Trying to reduce waste when you’re a family can seem daunting, but there are a few small, simple things that you can do that can make a big difference both for the environment (any landfill waste creates greenhouse gasses which are very bad news for global warming) and for your pocket. So whilst none of the below are groundbreaking, they help us reduce waste in our home and live a little more consciously relying less on disposable items to carry out small everyday tasks, particularly in the kitchen. Here’s some items I’ve bid farewell to in at attempt to reduce the waste we create as a family and just generally, to live a little more simply…

SAY GOODBYE TO…

Paper towels and wet wipes

Probably the simplest and most effective change I’ve made to create less waste is to ditch paper towels. It’s so easy to grab one when there’s a small mess to wipe up, or a dirty baby’s hands to wipe, or some sticky fingers to clean up. So now instead of buying disposable paper towels, we use bright cloth napkins that we had anyway in the home (that were simply gathering dust in the cupboard and totally underused). They’re so much softer and more cheery (important when wiping mess up!) and now instead of disposing of a dirty paper towel, we just stick them in the washing machine. I’m also a big fan of cheeky wipes to wipe up mucky faces and bottoms – I will do anything to avoid baby wipes and have spoken of my feelings towards these pesky bits of yucky fibres here. Quick tip if you do decide to go down this route – I really recommend using coloured or dark cloths; I reckon white cloths would end up stained and mucky looking.

Cling film and aluminium foil

Again, cling film has been struck off the shopping list over the past few months. Instead we use Abeego bees wax food wrap which are made with beeswax, tree resin, organic jojoba oil infused into a hemp and organic cotton cloth. After one use, I simply rinse them with cold water and they’re as good as new. Tip if using abeego: don’t use any hot water to wash them and don’t stick them in the microwave. In fact I’m trying to get rid of anything disposable in our house: whether it’s a picnic, party or camping trip, you don’t need to use disposable plates, cups and cutlery and instead we either use stainless steel items like this rectangular one with mini storage inside which are super durable (& perfect for camping), or I’ve recently discovered these biodegradable and reusable plates.

Washing powder

The eco egg is a total game changer for any family and I could not be happier with this nifty little product. It’s amazing for the environment, is a real money saver and is also a must if you or your loved ones have sensitive skin. You don’t need anything else – you just pop the egg in with your washing and I also put a few drops of lavender oil in with the clothes too. The product comes in three size; the largest lasting for up to three years! The natural cleaning pellets inside the egg are the cleaning agent. There are no harsh chemicals and it’s proven to wash just as well as normal detergent. Win win win!!

 

Food packaging 

Ideally I would take my empty jars and containers to the shops to refill them somewhere like here or here but unfortunately this isn’t the reality (I live a bit of a distance from both). And whilst I try to buy foods from the supermarket with least wrapping as possible and I always take my own cloth bags to the shops, sometimes, especially if shopping online, packaging is of course inevitable. Once beyond the horrible packaging, I strip my produce of its packaging before putting it in the fridge or in the larder. This means I’m much more aware of the food that I own and I’ve found that the food waste we produce as a family has plummeted. Side note: it also looks way more attractive. The other reason I like removing packaging of fresh produce in particular – sorry husband – is to get rid of sell by date stickers. As a result, we just go by what the produce looks like rather than a date on a package.

If you want to explore a more waste-free lifestyle, you’re going to need to say goodbye to a few things. Are there any tips and tricks – however small – you can share around creating less waste in the home? Do you do any of the above? I’d love to hear…

P.S Other items I love: my reusable coffee cup, and my camelbak water bottle, I generally don’t leave the house without either. Oh, and stainless steel straws are a complete winner with the kiddos – there is something really special about teaching the children about this world too.

P.P.S 10 ways to reduce waste and live with less and zero waste parenting tips

A Perfect Laid Back Family Retreat in Italy

OK, so I’ll be honest with you: up until now, the idea of an all-inclusive holiday has always made me feel a little uneasy. To date, most of our holidays have been backpacking, roadtripping, camping and long haul flights to who knows where. Naturally, therefore, I was somewhat skeptical about Villa Pia. I’d be surrounded by other people’s children, there’d be organised fun and everything would be run on timings and rules. Well, I may as well get this out there right now: I could not have been more wrong about this place.

