I pre-booked at 1pm zoo slot and we chose to lazy around in the morning. I’m pretty cheap when traveling so we did breakfast in the room. I also went to Calton Hill to see the Scottish-American soldiers memorial with Abraham Lincoln (I left the kids in the room because they seemed un interested). The zoo was great. We had gone our first winter here but I still really wanted to see the pandas since they were hiding out last time. It was a nice low key day.
Day 6, August 6- Arthur’s Seat, New Tattoo
We took another slow morning. My kids sometimes just reach that point. We did a little shopping and walked around Princes Street a bit. We did part of the Arthur’s Seat hike. Heads up: NO GOOD TOILET OPTION!!!! With Covid there were at times no convenient places to find a toilet. It was frustrating waiting on one of two stalls for an area we were in for four hours or so. It was super pretty and still worth doing.
We finished up the hike and headed to our tattoo appointments. The kids were awesome and waiting outside (the grown ups took turns inside). I definitely recommend Okey Dokey tattoo if you’re looking for some Scottish ink. I got a crazy adorable highland cow.
Day 7, August 7- Stirling Castle, Dean Village
This was out last full day in Edinburgh and we had really already done a lot. We took the train to Stirling and walked to the castle. I pre-booked Stirling Castle online and the walk up to the castle wasn’t as bad as my husband made it out to be, haha. To be honest, the wasn’t much to see with most of the indoor areas of the castle not open which was a little disappointing but it was still a nice time out. We got some lunch at the mall that’s close to the train station and then headed back to Edinburgh. I originally had wanted to stop in Falkirk to see the Kelpies but the weather wasn’t good enough and there’s no super easy way to get there from the train station. Definitely something I’m hoping to do when we go back to the area in April.
We finished up our trip by wandering around Dean Village. It was beautiful and I wish we could have spent more time just walking around. It’s a nice non-city feeling area in Edinburgh.
Day 8, August 8- Uneventful train trip home
We headed home and it was super easy. No good food options in Peterborough though unless you leave the train station. Travelodge check out was easy peasy and walk to train station super easy because we were so close.
Our first COVID-19 trip was only 6 hours away by train. I stalked train times which weren’t being released until only a couple weeks out and was able to find tickets from our local train station in Bury St Edmunds with a stop in Peterborough for super cheap (£100 for 2 adults, 2 children with a family rail card which costs £30). I got an amazing deal on the Travelodge Princes Street. It was less than £200 for a full week in a family room. The hotel is sort of in an alley but only because it’s right behind Princes Street. The location was a 2 minute walk to the train station and was super easy to catch buses and just walk around from. I’d definitely stay there and as a budget traveler it exceeded our needs.
August 1- Train to Edinburgh, we left around 2:30 and got in around 8pm
August 2- Edinburgh Castle (pre-booked, free with English Heritage), Camera Obscura (pre-booked), 2 day bus tour
August 3- Royal Yacht Britannia (pre-booked), Holyrood Palace (pre-booked)
August 4- Rabbies Highland Tour (used credit from cancelled tour in April)
August 5- Zoo
August 6- Arthurs Seat, Royal Mile, Tattoo
August 7- Stirling Castle (pre-booked free with English Heritage), Dean Village
August 8- Morning train home
Obviously traveling with kids is finding the balance of activities and down time.
Day 1, August 1- Train ride and checking into the Travelodge
Day 2, August 2- Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura and 2 day Hop On/Off bus tour
I decided to look into the Hop On/Hop Off bus for the 2 day ticket knowing we were going to the Royal Yacht the next day and would make it easy to get to. It was also nice for the kids who sometimes start to complain if they have to walk too much. Sometimes when traveling you spend so much time going places you don’t get a lot of the history. I only paid £25 for 2 days for the 4 of us which seemed like a steal. We got the Grand 48 which included all 3 lines (and we used all three over the two days, I’d buy on arrival).
I pre-booked tickets for almost everything during this trip that I could. Edinburgh Castle we got in free with our English Heritage card that we’ve had since moving to England (50% off 1st year, and free for those who’ve had it more than one year). I really enjoyed Edinburgh Castle but could also tell that a lot of the areas were shut down since they were indoors and we couldn’t socially distance. After the castle we had some down time and went to Mary’s Milk Bar.
