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The Best of London with Kids: Kensington Palace

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We weren’t planning to visit Kensington but the concierge at our hotel mentioned they’d just had a big renovation and we thought we’d check it out. It turned out to be the perfect way to squeeze in a bit of history with a preschooler as the palace is a very manageable size, possible to squeeze in all four areas in about an hour (which, co-incidently, is my preschooler’s tolerance level for any activity that isn’t a playground). As part of the refurbishment, several of the exhibits were also interactive and a hit with our junior traveler.

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My particular favorite part was the Victoria Revealed exhibit, where I was about to learn about Queen Victoria’s extraordinary life in her own words. Of particular interest to me was her clothes – I couldn’t believe how tiny they were. I also enjoyed that the exhibit was within the very rooms that Queen Victoria lived.

Kensington Palace London via christineknight.me

Cheese loved the royal dresses on display in the Fashion Rules exhibit, where beautiful clothes worn by HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales are on display. (PLEASE NOTE: Fashion Rules will be closed from 4 January 2016 until 11 February 2016,)

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Kensington Palace has great programs for kids of all ages (even this for 0-4). Older kids can pick up a family trail and explore the palace Palace.

Baby-changing facilities are available and strollers can be easily taken around the palace as there is a lift to all floors. You can also check your stroller in the cloakroom.

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For lunch, we visited The Orangery, a little cafe attached to the palace. The cafe offers a fantastic kids’ meal that is probably the best we’ve seen anywhere.

Kensington Palace London via christineknight.me Kensington Palace London via christineknight.me

http://www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/families/

Kensington Palace
Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX
Prices: £16.50 adults (kids under 15 free). Online price £15.40.

Looking for more cool things to do in London with kids?

The Best of London with Kids: The Natural History Museum

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One of the best, if not the absolute best, Natural History museum we’ve been to, the Natural History Museum is a must-see in London with kids.

Museum of Natural History London via christineknight.me

The museum is broken up into four zones, each section representing different types of animals and discoveries.

Blue Zone
Featuring dinosaurs and massive animals, this is the place to see the big guns. Exhibits include the first T. rex fossil ever found, an Iguanodon (one of the first species ever described as a dinosaur) the skull of a Triceratops and a Megalosaurus tooth.

Note: The Dinosaurs gallery will be closed 4 January – 12 February 2016 to improve access to the T rex. It will reopen from 13-22 February.

Red Zone
Learn more about Earth, and meet the museum’s new dinosaur, the most intact Stegosaurus fossil skeleton ever found.

Green Zone
The evolution of Earth and the relationships between life and their environments come to life in these exhibits.

Orange Zone
A chance to see scientists at work in the Darwin Centre, and enjoy the serenity of the Wildlife Garden.

We were short on time when we visited with several small children, so we only visited the Blue Zone. This one zone took quite a while to see, leaving no time (or energy from the kids) left to see anything else.

Museum of Natural History London via christineknight.meThe dinosaur exhibition was absolutely fantastic. A combination of impressive skeletons combined with life-like models and even a robotic T-Rex made the exhibit a highlight of our time in London. I really enjoyed the layout of the exhibit too – following a winding path up and down levels takes the visitor on a cohesive journey through the time of the dinosaurs.

We also appreciated the way in which the museum presented easy-to-digest information on large placards throughout exhibits. The information was all written in an interesting way so as to engage kids and give them a better understanding of the animals and their context. No dry, boring placards here.

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The cafeteria in the centre of the museum has plenty of space to take a breather, and reasonably-priced food options.

Museum of Natural History London via christineknight.me

We were very impressed with the history museum and wish we had been able to return to see the other exhibits.

Museum of Natural History London via christineknight.me

The museum is very stroller-friendly, with the exhibits on different floors accessible by elevators.

The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road London SW7 5BD
Prices: Admission is free, however a donation is strongly encouraged.

The Best of London with Kids: Science Museum

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The Science Museum is a major attraction on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, London. Founded in 1857, it sees 3.3 million visitors annually through its doors.

Science Museum London via christineknight.me

The museum is really big and you could absolutely spend an entire day there trying to see everything. With a small child, however, (Cheese was almost four when we visited) we targeted the areas we felt she would enjoy the most, so these are the experience’s I’m sharing in this post.

