB website (click here to save £25 or $31 on your first booking), check out the reviews and rent an apartment in the location where we are planning to travel. In the past we have also used VRBO and Home Away websites as well.  We find this is the most comfortable, cost effective and low waste way for us to travel. By having our own private apartment we can pack light (taking one carry on suitcase each) and travel with a capsule wardrobe that we can wash every few days in the washing machine at the flat. Most Airbnb apartments provide washing powder but we bring a gentle and ecologically friendly one with us. We also shop at the local supermarket and farmer’s markets, buying organic, healthy foods in as low waste packaging as possible, and then cook our own healthy meals. We’ll usually go out for restaurant lunches during the day, but we sometimes also prepare packed lunches to take with us for day trips. We can afford to have the option to do that when we’re saving on the costs of expensive breakfasts and dinners by eating at the apartment.  Another way in which renting an apartment is more zero waste-friendly than staying in a hotel is because you will be able to use the recycling and composting services available to residents, rather than having to throw your apple cores or empty glass jars in the garbage knowing they will needlessly go to landfill.  You can also bring any composting or recycling waste you accumulate throughout the day back to the apartment (such as lunch leftovers or plastic water bottles in case you get caught out and are desperate for a drink – it happens) and put it in the correct bin.

This was our view from our alfresco dining table on our private balcony from our last holiday rental…not many restaurants can boast a view like this:

OLOL Zero Waste Travel Amalfi Italy

What to Pack

No matter how long the holiday, we allow ourselves one carry on suitcase each.  Not only is travelling light easier, but its cheaper too, as we can easily use public transport and can often walk to our apartment from the train station, avoiding taking taxis.  My toiletries kit is usually filled with reusable silicon GoToobs filled with my homemade toiletries or those dispensed from larger containers at home.  You may also note that I mention a mason jar.  Bear with me.  At home I use a separate glass water bottle and a glass coffee mug which I take with me everywhere I go.  But when I travel, my space is limited so a mason jar provides a universal solution.  You can fill it with water and its a water bottle.  Its heat resistant so you can pour tea or coffee into it, so its also your coffee mug.  It also makes a great snack jar for trail mix.  I pack one reusable shopping bag which folds down really tiny and a couple of the reusable produce bags, for buying fruits, breads, etc at the market.  A sandwich box might be useful here if you want to buy berries or cheeses.  The rest of the time you can use it for, you know, carrying around your sandwich.  And finally I take half a dozen organic cotton muslins which can multi task as napkins, handkerchiefs, for wrapping your sandwich up inside its sandwich box (instead of cling film) or for wrapping up baked goods bought at the market so to avoid having to take a paper or plastic bag.  Then you can clean them in the washing machine at your apartment and they dry quickly, ready to take out and use again.

Here’s an example of what my suitcase contents look like:

  • Capsule wardrobe (I won’t go into detail as obviously what I wear depends on the season and destination, but I keep it pretty simple.)
  • Toiletries kit (GoToobs filled with shampoo, homemade toothpaste, homemade deodorant, body lotion and homemade aftersun gel.  Eye cream.  Face oil.  Bamboo toothbrush.  Possibly sun protection cream, if required.  Razor.  Makeup bag.  My 10 ‘first aid’ essential oils kit.)
  • Mason jar
  • Sandwich box
  • Reusable shopping bag & produce bags
  • Clipper tea bags (because finding organic tea in unbleached bags is near impossible!)
  • 6 organic cotton muslin squares (yes, like the ones for your baby!)
  • iPad (for movies, emails and day trip planning)
  • Book (I can’t help it…I’m not a Kindle girl.  I love a good real book when I travel!)

Souvenirs

Its easy to get caught up while on holiday and buy loads of stuff you’ll wonder what to do with when you get home.  You don’t need to buy anything to bring home though.  Some people like to bring home their train tickets and flight stubs to glue into their journals.  My husband loves to buy the tackiest, most gaudy resin magnet he can find and that is his single souvenir from each trip.  I don’t entirely approve of this, as these horrible bits of resin will be probably languishing in a landfill long after we’re dead and gone.  (Surely no one will want to inherit them!)  But it brings him joy, so I have to have a somewhat balanced perspective when it comes to these things.  As for me, I make these ‘memory jars’ filled with sand, pebbles, shells and sea glass from each of our beach holidays.  I reuse the plastic ziplock bag they make you use at airport security to put your liquid toiletries in by using it to store collected beach treasures and a bit of sand or pebbles.  Then, when I get home I put the contents of the bag into an old glass jam jar and add a luggage tag noting the date and location of the holiday for the contents of each jar.  I keep them in my secretary desk and each time I open it, I smile, remembering how happy each holiday made me.

OLOL Memory Jars Zero Waste

Traveling with Children

Traveling with children can be actually really zero waste-friendly.  By staying in a rented apartment or house, rather than a hotel, you can continue to use your homemade wipes and cloth nappies because you can machine wash them as often as you need to.  Its much easier to prepare your child’s snacks and meals in a real kitchen with fresh ingredients from the market or supermarket, rather than constantly having to buy expensive packaged and potentially unhealthy snacks on-the-go.

