Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming Sam from Travelling With Our Kids to the blog to tell us about their best and worst holidays. Over to you, Sam.
Best Family Holiday
We have had many great family holidays since our boys were born, but if I had to choose one, then our recent cycling holiday along the River Danube would be my choice. Flying into Vienna, we spent one night in Vienna before catching the train to Passau. We then spent our afternoon collecting our rental bikes and looking around Passau. The next day we set off from Passau along cycle paths and quiet roads back towards Vienna. We cycled for 7 days to get to Vienna with the maximum distance being about 25 miles.
Each day had different things to see and do, which meant we could take our time and stop when needed. Some days we cycled in 30 degree heat which was rather hot. Other days we had rain, but the weather didn’t stop us enjoying the holiday. Places we visited included Melk Abbey, Linz Old Town, and Krems. During the day, if we wanted to cross to the other side of the river, we could either cross by bridge or catch one of the ferry boats. Our boys loved these boats and they varied in size from fitting maybe 20 people to big car boats.
Our youngest son was in a bike trailer which I pulled along behind me, while my husband had our eldest son on a tag-along. Personally, I think my husband pulled the easy straw, but he wouldn’t agree! Ha!
Our cycling holiday really gave us a different experience to a family holiday. Seeing the country from a bike was really fun. Both our boys loved getting up each morning and heading off on the rental bikes. We made up silly games to keep them entertained, stopped along the way to go to the park. As we had a bike trailer for our youngest son, it meant he could still have his afternoon nap. The cycle path also made it family friendly as you knew the boys were safe.
We can’t wait to go on another cycling holiday in the future. Hopefully our youngest can go on a tag-along next time and do some cycling for himself!
Worst Family Holiday
Our worst family holiday was probably our first family holiday together. Not so much for it being rubbish but because our lives had been turned upside down not long before. Roughly 4 weeks before we were meant to go on our first holiday, my older brother suddenly passed away from a stroke. In the weeks leading up to the holiday we had to plan his funeral and make changes to our holiday (my older brother and younger brother were meant to fly to America, so all this had to be cancelled etc). I was also suffering from PND which wasn’t helped with the sudden loss of my brother.
We had decided not to cancel our holiday, as we thought it would be good to escape for a while and try and begin to make sense of what had happened. Both sets of parents and also my younger brother were also with us. Each day was a major struggle emotion wise, and trying to enjoy the sights was rather tough.
About half way through the holiday our eldest son, who was 16 weeks old at the time, became ill. The hotel we were staying in phoned a local doctor who spoke no English to come see us. He gave us a prescription and told us the name of the town that had a 24-hour pharmacy. So, while I looked after a screaming baby, my husband and father drove to the pharmacy to collect the medicine.
We didn’t really know what it was going to do but put our trust in the doctor. Roughly 20 mins after giving our eldest his medicine his screaming stopped, and he eventually fell asleep. By the morning he was back to his usual self!
Overall, we all really enjoyed the holiday and would love to go back and explore again. It was just the circumstances around the holiday that made it for us the worst holiday we have been on.
Thanks to Sam for sharing her best and worst holidays. I had never considered a family cycling holiday but it sounds like fun. I am sorry to hear about the passing of your older brother. You can read all about their cycling trip along the Danube on her blog, as well as their road trip in Austria and Germany.
Sam is a family travel blogger, based in Scotland. They love getting out and exploring new places whether it be at home or abroad. From cycling to hiking, they like to see places from a different viewpoint as they go. Please check out Sam’s blog, Travelling with Our Kids. You can also find Sam on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.
And if you would like to feature in my Best and Worst Holidays series on the blog, please send me an email at email@example.com.
We haven’t had one outstandingly terrible awful holiday, yet, but we’ve had holidays with dreadful moments. I tend not to photograph those moments to post on Facebook although I did write about that on my blog here. Strangely enough those bad moments all depend on who you ask in our family because the children and adults have totally different opinions about what those moments were.
For example, if you were to ask the grown-ups, we hate camping in the pouring rain. My husband is still suffering from the trauma of a trip to Galway when he spent six miserable hours trapped in a small tent with our four young children and no car while mummy (me) swanned off to a wedding with my sister (and the car) to eat lovely food and drink nice wine with grownups. I’m not sure how it was all that bad for him to be honest, at least he was able to order pizza deliveries to ‘the first wet blue tent on the right hand side’ in a soggy field in Salthill. The children thought it was GREAT, camping is ALWAYS fun when you’re a kid and especially when beans on toast is upgraded to takeaway pizza. YAY!
