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.


Moving house with a toddler


Moving house

Due to moving house, I’ve taken a bit of a break from blogging recently. Now that we’ve been in our new place for just over two weeks, we’re feeling settled in our new abode even if we haven’t quite finished the unpacking yet. Our son seems to be enjoying having a bit more space inside and out in which to run around and appears to be fascinated by our garden shed.

In years to come, I’m not sure what – if anything – our son’s going to remember of the house that we recently moved out of. It’ll always  be a special place for my wife and me as it’s where we got engaged and also the place we took our son home to after he left hospital. It may well be that our son will only really become familiar with our old house through photos that we show him in coming years rather than memories of what it was like.


We’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks surrounded by boxes. First of all, we spent a lot of time packing things up at our house and then we had to unpack them all at our new house. Our son seemed to like playing in the boxes and even played a small role in helping with the packing. Preparing for the move was made a lot easier thanks to several of our friends looking after our son or taking him out while we got on with tidying up our old house.

Think we've packed everything now, but where's out son got to?
Think we’ve packed everything, but where’s our son gone?

Our son can be quite helpful around the house at times and often likes nothing more than to walk around with a little brush and sweep the floor. As the picture below shows, he’s also been kind enough to help me tidy my office as well recently.


One of the best things about being in a new house is having more space for our son to get his toys out. At our last place, the living room space could feel quite small when he had his ball pool out. Now, we can keep the ball pool out in our living room and not worry about it getting in the way. That said, he has recently been spending a bit of time walking around our new living room with a measuring tape as if he has some grand plans to make a few changes.


It’s also great to have larger garden where our son is able to run around and have fun in the open air. He’s recently had a lot of fun feeding corn to our two chickens Dorothy and Myfanwy. Until recently, he’d normally drop the corn just outside the chicken run but just this weekend he’s actually managed to start throwing the corn into the run. Our two chickens are grateful for this improved standard of catering provision.

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For the first few nights after we moved, our son seemed to sleep less well than normal. This involved a triple whammy of not going to bed as early as normal, waking up during the night and getting up really early. Part of this might have been due to teething or having recently caught chicken pox (…not sure whether Dorothy or Myfanwy is to blame). He’s now sleeping a lot more and seems to be quite happy despite having chicken pox. We’ve got our fingers crossed that everything will be back to normal soon as we get used to life in our new house.

Have you ever moved house with your kids? Do you remember moving house when you were a child? 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.

I’ve added this post to the following parent blogger link-ups where you can read lots of other posts about parenting:

Family on the loose: the art of traveling with kids (Multicultural Kid Blogs book club)



This post is part of the Multicultural Kid Bloggers book club. Each week, a different blogger will focus on a different chapter of Bill Richards and Ashley Steel’s book ‘Family on the loose: the art of traveling with kids’. I really enjoyed being part of the first MKB book club in which we read Ana Flores and Roxana Soto’s ‘Bilingual is Bettter’, and especially having the opportunity to interview Ana Flores. If you want to see more information on the book club and how you can get involved, please click here.

Chapters 1 and 2 of Bill Richards and Ashley Steel’s Family on the loose: the art of travelling with kids

The photo below is of me with parents just before we flew from Edinburgh to California in 1982 at the start of a year that we spent living in San Jose. I was a few months short of my third birthday and it was my first big trip overseas. I’ve always really liked travelling and exploring new countries and have been lucky enough to have traveled to quite a lot of different countries here in Europe in the last ten years. In September 2012, my wife and I went to Brittany in France with our baby son for what was our first family holiday. I should perhaps have read Bill Richards and Ashley Steel’s book before going as the first few chapters have already convinced me that it’ll be really useful when it comes to planning future trips. Their blog, also called Family on the Loose, is a great source of stories, tips and information for anyone with kids who’s interested in travel.

On the way to San Jose

Right from the introduction to Family on the loose, I loved the way the book discussed not just how to travel with kids but also why.  Here is one of the reasons for travelling as a family that I thought sounded particularly inspiring:

‘Travel is also a fabulous way to develop your family’s unique sense of shared values. As you explore other cultures and compare them to home, you will all learn more about yourselves and each other.’ (page 2)

Before getting married and becoming a parent, I had already realised that travel often involved me learning about myself through what I enjoyed most and what I enjoyed less. When I returned to the UK in 2004 after having spent three of the previous four years in France, I constantly found myself thinking about things in my own country in a different light. I look forward to seeing if we, as a family, will go through the sort of process outlined above after a few more trips.


