The Tiger Tales give us their top tips for having a family friendly UK holiday

Ella
18th August 2020

Originally from Trinidad, Maria Tumolo moved to the UK age 27. Maria now lives in Surrey with her husband and two children and is the founder of a Trini-British Parenting & Lifestyle Blog The Tiger Tales  which explores parenting as an expat, family life and staycations, raising mixed race children and much more. Maria started blogging in 2011 to chronicle the milestones in her son's life. He was born in the Year of the Tiger on the Chinese calendar, hence the name.

We caught up with Maria to get her tips on traveling in the UK on a budget and how to keep kids entertained on long car journeys.

Where have you had your favourite UK breaks as a family?

Maria Tumolo: Well, I’m biased. I prefer beach, seaside holidays because within Surrey county there's so many parks, which we absolutely love, but so we experience something different, we try to have seaside holidays. I'm fond of Pembrokeshire, in Wales, and the Isle of Wight, that was actually our first seaside holiday. We spent a lot of time on different beaches. It was so emotional for me because it was years since I had swum in the sea. We also visited Llanelli, which is close to Swansea. Caswell Bay is what you call a bucket-and-spade type beach. When the tide went out, you could adventure around the parts that would normally be covered by the sea, and explore the little caves and things like that, which is quite exciting for the kids.

Is there any other criteria when you choose a place to go with your family, other than beautiful sea- maybe walks, or food?

Maria Tumolo: It's always been about space, to be honest, because we live in a two-bed. We do have a small garden, which is lucky, but our kids are quite energetic. So they've almost outgrown the garden. So for holidays, more than anything, the first criteria would be space. Anywhere that we can just let them loose, let them run, be loud, be wild.

We usually have a winter break as well. And for a winter break, it’s lovely to choose somewhere with a chance of snow, so that the kids can enjoy the experience of nice, clean snow, or woodland. We have visited Gloucestershire in the winter, it’s not far from the Cotswolds, so we explored that area as well. We book countryside breaks through Sykes Cottages, so that we can make the most of self-catering. Wherever we go, we try to get fresh meats from the local butcher’s and shop at local markets, and get things fresh from the local food suppliers.

How much do you plan and research your trips, or is it more spontaneous?

Maria Tumolo: Space is the first criteria, and our second criteria is the cost. My husband researches accommodation that's affordable and looks comfortable. And once he's found something that we can afford, then I would research what's of interest in the area. Booking in advance also really helps. So for example if we're going to do a winter break, he would normally book and pay the deposit around February.

I plan the entertainment, or the attractions we’re going to visit closer to the time. In terms of winter breaks, a lot of the attractions are shut for winter, like outdoor things. So I check in advance to avoid disappointment. Which is why having woodlands, or some sort of natural attraction is always a good thing. So even if everything else is shut, we can go for walks, we can bike ride, the kids can do things that don’t cost anything, and still be entertained.

When you go away in the winter, meaning you can't be outside as much, what kind of things do you do inside to keep your children happy?

Maria Tumolo: Firstly, we choose accommodation which is equipped with things like board games, DVDs, things like that. We also make sure that the accommodation has WiFi. So if we're not playing board games or reading, then we can make use of our individual gadgets, or watch tv.

Just lastly, do you have any last bits of advice for families who want to plan something in the UK?

Maria Tumolo:

1. Plan in advance, because then you get better value for your money, because you're booking ahead of time.

2. My next tip is try to go somewhere that you wouldn't normally go. So for example, if you live in a city, it might be nice to visit a farm, or go to the countryside. If you live on a coastal town, maybe it would be nice to enjoy a city.

3. Do your research. If you have kids, think about what things entertain your children, or can help with learning. We've been doing a lot of home schooling, if you're a parent or family that wants to extend that learning, the holiday can be around that. If you have a beach holiday for example, or you are able to easily drive to the beach, you can do rock-pooling, it's a way for the kids to learn about marine life, conservation and geology, that type of thing.

4. If you go to the forest or woodlands, it means that you can go bug-spotting. And during the summer, the Butterfly Conservation organisation have something that they call the Big Butterfly Count. So, wherever you are, if you just sit outside for 15 minutes, you'll be surprised by what flies by. There's an app to go with it, so it's a way for them to learn about the bugs that are native to the UK. There's also wildflower spotting. These activities keep them engaged, and it's lovely to just walk through the forest, which is a wellness experience in itself!

5. If you have a long car journey- pack your creature comforts. So, for my kids, I usually pack their pillows and a few favourite toys and some books. Snacks, water, their iPad, and any other little gadgets that they want to bring. And make them aware that those are their responsibility. Car games are also important.  Eye-spy is a popular one, but as the kids get older, and if you want to incorporate an element of learning you can do things like pick three letters and try to find them on a license plate, or find it on a sign. Or if they're still little and learning colours, you can say, “Try to spot somebody with a red hat, or glasses." It helps them with observation and colours, but still keeps them engaged. We also let the kids choose some music, so you can have a good singalong in the car.

Thanks Maria!

You can read more from Maria Tumolo at www.thetigertales.co.uk or follow her on instagram