I think it was just after we arrived when we were given a 3 minute tour of the house before being offered a beer and left to our own devices that I realized Villa Pia wasn’t going to be a typical “all inclusive” sort of place. There were no staff walking about in bright t-shirts and caps (their presence was unbelievably discreet), no signs around the place with ‘dos’ and ‘donts’, and not an aquaaerobics class in sight. Indeed, everyone is very much left to get on with it which for me is exactly what I want from a holiday – but with (delicious) meals, a swimming pool, a load of toys, some adult banter when you want it and every single baby item you could think of, at your disposal.

Villa Pia is a beautiful farmhouse located in Lippiano, a stunning hilltop village conveniently located between several Italian airports. Most people rent a car but one of the families had taken the train which they said also worked perfectly. The house holds 20 families and the rooms are basic but full of character, and have all you need. We had one very large room for all of us but I get the impression that they’d cater for whichever set up you want. All meals (including alcohol and a sit down three course dinner) are included in the stay and trust me when I say, the food is mouth- wateringly excellent.

When it came to activities for the kids, asides from a few paid extras, for example a weekly kids cookery class, there weren’t many. But with the huge grounds, a room full of toys, a mega outdoors slide, a softplay room, and two swimming pool, there is more than enough for children. Some of the guests there with older children mentioned that they’d have liked a few more activities but for us with younger kids, it was so simple and so perfect.

Here’s a few personal highlights from Villa Pia:

  • The fridge stocked full of juices, milk (they even had oat milk), prosecco, beers, yoghurts not to mention a dresser laden with spirits that adults could help themselves to, say if you wanted to make a casual gin & tonic at 7pm
  • Whilst dinner for kids is earlier with the aim that you feed your kids and put them to bath and then the adults eat together at 8, equally if your child (like ours and a few others) fancied playing on the climbing frame and hanging out, no one batted an eye lid
  • Baby bottles, bibs, plates and cutlery on tap
  • Being able to get a tiny bit dressed up and have some adult chat with other parents from all over the world at the end of the day (and stay up late finishing the bottle, if you so desire)
  • The fact that if you forget any single medical item for a child, someone else is bound to have it

So in conclusion, don’t come here if you’re looking for the latest, snazziest toys (the toy room was definitely sporting some retro toys), activities to occupy your child with every moment of the day or state of the art TVs in your room (there was no TV in the room, which I really loved). But if you’re looking for somewhere relaxed and homely where the food is restaurant quality and kids are seen as part of the furniture, then this could be your next holiday. It almost feels like Villa Pia is stuck in another era, in all the right ways. What I mean by that is that they get all the simple things right, and don’t worry too much about the rest – which in my mind, is exactly how it should be.

If you want to see more from our time there, I’ve included some more photos below. Thanks as ever for taking the time to read this post (and I’d love you to pop over to watch a short video diary of our time here– it gives far more of a feel for this gorgeous place)

Emma xxx

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DISCLAIMER: Villa Pia very kindly invited us to come and stay with them – but all opinions are 100% my own. We absolutely LOVED this spot and we’re already gathering troops to return next year! To find out more or make an enquiry, head to Villa Pia’s website.

Easy Vegan Banana Bread

Picture the scene: it’s day 2 of Veganuary, obviously dairy and meat is out of the question, our food shop isn’t arriving ’til the next day, and I’m hungry. Faced with a grumbling tummy and an empty fridge, I would normally snack on cheese and crackers. Obviously this isn’t an option now. I can’t whip up a quick scrambled egg either and the grey looking tub of hummus on the top shelf isn’t appealing to me either.

I scan the kitchen and my eyes fall upon a bunch of black bananas that had been left festering under a pile of newspapers. It’s approaching witching hour for the kids which means the wheels will soon start to fall off and my tummy still grumbles on. I realise that there’s only really one possibility here: some sort of banana bread. Except it has to be vegan. And Sam is kinda anti-sugar. So it has to be sugar -free. And I fancied wholemeal flour rather than the typical refined type. So basically, a really boring banana bread.

But here’s the thing – this one tastes amazing and has a lovely crunchy crust, it’s soft on the inside with no sweet sickly taste as some normal banana bread can be. The best part? Tucking into 3 chunks (with no topping – it doesn’t need it) makes you feel zero sorts of guilty. A win all round. So here’s how I did it (with a helping hand from Jack). Sorry that the instructions are a little vague (#hippycook) – for example when I say ‘cups’, you could measure out 120g, and also it it totally flexible recipe so go with what feels right (and what you have in the cupboard!). I hope it works out deliciously for you – I’m sure it will.