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Pattern Pod
One of three areas designed specifically for children at the Science Museum, Pattern Pod is a multi-sensory area created for 3–7 year olds. The exhibits are fun and interactive, with a focus on patterns, and a mix of high tech with screens, and old fashioned dress ups.

Science Museum London via christineknight.me

One of the biggest hits was animal outfits kids could put on to then create the animal’s footprints – get it right and they’re rewarded with animal noises. I was impressed with the water ripple “pond” that was a projection onto a screen that kids could touch and effect the waves without actually getting wet.

The Garden
While the Garden, on the lower floor of the museum, was billed as a place for 3-6 year olds, Cheese wasn’t really a fan, and we didn’t spend long here. Highlights included a tree house and water play area.

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We spent most of our time in the Launch Pod (aimed at ages 8 – 14). I thought it would be too older for her, but she really enjoyed the science experiments in this section, particularly anything with magnets, wheels or levers. We spent over two hours just in this one area of the museum while Cheese enjoyed getting her hands on over 50 interactive exhibits.

Science Museum London via christineknight.me

Science Museum
Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London
Prices: Admission is free, but a donation is strongly suggested.

Looking for quirky things to do in London with kids?

Best of London with Kids: Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens

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With our hotel in London across the road from Hyde Park, we spent a lot of time exploring during our stay. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are two of London’s Royal Parks, and are often thought to be one large park since they technically join in the middle.

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They are, however, separate parks, and have been since 1728, when Queen Caroline made a division between the two. The parks are separated by the Serpentine and and Long Water lakes.

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Together, the parks encompass 625 acres, which makes the combined parks a bit smaller than Central Park with 840 acres.

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Hyde Park covers 350 acres and is home to famous landmarks such as the Serpentine Lake, Speakers’€™ Corner and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. We spent a lot of time at the Memorial Fountain as our trip was in summer and the fountain was a fantastic place to cool down on a hot day.

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the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain was opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 6th July 2004. The fountain was built using 545 pieces of Cornish granite – each shaped by computer-controlled machinery. When walking over the smooth stones of the fountain, it’s obvious that they have been carved by a machine rather than by hand, as they are absolutely perfectly cut in a way that no human hand could achieve. The pieces, once cut by machine, were assembled by hand to complete the fountain.

The water bubbles, swirls and cascades in a circular shape up, from a high point to a calm pool at the bottom. The design is supposed to reflect Diana’s life.

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On any given warm day, Londoners flock to the fountain. Businessmen roll up their pants and paddle their feet, while children strip to bathing suits and run through the water.

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While there are no facilities at the memorial, bathrooms are available at the nearby Lido Cafe, as well as swans who love to be fed bits of bread.

Kensington Palace #London via christineknight.me

 

Kensington Gardens were once the private gardens of Kensington Palace. They are now one of the Royal Parks of London, lying immediately to the west of Hyde Park. Within the park lie many famous landmarks including Kensington Palace, the Italian Gardens, Albert Memorial, Peter Pan Statue, the Serpentine Galleries and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground and are all located within its 265 acres.

Hyde Park London via christineknight.me
A beautiful, peaceful place we discovered was the Italian Gardens, an 150-year-old ornamental water garden located on the north side of Kensington Gardens. The gardens are believed to have been a gift from Prince Albert to his beloved Queen Victoria.

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I found the gardens to be a much-needed oasis of calm after a long busy day in London. The exquisite flowers and water feature felt like a piece of old Europe.

Hyde Park London via christineknight.me

Cheese loved the popular Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, a wonderland for children that opened to the public in 2000 next to the late princess’ Kensington Palace home. The centerpiece of the playground is a huge wooden pirate ship, with swings, sand pits, wooden cubby houses and more amazing play structures surrounding it.

Hyde Park London via christineknight.me

Outside the playground is a beautiful old-fashioned carousel, another drawcard for kids in the park.

Hyde Park London via christineknight.me

If you love British literature you might remember that the famous writer J.M. Barrie lived close to Kensington Gardens (there is a placard on the building he used to live in if you look hard enough for it!). Barrie published his first Peter Pan story in 1902, using Kensington Gardens for inspiration, so it’s only fit that the park is home to a statue he commissioned of the boy who never grew up. It was erected in 1912 on the exact spot Barrie imagined Peter Pan to land in his writing. In his Peter Pan tale, The Little White Bird, Peter flies out of his nursery and lands beside the Long Water – the spot where the statue now stands and delights visitors from all over the world.

