Planning a Vacation The Safe, Sane and Smart Way


Me in Paris

If you've had enough of the winter blues, it may just be time to cash in some of your hard earned vacation days. This article contains some handy tips you can use to make your vacation a sweet success.

When it comes time to plan for your vacation travel, it's a wise idea to plan ahead in order to enjoy your trip. Planning for all of the possible hiccups and headaches that might come from traveling to a far off location is the best way to avoid serious trouble, especially if you are going to be visiting a foreign land that you don't have family or friends to guide you around in.

A guard in Prague

Be Sure To Choose A Safe Destination To Travel To

Perhaps the first piece of advice that should be given to the modern traveler is the admonishment to choose a safe destination to travel to. You can browse the Internet to find plenty of safe locations that you can spend a relaxing vacation, free from all of your worries and cares, and without breaking your bank balance.

The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of safe and sane destinations to travel to that do not involve any risk of bodily harm. Choose your destination wisely with the goal in mind of arriving safely home in one piece. Perhaps you'll want to go to sunny Cancun in order to swim or learn to scuba dive. Maybe you'd prefer to journey to the casinos of Las Vegas in order to enjoy a few nights of poker.

Family fun in Antibes

Have All Of Your Essential Documents In Hand At All Times

Another excellent piece of advice that should reach the ears of all travelers is the pressing need to have all of their essential documents in hand at all times. This includes such items as your passport, driver's license, and other travel documents and permits that may be required by the nation you are traveling in.

No one wants to spend the bulk of their vacation in a foreign land being detained by customs or immigration authorities. Always make sure that your documents are close to hand and ready to present to the official that asks to see them. This will save you a great deal of time and trouble, especially if you are on a limited budget.

Running free in Brussels

Don't Be Afraid To Get Opinions And Tips From The Travel Industry

Finally, perhaps the last piece of advice that you should take to heart is the fact that you should never be afraid to ask for expert opinions and tips from the friendly professionals in the international travel industry. These qualified and experienced travel experts are here to assist you in order to allow you to have a safe, relaxing vacation experience. Don't be afraid to ask plenty of questions of them.

There are plenty of companies, such as Blue Green Resorts, that are available to help you plan your perfect vacation. You can use the vast informational resources of the Internet to locate the company of your choice and plan out your perfect summer or winter vacation experience.

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Simple ways to brighten up a room


stylish living

Our terraced cottage is over 100 years old and therefore has very thick walls and low ceilings and at times can feel quite dark especially with the summer day's gone and autumn here it's important to inject as much light into our living spaces as possible and it's something I have been working on for a while and thought I would share my top tips with you on how to brighten up even the smallest of spaces.

1. Keep it simple - don't clutter a small area, especially not with dark furniture. Keep your spaces simple and light, the less things you have the more space it creates allowing for light to flow better and feeling less cramped. Also add a few pops of colour to uplift the room.

2. Hang some mirrors - I know you have probably heard this before but they really are the easiest way to reflect natural light into a room and you can have more than one reflective surface in a room and they are also perfect for those awkward spaces such as hallways or landings.

3. Paint your room - not only can a new lick of paint make a room feel fresh and renewed but can also changed the whole feel of the place. If your room lacks natural light don't go with a dark shade as this will only make it more suppressive instead opt for something light although also be careful as white can feel quite cold, perhaps something like Jasmine-white which has a slight touch of warmth to it.

Clean lines & light paint makes a small room seem bright and airy

4. Add some colour with a pot plant - bringing nature into the home not only adds some colour but also helps to freshen a space up, clean the air and make for a natural centre point, it also helps the brain connect with the outdoors and the idea of space making smaller rooms feel more spacious.

5. Don't have bulky furniture - instead opt for smaller, simple, well designed pieces of furniture in a light shade as large furniture can take up a lot of floor space and can make a room feel dark and crowded.

6. Savvy storage and seating - as I have just said keep bulky furniture to a minimum and invest in things that are well designs, practical and save you space, why not combine storage and seating with a stylish storage benches such as this one from Lions Home

Of course most of us would love to live in a beautiful bay fronted high ceiling Victorian home with large windows and lots of natural light flowing in each morning but that is not possible for a lot of people but we can all improve and make do with the spaces we have in a cost efficient way. Remember even small changes can have a big impact.

An associated post

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Street Style Sunday - Autumn crossover



John picked up this denim pinafore dress for me from Topshop for my birthday earlier this month and I have been enjoying wearing it with a long sleeve top from M&S which is perfect for the summer to autumn crossover, I have paired it up with some gold slip-ons from Zara.

Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year when you can start layering, wearing stylish jackets and it's no longer warm but neither is it so cold that you are uncomfortable, to me these mild days are fantastic for throwing different outfits together. Mr A has shaped his shorts for these cords from MiniClub and a Rugby jumper from Ralph Lauren.

