I am Some Packy Hackies Mum

It’s almost Holibop Season!

Hurrah!

Packing is something that I am good at.  I enjoy it and generally once I have my lists done, it doesn’t take long.  I’m a light packer.  I can pack myself and Himself into one case for a week away.  If we’re doing a weekend trip, one small bag is plenty.  And I can do a trip alone with tiny carry on.  I have been known to arrive in London with my toothbrush, clean knickers and a tee-shirt tucked into my handbag.

Packing for the four of us to go on holidays has never been hard either.  Simply because we’ve never ventured beyond Ireland, and so we’ve had the luxury of the boot of the car and as much space as we need.

hols

 

So last year, going on our first sun holiday as a family,  presented Mammy with a new challenge.  And I must say that thanks to the Mammies on my blog, I  gathered some super tips to add to my own packy-hacks:  Each of these worked a charm, and I’ll be doing the exact same this year.

  • Lists: Plan ahead.  I write down what will be worn/needed by everyone for the number of nights we’re away.  Then I add a spare outfit for the girls, just incase.
  • Mix up the bags: I had planned on a case for us and a case for the girls. We have one each, but I’m not lugging 4 cases through the airports.  Loads of Mums told me to mix all of the clothes between the cases, and if one gets lost or delayed, at least everyone still has clothes when we arrive.
  • Check-in? If you arrive at your resort early, your room/apartment might not be ready. Pack swimming gear and sun cream in one of the carry on bags so that you can go straight to the pool while you wait for your check-in.
  • Ziplock bags: THIS has changed my life Ladybelles.  Thanks to Davina from Jim for this one. She advised me to pack the kids clothes into these.  So for each evening, I have their dresses, underwear, socks etc that they’ll need for going out for dinner in little bags. It will avoid the suitcases turning into chaotic pits of “I can’t find it!”  I have their shorts and Tees and Swimmers and PJs labeled in their bags too, so The Him will be able to easily find things too.  (I’ve since been directed to little sets of case organisers that can be bought in different colours and have it on good authority that they are super.  I never did get around to buying them however!)
  • Pop-up tent:  My mate is a serial beach goer.  This is her tip. Bring a little pop up tent. We have a little wigwam in the hall. It cost a tenner. It folds down to nothing and if it fits, it’s going into one of the cases. It’ll provide shade for the girls, means they can play in it if it gets too hot on the beach and it was perfect last year for changing nappies!  Genius.
  •  Backpacks:  Now, my girls have flown a few times, but only short flights.  I’ve always packed little colouring books and some snacks into their bags to keep them occupied.  This time, I’ve packed a few more and have a few wee surprises for them for emergency distractions! (Euroshops are Wicked for this kind of stuff.)
  • Downloads:  Did you know that you can download from your Netflix account? I have my tablet stocked up with episodes of Paw Patrol and a few movies.
  • Snack packs:  Now this one I initially scoffed at, but let’s face it, children eat ALL DAY and snacks are expensive.  So, I have done up a snack pack for each day; popcorn, raisins, pops, Haribo, Biscuits; their favourites.  And while of course we’ll be able to get this stuff there, to know that I have the bags ready to pop into the buggy each morning is great.  And the whole lot cost me €7.  So we’ll save our money for drinks and ice-creams.
  • Lollipops and chewy sweets:  Life saver for the ears of the Minions on take-off and landing.
  • Travel sized stuff:  Who doesn’t love mini-stuff?  Over the past few weeks, I’ve picked up my moisturiser and some of my makeup bits simply by asking for samples at the counters. There’s enough suncream to carry without jars and pots.  I even got a lovely face mask from one lovely lady.   I tend to leave the makeup at home on hols, opting instead for basic concealer, bronzer and mascara. And I decant my shampoo and conditioner into the little plastic bottles too.
  • Keep hand luggage minimal. The girls have their little bags, I have my handbag, and Him will have a small carry on with a change of clothes for both girls, calpol and more snacks… and ALWAYS, the Babywipes!
  • Midnight Flit?  If you are lifting your minions out of bed to travel, either put them to bed in their tracksuits or comfies. (If you can!)
  • Pillow Cases:  Pack 2 pillowcases.  Use them as laundry bags; one for lights, one for darks/colours.  Easier to carry the washing home and easier to unpack. (I swear by this one. Works a treat.)
  • Beds:  Before we go, I’ll change the beds. Pain in the posterier as you try to get out the door, but just think of how lovely it is to get back into your own nice, clean bed after a week away. I’ll be glad of it when we return.

 

These are only a few of the many, many I got sent.  I’m sure there are many more you would add.   Some might tut at my over preparation, but I’m one of those people who needs my shit to be together, for my mind to stay together.

I’ll relax more knowing that I have the essentials sorted. And anything that we forgot can be bought there.  Mammies tend to do all the sorting don’t we? But this Mammy believes that preparation is key and I know that when we get there, I WILL relax, because I’ve put in the work at home!

All I need to do now is to make sure there’s a few beers in the fridge for the Big Wee Brother who’s moving in to babysit the Furbaby. And get there!

Happy Holidays to you if you’re going away. Share away at your own packing-hacks!

 

I am Sun & Fun in Salou Mum

Well we ventured abroad for a week with the girls, and despite my fears and worries, it was fantastic. (So fantastic in fact that we are probably going to book the exact same hotel again for next summer!)

The girls in Atlantic Travel in Letterkenny were brilliant when I went in. I wanted short flights, short transfer, central location and good food. Within a few minutes, I was looking at Family Life Avenida Suites in Costa Dorada in Salou.

Atlantic were able to recommend it, having visited it and from customer reviews, so we booked it, trusting their recommendation.

And it was everything they said it would be.