Probably one of my kids favorite things all week was Camera Obscura. I pre-booked us tickets and it was right before masks were required in museums so we went mask free. Probably a bad idea in hindsight but we didn’t get Covid and cases were still super low thankfully in Edinburgh. Definitely worth a visit! We then finished off the day with some Korean BBQ which I’m a total sucker for and seek out when we go to bigger cities.
Day 3, August 3- Royal Yacht Britannia, Holyrood Palace
We used the second day of our bus tour to get out to Royal Yacht Britannia. It’s a bit further out so the only way to get there is by bus, taxi/Uber or like we did with the tour. It worked out cheaper just using the tour I think though which was an added bonus. The Yacht was really nice and I’m glad we made the trek. A week in Edinburgh sounds like a ton of time but I really tried to add some stuff to make it more well rounded. The Royal Yacht tea room was really nice and on the water (plus it was Eat Out to Help Out so super cheap) and it was neat to see how the royals get around on holiday and tours. We then went to Holyrood Palace and I realized I don’t have any photos… but I swear we went! It was rainy so not the best and we kind of rushed through. The tickets are good for a year and we’re planning to go back in April, when we hopefully go back to Scotland for a big family trip.
Day 4, August 4- Rabbies Highland Tour
Back in April our Rabbies Tour got cancelled. We had planned a huge trip with my parents that didn’t happen and decided to use the credit when we could just in case things change again. The tour was really nice and we stopped in Glencoe, Fort Augustus and then up into the Highlands a bit more. It was a rainy and long day but we had a good time. It definitely sparked my want to do a lot more traveling in Scotland (hello full week in Inverness solo a month later). We opted not to do the boat tour (which was an extra cost) because we want to do it with family next year and the weather was crap too.
I had all these amazing plans of beefing up my blog during 2020. I had some amazing trips planned to Scotland, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands… the list goes on. Like all travelers around the world my plans cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We thankfully lost very little money of the thousands we had spent for travels this year and definitely consider ourselves lucky in that department.
Travel opened back up for the UK mid July and early August. The rules have constantly been changing with where we can go though so all my COVID trips have been within the UK and I’m hoping to go through the 4 *real* trips we’ve done since things opened up.
Trips we’ve done during Covid and adding dates because what’s open and running is a fluid situation:
Edinburgh, Scotland (August 1-8, 2020)- 7 nights in August with the kids and a friend
Belfast, Northern Ireland (August 14-16, 2020)- 2 nights in August with a friend
Wales (September 4-7, 2020)- 3 nights over Labor Day weekend September
Inverness, Scotland (September 12-21) – 7 nights solo in September with a night in London on both sides
Upcoming trips that look like they should happen:
Isle of Wight
Florida (to see family with 14 day quarantine on return)
Will be trip reporting the first 4 trips over the next couple days and would love to hear all about your COVID-19 travels.
As an American living in England I admit that I had no clue how big soccer, AKA football is here in Europe until we really started living here. After hearing that people have literally died going to games due to mass stampedes and poor crowd control I began to take it a bit more seriously. Point is, my spouse is a big Manchester United fan and I really wanted to get him tickets for Christmas this year for a game. Before Thomas Cook went under I had looked at buying tickets with them as they were the most reasonable, being able to get a package of 4 tickets and also hotel for about £500. That’s still a LOT of money. Thankfully I didn’t buy the tickets before they went under.
Most third party ticketing sights wanted over £100/ticket, including the tickets for kids which was just crazy expensive it felt (and technically tickets aren’t supposed to be even sold this way so it’s hard to tell which sites are legit). After reading up tons on Reddit and other online sources I came to the conclusion the cheapest way to get tickets was to buy a Manchester United Membership (which I guess is also the way pretty much everyone is SUPPOSED to buy there tickets if they want to be legit), link all our accounts together and then try to get tickets when the window opened. Luckily, the game we wanted to see was midweek and against a not as popular team, Burnley. We chose this game in January because it coincided with a beer festival in Manchester my husband wanted to go to also.