Ingredients

2/3 (ideally 3) bananas mashed (Jack did this part – in other words, don’t worry if they aren’t too mashed!)
2 tablespoons chia seeds
6 tablespoons water
110ml olive oil (I also tried this with vegetable oil, and it turned out more than fine)
100ml maple syrup OR 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white flour + 1 cup wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp each cinnamon
Handful of vegan chocolate chips (optional) – we used these ones

Switch the oven to 180’C and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper or rub some (vegan) butter on a muffin tin (this recipe works just as well for muffins or a cake). Beat together the oil and maple syrup. In a separate bowl, mix together the chia seeds and water and add this to the oil/maple syrup. Then add the mashed bananas.

In a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients then fold this into the wet mixture. Pour into your tin and sprinkle over some oats. The mixture will seem thick and stodgy, but that’s perfect! Pop in the oven for about 35 minutes (or until a knife comes out clean – you know the deal) Enjoy with a big brew, and either have it on its own (my favourite), toasted or top with peanut butter, maple syrup, banana slices, jam, nutella…..Or freeze it. But I recommend, just on its own, whilst still hot (it tastes ten times more delicious), with a big mug of tea.

P.S Vegan Chocolate Courgette Cake  and The Best Dairy Free Milks for Kids

I have a confession: my favourite blog posts are the ones I do mainly for my sake over yours. Like this one about the kids milestones or this recipe for healthy banana cake which I go back to again and again. Don’t take this the wrong way but they’re always the ones that actually get me excited and which I really pour epic amounts of time into either researching or writing. This post is a prime example of this. I have spent days and nights feverishly digging into the depths of Google/ Trip Advisor / Instagram to make this post happen, and I also want to thank some of you for putting forward some ace sites tooMy geography ain’t the best is shoddy so apologies if the below ordering structure is a little haphazard. Also, can you tell we’re based in London? I know there aren’t many up North in the list below – I’m working on it!

Anyway so, here goes: a guide to the best campsites that are mainly small, simple and beautiful; that are not off grid, have clean showers, and in many cases, pizza vans, lakes and fire pits. All important shizzle. Genuinely, who needs Trip Advisor or Google? We got each other 🙂 Enjoy the list, guys:

Breck Farm – Norfolk

Swallowtails – Norfolk

Lings Meadow – Suffolk

Thistledown Farm – Gloucestershire

Nethergong Camping – Canterbury

Folds Farm – New Forest

Wardley Hill – Norfolk

Cornish Tipi Holidays – Cornwall

Dewslake Camping – Pembrokeshire

Wookey Farm – Somerset

Hale Farm – Sussex

Edale campiste  – Peak District

Fen End Farm – Cambridgeshire

The Secret Garden Touring Park – Cambridgeshire

The Real Campsite at Park Farm – Oxfordshire

Folly Farm – Devon

Burnbake – Dorset – turn up and pitch

Gooseberry Field Campsite – Kent – glamping only

The Secret Campsite – Sussex

Experience Sussex – Guess where..

Wowo – Sussex

Fforrest – Mid Wales

Eweleaze Farm – Weymouth

Thanks so much for reading folks, and please let me know if you have any additions or have been to any of the above and have any thoughts!

Emma xxx

P.S Camping with a tiny baby and A Perfect Birthday Camping Trip

Flying With Kids – And How You Might Even Enjoy It

“You’re crazy.” Simply put, this was one friend’s response back in 2015 when I told her that we we’d just booked to fly to South Africa with our 9 month old son. “Ahhh it’ll be OK”, I said half-smiling, half gritting my teeth, wondering if we’d made a big mistake and should be driving to Centre Parcs, or something more sensible sounding. Fast forward two years, we’ve added another child into the mix and been fortunate to visit places all over the world, from Ankhor Wat to Arizona and I’d jump on a plane tomorrow for another 15 hours or so if it meant we could wake up in another far away country with our children. Because here’s the thing: in my opinion, sitting on a plane with kids is the easy part, it’s the sitting on the beach part that I find tricky. So here’s some quick tips I’ve picked up along the way if you’re heading on a plane journey with little ones and might be interested in some ways to maybe make it a little more palatable even, dare I say it, enjoyable.

Leave colossal amounts of time in the airport

However much time you were planning to leave, take that and add at least half the time onto that again. Everything takes longer with small children – you already know this, but nowhere is it more true (and important) than in an airport. Even when we think we have loads of time, we often still finding ourselves power walking (Sam) and lightly jogging (me) to get to the gate in time. And don’t forget to find the kids’ play areas – the one at Heathrow is right next door to a Pret which means you can sit with a caffeinated drink and watch the energy sap out of your child ahead of your flight. It’s kinda cool.

Fuel is everything

Having enough food on board is crucial; it serves not only to keep everyone relatively content  (have you seen how happy rice cakes and breadsticks make children?) but it’s also time-consuming. By that I mean, have you ever seen how long it takes a toddler to eat a bag of popcorn if you ask them to line all the pieces out in a row? Or how about if you ask them to make shapes with them? Bring on board more snacks than you think they could ever possibly consume because I promise you, they’ll all get eaten (if not by them, by you). That being said, if you really want your little ones to sleep, I’d suggest trying to get some proper food, ideally carbs, down them or alternatively bring something on board with you and don’t be afraid to ask for your childrens’ meals earlier – (see below on air hostess etiquette).

Be nice

I’m not suggesting you give out goody bags to people sitting next to you – that’s just unnecessary, not to mention kind of weird. I simply mean, talk to people, make eye contact with them, help them with their bags and basically be a good human who happens to be in possession of a small, very loud person. In particular, focus on the air hostesses and other people with children. Both are powerful people: the former because they have access to delights such as yoghurt, fruit and water – all valuable commodities when traveling long haul with children and you really need four minutes to go the loo and a banana will give you that. British Airways also carry Ellas Kitchen pouches on long haul which let’s face it, are pretty much gold dust in this situation. The latter because another friendly mum or dad with a whole back story and a toddler the same age as yours to share toys and snacks with is some of the best entertainment (bar a film, but you ain’t watching any of that) out there.

 

Don’t keep them in their seats

Despite looking out a plane window being one of the best story books out there, that will only last you so long (probably 7 minutes, max) Instead, let your mini run wild in the aisle to expend as much energy as possible. Good luck trying to avoid business class – a grubby, sockless, squealing toddler bursting through that elusive black curtain is not ideal, for anyone, least of all you who is going to have to be the one to sheepishly retrieve your small person. By the end of your flight, you’ll know the cabin crew area behind the seats very well and if you’re lucky, won’t have had too many encounters with suited business class folk trying to get on with reading their book and sipping their g & t#notjealousatall

TAKE TURNS

Whilst parenting is undeniably about team work, there are moments where you sometimes just need a break (How have Kit Kat not capitalised on the parenting arena?). And being on a plane with small people, is one of those. Give each other time slots (that have to be observed – there’s no messing about here) and know that your moment to recline that seat is coming.

Take a sling

There are a tonne of gadgets out there to help traveling with children but in my mind, nothing beats the humble babycarrier. Relatively small, foldable, and allowing for a superb rocking motion perfect for calming / lulling little ones to sleep, we don’t travel anywhere (not even hardly to the pub) without one. My favourite is the Connecta baby carrier – there have been many times where this was the only way our kids would fall asleep, and from there we would transfer him to arms/ a bassinet.

Technology will be your friend

Pre download shows on your phone and don’t rely on the plane for kiddies programmes – you might just have a seat with a duff entertainment system like we did that time we’d downloaded ONE twenty minute episode of Peppa Pig for a 12 hour plane flight.

Fly overnight

If you fly overnight, they *will* sleep at some point which discounts at least a few hours. Also, if your child is under 1 and / or can still fit in the bassinet, make sure you book this (and keep checking it’s confirmed). On the sleep note, cross everything that your plane is not busy. This can make a world of difference; just one extra single aisle is all you need to offload a restless, dribbling toddler desperately trying to sleep, balanced against your chest, legs straddled, jaw wide open…. you get the picture.

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I hope these few tips might be of some use, and if anything else, encourage you to take the leap and book that flight. Happy traveling – if in doubt, just do it. The world is waiting for you (and for your little ones) and whatever happens, you’ll learn a tonne along the way.

Thanks so much for reading as ever and definitely drop me a comment if you have any thoughts / questions / tips you’d like to add – I’d love to hear from you.

Emma xxx

P.S If you are pregnant and are about to purchase DVT socks, I’m not sure I’d bother. These are for people who are stationary. And you won’t be.

P.P.S If you enjoyed this. you might like ‘How to go backpacking with a baby.’

