Bjorn To Travel? Try Scandinavia!

Bjorn To Travel? Try Scandinavia!

Do you ever get bored with travelling to the same Balearic every year for your annual fix of sun, sea, and sand? While a package holiday is often the simplest and most convenient means of travel with a brood in tow, it is rarely the most exciting. More recently, parents are choosing to shun the traditional package holiday for something more authentic, if a little more tricky to organise. If you have plenty of time to do your research, enjoy making plans and want to immerse your little darlings into a culture rather than allowing them to see a hotel pool and holiday complex for a fortnight, then a jaunt to a lesser trodden land might be just what you’re looking for.

 

It is not set in stone that you need to take your annual vacation during the summer months. Instead, you could choose to take a winter break with your rabble. This can often allow you to secure cheaper prices for flights and accommodation when heading away off-season and you could face less tourist crowds. If you fancy hot-footing it abroad for a snow-filled holiday, take a look at why Scandinavia could be the ideal family holiday destination.

Geological Wonders For The Entire Family

 

When you think about Scandinavia, thoughts of Vikings, blizzards, Hans Christian Anderson, and Fjords may come into your mind. The joy of this northern region of Europe is the sheer variety of interest and activities it has to offer.

 

Take a jaunt to Iceland on your travels, and you could find yourself enjoying the vista of a geological spectacle every day of your trip. You might fancy whisking your brood away for a night time hunt for the Northern Lights. Many specialist tour companies know the best spots on the island from which to try and spy the natural phenomenon. Before you know it, you could be witnessing the solar flares lighting up the darkened skies with green and pink laser light shows.

 

During the day, you might want to explore the delights of a glacier or two. You could take your family on a snowshoeing trek across a glacier, or a hike up a dormant volcano or even a dog sled ride across the snow covered lunar landscape. The geysers and geothermal springs on the island mean you could take a bathing break in the spa-like Blue Lagoon or traverse Pingvellir National Park with its methane filled walkways while straddling two tectonic plates. If your little cherubs are curious and love the great outdoors, Iceland in the winter could be your perfect holiday destination.

Getting Back To Nature And Wildlife

 

It isn’t just Iceland that offers up some amazing opportunities to get closer to nature and explore the outdoors. Spending some of your winter in Finland would allow you to head to Ranua to feed a pack of elusive polar bears, head off on a whale watching tour to try and spot minke and humpback in their natural habitat or hot-foot it to a reserve to spend some quality time with a troupe of reindeer. If your kids adore animals, but you aren’t keen on the zoo, a trip to Finland could be a perfect way for your children to see conservation in action.

 

You might want to extend your trip with a jaunt to Norway to venture even further off the beaten track. The Lofoten Islands is the prime location from which to see killer whales and the Norwegian Svalbard offers the perfect vista in which to see walrus, arctic foxes, and lynx. Even if your kids aren’t into wildlife before a trip to Scandinavia, when they return home, they’ll be keen to make it as the next Sir David Attenborough.

Cosmopolitan Cities

It’s not all snow, ice-capped mountains, freezing temperatures and volcanic vistas. Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Denmark all have their fair share of cosmopolitan cities that are well worth a visit.

 

The beautiful city of Reykjavik is renowned for its friendliness and down to Earth ethos, stunning architecture and exquisite cuisine. You could while away your days sampling Skyr in the cafes near the harbour in the morning, experiencing the joys of pickled herring and fermented shark for dinner, and stop off at some achingly cool vegetarian eateries for a snack or two. With a full belly, you might be keen to explore the iconic Hallgrimskirkja, the incredible cathedral in the centre of the city. You can scale the tower to view the city vista from the stained glass windows. The outside is just as spectacular as the interior with a unique spaceship style architecture.

 

Oslo feels a tad more traditional, with Victorian red brick style buildings adorning the city. The most special thing about the Norwegian capital is the stunning inner city fjord. For the more active family, this offers up plenty of chances to have a go at kayaking, canoeing, fishing or sailing. For those who fancy a more relaxed pace for their holidays, a fjord beach might be more appealing.

 

If you fancy a more coastal capital, Helsinki might be more up your street. The kids could enjoy the beach, paddling in the sea and having a kickabout in one of the many green spaces throughout the city. The pastel hued buildings are picturesque, and the whole city has a very laid back, and hipster sort of vibe. If you do venture here in the winter, you may find yourself cross-country skiing with the locals when traversing the city. Finland natives commute to work on their skis and will often pick up their salopettes rather than their car keys making this a green, eco-friendly and special metropolis.