I hope you find some of these tips useful in helping you to have a zero waste holiday…or at least to help you reduce some of the waste you might normally create when on holiday.  Being able to travel is a wonderful experience in life, but it is so important to keep our planet as clean and beautiful as we can so our children and grandchildren can experience it in the same way that we have.  What about you?  Do you have any great zero waste holiday tips to share with me in the comments below?

 

 

Tribal Hearts Festival – 12-14 August 2016

Sometimes a mama’s just got to help out a fellow mama.  So when fellow blogger Vanessa unnamedtold me she was organising a natural parenting festival here in the UK, I knew I had to share the love, support this wonderful event and tell you all about it.

The Tribal Hearts festival is about natural living and family life, brought together with workshops, activities for children, stalls, live music and entertainment.  It will take place from 12-14 August 2016 at Green Park in Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire.

“I wanted to help parents give children the gift of happiness, self-confidence, emotional wellbeing, compassion and responsibility.”

Workshops will include Mindful Parenting, Nutrition, Empowered Birth, Yoga and there will be make & take natural skincare classes.  Also on site will be a sensory baby tent, a breastfeeding area,  a marketplace selling handmade and natural products, a sling library and a wellbeing area offering holistic therapies.

“By choosing these workshops I hope to inspire and support visitors to my festival in creating a peaceful home where children are respected.”

Headlining the event will be parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith, the author of The Gentle Parenting Book, co-founder of The Gentle Parenting website and a mother of four.  She will provide an introduction to gentle parenting for newbies and will provide deep insight for those already committed to this parenting approach.

Activities for babies and children will include Bushcraft & Wilderness Skills, Tribal Crafts, Woodland Playgroup, Baby Signing, Storytelling and Imaginary Play.  Your children will also be free to run around the beautiful fields and woodlands and reconnect with nature…as well as discover all the surprises awaiting them there, such as an enchanted tree and a natural playground.

“Child-led play, nature and shared enjoyment of the festival will be a chance to reconnect with one another whilst giving children valuable learning opportunities.”

Delicious food will also be available (uh, yes, including ice cream), catering for various dietary requirements (including vegan and gluten free).

Finally at the end of each wonderful day, families will be able to gather around the campfire for a pyjama party.

Tickets are on sale now, go to www.tribalheartsfestival.co.uk but you also have a chance at winning a pair of tickets in a contest being run by fellow blogger, Attachment Mummy.  Check out her website to enter and win! [COMPETITION NOW CLOSED]

I’m only just gutted that I’ll be out of the country when it takes place and won’t be able to go…so please make this year’s event a success so I can go to next year’s!

Essential Tips for First Time Hiking With Your Kids

This week, Zara Lewis, blogger,  mother of 2 and regular contributor to High Style Life joins us for a guest post on essential tips for hiking with children.

As a person in love with hiking, it was one of my greatest fears that once I had kids I would have to forget about my passion. Luckily, it wasn’t the case; my kids love hiking adventures and nature as much as I do, and our hiking trips have been a great source of joy for all of us. Of course, some things had to change, and I have adapted and adjusted so that all of us can have fun but still be responsible.

picmonkey_image

Be practical with your food

I remember back when I was a kid how my mother always packed just bare necessities in my backpack and I was devastated because I wanted chocolate and sodas like other kids. However, once I became a mother myself I discovered that my mother was right: you do not need a ton of sweets, but rather practical and nutritious foods to keep you strong. I always pack healthy sandwiches, my own protein bars, and plenty of nice fruit: apples, pears, and peaches. This way I am sure my kids are eating healthy food without sugar and additives, and most importantly: we never leave candy bar wrappers or any other sort of garbage behind.

It can rain anytime

Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. After a couple of our hiking trips ended abruptly because of light rain that started falling suddenly, it became a custom of ours to pack light raincoats in our hiking backpacks. These do not take too much space, but are wonderful protection from the elements. We would end our walks suddenly even if it was just light rain, but now we just take our raincoats out and keep walking for as long as we want. Pro tip: you can even use raincoats instead of tablecloths when having a picnic, since they are water-resistant and a million times easier to clean afterwards.

ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR HIKING WITH KIDS 2

Thorough examination afterwards

Always carry hand sanitizer with you when going for a hike, but when you get home that is when the real battle starts. Remove all of your clothes and examine your body to see if you have any ticks or other possibly dangerous insect bites on your body. Do it for your kids too, and then use a natural cleanser to remove all the dirt from your hands, face, and body. Your face is putting up with a lot during your hikes, and it is important to wear a protective hat and apply sunscreen so you don’t get a sunburn. You can apply a face mask made of baking soda and activated charcoal to remove sweat and dirt particles from your pores.

Stretching and relaxing

Kids will probably want to run like crazy all the time, and that is fine. They are young and restless and they should spend their energy like that. As for you, try not to push yourself too much, choose a nice easy tempo and stick to it so you don’t pull a muscle or hurt yourself. You can even take a short break from time to time and stretch so your body can relax. What is more, there are some easy stretches you should do before you set out on your hiking adventure; this way your body will prepare and warm up so your hike will not be as difficult as you thought it would be.

Time spent with my family away from the city crowd is truly a blessing: we watch birds, learn about different plants and animals, and experience the seasons much more intensely than we would in the city. We are used to fresh air, the chirping of birds, eating while sitting on the grass, and the smell of earth after rain. Don’t be afraid to take your kids out for a hike; it is a beautiful experience which all of your family will enjoy.