Thursday 4 April 2019

Packing for a Cruise-Men's checklist

When it comes to a cruise holiday, what to take with you may seem obvious, but it's very easy to be caught up in the excitement (or stress) and miss things.

During the build up to a holiday I run checklist after checklist to ensure everything is in order for my family. I often find I end up taking too many clothes for our children to try and cover every eventuality weatherwise, and make sure I have everything I need for smooth sailing.

Whilst I ensure that our children have their things packed, my own cruise wardrobe is sorted out, and we have everything we need for a great holiday, there is another member of our family who packs his own luggage. Jon.

Jon packs his own stuff and overall does pretty well, but he still uses a list.
Here's a checklist for any man out there who may be a little uncertain of what to take, or may be concerned that he's missed something.

Top 6 tips for a checklist

  • This may seem painfully obvious but it's amazing how many people get to a cruise terminal and have forgotten their Passports, currency, tickets or insurance. Whilst many documents and confirmations of travel can nowadays be stored and accepted via online documents, a hard copy should still be taken 'just in case'. Likewise, credit cards, debit cards and mobile payments are accepted all over the world but some sellers and traders still only accept cash in the local currency. You can't buy much in a Moroccan bazaar with your mobile and you can't really present your passport via your mobile can you? Speaking of mobiles...
  • Chargers and international plug adaptors for mobile devices, cameras and charging other items. It's always worth check what kind of socket your cabin or suite may have. Is it European, is it US? This information is readily available via your cruise company or travel agent, but can vary from ship to ship and not all ships carry spares to lend or hire to guests. Check which is required before packing and check again that you have packed the right one prior to setting off . You can always pick one up en route if need be, but it's too late when you climb that gangway. If you don't your mobile or laptop could end up spending your holiday as an expensive paperweight which is no good in an emergency or contacting friends and family to share your experiences.. Keep in mind though that vaping is not permitted on board most ships with vape detectors in most common areas and in state rooms, so if you're hoping to charge vapes in your stateroom you will likely encounter a problem.
  • Accessories for formal dining. Your favourite shoes, tuxedo and dinner jacket are packed.Your suits are back from the dry cleaners and looking sharp packed in their suit carriers. You know that you'll feel and look great at dinner and the formal photographs won't become things of shame in only a year or two. First formal evening you're all set and then you realise you forgot your ties, waistcoats, belts, your cummerbund and your cufflinks. Well that's your evening and your dining partners evening ruined because you'll look half dressed and won't enjoy the evening as much as you could. By taking a few moments to pop your ties and other clothing items along with your formal attire you know they'll be kept together, remain clean, and ready to wear. If you've purchased a specific dinner shirt to go with your tuxedo or dinner jacket check if it is buttoned or requires cufflinks. You can purchase some gorgeous ones via

  • Grooming products. So you've got your clothes and paperwork packed, chargers sorted and you're off. Then you realise that by day two you have no toothbrush, deodorant, aftershave, shower gel or razor. By the end of the holiday you may end up looking like you've been backpacking around the Gobi and possibly smelling that way too. Not all ships have shops carrying even basic grooming products, and even some ports have limited supplies that may not be up to scratch. You've paid a lot of money for this holiday and don't want to spend it feeling grotty, let alone sat for a formal dinner and not look and feel your best. Nobody likes a smelly fellow diner. 

  • Suitable clothing. Ok so this is a no brainer right? Nope. Even if you're cruising the Med, hitting the West Indies or sailing up the Fjords, weather and conditions can change rapidly, and you don't want to miss the view from the deck or cut short your excursion simple because you have the wrong attire. The general rule of thumb is if you're going somewhere hot, still pack at least one warm item of clothing or light jacket and long trousers or jeans (the trousers are essential for most of the dining rooms anyway). If cooler climbs are your destination, pack some shorts and a light shirt or top-You can always change if the weather does.
  • Medication. If you're on medication for an acute illness or will be needing to take some whilst on holiday, it always pays dividends to take extra. This may sound overly cautious but specific types of medication may not be readily available onboard or even in port which could lead to big trouble. Ships have been held in quarantine in the past which prevents passengers from leaving the ship and without sufficient medication people can become very ill very fast.