I also don’t have very fond memories of all those holidays (lost count) where we’ve had to either take a child to the doctor, or the car to a mechanic. Holidays are surely only meant to be plain sailing and pain free?
On the other hand. there are a few holidays that stand out as our unanimous favourites. One is to a campsite especially designed for children in Brittany, France (yet again in a tent). There was an over abundance of pools and waterslides, but it wasn’t blisteringly hot.
This is important point actually, we had a big tree to shade our tent. We’ve camped in hot places (Vendée, France as well as in the Pilanesberg, South Africa) without shade and I’d rather be dead than boil alive like that again. The avenues in this campsite were quiet for safe cycling and our neighbours played badminton with the kids. It was bliss! I read books by the pool side while the kids and hubby splashed about for hours until lunch, and then back again to the pool for even more strenuous relaxation all afternoon. I still dream about that deep sleep I had every night, all week.
Another was to the Isle of Skye. In every way a total opposite to the commercialised campsite holiday scene, this was remote and rugged. There were no discos, karaoke or bars. There were barely any people! The landscape awed us at every turn, we swam in the icy sea, built dams in the burn and walked for miles, catching a fleeting glimpse of a couple of shy stags before they turned tail over the hills. We stayed in a self-catering house that had its own private cove and plenty of room inside for the kids to play table tennis on the damp days.
Really what we love best is visiting family back in South Africa, partly because it’s so familiar, but also because it’s so different to life in Ireland. We love spending time with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and we also love eating seafood cooked over the coals out under the stars on warm evenings, stroking giraffes, antelope or ostriches and playing on soft sand beaches that stretch for miles. We can’t rave enough about a holiday in South Africa!
No two of our holidays have been the same and we are always open to new experiences. Meeting new people and experiencing their culture, language and food is one of the highlights always so we’ve house swapped six times around Europe as well as South Africa and this coming summer we are planning to ‘Couchsurf’ our way around the USA. (I’ll keep you posted on how that goes!)
Since having our kids, holidays have certainly been more frenetic, more fun, more exhausting and hilarious. We’ve done fewer ‘adult’ things and have enjoyed the ‘sillier’ kiddie things. Travelling is never dull. Even the painful moments change us, make us more resilient to the next incident. At the least, the terrible disasters make for great stories afterwards. In my mind, travel is not always just about having a holiday, it is about being changed in your outlook on the world. When you return home after a trip, you are never the same person who left home.
John Steinbeck says, “Once a journey is designed, equipped and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality temperament, individuality and uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip, a trip takes us.” – Travels with Charley
Liberty is a mother of four kids living in Wexford, the sunny South Eastern corner of Ireland, but was born in the UK and raised in South Africa. She and her family get about a bit and usually avoid having ‘normal’ holidays.
Thanks to Liberty for sharing Why not check out Liberty’s blog. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. We’ve never camped with BattleKid yet, but I’m sure we will. I do remember a very wet, soggy end to a week at the Isle of Man TT. It was so bad that my husband I booked into a hotel for our last night because we couldn’t take the rain anymore!
And if you would like to feature in my Best and Worst Holidays series on the blog, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a working dad, time off with the family is so, so precious, and holidays have come to represent so much more than just time away. They’re a chance to reset and reconnect with the family, and a chance for me to bond with my son in a way that just going outside or using our Tuff spot won’t quite do.
In this piece I’d like to tell you more about our best holiday as a family and our worst.
The Best: Barcelona 2016
What can I say about Barcelona. The city, to me, is just magical. In December 2016, when Max was 2 years old, we decided to forego Christmas tradition and my partner and I just decided to go to Barcelona for Christmas with Max! I had never been to the city before, let alone over Christmas, so even though part of me was a little sceptical of doing it over the Christmas period, I knew that getting away for a little time was important.
Why Barcelona was the best family holiday:
The weather – December in the UK is cold, and unless you’re a fan of waiting for a white Christmas, it’s going to be pretty gloomy (even with all the Christmas lights around). Barcelona averages around 15-16 degrees in December – perfect for a lovely stroll around.
The pace of life – it’s far from siestas on every corner – it’s lively, but not rushed. It has that lovely balance of being a busy city, but with a charm and tranquility that means you can just easily loose yourself walking down promenades and park ways.
