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Is London too expensive for a family day out?

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LondonThis morning, I took part in a discussion about the cost of going on a family day out to London on the BBC Radio Wales show Good Morning Wales. Recent figures show that visitor numbers have fallen at several of the city’s main tourist attractions have fallen, and the costs of getting to London have been cited as a potential factor.

As a parent of two children under five, I do in some ways like the idea of going a day trip to London but at the moment it isn’t really something that I see as realistic due to both the cost and the time it takes to get to London from North Wales. We’re lucky to have a three hour direct train service to London from Bangor, but a return ticket for my wife and I would be likely to cost £90-£100 each. This is a lot of money to pay before having purchased any food or paid to visit any attractions.

As a grandmother from South Wales who was also interviewed in this morning’s discussion on Radio Wales pointed out, there are ways of saving money once you’re in London and there are attractions such as major museums that are free. I think it’s absolutely fantastic that the state funds free entry to many major museums in this country. Indeed, I’m much more happy to see some of the money we all pay via taxes go towards making culture and the arts rather than helping to fund a royal wedding.

Although the interviewee from Cardiff mentioned being able to travel to London for as little as £5 return on the discount bus operator Megabus, this simply isn’t an option in North Wales. Megabus don’t travel from Bangor and the nearest city they serve is Chester (over 50 miles away), and they don’t run a Chester to London service. Although we could travel from Bangor to London by coach on National Express, the journey would be likely to take over nine hours and cost at least £35 per adult. This is significantly cheaper than rail travel but the journey time alone means that a day trip, or even a weekend break, is out of the question. Even when our kids are older – they’re currently almost five years old and eighteen months old – this hardly sounds like a fun excursion.

In North Wales, we are lucky that we can much more cheaply and easily go on day trips to a city such a Chester that is little more than an hour away by car or rail. It is also a much smaller city than London, and much more easy to get around by foot. Although London is full of tourist attractions, it is a massive city and I can’t say that I relish the idea of negotiating our way round the London Underground with two under fives.

In general, we have tended to avoid going on city breaks when we’ve gone away on holiday with our kids so far as we feel it’d be likely to be a bit stressful and not necessarily something that they would enjoy as much as other activities. When we went on our first family holiday, we deliberately decided to stay at a rural campsite in France and take things easier. As I’ve mentioned in another blog post, we’ve enjoyed camping with our kids from quite a young age.

At the moment, I’m just not sure that our kids are old enough to fully appreciate going on a trip to London. We’re fortunate that they seem to travel fairly well when we go on family holidays or head up to visit my parents in Scotland. However, for the time being they seem perfectly happy going on smaller scale excursions in our local area. As you can see from this blog post from a couple of years ago, we’re really fortunate to have some pretty scenic locations nearby!

What do you think of London as a destination for a family day out or weekend away? Do you have any favourite places to visit? What do you think are the best ways to save money when visiting a city like London? Feel free to let me know by commenting below. Please remember that you can ‘like’ this blog’s page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter to keep up-to-date with my chronicles of family life.

 

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Why I Blog – guest post by James Tew of Raising3daughters

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james and girls

This week I’m delighted to be hosting a guest post for the first time and its author is James Tew, a dad blogger from Australia. Here’s a post where he talks about what being a parent means to him and explains why he started his blog Raising3Daughters.

Why I Blog by James (@james_tew)

A while ago, I asked Jonathan to write me a guest piece on why he blogs. Well it is time that I return the favour.

You see, in Jonathan’s post, he talks about the growing number of dad blogs popping up in the UK and wanting to join the conversation. But I didn’t start blogging because of the growing number dad bloggers here in Australia, I started because I wanted to become a better writer, tell my story and show people who aren’t yet dads, just how great it can be.

It all started while we were travelling across Australia, moving my young family to Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory where we knew no one. Sure, lots of families have been in this situation but our was a little different to most. 3 weeks after we arrived, I left to undertake a course to change careers. Not only was I leaving my family in a new, unfamiliar city but I was going to be gone for 19 weeks.

Leading up to this I had been blogging for sometime. Trying to carve my piece of real estate in the busy social media marketing niche. I stood no chance. I was new to the field, no one knew me or wanted to know me and I was getting disheartened. But as we travelled across the country, my wife said to me “why don’t you start writing about being a dad instead of something you don’t know much about?”