For more information on Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens visit http://www.royalparks.org.uk.

The Best Of London With Kids: London Eye

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This large ferris wheel is a thrilling way to see London from the air. Pretty much every visitor to London wants to ride on the Eye, so book your tickets online to avoid the queues.

Suitable for all ages, Cheese got a bit wiggly at times (the Eye moves very slowly around the wheel in one full circuit). Thankfully, she was happily entertained by the iPads installed inside the Eye that are there to educate visitors about what they’re seeing out of the glass (but are actually mostly used by bored preschoolers).

The experience lasts approximately 30 minutes. A new 4D Experience is included with tickets.

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Book at least 24 hours in advance and save up to 15%.

London Eye
Riverside Building
County Hall
Westminster Bridge Road
London SE1 7PB

Prices: Adults £23, kids 4-15 £17

 

London’s Best High Teas: Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea #London via christineknight.me

On our recent trip to London we dropped by the Sanderson Hotel for a Mad Hatter’s High Tea.

The tea coincides with the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland (my favorite book as a child), and is the perfect way to introduce kids to both a high tea AND this classic book.

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea #London via christineknight.me

The hotel does offer a children’s high tea, but Cheese is such a fussy eater that she is happy to pick at bits of ours rather than needing an entire tea for herself yet. She was extremely happy playing with the music box that was home to the sugar cubes and books that opened up to reveal the menus. Delightful touches.

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea #London via christineknight.me

The menu we enjoyed has changed since our visit, but I’ve included it below so you can get an idea of what to expect.

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea #London via christineknight.me

Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea #London via christineknight.me

Savoury
Scottish salmon and cream cheese on lime bread
Wiltshire ham and wholegrain mustard on sun-dried tomato bread
Cucumber and goats cheese on parmesan bread
Egg and mayonnaise and baby watercress on curry bread
Daily quiche

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea #London via christineknight.me

Sweet
Carrot meringue served on a bed of pea shoots
“Strawberries and cream” homemade marshmallow mushrooms
“Tick tock” traditional Victoria sponge
Melting mango cheesecake
Matcha green tea and white chocolate mousse served in a chocolate tea cup
“Drink me” potian
Selection of homemade savoury and sweet scones, served with herb butter and fruit preserves with clotted cream

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea #London via christineknight.me

Jelly wonderland – help your self unlimited jelly station.

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea #London via christineknight.me

Things to note:

The sandwiches and teas are unlimited. The special teas are actually brought around for you to smell, and diners are encouraged to try multiple kinds. I always devour the sandwiches, so it was also refreshing to be encouraged to order more when they also ran out.

Vegetarian/vegan options are available. If you don’t eat gelatin, there is a non-gelatin option available too, both with the tea platter and the jelly wonderland station.

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea #London via christineknight.me

We really enjoyed this tea. The scones were small and hard – the low point of the tea. The high points were the “drink me” potion, which was kind of like a fruit smoothie, the Victoria sponge, the mushroom marshmallows for Cheese and the fresh sandwiches.

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea #London via christineknight.me

If you’re in London with kids and want to take them to a special foodie outing (or if you’re there without kids and want a quiet afternoon tea!), book ahead and try this whimsical Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea.

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea #London via christineknight.me

Highchairs: Yes.
Stroller storage: Yes.
Easy access: Yes.
Change tables: Yes.
Kids’ menu: Yes.

Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea
Sanderson Hotel
50 Berners St,
London W1T 3NG, United Kingdom
Phone: 020 7300 5588
Prices: Between £48 and £65 per person excluding service, £35 per child for children 4-11 years old.
Hours: Mon-Sat 1pm-4pm, Sun 1pm-5pm
Get Directions

Mad Hatters Tea - Sanderson London Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Travel Guide: Things To Do In London With Children

#London With Kids #Familytravel via christineknight.me

London is a city I’ve visited several times over the years – as a nine-year-old child myself, as a young adult on a shoestring, then training for my job at Google, and finally, on this visit, with my own child. We chose London deliberately for this trip as we knew there would be lots of things to do in London with children, as is our current stage in life!

London is easy in a lot of ways – the language, transport, culture, layout, all make the city very easy to navigate with kids (particularly young ones).

