Wednesday 27 September 2017

The Perfect Changing Bag for Family Travel

You probably know by now that we are a family that loves to travel. We can't keep our feet on the ground for long. Wanderlust kicks in and we look to chase our next adventure, Eva who is now nearly 5 years old has been travelling with us since a very young age and now we have Ophelia, we have learnt that there are certain things to do and certain items you need in order to make family travel the stress-free, enjoyable experience it should be. 

Whether you're travelling by car, train or plane, one thing that is always an issue is how much luggage to take and what to pack. Luggage can be the stuff of nightmares. We always use to stress over how much we should take and we always used to go quite overboard with what we packed. Over the years we've learnt to narrow it down. You can view my youtube video on what I pack in my changing bag for a weekend break away here:

In August this year we flew to Turkey for a family holiday and I was kindly sent the new Pacapod Croyde Changing Bag to take along. I have been lusting after a Pacapod since I was pregnant with Eva 5 years ago but unfortunately i've never had one until now. It is the ideal changing bag for family travel.

The first thing I noticed about the bag was its size. It's very large and therefore I decided to use it as my hand luggage bag as I knew it would be big enough for both mine and Ophelia's needs.

I also liked the fact that the bag was made out of a canvas material. It was handy for squishing into tight/small spaces easily (such as the overhead locker on the plane or under the seat in-front of you). It also is quite stretchy meaning you can fit more things in it.

My favourite feature about the bag which makes it perfect for family travel is by far the pods. All Pacapods come with handy pods which allow you to separate items and place them in grab and go compartments. The Croyde bag comes with 3 pods, a changing pod, a map print pod (loved the print on this) and a transparent pod.

The pods made the security checks at the airport super easy. I placed all medications such as calpol, creams etc in the transparent pod. 

I used the map print pod as my snacks and drinks pod. Again this was so handy on the plane. I was able to grab exactly what I wanted out of the bag without having to dig around for things.

The changing pod is great. It has labelled sections for nappies, wipes, creams etc. On an aeroplane it was very easy to just grab that pod to take into the toilet. if you've never changed a nappy on an aeroplane then you can't appreciate how horribly difficult it is. The toilets are bad enough when you have to go in them as 1 person but to try and squeeze into them with a baby and then navigate your way around changing their nappy is enough to make you want to cry. It was much easier taking the small pod in with me as opposed to the whole changing bag.

Image from Pacapod

The pods can also be clipped onto a pram or stroller meaning you can also travel around without the whole changing bag if you wanted.

The bag can be easily accessed either by the large main zip compartment or the side zip. The side zip is a very handy feature as it makes accessing the bottom of the bag a breeze. Quite often changing bags feel like that Mary Poppins carpet bag, when she's digging around for ages and pulling out everything but the kitchen sink. This solves all those issues and also helps to keep the bag tidy and organised.

The bag has many pockets and compartments which allows you to be organised and organisation is key in making family travel less chaotic. I would recommend this changing bag to anyone going abroad or for weekends away. The only down side is that sometimes it can feel quite heavy but there is a shoulder strap or handles to switch up how you carry it.

We are travelling on a very long haul flight to Australia in December and I will definitely be taking the Pacapod with me. I have got my eye on a few others from their collection though. I would like a leather one which I can take out during the evenings etc or when we are going out as they are a bit smarter looking than my canvas one. 

I love the look of the Madison. It's very fashionable and the tan colour would mean it would match well with all of my outfits etc.

Image from Pacapod

I also think the Jasper would be perfect as it looks more like a handbag than a changing bag so it would be ideal for meals out etc.

Image from Pacapod

*Thank you to Pacapod for sending us the Croyde bag. All views are my own*


Sunday 24 September 2017

A Princess Party with Disney Store UK

Planning a children's party can seem like a daunting task. From sending out invites, keeping tabs on the guest list, finding party supplies to organising games, it can all become quite stressful when it should be fun.

