Blog : Little Lilypad Co

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The Little Lilypad is a lifestyle blog mostly written by a mum to two beautiful, cheeky and entertaining daughters. It is sometimes written by the Man on the Pad or by one of our baby bloggers. Occasionally we accept guest posts too. There is frequently talk of shoes and clothing (we love fashion and savvy shopping), chocolate (who doesn't love chocolate) education and swimming (we love this too). It is hopefully helpful, sometimes funny and always honest.

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Category: Travel

  1. Is Lapland suitable for young children?

    Posted on

    This is a question I wish I had queried more prior to our visit this weekend!

    We booked to go to Lapland for a Winter Wonderland day trip, it wasn't a review or press trip and we paid for the trip with hard earned money and after many friends asking if I would recommend it, I wanted to give a balanced and honest opinion of the trip. We chose to travel with Transun as they are specialist in these experience trips and we were excited by the sales blurb on the website ..

    "Imagine spending the day in Santa's kingdom - flying from an airport near you - and still being home in time for supper. For our Walking in a Winter Wonderland day break, we take you to a magical location in the far north of Finnish Lapland, close to a vast snow-covered wilderness and a million miles from other overcrowded and over commercialised Lapland destinations. Here you will experience a magical and unforgettable search for Santa's secret hideaway and each family will have an opportunity to make a private visit to talk with him in his cabin. Plus, a chance to sample reindeer rides, snowmobiles and husky dog sleds"

    So what did we think?

    The day didn't start well with the computers not working properly at Birmingham Airport and some families being seated far away from each other on the plane. Not an ideal start for a family adventure! The flight was turbulent, but you can't control the weather, so we just sat back and relaxed.

    We arrived in Finland and it was COLD. I know that sounds a ridiculous thing to say but you don't realise quite how cold minus 16 is until you are standing around in it but we had taken our own snow suits, although they were provided by the operator for those that hadn''t got their own. The journey from the airport to our magical destination took a 50 minute coach journey through the picturesque snow covered woodland and we had great fun trying to spot elves and reindeer in the woods, so the time flew by.

    Despite only being lunchtime, the sun was setting and our guide told us that they only had 3 hours of sunlight that day but the reflective light from the snow kept it lighter for just a bit longer.

    Lapland

    Our itinerary for the day consisted of:

    • Snowmobile trip
    • Husky Sled Journey
    • Reindeer sleigh ride
    • Search for Santa
    • Private family meeting with Santa
    • Gift for children
    • Two course lunch
    • Snow activities: tobogganing, snowballing and snowman-making

    So once we were suited and booted the girls couldn't wait to get into the snow. We were left to our own devices after our very basic one course meal but the girls soon spyed a real reindeer and the eldest couldn't wait to have a sleigh ride. (The little one was a bit intimiated so she opted out).

     Lapland Reindeer

    We were left for two hours to our own devices, sledging, on the snowmobiles, building snowmen and riding the sleigh but the snow was coming down thick and fast and we were starting to get cold. (it was minus 16 degrees after all).

    We took a little look at the gift shop to warm up a bit although it ended up being more than a little treacherous due to a shiny floor (not ideal for people wearing snow boots) and bought a couple of souveniers because obviously the girls need more cuddly toys!!

    Eventually it was time to go and search for Santa and we walked down to the frozen lake (much less scary than it sounds). The eldest took a husky dog ride that she loved so much, she did it twice but by this point in the day it was so dark that the little one was becoming very tired and a bit scared. We were then told there was a bit of a delay with the sledges to take us to Santa but we could all get round the fire to keep warm but unfortunately a fire big enough for 5 or 6 people is not ideal when you have 20 or so cold children. 

     Lapland 2

    After an hour standing around on the frozen lake, we finally met the "real" Santa and he was everything you could wish for. He was engaging with the children and had some great banter with "Snowflake" the Elf. Both girls received skipping ropes from Santa, with hand carved handles that really could have been made by the elves.

    We eventually got back to the airport amid a snowstorm but were pleasantly surprised to board the plane, everyone assuming that you must get used to flying in this weather when you charter a flight to Lapland, unfortunately we may have boarded the plane on time but we sat on the runway for a further 2 hours. The cabin crew tried to be helpful but soon ran out of drinks and snacks, which was not helpful on a plane full of tired, hungry and thirsty children. The pilot turned the engines off so for a while we sat in the dark with no air con on and in no time the plane became very hot and stuffy with upset children. The cheers and clapping when we finally took off an hour and a half later was a relief to know we were safely on our way home. 