Perfect I thought.

Before I met my wife, I never pictured myself as a dad, let alone welcoming my first child into the world at age 23. But something felt right when we found out that my wife was pregnant. Sure I was scared to death for the entire 9 months of the pregnancy but it was like this was meant to happen.

A year down the track we were expecting number three (my wife already had a daughter when I met her) and I began to lose commonality with the friends I had grown up with. I was in the military and spending months away from home, they were finishing degrees and working in powerful corporate jobs. I was also a dad whose life revolved around three little girls where as they didn’t have children.

No longer could I go down to the beach on a 40 degree day just to lay in the sun, kick the footy and drink some beers. Instead I was thinking about “when is the next episode of Peppa pig on” and “when is it nap time so I can use the toilet in peace!”. I felt like I was becoming more disconnected from my existing friends but we still caught up and had some great times but they were limited.

When I started blogging about being a dad, I didn’t do any research into dad blogging. I came up with, what I thought was, a witty name for my blog and just started writing. However, after a few posts, I searched the internet for guys like me who just wanted to tell their story. After all, that is what it is about isn’t it?

This was a thing, I discovered. Dad blogging was a thing, a growing niche.

Hundreds, if not thousands of men around the world just looking to share their stories with each other. From the UK to the US, New Zealand to Australia, I’ve managed to relate to hundreds of blog posts from dads around the world. That is what I truly love about being a parent blogger and is partly the reason why I continue to blog.

But I genuinely love being a parent. Despite what my wife would say about me being impatient and what this post says, I love being a dad. Blogging allows me to share that pride of being a parent and I maintain that there is NO better feeling that the one you will see in this video!

When I first watched that, I cried. I’m not going to deny it. It’s tough to watch because I have been in situations like that before. But do you know what I think the best thing about parenting is?

The unconditional love that you receive every day from your kids.

I love being able to share that feeling, or at least I try to convey that feeling to my readers.

Blogging allows me to connect to people around the world, like Jonathan, that I would normally never meet in my lifetime. I have now friends, that if I was in the US, UK or somewhere else in the world, I could email and catch up with them for a beer. What else gives you the power to do that?

That is why I blog and that is why I will continue to blog about being a parent.

If you have kids, what do you see as the most special aspects of being a parent? If you are a parent blogger, do you have a special reason why you started blogging?

Please feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.

Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin. There’s also now a Pinterest board for this blog as well, so please feel free to pin this post if you’ve enjoyed reading it.

Being a dad: celebrating the little things

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IMAG0943This post is a light-hearted look at my first six months of being a parent. I’ve been reflecting about all sorts of things since our son recently turned six months old, and this inspired my recent post 6 things that I’ve learned in 6 months as a parent. This time, I’m looking back at some of the lighter moments.

Some of these are reflections that I have already mentioned on my Twitter feed or on the Dad’s The Way I Like It Facebook page. A fellow parent blogger, Ute Limacher Riebold (who blogs at Expat Since Birth), suggested a while ago that it’d be a good idea to record these experiences so as my wife and I could share it with our son when he’s older. I guess that’s the sort of thing this blog is going to provide (as long as I back it up!).

All of the thoughts below come from between when our son was three months old and when he recently turned six months old, and I’ve arranged them in chronological order starting from the things that date from when he was three or four months old. I hope that you enjoy reading them. Let me know if they remind you of any similar experiences that you’ve had!

1. Making silly noises to get our three month old son to smile is now one of my favourite hobbies, especially when it also stops him from crying.

2. Have cold and our 4 month old son has cried twice due to noise of my sneezes. Now trying to go to another room when I feel a sneeze coming.

3. I’ve used becoming a dad as an excuse for buying several Muppets DVDs. We’re currently watching The Muppets Take Manhattan and really enjoying it!

4. I’m glad that our car’s central locking is now fixed. The alarm started going off a few months ago when I was getting into our car outside outside a hospital maternity ward at 5am. Our son was about five months old by the time I got round to getting this sorted!

Campsite

5. Thank goodness for YouTube and campsites with WiFi. So helpful when you’re struggling to put up a travel cot on your first family holiday! Here’s a link to the blog post where I talked about this holiday.

6. Got slightly excited about buying our five month old son his first ever toothbrush yesterday – is this normal parent behaviour?