The Disney Store UK have launched a party site which contains everything you need to plan and pull off the perfect Disney themed party. As you know we are a Disney obsessed family so any parties we usually host are Disney themed. We were asked if we'd like to receive some of the new party supplies and with Eva and Ophelia having upcoming birthday's, we jumped at the chance.

The website has a wide range of themes available including many of our personal favourite films and characters such as Cars, The Lion Guard, Frozen to name a few. We chose Disney Princesses for Eva and Moana for Ophelia. Ophelia regularly breaks into her own rendition of 'how far i'll go' at least 10 times a day so we knew Moana would be perfect for her.

The supplies arrived quickly and the first thing I noticed was how high the quality was on all of the items. The plates etc didn't feel cheap and flimsy. The Disney Princess prints were beautiful. The nicest ones I've seen from any party supplier. 

There is a massive selection of items available which covers everything you could possibly need for a party. This includes tableware, decorations, cake decorating supplies, bags and gifts and even games. 

For the Disney Princess party tableware we were sent; plates x2 sizes, cups, tablecloth, napkins x2 sizes, confetti and straws. The cups are perfect for young children and little hands as they actually have handles on them making them easier to hold. I also thought the plate design was good for a party as they are slightly dipped (sort of bowl shaped) and therefore the party food has less chance of falling off and it is easier to hold.

For decoration we received balloons, and a pretty, happy birthday banner. We also had party bags which Eva loved. They are paper as opposed to plastic and they look lovely. For party games we had a Disney Princess memory game,

Eva's favourite bits from the party-ware were the cake decorating items. We had cupcake wraps and toppers but her personal favourite was the amazing Cinderella carriage cupcake stand. It really is a showstopper and could also be used as a centrepiece for the table.

From the Moana range we received, plates, cups, table cover, door sign, party bags, badges, banner and a door sign.

As a busy parent (aren't we all?) I think the Disney Store UK party website is so helpful. It has a party planning section which guides you through the entire party process from planning to the actual day. You can design and either print off or email invitations and keep an up to guest list (my favourite feature). If people rsvp via email then it will automatically be updated. How handy is that?

One of my favourite parts of the website is the party snacks and treats section. This provides you with ideas for Disney themed food and drink. There are plenty of pictures and recipes to keep you inspired. As much as i'd like to think I am, I am certainly not a very creative mum so I found this very useful. We decided to make magic fruit wands, princess popcorn, Cinderella's pumpkins and diamond sandwiches.

There is also a section with Disney themed party games and activities to help you come up with the entertainment schedule.

Overall, we have been blown away with the Disney Party UK website. It has clearly been designed with busy parents in mind which allows you to put the fun back into party planning. It makes everything easy and stress-free. From sending out invites, ordering supplies, getting food and drink ideas to purchasing gifts and party bag treats, it couldn't be any simpler. 

The quality and range of the party supplies is outstanding and I will be recommending them to all of of my friends. 

*Thank you to the Disney Store for sending us the party supplies. All opinions are our own*


Monday 18 September 2017

The Unconventional Guide to Sharing a Hotel Room with Young Kids

Next up in my unconventional travel guide series is the horror or sharing a hotel room with young kids. I'm not gonna lie, we've had some good overnight stays and we've had some super shitty ones. 

When you're all in the same room there is no downtime, no escape, you are all in together. I would personally recommend booking two interconnecting rooms but let's face it, that can be very pricey and it's very rare that we are able to do it. The majority of the time it's the 4 of us piled into one room which can feel like a jail. Think of it as a 24 hour prison sentence. You'll probably leave wondering what you'd done to deserve such an experience. 

Anyway, it's not all doom and gloom and if you accept the following things then you may (just may) get a good night's sleep and a happy experience after all.

Here is my unconventional guide to sharing a hotel room with young kids:

1) Become an Expert at Escape Room Games
If your children are anything like mine then they love to explore. Every cupboard, door, drawer etc gets opened. Nothing is left untouched. 
In order to prevent any tearaway kiddies running out of the door, anything getting broken or anyone getting injured then I strongly suggest you treat your hotel room like one of those Escape Room games. You know the ones that have become popular and you get locked in a room and it is impossible to get out without solving millions of ridiculously hard tasks, well that's what you need to make the room like. Block cupboards, latch the locks, put barriers in-front of exits. Make that room child proof and impossible to escape. 

