When I worked in Cardiff I used to travel down the A470 from Tredegar and would take Caerphilly Mountain road towards Pentwyn. I passed a sign for the Mountain View Ranch every day since the sign went up and always wondered what it was. One weekend, while wondering what to do with BattleKid, I looked it up. And discovered the Caerphilly Mountain Ranch was somewhere to take kids, so off we went. One of our main reasons for visiting – hunting a Gruffalo at the Mountain View Ranch.
As I’ve said, the Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly is on the mountain but is tucked away nicely, where it can’t be seen from the A470 or A469. With over 100 acres of fresh air fuelled fun for all the family, it is a treasure hidden on Caerphilly Mountain. From archery to high ropes, from a fairy forest, to the official Gruffalo Trail Wales, the Mountain View Ranch has something for everyone.
So, one Saturday morning we stuck on our wellies and water proof boots (it was drizzling), put warm waterproof coats on and off we went to see what the Mountain Ranch between Caerphilly and Cardiff had to offer.
Arriving at 10.15am, not long after they opened, we drove into the car park only to find a handful of other cars there. I think the rain might have put others off but we were undeterred. One of our main aims in visiting the Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly was to check out the Gruffalo Trail. BattleKid is a HUGE Gruffalo fan, and we knew he’d enjoy a Gruffalo hunt. He’s a big fan of our dragon hunting adventures, so knew a Gruffalo one would go down a treat too.
We paid our entrance fees (see below for details) and we started our walk past an adventure play area. It looked great but BattleKid was on a mission. There was a Gruffalo to hunt! We went past a pen with goats in it and I had to stop, goats being my favourite of all the farm animals. At the goats, there was a great bridge with a troll living under it. Not far from here is the start of the Gruffalo Trail. The clues say follow the footprints. And that’s what we did.
The first character we met on the trail of the Gruffalo was Mouse. The story started being recited to us from a certain little boy! At first, he was unsure of Mouse but he soon got over his fears and went in to give him a rub. I’ll admit you probably aren’t meant to go into Mouse behind the ropes. But as we seemed to be the only people there, we cheated.
Carrying on from there, we stopped briefly to have some fun jumping in puddles. Since he was well equipped I did nothing to stop BattleKid and let him enjoy himself. As you can see from the picture, he had fun amidst the misty morning. Unbelievably there were people playing golf on the course next to us!
More footprints led us onto the next character from the story, Fox. This is where BattleKid really had to battle with himself. He really didn’t want to go near Fox as, at the time, Fox was the character that scared him a little in the TV adaptation of The Gruffalo’s Child. It was the eyes I think.
Owl proved a little more elusive for us. We weren’t expecting him to be in a treetop house, but that’s exactly where he was. In an effort to bring the story and Gruffalo Adventure Trail alive for BattleKid, we had brought his Owl teddy from home. BattleDad kindly hid him and we let BattleKid find him, at the bottom of the tree where Owl was perched. Clutching his owl, BattleKid hurried us along the trail and instead of finding the Gruffalo, we stumbled upon a different but familiar character. It was the dragon from Room on the Broom. He was standing beside a gorgeous red wooden dragon.
And, although we hadn’t planned it, we did an impromptu dragon hunt and found our own dragon hiding in the wings of the wooden one. It took some coaxing of BattleKid to get him to retrieve it. I think the fact that the wooden dragon was on the ground, and looked big, had something to do with his reluctance.
We soon found signs for Snake after leaving the dragon, and this character BattleKid refused to go near. Footprints from here led us across a small bridge towards a wood. And guess who was in there. Not only Gruffalo himself, but also Gruffalo’s Child! And we found a Gruffalo teddy hidden among the purple prickles on Gruffalo’s back, strategically planted by BattleDad. BattleKid was thrilled with himself.
I have to say, despite to grey gloom of the day, the Mountain View Ranch Gruffalo Trail, South Wales, was absolutely brilliant. It brought the story alive for BattleKid. A few character teddy bears also helped keep his interested, although truthfully we didn’t need them. The craftsmanship that went into creating the characters is excellent and they are instantly recognisable.
Satisfied we had found the Gruffalo, we doubled back to the dragon and passed some people on Segway’s on our way to Hobbiton. I told you there is something for everyone at the Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly.
Hobbiton, or Hobbit Hill as they call it, looked so cute but BattleKid wasn’t having a bar of going in. So, a picture from afar was all I got. From there we walked past the three bear pods, making our way to a treehouse. However, BattleKid was too young to go into it so we moved on, heading for the Fairy Forest.
Fairy Forest is located up a slight hill, and we decided to leave our buggy at the bottom and walk up. With wet grass, we were struggling enough with it, without adding a hill into the equation. There was a tree house in the clearing that BattleDad helped BattleKid into. There was a tree with fairy doors in it and a swing. It was a lovely little place, set away in the woods from the main area of the Ranch.