How To Wean With Zero Fuss

I found becoming a mum second time round vastly different to that brand new mama status. Birthing, breastfeeding, sleeping – everything just seemed that little bit easier and less of a ‘big deal’ when it came to sproglet number two. And nowhere more did I feel this than in the realm of introducing food and weaning. With Jack I remember painstakingly measuring out the exact amount of milk I should mix in with his porridge (3.5 teaspoons, to be exact), I would Google the perfect way to prepare sweet potato for a baby (surprise surprise, it’s the same way you prepare it for an adult) and I would spend ages coaxing him to eat (when he probably just wasn’t hungry). Feeding Sonny has, in contrast, been a wholly more relaxing and enjoyable experience (not least because it was a factor in improving his sleep) With Sonny, I’ve felt excited to give him food and although I’m absolutely no expert, here’s my tuppence worth on why this time round, the whole “getting-food-in-their-belly” process has been fuss-free and fun:

1. It’s not a race. As with most things baby-related, people tend to want to rush development and probe other mums about what they’re doing. “Has he had banana?”, “She’s had mango”, “What? Seven months and you’ve not given him any food?”. Life – least of all, feeding your baby which is the most natural process there can be – is not a race. So just remember; it doesn’t matter if the child at your local playgroup has tried courgette aged 6 months and yours is still suckling at the breast.

2. Babies palates are fickle so even if your little one doesn’t seem to like something on a Monday, chances are that by Friday he/she will. Keep trying foods that at one point your baby didn’t like and try to avoid labelling your child and their tastes. So for example, “my baby doesn’t eat vegetables” could simply be reframes as “at the moment or this week, he’s not eating vegetables.”

3. Don’t be intimidated by the jargon. There are two main culprits here: ‘baby led’ and ‘puree’. Or should I say “or”. I’m not sure why but people seem to approach weaning as if there is only one “method” and that you have to “choose” between these two perfectly different, perfectly perfect ways of weaning your child. My advice? Try both – depending what you have in the fridge!

4. Get some decent kit. There are some staples that you’ll need: bibs, cutlery, plates, bowls and a highchair – and there are several varieties so consider what you want carefully. With Jack we had a beautiful wooden highchair but it was an absolute pain to clean. A lot of people love the IKEA one but we have this Moutain Buggy clip on high-chair which I love as it takes up zero space and is portable. I also love the Bamboo Bamboo suction based bowls and plates which have prevented so many plate parties with Sonny chucking the entire contents of his plate on the floor. That being said, remember….

5. Avoid the gadgets. Again, and it’s a pattern in the parenting world, there are a tonne of different gadgets when it comes to feeding babies. I’ll let you in on a secret; if you’ve got hot water, an oven and a magimix or a stick blender, you don’t need any of them. Yes they might save you some time, but they won’t be easy on the bank balance (or on the cupboard space). So say no to stuff and know that I’m sure whatever you own is more than sufficient to cook and feed your little one.

6.Have back ups. If your little one is being a bit fussy, it is always helpful to have some food up your sleeve (not literally, though this is often the case, too) to try to get *something* down them. Sonny will never say no to some of the Organix finger foods and that way I know I’m getting something nutritious down him. That said, I also live by point number 8…

7. Batch cook, smatch cook. This is another aspect of weaning that terrified me; people would talk of spending entire Sunday nights preparing and cooking food for their babies for the week ahead whilst all I could think of was the Sunday night TV that I would miss. I’m sure I’d save myself time but I don’t ever batch cook, I just cook for the children and if there’s anything left over, I might stick it in the freezer. Isn’t that the same thing anyway? I’ve also started making extra of what Sam and I are eating at night and giving it to the children the next day or – making them a separate portion if what we are eating is particularly spicy or contains salt.

8. Don’t stress if they don’t eat. You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Food is for fun until they’re one” (and even beyond, I would say) and I think it’s a great one to remember so long as they’re drinking their milk. If your little one doesn’t eat much for the odd meal here and there, they will absolutely be OK* – plus, read on for what I do in such scenarios…

9. Watch for the signs. With Jack, one of the main reasons I think mealtimes turned into lengthy events is that I was ignoring his signs that he didn’t want to eat. So now when Sonny turns his head, spits something out or pushes it away, I refer to point #9 and move on with the day.