I hope this little checklist helps a little to ensure smooth sailing and a great holiday for anyone off on a cruise!

Have you ever forgotten anything important for a holiday? Your Passports, money or kids?
If you have a funny story you'd like to share I'd love to hear about it, so please pop them in the comments below!


    Wednesday 20 March 2019

    Cruising for (dress) success

    When it comes to getaways, my favourite still has to be a cruise holiday. 
    Preferably onboard our favourite ship, The Independence of the Seas.

    The appeal of a cruise holiday is as multifaceted as the guests on board each ship.
    Some love the feeling of being in a floating luxury hotel, others love the cuisine, for many it's the chance to wake up in a new country or port almost every day. Yes there are many different features and aspects that appeal to holiday makers-my favourites however are the formal evenings and long days at sea spent around the pool and just taking in the ship.

    The destinations on a cruise will more often than not decide your onboard wardrobe.
    Lets face it, if you're heading to Norway and the Fjords, walking around the deck in a bikini and sarong may not be the greatest of ideas and a Parka and wooly mittens would be regarded with suspicion if travelling round the Med mid Summer.

    Shopping around for what to wear may seem problematic and getting quality clothing that you'll be able to use from one holiday to the next can seem daunting, but don't be put off. Websites such as Fashion World have something to suit the occasion and location. This is a chance for you to shine and dress how you want to dress not how you feel you should dress.

    It's also worth taking notice of the themed nights offered during your cruise too - some common theme evenings include White Evening, 70's Disco Night and Americana night when you'll see people everything from cheerleading uniform to Star Spangled everything!

    Here's my Top 3 Tips on preparing your wardrobe for a cruise Holiday;
    • If you see it and like it, get it. You're going on holiday and no one should make you feel down about what you want to wear. It's a chance to embrace colours and styles you may normally shy away from. Let yourself look and feel great. If you always wanted a neon pink bikini but didn't think you'd ever get the opportunity to wear one, now's your chance.
    • Dress appropriately for the destinations. Do some homework in to temperatures and terrain of any ports you may be visiting. Flip flops and a sleeveless top are fine at the beach or walking around the deck, but some destinations can get chilly and old cities and ports tend to have cobbled streets. Stubbed toes and goose pimples can soon take the shine off an excursion.
    • If you've never been to a formal evening, don't feel you have to dress conservatively or in a stuffy manner. The evenings are as much about fun as the are the food, and are not full length sleeves and ankle length dresses. You should feel like a million dollars in your favourite number so don't feel you have to go with pearls, pastels or . Wear sequins, or something backless, or even with a split in it, but whatever you wear relax and sparkle like you're the centre of attention.
    I've been checking out some new clothes for a potential cruise (more about this coming soon!) and think I've found some perfect items for shore excursions.

    I love the colours in this and it looks so comfortable for walking around and exploring old cities or new destinations.

    Some destinations require full sleeves due to religious or local culture. I'd certainly not want to upset anyone so something along the lines of this Peplum shirt is perfect!

    I love these Palazzo Trousers! Walking around can get a bit hot so these look like I'll be able to stay cool and comfortable.

    I LOVE dressing for the formal and informal evenings and wearing something new and just that little bit extra special and flamboyant. Something you may not have a reason to wear at home apart from at the 'Once-in-a-Blue-Moon' Black Tie function. When onboard and someone comes up and compliments you on what you are wearing or asks 'Where did you get that dress?' you know you're doing something right, and your confidence soars. 

    Accessories can really add an extra element to any dining experience however and I've seen this gorgeous little Rose Gold bag to compliment an outfit.

    Have you ever had issues when shopping for cruise clothes or have you any funny stories about things that have happened to you whilst on a cruise? I'd love to hear about them and you can post your comments below!


    Thursday 14 March 2019

    Grown Up Holiday time....

    Travelling with small children can be hard work. Even with the best laid plans in place, a toddler sized spanner can be thrown in the works and everything can rapidly go askew. 

    With this in mind, we decided we needed an adult's only break, albeit a short one, as sometimes family holidays aren't much of a holiday for the adults.