2) Leave Your Usual Routines at Home
Travel comes with inevitable chaos, you just have to embrace it. Don't even try and attempt any usual routines because they won't happen. The kids are far too interested in exploring their new surroundings. Sleeping is for losers after all. Leave usual bedtime routines at home and go with the flow.

3) Don't Book a Box Room
Have you ever tried to share a hotel room with kids when there is literally the beds, furniture and no floor space at all? It is hell. You will suddenly become incredibly claustrophobic. 
Try and book the biggest room you can afford. You will be eternally grateful for the extra space. 
Also engage in some feng shui. By that I mean, make yourselves at home and move the furniture. Make the room suitable for your family's needs and get enough floor space for the kids to run around in as possible.

4) Embrace Mary Poppins and get Singing 'A spoonful of Sugar"
By this I mean make sure you embark on tidying that room before you attempt bedtime. All of those toys and busy bags etc you've packed will no doubt be in every empty space of the room. There is nothing worse than standing on some lego (come on we've all done it), in the pitch black in the middle of the night and you cannot let out a squeal for fear of waking up not just your kids but the whole hotel up. 

5) The Bathtub will be your New Best Friend
You might think i'm joking here but if you're all sleeping in a room together then you'll know that it takes what seems like a lifetime to get the kiddies to fall asleep. The last thing you want to happen is for them to wake up. Find yourself a space (aka the bathtub) where you can relax and have some adult time. 
Take a pillow in there, sit in it and get comfortable. You may be in there a while as I strongly suggest hibernating there until you know the kids are in a deep sleep.
P.S make your partner take the toilet. Believe you and me the tub is way more comfortable. 

Image credit: What the Redhead Said

6) Take Wine
This is a running theme with all my unconventional travel guides. Take wine with you and drink it. You will inevitably become stressed at some point. You will need the drink! In fact you'll probably be sat in the bathtub drinking the wine.

7) Be Prepared to Share Your Bed
You know that lovely big, comfy bed you were planning on sharing with daddy (or having to yourself) well guess what. The kids are eyeing it up too. Not content with their own bed (which is exactly the same), they've got their sights set on yours. If you're children are anything like mine then you'll find yourself playing an unwanted game of 'Ten in the Bed'. Come on repeat after me...there were 3 in the bed and the little one said roll over, roll over. 

8) Throw the Pillows Around
Doesn't that bed look so pretty with all those lovely cushions? You've been dreaming about this hotel bed for so long and it's everything you imagined. By the time the kids have jumped on it and thrown said cushions on the floor you'll have forgotten what it ever originally looked like.
It's inevitable that the kids will trash it so you might as-well join in the fun. Get throwing those cushions on the floor. The kids will either look at you gone off and think you're nuts or they'll either be in awe of you and your spontaneous outburst. Either way they will love it.

9) Be Prepared for Deep Conversation
Now I don't know what it is but whenever we go away, our eldest decides that 10pm is the perfect time to talk about life, the universe and everything. Quick chats are a forgotten form of communication and she engages in what can only be described as a deep, meaningful conversation. Be prepared for the Spanish inquisition as they will ask you a million and one questions about anything and everything.

10) Eat Lots of Carrots
Make sure you eat lots of carrots before you stay. Why I hear you ask? To see in the dark of course. Once the kids are asleep you will have all of the lights off for fear of waking them up,  making it impossible to see anything.
If you're not into carrots then take a nightlight or some sort of blackout shade for cots etc.

11) Ring Ring - Toddler Calling
The hotel phone can provide hours of entertainment. Ok i'm exaggerating slightly but it is like a homing beacon to kids so use it to your advantage. Instead of getting stressed out at the thought of them dialling reception 2000 times, simply unplug it and let them dial as many  numbers as they like.