10. Ain’t no denying the mess. Some people put down sheets and there are amazing products on the market to help avoid the amazing amounts of mess that feeding a baby creates, such as this one. So far, however I’ve never been organised enough to alleviate the mess so instead I try to just embrace it and remember, as I’m on my hands and knees for the third time in a day scrubbing the kitchen floor, that this is just a phase and actually it’s quite good for my flexibility. That being said, if you like things neat and tidy, you’ll want to consider how to alleviate the mess.

If you’re soon to embark on the food journey, or are in the process of, that you might have found these tips useful. Ultimately, eating food and feeding our children should be fun, but these days it can become hyped up and another source of worry for parents.

What have your experiences been when it comes to introducing food? Has it been a positive experience ? What tips have you got that you can share?

Thanks so much for reading, as ever.

Emma xxx

P.S Perfect food for playdates

This post is also in association with Organix who have put together some tips to help you on your journey. We – or rather the kids – are huge fans of their finger foods and we pretty much don’t leave the house without a bag of some of their finger food.

 

 

* I’m not an expert but it’s my gut feeling

 

20 Family Travel Hacks

Nothing is ever going to stop me wanting to travel and explore the world with my family. In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret*: my dream is to pack up everything in a van and head off into the distance and see where we get to (this is my kinda porn.) Here’s how I first got the ‘bug’ and my craziness enthusiasm since then has seen us explore Angkor Wat with a two year old and eight month old (and pretty much have it all to ourselves), spend a night on a canal boat, go camping and to festivals with every adventure bringing new learnings and lessons along the way. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I love going on adventures as a family – it’s such a rich learning experience that is ever evolving and getting it ‘right’ is a complex formula of powdered milk and power strips. There’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to what works and I get a fair few questions on all sorts of travel issues so I thought I’d do a post detailing some simple hacks we’ve learnt along the way. Strap in, here goes:

1. Hack your headspace and adjust your mindset
What I mean by that is that f you’re looking for a ‘holiday’, this ain’t it. Get your expectations right in the first place: it will be challenging, it will take you outside of your comfort zone and to be honest, it won’t be all that relaxing. Travelling with kids and taking yourselves out of your day to day life can be bloomin’ hard work.

2. Hack your emotions
This is a weird one but it’s something I try really hard to do. Emotions can ride high when for example you’re stuck in a sweltering, dark car rental car park trying to fit a car seat with two crying toddlers and sweat dripping down your back. Arguments with your OH is the last thing you need so we have a rule: we try to say only positive things, or at least re frame something negative. For example, “we can probably make it to the next street before running out of petrol – wahey” as opposed to “how did you forget we needed more petrol?”

3. Give each other a break
We have found that giving each other ‘time out’ without looking after the small people is hugely beneficial. Let the other person have a lie in, a stroll child -free in the local town or just go for a solo beer. (NB this rule applies for real life too). You’ll come back more refreshed – and more ready to change a pooey nappy – than ever.

4. Embrace the journey
I like airports, there I said it. Robert Louis Stevenson had it down when he wrote “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” Just leave yourself plenty of time, seek out any Stay and Play areas, stock up on snacks or ideally, a proper meal and let them go wild riding up and down on the escalators as you watch them squeal with joy.

5. Check in on local timings
By this I mean, check what time things *happen*; what time the sun sets (this can drastically affect how much travel you do in one day), what time people eat dinner and what time shops close – there’s nothing less fun than dining on biscuits and crisps on your first night because everywhere is closed.

6. If you are driving, do not rely on a mobile phone for directions
Don’t rely on it having signal or enough battery. Get a proper road map and ideally locate everywhere you are going before you leave home. If you are using your phone, get a car charger and a mount to hold your phone on the windscreen and make sure you have downloaded the contact phone numbers and full directions to wherever you are going before you set off.

7. Hanger is real
Sometimes I wonder why we are a little cranky and realise we’ve not eaten yet and need to get food into everyones’ systems. So we carry food and water on us wherever we go and I’d also recommend taking some heartier supplies – we always bring weetabix, some ready meals and a jar of peanut butter from home and pick up bananas and bread once we arrive.

8. Relax on the routine
We’re already very lax on timings of things but I think when you go travelling, it is even more important to go with the flow and not worry too much about timings. Eat when everyone’s hungry, let them sleep when they’re tired. It may not come immediately but I guarantee that your little ones will develop a *new* routine of sorts on your trip. Whether it comes to nap time, bed time or meals, relax on the routine / vegetable intake and go with the flow. If they eat pasta every day for 2 weeks it’s not the end of the world.