So here’s the steps:
Buy a Manchester United Membership. I got the Lite Membership because I didn’t care about all the extras. I didn’t want to do Direct Debit so it came out to £80 for my family of 4 (2 adults at £25, 2 under 16’s at £15). You can save £5 per adult membership if you do Direct Debit. After a couple weeks our cards came in the mail, but I was able to book tickets immediately. It was relatively simple to set up all 4 accounts, the kids did need a separate email which was a bit annoying.
I bought my membership a couple weeks before I saw more tickets were supposed to drop just to make sure things were squared away. I just looked for a game in March though and tickets are still available. We ended up paying £45/per adult ticket and £13/per under 16 ticket. I logged on early though the morning tickets were supposed to drop and had no trouble getting some (this game didn’t sell out). If you want more popular games definitely sign up at the beginning of the season and sign on when tickets open to be able to buy.
What we didn’t know and I had to call about was that our tickets were linked automatically to our membership card. Also, no bags allowed! Oops! We had been out a lot that day and needed winter weather gear and I thought it was fine, nope. They do have bag storage outside though.
Although they lost horribly it was still a lot of fun, and for the price wasn’t that bad. Would be an even better deal if we wanted to do more games. I just saw there’s still Saturday tickets against Sheffield in March. We could another game for less than £100, not too bad!
Because we live only a couple hours away right now we end up in London a LOT! It’s a natural place to find something fun to do birthdays, so for my daughters 11th birthday I tried to find us some new (and old) things to do for the day. The day focused on three things: lunch at Rainforest Cafe (not my pick, but it was her birthday), 4pm showing of the musical Six, and then the Potion Lab at Cutter and Squidge.
The Rainforest Cafe is fun but expensive. My kids love it for some reason (they do at Disney World too, it’s not a new thing). So even though we offered a million other options this is where we went for lunch after dropping our bags at the Travelodge Southwark that I had pre-booked for the night. Lunch was pricey but came out quickly and the kids enjoyed their ribs. I ordered wings and my husband got some other chicken appetizer. I think it’s expensive for what it is and would rather pay for better tasting American food at the Hard Rock in Piccadilly Circus. But she enjoyed it and they all sang her Happy Birthday.
After killing a few hours shopping at Hamley’s the huge 6 story toy store famous in London and also hitting the huge Tottenham Court Primark we headed to pick up our ticket’s for SIX at the Art’s Theatre. This is a much smaller theatre and we had front row seats which were great. My kids have been listening to the music for months so it was great to finally see it in person with them (I went a few months back). I got front row seats which was a lot of fun, although the spotlights they use on the stage do blind those in the front row a bit. There were a couple Queens I thought were better this time over the last I saw it, and as expected a couple that I thought were better before. Guess that’s how it goes! I have tickets again in March and I’m excited to see them again. The musical in case you didn’t know is about King Henry VIII’s six wives and they tell their story in a pop musical. There is some definite sexual innuendo that goes over my kids heads, but some may not feel is appropriate.
Cutter and Squidge Potion Lab Tea
This was super cool! I definitely recommend it. It was about £100 for me and my daughter, I booked her as a VIP since it was her birthday and she got a gift bag with a mug, cookies and a couple extra specialty drinks which she enjoyed. The first part of the class focuses on making the potions which takes about 30 minutes (a drink and a treat). The rest is mainly taking advantage of the full tea that they offer. It is a LOT of food! 3 sandwiches, cheese pie, baby Yorkshire pudding, 2 desserts, 2 scones and then a treat to take home at the end also. I was stuffed and couldn’t finish it all. Bella really enjoyed it. She was the only kid which I thought was a bit weird but can definitely see the appeal for adults just wanting a fun time out. Cutter and Squidge
We arrived at the cruise port around 9am knowing that we would have to be bused to Trieste. Our AirBnB host was nice enough to call us a minivan taxi and we all rode together. It was about 40 euros with tip. It was a pretty quick process on arrival to Venice cruise port. We dropped our luggage there, got tickets for the buses, checked in and all we had to do after our 2 hour journey to Trieste was get on the ship!
We ended up booking balcony rooms this cruise because we were able to get one right next to my parents. I’ve been getting insides and portholes lately, but the balcony was a welcome addition. It was pretty affordable still at $2000 for the 4 of us for the week. We probably could have gotten off the ship a bit to explore but none of us were feeling overly adventurous to get off and figure out how to get back on.