BattleKid was chuffed to get into the treehouse. When he got down he made a beeline for the fairy doors and wanted to cross the rope to touch them. I think he thought he could, as we have a fairy door at home. It took all our efforts not to let him across the rope. Distracted with the swing, he soon forgot about it.
Someone was starting to get a little tired at this stage and, as we had seen quite a lot of the Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly, we decided to head back to the car. Even when leaving the Ranch, there were very few cars in the car park, but bear in mind it was a grey and drizzly day in November when we visited. I have seen pictures of the Ranch in the sunshine and it looks lovely. That said, with the right clothes, this fabulous family place can be enjoyed at any time of the year, in any weather. Although I might stop when there’s snow involved.
We thoroughly enjoyed our few hours, hunting a Gruffalo at the Mountain View Ranch. I had hoped we might get a chance to return to it before we left the UK, but alas we didn’t have time. If we ever return for a holiday, I’ll be making time to go back to the Gruffalo Trail, Wales.
Things to note if you plan on hunting a Gruffalo at the Mountain View Ranch
Open from 9.30am to 4pm on weekdays and 5pm on weekends, during the summer. During winter the ranch is open 10am to 4pm, at weekends and is closed during the week.
Adults cost £6 in peak times, £4 in off-peak times, children are £6/4, seniors are £3/2. Under 18 months go free. There are also family tickets available which will save you a little bit of money. Peak times are weekends, bank holidays and school holidays.*
Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash at all times, must not enter the sand areas and must be cleaned up after. (We chose not to bring BattleDog with us so we could enjoy our visit more).
There is a café on site which closes at 3.30pm during the week and 4pm at weekends.
Toilets and bins are located near the goats before you enter the Gruffalo walk. These are the last ones in the Ranch, so visit the toilet before going further and keep your rubbish with you until you return.
There is a Gruffalo Trail sticker to be collected at the office once you complete it (we didn’t bother) and there is also a wider Ranch Trail to complete on the map (printable from the website).
The Ranch has ample parking in the car park and it is free.
There is a snacks and gifts kiosk beside the Adventure Play Area.
I highly recommend the Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly if you are looking for a great day out for the family. Older kids will love the High Ropes, Archery, Treehouses and Climbing Trees, while there is loads for younger kids as already discussed. You could even rent Segways. A 45-minute tour costs just £25 and includes your entrance fee into the Ranch. Just be aware there is a minimum age of 13 years for these.
The Mountain View Ranch on Caerphilly Mountain can be enjoyed in any weather, as we prove, so long as you go prepared. It really is a great family day out venue in South Wales. If you are wondering “is there a Gruffalo Trail near me?”, check out the Forestry Commission’s website for details.
*Times and prices were correct as the time of writing this post.
**We were not asked to write this review.
***This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and make a purchase, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you.
It’s safe to say that we are huge fans of Bluestone National Park Resort. We have gone no less than 5 times since being first introduced to Bluestone by friends of ours and the fact we’ve returned every year since our first visit is testament to how good it really is. Many of our visits have been weekend breaks with toddlers in tow and we very recently had the pleasure of experiencing a mid-week stay there too. Since we’ve had quite a few Bluestone holidays with toddlers now, I thought I would put together a list of 5 free things to do in Bluestone with a toddler in tow, just to show there is plenty to do without having to break the bank.
5 Free Things to Do in Bluestone with a Toddler in Tow
Blue Lagoon Bluestone
Visits to the Bluestone water park are included in your booking and you can visit as many times as you like. You get access to the water park from the day of your arrival from 11am, and you can use it until 3pm on the day of your departure. We never miss an opportunity to visit the Blue Lagoon, and both BattleKid and our friends’ children always enjoy themselves. This gloriously temperature-controlled water park is open all-year round and can be used in all-weather conditions. There is a large pool with a wave machine, a rapid river, 2 water flumes (which you must be over 1.1 metres to use), and two separate play areas for kids to enjoy. The pirates shipwreck is for slightly older kids, although BattleKid always heads there at some stage during our visit. And there is a smaller enclosed little water cove for the little swimmers of the family.
You don’t even need to get in yourself if you don’t want to. Accompanying guests can sit around the edge of the pool area on deck chairs or you can enjoy drinks and snacks in one of the two eateries at the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon Café is located upstairs and overlooks the water park, while the Fish Shack is located pool-side downstairs. The Blue Lagoon is an ideal place to spend a few hours with the kids, especially if the weather isn’t great outside and it’s included in your booking.
Enjoy a Nature Trail Walk around the Lake
We have always enjoyed walks around the lake during our Bluestone weekend breaks, and BattleKid and I enjoyed another walk around the lake on our solo morning together during our last visit. This time I turned it into a nature trail and we spent our time spotting frosty leaves, ducks on the lake and even a Halloween scarecrow who was fishing. We also had to step aside for a tractor who was on the footpath around the lake.
