Side Street Style

Side Street Style

Side Street Style

Family travel and lifestyle blog

28/11/2022

Snippets from our Interrail Adventure

The Vatican
Chillin in The Vatican


We have recently got back from the most amazing adventure, by train, across Europe, on a budget. I have so much to write up about our trip but I thought I would share a few snippets while I put more in-depth posts together. 

Firstly it was amazing to be able to travel again in what felt like pre-pandemic times, yes we had to wear masks on all the German trains but that didn't bother us at all and we are more than happy to comply with any travel requirements, as long as we can travel. 

I was so excited to take the kid's Interrailing as it's something I've done myself a few times before having children and it's certainly not just for 20's something backpackers but suitable for all ages!


Salzburg
Looking out across Salzburg


After lots of planning, with a variety of routes we could have taken, we settle on whizzing down from London to Turin in Italy and then spending time exploring Levanto, The Cinque Terra, Pisa, Florence and Rome before taking a night train to Salzburg in Austria, across to Stuttgart in Germany and then finishing it off with a night in Paris. 

We managed to tick off 5 Countries - France, Italy, The Vatican, Austria and Germany! As this was our first dip into family interrailing, we definitely have plans to do more next year and go even further afield. I myself have been as far as Croatia, Hungry, Czech Republic and Slovakia all by train as the European network is so well connected. 


Cinque Terra
Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terra


As I said I will be writing more in-depth into how you go about planning an Interrail trip from costs to train supplements, tips, hacks and best routes. As well as sharing family destination guides to the places we stopped and where we stayed. 

We stayed in a mixture of mainly Hostels and backpackers with some budget hotels and a self-catering apartment (in Levanto). All I have to say is don't be put off by the idea of Hostels - all of the ones we stayed in we had a private ensuite room in central locations with fantastic amenities - again I will be writing about this more in-depth. 

Disclaimer - we were provided with adult and youth Interrail passes - as standard my youngest had a free pass as ALL children under 12 get a free pass with an adult. All supplements, food, accommodation and activities were paid for by me. My words are 100% my own and I will always provide an honest and unbiased review. 


Florence
Florence, Italy


14/11/2022

Getting creative with k'nex

k'nex

*We were kindly provided with a k'nex box to review

If you are looking for a Christmas present this year that inspires creativity and thinking out of the box, literally, then k'nex is a great option! We were recently sent the k'nex 300 starter box, which provides enough pieces to make 20 builds although of course kid don't have to follow the instructions and just like lego can create their own builds. 

What is really unique about k'nex is that the rod and connector building system no only allows you to build some pretty awesome things but they also move! My son built the mini swing and loved that it actually worked and with the wheels provided in the kids the cars move.


k'nex


While k'nex isn't suitable for under 3yrs old due to small pieces, it is suitable for a variety of ages as there are different skill levels, so both of my children, who are 7 & 12, found knex fun and engaging. I did think that perhaps my eldest would find it boring but he didn't at all and he really liked the harder, more challenging builds, in fact so did I (who doesn't love a creative challenge) 

What I also like about K'nex is children can build and expand their collection as they go, as the sets are all compatible with each other. There is a huge range including working rollercoasters, cranes, cars and also  educational packs that focus on STEM exploration, offering that perfect combo of fun and learning. 


k'nex


We all want our children to spend less time on screens and k'nex is not only fun but also builds on dexterity skills, design and creativity. You can read more about knex on the Basic Fun website and John Lewis offers a great range starting from around £8.50.

18/10/2022

Fire Safety Tips for home & away

candle

*This post contains affiliate links

Luckily I've never had to deal with more than very minor issues when it comes to fire although I once had to evacuate my house for a short time as my neighbour had a fire in her kitchen & smoke was coming into my home. I've also been one of those travellers who has had to stand outside the hotel because someone set the fire alarm off due to smoking in their room (which of course you can't do). But since having kids, fire safety has become even more of a priority and not just in our own homes but also when we are travelling. 

Fires can occur in any kind of property, from your home to a school, workplace or even a hotel, so having basic knowledge of fire safety, improving safety in your home and what to do in an emergency is so important. Here are a few ways to make sure your home and travels are safer

1. Install a fire alarm & make sure your holiday property has one

Firstly fit at least one smoke alarm in your home, preferably two (one on each level). It's the easiest way to protect your home and family and they are both cheap and easy to install. If you are travelling, especially if you are using sites light Airbnb, make sure to get in touch with the owner to check if the property has been fitted with a fire alarm and it may also be worth asking if they have done a proper fire risk assessment of the property, something which they are responsible to do but it's always monitored with individual holiday rentals. 