7. Two highlights of today so far: brushing 5 month old son’s teeth for first time and watching our chicken jump in the air to catch flies.

8. When my wife and son were coming home from hospital three days after he was born, I put up some balloons in the front room along with some streamers and a home made welcome home banner. Just over five months on, they’re all still there! He reached the six and a half month mark before we took them down. I thought that we should have waited until we moved house but was unfortunately over-ruled.

9. Last night mistook the noise of a sheep going baa on a television nature programme for the sound of our five month old son crying. He’s was still fast asleep, phew!

10. Just fed my son some food for the first time. Not sure my wife was impressed when I looked at the sachet of apricot and banana porridge and asked ‘so do I just squirt it into his mouth then?’.

11. Our son, who is almost six months old, has discovered a new game. It involves picking up a toy or piece of paper, waving it about, dropping it on the floor and waiting for mummy or daddy to pick it up.

12. Our six month old son is definitely getting cheeky. He blew a raspberry last night when we asked him if it was time to go to bed.

13. May soon have to start wearing full waterproof clothing while bathing our six month old son in his little bath. He’s the one who does all the splashing, not me, before anyone asks.

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14. Saw this picture (see above) in one of our son’s books. Thought it was quite a good likeness really.

15. Our son has started weaning recently. We’re still trying to persuade him that bits of carrot are something to eat and not something to just throw on the floor.

16. I’ve been enjoying watching our 6 month old son starting to eat solids. It’s mainly baby rice at the moment, hope we’ll soon be able to give him baby curry. Within minutes of tweeting the comment above, a Welsh vegan group replied with a link to a vegetarian curry recipe suitable for babies. I love it when this sort of thing happens on Twitter or Facebook!

17. Our son’s definitely improving two key skills at the moment: giving high fives and blowing raspberries. I’ve told him to make sure that he puts this on his CV.

18. Dear son, I know you’re only six months old but please remember clocks go back tonight & let us have extra hour in bed tomorrow. Thanks, Dad.

19. Six month old son ignored advice about clocks going back and having extra hour in bed, glad I didn’t stay up for Match of the Day last night.

20, I used the word moron several times when talking to our 6 month old son yesterday. Don’t worry folks, I talk to him in Welsh and moron means carrot!

After he grabbed the remote control recently, we've been trying extra hard to make sure we get out and about with our six month old son recently :-)

After he grabbed the remote control recently, we’ve been trying extra hard to make sure we get out and about with our six month old son recently 🙂

21. Looks like I’m not getting a say in what we’re going to watch on television tonight!  (see picture above)

22. Stroller we got for our son has a brake but no clutch or accelerator. I think that we might have to take it back to the shop.

What do you think of this post? Have you had any similar thoughts about being a parent? If so, feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.

Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin. There’s also now a Pinterest board for this blog as well, so please feel free to pin this post if you’ve enjoyed reading it!

 

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6 things I’ve learned in 6 months as a parent

7 thoughts from my 7th month as a parent

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9 thoughts from my 9th month as a parent

I’ve linked this post up with the ‘Something for the Weekend’ parent bloggers link-up hosted by Diary of the Dad and The Voice of Sarah Miles.

It’s International Baby Wearing Week, so we went to Sling

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I recently discovered that it is now International Baby Wearing Week, which runs from 7-13th October this year. As we’re both keen on wearing slings, my wife and I decided to go on a little excursion last weekend to a town called Sling that happens to be a mere ten minute drive away from where we live in North Wales. It may not be renowned as the village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch that is only a few minutes further away on the island of Anglesey and certainly doesn’t attract bus loads of tourists who queue up to have their picture taken next to the sign on the platform of its small railway station, but we ventured to Sling ourselves to take photos of our son in his sling next to the solitary sign in the village bearing the name Sling. My wife has now also done blog post about Sling and slings at her blog Mindful Mam.

Llanfairpwll

As it happens, my wife and I were able to put him in a different sling for our photos as we have quite a few. Some of these we have bought from eBay and we have bought others new over the web. It’s been great to be able to try out slings that we’ve been lent by friends before deciding to buy, and my wife has been to a sling library in Colwyn Bay. For my part, I am a proud member of the UK Sling Dads group on Facebook and have enjoyed carrying our son in a variety of different carriers ever since he was a few weeks old. It used to be that he’d go to sleep almost instantly when we popped him into a carrier, opened the front door and walked only a few footsteps.