    Ok so call me selfish but 9 times out of 10 we get back from a family break and feel we need another holiday to get over the holiday. And I'm pretty sure we're not alone in that.

    Once we'd arranged potential dates (thanks Mum!) we could concentrate on destinations...
    Jon and I love travel, but despite having been all over Europe and the US, neither of us have really been much further afield. So we decided that one option could be to head East. Far East. 

    After an evening of googling and YouTube videos, we finally settled on the idea of Thailand. Usually we'd find it difficult to get time away from work, but now we both work remotely this gives us much more freedom to travel - we read a proton mail review which gave us a lot of faith in working securely from our laptops while abroad so that's one hurdle down.

    Neither of us have been but we've heard and read some tremendous things about it. It sounds like just the destination for us to recharge our batteries and take a break from nappies and tantrums and demands to go on rides...again...and again...and again.

    We both have friends who have been and it comes highly recommended, but where to stay when we are there? There are dozens of fabulous looking resorts and hotels however we like the idea of  a home away from home, somewhere private but luxurious...which is where comes in handy!

    Thailand offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, but go to the wrong destination and we could miss out. After several discussions with friends we have decided on the island of Ko Samui. There are over 250 villas listed for Ko Samui on Villa Finder each with there own merits and reasons to choose. So far we've shortlisted 4 of them and it's going to be hard to choose which one to go for if we decide to take the plunge.

    Ko Samui is a relatively small island with a small (approx 63,000) population. With average temperatures of 27c between May and August it's hot, but not too hot for us to walk around.

    It also boasts some of the top 5 things Jon and I have wanted to see on our travels for a long time.

    1) Big Buddha Temple. 

    Jon has been wanting to see this since he was a child.
    The Big Buddha Temple sits to the North East of Ko Samui on a small island called Ko Phan which is linked to Ko Samui via causeway. The golden statue itself is over 12 meters tall and can even be seen from the air as you approach Ko Samui!

    2) Secret Buddha Garden

    This secret garden of statues is located in the hills of the interior of Ko Samui. A place of peace and tranquility to reflect and find solace-just what every busy parent needs!
    This relatively new tourist attraction take you away from the beach and markets to forested hills and a cooler environment-a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of modern living. I'd read about it sometime ago and it's been at the back of my mind to visit 'one day' ever since.

    3) Wat Plai Laem.

     Another Buddhist temple, but one featuring Guanyin the Goddess of Mercy instead of Buddha. The 18 armed statue of her sits atop a colourful and very ornate temple located not far from Big Buddha to the North of the island.

    4) Koh Tao-Turtle Island

    Surrounded by beautiful crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches, this is the ideal spot to relax beneath the Sun and unwind. A hugely popular destination for scuba divers with lessons available this small island is a tropical paradise.

    5) Ang Thong National Marine Park.

     On the bucket list of many travellers, Ang Thong gained popularity when mentioned in the novel 'The Beach' by Alex Garland. Located in an archipelago of approximately 42 islands, Ang Thong has a host of activities and sights to explore. From the outstanding flora and fauna to the inland lagoon (Emerald Lake) and coral reef we'd not run out of things to do or see.

    Flights are available from Heathrow daily and parking at the airport is bookable in advance. Flights and package deals are very reasonable especially when booked in advance so it is a very tempting destination to say the least. 

    If we do decide to say 'Sawasdee!' to Thailand we'll be packing our bags and filling you in on our grown up holiday!

    Have you been to Thailand? We'd love to hear your thoughts and tips!


    Tuesday 5 February 2019

    Our Top 5 UK Theme Parks To Visit With Young Children

    Over the last year or so, we have visited a fair few of the UK's main theme parks - although we're not big thrill seekers ourselves we do really enjoy a theme park day out with the kids and so all of the parks with Toddler Themed areas have been high on our list of days out to try.

    Today I thought I'd share our Top 5 UK Theme Parks in order of preference along with the reasons why we think they're the best!

    So without further ado, here they are!

    1. Paultons Park

    Where is it?: Near Southampton

    Entry Price: £31.75 each (over 1 metre, children under 1 metre are free_

    What's There For Kids?: Paultons Park is the home of Peppa Pig World - a whole section dedicated to the kids favourite, with themed rides, play areas, a soft play centre and appearances from Peppa & George themselves - if your little one is a fan of Peppa then it's worth a visit here for this section alone!