2. Establish an escape route

While most hotels have the fire escape route placed in your room (usually behind the door), you should also have a plan for your home and every family member should be aware of it. The escape route should be straight forward and keeping that route clear daily is key. Unlike the home Hotels have fire doors which add an extra level of protection and should have regular checks and a fire door survey done. 


fire safety


3. Make sure both you and your children know basic fire safety

You and your children so know how to dial 999 and make an emergency call and if there is smoke to keep low where the air is clearer. You should both also know the Stop, Drop and Roll technique should your clothes catch fire as running around makes the flames worse, what you need to do is immediately lie down and roll around. 

4. Don't overload plugs

Electrical fires happen more than you think and can occur both at home or when travelling. There are simple ways to prevent them such as not overloading extension plugs and unplugging small appliances when not in use

5. Have a nighttime checklist

You are more at risk of a fire when you are asleep, so doing a nighttime check before you go to bed can really help reduce the chance of fire by doing a few simple things. 

1. Turning off and unplugging electrical appliances, including your cooker, unless they were designed to be left on, such as a fridge or freezer. The same goes when you are travelling, try not to leave phones or cameras charging in your hotel room overnight. 

2. Make sure things like candles are fully blown out and turn off your heaters.

3. Make sure exits are clear and know where your door and window keys are, both in your home or while you are travelling, especially if you are hiring an apartment or Airbnb

It's surprising how many people don't do this but in an emergency having clear exists and being able to access your front and back door keys are essential so you can get out quickly


camp fire




12/10/2022

Travelling to Europe? 5 things you need to do before you go

London Paddington

*This post contains affiliate links


Many of us, due to the pandemic are only now slowly getting back into international travel, whether it be a long-haul trip or just a city break to Paris, the world is for the most part has opened back up. My boys and I have just embarked on a trip around Europe by train and I thought I would share the top 5 essential things to do before you head off on your own adventure.

1. Check your Passports

While this may be obvious, the amount of times I've seen people miss out, especially those with kids (as their passports only last 5yrs) due to expired passports has been surprisingly a lot. The UK passport office is still experiencing delays and it may take longer than expected to get your new one back, there are options for fast tracking but these can cost significantly more so don't leave this until the last minute.

2. Apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)

While this does not replace travel insurance it's still really important to get one of these free cards which lets you get state healthcare in Europe at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. When I was travelling in Amsterdam a few years back I needed to see a GP for a non-urgent appointment to get some medication and was able to quickly arrange an appointment with a local GP for free as I had what was then called the UK European Health insurance card. The UK European Health Insurance Cards can still be used if valid but once expired you need to reapply for a GHIC. Also it goes without saying also book comprehensive travel insurance.


Venice



3. Print physical copies of all your bookings

While the majority of us rely on smart phones and smart phone passes we should always print physical copies of our train reservations, flight plans, accommodation bookings etc as what would happen if you lost your phone or it was stolen, or simply ran out of battery and couldn't access the ticket, address or information? It's already happened on our trip where I thought I would be able to charge my phone on the train but the charger port was not working so I ran out of battery, luckily I had a small portable charger that helped a little but I also had our train reservations and accommodation booking printed otherwise I wouldn't have know the address or hotel contact number without it.

4. Decide how you plan to get around & prebook your transport

If you are just going for a quick city break and plan to walk to most of the sights thats fine but if you are planning on using public transport make sure to research where you need to buy tickets as most trams, busses and metros require a ticket before boarding. Also purchasing rail reservations beforehand if you are planning on taking intercity or high speed trains is highly recommended as these often sell out beforehand. It also goes without saying that that if you plan to hire a car do this in advance to ensure both availability and the best rate and make sure you driving licence is valid. When it comes to car rental there are lots of options so shop around and do Car rental compare online.

5. Still check for additional Covid restrictions

While most of Europe has fully opened up there are still some restrictions in place in a few countries and need to be adhered too. They are usually to do with mask wearing, such as in German it's not a legal requirement to wear an FF2 mask on public transport. You don't want to be subject to a fine if you have not prepared and packed the right mask.


European travel

 
Of course the main thing is to have fun while travelling but doing your research beforehand will save you a lot of time, money and inconvenience and having a rough itinerary before setting out also enables you to have a better idea of what kind of budget you need before going. Travelling slightly off peak will also mean cheaper accommodation and less crowds, allowing you to really enjoy the popular sites with less queues.
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