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I’ve always loved the way our son, who is almost six months old, is able to look around when he’s in the sling and also feels close by. It’d feel odd to me just pushing him about in a buggy and not being able to look at him. I’d miss not being able to make the silly faces at him for a start. I also feel that carrying our son in a sling has also helped to create a stronger father-son bond. It was really cute when he was a few days old and would just go to sleep on people and it still is when he gently nods off while he’s in one of his slings when we’re carrying him. I have, however, learnt that it’s often a good idea to put the sling on before a coat as it can be a challenge coming back home with him asleep and trying to take my coat off without waking him up. In fact, it’s kind of like playing the kids’ game Buckaroo.

On a recent trip to France that I have mentioned in a previous blog post entitled Our First Family Holiday, we didn’t see many other people carrying their kids in slings. In fact, I think that we only saw three and one of those was in a shop that sold eco baby products such as slings. This started me wondering what attitudes towards sling wearing were like in different countries round the world, and I’ve been able to discuss this with fellow members of the great Multicultural Kid Blogs group on Facebook. Here are some of the insights that fellow bloggers provided:

  • Stephen Greene (Head of the Heard) told me that slings and other baby carriers are very practical in Brazil as the condition of pavements in certain areas means that using a buggy is more or less impossible.
  • Kim Siegal (Mama Mzungu) has done a great blog post about the impracticality of using a normal buggy if you live in Kenya and also talked about how wearing a baby in a sling on one’s front as opposed to one’s back can result in strange looks from locals.
  • Sandra Amorin (BXL Sprout) observed that carrying babies in slings in Belgium is a bit of a middle class thing, also adding that slings were not very common at all in Portugal and that carrying a baby in one can be something about which passers-by comment out of inquisitiveness.
  • Amanda Ponzio Mouttaki (Maroc Mama) contrastingly pointed out that it is very common to see babies being carried in slings in Morocco and that strollers are a rarity.
  • Annabelle Humanes (Piri Piri Lexicon) backed up my initial impression that slings are a bit of a rarity in France and told of how a male relative had to put up with quite a few judgmental remarks when carrying his daughter in a sling.
  • Sarah-Jane Begonja (Chasing the Donkey) went as far as saying that she had never seen anyone carrying a baby in a sling in Croatia and received strange looks when doing so herself, adding that there seems to be a bit of a national obsession with fancy prams.
  • Souad Guex (Babelkid) used to run a babywearing consultancy and blogged about sling wearing while doing so. For Souad, who became the first trained babywearing consultant in the UK, babywearing is ‘the second most important parenting tool after breastfeeding’.

One thing that I’ve noticed here in the UK is that whilst I have seen other men also wearing their kids in slings, there aren’t all that many. Nevertheless, when my wife went to our village supermarket the man behind the till started talking about how he and his wife also carried their baby in a sling and thought that it was great. I remember feeling slightly self-conscious the first time that I went out on my own with my son in a baby carrier, mainly because I’d never seen any men carrying a baby in a sling in our village before. When my wife and I were at a music festival (at which our son was wearing his very cute looking ear protectors) I noticed a few people smiling and pointing as I walked around with our son in a sling. At the time, I couldn’t work out whether it was because he looked cute with his ear protectors on or because they thought I looked silly. It felt a bit weird in some ways, but this was probably because I’m kind of shy more than anything else.

As the weeks go by, I wonder how many slings and baby carriers we will ultimately accumulate. As it happens, my wife said that a new sling that she’d seen on the internet (a sort of woven wrap that she will be able use to make both a wrap and a ring sling or a bag) is what she would really like for her birthday this month. As it happens the sling that she has her heart set on is a second hand sling that is in excellent condition, which may mean that I’m able to successfully participate in the ‘October: Buy Nothing New Month’ initiative that Ute Limacher-Riebold recently described in a post on her blog Expat Since Birth. As to when we’ll stop getting new baby carriers, it’ll probably be when we discover one that can be described as the….

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What did you think of this article? What is your view on baby carrying and slings? I’d love to hear your views, so please feel free to let me know your views via the comments section below. If you want to keep up with this blog, there are ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+. Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin.

I have linked this post up with the Something for the Weekend blog post linky run by parent bloggers Sarah Miles (The Voice of Sarah Miles) and Tom Briggs (Diary of the Dad).

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