Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How to Do a Stress Free, Budget Friendly Road Trip with Kids ~ Mammy Van Does the UK!

If you’ve seen any of my social media accounts (@stonetravel everywhere) you’ll have seen that I recently brought four of my five children to the UK for a few days. We had a whirlwind trip to take in as much as we could in six days. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I’ll give you the low down of exactly where we went, where we stayed, how we got there, how much we paid, what we thought and some tips we learned along the way. 

Hopefully by the end of these posts you’ll be booking your own getaway with your little ones. If you do please let us know how you get on, we love hearing about your adventures!

How to get away:

In March Stena Line ran a promotion to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by offering tickets at just €1 per person each way as foot passengers. I quickly got to work to researching which route and what dates would suit us. Unfortunately as I was doing this the date and route I wanted sold out, yes that quickly, in mere minutes. In the end I opted for 1 adult/4 children Rosslare to Fishguard return 9th-14th July costing just €10

Stone Travel Tip 1: You don’t need a passport to travel between Ireland and the UK by ferry, you don’t even need photo ID a household bill with your name and address will suffice but I brought my driving licence as I’d need it for car hire anyway. I also brought my children’s birth certificates as I didn’t want to risk bringing their passports in case I lost them.

Stone Travel Tip 2: As a foot passenger you don’t need to lug your bags on board you can check them in as you board free of charge, they’ll be put in a safe room for the duration of the crossing. You won’t have access to them so make sure you have a carry on packed separately.
Stone Travel Tip 3: Pack a picnic for on board, save a fortune by heading to Lidl or Aldi.
Stone Travel Tip 4: Head to the Bistro CafĂ© on deck 7, it’s the same deck you board on as a foot passenger. Grab a seat with a view of the screens as it’s here they’ll show free kids movies just after you set sail.
Stone Travel Tip 5: Stena Line currently has a great deal of €6.50pp (under 3’s free) for day trips on Tuesday’s from Dublin–Holyhead or Rosslare–Fishguard, all other days except Friday & Saturday are slightly more expensive at €12pp. I brought my 5 last year to Fishguard for the day find out more here

Pic taken by Co-Pilot for the outward journey, Orla (9)

How to get around:

As rail travel in the UK is ridiculously expensive, hire car was the best option for us. While pricing cars I found that a 7 seater would cost over €800 so I made the decision to leave the baby at home and hire a 5 seater (Group C Ford Focus or similar) costing €213.98 including taxes and charges for 6 days with Hertz. I had a really bad experience with staff at Hertz in Paris last December so was hesitant at booking but I needn’t have been at all as they were lovely in Fishguard.

Unfortunately the car hire office is not in the ferry port but a 5 minute drive away or a 20 minute walk. As I had my 4 little ones with me and luggage walking was not an option. They can deliver the car to you for a nominal fee of £5 but as we were arriving on a Saturday they didn’t have the staff available. 

Bring your own colour book/activity packs for peace & quiet

I called a cab with Fishguard Taxi’s and we were whisked to Hertz for just £4, where I picked up a Vauxhall Mokka which is best described as a small SUV. It’s a nice car to drive but it doesn’t really like hills! The mpg was very good; I drove in 820 miles on £95/€113.52 of petrol.
Stone Travel Tip 1: I saved €143.44 (€35.86 per booster) on hiring four car seats by bringing our own with us.
Stone Travel Tip 2: I saved and additional £120/€143.37 (£20 per day) rental fee for a Sat Nav by bringing my own with me, I never would have managed without one!

Where to stay:

We actually stayed in two different hotels during our visit to the UK. The first hotel I chose was the Holiday Inn Express in Slough as it’s a 10 minute drive to Legoland Windsor. I paid £118.20/€141.24 for 1 adult and 3 children for two night’s bed and breakfast. Parking is free but extremely limited onsite, as there were no spots available when we arrived I had to park in the train station car park next door. The hotel staff were extremely helpful and came out to assist me with the parking pay machine. Even though I’d be using the car while there it made more sense to buy a 3 day parking ticket costing £15.70/€18.76.

The hotel itself is exactly the same as any other hotel in the Holiday Inn chain. You pay for what you get; it was functional with no frills which suited us just fine. The area around the hotel wouldn’t be the best place to be walking at night with young children as it’s away from the main shopping/dining area so we had dinner in the hotel the first night. 

My youngest child had pizza & I had a sharing platter with my other 3 children. Breakfast was basic with the children opting for scrambled egg on toast while I had fresh fruit salad and a croissant.
Tip: They sell Fruit Shoot drinks for children at the hotel bar at an exorbitant price of £2.50 each (dearer than theme parks) so opt for cordial or bring drinks for your children to the hotel.

A highlight of any UK trip - KRISPY KREME!!

What we thought:

At the end of day one we’d travelled over 300 miles in 3 different countries, we’d had some great laughs, some drama llama moments, a few minutes bickering and lots of bad karaoke as we’d tuned into Heart radio station (the perfect station for crooning along on a road trip). 

Due to a traffic jam on the M4 we were held up for a long time and we eventually got to bed at about 10pm. What did we think? We thought the morning would never come around because we were about to take on .....LEGOLAND. Drop back next week to see how we got on and get some of our top tips for the next leg of our Mammy Van adventures!

Have you taken to the road with your little ones before? Any tips you'd like to share? 


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