I didn’t take a lot of ship photos since we cruised her last Thanksgiving. The kids also didn’t go to the kids club much, it was really crowded and my daughter who usually really enjoys the clubs didn’t like the crowds and my son wanted to go since there were more kids but he doesn’t like to go alone. It was also just jammed pack with no sea days and with Grandma and Grandpa on board we chose to just spend our time together mostly. I did make a few of the shows and enjoyed them though. Dinners were good, only one night that we couldn’t really find anything we liked (Thanksgiving night, midway they offered us a traditional Thanksgiving meal though).
Bari felt pretty much like it was only on the itinerary to pick up other guests. The weather wasn’t good at all that day and I realized I didn’t take a single photo. My husband separated from us and walked a couple miles to a beer store he’d been to in the past when he was in the area for work. We went to the Basilica and saw where St Nicholas is said to be buried. We then did a little shopping in the rain and headed back to the ship. My kids did enjoy the Disney store though and picked up a Forky plush from the Toy Story 4 movie.
We had a great tour guide in Olympia. The kids really enjoyed it and they also really enjoyed the stop at Klio’s Honey and the bee farm. It was definitely worth the private tour to not be with the mass of crowds that we saw coming in after us. I would definitely book again. https://www.katakolotaxi.gr
It’s not huge secret that Santorini is one of my favorite places anywhere. It’s so beautiful to me and I knew since I first saw that we could book a photoshoot that I wanted some photos done professionally there… one little thing they left out is that the sun would be in your eyes the WHOLE time! Haha. We still managed to get a few good professional ones and lots of good ones on our own also. The kids loved the cats and tolerated the photos decently.
In case you didn’t know MSC status matches to other cruise lines. I know I’ve mentioned this in the past but will again (they also match to hotel statuses). Anyways, point is that because I’m Gold we were able to easily get on the first tender crazy early in the morning. Definitely worth getting off early as we were also able to get onto the cable car easily. We also left early enough to avoid lines on the way back down. No walking in donkey poop! We got a few pics in before walking to Gold Street Travel (which was a bit difficult to find, thankfully our phones GPS worked fine). Our taxi driver was definitely that… a driver. He didn’t have a ton of history or info, but he was really friendly and helpful. http://www.goldstreetsostistravel.com.gr and here is our photographers Instagram https://www.instagram.com/lifestylephotographysantorini/
The previous Thanksgiving when we did our 12 night cruise we stopped in Athens and I booked with PK Travel. They’re great. We paid again for the tour guide in addition to the driver. We didn’t want to do the museum tour again so we added on a couple other things and headed back a little earlier. This was Thanksgiving day for us and we had an amazing meal at my favorite restaurant near the museum called Arcadia. https://www.pktravelgreece.com
Since I did a taxi tour last year I just wanted a more relaxing day. We chose to walk into town from the ship instead of using the bus (the shuttle seems expensive and the walk was nice). It’s not too far, maybe 30 minutes to the shopping area. The town was super cute and we enjoyed the fort also.
This was definitely the surprise of the trip! We did a big Croatia trip in 2018 with my cousin and her family and while similar it was totally different too. The town was super cute and the people were SUPER friendly. We enjoyed just walking around. The walled area is huge and much bigger than I expected. I’m sure some of the boat trips would be nicer in warmer weather but not so much the end of November. My kids were obsessed with the cats… I think we counted over 100.
Disembarkation, Last Day in Mestre
The cruise ended in Trieste instead of Venice, we didn’t find out for sure until a couple days before we were getting off. We wanted to take the bus to the Mestre train station instead of back to the port of Venice since our hotel (Staycity which was great) was near the train station. After a bit of confusion at guest services they helped us get the right luggage tags the night prior to do so. Disembarkation was pretty smooth, the normal chaos that happens on MSC honestly. It’s the one area that I feel like MSC lacks… communication. People don’t ever know what’s going on and if they do they don’t tell guests.
We chose to go to the Christmas market in Mestre and have dinner and just relax after an intense week of sightseeing. We had an amazing cruise overall and I wouldn’t hesitate to book the same cruise again. So much to see that we didn’t do. I still really enjoy MSC and they still have so many itineraries going to places I haven’t been yet.