9. Don’t take a full suitcase
This hack is probably the simplest to grasp but is actually one of the hardest to achieve and has taken me a long time to master. When we went to South East Asia with only backpacks, I was extremely selective about what I took and consequently, I took only bare minimum items, I lost nothing, used everything to its full capacity and really knew my belongings well. Unless you are really going somewhere very remote, nappies, dummies and wet wipes if you use them are all pretty available. You can really find everything you need abroad albeit in a slightly different variation.

10. Always pack an empty water bottle
Not having enough water freaks me out when travelling with children, especially of course in the heat. If I hear Jack ask for water and I don’t have any,  I genuinely feel awful. To prevent this, whenever we travel we always take a large Eddy camelpak – it’s perfect for getting through airports with (tell them the water is for the children and you should be fine), and then once you get to your destination, carry it around everywhere and fill it up at any available moment. This is particurarly good one if you’re doing a roadtrip

11. Focus on slow eating foods
This one sounds stupid but I assure you it’s a winner. And no, not slow-digesting, slow-eating – essentially, any item that takes a child a decent amount of time to consume. Apples and corn on the cobs are particular favourite, as well as carrots and popcorn (“one piece at a time”).

12. Forget the baby monitor
Don’t worry about bringing a monitor away with you. If you’re fortunate to have a set up whereby you might be able to nip out in the evening for a quick bite (say, if your room is on top of a pub), there are a whole host of apps you can use instead of baby monitors. We have used Dormi or isitter .

13. Treat them to a new toy
Our kids play alone really well with their toys and of course we bring a few along, but there’s a limit. So we always just tend to pick up a cheap truck or puzzle when we’re travelling which go down a treat.

14.  Learn the art of slow travel
By this I mean that whatever you were hoping to do, half that, then half that again. We find that doing ONE THING (with one kid, it was one thing in the morning and one thing in the early evening but we’ve cut it down!) a day with some down time back at your base is perfect. I have long let go of what I remember from traveling pre kids, and whilst we may have a list of activities we’d *like* to do, there is no itinerary of any sorts. Instead we tend to structure everything about meal times (see earlier point re hanger) and as much as possible, be our own guides.

15. Always buggy up
To buggy or not to buggy; the eternal question. Let them walk? Baby carrier? Dad’s shoulders? We’ve weighed up all the options and ultimately always reach the same conclusion: we need a buggy. But we need a small, nifty one (which isn’t necessarily the same one I want when at home). We’ve recently discovered the Baby Jogger City Tour which seems ridiculously sturdy but also super compact. Usually the fold away buggies are pretty flimsy but this one isn’t at all and is super easy to nip about in and manoeuvre around. The coolest thing about it is that it packs away into a backpack style carry bag which leaves you hands free and you can take it on the plane (we haven’t done that yet but you could).

16. Play to your strengths as a couple
For example, Sam is always the one who drives whilst I tend to be the one that prepares the kids food. You know what you’re good at – so embrace it and don’t necessarily use traveling as a time to experiment. It might not be pretty.

17. Embrace the shit shows and the ‘failures’
Things will go ‘wrong’ but we all know that the best ‘experiences’ are the ones that are unplanned and happen as a result of something else. So go with the flow and be flexible – plans will change – and it will work out for the better, I promise you. (I mean there will be times when you’re lost, it’s 11pm at night and you can’t see a thing whilst driving down dirt tracks that end in boggy marshland and have a starving screaming toddler in the backseat, a desperate Air b n b host trying to contact you, and things do seem *pretty* stressful like they did here – then you do just gotta give up).

18. Identify other children around you
It’s amazing how much help other peoples’ children can be (the non-screaming ones.) If you haven’t noticed, most kids love other kids so whenver I see another child, I basically pounce on them and force them to interact with my child. Use everyone else around you!

19. Power strip
These days, we seem to travel with a fair few electricals so instead of stressing about adaptors (or more likely, leaving them behind in the walls), we just take a whole power strip away for the whole family. On the tech note, remember car USB chargers – phone batteries always seem to run out just when you need directions somewhere.

20. Avoid the beaten track
Although safety is always the number one priority, we avoid anywhere that has a ‘well trodden path’ precisely because well, more often than not it will be just that – well trodden and packed with tourists. For our whole time in Cambodia and Vietnam we had 1 pre-planned planned activity and that was enough. The rest we sorted once out there. So forget the box ticking and go down your own path. As Dr Johnson said “nothing is more hopeless than a scheme for merriment”.