Grosvenor House Hotel #London via christineknight.me

Things To Do In London With Children

Accommodation

We stayed at the Grosvenor House Hotel, right on the edge of Hyde Park. For us, the location was perfect as we spent a lot of time in the park. The hotel was also walking distance to many places and only a short tube ride away from everything. A full and delicious breakfast was included, but not wifi.

Get more tips on where to stay in London here.

Getting around

#London via christineknight.me

We gave our stroller a good work out and also bought Oyster cards to use the tube. The Oyster card is the most economical way to get around London. When you buy a card you place a deposit down that is returned when you finish using the card. The tube is fast and easy to use, but there aren’t a lot of elevators.

Where to eat

We ate at the chain Pret a Manger every single day for at least one meal. The food is fresh, healthy and there is a large variety to choose from that even picky kids will eat. With hot and cold sandwiches, salads and soup, we could see why so many workers grabbed food from their nearest Pret on the way home. The food was also cheap for London, so it meant we didn’t spend a fortune on food.

What to do:

Natural History Museum

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This is a fantastic place to visit with kids. Apart from the favourite dinosaurs, the layout is incredibly kid-friendly. Lots of hands-on, interactive features and interesting information that can be absorbed in bite-sized chunks. Perfect for when you’ve got a speedy child like mine and can only grab glimpses of everything, or if you have an older kid who can read. Cheese loved the dinosaur display in particular, with the interactive T-Rex.

Natural History Museum #London via christineknight.me
General admission is free (but they do ask for a donation when you enter). It’s very easy to get around with a stroller. Read more about our experience here.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace #London via christineknight.me

We weren’t planning to visit Kensington but the concierge at our hotel mentioned they’d just had a big renovation and we thought we’d check it out. It turned out to be the perfect way to squeeze in a bit of history with a preschooler as the palace is a very manageable size, possible to squeeze in all four areas in about an hour (which, co-incidently, is my preschooler’s tolerance level for any activity that isn’t a playground). As part of the refurbishment, several of the exhibits were also interactive and a hit with our junior traveler.

Kensington Palace #London via christineknight.me
My particular favourite part was the Queen Victoria rooms (she grew in in the palace and the lived in the wing that houses her exhibit). Cheese loved the royal dresses on display and the gift shop, which stocked very expensive princess dresses. Kensington Palace has great programs for kids of all ages (even this for 0-4), and had the best kids lunch of anywhere we visited in London (see above). Read more about our experience here.

Buckingham Palace

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We did not go inside Buckingham Palace, but we did enjoy peering into the gates at the guards and imagining what the Queen was doing today. Cheese is at an age where she loves princesses so anything that looked remotely like a castle was popular on our trip. Near the palace is a decent-sized playground – it’s across from the Guard’s Museum in the bordering St James Park, and it was an even bigger hit with our preschooler than the palace.

Shrek’s Adventure!

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This Dreamworks attraction opened when we were in London. It’s an extremely slick interactive live performance where visitors walk and ride through a character-led adventure. The highlights for us were meeting Shrek and the magic 3D bus ride. While the experience is billed as suitable for all ages, it was a bit scary in places for my almost-four-year-old, so I’d suggest it would be better for kids aged five and over.

Hyde Park

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We chose our hotel based on its location – right on Hyde Park. This 350 hectare park is full of fun for kids, from the squirrels and leafy areas to run and hide, to attractions like playgrounds and the Peter Pan statue. Read more about our experience here. In my opinion, Hyde Park should be top of list for things to do in London with children.

Princess Diana Memorial Playground

Princess Diana Memorial Playground #London via christineknight.me
This beautiful playground in Kensington Gardens opened in 2000 as a tribute to the late Princess Diana. The pirate ship is the centerpiece, but there are also teepees, play sculptures and an area for kids who are less abled to enjoy. The playground is gated with a security guard, there are clean bathrooms and also a cafe attached.

Princess Diana Memorial Fountain

Princess Diana Memorial Fountain via christineknight.me
Situated in Hyde Park, this beautiful memorial to Princess Diana was opened in 2004. On a hot day, you’ll find half of London dipping their feet in to cool off. This fountain is made to be played in, so bring swimmers and get wet.

The Regent’s Park

Regent's Park #London via christineknight.me
Another gorgeous park in London. This one is home to Queen Mary’s Garden, which features more than 12,000 roses of 140 varieties. It’s also where you’ll find the London Zoo, a playground and a river through the middle with plenty of ducks.

