Planning Tips For Your First Family Cruise – Guest post ft Olivia W Jones

Planning a first family cruise can often be both nerve wracking and thrilling. From booking to disembarking, there are many aspects to keep in mind, since any of them could make or break the whole vacation. On a brighter note, a wide array of activities, amenities and food can potentially satisfy anyone, no matter whether it is a newborn baby or a seasoned grandpa. Those who want to stay on top of these aspects quickly find out that cruises are the ultimate family vacations. Here is how to take the stress and frustration out of the process and navigate the minefield of decisions.family cruise blog

Across the seven seas

Some basic rules of travelling always apply, although many specifics are different. For instance, packing techniques help just like with any other vacation, but when cruising, it is also highly advisable to pack a tote bag with all the essentials you need ‒ namely because it takes a few hours for your luggage to be delivered to the cabins. Also, getting off a ship is not like checking out of a hotel. There is again a process of waiting involved. Speaking of which, cruise lengths vary from a couple of days to two weeks.

family cruise - Suitcase open on the floor with holiday essentials almost packed!
Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Decide how many days makes sense for you and your family, depending on your preferences and free time. Another thing to take into account is the selection of the arrival and departure ports. The basic dilemma comes down to either visiting just one destination or hitting many with one fair. Some of the most popular bucket list destinations are the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, South Africa, Northern Europe, North America, etc. In any event, pick a destination the whole family is on board with.

The bottom line

Next, it is time to look around for the best deal out there. Choosing the right cruise line is the cornerstone of a successful cruise. The lines differ in terms of quality of service, size of the ship, and offered amenities. It is not uncommon to stumble upon shabby offers that are complete duds. You want to steer away from shore excursions that are basically glorified bus rides. Also, keep your eyes open for discounts, special offers, and deal alerts from reputable agencies.

Family Cruise - ships in port

Do your homework and utilize websites like Onboard.com that allow you to research and book cruises as well as read reviews on them. For families, it is important to note that some cruise lines stand out from the rest because of what they offer to young kids. Carnival cruises, for example, have a great line-up of kid programs, activities, and features that’ll keep the little ones entertained and engaged.

Once the cruise is booked, you need to figure out the itinerary. As for the time on board, there should be a variety of possible activities, including pool, cinema, skydiving, roller skating, bumper cars, golf, etc. Ports offer excursions such as snorkeling, kayaking, city tours, shopping, and horseback riding. Some cruises are marketed and tailored to be all-inclusive. Even then, however, you cannot expect not to have extra expenditures on board, such as pay-extra eateries, gift shops, beverages, various activities, etc.

From stem to stern

Some people overlook the fact that the location and the type of the room on the ship do play an important role. Staterooms are a budget option for those who do not plan on spending much time inside. If you are willing to pay a bit more, though, you can opt for balcony rooms, suites, and deluxe packages. Cabins on the low decks are a nice solution for people who are prone to seasickness.

Family Cruise - Boy on balcony of cruise ship

The good news is that with the marvels of modern technology, you should be able to find high-quality pictures of the rooms or even go on virtual tours and watch live video feeds. Just remember to book the room well ahead of time and reserve the tickets before boarding. The most popular tours sell rather quickly and you do not want to miss the opportunity.

Finally, landlovers should not fret once on deck. Cruising is something that quickly grows on you, even if it feels scary at first. Rely on the crew to help you and provide you with all the necessary information. Make sure to let the kids rest after all the fun and games. Do not forget that you can (and should) stay in touch with your kids in case you want to do some activities separately. True, the cell phones won’t work, but Walkie Talkies will do the trick just fine.

Smooth sailing

When planned and done right, a cruise is the perfect vacation for the whole family. To make the magic happen, you have to know where and when you want to go and what you want to get from the vacation. All ships are not created equally and your choices matter a great deal. So, first-time cruisers, brace yourself. Do not skip the research if you want to have the time of your life and explore new horizons with winds in your sails.

