I’ve been taking Harrison out for day trips since he was a baby. He went on his first ride at Beulieu (Wheels) when he was only 4 months old. Since then we’ve been all over the place and enjoyed days at theme parks, museums, zoos and the seaside.
Here are my top 10 tips for fun days out.
1. Go prepared
This is an interesting one. When Harrison was small I used to carry around far too much stuff with me. It was easier when he was in a pushchair but once he was walking I had to carry everything on my own, and carrying a massive heavy rucksack was absolutely no fun!
Therefore my tip is to pack as light as possible. My bag now normally contains:
· A camera. A prefer an actual camera rather than my phone for capturing all those memories
· Spare pants (for him not me!)
· Other spare clothes – depending on where you are going and depending on how good your child is using the toilet. I ALWAYS keep a spare set in the car even if I don’t carry them around with me.
· Baby wipes. Yes, still and for ever! Not a massive packet but these are good for everything and having a small packet with me comes in very handy.
· A packet of tissues (for little noses, clearing up any messes and when there is no toilet paper!)
· A few plasters. I’m not the type of mum to carry around a massive first aid kit with me, however a few plasters weighs nothing and can come in very handy
· Some snacks (possibly). This depends where we are going and what I think the availability of food will be.
Of course, travelling light can sometimes go a little bit wrong. On one eventful day in Blenheim palace, Harrison was having an absolute blast jumping in muddy puddles. Unfortunately he misjudged one particularly large one and fell face down in it. I of course did what any self- respecting Mum would do. I laughed and then took a picture to put on my facebook! And then I realised that my son was covered in mud, we were about one and half miles from the car and I had no spare clothes with me! All I had was my trusty baby wipes (and thankfully a full pack of them).
I always try and research where we are going. I look at food options, where the toilets are, what attractions are available and any events that are going on (either that would encourage or discourage me to go). I also look at the entry costs and see if it is worth pre-booking tickets. The internet is your friend!
3. Annual Passes
I’m a massive fan of annual passes. We have a Merlin Pass, ZSL pass (Whipsnade and London Zoo) and National Trust membership and they have been fantastic. Especially when Harrison was under 3 as he was free! One of the best things about them is that if you ever turn up somewhere and you are not having fun (for whatever reason). You can just leave, come home and not think that you’ve wasted an entrance fee. You can also go in for just a few hours and not feel guilty.
Many attractions also have annual passes included with day entry tickets (Beaulieu, The London Transport Museum, The London Transport Museum, Leeds Castle, The Eden Project, Blenheim Palace and Portsmouth Historic Ship Yard come to mind) and others for example The Imperial War Museum at Duxford only charge you a few extra ££ for an annual pass.
Of course other attractions are completely free i.e. most of the London Museums.
4. Manage expectations
Tell your little one about where they are going and involve them in decisions about what they want to see.
If you are going to a theme park on a particularly busy day make sure they are aware of this and that they are going to need to queue.
Also manage your own expectations. Not every outing will be perfect, and you may not get to see everything you want to see! I’m fairly lucky that Harrison enjoys having a look around a museum or a zoo, however his attention span is limited. I would happily watch the tigers for 20 mins. He wants to look for 5 seconds. Likewise I may want to read about a plane in Duxford, he won’t!
5. Managing Bad Behaviour
This is tricky. Doing time out in the middle of a theme park isn’t the easiest. I must admit to resorting to bribery! If you want a visit to the toy shop, you need to behave. Bribery with an ice-cream may be cheaper but unfortunately Harrison doesn’t like ice cream.
Also if you haven’t done many days out before then work up to full days. Little trips to the local farm/ zoo before heading to a theme park for example. I’m frequently amazed at people who take their young children to Disney World (or Disneyland Paris) and then are shocked that their children are scared of the crowds and noise, don’t like rides and are tired and miserable, when they have never taken them to anywhere remotely similar previously.
6. Prepare to answer ‘are we nearly there yet?’ a million times. OK so this isn’t really a tip but it is reality. I now get ‘how many minutes (to go) every 30 seconds!
7. Take toilet breaks regularly. This may sound obvious but you really don’t want an accident in the middle of Legoland. Harrison is lazy and if I don’t remind him he’ll quite easily forget about using the bathroom. I therefore pretend that I need to go often to encourage him to go.
8. Have a stock of emergency drinks and snacks in the car, and a full tank of fuel. If you are travelling a fair distance make sure you are prepared. I always have water in my car just in case normally, but if you are travelling a long distance you just never know what could happen. Incidents of motorways being completely closed seem to becoming more common (or this might just be my false impression), and it always pays to be prepared. I’ve been stuck several times with Harrison in the car, and it’s no fun. Without supplies it would have been horrific!
9. Take regularly breaks.
If you charge around all day without having rests you are heading for disaster. Make time to grab a drink or a bite to eat and just sit for a few minutes regularly.
10. Enjoy it! Time is precious.
As a full time working Mum, my days out with Harrison are very special and important to me. We both look forward to them, and it is true quality time together. I’ve some amazing memories of day trips out with my Dear Dad when I was small and I’m pleased to be able to give Harrison the same experience.