Just to one side of the lake is a bug hotel and BattleKid found it fascinating, albeit a little frustrating that he couldn’t see any bugs. I told him they were still in bed and he seemed to accept it. He also spotted some toadstools under the bug hotel. This was a great chance for me to explain to him that we should never pick up anything from the ground, even if it looks like a mushroom, as it could be dangerous and make us very sick.
On a previous visit to the lake at Bluestone one June, we spotted baby frogs on the paths around the lake. We were very conscious of not stepping on them, although there were so many of them it was hard. No matter what the time of year for your visit to the Bluestone Resort in Wales, there will always be something for your toddler to spot and that can be incorporated into a nature trail walk around the lake.
Go on a Gruffalo Hunt towards Camp Smokey from the Village
We have visited Camp Smokey once during our visits to Bluestone and it is where we first discovered s’mores (thanks S). The setting for Camp Smokey is deep in the woods and has some fantastic nature trails around it, one of which leads to and from the Village. On our last visit to the Bluestone holiday park, I took BattleKid on a Gruffalo hunt in what we termed “the deep, dark woods” on the trail that leads from the Village to Camp Smokey.
Now, this little hunt does involve a bit of imagination (and a Gruffalo teddy bear or picture). I had stashed BattleKid’s Gruffalo teddy in my coat pocket, and we headed into the deep dark woods of Bluestone on the hunt for a Gruffalo. We checked around the trees, we checked under leaves and branches, but couldn’t find him. We stopped briefly to watch a squirrel running around on the ground and then going up and down tree trunks. BattleKid wanted him to come to us and kept calling him. We carried on further into the woods, and eventually found the Gruffalo hiding in the V of two branches near the ground.
BattleKid was thrilled and we spent a lovely hour walking in the woods, picking up acorns on branches and watching the squirrel. You don’t have to make it a Gruffalo hunt, it could be an extension of the nature trail around the lake. You don’t even have to go all the way to Camp Smokey. But it’s a great area to get out for a walk and discover nature with toddlers. And even better, it’s also free. Just a word of warning, bring your raincoats and wellies as you never know when the weather might turn on you.
Run off steam in the Bluestone Adventure Centre
Although we haven’t visited the Adventure Centre ourselves, except for the Bluestone Kingdom of the Elves, it is filled with activities of all kinds for toddlers and older children. There is a den, mini golf, soft play, a ball pool, Lego with Lego walls which will delight fans old and young and a circus zone. These activities are all free and there are other paid activities on offer in the Adventure Centre in Bluestone such as messy play and sensory sessions.
The majority of the activities at the Adventure Centre are free and included in your booking. As it is an indoor venue it is ideal should the weather turn particularly horrible outside. That said, it’s also a great place to let kids of all ages run off some steam. And as it is situated beside the Blue Lagoon, you could combine a visit to both to really tire them out. I’m dying to visit the Adventure Centre with BattleKid, and maybe we’ll get the chance one day.
Visit the playgrounds in the Village
I was really impressed by the Treetots Toddler Play Area located in the Village of Bluestone when we first visited back in June 2016 while we waiting to access our lodge. This area has a tree-house type tunnel leading to a slide and some slides. The ground is covered in chip bark and is separated from the Treehouse Play Area for older children by a cargo netting fence.
So impressed by it were we, that we visited it again during that same weekend break with our toddler. Both he and our friends’ son thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
And now there is a new addition to the Village area. The Village green has been turned into a big playground and was a lovely surprise for BattleKid and I to stumble upon during our solo morning adventures in Bluestone last October. This area has been designed with kids in mind and has everything from climbing frames and swings to slides and roundabouts. BattleKid had to be torn away from it so we could get back to our Grassholm Lodge.
We visited it again later the same day with our friends who hadn’t seen it, and despite the rain both boys had a blast. I can highly recommend both playgrounds in the Bluestone Village for toddlers. And if you aren’t in a hurry you can always get a coffee at the Ty Coffi shop or stop at the Knights Tafarn afterwards for some food.
There are also lots of things to do near Bluestone which are free such as a visit to the beautiful seaside town of Tenby or the glorious beaches of Newgale and Barafundle Bay. There are also things you can pay for like a visit to Folly Farm which is less than a 10-minute drive from the Bluestone Park. You could also do a spot of dragon hunting in one of the many castles nearby as we did at Pembroke Castle. Entry to the castles is not expensive.
Whether you choose to stay in the Bluestone National Resort Park for your entire stay or plan to venture further afield, I hope I’ve shown you that there are at least 5 free things to do in Bluestone with a toddler in tow. And by all means, these activities can extend to older children too.
We are a family that love to travel. Simple. If you hadn’t figured that out already, then where have you been. I wrote a post recently about how travelling has taken on a different shape since BattleKid came along and has even changed since then. A little while ago, we adults sat down and listed out everywhere we’d love to go with BattleKid and what started as a list has become our long-term travel plans as a family.