 

Forget the sun-filled balmy days reading the latest bestseller by the side of a kidney-shaped pool on a Costa. Instead, opt for something different for your annual vacation, embrace the snow, the ice and the colder conditions and venture a little off the beaten track. If you fancy a winter break for your next family holiday be sure not to overlook the joys of Scandinavia.

 

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How to Have a Fabulous Time in Finland

How to Have a Fabulous Time in Finland

When you think of Finland, you probably think of Father Christmas and cold, harsh snowy winters, but there is far more to Finland than Lapland and the weather. It is undoubtedly one of the most underrated holiday destinations in Europe, and no matter what time of the year you visit, you are guaranteed to have a good time, well providing your take the time to plan your itinerary to squeeze in as much Finnish magic as you can, anyway!

Want to have a fabulous time in Finland? Here are a few things you simply must do when you’re there:

Explore Turku Castle

The ancient castle in Turku is one of the oldest properties still standing in Finland and it is truly a sight to behold. With impressive architecture and bags of interesting exhibitions on the history of Finland, as well as a very good cafe, it is the perfect place to find out about the magic of Finland before you head off and see more of the country for yourself.

See the Northern Lights

Okay, so the Northern Lights are not exclusive to Finland, but the country is arguably the best place to see the Aurora Borealis in the world. Your best chance of seeing them is in the winter when the skies are totally dark, so if seeing this wonderful natural light show is important to you, be sure to book in the Autumn/Winter months. You might also want to hire a guide to help you chase the lights and increase your chances of seeing their beauty (it’s unlikely you won’t get to see them if you’re in Finland for more than a day or two).

Eat a Pie at Lappeenranta

Lappeenranta is a small town on the east coast of Finland just a stone’s throw from the Russian border, so it might not be the first place that you consider visiting when you’re in Finland, but there is one very good reason why you should head there – the pies. Providing you’re a meat eater, you will not regret sampling the traditional meat pies that are sold in Lappeenranta. They taste kind of like doughnuts stuffed with hamburger, which might sound mighty strange but that are totally to die for, especially if you order from Satama Sanni.

Spend Some Time in Helsinki

Helsinki’s downtown area is one of the best places to go if you want to get a feel for what life in Finland is all about. Not only will you have fun people watching, but you’ll delight in the historic squares and buildings like the impressive Lutheran Cathedral and Market Square, which give the city so much of its unique character. If it gets too cold or wet for you, pop off to the Ateneum and check out some impressive works of art.

Stay at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

If you’re looking for somewhere fabulous to stay when you travel to Finland, look no further than the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort which is made up of several glass igloos that give you an uninterrupted view of the beautiful skies above you. Imagine lying tucked up in bed watching the natural light show that is the Aurora Borealis take place above you – it simply doesn’t get much better than that!

Check Out Suomenlinna Island

Suomenlinna Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to the ruins of an old fortress and lots of rugged nature. Pack a lunch and spend the day there exploring the ruins, having fun on the beach and looking out for interesting Finnish wildlife and it will be a day well spent. This is one place that the kids will absolutely adore if you’re travelling with them.

See Santa in Lapland

Okay, so I said earlier that there’s more to Finland than Father Christmas, and as you can see, there really is, but it would be kind of sad to visit  Finland and not go and see the good man himself, especially if you’re travelling with children. Lapland is truly a magical place thanks to the pure white snow, the beautiful reindeer, the regular appearances of the Northern Lights, and of course, Santa himself, So, make an effort to visit if you possibly can.

Have a Sauna on Saunasaari Island

It might be cold outside, but you’ll be pleasantly warm and totally relaxed if you pay a visit to Saunasaari Island, which is home to several amazing smoke saunas that truly feel like a little piece of heaven right here on earth. Bliss!

Finland is truly fabulous!

This is a collaborative post.

5 Fun things to do with kids in San Diego

5 Fun things to do with kids in San Diego

San Diego is a city on the Pacific coast of California and known for its beaches, parks and warm weather. San Diego is definitely on my ‘hit list’ of places I want to visit some day because it has so much to offer in the form of art galleries, museums and gardens. If we ever do visit this wonderful city, I’d love to go with a big group of extended family and friends and hire out one of many gorgeous San Diego mansions. If a job’s worth doing, right?!

