Dubai with Kids on a Budget

Things to do with Kids in Dubai

I’m a huge fan of the Middle East, but if I’m honest Dubai; where everything is done to excess and they boast pretty much ‘The World’s Largest’ everything from buildings to shopping centres to water fountains, was never on my list of places to visit as a family.

Dubai’s unofficial motto is: the bigger and brasher, the better.

Getting There

Expats in Dubai

However, a very good friend recently moved there and having had enough of the dreary winter in the UK, we decided to seek out some sunshine.   Direct flights (7 hours) were very reasonable considering it was half-term (£400 each with Emirates/Qantas).

There is a lot of things to do in Dubai for kids but a lot of it comes with a hefty price tag and adrenalin fuelled (e.g Wild Wadi Water Park, the Aquarium /Zoo or Ski Dubai).  But we quickly learned that there is a lot to do in Dubai on a modest budget, plus a few free things.

Getting Around

The most economical way to get around is by public transport.  You can buy a travel card at the stations and top up whenever you need.  We purchased Silver Cards which cost AED 20 (includes AED 14 worth of credit).   On average we spent around 15 Dirham (£3) a day on transport.  The Tram and Metro are fairly new, efficient, air conditioned, have female/family only carriages and you can get to most places in the city with a map and a little planning.  The buses are incredibly punctual and the bus stops are air conditioned.  Taking public transport really helped us get our bearings.

Head to the Beach

There are quite a few beaches in Dubai.  Most tourist can be found at ‘The Beach’ near Jumeirah Beach Residence.  For the most part dress is conservative in Dubai but at ‘The Beach’, these rules are a bit more relaxed, you will see everything from women in traditional Abayas to tourists in G-strings, which I personally think is rather culturally insensitive.

The Beach Dubai

Children can pretty much wear what they like, however, I wouldn’t suggest letting them run around in their birthday suit.  I’ve never been a fan of bikinis or suggestive swim wear for children.  If you’re looking for sensible reasonably priced swimsuits for kids do check out House of Fraser, as this is where I got my daughters.

IMG_6264 DSC_0636 The Beach Dubai

There are also more local beaches which may not have as many facilities but are quieter, you can take a trip to Kite Beach, which has a children’s playground or in our case the closest one to where we were staying is called Jumeriah Beach.

DSC_0629 Jumeirah Beach Dubai


Go on a Desert Safari (Half Day)

This was probably one of the highlights of the trip for my daughter and was very reasonable (150 AED/£30 for adults  110 AED for children).  We booked direct with ABC Tours, if you book through a hotel you may pay more. They collect you in one of their powerful 4x4s, you go for an exhilarating drive over the sand dunes, arriving in camp where you can ride on camels, see a Falcon, get a Henna Tattoo, sample the local fayre and watch the Belly Dancers.

IMG_6326 IMG_6329 IMG_6334 DSC_0654 DSC_0677 DSC_0602 Desert Safari Dubai

Visit the Dancing Water Fountains at Dubai Mall (FREE)

Pop down to the Dubai Mall, where the ‘World’s Largest’ dancing water fountains performs daily at 1.00 pm and 1.30 except for Fridays when the shows are at 1.30 and 2.00 pm, spraying water  up to 500 feet in the air in sync to the music.  Apparently, the shows at night are more impressive with 1.5 million lumens of projected light.


Go and see the Flamingos at the Ras Al Khor  Wildlife Sanctuary (FREE)

Jump in a taxi and head  to the outskirts of Dubai to see the Flamingos, last recorded count had the numbers at over 3000, there are two daily feedings at 9am and 4pm.  My only suggestion would be to book mark this page on your phone and have this map at hand for the driver.

flamingos Flamingos at Ras Al Khor

I didn’t and resulted in us getting lost as I thought Ras Al Khor was the name of the park and not the surrounding area, in the end the driver deposited us at the wrong hide, with very little chance of getting another taxi.  Luckily, a lovely local couple took pity on us and took us to the correct hide, waited for us to snap a few photos of the flamingos and deposited us back in Dubai so we could get a taxi.


Visit the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre (FREE)

Is the only Turtle Rehabilitation Project in Dubai and is a collaboration between Jumeirah and The Wildlife Protection Office.  The outdoor enclosures are at the Mina A’Salam Hotel and are open to the public every day and no need to book.  However, there are feedings on Wednesdays at 11  am and on Fridays at 1pm.  However, I’d suggest you ring or contact them ahead of time as we went down to watch the feeding but it was closed due to a private function.