    But there is so much more to Paultons Park too, including the Lost Kingdom dinosaur area which my 4 year old just loved!

    Selling Points: The park is incredibly well run and child friendly, the toilets are always clean with thoughtful details such as childrens toilet seats in every one - the baby change facilities have always been immaculate when we've visited too, and there's plenty of options available for food so it doesn't feel as though there are only unhealthy choices available.
     You even get a free piece of fresh fruit with every childrens lunch!

    Best Bits: Our favourite things are the Hot Air Balloon Ride in Peppa Pig World and the Flight of The Psterosaur rollercoaster in Lost Kingdom

    2. Legoland

    Where is it?: Windsor

    Entry Price: From £45 per person on the day (Prices vary depending on season)

    What's There For Kids?: There is no dedicated themed section as such but who needs it?! All of Legoland is kid-heaven! My three all absolutely adore Legoland, infact if they had been in charge of this list it would certainly be in the number 1 position!
     There are tons of rides and play areas for them, meet & greets with Lego characters and live shows too.

    Selling Points: There is a great variety of rides at Legoland from the family-friendly Fairy Tale Brook boat rides to the more adventurous Dragon rollercoaster and everything in between. It one to appeal to all ages, and if you can afford to stretch to a stay in the Legoland Hotel it is certainly worth doing - the theming is fantastic and its practically inside the park.

    Best Bits: The submarine ride is brilliant fun, and the Pirate Bay show should not be missed - it was incredible!

    3. Drayton Manor

    Where is it?: Staffordshire

    Entry Price: £39 for over 12s, £29 for children aged 4-11, £7 for 2-3 year olds, and free for under 2s.

    What's There For Kids?: Drayton Manor is home to Thomas Land - a section dedicated to the famous little blue engine and his pals! Thomas Land is a fantastic place to visit for any child but if you have a little Thomas fanatic at home they will absolutely love it, the theming is fantastic, there are so many rides to choose from and during special occasions they go all out too - Christmas in Thomasland is something really special!

    Selling Points: Drayton Manor offer a rainy day guarantee which means that if it rains for 2 or more hours on the day of your visit, you will be given the chance to return within a specified time period for another visit free of charge! (Please note this does not apply to tickets purchased on the day of the visit)

    Best Bits: A ride on Thomas is a must do, and we are also big fans of the Cranky ride too. If you have the chance to visit during the Christmas season, do! The snow fall and Christmas songs are really magical and well worth seeing.

    4. Alton Towers

    Where is it?: Staffordshire

    Entry Price: £52.80 per adult, £46.80 per child (under 3s go free)

    What's There For Kids?: Alton Towers is home to CBeebies land - an area themed around all of their TV favourites from the CBeebies channel, such as Mr Tumble, Charlie & Lola, Postman Pat, The Octonauts and many more!  There are some great rides in this section, as well as a lovely live show area where various characters hang out for meet and greets too!

    Selling Points: There is tons to do for both adults and children at Alton Towers, and the monorail system for ferrying you to and from the parks is really handy too - especially with little ones in tow!

    Best Bits: We loved the Octonauts coaster, and the In The Night Garden boat ride.

    5. Chessington World Of Adventures

    Where is it?: Chessington!

    Entry Price: £49 for over 12s, £45 for children aged 3-12 (Children under 3 go free)

    What's There For Kids?: There is no themed childrens area in Chessington but it is home to the new Gruffalo ride - the ride itself is brilliant, almost worth visiting for that alone if your little ones are Gruffalo fans. There is also the Gruffalo arena where they can meet the creature himself!

    Selling Points: Chessington is a really well laid out theme park, and there are lots of healthy food options around as well as lots of deliciously indulgent treats - we found the snacks on offer here to be by far the best of any other theme park we've visited in the UK.

    Best Bits: Meeting the Gruffalo and the Gruffalo ride were definite highlights for us, but we did find it very busy here.

    What has been your favourite theme park to visit in the UK? I'd love to hear your thoughts!!
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