Family Cruise - Waves made by a ship in the sea
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
sydney oliviaOlivia is psychologist, traveller and entrepreneur from Brisbane. Mother of two beautiful children and proud owner of two silly boxer dogs, Teo and Mia. She is passionate about writing and always inspiring her readers to be clever in their lives. Her motto is “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Olivia is a regular contributor to High Style Life.
You can also follow on both Twitter and Facebook.
*no remuneration has been received or given in return for hosting this guest post.
** unless stated, the pictures have been provided by the writer for use in this post.
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Best Holidays with Kids – Netherlands (Guest Post ft It’s Just A Phase)

Hello everyone and welcome to another guest post here on the blog while we drive miles and miles of the Pacific North West. This time I am bringing you a post from Ruth of It’s Just a Phase. Ruth is a former journalist turned parenting blogger based in Kildare. She is mum to Aidan and Sarah, and started blogging to feed her love for writing after leaving her journalism role to find a happier work/life balance. She writes about all things parenting including family travel, recipes and just the sheer madness of it all. Over to you, Ruth.

netherlands best holiday

 Summer 2017: A family holiday to The Netherlands

Did you miss us? We were off swanning around The Netherlands for the last while and now I have a serious case of the post holiday blues.

So when you hear about someone heading off to Holland on their holliers, a lot of people automatically think Amsterdam, tulips, Anne Frank’s gaff, canals, sex shows and stuff you smoke that you’re not allowed smoke here! Well, we saw none of that. I’m here to tell you that The Netherlands is one seriously great destination for a family holiday.

We had an amazing week that was packed with activity for the kids and chilled out evenings for myself and himself. So, let me fill you in.

We flew from Dublin to Eindhoven with Ryanair, which is in the North Brabant province. We booked well in advance and flew from a Tuesday to Tuesday to keep costs down. In fact the flight came in just over €300, which is pretty good for two adults and two children.

We hired a car for the week and stayed in an Airbnb property we rented. The house was actually in Belgium, just two kilometres over the border and it was huge. It had four big bedrooms, a massive living room, kitchen, utility and had things like a tree house, table tennis and a hammock to entertain the kids. Having been holed up in a tiny wooden house for a week in Spain last year, the house was a breath of fresh air. Both kids had their own bedroom, the garden was great and with electric gates, it was totally safe for Aidan (four) and Sarah (two).

The Netherlands, though densely populated, is a small country so you’re not too far away from any of the big cities really. We were less than an hour from Rotterdam and even closer to Antwerp and Brugge. However we stayed ‘local’ and never really ventured anywhere more than 45 minutes from our rental property.

Breda, a stunning city nearby, was our first port of call. Pre-children myself and himself visited this small city for the annual ginger festival and we totally fell in love with the charm of the place. It’s cobbled streets, big squares and beautiful architecture.

netherlands - best holidays
Breda

First up we visited a reptile house, where himself got to hold a snake, much to Aidan’s delight! We visited the city’s big park and playground, fed the ducks, walked cobbled streets through market stalls and sat out on the big square with a coffee and ice-cream for the kids. I even managed to sneak off and find some bargains in the sales!

One of the highlights of the week was our trip to the Efteling Theme Park, which I can only describe as a Dutch Disneyland. It was amazing. It was huge. It was the stuff of dreams for the kids and the adults had a ball too. Aidan went on a rollercoaster, we watched the most amazing 3D nature short film, went to a land of fairy tales, sat on toadstools, went on boats, ghost trains and were serenaded over our evening dinner. We were there all day and only got to see half of it. It’s massive. The entrance fee is pricey but it’s genuinely worth it. Efteling alone would make me want to return again next summer. It really is that good.

