Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Friday 25 August 2023

Planning our Summer holiday 2023

It’s been almost 5 years since our last proper summer holiday. We went to Spain in 2018 when Charlotte was still a baby and the world was a very different place! Throw in a few years of Covid lockdowns, a new summer born baby, a new house and a partial renovation … the chance of a holiday was way out of our grasp. 

planning our summer holiday

After losing my lovely Nanna last year (the day after the Queen passed), we decided that we wanted to focus more on family experiences this year - going to new places, doing things together and absolutely having a summer holiday. I’d been saving for the last few years and used most of my maternity allowance as our budget for going away. I was pretty sure that once I’d given birth, I’d find it harder to undertake my usual work and so wanted to get used to living without the security of my wage ‘just in case’. You can use various financial calculators to help plan your finances if you wish. We made sacrifices in lots of areas of our life in order to cut our spending (I stopped having my hair coloured and highlighted and embraced the grey for a start!) and so thankfully, we were finally able to book somewhere to go...

How did we decide on our summer holiday destination?

Originally, we were going to go to Spain again - my in-laws had a place out there so it would have been a case of buying flights and then food once we arrived. Unfortunately, they decided to go through with a quick sale after realising they needed to raise funds for their venture of moving back to the UK and so we looked into alternative options…

First off we toyed with the idea of booking a Jet2 sun holiday to somewhere in Europe. For the 5 of us, all of the options were coming up pretty expensive and there felt like so much choice we just weren’t sure what was the best option. I suddenly realised that this would also be our only summer holiday before Annabelle turned 2 next year and so this was our only chance of going anywhere without having to pay extra for her! On a whim, I had the idea of booking somewhere child focused for an exciting holiday for the children, followed by a family visit…and so we embarked upon booking a 3 night stay at Disneyland Paris, followed by a drive to Holland to stay with my in-laws for a couple of weeks to help make the holiday feel a bit longer!

Bearing in mind I hate travelling, and I really dislike driving in particular - the idea of this European road trip felt like a strange choice for me to make…but one I’m glad we did for reasons I will explain later on!

Here was our holiday itinerary:

Day 1 - drive from Ilkley to Kent to visit my brother in laws, then drive to Dover to stay In a Premier Inn ready for catching the Eurotunnel to Calais the next morning

Day 2 - Euro tunnel to Calais, then 3.5 hour drive to Disneyland Paris

Day 3, 4, 5 - Disneyland Paris for 3 nights followed by a 3.5 he drive to Belgium for a 2 night stay in an AirBNB

Day 6 - 3.5 hour drive from Belgium to Noord Holland to visit the in-laws for 10 days

Day 19 - 1.5 hr drive from Noord Holland to Rotterdam to catch the pride of Hull overnight P&O ferry to Hull in the UK

Day 20 - 2 hr drive from Hull to home in ilkley

We were torn between getting the ferry from Noord Holland back to Newcastle, which we have done in the past travelling with DFDS seaways, or catching the P&O ferry back to Hull but with a longer drive in Holland. We booked a 5 berth club cabin which was lovely, and the ferry had bars, entertainment and duty free shops - Arthur said he felt like he was on a cruise ship! Alas, it was not an Independence of the Seas ship, just a ferry but it was comfortable and spacious and the bunk beds had a proper bed bar on the side (unlike the DFDS beds which was a low bar the same height as the mattress which worried me!)

You won’t believe it, but it rained every single day of our holiday, except the day we left! Even our LONG journey from ilkley to Kent was non-stop rain. It seemed strange bearing in mind some parts of Europe were having a huge heatwave and coping with wildfires because of it!

More about our Disney trip:

We stayed at the Newport Bay club hotel in DLP which is the first hotel you see on the drive in. It is HUGE! We stayed in a room with 2 double beds and a travel cot. Knowing that Annabelle would eventually end up in bed with me during the night, and the beds were small doubles rather than king size, we decided that the best option was for Arthur to share a bed with me as he doesn’t fidget and is a smaller size than If I shared with my husband and then had to squeeze a baby in too! This worked well thank goodness!

The children loved Disney, we stayed up late for the light shows, got up early for the Early Magic Hour and used the app to check queue times for rides, plan our day and also book or alter our food reservations. As this was a ‘special holiday’ (it was also our ten year wedding anniversary!) we booked the inclusive meal plan which meant breakfast, lunch and dinner were included. What we didn’t realise at the time was that this would be 3 course meals from a set menu. Disney also don’t alter meals for people with allergies so this actually worked out badly for us as I ended up paying for meals where I couldn’t actually eat most of the food or certain courses such as dessert. If I were to go back I’d do half board with just breakfast and dinner and settle for snacks in between. I’d also focus on buffet meal options as there is more chance of finding foods to suit allergies and then having further helpings.

The children had a wonderful time at Disney, although our final day involved another holidaymaker having a cardiac arrest during lunch at PYM Kitchen which was a real shock. It opened up lots of conversations about how being in a public place during a heart attack is often the best case scenario, what a heart attack actually is, and how something called a stent can be used to help fix a blocked artery....this conversation ended up being a blessing in disguise a week later...

More about our Holland trip:

After our Belgium stop-over (still raining) we finally arrived in Holland to visit my in-laws - the children's grandparents. They live in Noord-Holland in the house where my husband grew up. He always enjoys going back to his childhood home and making the most of the Dutch produce he doesn't get at home in the UK. They have a fabulous ice cream shop in the village which sells vegan ice cream which is also coconut free! Hurrah! The raspberry flavour was incredible - I'm having withdrawal symptoms already!

The local fitness centre has recently been rebuilt with a new swimming pool and so we took the children for a swimming afternoon during our visit. I decided at the last minute to observe with Annabelle, rather then swim, until we were sure of whether the facilities were suitable for babies. My in-laws came with us to watch the children swim too, and it was during this period of time that my Father in Law unfortunately suffered a heart attack. We weren't aware at the time that this is what was happening, but I had a feeling it could be and thankfully listened to my instincts and sought help quite quickly! He was so lucky to have been seen within a short period of time and had a stent fitted within an hour or so of arriving at the hospital - enabling him to make a good recovery. If you're a long term reader of my blog then you'll know that back in 2015, after giving birth to Arthur, my Mother in Law suffered a massive stroke which left her needing day to day care. The fact that we were in Holland when the heart attack happened, meant that we were able to help care for my Mother in law and she wasn't left alone whilst my Father in Law was in hospital. I feel like we were left in the best case scenario of a worst case scenario simply by being in the right place at the right time! Thank goodness we made the decision to change our original holiday plans.

And so now, were back home in the UK and after weeks of constant rain we have decided to plan and book a sun holiday next year for my Husband's 40th birthday! I can't believe it was almost 10 years ago when I booked a holiday for his 30th and then discovered I was pregnant with Arthur whilst I was there...this time I won't be taking along any 'surprise' hidden guests...just 3 actual children!

We also made it back just in time to plan and execute Charlotte's Barbie Afternoon Tea party for her 6th birthday- which I will tell you all about in another blog post!

If you have enjoyed reading my blog and would like to support me further, any of the following would be hugely appreciated: