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Best Christmas Markets in the UK

Its so hard to believe its almost Christmas this year just flew!  Only another few days until im popping up the Christmas tree  and cleaning up the mess made by our devilish elf-on-the-shelf aptly known as Mischief!  (My husband enforces an embargo until 1 December 🙂 )Sometimes Christmas isn’t Christmas until you attend some markets, although sometimes it can be a struggle to find the best ones.  Most people think you have to travel far afield to find great markets and the authentic experience however with the help of Stagecoach, who offer cheap bus fares, we look to find some of the most Christmassy markets in Britain.  Ryanair are currently offering some seriously good value flights to the UK.  Remember to wrap up warm when venturing out to some of our top picks! You’ll be singing some of your favourite carols in no time!

Newcastle upon Tyne

Christmas markets

Christmas Markets – Pic Credit Pixabay

Newcastle transforms into a winter wonderland at Christmas time, with decorations travelling down the long and narrow street to create that festive feeling for the people of the city. The market is located at the top of Grey Street, just under Grey’s Monument where you can find wooden huts that are built and decorated specially for the Christmas period.

But what does the market have on offer? What makes it different? The Newcastle Christmas Market brings cultures together and celebrates differences, perfect for small children wanting to experience a big world. Tradesmen and women from across Europe come to bring a touch of their country to Newcastle – you’ll get to witness one of the best atmospheres in the country during this festive time. From foods to ornamental items, you’ll be spoilt for choice with what you can purchase. You might even find the perfect gift for that special person. If you’re into Ice Skating, head down to the Centre for Life to show off your skills in Times Square!

Open: 11th December – 17th December

Birmingham

For 12 years now, the German Christmas Market in Birmingham has been a top attraction to those wanting to venture outside of their own city and travel to a spectacular Christmas market. Located in Victoria Square, it makes a beautiful setting for any family photograph – lights descend down the centred fountain and the iconic carousel is at the top of the steps creating an uncanny version of Santa Claus’ Village.

With a collected 180 stalls, you’re bound to see something unconventional. You might even be able to snatch up a unique gift for your little one, whether this is a piece of jewellery or a handmade toy. Grab a hot chocolate with marshmallows and have a stroll around the village.

Open: 17th November – 29th December

Exeter

Christmas markets

Pic Credit – Pixabay

Take a trip to Exeter this year to discover the magnificent Christmas market on the West Front of the Cathedral – creating an enchanted atmosphere. With the Cathedral towering over, you will be able to take a long walk around the different wooden huts and experience something from each continent of the world – perfect for introducing your kids to different cultures.

Unlike previous years, the Exeter Christmas Market will now have a bandstand which will host the entertainment for the evening – with local bands, singers and choirs spreading the magical spirit by singing some of our favourite Christmas carols that allow the kids to get involved. If you can’t get enough of Christmas markets in Exeter, there’s two more – one on Castle Street and Fore Street – don’t be afraid to pop down and indulge yourself in more Christmassy treats and I’m sure your little ones would be more than up for it.

Open: 16th November – 17th December

Lincoln

Indulge yourself in the historic culture of Lincoln by attending their Xmas market or over 280 stalls surrounded by the iconic castle and cathedral – allowing your little ones to have a real sense of magic on your family trip out. From freshly cooked food to some of the most exceptional gifts, you’ll be able to experience something different from this market that will make you want to return the next year.

Not only are new stalls put up outside, but shops along the cobbled streets come outdoors to sell their products too! Creating the perfect atmosphere up the steep bank. Not only can you shop in the market, whether this is for hot food or baked treats, you can also take a trip on the big wheel and other fairground rides – once you get high enough, you might be able to spot one of Santa Claus’ elf in the crowd – so make sure you’re on your best behaviour to remain on this year’s good list. Although the duration of this market isn’t long, it’s worth going!

Open: 7th December – 10th December

London

If you’re heading to the London this Christmas for some shopping, why not take a trip to the Winter Wonderland situated in Hyde Park. Full of festivity, there’s nothing that you and your family can’t do at this market, from ice skating, to circus’ and even Cinderella on Ice, whatever your family desires is available here – although booking is strongly advised as there is a high demand of certain activities and attractions.

There’s no excuse not to attend this Winter Wonderland as it remains open after Christmas has ended! Remember to take your camera and capture plenty of selfies, you don’t want to miss the moment where your littles one’s face light up when meeting Santa Claus himself. Once you’ve tackled the magical kingdom of Winter Wonderland, why not take a stroll to Buckingham Palace to take photographs outside of the iconic landmark – you might even see the Queen if you’re lucky!    

Open: 17th November – 1st January

So, what Christmas market will you be heading to this year? Do let us know.

Note: This is a collaborative post.

 

Fairy Travels

Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo – Our Review

Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo

You have to picture the scene for this one….its 2002, your in college and you have met this great guy…you decide on a holiday (from a brochure!! Yes I am old!) you randomly select Denmark, Copenhagen to be precise. The highlight of the trip was our evenings spent in the Tivoli Gardens. Roll forward to 2007, newly qualified as an Accountant I decide that id love a wow holiday, something memorable to mark the milestone. Same great guy is still on the scene off we flew to China and there began my love affair will all things Chinese culture.

Said great guy above became husband and a further couple of years later and we added two little men to our crew. Why the waffle!! Well, the Wild Lights experience at Dublin Zoo was quite simply magical.  It evoked wonderful memories of milestones in my life and made me feel all warm and fuzzy.  I feel I am doing it a disservice calling it an attraction, it is so much more it is an experience. It is the perfect fusion of cultures.

The setting, the twinkly lights, the ambient Chinese music…..I honestly cant convey in words just how magical it is.  Its the kind of attraction that will awe all age groups.  The highlights are billed as the 16-metre high porcelain elephant tower and a 30-metre long Chinese dragon however I can honestly say it is all pretty magical.

Rather then me waffle on here is a selection of pictures from our visit.

          

        

Wild Lights opens until the 7 January, weekend for November and every evening in December.

Honestly do it, you will not be disappointed.

 

Note: We were invited to the preview of Wild Lights, we were not asked to write this review, i just absolutely loved it!

 

The Ordinary Moments
Fairy Travels

Helpful hints if your flight is delayed

When travelling none of us like to see that dreaded seven letter word, usually in blue, nearly always in bold – DELAYED. 

row of seat aircraft

Pic Credit: Pixabay

We travel quite a bit and thankfully have only had a few episodes of problematic delayed flights,  most recent being 3 hours on the runway after leaving Niagara Falls .  I don’t mind it as much on my own while travelling with work but when the kids are with us it can  be a little more tricky. Hopefully this handy guide will help make those delayed flights a little less stressful.

  1. Technology – Sounds simple but use the technology at your disposal. Have all the trip information saved on your phone including the airline helpline numbers.  Most airlines will have email/ text alerts so make sure your details are correct when you book so you can be informed if there is a delay to the flight.  There are multiple apps out there for airline alerts, airport alerts, weather alerts or even apps to help you book on the next available flight. We have access to so  much information at our finger tips so use all available resources to minimise disruption in so far as is possible. 
  2. Insurance – I am big proponent of importance of being insured and knowing what you are insured for in the event of unforeseen events. I think this is especially important when travelling with kids.
  3. Know your rights – As the old adage says – “knowledge is power” and to be honest this can be a minefield as airlines often have different policies for the same scenario. The best advice here is consult the experts for example companies  like Flight Delay Claims 4 U can talk you through your rights and whether or not you might be entitled to some form of compensation. While on Honeymoon in Australia via Bangkok we were delayed for many hours due to a weather situation elsewhere. At the time the airline offered us £75 card each which we happily accepted. However having spoken to a travel agent friend roll forward a couple of months and we received £400 back.  As said in 1 above save this number in your phone too as you never know when you might need it.
  4. Be nice and make some friends 🙂 – There is little point in shouting and screaming at the airline or airport staff, there is little they can do to change what has happened. If the delay is going to take some time you might even make some new friends to explore the local area with!