The food – wowee! We tried the incredible Osmosis taster menu, and to this day it’s still one of the best meals I’ve ever had. A wine paring with every course, and a great wine shop next to it too! If you go, you also can’t miss Boqueira el Quim – the best market restaurant you’ll ever go to.
The amazing architecture – Whether it’s Sagrada familiar or the Gothic Quarter – there really is something for the whole family that the children will love too. You could easily have neck ache at the end of the holiday because of the time you’ll be looking up!
The stay – There are so many amazing Air BnBs now that cater for families super well.
The people – The people in Barcelona are helpful, knowledgeable and friendly without being too in your face.
The stay was so good that we just did it again last Christmas!
The Worst: Legoland, Windsor
Let me start by saying that I’m not putting Legoland down because I necessarily hated every minute, it just didn’t quite live up to expectation.
We went with Max over a half term, which in itself perhaps was part of the problem as the queue times in the drizzly rain didn’t make for an all-round great day.
There are some great features. Max LOVED the fire engine ride where you get to ride a fire engine, put the fire (fake) out, and then back to base, and he really enjoyed the classic model city where at my last count he had watched the trains go past approximately 20 times!
However, there are some significant drawbacks to the day.
Here’s why it’s on my list:
Where am I – Unlike most other theme parks, I found myself lost, very lost. Though it’s not as big as some other theme parks, the ability to get lost is rather vast. An extra sign or two would not go amiss.
Food choices are limited, at best – The food choices I found to be very limited. Who doesn’t love a good hotdog on a day out, but I’d rather that not be the only option. Ok, that’s a little unfair – I think there was a ice cream place and a fish and chip place, but overall there just wasn’t the kid of friendly food selection that you’d hope for.
The car park – it’s a good distance from the park itself, and seems to have a real lack of 2 way system about it
The upsell – ok, I know you go to Legoland and you really should leave with Lego, but there’s something about the experience that, while in may ways an amazing engineering feat, doesn’t feel as interactive as it could. The magic of lego for me is about making things, and there’s just a real lack of that around the park.
Thanks so much to Han-Son for sharing their best and worst holidays. We are going to Barcelona for the first time in July so it was great to get some hints and tips for our trip. And to be honest, I didn’t enjoy Legoland when we visited either. We went on one ride during the entire day, although we did come away with a good bit of Lego.
Last year while we were on our road trip in America, I had some fellow bloggers as guests on the blog telling us about their best holidays with their kids and also as a couple. In an extension to this, over the coming weeks, I will be featuring more stories from my fellow bloggers. They will be telling us about their best and worst holidays with their kids, pre-kids and everything in between.
This week I have the pleasure of featuring the lovely Jenna, from South Wales, who blogs at Then There Were Three.
When our eldest was around eighteen months old, we decided that it would be a great idea to take her on her first long haul flight to Barbados. The last time I had travelled long haul was when I was in the first trimester of my pregnancy and we flew to Las Vegas for my husband’s birthday. I also work for an international airline, so seeing all of my colleagues jetting off to exotic locations fuelled my desire for a long-haul break even more.
I had never been to Barbados before, let alone with a toddler. I did some research and found a “child friendly” hotel with a play park and kids club. Looking back, I truly just wish we had gone to Butlins for the week. Barbados itself is a beautiful place, but the hotel was certainly not as child friendly as they made out.
Aoife was actually the only child at the resort, which of course meant that all attention was on her, which she loved. However, the facilities for her weren’t great.
The play park consisted of an old, rusted metal swing, with a creaky see saw and rather dangerous looking climbing frame; not much use to a toddler. The play park also didn’t have any form of shade, so the play sets became boiling hot with the heat and were unusable anyway.
Around the poolside was a nightmare as there were no anti slip mats, which are essential at a “child friendly” hotel. Our over excitable toddler slipped a good few times which resulted in bangs to the head and bruises.
The kids club turned out to be just a room with a darts board and air hockey table which again was of no use to us.
The food was very authentic to the Caribbean, which whilst lovely, is not something that a toddler would find appetising. Aoife pretty much lived off chips and rice for the whole week, aside from the last night when we were told that they had a children’s menu. I have never seen a child wolf down mash, beans and sausages so quickly before.
Despite all of this, it hasn’t deterred us from travelling long haul again – we are planning on heading to Orlando next year. In regards to visiting Barbados again, I would love to but I will definitely be researching the hotels a bit better.