See a show

The Railway Children #London via christinekinight.me
How can you visit London without taking in a world class show? We highly enjoyed The Railway Children at King’s Cross Station, which is based on the famous book by E Nesbit. The show is quite long, so I’d recommend if for children a little older than Cheese – maybe five and up. We absolutely loved the show – the staging was nothing short of remarkable, particularly the live steam engine that arrives through the middle of the stage. In my opinion, seeing a show should be right at the top of the list for things to do in London with children.

London Eye

#London Eye via christineknight.me
This large ferris wheel is a thrilling way to see London from the air. Pretty much every visitor to London wants to ride on the Eye, so book your tickets online to avoid the queues.

London Eye via christineknight.me

Suitable for all ages, Cheese got a bit wiggly at times (the Eye moves very slowly around the wheel in one full circuit). Thankfully, she was happily entertained by the iPads installed inside the Eye that are there to educate visitors about what they’re seeing out of the glass (but are actually mostly used by bored preschoolers). Read more about our experience here.

Hamleys

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A giant toy store is either an awesome idea or a really, really bad one, depending on your credit card balance. We enjoyed the live displays of innovative toys, such as drones, and the LEGO area, where we visited the Queen and her corgi, both made entirely out of LEGOs.

London Science Museum

#London Science Museum via christineknight.me
A multi-story museum dedicated to science and technology, it’s a must for any STEM-loving family. While there is a dedicated area on the lower level for kids aged 3-7 called “The garden” with water play and a playhouse, Cheese enjoyed the Pattern Pod (for ages 5-8), featuring patterns occurring in the world the Launch Pod (ages 8 – 14) far more. The Launch Pod in particular was fantastic, and while we thought she’d be way too young to enjoy it, we spent over two hours just in this one area of the museum while Cheese enjoyed getting her hands on over 50 interactive exhibits. Free entry, but donation advised. Read more about our experience here.

Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea

Mad hatter Tea #London via christineknight.me
So this was really for me as I’m addicted to high teas, but Cheese really enjoyed the experience too! The Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel is a whimsical dining experience filled with not just delicious food, but fun details like a menu inside a book, sugar cubes in a jewellery box, and an unlimited JELLY STATION! They do have a children’s high tea for £30 but Cheese was happy to pick off our high tea (from £38pp, including unlimited tea and sandwiches). Read more about our experience here.

Pin it!
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Looking for more things to do in London with kids? Hop on over here for 20 great ideas!

12 Tips For Travelling with Kids

12 Tips For Travelling With Kids

When kids come along, it’s an adjustment in many, often unanticipated, ways. If you’re like us, a couple who loves to travel, there’s no reason why you can’t keep journeying around the world with your new sidekick in tow. A bit of planning (ok, a lot of planning), and these helpful tips will help make your next family holiday run smoothly.

Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Make lots of lists
Preparation is always the key! A few weeks before a big trip write down a list of everything that you need to buy, pack and prepare for your trip and categorise it according to the timeliness. It should include things like “empty the fridge”, “take out the garbage”, “buy batteries”, “charge cameras”, “put on mail hold” as well as a packing list. Check everything off and leave the house stress-free knowing you haven’t forgotten anything.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Check visa requirements
Do you need a visa to travel? Contact the consulate of the country you’re planning to visit well in advance. You might need to apply for an ESTA if you’re visiting the United States or an eTA if you’re heading to Canada. Don’t leave it to the last minute to apply. Visas can take months to organise.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Know your baggage limits
Check your baggage limits for each flight before packing, including the number of bags allowed and weight per bag. We have a portable luggage hand scale (like this one) that we keep in our suitcase to make sure we don’t get hit with excess baggage fees at the airport and always pack a foldable bag inside our luggage to bring home loot we accumulate.

Barcelona: Montserrat Day Trip via christineknight.me

Buy advance tickets to attractions online
Not only are many attractions cheaper if you buy them in advance, it also means you don’t risk spending hours queuing or miss out on seeing something entirely. Many tourist attractions are also cheaper see when you buy a combination city attraction pass that includes many of the top sights in a city. Even if you can’t buy your tickets online, at the very least double check the attraction is open on the day and time you’re planning to visit. For example, many museums are closed on certain week days, like Mondays or Tuesdays.