I was born abroad to Irish parents and have travelled since I was very young. BattleDad less so, but has made up for it in more recent years. I think my love of travelling comes from my Dad. He was a deep-sea fisherman in the 60’s, travelling as far North as Iceland, and has so many tales to tell about that time.
Then, shortly after marrying my Mum, they emigrated to South Africa, before heading into Botswana, where both one of my sisters and I were born. A return trip to Ireland for just over a year was followed by five more years in South Africa where my middle sister was born. We also spent a summer in Saudi Arabia, all thanks to my Dad’s work. So, you could say travelling is in our blood.
BattleDad visited America as a baby and had plenty of holidays with his family to the UK and around Ireland, but his first real foray into travelling abroad came when he spent a year working at what was then called EuroDisney, as a member of the opening crew. Since then he has travelled to many European countries, most of them with me. He has returned to America several times over, both for work and with us, and has even visited India and Singapore for work, destinations BattleKid and I are yet to visit.
So, travelling is a big feature in our family life. And none more so than with the adventure we embarked on last May when we up sticks and moved from wet and windy Wales to sunnier Portugal. And our travels don’t stop there. Since moving to Portugal, we have done a two-week USA Road trip, which was epic. We have returned to the UK for a mid-week break in Bluestone, and visited Disneyland Paris for the first time as a family, celebrating 25 years since BattleDad’s time as part of the opening crew.
We already have no less than three destinations organised for trips next year, which I will reveal in my Holiday Diaries Plan for 2018. But there is such a big world out there and so many amazing palces we want to visit, that we decided to write them all down. And we will be doing our best to tick them off slowly as we fit in travel around work and school.
So, what are our long-term family travel plans? Well, they had to be split into two categories. The first category consists of non-bucket list destinations we plan to visit with BattleKid while he is still young. We realise he might not retain great memories of these trips, but we also know they will be destinations he could easily return to when he’s older.
The second category of bucket list destinations in our long-term travel plans are more far-flung, exotic, or expensive destinations. These are more once-in-a-lifetime destinations and we want to be able to share these with him and know he will have memories of them, particularly if he cannot return to them in the future for one reason or another.
Interested to see where is on our two lists, and why? Read on.
Non-bucket List Destinations in Our Long-term Travel Plans
Route 66 – This is a trip my sister-in-law has done twice, once with twins and then again with their younger brother. And having done our own USA road trip, Route 66 is definitely on our list. It’s a classic road trip route and takes in many great states and cities in one trip. Our plan is to try organise this one in a few years’ time.
The Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego via San Francisco to Seattle – Another USA Road trip high on our to-do list is the full length of the West Coast of America, taking in San Diego, San Francisco and ending in Seattle. For most of it we’d plan to drive the Pacific Coast Highway along Highway 1 and the 101.
Canada – And more specifically the National Parks of Jasper and Banff. Friends of ours honeymooned there and have stunning pictures and amazing tales that we knew we had to put them on our long-term travel plans. They potentially could be combined with the destination below for a nice long three-week trip.
Glacier National Park, Montana – We’d heard of Glacier before our trip to Yellowstone but didn’t factor it into our trip. It was recommended to us by a few people during our trip, and having looked at pictures since our return, it’s another place we really want to visit.
Cape Town and the Kruger National Park – I lived in South Africa for over five years when I was younger, but we left just before the troubles started in the late 1980’s, and I’ll be honest and say there aren’t many places there I’d like to return to. That said, Cape Town is somewhere I never visited and is a place BattleDad has always wanted to visit. But if we were going all that way, I’d have to combine a visit to Cape Town with at least a week in the Kruger National Park. My Dad took my sister and I when I was seven, but I have no memories of it, other than the tales my Dad tells us and a few photos. My sister and her South African boyfriend usually go when they visit his family, so maybe we’ll tag along in a year or two!
Croatia – Croatia has been on our list for a few years and we very nearly booked a trip there last year, but Yellowstone took priority. I’d love to visit Dubrovnik and travel along the coast North towards Pula. A work colleague of mine visited there a few years ago and it looks stunning.
Italian lakes – In particular, Lake Como and Lake Guarda are on our long-term travel plans list, especially after we enjoyed our holiday at Lake Bled so much. A lakeside holiday had never ever featured for me before we visited Bled with friends but with so much to see and do, they can be a great holiday destination for families.
Cinque Terre – Another Italian destination, I hadn’t heard or come across Cinque Terre until I saw a drone video on Facebook taken over Cinque Terre. From there I started looking at pictures and reading blog posts about it and it went straight onto our list from there. A visit to Florence and Pisa would have to be combined with this trip though.
