Keeping The Cost Of The Family Holiday As Low As Possible

Summer vacations and holidays with the family are not cheap, are they? 

It's not just the cost of the vacation to think about, but also the spending money for when you are there, the holiday clothes and accessories, as well as the toiletries you'll need.

Pink suitcase filled with bright clothes, patterned shoes and sunglasses

The costs can really mount up but how can you keep them down? 

Here are my ideas on ways to do a low cost holiday!

Getting the best deal on the holiday

When it comes to the holiday itself you need to consider all your options when booking and the biggest incentive for that is to get the best deal. You might be wondering whether a package deal is better than booking everything separate or whether you can bring down the cost by using voucher codes for cheaper holidays, cashback sites or money off coupons. Research is the best thing to do in this scenario, as it will allow you to work out the best places to go to and help you create the best holiday for your family. From that you can narrow down the best deals and prices, checking packages, cashback and vouchers sites to find your most affordable price.

Planning ahead

Great planning can result in a great deal when it comes to organising your family holiday. If you know when it is you are likely to go, as well as the place you want to go, then booking as far in advance as possible and paying the deposit can often give you a good deal. Not everyone has the luxury of doing this but if you can afford to, it is definitely worth considering it. Many travel companies also allow you to make monthly payments via the website, which can help spread the cost.

Check the dates

Dates is one of the important things you should check and this might be specific to the school holidays. Many of us know that it is more expensive to travel during the school holidays but for those of us with kids there's really little choice in the matter. 

Calendar with a yellow highlighter

It's a good idea though to check your dates and look at traveling right at the beginning or the end, as you may find other schools break up later or go back sooner. This is certainly the case for us for the next school year as our holidays differ to the next county! 

Booking in advance V booking last minute

Is booking in advance better than leaving it last minute? There are some arguments to suggest that if you are not bothered about the destination and can leave with a few days notice, then it might be worth traveling last minute, as you can get some great deals! Booking in advance can also give you a good deal though, especially when traveling long haul. It also gives you an insight early on into the cost of your holiday.

Could a 'staycation' be the answer?

For some a holiday is just some time away from normality, a break in routine and waking up somewhere a bit different, making a staycation a more affordable option. 

Daddy and son holding hands as they walk down to the sea

Staying in smaller hotels, using Airbnb or trying a camping or caravan break could give you what you need for a lower price than a holiday abroad might cost.

I hope that these suggestions help you to keep the costs of the family holiday as low as possible but most of all have a great time!!!

Mummy Snowy Owl
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South Lakes Safari Zoo

Based in Cumbria, South Lakes Safari Zoo offers an experience different to many other zoos! Walk around many areas of the zoo and the animals will walk alongside you! Without fences!!

When we planned our visit to the zoo I wasn't really sure how I'd feel with the animals walking around, especially some of the larger birds and kangaroos, but our 4 year old was really excited about our latest adventure so I just had to be brave! 

Mum and son standing in front of giraffes

On entry we were warmly greeted by staff, who explained the different areas where the animals roamed freely and which we could feed, along with feeding times for the larger animals. We decided on a bag of food to feed the kangaroos, wallabies and some of the birds, and also booked to feed the giraffes, which was £3 each. I thought this was really well priced compared to some animal experiences you see. 

We made our way over to the rhinos and then on to the secure safari area, where you could feed and walk among the animals. None of them were overly interested in the food though, I think they'd been well fed by other visitors. 

Kangaroos laying and sitting on the grass

Next, we headed over to feed the giraffes! Our plan was for Daddy and JJ to feed them but Daddy wasn't too keen so I stepped in. At only £3 each I wondered how good the experience would be but I was quite impressed!

Giraffe eating from a tree

The keeper asked for everyone to line up and told us about the giraffes and gave us instructions on how to feed them. We were then each given a couple of handfuls of carrots and waited our turn. 

Mum and son feeding giraffes

There was no rushing and JJ and I really enjoyed the experience. He's still talking about it weeks later!

Mum and son standing next to a giraffe

We then had lunch and the meals were well sized and reasonably priced but we were a little disappointed that around 15 minutes after ordering we were told JJ's meal wasn't available and he had to pick again. Not ideal with a 4 year old!

Next, we headed over to see the big cats fed. The keeper also did a talk and was very informative and explained the current breeding program.

Then we went to see the penguins, where another keeper gave a talk and there was the opportunity to feed them, which was also priced at £3. 

