Our days out as a family are definitely what keep us sane. BM (Before Monkey) our days off and holidays were usually spent climbing Munros, wakeboarding, snowboarding and wild camping.
Safe to say, PM (Post Monkey) none of the above activities have been partaken.
But, we have found we can still have amazing days out, and even get to do things we couldn’t without a child (or at least look rather odd, anyway) like playing on a bumpy slide or in a ball pool. My Facebook photo albums are full of gondola rides, lamb feeding, countryside walks, National Trust days out and walks on windy beaches.
I have had several friends comment on how much we do, to say we have a toddler in tow, and ask how we do it. I know plenty of people do as much and more with many more children then us, but here are a few top tips I have found to make us get up and get out at the weekend.
1. Make a Plan in Advance
I find the most successful days are those where we have a plan as to where we are going. Spontaneous trips are great and fun, but we often spend so long trying to decide exactly where to go at the last minute and then fretting about baby changing, toddler suitability, weather etc. en-route that we often either don’t go at all or run out of time to do everything we want to do.
2. Be prepared to change plans and have a backup plan
While making a plan is great, being flexible with the plan is key to having a great day out.
An overtired, crying toddler is no fun for anyone in a country pub on the top of Kirkstone Pass. We may have thought that playing in the snow then sitting by the fire drinking hot chocolate would be a fun thing to do for a toddler (and we really, really wanted to do that too) but we obviously chose the day that sleeping in a car seat was top of the toddler to do list.
3. Pack your bags the night before
Trying to get three of us ready to leave the house in the morning takes long enough. Packing bags of spare clothes, snacks and nappies not only adds to this time, but increases the risk of forgetting something. I always over pack and stuff the car full, even for short day trips. Guaranteed the time I didn’t Monkey ended up naked under a snow suit as she had covered herself head to tow in sticky mud I didn’t have wet wipes or a change of clothes!
4. Buy a membership
We have talked about buying National Trust membership for a couple of years now and finally this year we got around to it. We moved country late last year then a few months later moved house again to a more family friendly house and location and by January I felt we were just spending too much family time packing boxes and painting rooms.
National Trust membership isn’t cheap, although we did get a great deal for signing up for an annual direct debit, but it is definitely cost effective if you use it. This feeling of making it financially worthwhile makes us go visit places we normally wouldn’t and go to events. Knowing we are helping to protect and restore some of Britain’s great houses, gardens, coastlines and special places is also a really good feeling.
5. Sign up to discount pages
It may be a pain getting a million emails filled with rubbish from Group On, but every now and then there’s a little gem worthwhile. In Scotland we were signed up to a site called Itison which regularly had fantastic deals for family days out.
6. Invest in a carrier and/or reins
There are some great buggy friendly places to visit but it can be limiting as to where you can go, even within these places.
We were very lucky to have been gifted a LittleLife rucksack carrier from a friend when Monkey was very little but are looking at purchasing the smaller airline cabin version for travels abroad and for when we need something smaller and lighter as we are so happy with the bigger version.
As soon as she was on her feet we also invested in a LittleLife toddler rucksack with reins. She loves carrying her ‘shnacks’ and teddy in her rucksack and the reins means she can have some freedom but not enough to throw herself in a lake/ on a train track etc.
All kids are different, but we have found she is very happy to alternate her time from being able to see everything in her carrier to being able to explore everything on her feet in her reins and the buggy has pretty much become redundant now.
7. Just take the plunge and get out there!
I am one for worrying, but I know of some families that literally will not travel more than a few miles from their house ‘just in case’ their kid has a tantrum, their kid is sick, they may have forgotten something. All of these things can be resolved and don’t need to ruin a good day out.
I won’t lie, it is harder leaving the house with a baby or toddler than those ‘BM’ days. If we ever decide on a second child I can only imagine this will double and those of you with more than two I really take my hat off to you even getting to the local shops! But, for us keeping a little bit of our old life and making fabulous memories is worth the planning and little bit of stress and worry a big day out can entail.