One of the things that appeals to me most about San Diego (and California in general) is that there are so many wonderful places to visit with kids. Here I’ve compiled a list of 5 places I’d love to visit with my children, in and around San Diego.

1) San Diego Zoo & Safari Park

San Diego has both a zoo (which is voted the world’s no.1 zoo, no less!) and a safari park – they’re often confused as being the same place, but they are in different areas of the city and you’d struggle to do both attractions in the same day.

San Diego zoo is one of the largest zoos in the world (100 acres) and has so. many. animals. Personally, I’d be making a beeline for the polar bears – especially after watching the Polar Bear Cam on the San Diego Zoo website! Do you think they’d let me bring one home?!

At the Safari park you can enjoy a guided tour on the ‘Africa Tram’ which sounds like much more of a relaxed day out and a great way to enjoy getting up, close and personal with the big cats!

The Safari also has new walk-through lemur exhibit! ‘Lemur Walk offers an immersive experience to get you up close to these most interesting mammals. You walk along a path inside the exhibit as ring-tailed lemurs frolic among the trees, branches, and path around you!’ Eeeek, I just know my girls would ADORE this!

You can buy multi day/multi park tickets for both attractions: A child ticket (3-11) costs around $76 and an adult ticket $86.

2) Learn to surf

Why not make the most of San Diego’s gorgeous beaches and learn to surf? There’s plenty of local surf schools around to choose from and it would be a fantastic activity to enjoy together as a family. You can book a private surf or paddle board lesson for around 100 dollars which should be plenty of time for you to pick up the basics. Not only would the kid’s enjoy learning a new sport (and a pretty cool one at that) but they’d return from their holiday with a whole new level of confidence in the water.

PS. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the gear (wetsuits etc.) as most surf schools are able to supply them for you.

3) Visit Fleet Science Center

I love science museums and my children are no different. Science museums seem to unleash so much curiosity from my kids and always make for a great day out. Fleet Science Center looks like it would be well worth a visit as not only does it have a range of family-focused exhibitions but it also has an IMAX cinema. At the time of writing, they are currently showing Island of Lemurs Madagascar on the big screen which sounds a-mazing!

Back in the science center itself they currently have a ‘Mythbuster’ exhibition, based on the popular TV show. This is an ‘amazing hands-on exhibition’ where children and adults can put science related myths to the test— For example, you can find out what keeps you drier: running in the rain or walking through it?

4) Visit Aquatica Water Park

Here’s another water related activity (gotta make the most of that sunshine and warm weather). Aquatica is a water park that offers a huge variety of  rides and slides including the fabulously named ‘Hoo Roo Run’ and ‘Woohoo Falls’. Not feeling quite as brave as the rest of the of your family? Then why not hire out a private cabana and spend the day relaxing and soaking up that calfornian sunshine?!

Aside from the slides, rides, pools and cabanas there’s also flamingos and fresh water turtles at the park so be sure, if you visit, to check them out too!

Aquatica Water Park tickets cost $46 each.

5) Visit Legoland

I couldn’t not mention Legoland, could I? I always loved my visits to Legoland windsor when I was a child. It’s the perfect day out for the little ones and the big kids too! *looking at my husband* ;) Rather excitingly, this summer, Legoland California are launching a new attraction:  LEGO CITY®: Deep Sea Adventure submarine ride. You get to go in a real submarine that takes you on a hunt for treasure. On the way you’ll pass all kinds of real sea creatures, including stingrays and sharks, as well as bright Lego fish, crabs and scuba divers. It sounds like such a fantastic experience and one my children would never forget!

Legoland Calfornia tickets start from $89.

So there you have it! These are the five things I would do with the kiddos if  (when?!) we visit San Diego some day. And from the research I’ve done so far, it seems there are plenty of other exciting places to explore with kids in California aside from the ones I’ve mentioned here. Now to to get saving those pennies

Have you ever been to San Diego?

If not, is it somewhere you’d like to visit?

Jenna x

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This is a collaborative post.

My Top 5 Holiday Highlights
{Lanzarote}

My Top 5 Holiday Highlights <br> {Lanzarote} <br/>

In April 2016 we took our first trip abroad as a family of three. We spent hours and hours scouring the internet in order to find the perfect location for us. Somewhere warm but not too hot. A flight that wasn’t too long. Somewhere that offered us beautiful beaches, a place to relax but also enough things to keep us entertained. In the end we settled on Lanzarote, I’d been before as teenager and absolutely loved it. I couldn’t wait to go back with my little family!