Mum and son feeding penguins with a zookeeper handing them fish

We were able to just pay for JJ but all of us were able to go in so I could help and Daddy could take photos. 

Mum and son feeding penguins with zookeeper  watching

Again, this was very good value and he was given plenty of fish to feed to the penguins.

Mum and son feeding penguins with keep watching

We saw so many animals at South Lakes Safari Zoo. Lions, tigers, bears, lemurs, leopards, rhinos, hippos, meerkats, otters, we saw them all. 

Brown bears

We enjoyed our time at the zoo but I'm aware a few years ago it was a very different place for visitors but sadly also for the animals. There was certainly no sign of that when we visited and the animals seemed well cared for.

Small hippo with his mouth wide open showing his teeth

As with all my day out posts I'll share important info and top tips!
  • Areas of the zoo are very open with little shade, so ensure you have plenty of suncream on! We were there on one of the hottest days of summer and we struggled!
  • The toilets weren't very nice, so wash your hands well and carry sanitizer! 
  • The car park is HUGE so unlike some places in the Lake District you don't need to worry about parking!
  • There's a big gift shop at the end so be prepared for 'please can I have' if you're going with kids.
  • Feed the animals if your budget allows, as it's a real memory maker and the cheapest I've ever seen the experience offered.
Little boy sitting in a kids ride on jeep

Even though it was a ridiculously hot day we really enjoyed our time at South Lakes Safari Zoo and it's ideal for a family day out. It's not everyday you get to feed giraffes and penguins!

Mummy Snowy Owl

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Lemon Curd Cupcakes

My husband is a huge fan of lemon cake. Unfortunately though, due to a strange allergy I have, lemon cake is something we rarely have in the house.

Back in May when I attended BlogOn, a bloggers conference, we were gifted a pouch of the Cake Angels lemon icing and when I got home my husband's eyes lit up! He's waited a while but I've finally got round to making some lemon cake!

You'll see from the recipe that there's no lemon zest or juice and that's so I can avoid handling it. I went with lemon curd as an alternative and easy option for lemon flavouring. 

These are the results and according to my husband they are the best cakes I've made! EVER!!! I will admit I had some help from our 4 year old though!

Want to give them a try? You'll need..........

  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 80z caster sugar
  • 8oz butter/baking spread
  • Teaspoon of baking powder
  • Couple of drops of vanilla essence
  • 3 eggs
  • Lemon curd
  • Lemon Cake Angels icing
  • Mixing bowl
  • Sieve 
  • Whisk or large spoon
  • Spatula or tablespoon
  • Cupcake cases
  • Cupcake tin 
  • Wire rack or plate

Preheat oven to 180C and  line tin with the cases.

Sieve flour into the bowl and add the caster sugar, baking spread, vanilla essence, eggs and baking powder. 

Mix until smooth.

Using the spoon or spatula half fill the cake cases.

Add a spoon of lemon curd and cover with another spoon of cake mixture.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Leave to cool on the wire rack or plate.

Follow the instructions on the bag to prepare the icing and ice the cakes.

Then sit down with a nice brew and dig in! Enjoy your yummy Lemon Curd Cupcakes!

Mummy Snowy Owl
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Cost-effective Alternatives To Wood Flooring

For many people the height of interior design comes with the elegance of wood flooring. Whether you prefer a contemporary style or a more traditional decor for your home, wooden wooden floors can make all the difference.

There's no denying though that buying wood flooring can be very expensive!

Wooden floor scattered with toys

So, with that in mind I've put together three alternatives that will be a little easier on your budget!

1. Laminate Flooring

Laminate is perhaps the most popular alternative to real wood flooring. Although just because it's cheaper, doesn't mean it lacks quality. In fact, laminate has many good qualities that make it many people's preferred choice over solid wood.

Rather than being made of one piece of wood, laminate is constructed from multiple layers of high density fibreboard (HDF). These layers give the flooring additional durability, whilst still allowing for flexibility and comfort. Then, to give the flooring its wood effect, the top layer is digitally printed with the wood style.

Grey coloured laminate flooring slats

Because the wood is digitally printed using advanced photo technology, the range of designs is huge. It maybe printed but there's no doubting the high quality. Most laminate flooring even has authentic bevelling and knots engraved into the wood to give it a genuine look and feel that's like the real thing.