Barcelona, SpainGet travel vaccinations
Are your vaccinations up to date? Do you need additional vaccinations depending on the countries you’re visiting? Schedule an appointment with your doctor at least two months before your flight dates to get info on any destination-specific vaccines you and the kids might need. Find out more about vaccinations on the Australian Government website smartraveller.gov.au.

Buckingham Palace #London via christineknight.meBuy travel insurance
Absolutely never travel without insurance! Worst case scenarios can absolutely happen and you need to be protected in case of serious illness, accidents and bag loss or theft, plus if your trip is cancelled or postponed. Some policies cover dependent children and grandchildren without charging any extra, so check if your policy offers this benefit and, if so, what the conditions (if any) might be. Lastly, read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully to make yourself aware of what is and isn’t covered. Get more info on travel insurance.

Hamelin bay Stingrays, Western AustraliaUse the hotel concierge
Your hotel concierge will be a top source of information on your destination, so don’t be afraid to ask for their tips on where to eat and visit with kids.

Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Watch out for different safety standards
Stay vigilant when it comes to the different safety standards when travelling around the world, including child safety standards for pools, balconies, car seats and play equipment, which could be much laxer than they are in Australia.

Augusta, Margaret River, Western Australia

Read up in advance
Find family travel blogs on your destinations! I usually find that blogs, combined with the destination’s tourism sites, are the best way to find out what attractions are the best suited for kids, as well as finding out about hidden gems that are off the tourist path, like really great parks or playgrounds, kid-friendly eateries and events for families. A few of my fave family travel blogs for international destinations include Travel Babbo, y Travel Blog and Boy Eats World.

Travel Guide: Singapore With Kids via christineknight.me

Pack the essentials
We never leave home without: wipes (both baby and anti bacterial), sunscreen, mosquito repellant, children’s pain killers, empty refillable water bottles, a backpack (we use this one that folds into a small pouch), plastic bags like nappy sacs or doggy bags for emergencies, ziplock bags for half eaten food or snacks, kid headphones and universal power adaptors.

I also pack emergency medication for the whole family, including kiddie and adult Nurofen and Panadol (which are hard to find overseas), broad spectrum antibiotics, rehydration sachets, plus a medical kit for scrapes and cuts with disinfectant and wound dressings. We actually used these on our trip to Dubbo, in the photo below, when Cheese slipped on a log and took a giant chunk out of her leg.

Staying at the Zoofari Lodge, Taronga Western Plains Dubbo Zoo, Australia

Find out what your hotel includes
Some hotels charge extra for rollaway beds or crib hire. Rollaway beds in particular can also be rented on an “as available” basis rather than a guarantee and can attract a surcharge. Check with the hotel in advance and ensure there are enough beds for your whole family.

What To Pack When Flying With Kids

Prepare for flights
Read up on what you can take on board or check in as part of your free baggage allowance. The usual rule is that strollers, portacots and car seats can all be checked in for free, and car seats are usually allowed on board as additional carry on luggage. Check with your airline in advance, however, to confirm this is the case. You will also need to request a baby or child special meal in advance of your flight date, or have your travel agent do so at the time of booking. Travelling with a toddler? You might also want to try one of the new travel inflatable cushions to help your child lie down flat during overnight flights.

Ready to fly? Tell me where you’re heading to next!

Find the best travel strollers here.

Are you heading off soon on an adventure? Use this checklist to ensure your trip runs smoothly.

Not sure if travelling with kids is a good idea? Head this way to find out some great stories on adventurous families.

This blog post was produced in partnership with Westpac. All tips and opinions are my own.

Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies

Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies

“I can see a fairy!” the children scream as a pair of wingers flutter through the trees. We are sitting on a picnic blanket in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden waiting for the performance of Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies: Adventure to Bubble Land to begin. The stage is the lawn in front of us, a fitting location for a production about the adventures of fairies.

Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies

The fairies flutter to the “stage” and the show kicks off with catchy songs sung by gorgeously costumed and very talented fairies. The children are captivated seeing their dreams come to life before them – real fairies in a real garden! The adults relax and enjoy their children’s joy.

Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies

This is a “theatre” where there’s no need to hush your little one or beg them to sit still in a seat. Dancing is allowed, interaction encouraged. This production is a dream come true not just for kids but for their parents, too. With age appropriate content, gentle music and a relaxed environment, this is a show for families to truly enjoy themselves.

Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies

Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies: Adventure to Bubble Land arrived in Sydney for the Easter holidays fresh from a sell out tour in London’s Kew Garden. Created by the award winning artistic director of the Australian Shakespeare Company, Glenn Elston, Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies was imagined especially for a young audience after years of experience creating theatre in magical garden settings.

Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies
The storyline for the show is simple: the adventurous Tinkerbell happens upon the fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Travelling from the Dream Land, the cheeky Mustardseed, fluttery Moth, daring Cobweb and sweet Peasblossom all go on a magical quest with Tinkerbell to find her wings,  learning about the different worlds they are from along the way.

Plenty of upbeat songs and dances pepper the show, with simple actions the young audience are able to follow. The fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream drop in and out of Shakespearean language which lends a poetic tone to the dialogue, but amazingly in a way that the children were still able to understand and be engaged by what was going on in front of them. I would call this a young child’s first introduction to Shakespeare!

Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies

There is no set seating for this performance, just a large space to throw down a picnic blanket to enjoy the show. After about half an hour of singing and dancing, the fairies encourage the children to join them on a seperate part of the lawn where bubble machines are set up.

Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies

There is much bubble-popping and dancing by the children, followed by forming small groups to assist the fairies in their quest to find Tinkerbell’s wings. How lovely for kids to join in the action rather than being forced to sit for an entire performance! It was not at all surprising to read afterwards that the show was developed with early learning experts to ensure it truly engages and inspires young minds and bodies.

Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies

After the show the fairies returned to meet their fans and have a photo opp. These talented young performers gave an enchanting performance that many of these children will remember for a long time to come.

Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies

Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies: Adventure to Bubble Land
The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney
Dates: Sunday 9 to Sunday 30 April
Times: 10am & 12.30pm (No Shows Good Friday/Easter Monday)
No Shows (Monday 24 – Friday 28 April)
Prices: $25 for weekday/Sunday performances; $30 Saturdays
Group price 4 tickets $90 weekday/Sundays & Saturday $110
Bookings: shakespeareaustralia.com.au and ticketmaster.com.au
Cash and card sales available at the on-site box office unless sold
out, box office opens one hour prior to each performance.

We were provided with tickets for reviewing purposes. All opinions my own. Additional images courtesy of Shakespeareaustralia.com.au.

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

I had the immense privilege of seeing the new Disney Aladdin musical comedy this week. While the show holds its own as a brilliant stand alone show, it is a reworking of the famous animated movie of the same name that the majority of the audience had seen, many times over, judging from the singing breaking out around the theatre.

With such a cultural icon as the basis for the show, it’s inevitable that audience will walk in with expectations that it will be identical to the movie – which it isn’t. Many things that worked in a cartoon just don’t work on stage, and there were a lot of holes in the movie that have now been filled with additional songs and dialogue. I found the show to be full of unexpected surprises that added up to a spectacularly enjoyable experience for both fans of the movie, as well as newcomers to the story.

Thinking of going? Here are a few things you won’t expect:

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

Aladdin isn’t the star of the show
The name of the show is Aladdin, so you expect the star to be … Aladdin, right? This was the number one surprise of the show. Genie, the role which Robin Williams famously stole the show with in the 1992 animated movie, is again the attention grabbing character who has the funniest lines, the most dramatic exits and some very impressive vocal pipes. We were incredibly lucky to see the role of Genie being played by Michael James Scott, who starred in the original cast of Aladdin when it opened on Broadway in New York in 2014. His immense presence and incredible talent steal every scene he features in.

The genie isn’t blue
Expecting a painted blue man to play the genie? Guess again. The genie looks like a pretty regular fellow in the show, dressed in royal blue as a nod to the all-blue genie we are used to from the animated classic.

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

You won’t know all the songs
You might remember the animated Aladdin as being full of songs, but more were clearly needed to turn a 90-minute movie into a 2-and-a-bit-hour stage show. You will hear all of your faves (and have to fight the urge to sing along), plus seven brand new songs written just for the show. The added songs give an extra depth to the show, letting us learn more about the characters of Aladdin and Jasmine in particular.

There are no talking animals
When translating the movie to the stage, a few tricky characters, namely Iago the parrot, Abu the monkey and the magic carpet all either underwent transformations or were axed completely. Iago came out of it the best off, with a larger role now as a human sidekick with a few witty parrot references to give a nod to his roots. Abu is gone, and carpet only features twice as an actual carpet rather than a character.