Paris – BattleDad lived in Paris for a year during his time at EuroDisney and he took me to Paris for my 30th birthday, the first of five trips for us as a couple. I had visited during a school trip, but that first trip with BattleDad started a lifelong love affair with the city. It remains my favourite city in the world and can be thoroughly enjoyed whatever time of year you visit, so long as you dress appropriately. I cannot wait to explore it with BattleKid and to see it through fresh eyes and from a child’s perspective.
Amsterdam – BattleDad, his sisters and I visited Amsterdam five years ago, one cold and snowy December and had a blast. But it was a short weekend visit and felt a bit rushed. I’d love to return with BattleKid and wander the canals, exploring it with him.
Marrakesh – This city in Morocco has been one I’d love to visit for a long time and now that we’re living in Portugal it is even closer. We can either fly there or we could even drive via the Gibraltar strait ferry. Having seen many colourful pictures of this city and reading many posts about it, I’d love to visit with BattleKid in the not so distant future.
New York – New York had been on mine and BattleDad’s wish list for many, many years, and two years ago we finally visited for the first time with BattleKid in tow. We weren’t sure how it would work out, but we proved that New York CAN be done with a toddler in tow. We plan to return in a few years’ time to visit some of the places we didn’t fit in during our first visit.
Black Forest – This area in Southern Germany is somewhere that has recently become more attractive and higher up on our priority list since discovering that there are many castles to be explored in Southern Germany. We’ve never visited Germany, but this area has always been on our to-do list, and what better way to discover a country for the first time than with our son.
Switzerland – BattleDad and I have visited Zurich, but never went further than a quick day trip to Lake Lucerne. Switzerland is a country we’ve always wanted to explore, and we might just combine it with both the Black Forest and the next destination during an awesome European road trip.
Austria – Another country yet to be visited by us, Austria has always fascinated us and yet never really made it near the top of our travel priority list. However, having done some initial research it would be easy to combine it with both Switzerland and Southern Germany in a European road trip.
Prague – BattleDad very nearly went to Prague on a stag do, but for some reason didn’t make it. This is a European city that has always been mentioned whenever we’ve been looking into booking our next getaway but somehow never got booked. We’d love to explore this city with BattleKid.
Budapest – Again, like the previous city, Budapest is somewhere we’ve always listed as a place we’d love to visit but never made it to. My mum has been and thoroughly enjoyed it, so we’ll visit at some stage.
Latvia – I’m not really sure what it is that has made Latvia make our list, but I think it must have been from reading some blog posts about it,
Iceland – Another destination BattleDad and I have had the privilege of visiting as a couple, it is a place we want to return to with BattleKid. Not so much to see the Northern Lights as we neve saw there for more than 5 seconds there, but to explore the geysers and glaciers of the Golden Circle. And of course, to enjoy another day at the Blue Lagoon.
Ireland road trip – BattleDad and I had two honeymoons and our first was a road trip around the West Coast of Ireland. It was the first time we had really ventured into areas of Ireland we’d never visited previously and made us soon realise there was so much more of our home country we had yet to visit. BattleKid has also only ever visited Dublin and Kildare when we have returned to Ireland to see family. So top of our list is a road trip in Ireland to areas we’ve not visited as a family. And I have to say I cannot wait to see more of the Emerald Isle.
Thailand – We were unsure which list to put Thailand on as it can often be regarded as a bucket list destination. However, holidays to Thailand do not cost an arm and a leg if you are savvy enough. And we also thought it could be a destination we’d enjoy but was still reachable by BattleKid later in life. So, it’s made the non-bucket list of our long-term travel plans. The only thing is choosing when to go. We’re eager to go soon but at the same time do not want to go during monsoon season. But I do think we’ll visit within the next three years.
Rome – Again, Rome is a city BattleDad and I have visited before and thoroughly enjoyed. We both like Roman history, BattleDad more so than me, and we’d love to revisit with BattleKid. I think this city can be enjoyed at any age, and can be a wonderful educational trip with children.
Disney World Florida – Having visited Disneyland Paris, no long-term travel plans with kids would be complete without a trip to Disney World Florida. I think I’d like to visit it once but perhaps when BattleKid has a few more years on him.
Sardinia – This Italian island has been on our list, like so many, for a few years but never quite got booked. I think we’d probably do a mini road trip around the island with BattleKid to take in as much of it as we could.
Madeira – Madeira had not even featured for us prior to us moving to Portugal. But, this Portuguese island off the Northwest coast of Africa came to my attention via a blog post by Ana of Faded Spring. It looks amazing and would be easily accessible to us from Portugal.
Santorini – This Greek island in the Aegean Sea immediately came to my attention when I saw pictures of its famous white buildings with the blue roofs. It looks like such a picturesque place to visit and easily done with children.
Tuscany – Another area of Italy we’d love to visit is Tuscany. With both Pisa and Florence located within this region, it has been on our list for a while and could easily be combined into a two-week road trip with Cinque Terre.