Laminate flooring often comes with a 'click' system fitting. Each board fits together perfectly and locks in place, meaning even novice DIYers can try their hand at fitting their flooring. If you do choose to use a professional the fitting time is greatly reduced when compared to solid wood. So, not only do you save on the flooring itself, you also save on installation costs too. Win-win!

2. Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring is incredible popular when it comes to alternatives for wood flooring. Its versatility means it's a favourable alternative to everything from wood, to tiles, to stone. 

Laid as one sheet, almost like carpet, vinyl flooring, come in a huge range of designs to fit with any decor. Printed design allows for massive variation in styles, with any type of wood available as well as 'out there' designs for those that fancy something a little different.

Brown wood effect flooring

One of vinyl's biggest strengths is how easy it is to maintain. Because it's essentially one sheet, it can be mopped and dried incredibly easily. For regular day-to-day maintenance, a sweeping brush should clean up most messes without too much trouble. Easy cleaning makes it ideal for those with young families or pets.

Suitable for any room in the house, vinyl is water resistant. This means it's perfectly safe to use in bathrooms, whereas solid wood flooring is a definite no-go when it comes to moisture! For this reason vinyl is incredibly popular as an alternative to wood, along with the cheaper price tag!

3. Engineered Wood Flooring

When it comes to wood flooring alternatives, engineered wood is the closest you can get to the real thing. In a similar way to laminate, engineered wood is made up of multiple layers. Whilst the layers add extra durability, it still contains an element of solid wood in its top layer.

Dark grey wood flooring slats

The top layer, often between 2 and 4 mm thick, gives you authentic wood grains and textures (as well as colour) for a lesser price. Because of the solid wood topping the flooring can be sanded and re-finished when it begins to look worn. This increases the flooring's lifespan, and even allows you to change up the style with a different finish if you're looking for something different.

Engineered woods composing layers make it less susceptible to fluctuating temperatures and moisture levels. This means its a popular choice for kitchens. Its also compatible with underfloor heating, where solid wood isn't, which scores another point for engineered!

When it comes to choosing your flooring you should ensure you're getting the most for your money. Most importantly though it needs to match your style. Flooring is a key component in your home's decor, so ensuring you're completely happy is vital. 

If you're looking to save some money, then each of the three above options could be right for you!

Mummy Snowy Owl

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3 School Prep Activities

It's already August and the new school year is just around the corner! For many of us it will be the first ever year of education for our children as they head into Reception class.

My last post about getting ready for Reception, Preparing Your Child For School, was quite popular so I thought I'd do another! 

These activities are aimed at helping your little one be ready and maybe a little more confident for starting school.

1. Writing and recognising their name

As I mentioned in my last post, teachers, teaching assistants and nursery staff have all told me that it's ideal if a child can write and pick out their name. That way they can name their work, sign themselves in on a registration board and pick out their school jumper from a pile.

Crayons, pencils, pencil case and notepad laid out with mummy, daddy and Joseph written on it in child like writing

If they are struggling with this try writing out their name and ask them to copy it. Try writing out your names, names of cousins or even the name of their favourite TV character to keep them engaged. Dotting out the letters and getting them to join the dots is another way of helping them learn to write.

2. Counting

Being able to count to 10 is something else that can set them in good stead for starting school and may give them a little more confidence when numbers and maths start to be mentioned.

Pile of buttons, surrounded by small Paw Patrol figures

JJ has sometimes struggled with his counting and sometimes gets his numbers in the wrong order. We've practiced his counting by playing hide and seek, as well as counting physical items like buttons or his many Paw Patrol figures!

3. Colours

Knowing your colours isn't essential but again, it might make them a bit more confident when they're asked to pick out colours. JJ made this cool wheel at nursery.

Paper plate marked into six showing with the primary colours and what colours are made from them

Its easy to remake and it features the primary colours but also what they make when they are mixed.

Are you practicing things on the run up to school in September? Let me know in the comments.

I'll be doing another post soon about preparing us parents for school too!

Mummy Snowy Owl
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Mud & Bloom

With forest schools and mud kitchens, outdoor play is becoming more and more popular. Getting outside in the fresh air can help you get active and encourage creativity in your little ones. 

What if though you struggle with activity ideas? Maybe your outdoor play activities only go as far as mud pies and jumping in puddles in the winter and sandpits and paddling pools in the summer! 

This is where Mud and Bloom can help. 