I hope you can come and join in with Street Style Sunday and share what you have been wearing this past week

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Strada Cardiff Bay Family review



Ralph Lauren shirt

We were recently invited to come and try out the new kids menu at our local Strada in Cardiff Bay and I have to admit for some reason we had never visited this one before so we didn't quite know what to expect but we certainly left knowing we would visit again and when you see the food I am sure you will understand why.

Italian restaurant

Strada kids menu

One of our favourite things about travelling is trying the local food, we all love the flavours and freshness of Italian cuisine and the day of the review it was gloriously sunny in Cardiff, with Strada based in the heart of the bay with views across the harbour and sea it felt for a moment like we were on holiday.

When we arrived the staff were very friendly and made Mr A feel very welcome and brought over some crayons and balloons as the kids menu doubles up as an activity booklet. We decided to have some olives for starters, which Mr A loves alongside a little wine spritzer for ourselves.

When eating out we usually tend to go for slightly healthier choices although we do allow some treats such as ice-cream or a bowl of chips for our eldest and the kids menu offered lots of choice. I thought my son would of gone with a Margherita pizza but instead opted for veggie dippers to start which came with a rich tomato sauce and the Baked market fish fillet which was salmon. John had the Mega Whitebait which is basically crispy fried sprats, something but said it was great with the paprika and caper mayo.

fried sprats

baked Salmon

I had the vegetarian option of Beetroot and Ricotta bruschetta which was divine with some steamed chilli broccoli, it was lovely and light, leaving me plenty of room to indulge in the Pannacotta and seasonal berries for dessert. John couldn't resist the chargrilled steak for his main which he told me was cooked to perfection.

vegetarian food

Baby G who has started baby-led weaning even ha a go little bit of broccoli and throughly enjoyed the busy atmosphere. All the food was so fresh and served very promptly, both the boys were made to feel very welcome and it's perfect for families as the food was great, we could relax with a small glass of wine and Mr A was enjoying his activities and diving into his salmon before his bowl of Judes chocolate ice-cream. John also decided to treat himself to some dessert and went with the Affogato which is basically Judes artisan vanilla ice cream with with a shot of espresso poured over.

In terms of price it was very reasonable for what felt like a "special" night out as the kids menu is £6.50 and includes a starter, main, drink and dessert which I think is great value. When it comes to the adults you could take advantage of their Set Menu which is what we had with 2 courses coming in at £9.95 and three courses £11.90 - again fantastic value. I know personally we have spent a fair amount more on meals out without it come close to the quality of the food we found at Strada and would certainly recommend this for a family night out.

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Wine, Storage & Growing up


wine box

We are not huge drinkers in our house but growing up in SA, a Wine Producing country I do have a soft spot for a glass on the weekend with a nice home cooked meal and some adult conversation once in a while. I have been saying since we bought the house it would be nice to get a small wine rack, it just seems like something a "grown-up" house should have even though we don't regularly buy a bottle it would still be great to have somewhere nice to store them and this would of been especially useful when we recently received a VineBox from Wine & Sympathy - a wine subscription box which delivers carefully selected wine to your doorstep every month and best of all they also do a cheese box, what could be better paired with a glass of vino at the end of the day.

drinking wine

The nice thing about these boxes is not only does it take the stress out shopping but each bottle comes with information and tips on how to serve it best. Our favourite by far was the Bodegas Fontana red which is wonderfully smooth and perfected with some tapas once the kids have gone to bed.

wine storage
I love this simple but stylish wine rack (image)

When it comes to storage and display I want some small and neat that is not only practical but also stylish. Etsy have some amazing handmade wine racks and cases such as the one above as I think this would fit our needs. Of course it would be amazing to have our own cellar but I doubt we will ever have the space for something like this but we a wall unit we can have the best of both worlds.

wine storage
How amazing is this wine storage unit! (image)

Like I said Wine & Sympathy also do a monthly cheeseboard which consists of 4 specially selected premium cheeses straight to your door and best of all one lucky reader has the chance to win 1 cheeseboard to try out for themselves. The prizes is for on off cheese box worth £34.90 and it's super easy to enter and the giveaway ends on the 6th October

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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5yrs old and what we've learnt


Mr A on his birthday

Wow 5yrs old, both John and I cannot quite believe that our eldest turned 5 this week and long have the days passed that he would be considered a toddler but is now an adventuring spirited young boy on his own journey of discovery. I think with your first you never really know what to expect as becoming a parent is like nothing else, there is no manual, no prior training given, it's a learn on the job scenario which has both ups and downs a long the way but no matter how trying some days have been it's completely worth it.

sun flare

So after 5 years of parenting what have we learnt so far

1. The saying "Don't sweat the small stuff" really does apply here, there will be lots of things that will cause you stress on the parenting journey so don't get caught up in the smaller details of things and instead just try and enjoy the moment. I am naturally a person who likes to be in control and you simply cannot be all the time when it comes to kids and I found relaxing and easing up on this has really helped.