Moscow – BattleDad very nearly visited Moscow during one of his last contracts but work decided against it. With so much to see and do in this amazing city, it’s somewhere we’ve both wanted to visit for a while. Whether we do or not remains to be seen, but we will still keep it on our list.
Barcelona – This Spanish city is somewhere many of our friends and family have visited but is somewhere that has seemed to escape us. With the Sagrada Familia and more to see and do, I think we’d easily enjoy this city with BattleKid.
Spanish road trip – One road trip we’ve loosely research and which we could easily do from where we live would be a road trip around Spain, taking in Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Valencia, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Salamanca. It would be great to see some of the famous Spanish cities and their history all in one trip.
Portuguese road trip – We have so much of Portugal yet to explore and what better way to do it than on a road trip. If we were to do this trip, we’d be looking at visiting places such as Evora, Castelo Branco, Porto, Coimbra, Caldas de Rainha, Obidos, Sintra, Lisbon, Setubal and Sines. My parents have visited most of the towns and cities near Lisbon and we’d love to visit ourselves.
Lapland – Who doesn’t want to bring their children to see Santa in Lapland. And we plan to do so in the next few years. We’ll visit Finnish Lapland and will most likely spend a day or two in Helsinki as well during the trip.
Scotland – A country full of myths and legends, BattleDad and I have always wanted to visit Scotland but never managed it while we were living in the UK. I think we’ll make a point of visiting it one summer while BattleKid is off school and make a road trip of it. You never know, we might even see the Loch Ness monster!
Bucket List Destinations in Our Long-term Travel Plans
Yellowstone and Oregon – Although this trip was on our bucket list, we bit the bullet and visited it last year. Yellowstone was a place BattleDad and I wanted to visit for aged, and although we really wanted to visit it with BattleKid when he was older, impatience got the better of us. And even though he may not remember much of it, we all thoroughly enjoyed this trip and it gave us our road trip bug!
Australia and New Zealand – If we are going to visit the Southern Hemisphere, we are going to visit both Australia and New Zealand in the one trip. Why go all that way only to visit one destination? It makes more sense to visit both in one go and tick them off the list together. If we ever manage to do this trip I think it’ll probably be a three or four-week trip to give us time to adjust to the new time zone and to take our time exploring two countries we’ve always wanted to visit,
Cambodia – Had either of us gone backpacking in our late teens or early twenties, we both agree Cambodia would have been top of our must-visit lists. I especially want to visit and photograph Angkor Wat. Every time I see pictures of it, or read a blog post about it, it sparks my interest yet again. But this is definitely one we’d like BattleKid to have memories of.
Vietnam – Possibly to be combined with a trip to Cambodia, this is another of the famous backpacking destinations that we’d love to visit. We know people who have visited it and their stories are just wonderful to listen to. If we don’t manage it as a family, I will be highly recommending BattleKid goes travelling before settling down into a career and will encourage him to make sure he includes South East Asia as a destination along those travels.
Nepal – This is a destination not many people would include in their bucket lists, but it is somewhere BattleDad and I have always wanted to visit. One of the homes to Mount Everest it is a country steeped in culture and history.
Tibet – The other home to Mount Everest and thought of as the spiritual home of Tibetan Buddhism, the world’s highest country has long been on our list of places we’d love to visit and even more since a close friend of ours in Wales introduced us to Buddhism.
Bhutan – Another Asian country we’d love to visit, Bhutan made its way onto our list when we saw pictures of the most amazing looking Buddhist temple on the side of a mountain – The Tiger’s Nest. Built in 1692 on the side of a mountain, Paro Taktsang, to give it its proper name is somewhere I really want to visit with BattleKid when he is around nine or ten. We’ll have to train as a family for this one as it’s on average an eight-hour round-trip trek up the mountain and down again to visit it. But it would be worth it if this blog post is anything to go by.
China – BattleDad and I very nearly booked a tour of China a few years ago but for some reason didn’t in the end. We watched the BBC series Wild China and that was it, I wanted to go. I’d love to visit the Great Wall of China, see the Forbidden City and visit areas of the Yangtze River and Yunnan Province. But this is firmly one of our bucket list destinations.
Mongolia – Parts of Mongolia were featured in the BBC series on Wild China and it is a country that has been on my Dad’s bucket list for many many years. We also saw Mongolia in the series The Long Way Down and it was this that sparked our own interest in Mongolia. We’d love to visit in July for the Naadam festivals and looked into it for this year. However, my Dad would prefer to go off the beaten track and I cannot do that with BattleKid in tow. I want to do a private guided tour. So, we’ll wait a few years for this one. I do think living in Portugal and getting used to the heat of July will stand us in good stead when we do eventually visit Mongolia. I know Mongolia can be done with kids from this post by the Smiths Holiday Road.