All the fact sheets laid out, nature brushes, summer vase instructions, planting guidance for radishes and lettuce, leaf and tree spotting sheet and craft box leaflet

Aimed at 3 to 8 year olds, Mud and Bloom offers a monthly subscription kit that combines the love of the outdoors and crafting! How cool!!!

Mud and Bloom box

The open box showing the leaflets, string, lolly stick plant markers, glue, wasabi tape

JJ was super excited when the box arrived and was quick to get it open and have a look through its contents.

He was super excited when he saw it included packs of seeds and he's really keen to set them and watch them grow.  

Giant radishes seeds and leaflet, with stick marker

Lettuce fact sheet, seeds and marker

Along with the seeds, this month's subscription includes a leaf and tree spotting fact sheet, craft items to make your own summer vase and nature paint brushes. 

Each activity comes with a guide sheet that tells you what you need for each task, along with step by step instructions.

Leave and tree spotting sheet

Summer vases, glue, packet with buttons and beads and wasabi tape

Nature brushes instructions and string

The box retails at £7.99 per month and includes delivery. You can pause the subscription when you need to, so if you're budget is a little tight one month simply hit pause! 

There are so many activities in the box and with more than one a week, it gives you plenty of opportunity to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

We've started with the summer vase. It was super easy and for the first time ever we cut flowers from the garden and brought them inside! A bit of the nature indoors! 

Glass jar, wasabi tape, glue, buttons and beads

Finished vase with flowers inside

If you'd like to try a Mud & Bloom subscription for yourself you can get a lovely 15% off your first box (single or sibling) by using the code MUMMYSNOWYOWL. Just order between 31st July and 31st August to use the code!

Vase with flowers inside

Let me know if you try the Mud and Bloom subscription in the comments!

Mummy Snowy Owl
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Sizergh Castle

Nestled in the Lake District, Sizergh Castle is a stunning medieval home and estate maintained by the National Trust. With the Strickland family still resident the property offers a mix of modern and old.

Exterior of Sizergh Castle

We arrived ready to explore on what happened to be one of the hottest days of the year so far! On scanning our National Trust cards with one of the volunteers we were handed some special invitations, which I thought was a nice trust and a good keepsake. 

Old style invitations with a faux wax seal and a map of the grounds

On reaching the house we were warmly greeted by another volunteer and handed a quiz, which JJ and Daddy soon set about doing.

A daddy stood in a hallway surrounded by paintings whilst holding a clip board

A little boy knelt on the floor using the clipbooard

Sizergh offers an interesting look into the Strickland family's life and there's a mix of painted portraits and antique furniture with more modern photographs and sofas. 

An upstairs hallway with paintings

Stately living area

Sitting room

Four poster bedroom with an open wardrode which is housing a sink

The National Trust are also currently sharing 18th Century resident Cecilia Strickland's letters and it gives an amazing insight into her life, loves and losses. It also gave me desk envy!!

Desk and chair looking out onto the estate

There are also the stunning gardens to experience, with a variety of different areas to explore. 

Gravel path in with plant boarders either side

Little boy standing on the gravel path

On a hot day you might find the sprinklers on and I'll confess we all had a run through them!

Little boy running among some raised flowerbeds

The large rockery garden is a wonder for little ones, with its little paths and stepping stones.

Side view of Sizergh from the gardens

Little boy walking on a rockery path over some water

There's a huge pond where you can spot lots of wildlife and, if you're there at the right time, cygnets and chicks!

Little boy looking at a pond full of lilys

Large pond full of lilys

Pond with swans and their babies swimming

You can also stroll in the woodland, where you'll find spots to den build and a chance of spotting the livestock in the nearby fields.

Sheep in a field

Sizergh certainly has a lot to offer and if you're a fan of stately homes or castles its a must see. In fact even if you're not its still a must see! There's a such a variety of things to see and do!

Rear of property with raised steps

Now as always I like to share the important stuff with you! Car parking, toilets and the like so here we go!

  • There are plenty of toilets, along with baby changing and disabled facilities
  • The cafe is lovely, with freshly made, locally sourced food and has the most amazing ice cream
  • The car park is large but there is a charge for non-members
  • If you're carrying a backpack you'll need to hand it to a volunteer as you arrive, who will lock it away and give you a number to claim it back later
  • Baby slings and hip carriers are available for loan
We really enjoyed our time at Sizergh Castle and it's was amazing to think there's still a family living there. Aren't they incredibly lucky?

Exterior of sizergh with father and son walking towards it

Mummy Snowy Owl
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