Jasmine had just turned two-years-old (literally, the day before we flew out to Lanzarote). Needless to say, the three-and-a-bit hour flights were, ahem, ‘interesting’. Travelling with a toddler was never going to be completely stress-free but it couldn’t have been that bad because we’re now planning our next trip abroad… and this time with two littles in tow!

I never did get around to writing about our trip (did I mention I was pregnant with E at the time? And totally bloomin’ exhausted!) so I thought I’d indulge in some reminiscing and share my 5 holiday highlights from our time in Lanzarote…

1.The food

We decided to pay the extra and go all all-inclusive on our trip and I am so, so glad we did. Mooching around restaurants and perusing menus is lovely when you’re a couple but when kids are involved, meal times are more like a military operation! Knowing exactly what times and where we could eat each day made our lives so much easier. Being able to walk into the restaurant, pick up a plate and serve yourself from the buffet was one of the best things about being on holiday (that and not having to do the washing up afterwards). There were loads of delicious foods to choose from each day, cuisine from all over the world… and plenty of pasta to keep our fussy toddler happy.

2. The weather

Lanzarote has year-round sunshine which is one of the reasons we were drawn to it (considering we were holidaying in early April). The weather did not disappoint – we had blue skies for the most part (the first day or so was a little cloudier) and the temperature was just right for us. Warm enough to be able to enjoy the (unheated) outdoor pools and beaches but not so hot that we were frying!  It helps that you get a lovely island breeze to cool you down!

3. The swimming pools

Prior to our trip, we’d done a fair bit of swimming with Jasmine at our local leisure centre. But there’s something very special about outdoor pools and being able to play in them all. day. long. The confidence that Jasmine gained in the water on our holiday was unreal. Seeing her giggle whilst jumping into the pool (nearly always catching myself or her daddy off-guard) will be one of my favourite memories from our holiday to Lanzarote.

4. The beaches

Not only did we splash around in the pools but we also took a dip in the sea! Lanzarote boasts a selection of gorgeous beaches and we had several within walking distance. Jasmine was a little unsure of the waves so opted to spend several hours making sandcastles on beach. All whilst ordering me back and forth to the water’s edge to collect water for her in her bucket!

5. The sea aquarium

During our stay on the island, we discovered that we were staying a short walk away from the Lanzarote Aquarium. It’s only a small venue (and entry is a little pricey) but is still well worth a visit, particularly if you have a toddler. We were particularly impressed with the sting ray tank!

We stayed in the Costa Teguise resort and I highly recommend it as a location for a family holiday. Why not plan and book your Lanzarote trip using the Holiday Gems website.

Have you been to Lanzarote before?

Do you have any family holidays booked for 2018? I’d love to hear where you’re heading!

Jenna xx

This is a collaborative post.

A Girls’ Weekend at Center Parcs: What to Pack

A Girls’ Weekend at Center Parcs: What to Pack

Almost every year for the past 5 years (except from the one where I was heavily pregnant) my friends and I have gone away to Center Parcs for a girlie weekend. We usually go in March and have now been to quite a few of the different Center Parcs around the country. This year we are returning to Elveden Forest (in Suffolk) for the the second time.

A Girls' Weekend at Center Parcs: What to Pack

I’m quite nervous as this will be the longest time I’ve spent away from my darling daughter. At the same time, I am desperate for a weekend away with my friends (who all live a 3 hour drive away from me and I don’t get to see very often).

As I feel like somewhat of a Center Parcs veteran, I thought I’d share with you what I’m packing for my weekend away. The essentials, the ‘luxury items’ and the boring (but useful) stuff. I’m only packing for myself obviously (hurrah!) but I figured this may help anyone else planning a girlie break at Center Parcs who perhaps hasn’t been before.

I should warn you at this point that I’m somewhat of an ‘over-packer’ but I’m a firm believer that ‘It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared’. Oh and I also hate paying for over-priced items at the on-site supermarket. ;)

A Girls’ weekend at Center Parcs: What to pack

The essentials:

Clothes (duh!) – underwear, socks, sportswear, PJs and swimwear, a warm jumper and a rain mac. 