When it comes to our best holiday with kids, surprisingly it was less than an hour away from my home. Last May we were incredibly lucky to be invited to stay at Bluestone for the week (think Center Parks but smaller); my husband wasn’t able to get the time off work, so my cousin joined us instead.
We were so lucky to have such amazing weather whilst we were there – I definitely don’t think we would have enjoyed it as much in the rain.
Now if you know me, you’ll know that I am not very good with nature or the great outdoors. However, that week changed me; despite it not being full on countryside, the peaceful nature walks and tranquil lake were enough to change my views and think “I could live somewhere like this”.
Bluestone was definitely well equipped for children of all ages. There was soft play and outside parks for the younger children, along with zip lining through the forest and rock wall climbing for the older ones. Their waterpark Blue Lagoon was an instant hit with Aoife who is a true water baby – she was obsessed with the lazy river and wave machines.
As we knew the area quite well, we were able to confidently leave the site and spend the day in Tenby with my parents too.
I loved the fact that despite how close we were to home it really felt like we were on holiday and thousands of miles away.
I would love to go back with my husband and the girls, or even arrange for a huge group of families to go as there really is so much to see and do.
Jenna is a parenting and lifestyle blogger based in South Wales – she has two daughters and blogs about everything parenting related to surrogacy. She is hoping to train as a midwife next year and loves nothing more than a Primark visit!
Thanks to Jenna for sharing her best and worst holidays to date. We are big fans of Bluestone too. Jenna has written about her visit to Bluestone in a three-part series on her blog. Why not start with her Day One report.
Last year, as many of you know, we embarked on our biggest trip to date with BattleKid. It was a two-week USA road trip taking in the stunning Yellowstone National Park, smoky Missoula in Montana and the hip and vibrant city of Portland. Missoula is a place not many people will have heard of, us included before our trip, but is definitely worth a visit. And today I’m going to share with you 5 things to do in Missoula with a toddler in tow, should you be visiting yourself with a toddler or young kids.
Now, we chose Missoula, which is in the state of Montana, as it was roughly the halfway point between Yellowstone and Portland. Stopping there would enable us to break up the driving and have some down time with BattleKid during our road trip. We also chose it because there was a town called Lolo right beside it and also Lolo National Forest. Lolo is the nickname my Dad got from his first grandson and it stuck. So naturally we needed to visit the town that shares his name.
We also intended to visit Lolo National Forest but alas it was not to be. Montana was cloaked in smoke due to widespread forest fires, some of which had reached Lolo National Forest, causing it to be closed to the public for safety. But it gives us a reason to return. With the forest no longer an option, we needed to find things to do in Missoula with kids.
Our first port of call was Google. We searched for things to do with kids in Missoula. These had to include fun activities for kids as we had BattleKid with us. We were also fortunate that our AirBnB host had left a few magazines in the apartment one of which had articles about things to do in Montana with kids. The articles proved so useful to us. They not only showed what to do with kids in Missoula and the wider Montana area, they also gave some ideas of free things to do in Missoula.
Armed with as much information as possible, we set out to discover Missoula and other nearby things that we otherwise would have missed had the forest been open. And as a result, I am able to share with you 5 things to do in Missoula with a toddler in tow. All of these are fun things to do in Missoula and the slightly wider areas around it.
5 Things to Do in Missoula with a Toddler in Tow
Have a Picnic in Caras Park Missoula
Caras Park is located in Downtown Missoula along the Clark Fort River. It is a lovely area and the Park Pavilion plays host to a variety of events throughout the year including music concerts, festivals and even a type of Oktoberfest, which was being set up the day we had our picnic in the park.
We visited one day during our time in Missoula after being in the wider Montana area, and I had packed a picnic. We found some picnic benches near the Pavilion and enjoyed our lunch in the sun. Other families soon joined us on the adjacent benches for their own picnics. And if you don’t want to sit on the benches there are plenty of lovely grassy areas for picnic blankets too. Afterwards, you can enjoy one of the following two things.
Have a Ride on the Carousel for Missoula
Located in Caras Park, the Carousel for Missoula was opened in 1995 and was the culmination of the labour of many volunteers and over 100,000 construction hours. Featuring 38 hand-carved ponies, two chariots, 14 gargoyles, mirror frames and the largest band organ in continuous use in America, it is somewhere kids, young and old, can enjoy. You need a token per ride, which costs just 75c, and if you, as a parent, want to ride and share a pony with your child (as I did), it will cost you two tokens.