 

Note: This collaboration is with thanks to Flight Delay Claims 4 U however I retain full editorial control

 

You Baby Me Mummy
Fairy Travels

Honeymoon stopover in Bangkok

bangkok-temple

Photo Credit: Baked by Mummy Iris

We spent a wonderful couple of weeks on our honeymoon in Australia however one of the surprise highlights was a 48 hour stop off in Thailand. We booked our trip through an agency and the lovely lady who assisted us asked where did we want to stop over and our reply “surprise us” and that she did. We were off for a whirlwind trip to Bangkok.  I didn’t have any expectations of what to expect, we were on honeymoon so we were totally chilled.

We did book a central five star hotel, we were honeymooners after all! Recently I have seen Destination2 offering similar package breaks with great selections of hotels from 3 stars up.  I like the security of package trips for long haul travel.

 

What we did – Day 1

photo-bangkok-temple

Photo with thanks to the lovely http://www.bakedbymummyiris.com/ for more great travel photos check our her insta @bakedbymummyiris

We arrived mid afternoon and one of the first things we had booked was the Bangkok Dinner Cruise on the Chao Phraya River.  One word – INCREDIBLE, it really was. It gave us a brilliant chance to get our bearings and have some nice chilled out time, food was good and the local beer was flowing. There was live entertainment on board too.  The atmosphere was great on board, the staff were fantastic and we saw the beautiful  Grand Palace and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) lit up at night amongst many other beautiful illuminated sights.

Bangkok- MBK- Shopping

Bangkoks MBK

Following that we wandered around sampling the local food stalls at the night markets, I can still feel the buzz of it, was late into the night and the place was very much alive. Bangkok lives up to its reputation, it is bustling, vibrant and very much alive day and night.

What we did – Day 2

After some well needed rest, the following morning we headed for the world famous MBK Center. I was like a kid at Christmas with excitement, over 2000 shops all under the one roof!! Whats not to love! We took the Sky train there which was an experience in itself . Its a high speed train that’s elevated over the roads. So efficient and it was spotless!

The second evening we went back to sample the endless options being served up by the street vendors – I can still taste the pork satay! Seriously yum.  We ended up wandering towards Chinatown. This has to been seen to be believed a stunning fusion of the two cultures with food so divine, it would be rude not to sample and we thoroughly enjoyed sampling the variety of foods on offer. We made our way back to our hotel (on a Tuk Tuk!!), the hotel had got wind of our wedding and presented us with 2 cocktails served in Tuk Tuk shaped glasses which they gave us to keep. A lovely end to a memorable few days in an action packed city.

We have vowed to return and I really think we will some day when the kids are a bit older.

Note: This is a collaborative post and special thanks to Iris who writes at www.bakedbymummyiris.com and shares her own travel journeys on her instagram @bakedbymummyiris

 

 

 

Cuddle Fairy
Fairy Travels

Treating the Nana Fairy – Winter Sun in Benidorm here we come!

Winter Sun in Benidorm

My mum now known as the Nana Fairy – its one incredible lady. She does a huge amount for us so every year I treat her to a  trip (sans kids!) just the two of us for some well deserved r&r. We have done New York (times two), Prague and this year it will be a winter break in Benidorm.

Sunset in Bendidorm _ Winter Sun

Sunset in Benidorm – Pic Credit Wikipedia

Why Benidorm? Well, I asked her what was her preference this year in terms of holidays and her response, sun, nice beaches and good nightlife. A family friend is just back from a ten day break there so we decided why not. Getting a personal recommendation really pushes a place higher up my list. I had been myself many (many!) years ago. I still remember the stunning beaches and the nightlife!

Where?!

Its probably safe to say most people have heard of Benidorm, equally famous for its sandy beaches as it is its nightlife. Benidorm itself is in the Spanish province of Alicante along the tourist hotspot of the Costa Blanca. Its a really popular destination and I can really see its appeal.

