Every year towards the end of July, the girls and I make a ‘Summer Holiday Bucket List’ full of all the things we’d like to do during the six week break from school.
I know better than to plan in too much detail (I’ve learnt from experience!) as the weather will inevitably get in the way of certain activities from time to time – but I do like to have a general idea of what we might get up to otherwise the days just slip away and before I know it it’s September and time to send the girls back to school.
I read this article a little while ago that talked about us only having 18 summers with each of our children before they’re gone, grown up, and exploring the world on their own terms. I want to make sure I make the most of each and every one of them. I have such fond memories of my summer holidays as a child: week-long adventure activity camps with friends; playing with my cousins in Cornwall; hours spent immersed in a book; visiting my grandparents; day trips… the list goes on. I want our girls to be able to look back at their childhood summers with the same happiness that I do. I want them to remember days spent laughing and exploring and eating ice cream, whispered secrets and made up games, the big days out and the little magical moments that are unique to them.
Last year we went to Jersey for a week-long holiday and had an amazing time – we really loved it there. The girls have been asking to go back ever since and I’m sure we will at some point (there was so much to explore that we didn’t have time to discover it all!), but not this year. In fact, we’re not going anywhere over the summer holidays this year – we have something exciting planned for later on in 2017 but you’ll have to wait a little while longer to find out what that is 😉 . We’re staying closer to home this year and for the first time ever we’re not using any form of childcare. Normally the girls go to a Kids Club one day a week so that I can have an extra day to see clients and work, but this year I felt a really strong pull to be at home with them as much as possible. I can’t really explain why – it just feels important. So the husband will have them for the few days that I do still need to work and the rest of the time they’ll be with me.
I’m really looking forward to it. Even with the inevitable squabbles that will spontaneously break out, the constant yells of “Mum, I’m hungry!” and (I’m fairly sure) the occasional moan about being bored as well. They drive me crackers when the bicker and fight, but I really do miss them enormously when they’re are school – it genuinely feels like there is a piece of me missing – so when I have them home with me I just want to soak up every minute I can.
Here are some of the things on our Summer Holiday Bucket List for 2017:
Visit Chester Zoo
Every year we try and do one ‘Big Day Out’. As a family of five (sometimes six if we have Sophie with us), days out to attractions and theme parks tend to cost us around £100 (and that’s just the entry tickets – add on petrol and food and souveniers and it soon adds up to more like £150). So we save up for them in the months leading up to summer and try to turn the day into something really special. Last year we visited LEGOLAND in Windsor, which was brilliant, and the previous year we went to the Warner Bros Studio Tour (which the girls call ‘Harry Potter World’). That’s been our favourite day out so far I think – we still talk about it now and the girls are desperate to go back and see it all again. This year though we’ve decided to go to Chester Zoo. I’ve been wanting to go there for years and whilst we’ve taken the girls to smaller wildlife parks, they’ve not been anywhere that has elephants or big cats (my favourites). I can’t wait!
Go to the Roald Dahl Museum
The girls LOVE Roald Dahl (who doesn’t?!). We went to Tatton Park’s special Roald Dahl themed events last year and did the Roald Dahl Summer Reading Challenge as well, so it only seems right that we visit a museum dedicated to the man himself. Reading this blog post from Penny at Parentshaped was the clincher – it looks wonderful!
Day trip to the Lake District
I’ve been wanting to visit the Lake District for such a long time. I’d love to be able to escape up there for a long weekend, but we just couldn’t make it work with the holidays the husband has available to him. It’s only a two hour drive away though, so it’s perfectly do-able as a day trip – if we get up early enough we’ll be able to explore a bit in the morning, find somewhere yummy to eat lunch, have some more adventures in the afternoon and then be home for bedtime, hopefully worn out and happy.
