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A couple of weeks ago I told you our first impressions of our recent holiday to Hengar Manor. Today, I shall give a more detailed review.

Hengar Manor is a well maintained country park near Bodmin and the village of St Tudy in Cornwall. We visited during the first week of September, so it while it was fairly quiet as most of the schools had returned, there was still a full programme of activities and entertainment running.

We travelled by train to Bodmin Parkway and got a taxi from there to Hengar Manor. If you do this, I would recommend calling the park to ask for the number of a local taxi driver; the fare on our return journey home was £10 less than our outward taxi.

As I said in my first post, check in was quick and easy. We were given all the information we would need about the park itself as well as a thick envelope of leaflets for attractions in the locality and indeed, further afield.

There are a few activities for children of Harry's age (four years old) but most of them are for slightly older children, five or even seven years plus. This was not an issue for us because we simply just wanted to relax together before Harry started school the following week but a family geared more towards activities may wish to check with the park prior to booking. We did take Harry along to Balanceability. An instructor led activity would usually be a good chance for parents to grab a peaceful cup of tea and slice of cake in the café. However, Harry had been (and still is!) going through a rather clingy stage so I remained with him, hoping to give him a little more encouragement to take part. Balanceability, as the name suggests, is about giving children confidence on balance bikes. Harry has one and has never particularly taken to it, largely using either his Microscooter or regular bike with stablisers, largely because they give him the speed he desires to keep up with his peers. We found the instructor very encouraging and I felt she really did try her best to get Harry involved from the outset. The activity has given him a little more confidence to practise with his balance bike more.

Balance bike confidence.
Balance bike confidence.

The main attraction for Harry and something we used every day was the swimming pool. Access to the 25 meter swimming pool is free and with a Jacuzzi, slide and separate baby pool, it is perfectly suitable for a week's break. We (somehow!) forgot Harry's arm bands but our worry was short-lived as they were sold at reception. There is also a small shop on site from which we bought an inflatable for Harry to play with in the pool. As Hengar Manor is a decent base from which to explore many attractions of Cornwall, I cannot imagine the pool gets overly busy even during peak season. There is also a crazy golf course and a nine-hole pitch and putt course.

As we do not have a car, we could not go to a local supermarket to stock up on food and so we ate on site each night, except for one. One night we picked up some frozen breaded chicken and chips from the shop and ate at our accommodation. Other nights we used the on-site restaurant or pub. It wasn't until we arrived at Hengar Manor that we realised we could have, in fact, submitted an on-line supermarket delivery which reception would have received for us. Well worth noting for any future visits. The pub menu was varied with something to please most tastes and the food was as expected from an average pub. That said, I did think that the vegetarian options were somewhat lacking with just two options of either a veggie burger or vegetable curry. There was also an Italian restaurant called Morellos on-site. This had a very limited menu but what they did have was very nice and excellent value for money. I would recommend pre-booking as the restaurant is small and both times we ate there we saw people turned away as they were fully booked. One of those nights the husband went to book a table and was told he didn't need to as they were quiet; I am glad he insisted!

There was entertainment each evening. Every evening started with a couple of games for the children followed by family entertainment for a couple of hours. From around 9 pm the evenings would finish off with a family disco.

A selection of evening entertainment
A selection of evening entertainment

We were sad to leave for home. All through our stay we were made to feel incredibly welcome, it felt like the staff right across the board genuinely enjoy their jobs.

We will definitely return and next time, with a car so that we can explore Cornwall further!

Disclosure: We paid in full for our holiday. However, we did receive an upgrade in exchange for a review. All opinions are honest and our own.

Financial emergencies; we all have them. Whether it's an overspend on the weekly grocery shopping, the car failing it's MOT or an appliance giving up the ghost, the chances are most of us will know what it is like to feel financially stretched at some time or another.

In times gone by, many people would have had a small cushion to fall back on. These days things are very different. With prices on everything from food to fuel on the rise and wages stagnating, the purse strings are somewhat tighter leaving many with little to no financial fall back. The result is that even a minor overspend one month can leave a family struggling the following month.