 

Most looking forward to…

……………..Chilling on those stunning beaches.

While most people will have heard of and seen the images of Levante Beach, golden sands framed by high rise hotels and apartments, on our previous trip we spent more time on Poniente Beach, which was certainly quieter back then. While Benidorm these days is high rise, populous and busy, the romantic image of old town Spain is still alive in Benidorms old town. It is picturesque and romantic with its little cobbled streets and blue domes. A real must. Also while you dont go to Benidorm for the food for some traditional tapas my recommendation is to head to the old town.

Will be sure to do a full trip report – cannot wait!

 

Note: This is a collaborative post

 

Fairy Travels

Visit Kinnity – Glitraps Glamping Review

Visit Kinnity Giltraps Glamping – our review

When my oldest suggested we go camping for his birthday im sure he could see the look of fear in my face! Some frantic google searches ensued and I stumbled across Giltraps Glamping in Kinnity, Offaly.  Bingo I thought, this looks like the ideal comprise. The first line in their web pages called in luxurious glamping –  no further research needed – done!  I sent them an email and 2 weeks later we were off to Offaly for the night.

We were checked in by Julie, who I had been dealing with over email, she was incredibly helpful and accommodating, allying my fears about the upcoming Storm  Gerturde weather warnings!!

The setting itself is gorgeous 6 log cabins and a Mongalian Yurt.  Also on the site were pigs and chicken whom i don’t doubt will run in fear should my pair ever arrive down again.

The Cabin

The view from the cabin at Giltraps Glamping

Glamping at Giltraps

We stayed in cabin number 2 which had a double and 2 single beds, which was ideal for us.  The cabin was absolutely spotless. Bed linen and were towels supplied.  There was a little area outside with chairs where we sat while the kids happily played   When we arrived at the cabin they had put balloons and birthday banner up for my sons birthday which I thought was a really lovely touch. We opted for the breakfast hamper delivered the next morning – one word – AMAZING.  Around 9.30 the following morning a home cooked breakfast bap arrived at the door with a flask of tea.  We sat outside and ate the breakfast, seriously yum.

The glamping site lit up at night time was magical – (im choosing to ignore the 500 toilet breaks my oldest insisted he needed just to go outside to see it lit up!!) Speaking of which there was a number of shared toilets and showers again- spotlessly clean.  There was also a small kitchen which you could access any time of day or night.

The Area

Kinnity itself is only a small town probably best knows for the famous Kinnity Castle about a kilometre from the glamping site.  We had drinks in Giltraps pub on site.  This was like stepping back in time, it reminded me of my own family holidays as a child visiting my mothers home place in the West of Ireland.  The pub oozes old world charm, we were served by a really nice girl whose name I wish I had got.  She will most likely remember the crazy kids there last Saturday!! I loved the relaxed homely vibe, complimented totally by the staff. There was a coffee shop also on site however we didn’t get to visit this time around but it looked lovely.

All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyed experience and we have vowed to come back next year as the oldest has decided this time he wants to stay in the Yurt! I wont be disagreeing. Service and attention to detail is top notch here and makes the ideal get away being only an hour and a half from Dublin.

Insider Tips

  • The town doesn’t have a bank machine – you can get cash back in the pub though
  • We brought snacks for the kids, this was a good call, options for shops locally are limited enough
  • There is great free playground within walking distance behind the church. Kids had it all to themselves Sunday morning and really enjoyed
  • Pop in to Kinnity Castle for drink – the Dungeon bar is lovely and such a novelty.

We booked direct which was the best value I could find, for further details see website

Note: This is not paid or sponsored, we paid for this ourselves, we are just  happy campers (sorry!!!!)

 

 

ethannevelyn.com

Country Kids

Fairy Travels

Nights in Niagara Falls – Family travel review

Our Niagara Falls Family Trip

Its taken me far too long to write this post in reality because I just didn’t know where to start.  We arrived to Niagara Falls after a few wonderful few days spent in Toronto (trip report here).  There was no snow in Toronto but as we pulled up outside the Sheraton on the Falls a light dusting began to fall gently, there was mega excitement from the kids.  I don’t think they had ever seen snow before other than in films!!