netherlands - best holidays
Efteling Theme Park

Another super experience was the Beekse Bergen Safari Park. We got to drive our hire car through the park. The kids were amazed to see giraffe, zebra and rhinos just rambling past the car. After the drive though we had access to the park for the rest of the day, it’s essentially like a zoo but the animals have much more space. There were obstacle courses and playgrounds dotted everywhere and we even had our lunch over looking the baboon enclosure. Sarah couldn’t quite believe they had their pink bums on show! My one tip if you are visiting the safari park is, bring your own lunch. The fare on offer inside is poor to say the least. If you’re in to deep fried frozen food you’ll be fine but if not a picnic is your best option.

netherlands - best holidays
Beekse Bergen Safari Park

Back in Belgium and just minutes from our house, we stumbled across a local amenity called De Mosten, run by local government. It was out of this world. There was a man made beach, two huge playgrounds, a restaurant, big Connect Four games all over, slides in the water, benches galore, green space, volleyball courts, tennis courts and basketball courts. It was so relaxing. The kids had so much to do they didn’t know what way to turn, and myself and himself got to do a lot of relaxing too.

netherlands - best holidays
De Mosten

In 2013, a Unicef report rated Dutch children the happiest in the world. According to researchers, Dutch kids are ahead of their peers in childhood well-being when compared with 29 of the world’s richest industrialised countries and I can really see why. There’s so much for kids to do. Aidan and Sarah were greeted with a smile and a pat on the head everywhere they went. The locals seem to have the work/life balance down to a tee. People are so friendly and so relaxed. It made for a dream holiday. If I were to pick one negative, I’d say eating out is expensive, the same as Ireland, if not a bit more. But a few drinks are cheap. Leffe, my favourite beer, is only €1 a bottle and wine is dirt cheap too.

I can safely say that I will never again do the package holiday thing with the kids. I just want to explore more of what the Netherlands has to offer. I would highly recommend it as a family holiday destination.

If you’d like to see my full review of our holiday head on over to It’s Just a Phase or feel free to get in touch if you have any queries. I’d be happy to help if I can.

Thank you so much to Ruth for sharing with us her best holiday with her kids so far. I don’t know about you, but after that glowing review the Netherlands has just winged it’s way onto my must-visit list of destinations.

If you’d like to read more from Ruth visit her blog, It’s Just a Phase. You also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

If anyone would like to contribute a guest post about their best and/or worst holidays with their kids to date, please send me an email to bm@battlemum.com.
netherlands best holiday netherlands best holiday

Best Holidays with Kids – Home and Abroad (Guest Post ft Kate Lili)

This is my first ever guest post from a fellow blogger on my blog and I am delighted to welcome Kate of Kate Lili to the blog. As we are currently travelling somewhere in the Pacific North West and hoping it’ll be a holiday to remember, Kate has kindly written a post about her best holidays with her kids, both at home and abroad. Without further do, I’ll hand you over to Kate.best holidays kate lil

When I was pregnant with my first baby I prayed over her that she would have lots of family, that she would be loved and that she would get to travel. I had visions of her taking a gap year in uni and exploring some of the world. Little did I know by age 5 she would be the most well travelled kid in her class! By her 5th birthday she had been abroad 3 times as well as having holidays and trips around the UK.

She is a great little traveller and I relish taking her on exciting adventures. In my view we’ve done 2 of the best holidays you can do with kids; Walt Disney World Florida and Butlin’s Minehead. There is quite a stark difference between the two but both great for their individual reasons. Here’s why:

Butlin’s

Minehead Butlin’s was Beg’s first ever holiday. She was 6 months old and I booked it when I was still pregnant. I remember putting her age into the booking form and getting a reality check that she would be here being a real person in a few short months. We’ve been to Butlin’s Minehead as a family more times than I can actually recall, I’d guess around 8 times. Most recently we went when Beg was 7 and her little brother Beb was 1.

It’s suitable for children of all ages. Butlin’s Minehead is like a giant kids playground. Their tag-line is ‘Our greatest pleasure is all for your delight’ and there is just so much for kids to do they will never be bored. The typical British weather doesn’t even matter as most of the entertainment is under the Skyline which is like a giant circus tent.