Play at Trentham Gardens
It wouldn’t be summer without a little visit or two to Trentham Gardens! I loved their stunning wildflower meadow last year (and am very much hoping it’s there this year too), there are a whole range of new shops opening in the shopping village, the new(ish) sandpit area is something we’ve only played in once so that definitely needs revisiting, and of course all the usual things we like to do such as walking around the lake spotting the fairies, running through the Italian Gardens searching for treasure in the water fountains, playing on the adventure playground and eating ice cream 🙂
No summer holiday would be complete without a trip to the cinema to see the latest kids film. We’re all excited to watch Despicable Me 3!
Visit friends in Southampton
My best friend lives in Southampton (about three and a half hours drive away from us), so we usually only get to see each other once a year. It’s easier for her and her husband to come up to us (because there are only two of them so it’s much simpler finding somewhere for them to sleep than it is to find beds for all five of us!). But this year she has insisted that we go and stay with them so she can show us her favourite parts of the New Forest and I’m really looking forward to it. The last time we were there was seven years ago when they got married and we didn’t really have much time to explore as we were only there overnight and both the husband and I were really poorly with a tummy bug. It’s going to be really lovely going back, wandering through the woodland, hopefully spotting some ponies and having some quality time catching up with them both.
Explore a new National Trust property (or two!)
Ever since we invested in our family National Trust pass a month or two ago I’ve been reading through the booklet and marking which properties we’d like to visit. We’re lucky enough to have quite a few within an hour or so of where we live, so we’re hoping to make use of our passes and explore a couple of them over the summer. The girls are keen to tick a few more items off of their ’50 Things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4′ lists too!
For someone who places great value on capturing family memories – both the big ones and the small ones – I’ve not invested in having our own family photos done for a long time. In fact, the only photoshoot we’ve ever had as a family was in the months leading up to our wedding three years ago – we asked for our engagement shoot to be a family shoot instead. But on the day it was raining so we had to have it in the studio rather than out on location somewhere. And while I love the pictures, I really want some of us all outdoors somewhere, where we can just be ourselves rather than posing. Also, it’s so rare that I’m ever in any photos because I’m always the one behind the camera – I want to girls to know that I was there too, I want them to have photographs of the little moments that we share together – I’ve got hundreds of photos of my husband giving them kisses and holding their hands and playing with them, but hardly any of me. And that makes me feel a little sad. So I’ve booked a family photoshoot with a photographer who’s work I love and I’m so excited!
Have a picnic
Enough said – it’s a summer essential!
Do a Treasure Trial
The girls have been asking to do another Treasure Trail for months. We loved the first one we did a couple of years ago in Bude, and we explored one a little closer to home last summer as well. This year I think we might venture a little further out to one of our neighbouring towns that we’ve never really been to and see what’s there. Treasure Trails are a brilliant way to have fun together as a family and get into the hidden, behind-the-scenes parts of places that you might not normally see.
Go fruit picking at Canalside Farm
Canalside Farm is quickly becoming a favourite place of ours to visit. The nearby walks offer up plenty of adventures climbing trees and playing on rope swings over the river, the cakes in the café are delicious, and the people who run the place are absolutely lovely. And in the summer they offer fruit picking – last year it was just strawberries but this year apparently they have raspberries as well. Ella isn’t so keen (she’s not a fan of fruit!), but Mimi and Lola love doing it so we’ll definitely be making a trip over there are some point.
Have a waterfight!
The girls love a simple afternoon playing in the back garden in the paddling pool, squirting each other with water pistols and spraying each other with the hose. It kind of feels like we’ve had the best of the summer weather before school even finished (as I type this there is a distinctly autumnal feel to the air and the rain is battering at the windows as is typical for the first weekend of the summer break!), but fingers crossed we’ll get some more sunshine and heat before too long.
I have some back-up plans for rainy days – things like bowling and swimming – plus all the usual summer holiday essentials like buying new uniform and new school shoes, attending birthday parties and arranging playdates with friends.
It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to do everything on this list, but we’re going to have a lot of fun trying! Summer 2017… bring it on 🙂