Cimetière du Père Lachaise

Raphael, a 63 year old Parisian man, took my phone from my hand. ‘Go on,’ he said, waving me towards the grave of Victor Noir, a French journalist shot dead in 1870.

‘Rub him there – that’s right!’ he said, taking a series of photos. ‘Now you will have twins!’

No, that’s not a line from a novel, that’s my life.

I’m not sure how, for an afternoon at the end of November, it became my life, but it was quite good fun. View Post

I was going to start by saying something like ‘I love Cornwall’, but then I realised that’s probably about the most obvious statement ever. I mean, have you ever heard anyone say ‘Oh God no, I hate Cornwall. All that beautiful coastline and those picturesque fishing villages? Not my thing at all.’

Nope.

So let’s take it as a given that Cornwall rocks, and I’ll just tell you about the hotels we stayed in. 

Our first night was spent at the Royal Duchy Hotel in Falmouth. We were very pleased to have been invited to Falmouth actually, as my Dad and step-mum moved there last year, plus my step-sister and her family live down there, so we could get to hang out with them for a bit, which is always nice. I have a rather adorable two year old niece down there, who is just about the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen, so most of our hanging out time was really just me gazing at her.

Anyway, the hotel.

Safe to say it was FANCY with a capital FAN.

It felt like a cross between one of those classic seafront hotels, with the big picture windows overlooking the sea, and a luxury city hotel, with sleek furnishing and top notch finishes. But the right bits of both. The communal areas were cosy and friendly, and the service was impeccable. The staff made a real effort to chat and to make sure you had everything you needed, and we spotted quite a few older people dining on their own in the evening. I always think that if you have regulars who are happy to come back again and again, on their own, then that says a lot about the quality of the service.

First things first though, we went up to our room and I did a little tour. I have to remember to take photos and make my videos as soon as we arrive at a hotel, as we are so messy when we’re away – within about five minutes it looks like six suitcases have exploded in the room, and that’s not aspirational for anyone.

I made fiancé wait outside in the corridor, hid our bags in the wardrobe, and made this for you:

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stress free family holidays

What makes family holidays stressful for you?

I remember one holiday I had about ten years ago that was pretty stressful in the grand scheme of things. It was with an ex-partner, with whom I had a rather difficult relationship. I told him I didn’t love him anymore and wanted us to break up. He told me the only friends I had were on Facebook because I was such a shallow human being.

Fun times!

For most (normal) families, I think holiday stress normally comes from things like booking the holiday in the first place. Or that’s what Villa Plus found when then did some research recently at least. Funnily enough, respondents didn’t mention ‘dysfunctional relationship with partner’ as a factor. Instead, 73% of UK holidaymakers are worried about terrorism when booking a holiday, and nearly half of us get stressed out reading negative reviews after we’ve made our booking.

It’s even been given a new name. ‘Fearcation’. Leading Psychologist Dr David Lewis says it’s what happens when “the stress of booking a holiday is outweighed by the benefit of going.”

“They say knowledge conquers fear,” says Dr Lewis, “but, especially when booking a holiday, concerns over how reliable that information is can result in paralysing ‘Fearcation’ with high levels of stress and anxiety that can ruin your enjoyment and spoil your plans.”

Sound familiar?

Fear not!

I’ve put together seven top tips to help make family holidays less stressful.

You’re welcome.

1 – Choose your partner wisely

If the thought of going on holiday with them makes you feel a bit squeamish then are they really the one for you? Come on, you can do better than that. 

2 – Keep your holiday paperwork organised

One of my main holiday stresses is worrying about tickets. I have this paranoia that I will turn up somewhere and have forgotten my tickets, or I’ll have my booking but the hotel will have no record of it.

Luckily I have this to keep all my documents in. I actually won it in a competition that I entered three times – once as me, once as Belle and once as fiancé. I forgot to tell them, (obviously), and when fiancé won he nearly deleted the email as he didn’t know what it was about. When he casually told me about this spam competition email he’d got I properly shrieked. I think he was a bit taken aback. I really wanted it though. True story.

3 – Get your information from trusted sources

I’m sure if you look for long enough you can find a negative review about anything. You could read negative comments about even someone as lovely as me I expect, if you tried hard enough. (And I didn’t send them straight to spam.) Rather than getting yourself all in a panic because one person three years ago had a problem with their room at your chosen hotel, stick to recommendations and opinions from people you trust who have first hand experience. Asking friends and family, like the good old days before all your friends existed only on Facebook, is normally the best way.

4 – Leave the children at home

Only kidding! It wouldn’t be fun without them would it? Okay, it might be, but they have their perks. Like you can legitimately go to the ‘kids attractions’, which we all know are the best bits really. 

5 – Book your holiday with Villa Plus

Well, I would say that in this post wouldn’t I? But seriously, Villa Plus are worth a look. They’ve got over 7,250 independent reviews on TrustPilot and lots of photos of each villa, Google maps and floor plans. 360 degree videos are being introduced too, and more will be rolled out over time, so you can have a good nose before you book. Most of their villas include things like wifi and private pools as standard. 