2. Sleep when you can - as most of you know the moment you have kids you wave goodbye to lie-ins and 8hr blocks of sleep, it simply doesn't exists anymore so if someone offers to watch the kids of an hour or they fall asleep mid day why not take a nap yourself, a well rested parent is more patient one.

3. A fussy eater will never starve - I used to get pretty frustrated when I would make Mr A some lovely purees or toddler meals and he wouldn't eat a bite, in fact he can still be like that today, he is simply not a big eater but apparently I was the same and a Doctor told my mother once that a child will never starve and will eat when they are hungry, it may just not be at the same time as you or large portions but you really don't need to get stressed about it. Mr A has grown into a strong an active young child.

4. Distraction can often be the best way to divert a tantrum. Mr A went through a period from around 3-4yrs old were he was incredibly inflexible and if things didn't go to plan he would have major meltdowns multi times a day, wether over a baked potato not being cut a certain way or the toothpaste not going on the brush the right way we found instead of us trying to "control" his emotions or telling how he should feel we found a simple distraction often diffused the situation rather than escalating it.

5. Embrace the mess - not matter how hard you try or how OCD you are about things your house is simply not going to be spick and span while you have small children running around and the best thing is to accept that a move on. Those beautiful kids bedrooms in magazines that are spotless simply don't exists in real life, I don't mean dirt but a simple state of constant untidiness is normal as kids love to pull things out without being that willing to put them back.

6. Enjoy the outdoors - we try and spend at least an hour outside each day and I think this is something that is important for both adults and children, it's a perfect way to run of excess energy, de-stress, learn, breath and put things into perspective.

outdoor fun
Mr A our wild child 

One thing is for sure we are very proud of the boy Mr A is becoming, he is curious and eager to learn, loves to travel an d adventures, he is always amazing us with his finds and we are ready for anything the next 5yrs brings as well as watching our son grow and blossom.

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Street Style Sunday - Get Baby Cosy



Panda and sparrow
Baby G in a beautiful Panda and the Sparrow baby grow 

I do love warm weather but I have to say as a family Autumn is one of our favourite seasons, it's so visual, so many changes, the beautiful colours of the autumn leaves and getting snuggly on the sofa with blankets and a cup of coco in the evenings is one of those wonderful simple pleasures we don't take for granted. It's also Baby G's first proper winter as well as all the fun and celebrations that happen over the festive season which makes this year a little bit more exciting that normal.

Cosy baby

organic baby clothes

Panda and the Sparrow, a small independent clothing brand started by two mums who wanted to find eco-friendly and hypoallergenic clothing for their kids are totally embracing the idea of #GetBabyCosy and we were very excited to be apart of it as for one their clothing is beautifully made and as soft as cashmere and secondly it's made out of breathable bamboo and organic cotton.

Organic baby clothes

Baby G in Panda and the Sparrow leggings and Tee

 I love their cute matching sets and the retro feel to the designs, especially the little blue striped vest under the grey panda tee and leggings. Also all their designs are unisex which I think is fantastic as we encourage a general neutral approach to things in the early years. These clothes really are the softest I have ever felt and I can see us having lots of family cuddles in the colder months. Thanks to Panda and Sparrow for asking us to be involved.

Remember to come and join in with Street Style Sunday - the family fashion linkup and share what you or your kids have been wearing.

An InLinkz Link-up

Have also join in with #Whatmybabywore
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The Freshest apple


childhood unplugged

We have been slowly making our way through the National Trust 50 things to do before your 11 3/4 and are at about the half way mark. We don't really plan when we are going to tick something off this adventure inspired challenge so it's always really fun when something happens naturally like when we were at St Fagans a few weeks ago and walked through the small apple and pear orchard. Mr A loves apples and spotted some low hanging ones and before I knew it he had picked one and taken a big bite, which meant we can ticket off challenge No.9 - Eat an apple straight from a tree"

natural childhood

pear tree

We grow what we can in our small vegetable patch at home and it's always wonderful to see the journey of where our food comes from first hand, even with something simple like picking an apple from a tree. We are hoping to tick of a few more challenges this autumn such as playing conkers and setting up a snail race. These slower quieter days are the ones we treasure the most and even though weather wise we didn't have a great summer we are looking toward Autumn, Halloween and dare I say it the festive season as a family of four unlike last year when there was just three of us.

outdoor fun

natural childhood

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
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Luna Cinema & Chaplin and Cork comes to Cardiff


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This month Chaplin and Cork’s is delivering the perfect summer combination – cider and cinema under the stars. As official cider partner of the Luna Cinema, Chaplin and Cork’s will be travelling the length and breadth of the country, bringing its range of premium award winning ciders to iconic outdoor venues, including Cardiff Castle from 18th – 20th September.