Norway – BattleDad and I saw, and photographed, the Northern Lights when we visited Tromso in 2012. And ever since BattleKid came along I’ve longed to return to Tromso with him during winter for a variety of reasons. We’d love to go Northern Lights hunting with him, visit the Sami’s and also do a husky sleigh ride. But, this trip is one I want him to have memories of his whole life. So, we’re biding our time until he is about ten or eleven and then we’ll organise this trip.
Botswana – The country of my birth and a country I must visit before I die. We left Botswana before I was two years of age, so I have no memories of it. I’d like to see Orapa, the town at the mine I was born in. And I’d love to see the animals at the Okavango Delta, preferably during migration season. This was featured in the BBC nature series, Nature’s Great Events and I think would be thoroughly enjoyed by us all.
Argentina – The only South American country to make our list, Argentina is a country we’d love to visit. And especially the region of Patagonia. Pictures of this area always look amazing.
Japan – This destination is one we’d love to do but we will be sorely torn as to when to go. There are two seasons I’d love to see in Japan. Springtime, for the cherry blossom trees, and autumn for the colours of the Japanese acers. I do think autumn will probably win out over spring should we get the chance to go to the Far East.
Seychelles and Maldives – I’ve put these two destinations together as it really wouldn’t bother me which I got the chance to visit. These two tropical paradise destinations have been places we’d love to visit but were always just a little beyond our budget.
Myanmar – Formerly Burma, Myanmar is somewhere I’d like to visit but may be torn about given its reputation where human rights are concerned. That said, you only need to Google images from the country to see how stunning some of the architecture and landscapes look.
Sri Lanka – A destination that BattleDad and I considered as a holiday spot a few years ago, we’d love to visit Sri Lanka one day. I’ve read a few blog posts about the diversity of the island and think we’d really enjoy it.
Cuba – We have had the privilege of visiting Cuba on our proper honeymoon the year we fell pregnant with BattleKid. It was also shortly before the USA lifted the embargoes on Cuba so we got to see it before it opened up again. Having seen the pictures and short videos a friends captured on her recent visit, I’d love to return one day with BattleKid. I’d be interested to see if it changes much from when we first visited. I’d also be able to see a lot more of the island as we had to stay close to our resort as I couldn’t use regular mosquito repellent.
So, there you have it. The Battle Family’s long-term travel plans including both a non-bucket list and a bucket list of destinations around the world. Much of our non-bucket list includes European cities and places we believe would be easily accessible to BattleKid when he is older, should he wish to return.
Our bucket list is just that, a bucket list of destinations we’d love to visit with him, but might not. We’d want to visit these places with him when he is older as they are certainly bucket list destinations, most likely visited just once-in-a-lifetime. That said, should we be lucky enough to win the lottery, I plan to visit as many of the countries in the world as I can possibly stomach. A girl’s gotta have dreams, hey!
What countries or destinations are on your family’s long-term travel plans?
Happy New Year to all my followers. My word, 2017 went like a flash. And what a year it was for us as a family. I wanted to write a little note to start the new year on the blog and explain a few things that will be happening with the blog going forward and some changes that will be happening and some that have started and will be continuing.
Those of you who are regular readers will have already noticed these changes happening, but I thought it would be good to explain the changes to those who dip in and out of the blog, or for any new readers. I also thought it would be good to explain my reasons behind the changes to my regulars.
Firstly, you’ll have noticed my blog header and social media avatars have changed quite a bit in the latter quarter of 2017. Gone is the scientist header below:
and it has been replaced by this:
The reason is simple. As of March 2017, I no longer work as a scientist and felt it was time to change the blog accordingly. I gave up my much-loved job as a scientist in readiness for our move to Portugal. We made the decision a year ago to sell up lock, stock and barrel, and move our family to Portugal for a number of reasons. Being close to my parents was top of the list.
They bought a retirement home late in 2016 in Portugal, and we thought it might be good to move to be closer to them. The advantages far outweighed the disadvantages. For one, BattleKid would be able to spend much more time with his grandparents. And for times when BattleDad is travelling for work, I’d have a support network there that I didn’t have in Wales.
Secondly, the sunshine. There really has been no comparison where that is concerned. We quickly realised as we were discussing the possibility of moving that BattleKid had spent more than two thirds of his life indoors, mainly down to the cold, wet weather of the UK. Most times, when he’d ask to go out on his bike, we’d have to say no because it was either too cold or raining. Moving to Portugal would mean more time outdoors.
We also thought it would be a great opportunity for BattleKid to become bilingual and that at three and a half, it would be the right time to make the move as he would most likely pick up the language quite easily.
The other reason for changing my blog header is that BattleKid is growing up and I felt the baby no longer represented where we were in terms of his age. And while I am still a biker underneath, I haven’t been on one since I was four months pregnant with BattleKid, and I’m unlikely to be on the back of one for some time to come.