Where we stayed

Sheraton on the Falls

Sheraton on the Falls

We stayed at the Sheraton on the Falls which is as its name suggests quite literally on the falls.  We were allocated a gorgeous room with a Juliette balcony when we opened the door we could feel the spray of the falls.  I am not exaggerating when I say the view was breath-taking and to hear the roar of the falls – magic.  Each evening the falls are lit up and we were able to enjoy the illuminations from the comfort of our room.  The kids were fast asleep and we sat and enjoyed some lovely local wine and watched the falls change into beautiful array of colours. In recent years a huge amount of investment has gone into these illuminations and it certainly shows.

 

The room itself has 2 doubles and a sofa bed.  Starbucks coffee was provided in the room and in keeping with the hotels Green Policy you could receive a $5 gift card in return for not required complete bedding changes each day.

View from our room at the Sheraton on the Falls

View from our room at the Sheraton on the Falls

We were more than happy to avail of this. Thee room isn’t big but then you don’t come to Niagara Falls to spend your time in the room.  The hotel is huge, I mean huge.  Coming from Ireland where we don’t have hotels of this scale its quite overwhelming and you do need to be prepared to queue for everything, check-in/out, concierge and lifts.  We were fortunate enough to have club access which really is great when you are travelling with kids. We ate our breakfast here each morning and popped in each evening for some snacks and drinks.

There are a number of restaurants in the hotel complex, we tried the Rainforest Café one of the evenings and the Hard Rock Café another, mainly because they were kid friendly! The adults could have a few drinks with  dinner and the kids enjoyed the entertainment.  The kids really enjoyed the Rainforest Café however like the hotel it was huge but service was good and the kids enjoyed the display of animals and the thunder storms!

There also is a floor with amusements in the hotel too which if im honest takes away a bit from the hotel, its manic!  There is an indoor waterpark attached to the hotel also however we didn’t avail of it on this visit. Despite the hotel being full  (all 22 story’s!) the staff did their best to move things along, they were efficient but not over friendly which  was fine as they were run off their feet.  The location and view here are unrivalled.

What we did

Aside from seeing the spectacular Falls which for me was a bucket list item ticked off. There is plenty to do in the vicinity.

  • Journey behind the falls – I was really excited about this.
    Journey behind the Falls

    Journey behind the Falls

    Because of the time of year the boat trips weren’t operating therefore this was my only chance to get up close and personal to this wonder of nature. It didn’t disappoint, despite the heavy snow we made our way down which was about 15 minutes walk from the hotel. You get a lift down (150 feet) and suddenly there you are standing in a 130 year old tunnel looking out from behind the falls, yes you do get wet, yes its cold and damp but is it so incredible. The roar!! Its quite remarkable to thing one fifth of the worlds fresh water is cascading in front of your eyes.

  • Niagara Fury – I sent the oldest and his dad to do this one as I  was afraid the youngest would be a little scared with the simulated thunder.  This is 4d, 360 degrees experience which takes you on a journey to experience the creation of the falls and to experience its sheer power.  You get a souvenir poncho  when you arrive and you do need it!!!! Ill say no more! Great fund, oldest really enjoyed and was able to share with me loads of fun facts on his return.
  • Butterfly Conservatory – all these attraction  are located in very close proximity to each other so its an ideal day out with limited travelling especially important with young kids. This is a lovely attraction 180 meters of pathway through a conservatory where you can observe many different species of butterfly.  They are such beautiful gentle creatures.
  • Clifton Hill – no visit would be complete with our doing the “sights” of Clifton Hill. Its typical touristy with slot machines, crazy golf and fast foot eateries. A summary of our highlights:
    • Wizard Golf – kids loved this.  Its all neon golf balls and painted inside. It was a welcome distraction from the cold and snow outside.
    • Guinness World Records Museum – Great fun, small but well worth the visit. Lots of cool facts and fun interactive parts
    • Captain Jacks Amusement – no more words needed, lots of amusements, games and slot machine, why are kids drawn to these places!!!!