The campsite where we stayed on our first family holiday

Among the aspects of travel that I have always enjoyed are the ways that it leads to an exciting range of new sights and experiences which broaden the mind. At the start of the first chapter, the authors conveyed this vividly by beginning with a quotation from Gandhi:

‘I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible’ (page 7)

These words were a prelude for the way that the authors discussed the ways in which to expose kids to foreign cultures and customs (e.g. food, films, crafts) at home before and after going abroad in the second chapter, which was appropriately entitled ‘Sowing seeds of enthusiasm’. The first chapter (Scoping the journey) also pointed towards ways of making kids excited about travelling by seeing it as an activity which should be planned with kids and not just for kids. This sounded like a good way of empowering children and making them aware of the sorts of choices that travelling involves and also the consequences of these choices.

The opening chapter (Scoping the journey) was full of useful pointers for people unused to travelling with kids. These included both general principles and more specific tips on issues such as accommodation, transport and budgeting. The chapter concluded with some helpful timelines for planning trips abroad. I really enjoyed the way that the second chapter (Sowing seeds of enthusiasm) discussed ways of starting the holiday fun before the holiday by fun things like trying out food that is associated with where you are going and doing craft activities that have a link with your destination.

A pear and goat cheese crepe with salted caramel sauce in Brittany (France)

What I thought was particularly good about the authors’ pre-travel tips from chapter two is that they seemed to be geared towards providing kids with a greater understanding of the culture and traditions of where they travel. It seems like a good way of encouraging them to see foreign lands as a lot more than some sort of large exotic theme park, and I think that this is really important. As someone who has taught foreign languages for over ten years, I was delighted to see the authors suggest that it’s a good idea to encourage kids to learn some simple expressions in the language(s) of the places they are going to explore on holiday.

Having read and enjoyed the first two chapters of Family on the loose, I am very keen to see what the rest of the book has in store. Indeed, this almost mirrors the way in which I am already looking forward to more family travels as our son gets older.

I’d love to hear what you think of what I’ve said about Bill Richards and Ashley Steel’s book, and also travel in general. Here are some questions that you might want to discuss in the comments section below this post or on the Multicultural Kid Blogs Facebook or Google+ threads:

– What do you see as the most important things to do before going on holiday with kids?

– To what extent do you try to involve your kids in planning a trip abroad?

– What aspects of travel do your kids get most excited about?


If you’re interested in the topics that I’ve discussed in this blog post, here are three things that you can do:

– Share your ideas in the Multicultural Kid Blogs Google + Community.

– Link up your travel stories on Multicultural Kid Blogs.

– Follow the Travel with Kids Board on Pinterest.

Over the next few weeks, a series of fellow bloggers will be hosting discussions of the subsequent chapters of Family on the loose. Here’s the schedule:

What’s the most important thing about being a parent?


IMAG0942As you may have noticed from my last blog post 6 things that I’ve learned in 6 months as a parent, I’ve recently been thinking about what it means to be a parent. During this reflection, I recently read an article on the Mama Natural blog that fellow blogger Dominika Tracy from Back to Roots Baby mentioned to me on Google+. The title of the article from Mama Natural was as follows:

‘Why is this quote controversial? “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother”

An answer that I would give in fairly general terms is that making categorical statements about topics such as parenting or marriage is liable to provoke a range of different responses. I think that it’s good to have a reasoned dialogue on these sorts of topics and to try to respect the views of others.

Going back to the original quotation, I think that any attempt to identify a single aspect of being a father that is more important that all others is quite challenging. Having read the article, I can’t help feeling that the author might be overly extrapolating based on their own experiences. I would also like to know more about the context that gave rise to the original quotation from Theodore Hesburg.

I can’t help wondering if the quote was deliberately selected as part of an attempt to fire up debate. Even if the author of the Mama Natural blog post did not think that the quotation was controversial, did they really think that posting it would result in unanimous agreement as opposed to debate?