A while back I put cruising out of Venice on my bucket list. I really wanted to see the canals and such cruising in and out. While well planned, it wasn’t exactly executed due to the Acqua Alta (water rising above sea level causing Venice to flood) prior to our cruise. While MSC didn’t formally let anyone know we were changing ports I had been paying attention to multiple cruise pages and saw that most were going in and out of Trieste instead of Venice. I wasn’t overly upset because we’d been lucky enough to live about 40 minutes away from Venice about 10 years ago.
We flew into Venice two days before our cruise and chose to stay in Mestre instead of in Venice. It was close to the train station and not too far from the airport. I booked an AirBnB for the 2 nights that was big enough for the 6 of us and on return we stayed one night at the new Staycity in Mestre. Since we had originally planned to go into Venice we chose instead to go to Verona because their Christmas stuff had started for the season!
Here’s a quick run down of my cruise port plans:
Bari- DIY, walk around the city, check out Basilica San Nicola
I’m not wanting to do a full review but wanted to mention a couple things about the Magic. First I’ll say, I had an amazing time with my husband being able to relax. The ports were all nice (some better than other as usual) and it was nice to just have a couple laid back weeks. That said the Carnival Magic is my least favorite Carnival ship I’ve been on. It was too big, buffet too small, service was good, people were annoying. All those stereo types you hear about Carnival were alive and well on our cruise. 99% of the time we ignored the bad stuff though and had an amazing time.
Cruise 1 stopped at: Half Moon Cay (still my favorite), Amber Cove and Grand Turk. We got cabanas at both Half Moon Cay and Amber Cove. Both were very nice and worth the money. HMC was beautiful, it’s still my favorite Carnival only destination (well HAL goes there too). Amber Cove was nice and we just relaxed. Staff did a good job of keeping people out. Grand Turk we did our own thing. Walked to Jack’s Shack which we felt was overrated, got in the water a bit and my husband got some local beer.
Second Leg of B2B with my Cousin
The B2B was pretty simple but a little confusing, like my second room key was not at guest services or my room. No biggie, they just made me a new one. Embarkation was easy. There were some big groups on board this week which made it more crowded than the previous week. I boarded early and almost all the cabanas had already been claimed by a big group. Should have just asked if I could do it the night before probably. The groups were obnoxious and quite honestly pretty rude for the duration of the cruise. But the ports were a lot of fun. We stopped again at Half Moon Cay and Grand Turk, but also Curacao which I’d never been to and also Aruba.
First up was Aruba. We were lucky enough to trade a couple spots in our cabana on HMC with someone who booked the Renaissance in Aruba so we could go to the flamingo and iguana beach. It was a super nice day. We finished the evening with a sunset tour which I probably wouldn’t do again (too many people using it as a quick way to get drunk).
In Curacao we took a taxi to the caves. It was pretty easy and we didn’t want to be confined to a tour. We then walked into town and did some shopping and got some gelato.
I somehow managed to get no photos of Grand Turk and HMC on the second cruise… but both were amazing and duplicates of the week prior. I definitely look forward to doing another cruise to Curacao and Aruba (and hopefully Bonaire also). I still love the Southern Caribbean and I’d still cruise Carnival if the price and itinerary is right. For now I still am mainly sticking to European holidays though while we live here in England. I have some really exciting 2020 and early 2021 trips coming up!
Oh my! I’m such a procrastinator and get busy and stop things. I decided to add a last few notes on Duinrell before skipping to a review for our Thanksgiving cruise we did to Greece!
Our last day trip we did from Duinrell was to Zaanse Schans. It wasn’t too far from the holiday park. It’s super touristy but also super cute. The kids enjoyed the cheese and clog shop and I got a nice clog to hang on the wall also. It was a bit dreary out but a lot of fun!
We’re heading back in April for a full day at Keukenhof and a couple days at the holiday park before going to Scotland for an EPIC holiday with my parents.
Back in June my Mom came to visit from the USA and we took the kids to Duinrell Amusement Park in Wassenaar, Netherlands. I had read great reviews and joined a group on Facebook that had tons of information. The trip has now hooked me onto holiday parks. We travel a lot and part of being able to afford so many trips is by staying low budget without compromising the important things (like sight seeing, eating locally etc).