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

Australia gets a few mentions
The audience laughed with appreciation to hear local references like Vegemite, Tim Tams and Wagga Wagga peppering the dialogue. I always think it’s a smart move to adapt shows to their destination, and it certainly warmed the audience in this case even more so towards the Genie, who was the Tim Tam addict among the cast.

There’s tap dancing
I bet you didn’t expect that! The show is full of spectacle – shooting lights, shiny materials and sparkles galore, bright props and dazzling costumes. Of course there is a tap dancing number to add to the show’s show-stopping scene in the Cave of Wonders, which also features a take on Dancing with the Stars – but now Scimitars (get it?).

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

There’s a new scene
The original movie has a tricky scene where Aladdin is briefly banished by Jafar to a desert, where he summons the genie and is quickly returned to Agrabah again. This scene was integral for Aladdin to use his second wish, but obviously a tricky one to bring to the stage. The producers have done an excellent job of getting the same result (the second wish being spent) but with a completely new scene that is far more entertaining than the one it replaces.

It’s less scary than the movie
I remember the movie being pretty scary when I was a kid, and my four-year-old finds parts of it terrifying. For some reason, when translated on stage, the scary bits don’t seem scary any more. The cave has a sense of humour this time around, and the scary snake scene at the end is now completely gone.

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

It’s funnier than the movie
There are so many hilarious one-liners (“Welcome to Agrabah – land of one percent body fat!”) and cultural references peppering the dialogue that you need to focus hard to stop your head from spinning.

They’ve bought out every sequin store in Sydney
I mean really, where did all those sequins come from? The cast were glittering so much that it looked like they’d raided the Tower of London for their jewels, and then every Spotlight and Lincraft to dazzle the audience’s eyes with so much glitz it was almost blinding at times.

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

The flying carpet will make you cry
The flying carpet scene is a highlight in the movie and again in the show. Thanks to brilliant staging and props, the scene with the carpet is breathtakingly beautiful, in an understated way that makes the emotion forefront and evokes the magic of the original movie. I wasn’t the only one with a tear in my eye during this song that sent the audience into a hushed state for the first time since the curtain rose.

Aladdin has mates
He actually has a trio of mates that form his entourage in the show; one of them deliciously camp, one obsessed with hummus, and the last your average Joe. The three get some excellent stage time with comedic song and dance routines. Having friends makes Aladdin seem more of a real-life character – how had I never wondered who he hung out with all day when I used to watch the original movie?

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

The Cave of Wonders scene is a show stopper
The cast also seemed shocked when the applause and cheering at the end of the “Friend Like Me” number went on for so long that the next scene was delayed in starting by a good minute or so. The cheering would likely have keep going, had it not been for the orchestra kicking off the next number and forcing the show to resume. The faces of the cast when the shouting and clapping just kept going and going was absolutely priceless.

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

Should I take my child to see Aladdin?
Disney recommends the show for kids aged six and up. With the long running time and also new songs that are a bit more “adult”, I would agree with this recommendation. I am, however, taking my just-turned-five-year-old to see the show because she’s been begging to see it. If you’re taking your little one to see it too, here are my tips for making the outing a success:

  1. Book a matinee. Kids are always better rested and behaved for matinees and less likely to irritate adults who want a kid-free evening out. No one likes to have a child kicking their seat for the entire show.
  2. Buy the Broadway cast album and play it repeatedly in the car for the weeks leading up to the show to prepare them for the new songs.
  3. Pick up a booster seat from the cloak room.
  4. Pack plenty of snacks like popcorn or whatever special treats they’re allowed.
  5. Take them to the bathroom both before the show starts, and straight away at interval.

Aladdin is playing at the Capitol Theatre until October 23, 2016
Tickets are on sale now.

Disney Theatrical Productions under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Aladdin, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin at Capitol Theatre Sydney, starring: Ainsley Melham (Aladdin), Michael James Scott (Genie), Arielle Jacobs (Jasmine), Troy Sussman (Babkak), Adam Jon Fiorentino (Kassim), Robert Tripolino (Omar), Adam Murphy (Jafar), Aljin Abella (Iago) and George Henare (Sultan) directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw

Thank you to Bridges PR for the tickets to see Aladdin. All opinions are my own. Show images by Deen van Meer.