Regular readers will know that my family has recently been on a holiday. However, as I received my regular income whilst we were away, we completely forgot to budget in any money for our usual living costs. When we did get home, it quickly dawned on us that we hadn't left much money for the following week until the next benefit payment was due. So we didn't budget so well after all!

Most of us have credit cards for emergencies and I am no exception. Yes, I should have thought ahead to the week or two beyond our holiday and budgeted better but I didn't. I  reserve mine for genuine emergencies and most of the time I am able to pay it off each month because of that. That said, when I was young, free and single (with a splash of being irresponsible thrown in) and got my first credit card, an emergency was seeing the last pair of gorgeous winter boots in my size that I just had to have or a night out the week before pay-day after a bad week at work.

These days an emergency is a lot more than a wardrobe update or a bottle of wine on a Friday night and I am (slowly) getting better at financial management. Having been without a credit card for many years until a few months ago, it's nice to know I now have that little cushion, for emergency use only.

Like most people, I like nothing more than a holiday. For me, a simple change of scenery is enough and while Harry is still small we will not even dream of heading abroad. At four-years-old, he is harder to entertain in a confined space for any length of time than he was as a baby, so a flight abroad frankly fills me with dread and that is before we get on to the issue of flight prices; from what I have seen, he would be charged full price. Whilst I understand that from a business point of view (i.e he would need a seat to himself), it still annoys me.

So, the few times we have had a break as family we have stuck to a UK break. Or, more specifically, a small hamlet in Devon called Hope Cove. We are very lucky in that my family have a holiday apartment there with views out to the sea. We don't manage to get there nearly as much as we would like though since neither the husband or I drive, although the husband is currently waiting to sit his test. The last time we went was two years ago this summer, for my sister's birthday celebrations.

With no mobile phone signal, Hope Cove really is a place where you can switch off. As soon as I catch the first glimpse of the sea, I feel a weight lifted from my shoulders; this is a place where I can feel that my troubles and stresses are a world away and yet feel all at home as well.

With a sunset like this, who needs to go abroad?
With a sunset like this, who needs to go abroad?

The UK really is full of beautiful places to visit and with no need for hanging around in airports, entertaining children on flights or the worry of delays or strikes, this country is a great place to holiday, particularly for young families.

UK Breakaways have launched a competition for bloggers to share their passion of a particular place in the UK, whether it be writing about your memories or a guide of what to see and do, they want to know. With a first prize of £250 cash, as well as prizes for second and third places, what have you got to lose? Head over to their site at http://www.ukbreakaways.com/competition to find read the terms and conditions if you fancy your chances!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post

The Caribbean offers a wealth of fantastic hotels on a unique selection of beautiful tropical islands. If you want brilliant white sandy beaches, with crystal clear waters, secluded resorts offering complete rest and relaxation, or indeed action packed resorts providing everything you need from a lively beach holiday, you need look no further than the Caribbean islands. But where should you stay? Take a look at some of the most amazing hotels and resorts you'll ever come across:

Sandy Lane

Renowned the world over for its level of luxury and impeccable service, Sandy Lane in Barbados is a favourite of the rich and famous. A tranquil haven nestled among the pine trees, providing an elegant setting for the perfect holiday. Whether you have romance on your mind or you're visiting as a family and want the best a hotel can offer, you won’t find better than this beautiful hotel. You can choose to stay in the spacious and luxurious rooms and suites or the amazing five bedroom villa, all decorated stylishly and with all the mod cons you'd expect from a luxury hotel. Whether you want to relax around a pool or on a sun-lounger on the beach, or you prefer to be a little more active, Sandy Lane has it all - including a golf course, a wide range of water-sports, tennis courts and a fantastic spa. Nothing is too much trouble here.