So those are my nuggets of advice for traveling. There might be the occasional tear, but I assure you, you will feel more alive than you’ve ever felt. Your soul will fly high, higher than it’s ever flown and here will be moments where your insides are smiling. You will journey deep into your soul, reconnect with yourself and your family, and grow as a person. In short, it’s the best therapy out there and will catapult you a million miles away from bleary-eyed mornings spent scrubbing weetabix off highchairs. Dan Kieran, author of The Idle Traveller puts it perfectly: “When travel takes us out of a predictable routine we become more aware because our conscious mind has been activated to deal with the new things we’re experiencing [….] This could explain why people seem to find themselves when they are travelling, because they are more conscious of the experience of being alive when they are journeying in new and exciting ways. Being in alien places and cultures will inevitably result in an increased connection wth yourself because its these new situations that wakes your consciousness. You’ve turned off the unconscious autopilot that runs your normal life and started to take conscious control.” Right now I could not be more excited to travel and to challenge ourselves and find different ways of looking at the world; to let go of what we know, to live in the moment and go slow – and embrace the inevitable shit shows (probably some quite literal) that we come up against along the way. It’ll be worth it.

Have you been away travelling with your little one(s)? Got any tips to share? Recommendations of places to visit? 

Emma xx

P.S Flying Long Haul with a toddler and Backpacking with a Baby

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This post is sponsored by Baby Jogger whose buggy I hugely recommend. For more information, head to http://www.babyjogger.co.uk/. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Mamalina – without them, this blog wouldn’t be possible.

* only my husband really knows about it – and he hears about it a lot!

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A New Chapter

Earlier this year I wrote about what I called PMLF (a super catchy acronym, I know). I was referring to that feeling of ‘what next’? that I was experiencing six months into maternity leave with Sonny. Would I continue motherhood full time? Would I return to my job at Google? Would I focus on my blog? Not simple questions to confront but questions I knew I had to explore because without being melodramatic, these are life changing decisions that affect everything and everyone close to me. It’s a crossroads that I’m sure many of you reading this are familiar with.

My children and being a mother means the world to me; it’s a job I find hugely challenging, rewarding and fun. That said, after having Jack, my gut feeling led me to return to work as well as for financial reasons. In practice though it was hard; I struggled with stress and fatigue and by the end of the day, I was shattered.

So now, with two children, the decision is even more difficult.

And so it is that I’ve spent the last five months prodding, probing, and imagining all the possible pros and cons of returning to work vs. staying at home with the kids: getting two children up, changed, dressed, teeth brushed every morning, nursery fees, a salary, commuting… I tried to imagine what life would look like. Above all, I focused on carving out a job for myself that I thought I would really, really love. It’s got to the point now that to work, given that nursery fees for two means that financially it doesn’t make a huge difference, I want need to enjoy what I do in order to justify handing Jack and Sonny over every morning to another carer. Whilst I understand the benefits of nursery, call me old -fashioned but I still personally think they’re better off with me or with family.

The result? Countless emails, hang outs, and meetings later, I’m going to be returning to Google and will be moving teams to be working exclusively on the YouTube Creator side of the business. It’s an area that I am super excited about given that YouTube is a huge passion of mine – here is my YouTube channel (I’d absolutely love you to hit the red button and subscribe especially as I’m going to be focusing on that over the next few months). I’ll be working 3 days a week leaving me with two days to focus on the kids and on creating my own content. I’ll be juggling all the balls (sounds dodgy – but you know what I mean), our home will be a tip 95% of the time, I will likely grow some more wrinkles along the way and I’m sure the odd glass of wine and takeaway will come into play, too. My number one rule? Get to bed early.

That’s it for now and I will keep you posted on working motherhood and my thoughts on it. Thank you for your continued support and for making me smile when I’m slumped up against the wall doing bathtime staring all heart eyes at my kids, checking in on my work emails and uploading an Instagram post. Work hard, play hard – I think that’s how the saying goes.

What are your thoughts? Are you a working mum or a full time ‘stay at home’ mum? (I don’t like the phrase ‘stay at home’ as if all that happens is that you stay at home and listen to nursery rhymes which couldn’t be further from the truth). Have a good one, friends.

Love, Emma xxx