I’ve said before that one of the reasons that I decided to become a parent blogger was because I wanted to participate in the interesting dialogues about fatherhood and parenting that take place. Maybe the blogger who posted the debate-provoking quotation that I cited at the start of this post was simply doing the same.

One of the specific issues that I had with the initial quote was that – in the form it was cited – it focuses uniquely on the notion of the father having a duty towards the mother, and not vice versa. If the quotation, had talked about a mother having a duty towards the father then perhaps it would have been criticized for implying that women should be subservient to men. Ultimately, I think that being in a couple is about being mutually sensitive to the other person’s feelings, needs and general well-being.

That said, the author of the blog post does acknowledge this in their own article to a certain extent. However, I did feel that their whole article seemed to be overly restricted by focusing largely on biological parents, married parents and male-female couples. It didn’t really take into account issues such as adoption, fostering and adoption by same sex couples (be they married, united in a civil partnership or in another form of relationship).

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Promoting IT skills from an early age – an important part of being a modern parent 🙂

Going back to the quote itself, I see being a father as involving a complicated balancing act (or series of balancing acts) rather than a single priority. In my case, it’s about working together with my wife in order to find a way of trying to meet each other’s needs both individually and collectively. I’ve talked on this blog about how men can play an important role in supporting women who breastfeeding. I’ve also said more than once that the casually thrown about phrase ‘man up’ can often be unhelpful when it comes to the expectations placed on men and boys (see here and here for links to the relevant posts).

This is something that I mean in relation to being parents, being a couple and just being people. It is also, of course, about trying to do so with a view to focusing on what is best for our baby son. I’d not like to try to prioritise between all the types of needs in that mix as I think that it’s important to take a more holistic approach.

As parents, I think that it’s important to transmit positive values to our kids. I feel that part of this is about respecting people and behaving towards them in a way that is polite, fair and sensitive. Within the context of being part of a couple raising kids, loving each other is part of this. As to whether it is the most important part of being a parent, I’m not so sure.

As I’ve already hinted, I feel that it is important to take a nuanced and holistic approach here.  I can see that kids may well end up taking on values that they associate with their parents’ approach to life and relationships. The relationship between their parents is one part of it, but it is not the only part. Relationships with other family members, friends and people in a school or work context are also important.

Ultimately, I think that being a couple with kids involves focusing on each other’s needs and the needs of the kids both collectively and individually. It may sound like I’m sitting on the fence here when it comes to responding to the quotation that I mentioned at the start of this post, but there’s a reason for this. What works for one family isn’t necessarily going to work for the next family.

Attitudes to parenting and family roles are evolving and I just don’t think that there’s really any such thing as a ‘typical’ family. For this reason, I’m generally suspicious of those who seek to talk up a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Ultimately, I think it’s great to be able to read and learn from fellow parents wherever they live and whether or not they have the same take on issues like what constitutes the most important thing about being a father or a mother. This, to me, is definitely one of the most important things about being a parent.

What do you think is the most important thing about being a parent? Do you agree or disagree with the quotation that I mentioned at the start of this article? I’d love to hear your views on these questions and this blog post in general, 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’ve linked this post up at the ‘Something for the weekend’ parent blog link-up run by Diary of the Dad and the Voice of Sarah Miles.

Our first family holiday



The campsite

We’re just back from our first family holiday. Somewhat appropriately given my focus on Scottish, Irish and Welsh culture in my last post, we went to a Celtic region of France, namely Brittany. Beforehand, I was somewhat apprehensive about the prospect of flying with a five month old baby. However, I was reassured by posts by fellow parent bloggers on this topic such as this one from the Dad Down Under site. In general, I’m often a bit nervous about flying myself but found my son’s purple elephant toy a comforting sort of stress ball while he was asleep.

We were staying at a campsite just outside the village of Le Bono in Morbihan, about five miles south of Auray. Travelling in September rather than July or August not just fitted well with our own summer plans, but also meant that renting a caravan at the site was considerably cheaper than in July and August. The fact that the campsite was fairly quiet also helped to create a nice relaxed feel.