There is also a chance to win free rides by collecting rings from a chute as you pass by, but you need to be on an outside pony to try your luck. BattleKid and I enjoyed two rides together and he didn’t want to get off. The Carousel for Missoula is really one of the fun things to do in Missoula with kids that shouldn’t be missed. It is open 364 days of the year between 11 and 5.30.
Let your toddler run wild in the Dragon Hollow Playground
Also located in Caras Park, right beside the Carousel for Missoula, the Dragon Hollow playground is a brilliant place to visit with toddlers and kids. It was designed by artists and consultants after getting advice and ideas from local school children. It is a very safe playground which is enclosed by a picket fence and has chip bark flooring. Featuring a huge Dragon themed play house with tunnels, stairs and slides, BattleKid had a great time weaving his way through to the biggest slide he could find!
There are also swings, musical play features and an area for smaller children. It is suitable for kids from 18 months to 12 years of age, is open all year round and is free to use. There are seats around the playground for parents to take a breather. One thing I will point out is that once your child enters the dragon, you cannot easily see them until they emerge from a slide. So just be cautious. But it is one of the best wooden playhouses I have ever come across and BattleKid thoroughly enjoyed himself here.
Visit the National Bison Range
Established in 1908 as a sanctuary for the American bison, the National Bison Range is located approximately an hour north of Missoula. It was one of the places featured in the magazines that our AirBnB host had left in the apartment and somewhere we might have missed. It is home to a herd of between 350 and 500 bison but is also home to other animals such as coyote, black bear, elk, bighorn sheep and pronghorn deer.
There are two routes you can drive at the Bison Range. The short Prairie Drive is open all-year round while the longer Red Sleep Mountain Drive is only open from mid-May to early October. We did the Red Sleep Mountain Drive and it was challenging. It has sharp switch-backs and steep declines and I’d recommend you do this in a 4×4 car due to the roughness of the road. Note, this drive is closed during the winter months.
Although we had seen bison in Yellowstone, we were hoping to see other animals and saw elk and pronghorn deer during our visit. A day pass costs just $5 (you can get an annual oass valid from your first visit for just $15), and the gates are generally open from 7am to 7pm. The visitor’s centre, where you pay, has plenty of information about the range and also has toilets too. Although we only spent a few hours there it was worth the drive from Missoula.
Visit Ewam Buddha Garden, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
This was one of the most surprising places we visited in Montana. Situated in Arlee, about 40 minutes north of Missoula, the Ewam Buddha Garden has to be one of the most peaceful and tranquil places we’ve ever visited.
In the centre of the garden lies a 24-foot tall statue of Yum Chenmo. One thousand Montana-made images of Buddha are arranged in the shape of an eight-spoked Dharma wheel, which encircle Yum Chenmo. 1000 additional stupas surmount the two exterior throne walls, creating the outer rim of the Dharma wheel. And it is a mesmorising sight to see.
The gardens also have a small lake hosting fish and surrounded by large Buddha statues. The garden is open all year round from dawn until dusk and is free to visit (with donation boxes at various points throughout the garden). It was designed for people to enjoy the space, flowers and serene surroundings. Guided tours are available and there is also a gift shop and ample parking.
Once we found out about the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas we knew we had to visit it. A dear friend of ours in Wales introduced us to Buddhism. BattleKid enjoyed our walk around the garden, stopping here and there to admire certain Buddha statues and to say hello to the fish. I’m just sorry we didn’t know there was a prayer flag mount there before we went, or we would have created our own to add. You wouldn’t think this is a place to visit with kids but BattleKid really enjoyed it, so I’m sure your kids would too. And as it is on the same route as the Bison Range you could visit both in one day.
I can hand-on-heart say we enjoyed each and every one of these activities in Missoula and Montana. And in hindsight the forest fires and resulting smoke were a blessing in disguise. We might not have visited any of these sights had it not been for the fact that Lolo National Forest, our original reason for visiting Missoula, was closed. Our sudden change of plans worked out for the best and we got to visit places even BattleKid enjoyed.
So, if you are wondering what to do in Missoula and Montana with toddlers and young children, I hope I’ve given you some ideas of both paid and free things to do with my 5 things to do in Missoula with a toddler in tow.
And if you are considering visiting the USA with kids and not sure what there is to do with them in certain cities, these posts might help decide for you!
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