Things to do

When you arrive you are given a programme of events for your weekend. Every hour slot has been thought of. Have a look in here to plan what you don’t want to miss. The live shows are really Butlin’s forte, they source top acts and the in-house entertainment is A plus too. Live shows we saw on our last trip were:

  • Teletubbies live
  • Sam & Mark
  • The Skyline Gang
  • Bonnie bear

    best holidays kate lil
    Catching a live show at Butlin’s

Padded around this are regular sports activities like archery and football to join in with. Kids will also love the giant splash pool with slides, traditional funfair, and beach, just 5 minutes walk away. There is so much to do at Butlin’s you won’t be bored for a minute. That is the main reason I love Butlin’s.

Staying There

Accommodation is apartments and bungalows with or without kitchenette and diner. They go from standard, to a brand new apartment village at the Minehead Butlin’s. I would recommend booking from Gold up. Book a dining plan before you go and you won’t have to worry about sorting tea every night while you’re away and the food is really good with loads of choices for kids. Minehead is a lovely old seaside type of town and the beach is lovely.

best holidays kate lil
Just one type of accommodation available at Butlin’s Minehead

 

Walt Disney World Florida

We were so lucky to get to take Beg to WDW. Rich won vouchers at work and that was how we managed to go. In short, it’s all the magic you imagine it to be. Disney really knows how to go all out to make your holiday feel special. It really was the holiday of a lifetime.

We went at Easter time, so it was Spring Break for the American schools, and it was busy but that didn’t seem to matter. The parks are so big there is always something you can go to see if one area is jam-packed for something.  The Easter decorations were out and we caught the flower festival at Epcot which is well worth a look.

best holidays kate lil
At the Epcot Centre
Things To Do

I would be writing for years if I could list all the things there are to do at WDW Florida. The parks are Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. There is also Disney Springs which is like a souped up retail area with themed restaurants. Highlights for me were:

  • A visit to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and a princess make-over for Beb
  • Meeting Cinderella and Rapunzel
  • The parade at Magic Kingdom
  • The safari ride at Animal Kingdom
  • A meal at the Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom
  • The fireworks at Magic Kingdom

    best holidays kate lil
    Getting a Disney Princess make-over

There is so much to do I think you could probably visit every year for 10 years and still find highlights. I’m following loads of Disney vloggers on YouTube and I love watching all their favourite things to do. I’m quietly planning our next trip. 

Staying There

Stay on a Disney resort for shuttle bus travel across the whole WDW area. The parks are quite far apart so this is a definite perk. They run really regularly and until after parks close to make sure everyone gets back to their hotels safely. Book a dining plan before you go otherwise the food bill racks up really quickly, especially if you don’t have a car to drive out of the Disney area to find a food place. Disney resorts go from your average 3* to high luxury resorts. You could choose to hire a villa or stay in a motel on International drive as other options (that’s what we did when I was a kid).

Two great family holidays at either end of the budget scale both child centred. I have wonderful memories from our holidays to both Butlin’s and WDW Florida and we talk about our holiday memories to each other most days. I’m sure there are relaxing Caribbean beaches beckoning me in the future when my kids are older and perhaps have left home, but I know these fast paced non-stop action holidays with the kids are the ones I will look back on most fondly.

Thanks to Kate for sharing with us her two best holidays to date with her kids. WDW is somewhere most parents want to take their children and we can see why. 

best holidays kate lil
Kate, her hubby and one of their children at Walt Disney World, Florida

If you’d like to read more from Kate, please head on over to her blog Kate Lili. She has just rebranded and was formerly The Hippy Christian Mum.