Trainers (and depending on the time of year, wellies!)

Money/Cash card

Hair bobbles: This is something I quite often forget to pack but they’re essential if you have long hair and your planning to do any of the activities.

Make up 

Deodorant 

Toothpaste/toothbrush

Hairbrush/comb

Make up/face wipes

Shower gel + shampoo and conditioner 

Towels: Bath towels are supplied (in Comfort Plus lodges) but you’ll need to take your own towels for swimming.

Phone + charger

Camera + charger: you’ll be making great memories with your pals so remember your camera!

Rucksack: If you’re normally a handbag kinda gal, you’ll be better off ditching it in favour of a rucksack. It’s extremely hard to cycle with handbag over your arm. Just ask my friend, Sam! ;)

A torch: Whilst most of the paths are well lit, you are in a forest so once it get dark, it’s useful to have a torch to hand.

A bike seat cover: If you’re hiring a bike from Center Parcs then it’s well worth investing a few pounds on a bike seat cover. The first year that we went, we found the bike seats incredibly uncomfortable. We ended up trying to put together makeshift bike seat covers using tea towels, plastic bags and cellotape. It looked as ridiculous as it sounds.

Squash: As well as a bottle of squash for the lodge, I’m also taking a couple of small bottles of concentrated squash to take out and about with me. I’m not a fan of fizzy drinks and I find water a bit bland!

Re-usable water bottle: talking of drinks, buying them all of the time can get expensive so take a bottle with you – fill it up at your villa and pop it in your rucksack for when you’re out and about.

Hairdryers/straighteners: Hairdryers are provided in most CP accommodation (check online) but I always prefer to use my own.

The luxury items:

DVDs: Our accommodation has a TV/DVD player. For us, it’s been a bit of a tradition that every Center Parcs break, we have one ‘movie night’ in our lodge where we watch a film with pizza, snacks and drinks. Usually, we each take a film and then decide which one to watch together on the night. This year I’m taking ‘If I stay’ – no idea if it’s any good or not but from the synopsis, it sounded sufficiently chick-flicky.

Bubble bath: I very rarely have a bath at home (that isn’t shared with my toddler). I always think there’s something else I should be doing. As much as I enjoy being active at Center Parcs, it’s also a rare mummy break for me so I fully intend to make the most of it. I’ve packed some Radox and I’m looking forward to a nice hot soak in the tub – without a manky bath toy in sight.

Face mask: – See above! ;)

Tea bags/Coffee/Hot chocolate: I’m not a coffee or tea drinker (I know!) but I am partial to a hot chocolate. If the weather remains the same as it has been lately, then I suspect it will be cold and wet during our stay at Center Parcs. It’ll be a nice treat to get back to our lodge and have a post-swimming/cycling hot choccy! The other girls will no doubt be bringing a stash of their favourite tea bags/coffee granules.

Treats: Chocolates are a must and no girls’ weekend away would be complete without them!

Booze: Neither myself nor my friends are particularly big drinkers (we are off to Center Parcs not Ibiza, after all) but we do like the odd cocktail. I’m packing some ‘skinny’ strawberry daiquiri (because I’m a Slimming World bore!)

Book(s): Whether you’re staying at Center Parcs with family or friends – it’s nice to have some downtime in between all of the active stuff.

The boring stuff:

Hand wash: From memory, I don’t think this is supplied. I’m taking a couple of bars of antibacterial soap for the bathroom and kitchen.

Hand wipes

Loo roll: If I remember rightly, you are provided with a roll or two to ‘get you going’ but you’ll probably need more if there’s a few of you staying in a lodge together.

Dish towels: Again, you are provided with one or two but it’s useful to take a few extra. :)

Kitchen towels and antibacterial spray: *CLEAN FREAK ALERT*

Paracetamols: The last thing you want is for your weekend away to be spoiled by a headache or period pains. I always keep a packet of painkillers in my rucksack, just in case.

Pocket packs of tissues 

A re-usable shopping bag: particularly useful if you’re planning on using the Parc Market and want to avoid paying 5p per carrier bag.

A pound coin: for your swimming pool locker.

First aid kit: always be prepared!

I hope this is useful for anybody heading to Center Parcs for a girls’ weekend. You will be sure to have a great time – we always do and that’s why we go back, year after year. :)

What would be your ‘essential item(s)’ for a girls’ weekend away?

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