    We paid £1200.00 for the day. Together with the itinerary above the price included the return flights with hot meals on board, all taxes and government air passenger duty, thermal suits and boots. (which we didn't use but useful option if you wanted minimal luggage). There are some people that think that is a ludicrous price for a day trip but when over half of British parents lie to their children to keep the spirit of Father Christmas alive, we saw this as an opportunity to keep the magic alive, especially for my eldest.

    The downsides of the trip in my mind were:

    • A large part of the day felt disorganised.
    • The facilities did not cater to young children.
    • Leaving small children on an ice lake for an hour is not acceptable in my opinion
    • The airline were not sufficiently prepared for the conditions

    I said at the start of this blog post that I wanted to give an honest and balanced view point and feel it is important that I stress that there were some amazing parts of the trip.

    • We got to ride on a real reindeer sleigh
    • We played in knee high snow
    • We got to have a husky ride
    • We survived minus 16 degrees
    • I saw the magic of Christmas through my daughters eyes.

    In answer to my opening question, is the Winter Wonderland experience in Lapland suitable for young children? In my opinion no, the location we went to certainly wasn't and I would say that it is most suited to 6-10 year olds.

    In hindsight, the magic of Christmas can't always be found with a bearded man in a log cabin and as corny as it may sound I firmly believe that it is found in a child's heart and eyes and I should never have gone in search of it anywhere else! 

  2. How to pack "light" for the half term holiday

    Posted on

    The children seem like they have only been back at school for five minutes but October half term is creeping up on us, so planning a half term get away may be a good way to cast off the autumnal blues that seem to have descended. But holiday packing can be an absolute nightmare, whether you’re sneaking off for a naughty weekend or jetting off for a fortnight with the family and the bane of baggage costs, suitcase sizes, (lets not get started on the liquid allowances) and the inevitable repacking at the check-in desk can be daunting for even the ardent traveller. This obviously doesn't apply if you are going camping, as it is important to pack all the kit for your tent, as you need them robustly built! 

    So we have put together some easy to follow steps for packing light this half term. 

    Suitcase

    1. Most of us tend to buy new clothes for our holidays but how about taking old clothes and undergarments and dispose of them each day leaving more room for momentos to bring home if you choose. It also cuts down on items that will need washing when you return.

    2. Don't bother packing towels, they take up far too much room (and weight). Most resorts have them available now but if you really insist on taking one, try the Hammamas as they have a beautiful range of turkish cotton towels, which are perfect for taking on holiday as a beach towel, or sarong. We tried one over the summer and they really are super absorbent, lightweight and fast drying, and come in a gorgeous range of colours and sizes too.

     Hammamas

    3. Think carefully about the clothes that you want to take with you and question whether you really need a different pair of shoes for every night. If you are staying in the UK, the British weather can be unpredictable but you don’t want to end up bringing everything plus the kitchen sink! Pack clothes for your holiday that you can mix and match together and make sure you bring plenty of layers.

    4. Travel size toiletries are your friend. You don't need to take the full size bottle of shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and most have a travel size alternative, which is ideal if you really want to travel light by only taking hand luggage. 100ml liquid rules mean you don't want to have to leave your favourite product in the security bin in the airport.

    5. Leave the laptop behind, as well as the iphone, ipads and any other tech gadget you can think of. For computer addicts, being away from the internet’s constant flow of data for a few days recharges and relaxes you in ways that you never experience at home. Unless of course you have children who can be kept entertained on the plane with an iPad!

    6. If you are travelling with your partner, most men dont usually take hand luggage, so getting him a flight bag means that  he can keep all your travel documents in one place (over his body) and you can simply carry on to the plane. With an easy over the shoulder strap, the Spiral Flight Bags let you keep all your valuables within arm’s reach which avoids having to rummage around in your carry case or handbag every time you pass security.

    Spiro 

    7. If you can spare 10 minutes a night while you are aware to wash your socks and underwear in your hotel room, you could save a lot of space in your suitcase.

    8. Wear your heaviest clothing on the plane, like jeans and boots to travel in, you will have them with you but they won't contribute to the weight of your case!