I ended up booking a 3 bedroom Cosy with A/C from Canvas Holidays (at the time they were slightly cheaper than Eurocamp and booking directly with the site). It felt like a bargain for only £350 (I’ve since found that if you book through the Polish Eurocamp site you can pay half that in the off season). I also prebooked with DFDS the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk. I tend to do the ferry over the Eurotunnel usually because it’s cheaper and I don’t really mind the town time. I also always book a morning ferry to France and stay the night in Dover which I enjoy.
Dover, England- Night before we leave
We live less than three hours from Dover so I booked my favorite Travelodge that I’ve stayed at 3 times now. It’s close to the waterfront, near the castle and also lots of places to eat within walking distance. It’s a 5 minute drive to the port. We are English Heritage members and hadn’t been to the castle yet so that was our first stop when coming into town. We went to Cullins Yard for dinner and then had dessert at the new dessert place Kaspas which was right next to the hotel (we have one at home and are obsessed).
Arrival Day- Brugge lunch and Checking in
We caught an early ferry to Dunkirk. The ferry takes about 2 hours and gave us time to eat some breakfast, play some cards and just relax. It’s a nice way to see the Cliffs of Dover also. The drive from Dunkirk to Wassenaar is just over 3 hours but we knew we’d want to stop for lunch on the way and decided Brugge would be a nice place to stop since we’d never been there before. I did some research ahead of time and we parked at t’ Zand parking garage, from there it was an easy walk into the center. I knew we wanted waffles so we went to House of Waffles and stopped in the town square and went into some shops (hello chocolate).
We spent a couple hours in Brugge and then were on our way. We didn’t want to arrive too far before check in time at Duinrell because we didn’t want to have to wait. We went the wrong way into the park accidentally going into the area for day guests but relatively quickly found our way in the right direction. Check in was pretty easy, we did have to pay for a tourist tax which was pretty minimal. We had printed passport style photos through Boots before we came so we wouldn’t have to use their photo booth for our passes to get into the park. It was less than £1 for 3 4×6 filled pages and I used this website to resize and print off of. The Tikibad (indoor water park) does cost extra if you don’t book direct with Duinrell, but considering the hundreds we saved I didn’t mind.
Tikibad prices: 5.50EU for 2 hours, 6.50 EU for 3 hours, and 7.50EU for all day (if you leave you have to repay though).
We were booked in the Middenveld area of the holiday park which was very close to the main building with small supermarket and some restaurant options. It was only 5 minute walk to the entrance to the amusement park.
Duinrell Amusement Park
We spent 2-3 days at the amusement park scattered throughout the week. The other days we did day trips. Sometimes we came back and went to the park for just an hour or two. Other days we went to the Tikibad for a couple hours. My kids favorite rides were the swings, the rollercoasters and a ride that was like an airplane. We rode all of these multiple times.
We in large part used the holiday park to base camp for day trips around the Netherlands. The first day trip we did was Delft. We drove and parked at one of the parking garages and then walked the shops. It was smaller than I expected and I wasn’t really feeling doing the museums with the kids. We all had fun sampling cheese, doing some shopping, walking the canal some and we had a nice lunch in the square.
We used the public transportation from the holiday park to go to Amsterdam. In hindsight I feel like I should have just drove because it was pretty expensive in my opinion (16 euros just to get to Den Haag by bus one way, then the train tickets which wasn’t that bad but then another 16 euros for the bus back, it was about 70 euros total for 4 people). Next trip we will either drive to the train station in Voorschoten, use one of the park and rides which is only 1 euro to park in, or park at NDSM and take the free ferry. I’ll update after we do it in next year but leaning towards NDSM.
I had prebooked us tickets for Anne Frank House. They do not offer these tickets same day usually so you have to plan ahead. I was glad we did it and my daughter was the perfect age to really start understanding it. We did a canal cruise which unfortunately the kids got kind of bored of and it took quite a long time. I think next time I will take them to the NEMO museum which I hear is really nice. I thought I’d like Amsterdam more than I did, but I honestly preferred the towns we explored more.