Le Bono

Le Bono

Nice and relaxed was not, however, exactly the way I felt when I was faced with the challenge of putting up the travel cot that the campsite owner had kindly lent us. Unfortunately there weren’t any instructions with the cot and putting it up felt like a sadistically difficult mental agility task from The Krypton Factor (apologies to anyone who doesn’t recall this 1980s UK game show).

However, thanks to the WiFi that was available at the campsite reception I was able to watch a forty second video on YouTube of a man showing how to put up an almost identical cot. As myself and my wife must have spent about 20 minutes trying to do the same by that point, I did feel deeply jealous and think that he was a right show off for getting the job done in 40 seconds. After reading the comments under the video, I managed to work out what I’d been doing wrong (the cardinal sin of pulling down the base of the cot before securing all four sides for anyone faced with a similar challenge).


Market in Larmor-Baden

I was delighted to be back in Brittany as I remember getting to know the area as a teenager following a school trip in 1998 and after spending two months working at a campsite in La Trinité-sur-mer the following year. I’d always had a sort of fondness for Brittany due its Celtic identity. Coming from Scotland, I feel a natural affinity with any area that produces traditional biscuits that are similar to shortbread. In addition, some of the coastline and countryside reminded me of parts of Ireland that I’d visited on family holidays when I was growing up.

Things are a bit different now. For a start, I’m now in my 30s, got married last year and become a father in April of this year. In addition, I’ve spent the last six years living in Wales and now speak Welsh fluently. I began noticed similarities with Wales when it came to place names and various words in Breton as well as debates to do with the status and promotion of the Breton language.

Our son, who is currently five months, probably wasn’t thinking about this too much but certainly seemed to have a good time. During the holiday, he started to blow raspberries, make a lot more different noises and continued his fairly recent habit of sticking his tongue out at people as well as smiling at them. People generally smiled and laughed back, which he liked, especially on a few boat trips and on the plane.

Île d'Arz

Île d’Arz

Being on holiday for the first time since our son’s birth in April perhaps meant that we took things easier than we might have done a year ago and did things at a bit more of a leisurely pace. However, this certainly didn’t stop us getting out and about to visit a lot of sights in the area near where were staying. We did quite a bit of walking, going to markets and particularly enjoyed visiting a small island called Ile d’Arz. It was great to visit other towns and villages such as Larmor-Baden, Vannes and Auray as well as driving down the Quiberon peninsula.

The food was good too. As a vegetarian, options can sometimes feel a bit limited in France and I don’t often manage to sample different regional cuisines to anywhere near the same extent as meat eaters. However, Brittany is renowned for its crêpes and galettes (traditional pancakes) and many of those that feature of menus are vegetarian or can be easily modified to be made vegetarian. It was particularly good fun sampling new types of crêpes, such as ones that combined goats cheese and the local delicacy of salted caramel butter. On one occasion, I had a crêpe that combined pear, goats cheese, a scoop of gingerbread ice cream and a green salad sprinkled with pine nuts and chopped figs.

Luncht at a crêperie in Portivy, near Quiberon

Despite being too young to eat proper food, our son seemed to be getting more curious about food. Although only one of the cafes or restaurants we visited had nappy changing facilities, they all seemed to be otherwise very baby friendly. On one occasion, our son pushed a fork onto the floor within seconds of our arrival and the restaurant owner laughed and instantly fetched a replacement. On another, he started picking up a red paper place mat and waving it in the air much to the amusement of the waitress.

Looking back, it’s hard to pick out a favourite place, day or moment of our holiday. The best thing for me was just having eight relaxing and fun days that I spent with my son and my wife. I love my job but spending just over a week with my son and wife all day every day isn’t something that I’ve been able to do since my paternity leave just after our son’s birth in April.

France remains a special place to me and I’m sure it always will. I lived there for three years and visit fairly regularly both through work and on holiday. In addition to being the first place we went to on a family holiday, it’s also where my wife and I went on our first holiday together as a couple. I hope our son will grow to like the country as much as I do and enjoy travel and exploring other places as much as his mum and dad do.

What did you think of this article? What do you remember from your first holiday after becoming a parent? If you’d like to share your thoughts on this post,  please feel free to do so 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.


I’ve added this post to the following parent blogger link-ups:

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