Family Road Trip

Family Road Trip

Talk about National Lampoon’s Vacation, Jo Leigh’s recent Family Road Trip had many a ‘Griswold’ moment, together with some fine memory makers too. Find out how our Jo survived a 10 day road trip to the north with her family.

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Our mission was to combine visiting ‘rellies’ ‘oop north with the obligatory seaside annual holiday. We chose Blackpool, admittedly not just around the corner from our southerly abode but add in a few stops with life-long friends too and you’ve got a Family Road Trip hatched. Our accommodation was a hotch-potch of independent and national chain hotels, guesthouses and bedding down with friends and family.

We started with a stop over at a city centre chain hotel; a 3 star Best Western. We were going for price, availability, location and it had to be dog friendly. We arrived somewhat bedraggled after having walked our luggage and paraphernalia from a city car park, dog in tow. Note to holiday learning journal - get Dad to drop us off next time. ‘Griswold’ Moment Number 1. Fortunately, being warmly welcomed and upgraded to adjoining rooms was met with universal gratitude and relief! The kids at the age of four and eight had their own TV in their room and, for them, this was like winning the lottery. The hotel made for a pleasant and comfortable stop gap ahead of travels further north and a lunch date with extended family.

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The family catch took place in the beautiful Peak District National Park. We had lunch at a pub overlooking the most outstanding views. After lunch, we explored the area with dog and kids in glorious weather, it felt like we’d hit the jack pot. Memory Maker number 1.

Onward from our off-roading to a luxury guest house in the national park and it did not disappoint. The added extras were all given due thought from the slippers and robes to the coffee machine and smart TV. The location was also fantastic as we strolled through a nearby wood and stumbled upon an airport runaway. The kids’ eyes were like saucers as they watched and listened to the jet engines, not quite but nearly bursting their ear drums! Memory Maker number 2.

But it wasn’t long before another ‘Griswold’ moment came along too. This time, as we set off on our day’s exploring further up the country, we realised we’d left a mobile phone behind! Immediate reverse turn to retrieve said item. Balance restored. Or was it? Nope! As we arrived at our Blackpool hotel, we checked our messages only to find that we had indeed left more items at the last place! Some clothes this time, hanging beautifully up in the cupboard. It just goes to show that when we relaxed at our luxury guesthouse, we forgot almost everything! We’d switched off, it’s a wonder we had not forgotten the kids at this point! Note to holiday learning journal - must remember not to forget kids and pick up items on way back down south!

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Our Blackpool hotel wasn’t Faulty Towers but it wasn’t far off either, which for a few days did not matter, as sometimes all you need in a busy and bustling seaside town, is a base. The architecture was enviable; the ballroom ceiling a masterpiece in itself! However, the best feature has to be the vast amounts of seafront, sea, sand, funfairs, donkeys, piers and of course the illuminations which, although not on in summer, were on for one night to celebrate a charity event called "‘Ride the Lights’. All this within a two-minute walk. Many memory makers with surprise sunsets, the UK’s biggest water park, our kids first roller coaster experience and beachfront dog walks but all this comes at a universal cost. Yes of course the ‘Griswold’ vacation fiascos!

These ranged from the serious to the just annoying. We always managed to lose although fortunately retrieve our belongings; our children’s water bottles, bags and coats. This was a daily occurrence to then nearly losing the dog who was spooked by a strange noise and managed to wriggle loose from collar on a busy street. If we get back in once piece at this stage I thought, it will be a miracle! Note to holiday learning journal - must buy dog new lead and harness!!

Fiascos aside, we had a lovely break in Blackpool but we were now on our way to Birmingham to life-long friends for a Music Festival. Goodness knows, we needed the help and extra pairs of eyes. ‘Did we have the energy left?’ we asked ourselves.

We were staying in the city centre of Birmingham with the Novotel hotel chain who provide free accommodation and breakfast for two children under the age of 16 and are dog friendly. They had also upgraded their family facilities with some hotels housing a series of fun-filled Toy Chests in the hotels’ Kids Corners in partnership with Toyology and even offering personalised storybooks for little ones in collaboration with award-winning storytellers Wonderbly. Why would we stay anywhere else? It did not disappoint, the children were obsessed with the Kids corner and the interactive tables, various books, chalk boards and colouring tables; returning to it at every chance they had. For older children the pool table and soccer table were perfect. This hotel also had a secure but paid for underground car park, which from the first hotel experience, we would have paid a lot more for. We were so comfortable here with city walks, shops and leisure facilities on our doorstep we decided to book another night! High praise in itself.

Of course, from here we then stayed with our friends which can never be beaten, but our varied and wide experience of our road trip certainly gave us a clear indication of where we might channel our next bookings. We asked the children which was their favourite and due to the added family facilities, the Novotel won hands down. They are dog friendly, have fresh, comfortable and modern facilities and with added entertainment for the kids, we’d defintely book again.

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Interested in the children’s thoughts, we asked them if they would like to go on a road trip again? Even with all the ‘Griswold’ moments? Their answer was simply ‘yes’ - the anticipation of the next setting, the town or city’s accommodation was an exciting and new experience to them. It was also the mix of country excursions, seaside silliness and some serious city sights that worked too. This has now spurred us on to start planning our next road trip to France!

Here’s to our next Leigh Family National Lampoon’s European Vacation! (Certainly my favourite of all the film series.)

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