    9. Keep your sunglasses, ear plugs, snacks, lip balm, toothbrush, hairbrush, a change of underwear, pen, and any special medicines and necessary items you need in the top of your bag or even in your hand luggage because you never know what may happen when you travel.

    10. Wheels? Do you need them on your luggage? You should consider if you want your bag or suitcase to have wheels or not. They take up lots of precious packing space and add weigh to your bag. But they are also super handy at helping to maneuver luggage through airports!

     What would you add to the list?

  3. Family Road Trip Checklist

    Posted on

    Last year we didn't have a big family holiday (I am obviously excluding my hen weekend and mini moon as the children didn't come on those), so we are all getting excited about booking holidays for this year. We have a summer holiday booked, the girls are already talking about the plane and swimming pool whereas I am just grateful that someone else is cooking and cleaning for a week, but we have booked a short break to Hoburne in the Cotswolds too, which means the inevitable family road trip will ensue.

    Here are my top tips for a safe, entertaining and stress free family road trip!

    1. PLAN AHEAD

    The Sat Nav is my friend but it is also a good plan to have a vague idea of where you are actually going just in case the Sat Nav decides to go into meltdown and send you the wrong way down the motorway as *may* have happened in the past. *disclaimer : I am quite sure this was the Sat Nav's fault and not my own.

    2. HAVE GAMES AT THE READY

    I love the driving and taking in the scenery, I can also sing a whole catalogue of songs, play every car game known to man and whilst I am quite sure I whined, "Are we there yet?" often enough to drive my parents nuts, I refuse to answer that question from the girls until we are 10 minutes away from our destination. Car games are great fun for getting everyone into the holiday spirit, unless of course you have an extremely competitive husband who you may have to disqualify from playing to give everyone else a chance of winning.

    3. CHECK YOUR VEHICLE

    Make sure your vehicle is reliable and ready to go, paying particular attention to the tyres, coolant and engine oil. (not forgetting the fuel). I am a little guilt of ignoring the warning signals on my dashboard so making sure you know what all the lights mean is a bonus. You can check your knowledge here.

    4. SET A REALISTIC TIMELINE

    It is a family road trip, not a race and trying to drive the length of the country is just going to tire kids and adults alike. It is recommended that you spend a maximum of five to six hours on the road, plus multiple breaks (although if it takes me that long to get to the Cotswolds I may be a little concerned).

    5. TRAVEL DURING NAPTIME OR DURING EARLY EVENING. 

    If your schedule permits—and your child is known to sleep in the car—consider trying to travel at nap time or early evening. Not only will it make the drive a little quieter for you, it will also cut the chances your child will get car sick or experience a tiredness induced meltdown. Bring along their favourite toy or blanket and a child-friendly travel pillow to make the car seat more suitable for sleep too.

    6. BRING SNACKS - LOTS OF THEM

    I have to say that snacks are probably the number one way to keep our kids (and my husband) happy on a family road trip. So, pack a coolbag full of snacks. Include a mix of healthy choices, like raisins, carrot sticks and grapes, as well as treats, like a few biscuits and a bit of chocolate. (this is where I advocate leather seats in the car). Don’t forget bottles of water too (anything else is far too sticky if it spills).

    7. KEEP THE KIDS BUSY

    This can be just as much a challenge with the tween as with the toddler. The tween is happy on her tablet, whereas the little one gets car sick, so we are big fans of the portable DVD players ..... especially those that can play two different films as the tween isn't too keen on Frozen on repeat. (Individual headphones are a GREAT idea at this point also).

    8. KEEP AN EMERGENCY KIT TO HAND

    Keep an emergency kit easily accessible in the boot, to include a torch and extra batteries, jump leads, leather gloves, roadside flares or reflective warning triangles, duct tape, a roll of paper towels, a first aid kit, sunscreen and the ever so versatile baby wipes.

    9. TOILET BREAKS

    When you are on a road trip and someone inevitably needs a bathroom break, keep a lookout for a budget chain hotel that are often located on the motorways. They tend to have toilets in the lobby area and, in my experience, they are usually much cleaner than those in service stations.

    10. HAVE FUN

    My mum always said if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail and with all this preparation nothing can surely go wrong? But let's be honest, things happen, there are traffic jams and diversions that seem intent on ruining our journeys but at the end of the day, what is a road trip without a little detour??

    Now go and enjoy .....

     Family Road Trip