The new header is a much better representation of our family as it stands. We’re a family who love to travel and I thought it was time to bring that into the header. It also shows how the blog is changing. My blog started as a parenting blog during the last few months of my maternity leave. While I enjoyed writing about BattleKid growing up, I came to realise last year that I don’t really want to continue with the parenting theme.
There are hundreds of great parenting blogs out there, and loads of great parenting resource websites, and really I didn’t think I had anything more to share beyond what everyone else was sharing. I also didn’t really want to be writing about dealing with tantrums, or potty training, or how to deal with night wakings after toilet training. It didn’t feel right and it was no longer for me.
I still enjoy reading about other people’s experiences but I didn’t really feel like I wanted to share ours anymore. However, the one thing that gets my fingers typing fast and the words flowing easily is writing about our travels. Be it our Holiday Diaries, or posts about our Dragon Hunting adventures, these are the posts that come much easier to me and are the ones I enjoy writing so much more than general stuff.
I still enjoy the odd review but in the latter half of the year, I became pickier, if you will, about what things I wanted to review on the blog. And I started to focus on things that could have a travel aspect to them. Things like the Cabin Zero bag, of which I now own two as I love them that much, and the Adventure Belt, a great new edition to our travelling arsenal with BattleKid.
And as a result of all of that, our blog is now focused on family travel more than anything else. There may be one or two posts which are not wholly travel-related and it is for that reason I call my blog a Family Travel and Lifestyle Blog. The main focus of the blog has been changing over the last few months, with more travel-related posts being published than anything else and this will continue going forward.
I will continue to write our Holiday Diaries, mainly as a diary for BattleKid to look back on in later years, but also so that people can see what sort of things we get up to on our holidays. They used to be quite boring, if I’m honest, particularly when we were on package holidays, but as of last year, our travels have taken a different turn (which I’ve written about recently). They have become much more about discovery and adventure rather than sitting by a pool doing nothing. And I want to share those tales with everyone.
Out of our travels will come guides or information posts too, which I hope will be of benefit to others. Posts such as my 5 Things to Do in New York with a Toddler in Tow. That series will continue as we visit more and more places. I also plan to write other types of posts about travelling which may provide helpful hints and tips to others embarking on travel with their little ones. And if there is anything in particular you’d like to see on the blog then let me know!
So there you go, BattleMum is becoming a more travel-focused blog. I know the title of my blog doesn’t quite reflect the niche, but I’m still a BattleMum, battling my way through life, albeit a life vastly different to when the blog first started.
We woke just after 7am and got ourselves washed, dressed and ready to head to the airport. Given the traffic on the way to Disneyland four days ago, we didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
We checked out and BattleDad was about to call an Uber until he noticed the pickup point was by the RER station. We really didn’t want to have to walk all the way there, and the Magic Shuttle bus was parked outside so we decided to hop onto it. It left on time and started making its way around the various Disney hotels for picked but, with only two to spare, hurdle five of the holiday happened.
Somehow, and I really don’t know how he managed it, the driver collided with the steel gate to the Sequoia Lodge Hotel. A gate that was open. It resulted in the bus stopping at the barriers while the driver called a supervisor. He arrived within minutes, but we sat there for almost 20 more minutes while the hotel gate people and the supervisor argued it out.
BattleDad ended up arguing with the supervisor to get us moving, as there was nothing wrong with the bus other than some superficial damage. The supervisor was also arguing with another couple who didn’t have a Magic Shuttle voucher. BattleDad said either get the bus moving or call taxis for everyone on the bus as we were now running late. He soon changed his tune when BattleDad said, in French, I also speak French my friends. I don’t think he was expecting that.
Finally, at 9am, the time we should have been arriving at the airport, we left the Sequoia Lodge and still had 30 miles to go in heavy rush hour traffic. I watched the clock getting closer and closer to our check-in time closing. But, with only about 30 minutes to spare, we arrived at Orly. We tipped the driver as he was having a bad start to his day and said we hoped he had a better day tomorrow after a bottle of wine on us. He was very grateful.
We then had a job to find the Transavia check-in desks which are hidden away on a lower floor of Orly, with NO signs indicating which way to go. I’ve never come across a more disorganised set of desks. We checked in, got rid of our bags and very quickly made our way to security where we somehow missed the Fast Track security line. Thankfully the gentleman directing people in the main line ushered us into a quieter line that happened to leave us closer to our gate.
We had just enough time for BattleDad to grab some Laduree macarons before heading for our gate where our flight was already boarding ahead of schedule. I dread to think how things might have turned out if BattleDad hadn’t argued with the supervisor to get us moving. There was no need for the bus to be sitting there as the supervisor was perfectly capable of sorting out the mess with the hotel after the driver had given his licence details.
We left Orly on time and thankfully left the rain and cold too. WE flew south and were greeted by blue skies and temperatures heading for 20C. A stark contrast to the previous few days. We picked up our car and drove home, absolutely shattered after our first family visit to Disneyland Paris. See you in 2022!
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