12) Throw Adult Time Out of the Window
If you're anything like us then you'll have imagined this wonderful time away when you and your partner will be able to have some quality adult time once the kids are in bed. You'll chat, laugh, have a drink, maybe watch a film. Wrong!! Unless you book a room with a balcony then any alone time is going out the window. Refer back to point 5 - say hello to the bathroom.

13) Avoid Getting the Credit Card Out
Where did that empty can of coke come from? Nuts? I didn't drink that gin?! The mini bar my seem like your saviour at some awful hour when you're still awake entertaining the kids but it can also be the stuff of nightmares and cost you more than your hotel stay. As previously mentioned, kids love exploring and believe you and me they will find the mini bar faster than you can. Be very wary of the ones that have automatic billing as soon as something is moved or you'll pay for it! Literally. Put something unmovable or very heavy in-front of the mini bar and pray the kids don't turn into the hulk whilst you're there.

14) Be Prepared to be Starving
So it's 10:30pm you've given up going to the hotel restaurant for dinner with the kids as they're far too excited/tired. They finally drift off in your bed. Time to check out the room service options and enjoy that club sandwich and glass of well deserved wine. 
However, it arrives only to wake the kids up who devour half of it before returning to their comatose state. Is that thunder? Nope it's the rumbly in your tummy from sheer hunger.

15) Never Ever Forget the Poo Bags
Nappies full of poo that have been left for hours have that smell that reaches the back of your mouth and makes you want to gag. Remember point 3 about staying in a box room?Well imagine being trapped in a small room with the stench of those poonami nappies. Unless you want to spend the night retching, make sure you've packed a supply of scented poo bags.

So there you have it. What tips do you have? If all else fails book interconnecting rooms, such life savers.

If you've missed my previous unconventional travel guides then catch up with them here:
The Unconventional Guide to Flying Long Haul with Young Kids
The Unconventional Guide to Packing a Suitcase with Young Kids


Monday 4 September 2017

On the Eve of your First Day in Reception

I've just been labelling your clothes, making sure your uniform is ready on your chair. I've got your bag and lunchbox ready and it has just dawned on me, How am I doing this already? Didn't you just get here?

I remember the day you arrived so vividly. You didn't come into the world easily but when you eventually came, you took my breath away. You were the most beautiful thing i'd ever seen. Those big eyes and button nose. You looked like a doll. So precious and so tiny. You were as light as a feather. I'm left thinking, When did you get so big?

You seem to have just grown over night! One minute you were crawling and now you're running. When did you decide you didn't want to hold my hand on walks anymore? When did you decide you didn't want to sit on my lap for story time? When did you decide that you didn't need help being fed? When did you decide you didn't want me to sing to you before bedtime? All those little things I took for granted and now they've disappeared from my life without me even realising. 

I've obviously known this day was coming for the last 4.5 years. There were days when I thought it couldn't come quick enough. Those days when I declared to people that you were so ready for full time education because I found you hard to keep entertained. The days when I was desperate for a break. I felt like you were always wanting more but looking back you were just learning.  You wanted to be busy, you asked lots of questions and you were always enthusiastic and inquisitive. What an idiot I was for thinking you were hard work. What I wouldn't give for another week of those days.

Tomorrow is such a huge milestone in your life. It's funny as every milestone we desperately wanted you to hit, it hadn't occurred to us that would be the last time you did something. We became so wrapped up in firsts, we forgot about lasts.

I wish I could remember the last time I breast fed you. I would have savoured it, photographed it. Mesmerised the way you looked at me as you were doing it. I wish I could remember the last time I carried you in a sling. I wish I could remember the last journey you took in your rear facing car seat. I wish I could remember the last time I helped you to get dressed. I just wish I could remember every little detail of the last 4.5 years. 

All we've done for the last 6 weeks is prepare you for this day. We've talked about it so much that you are so excited to start. You can't wait. What hadn't occurred to me, was to prepare myself. 

I will miss our mummy and Eva days when it was just the 2 of us on our adventures big and small. 