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

If anyone would like to contribute a guest post about their best and/or worst holidays with their kids to date, please send me an email to bm@battlemum.com.

best holidays kate lil best holidays kate lil

 

 

 

 

 

Insider’s Guide to Sydney – Guest post ft Olivia W Jones

Today I have a special guest on my blog, Olivia Jones. She is here to tell us all about Sydney from an insider’s point of view. Olivia hails from Australia and is a regular contributor on the High Style Life blog.sydney olivia

As you probably already noticed, this BattleMum is all about being on the move so the whole family knows that whenever they get the chance, they’re out and about exploring and enjoying themselves. Since it’s winter time here in Australia, there aren’t that many things we get to do outside. However, that’s not going to stop us. Here are some activities you can do around Sydney this winter that’ll make you leave the house and have some fun.

Coastal Walk

When you think ‘Sydney’ you think ‘beaches’ and every chance I get, I like to take my kids and our dogs out to stretch our legs a bit. And what better way to do that than walk along some of the most beautiful beaches Australia has to offer. The spectacular coast between Bondi and Coogee really is amazing to see, and you shouldn’t only visit it during the summer for swimming and sunbathing. The coast has some amazing rocky cliffs and lovely parks, not to mention all the cafes and pubs where you can just sit, relax and enjoy the amazing view of the ocean.

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Coastal waves at Coogee – Picture Source

Whale Watching

My kids love animals so, of course, we can be found whale watching pretty much whenever we have some free time. Whales migrate from May to November along the coast of NSW so you have plenty of time to see some humpback whales going to the warm waters off Queensland. We love packing up our binoculars, some blankets and plenty of food and heading to Cape Solander in the Kurnell section of the Kamay Botany Bay National Park. There are also plenty of cruise companies that offer whale watching tours so you can have a great view from the water. Another great place to spot the whales from is North Head Lookout at Manly.

sydney olivia
Whale Watching

The Snowy Mountains

Both my hubby and I love to ski, so what better time than now to head off to the Snowy Mountains and glide down some slopes. Yes, Thredbo is six and a half hours away from Sydney but don’t let that discourage you. Instead, pack up the family with all that’s necessary and get some appropriate womens snow gear and head up for a fun and exciting weekend in the mountains. We usually love to rent a cabin at the base of the mountain and visit some of the great restaurants around the village. Thredbo offers some of the longest ski and snowboard runs, but if you’re not into skiing, you can always pop on some walking boots and explore the cute Thredbo Village where you can see some amazing flora and fauna as well as plenty of sculptures and paintings dotted throughout the resort.

sydney olivia
Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains

Royal National Park

Wherever we feel like being adventurous but can’t get anywhere far away, Royal National Park is our go-to place and I’m not sure who loves spending time there more. This place is amazing and it’s just an hour’s drive away from CBD but unfortunately, not many Sydneysiders go there. We simply love packing up some picnic stuff as well as our bikes, and just heading off over there for a fun and adventure-filled day out. The park is huge and there are so many things to do there. Things like jumping off the rock at Wattamolla if you’re an adrenaline junkie, swimming in the secluded Marley beach, or hiking and visiting some of the most beautiful falls. The park also has a visitor centre with spacious lawns as well as an old-fashioned dance hall. You can even rent a canoe or a rowing boat. No matter whether you like to spend your free time being super active or simply lazing on a blanket somewhere, Royal National Park is the place to go, especially if you have kids and want them entertained for the day.

sydney olivia
Royal National Park

There you go everyone and fellow Sydneysiders, just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean you have to stay in and be bored out of your mind. There are plenty of things to do in and around Sydney so all you need to do is find what suits you most, just like this we have.

sydney olivia

Olivia is psychologist, traveller and entrepreneur from Brisbane. Mother of two beautiful children and proud owner of two silly boxer dogs, Teo and Mia. She is passionate about writing and always inspiring her readers to be clever in their lives. Her motto is “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Olivia is a regular contributor to High Style Life.
You can also follow on both Twitter and Facebook.
*no remuneration has been received or given in return for hosting this guest post.
sydney olivia sydney olivia