 

Top tips:

This is Niagara Falls one of the words top  tourist attractions so be prepared to pay top dollar for everything. It is expensive however some tips from our experience:

  • Niagara Parks Activity Packages: If you are looking to do a number of the key attractions this is your cheapest option especially travelling with children.  There are a range of option depending on how many activities you wish to include. You can save up to 48% when compared to  booking individually.  A no brainer in my book – for FYI a lot of the attractions are free for kids under 5 which was ideal for us! For more information see here
  • Clifton Hill Pass – its going to be hard to avoid Clifton Hill when in Niagara Falls so my  advice is to buy the Fun Pass. It cover  5 attractions including the Sky Wheel (which was closed during our visit for maintenance much to the kids disappointment) which saves you about $25 per person. What I like about these passes are, we know what attractions we are going on, the price is paid in advance and it saves the inevitable arguments about what to go on. See here for more.
  • WeGo – wego is the transport system around Niagara Falls and its really efficient and easy to use. Our hotel provided us with 48 hour passes, so do ask your hotel most hotel do give them out I think. Its saves worrying about taxis and from my experience it arrives on time and no issues. Its state of the art and connects all major attractions.

Similarly accommodation can be very expensive particularly for a Fallsview room, however when you are going all that way I think it’s a must.  We got a great rate via booking.com

However there are a number of free attractions obviously the Falls itself, the fireworks, the illuminations, Niagara Parkway and Botanic Gardens. The above is only a tiny snap shot of what is available there were many other wonderful attractions which we didn’t get to but you never know we may return some day.  I don’t think I will ever get tired of looking at that incredible view.

Note: Massive thanks to Niagara Falls Tourism for all the advice and help with our trip and for providing us with the attraction passes. The help and guidance shown helped ensure we had a wonderful trip particular thanks to Jennifer whose is an absolute credit to Niagara Falls Tourism who truly knows and loves what she does.
Suitcases and Sandcastles
Fairy Travels

Planning a holiday? Here are some money saving tips and tricks I use

Tips and tricks when booking holdiays 

Since I published this post I have been asked lots of times for any money saving tips and tricks I have for taking the family long haul.  I thought I’d set out some of those which helped us  anyway!

  • Source: Pixabay

    The money jar

I know this is old fashioned but what we tend to do when we book a holiday like Toronto is keep a jar of our loose change and convert it the week before we head away.  We had 8 months of saving for Toronto and had a nice sum of coins saved which converted into CAD$225. Along the same vein and I know this sounds a bit crazy myself and my husband put aside €20 each month and covert it that month to the currency of our destination this meant another CAD$470  to add to the pot.

  • Deals, Deals Deals

I am the queen of the deal! I just love a good deal. I scour the internet for good deals in our chosen destination.  Groupon is your friend. For example we had pancakes for lunch one of the days at Krepesz, that was pancakes for 4 and drinks for CAD$50.  While in Niagara Falls I booked the Captain Jacks Fun Zone  tickets which the kids thoroughly enjoyed and I saved 70% off the normal price.  There are so many options in these places so by buying in advance (the kids and the adults) know what included and we have a set amount of tokens each. There are also lots of hotel options on Groupon too with great saving or added extras.  A couple we spoke to at breakfast had got a great deal at the Sheraton on the Falls via Groupon with a Falls view room.

  • Shop around especially for Hotels

There are a myriad of hotel booking options with varying rates of discounts.

Source: Pixabay

One of my personal favourites is booking.com.  Also check out Expedia or hotels.com or as mentioned above Groupon hotel deal. Sign up for alerts for these site to keep up to dates on the latest deals and offerings.  Do shop around as rates can vary considerably.  It can also be a good option to check call the hotel direct as I have found that some will match the rates found elsewhere.