I may be sad and generally down in the dumps this week but that's not because I am not happy for you starting school, I'm just sad that the last 4.5 years have flown by. Just bare with me tomorrow as I have a tear in my eye when you dress yourself in your uniform, as I take a million pictures of you, as I hold your hand on the way to school and as I cling to it before you run in, not wanting to let go. You see it's hard for daddy and I as we've been the ones to teach you everything since you were born, we've guided you and educated you and now we are handing that over to someone else. Our lives are changing as much as yours. 

Just know that we love you and we are so proud of the little girl you have become. To our eldest girl, our first baby, you are confident, feisty, independent, chatty, funny and sociable. We know you will have the best time. Enjoy every minute. We sure have.


Back to School with Samsonite

I honestly can't believe my eldest child is starting school tomorrow. You always here parents saying time flies by and it really does. It only feels like yesterday that she was born and now here we are getting her school bag and uniform ready for her first day in reception.

We've had so much to buy. School uniform, coat, shoes, lunch box, P.E kit, lunch food etc but luckily we were sent a school bag for Eva from Samsonite

If you're a regular reader of my blog then you'll know how much of a Disney obsessed family we are. If Eva isn't pretending she's a princess then she's whizzing around the house in her Lightening McQueen race outfit. I think he is in joint position with Elsa as Eva's all time favourite Disney character. You can imagine her delight when the latest Cars film was released this summer. She loved it (well we all loved it).

When her new school backpack arrived she squealed with delight. It was of course a Lightening McQueen Samsonite Rucksack. She wanted to use it straight away. It's great because she actually has a Cars lunchbox so they match pretty well.

The first thing I noticed about the bag was the size. Initially, I thought it was a bit small but actually it is the perfect size for Eva. She can wear/carry it easily. A lot of backpacks aimed at her age are usually massive but this is ideal. She can easily fit her PE kit and a spare pair of clothes in it for school.

The inside of the bag has a cool patterned lining which is different to what is on the outside of the bag. It also has a handy tag for you to write your child's name etc on it. 

I also love the fact that the bag has a sternum strap. This makes it easier for Eva to carry as it stays on her back rather than falling off her arms like her other bags. It also aids support for her back and shoulders.

There are reflective parts to the bag which will be super handy for when the days become longer and darker during the winter.

Overall, we are both very happy with her new school bag. I think it'll probably only last her this year due to the size. Next year she will probably have to carry more things to and from school and i'm sure she'll have shot up in height. She's catching me up very quickly.

*We were kindly sent the Samsonite bag in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are our own and are honest*


Sunday 3 September 2017

Paw Patrol Live - Race To The Rescue Review

Both my girls love watching Paw Patrol especially littlest who dances at the theme tune. We were lucky enough to be invited to see the live show at Cardiff's Motorpoint Arena last weekend and as you can imagine they couldn't wait.

The show began with Ryder introducing all of the much loved pups onto the stage. The set was fantastic. It was colourful, vibrant and made you feel like you had jumped into the TV screen. The girls were delighted.

Race to the Rescue is about the great race between Mayor Goodway of Adventure Bay and Mayor Humdinger of Foggy Bottom. However, early on in the show Mayor Goodway injures her foot and can no longer race. Cue the Paw Patrol pups to the rescue. 

The teams race to find clues all around the island and each pup gets to use their their skills to help uncover the clues.

Eva was super excited to see new pup Everest make an appearance too.

The show is very lively with plenty of songs and dancing. There is a lot of audience interaction which the kids enjoyed. The cast are enthusiastic and energetic which kept the kids hooked all the way through.

The show lasts for 1 hour and 15 minutes with a short 15 minute interval in the middle. I think this is the perfect amount of time for young children's attention span. 

The show is still touring the country so have a look to see if it's coming to a venue near you, Paw Patrol Live Tickets.

Do your children like Paw Patrol? What shows do they enjoy?

*We were gifted a family ticket to the show in exchange for a review. All opinions are our own*

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