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We flew from Belfast which is only 80 minutes from our home. Flights were 2.5 hours and transfer was only 20 minutes. We were the first stop for the bus and everything was so easy.

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Arriving at the hotel at 10am meant that rooms were not quite ready for most of the families in front of us. There was no problem with this as they were simply invited to leave cases and the hotel phoned them once their rooms were available. Now, here is where Atlantic Travel impressed me most. When I went to check in, at the end of the queue, our room was ready! Emma had requested “early check-in” on our booking. Ingrid at reception was so lovely and we were delighted to get in to our suite. We were at the poolside by 11am.

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The main foyer

This resort is beautiful. It’s clean, it’s well organised and it’s fully geared towards families. The suites are incredible. A double bed, kitchenette, wardrobe spaces and shelves. (Not one square inch is wasted…shelves everywhere!).

Then a huge bathroom with bath and shower and massive mirror area AND a separate twin bedroom for the girls. We had a double balcony and were on the first floor. Room service made beds and did a quick clean of bathroom each day and on 2 mornings, they changed full beds for us where a nappy incident had occurred. No problem at all.

Now, our room was directly above the bar and while it was noisy at night, the suites are quite well soundproofed. My girls sleep through anything, however if your kids are light sleepers, it might be an idea to request a quieter room, but you might lose the pool view. For us, it was perfect. And everything was quiet by midnight anyway.

Family Life Avenida has everything you could imagine for the kids. There are 2 kids’ clubs, a creche facility, just inside the pool door there was a huge baby changing room, a room with chairs for feeding and cots for napping babies with chairs next to each for parents. Mini-Me joined the @611 club which ran from 10-12 and from 2-4pm each day. She went for 3 of our 7 days and LOVED it.

The resort is exclusive to English and Irish families, and while I missed the lilt of different accents around me, it did mean that Mini-Me and Princess had no problem making friends. There is a huge pool area with a separate baby pool, a bar, a cafe terrace and loads of play areas for the kids. It was only a 5 minute walk from the centre of Salou, where the pier and the fountain are a must see.

The food was exceptional; The breakfast buffet was so impressive, fresh and varied each day. Fruit, breads, cereals, full fry-up, porridge… anything you wanted. (Even bubbles for Buck’s Fizz for Mammy!)

The dinner buffet was also impressive. Again, unlike some resorts I’ve stayed in where Tuesday night’s dinner was a mash up of Monday’s left overs, the spread here was brilliant. So fresh and very tasty. We had the option of booking the a la carte restaurant for one of our nights, but the food was so good in the buffet and the girls were so happy that we didn’t bother. There was a little mini hot plate area for children to get their own food, which the girls just loved.

We were half board so we bought lunch each day. 2 pizzas, 2 chips and some drinks and beers was usually around €32. Ice-creams and drinks were all we had to buy, but with a pint and a wine costing less than €5, we weren’t too badly hit. All inclusive however, would be cost effective if your kids are a bit older. Then, the soft drinks and icecreams are unlimited.

What really makes this hotel however, is the staff.

From the room maintenance, to the front desk, to the restaurant staff, they were second to none. A special mention must go to Ana, the lady who met us at the desk morning and night. She was an absolute lady and gave the girls a coloured straw every time we entered, Might sound silly, but it was one of the little touches which made our girls feel special.

But the TUI staff themselves, what can I say?

Those guys work, work, work, but at no point did we see any one of them without a smile. They remembered names. They high-fived. They stopped to have conversations and their energy was contagious. And their talent? Now, I am not easily starstruck. My ‘theatre’ background means I am critical enough of “talent”, but these guys were phenomenal.

Our first night was a Magic of the Musicals night. We could have been sitting in the West End for some of the scenes. Francis in particular was exceptional. This guy could transform from clown, to chimney sweep to Jean Valjean in the blink of an eye. His voice, his acting and his dancing were superb. Izzy and Taylor were equally as talented. They did the Musicals show, a cabaret show of all TUI staff, and a Disney night which was fantastic.

The schedule of entertainment was varied and fun. At 7.20pm, a few episodes of Paw Patrol are shown on the screen. (Cue every parent sighing as they sup on a glass and breath!) Then the team entertainment starts with ‘Download’, a virtual interactive gameshow where the kids and parents get competitive. Other various pieces were mixed up throughout the week, with outside acts coming in on alternate nights; acrobats, Michael Jackson tributes etc.

The hotel was full of young families, with most kids seemingly under 12. We travelled at the end of June. The hotel was comfortably busy for the first 4 days, but it did become very busy on our last 2 days. The pool and restaurants were much more crowded by the end of the week with the UK hoildays beginning, and there was suddenly a queue for loungers at 8am, which hadn’t been the case on our first days. This is not a complaint by any means, but an observation which has convinced us to travel earlier next year if we can.

We spent most of the holiday in the resort, visiting the main town and promenade a few times, venturing to the beach once, and going to PortAventura World on the Tuesday. This was great, but expensive and tiring for our little kids. They’ll enjoy it more as they get older, but it’s a great day out.

And then, it was suddenly time to start packing up to come home.

Our journey home was as easy as our journey there. Bus pick-up was at 8am for our 10.30am flight. Check in at Ruess airport was incredibly slow and we were worried we’d be late for the flight, but with very little to do and limited seating in the airport, it was fine. Again TUI staff were on hand to assist.

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We’ll be back

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable week of amazing family time. Our fear of sun holidays with the kids has been dispelled forever and I’m going to book our return trip to Avenida Suites as soon as I can.

5 stars from Mammy… a great spot for young families

The S-Mum is an Irish Mammy Blogger and writer. No compensation was received for this review. I write it simply because I was impressed by the Family Life Avenida Suites and the whole TUI experience. These are my own thoughts and I am obliged to nobody.

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