 

  • Flights

Source: Pixabay

This one is bit more tricky and sometime can just be down to the fact that the stars align and sales and timing of your trip work out. But failing that some things you can do include:

  • Settting up Sky Scanner alerts – im a big fan of this. You get emails relating to prices changes for the flight you are considering.
  • Timing – some times of the year are simply cheaper than others so do your research and look for the off peak times in the destinations you plan on visiting
  • Avios, this is currency of a number of airlines and you can collect point by purchasing flights or with the airline or any of its partners. For example you can convert you SuperValu real rewards to Avios points.  I had a quick look and its around 8,000 points for a return European flight. Not too bad!

Has anybody any other good holiday saving tips they have feel free to add them in the comments.

 

Note: Contains #affliate links
Cuddle Fairy
Fairy Travels

Tales from Toronto – Family travel review

Our recent family trip to Toronto

We have finally settled back to normality after what I can only describe as the trip of a life time. I’ll admit I was pretty nervous about flying long haul with two young kids but it turned out to be totally fine (some tips here and here). ‘We landed into a cold (-8!!) Toronto on a Thursday afternoon in March. We had pre booked our taxi via Aeroport as I wanted to prebook car seats plus paying in advance saves any surprises!

The driver was prompt and efficient and provided some lovely commentary as we made our way to the Grand Hotel & Suites.  He left us with the comment that “The only thing that will hurt you in Toronto is the cold” and he wasnt wrong  there!

Where we stayed – The Hotel

Grand Hotel Toronto

View from balcony

First impressions of the hotel was wow, the beautiful entrance and reception is very welcoming. I booked a double room via booking.com and was delighted upon check in to be upgraded to a 2 bedroom suite.  The suite was just beautiful, full kitchen, 2 big bedrooms and a sitting room with a sofa bed. There was a huge balcony with outdoor seating that would have been amazing in the summer time (see view opposite).  Breakfast was included in the room rate and it was fantastic, kept us going for the day.

Grand Hotel Toronto

Rooftop pool at the Grand Hotel Toronto

The location of this hotel is very central, we walked everywhere something which was a key requirement for me when booking a hotel when travelling with kids.  In terms of facilities this hotel has everything we needed for a really enjoyable trip. There are hot tubs on the roof of this hotel – see picture  opposite of the view from them. I wasnt brave enough in -10 weather to try them but hopefully we visit again in summer time and ill have to give them ago. We popped up one evening to see the view and there was music on the big TV and a few brave souls in the hot tubs!!!

Without question the highlight of our stay here was customer service. My youngest son takes goats milk and I emailed in advance to see if there was somewhere local I could get it when we arrived late. Nicole who was a pleasure to deal with all along sent me the details of local places however when I got the room there was a note on the table saying check the fridge and in it was a litre of goats milk.  For me this gesture epitomises what the hotel is about the attention to detail was just fantastic.

We ate in the onsite resturant one of the days and it was very tasty.  Service was attentive but not instrusive and very child friendly.  We had a fire alarm one of nights which ended up in us making our way to reception at 2am which seems to be the kids highlight of the holiday, not sure I agree!! While a little chaotic at the start, the night porter did his best to reassure everybody it was a false alarm and we made our way back to bed. Thankfully the kids went back to sleep!

 

What we did – the activities

We were very fourtunate to be provided with media passes to Torontos top attractions.  We had decided before going which attractions we really wanted to see, the kids had spent weeks pouring over YouTube clips and the short list was drawn up.  Short summary below of our favourites:

  • Ripleys Acquarium for me this is top of the list,  an absolute must do in Toronto,
    Ripley Aquarium

    Ripleys Aquarium

    huge place with fun interative exhibits and so much to keep the kids entertained we surprised ourselves and spent almost 3 hours here. Do go early it is popular and gets very busy. We arrived at opening time but by the time we left the queues were forming.  What I liked about this place was it really is fun for all ages.  Next door is to the Aquarium is….