caribbean
Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

The Meridian Club

This idyllic island hideaway is just that, set on its own 800 acre island in the Turks and Caicos islands. There’s a beautiful 2 mile stretch of white sandy beach, along which the rooms and cottages are located, nestled in and among the sand dunes - all of which have an unrivalled view of the beautiful Caribbean sea. With only twelve rooms and cottages available in the resort, you can guarantee attentive service and you'll easily find a little piece of the island for yourself if you want to completely detach from reality. Dinners are served each night by candle light under the stars, although there's no formal dining here. It's a place where you can truly relax – in fact, most people don't even wear shoes for the entire duration of their stay! If you want to try your hand at water-sports, there’s a wide range available from the beach. There are also bikes to hire which allow you to explore the island using the many pathways, and you can even catch a boat or sea plane to the nearest golf course, should you fancy a round of golf. It's a truly magical place and one of the most exclusive resorts in the world.

Of course if you are looking at travelling to a far away destination, you are likely to be flying from one of the UK's major airports. To really get the holiday off to a great start, why not book a hotel at the airport before your flight. With such a long flight, the last thing you need is to arrive at the airport already exhausted, so why not book a room at the airport before you fly, like the Travelodge hotel in Heathrow? It’s a handy holiday add-on that won’t break the bank, and you'll wake up refreshed and ready to face the flight, already in the holiday mood.

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

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Some of our best family holidays have been spent camping in Wales and we’re always eager to come back again year after year, even if just for a weekend.

Living in the North West, it couldn’t be easier for us to get to North Wales for a weekend getaway – simply grab the kids and the tent, pack up the car and go. Like most families these days, money can be quite tight but camping is a great way for us to get away without breaking the bank.

We used to spend most of our camping holidays on parks dedicated to campers but a few years ago, a family friend had a fantastic holiday at Greenacres and told us there were tents there too. That was the turning point right there – I picked up a brochure from Asda and we’ve never looked back.

We’ve always loved the North West coast but camping in Wales at Greenacres really took holidaying here to the next level. We still had the same great access to Snowdonia National Park and the beautiful Welsh beaches, but we also had access to a mountain-load of on-park activities.

One stay at Greenacres and ‘we never looked back

After years of rough and ready camping as a child, the heated shower block is an absolute dream. And being so close to the park’s facilities – just a two minute walk – means the kids can have a bit more independence to go and do what they want (which is perfect now they’re getting a little bit older).

We’d heard of Black Rock Sands beach before but had never been. Turns out it’s just a short walk from Greenacres - you couldn’t get any closer to this beach without actually being on it.

Ariel shot of Greenacres

What really sold the park to us though was the video on the Greenacres website because the scenery really speaks for itself. Once you’ve crossed the Welsh border, there are great views all the way…so much so that our kids even put their gadgets down to look out the window from time to time!

View of bay

This year we’re thinking about timing our visit with the Llangollen International Eisteddfod – it’s a bit of a drive from Greenacres but it’s a charming one and we think it’ll be well worth it. This year it’s from 9th – 14th July so we’re planning on getting one last trip away in before the summer holiday rush starts.

That’s the same weekend as Wakestock – ‘Europe’s largest wakeboard music festival on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales’. We’ve never been before but we’re hoping this will give the area a young, laidback atmosphere that our older kids will appreciate.

Making plans for the summer

For our big summer holiday we don’t usually mind travelling a bit further afield if it means going somewhere good. That’s why we’re also thinking of trying South Wales soon as it’ll be a taste of what we know and love, combined with a bit of something new.

My husband and I usually share the driving so with the kids occupied by their iPads and smartphones in the backseat, we expect we’ll get there with no fuss.

We’re particularly excited about going to The Big Cheese Festival – my husband in particular after he found out it was free entry.

The event promises some great food, drink and music in the town of Caerphilly and we might even try coaxing the kids into taking part in the Great Cheese Race – an annual fun run in and around the grounds of Caerphilly Castle.

If you get a good park on the Welsh coast, you can’t go wrong. But now that we know you can stay in yurts and safari tents at some of the Haven touring caravan sites beyond Wales, we might just pluck up the energy to travel as far as Cornwall next year.

This is a guest post.

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