6 – Brush up on your language skills

Feeling confident about the local language will make you feel far less stressed about all the things that might go wrong. The Google Translate app will come in handy here, but you might want to learn a few key phrases in advance. I’d suggest:

‘Can you please point me in the direction of the hotel kids’ club?’

‘A large gin and tonic please.’

7 – Become a man

If you’re not one already. A little drastic perhaps, but the Villa Plus research showed that women are the ones that get most stressed out by the holiday booking process. ‘Women are much more likely’, the study shows, ‘to shoulder the burden of choosing where to go.’ 

On the plus side, that does mean we normally get to choose where to go, so you know, pros and cons.

What do you find most stressful about family holidays?

stress free family holidays

Ice cream – the recipe for any stress free family holiday

Produced in association with Villa Plus. Header image – Sunny studio/shutterstock.

About the research – The research was carried out by onepoll between 02/09/2016 and 06/09/2016 amongst a panel resulting in number respondents type of respondents. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. onepoll is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

I always look forward to the summer holidays with a mix of emotions. I’m excited about not having to get up early every morning, (and by early I mean at about ten to eight, in time to make a quick sandwich for Belle and try to look involved), but also anxious about juggling work, and keeping everyone entertained.

As it turned out, this summer fairly whizzed by. Belle went off to stay at my sister’s for a week, (flying to Ireland on her own!), and then we all went over a couple of weeks later for her wedding.  (My sister’s not Belle’s.) Belle and I went to Newquay, we threw some axes, it was all going on. On the final weekend of the summer holidays, we had one final hoorah and went of to Valleyfest for the weekend. 

Valleyfest is a diddy little festival, with a foodie twist, held on the edge of Chew Valley Lake. This sets it apart from all of the other festivals I’ve been to, as you have a stunning view of the water from everywhere in the site. Now admittedly, the weather was pretty shocking, but even so, it was  beautiful.

Valleyfest

We were there for the whole weekend, but were very lucky as we were put up by Tinkerbell Tent Hire, who were providing the glamping for Valleyfest. (I.e. the tents for people like me who are too lazy to knock a couple of pegs into the ground.) We were really grateful for it, as the winds did get up on Saturday night, and if we’d had been in a tent that I’d put up, we’d probably have blown away. Tinkerbell Tent Hire also hire out tents for things like weddings, so they are definitely worth a look.  View Post

I have a bit of a thing for unusual museums. 

Whenever we’re away anywhere, I always look for the oddest sounding places to visit, or if I can’t find any, I’ll just drive around until I see a sign and follow it. A week or so ago I drove past a sign saying ‘stationery factory’ and got very excited, because I thought I might get to see how pencils were made, but it turned out it was just a regular factory and members of the passing general public weren’t allowed to just wander in. I had to turn around in the driveway by the barriers and try to look casual, like I had just gone the wrong way.

Over the years, visiting unusual museums has become one of those family traditions that you don’t start intentionally, but that you’re glad has happened, because it makes you feel like more of a team. Like an in joke, except the joke is on my children every time I take them to a weird museum about bees that’s actually just a creepy old man with an old beehive in his attic.

It’s nice though. It’s quality family time. A war time spirit almost – us against the crazy bee man. 

I’ve been meaning for ages to get around to writing a post about my unusual museums fetish, and so when Smart Insurance got in touch to say they were launching a campaign about the importance of families spending time together, having good old fashioned family fun, well, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. The Smart Insurance campaign has been inspired by the National Trust‘s mission to get children more connected with nature, and it doesn’t get much more ‘nature’ than bees does it? View Post

Today I’m feeling mixed emotions.

Sure, it may only be officially less than four months now until Christmas, (hoorah!), but it’s also almost the end of our mini-break season. I wanted this year to try and get away for as many weekends as possible, and we accomplished it spectacularly – we’ve visited all sorts of lovely places, and had some lovely times, but the end of the summer holidays marks the end of the peak season. We have a couple of trips planned still, but mainly we’ll be hanging out at home. I’m kind of looking forward to this, but sad too, as I do like a hotel breakfast.

One of the last destinations on our mini-break calendar of fun was the Woodbury Park Hotel in Devon. It’s less than an hour away from us, but I actually kind of like to holiday nearer home, especially if you’re only going for a night or two. No one wants to spend half their allotted mini-break time driving there do they? Also, when you go somewhere relatively close by, you’ll often discover places you never even knew about, that you can then visit again.

That was the certainly the case with Dart’s Farm, where we headed after checking in, to hire bikes. Dart’s Farm is a massive farm shop, with a cafe, loads of food, drink, interiors stuff, an outside area, local fish and chips – I can’t believe that in the all the time I’ve lived in Somerset and been on family days out, we’ve never come across it. If you’re anywhere nearby, it’s definitely worth a visit, if only to go in the kitchen and bathroom showroom and gawp at the small glass bathroom shelf that’s on sale for £350. Seriously, it was about 10 inches long and maybe three deep? Bonkers. We started pricing things in shelves from then on – ‘Mummy, can I get this book? It’s not expensive – I could get 48 of them instead of a glass shelf.’ View Post