 

  • CN Tower this is an iconic Toronto landmark and no trip to Toronto would be complete without a
    CN Tower

    CN Tower

    visit. We took the high speed lift to the top.  There is a small glass floor area, an outdoor viewing area and an indoor area with lots of vantage points. You can also eat and drink at the revolving restaurant  here but we didnt get the chance this visit.  Its a fun way to pass an hour the adults really enjoyed the kids were a bit meh however they had just left the aquarium so expectations were high.

 

  • Hockey Hall of Fame this ended up being a surprise hit.  We didnt know anything much about ice hockey before we visited.  However the kids thoroughly enjoyed the interactive exhibits here. There are 2 main ones, one where you take shots on a goal the second where you are the goal keeper.  So much fun and so unexpected.  Locationwise these three attractions are located within a short walking distance from each other.

 

  • Medieval Times This was a really fun evenings entertainment.  It’s set up as a banquet where you eat as they did in medieval times i.e with their hands!! Kids loved this! A three course meal is served while you watch knights dual on horse back. Each area has a colour and you cheer on your knight.  Depsite the fact our knight didnt win we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Food was plentiful, staff were friendly and so efficient. There was a falcon display which really has to be seen to be believed. Its was incredible, there wasnt a sound when it was going on.  This is the type of event all ages will enjoy and the food was suprisingly good too. We did the afternoon show so it was busy but not packed.

Hints and Tips

  • Like any city rush hour traffic can be unpredictable so give yourself plenty time especially if like us you have an evening flight home
  • Plan ahead for the weather!
  • Toronto CityPass works out great value for family visits when doing the main attractions like we did above
  • Attractions can be busy so plan ahead – keep an eye on their websites for updates etc
  • Its a very safe city
  • The locals are really friendly and helpful
  • Its really child friendly, kids were welcomes in resturants no issues at all

For more information on Grand Hotels & Suites see here.

Note: Special thanks to Nicole at the Grand Hotel and Suites for her assistance and to Michele at Tourism Toronto for organising the passes for us. 

 

 

WANDERLUST KIDS

Fairy Travels

Kids Afraid Of Flying? Try These Tips!

When it comes to holiday time, and you want to travel abroad, the chances are that you will need to take a plane. The trouble is, many children – perhaps including your own – have an entirely rational fear of boarding a plane, flying thousands of feet up in the air, and landing on a hard surface at tremendous speeds.

Let’s be honest – can you blame them? Flying is an entirely unnatural thing for a human being to do, and even though most of us have flown dozens – maybe hundreds – of times, it can be easy to forget what a scary experience it might be. If your child suffers from anxiety about getting on a plane, read on. These tips might help – and maybe even help you calm your flying nerves, too.

 

Talk about it

Most children are afraid of the great unknown – it’s only natural. So the more you can introduce them to the concept of planes and flying, the better. Discuss planes, and point them out on the TV whenever you see them. Pick up a custom model aircraft or two and build them with your kids, helping them learn what all the different parts are called. And have a look around for any science museums in your local area that might have planes in them – perhaps one that you could go into the cockpit, for example.

Sounds and feelings

Part of the big issue with flying is that the noise and roar of the engines can be incredibly scary for young ears. It’s a good idea to get them familiar with the sort of sounds a plane makes, so try to get them making the whooshing and roaring while playing. Car washes are another good option – the noises the brushes and engines make are quite similar to a plane, and although scary a first for your child can often be a good starting point.

Tell the airline

Airlines tend to be pretty good with fearful children. They might offer your kids a chance to go and look at the cockpit and meet the captain or copilot, which can be incredibly reassuring. The stewarding team will also help your kids by giving them sweets – perfect for when the air pressure starts to affect their ears.

Bring entertainment

The more you can distract your kids, the less fearful they will be – it’s as simple as that. In-flight entertainment helps for longer flights, but for short hops bring along plenty of games and colouring in books to keep them busy, too. And snacks actually – all the snacks!!! 

Note: This is a collaborative post with Pic credit  – Pexels