Chaplin and Cork’s is available in two delicious variants – Somerset Gold and Somerset Reserve.

To celebrate the Luna cinema’s arrival in Cardiff, one lucky Side Street Style reader will be in with the chance of winning an exclusive Chaplin and Cork’s summer cinema pack. The pack includes a pair of tickets to a local outdoor screening, picnic rug and a crate of Chaplin and Cork’s cider – the perfect ingredients for a summertime evening under the stars.

Terms & Conditions:

• Prize includes one Chaplin and Cork’s summer cinema pack
If you pick a Cardiff Screening the tickets will be supplied on the door & the pack with crate sent afterwards

• Entrants must be over 18 (proof of age will be required)

Chaplin and Cork’s summer cinema pack For further information please visit and .

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Wanderlust interiors for kids


Map bunting from Peony & Thistle

We are currently in the process of updating Mr A's room as he will be turning 5 next week and has long out-grown his toddler bed. We have felt this has also marked the time that now he has really started his journey of boyhood and is no longer the baby of the family but rather an adventurous, confident and spirited young boy, who needs a space that reflects his interests and passions such as travel and his love of the outdoors. Here are a few things that we are loving at the moment and would work perfectly in a travel inspired kids room.

Steamer travel trunk from Notonthehighstreet

I love this handmade Steamer travel trunk which would work perfectly as a kids toys storage box. The vintage travel stamps add a lovely retro feel to the box and its so well made it should it could be passed down from child to child or even work well in a living room. We are also trying to encourage Mr A to make notes, start writing and drawing more as journal his adventures so when I came across this beautiful handmade journal I thought this would make a great birthday present for next week.

Ship Travel Journal from Notonthehighstreet
I also love the idea of some map bedding or something along those lines, you have to be a bit careful with this sort of thing not to make the room to busy with different patterns and prints which is why I love this blanket so much as you can use it as a throw and take it on and off as you feel.

World Map blanket from Esty 

I cannot wait to show you what his updated room looks like when we finally finish and I cannot believe my little man is going to be 5. It seems like such a big number all of a sudden and we are looking forward to the adventures that it brings with it.

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Stylish stay at Mercure Amsterdam Canal Hotel



Amsterdam hotel

Our summer was so action packed this year with the highlight being our trip to Amsterdam from London on Stena Lines and with so many other things happening it's taken a bit longer than normal to  edit the hundreds of photos we took during our trip and sit down and write a review of this amazing
hotel we stayed at - The Mercure Amsterdam Centre Canal District.

Amsterdam for kids
The two boys relaxing in our amazing hotel room

So after a long journey including an overnight ferry to the Hoek Of Holland during the heatwave it was such a refreshing sight to finally get into Centraal Station, take a short tram ride across the city and step inside this perfectly located boutique hotel right in the heart of this vibrant city. The reception area is well designed with comfy seating and very helpful staff, we felt immediately welcome and they even gave Mr A two little soft toys to keep. Once we checked into our room we had a little bit of down time, enjoying the space and beautiful interior, before heading out to explore.

The room was spacious which is a luxury in Amsterdam and had a deluxe king sized bed plus another fold out bed and space for a baby crib. There was a minibar which was filled with complimentary soft drinks each day as well as a Nespresso machine and climate control which was key in the 30 degrees heat as well as fast and free Wifi.

The Hotel has a lovely family friendly park right behind it with a sandpit, playground and colourful walls, we spent two evenings in this park watching Mr A run around making friends. It's also within walking distance of MuseumPlein, VondelPark, Leidseplein as well as having a Canal boat stop within minutes of the hotel as well as many trams taking you to sights further afield.

stylish interior

Each morning the breakfast took place in the bar downstairs and offered an array of freshly baked pastries, cereals, fruit, cold meats and fresh coffee, the staff made sure that everything was constantly stocked. We started most mornings with a bowl of muesli with fruit compote, dutch pancakes topped with scrambled egg and freshly squeezed orange juice. They also had the headlines of the days news in different languages so you could keep up to date with what was going on and without even asking they provided us with a highchair for the baby each morning.

This was the second time we have visited Amsterdam within a year and I spent a couple of months working int he city before I had children and I have to say this hotel is located in one of the most family friendly parts of the city, the staff are helpful and welcoming and we really could not fault the place and would recommend this to anyone visiting the Dutch Capital.

My Travel Monkey

We were offered a discount on our stay, words & thoughts 100% our own.
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