The closest bus stop is Burj Al Arab Hotel 1


Take a River Boat Taxi Across Dubai Creek

Probably one of the most authentic experiences you will have in Dubai, there are organised boat trips up and down the Creek, but I suggest just hopping on one of the local Abra (River Taxis) which are used by locals, enjoy the 5 minute journey across the Creek, explore the Old Souks and  grab a bit of lunch and then head back.  It’s only 1 Dirham each way.

IMG_6301 IMG_6308 Abra at Dubai Creek

The Creek is only a short walk from both the Al Ghubaiba Bus and Metro Stations


Go for a walk around the Dubai Marina (FREE)

The Dubai Marina Walk is a 7 km long pedestrian walkway lined with shops, cafes and restaurants and characterized by a dramatic skyline, you will feel dwarfed by the impressive residential blocks and skyscrapers.  Children can run through the fountains (bring a change of clothes), you will find play areas for younger children under some of the bridges and if you’re feeling a bit flush you can spring for a bike hire (20 AED or 30 minutes).

IMG_6341 IMG_6342 Walk Along Dubai Marina

The closest Metro Station is Damac Properties.


Burj Khalifa (Adults 125 AED/£24 – Kids 95 AED/£20)

Now that you’ve saved a bit of money you can splurge on a trip up the ‘World’s Tallest Building’ which is a whopping 828 metres tall with 160 floors, or in our case our friends kindly treated us.  The viewing platform is on the 124th floor which was more than high enough for me.  When you are standing on the viewing platform you are actually 100 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower!  On a clear day you can see for miles.

IMG_6285 Largest Tower in the World, Dubai

You will need to book in advance.


I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I can confidently say that we had a fabulous time and would definitely go back.  A huge thank you to our hosts Suzanne, Peter, Bob and Pushkins for making us so welcome and taking such great care of us.

Copyright Notice:  Many of my photos are Courtesy of Suzanne Scott, our host.  You can follow her ex-pat adventures at













Win £200 Worth of Sainsbury’s Vouchers

Childhood Obesity is on the Rise in the UK

Sainsbury's Active Kids Campaign

This will come as no surprise to anyone as we have seen the features on the news.  Genetics, unhealthy diets and lack of exercise are always at the heart of this discussion.

I was in a school awhile back to deliver a training session, which had nothing to do with nutrition or exercise, however, prior to my session the PE teacher was updating the teachers on a recent course he had been on and he said

‘20% of Year 6 Pupils are classes as obese’

That’s a whopping statistic which means that one in 5 kids will be overweight by the time they finish Primary School and statistics show that this is only going to get worse.

My thoughts on what’s causing childhood obesity

1) We all worry about the amount of time our children spend in front of the screen, whether it’s a TV, Playstation or Tablet according to one study I read, children spend on average 4 hours a day in front of a screen.

2) There has also been a definite trend of kids playing out less and less, personally I blame the internet for making parents feel it is unsafe for their kids to play out like we did as kids.  However, the roads are a lot busier now than when I was a kid, but I strongly don’t believe there is a bogey man around every corner and it’s no more dangerous than when I was a kid, we just hear about more incidences now.

3) When I used to teach many moons ago, I found the demands of the curriculum would often mean there was not enough time in the day to cover everything and PE would be pushed aside. This is worrying as the new national curriculum that came in in September is even more demanding than before.

4) There is also a link between family income and obesity.  Children from low and medium-income  families are more likely to eat less healthy.  I can totally understand this.  Readymade meals cost a fraction of the price of buying all of the ingredients.  For example, I can buy a readymade lasagne from the grocery store which is probably laden with hidden sugars and fats for around £4.  However, if I buy the ingredients to make it fresh it would cost me about 3 times as much as this.

5) Even though technology is supposed to be making us more efficient, I find we are busier than ever and don’t often have the time to cook homemade meals, and I’ve been known to opt for convenience foods including takeaways.

6) And one of my personal pet peeves is the ridiculous entry procedures for Primary Schools, which often means that children do not go to the closest school, resulting in their parents having to drive.

Sainsbury’s Active Kids 2015

Launch of Sainsbury's Active Kids Campaign

This is why I like the Sainsbury’s Active Kids Campaign, which encourages kids to live an active lifestyle.  To date they have provided over £150 million worth of equipment and experiences.  You can collect vouchers until the 5th of May 2015 and donate to your local school which they can then exchange on a range of active and cooking equipment.

Win £200 Worth of Sainsbury’s Vouchers and Signed Merchandise

To kick of this campaign they are offering one of my readers a chance to win £200 worth of Sainsbury’s Vouchers.  Simply enter using the Rafflecopter Form below.

To increase your chances of winning the giveaway, you can gain additional entries by:

  • Tweeting about the giveaway
  • Submitting a Tweet or Facebook link showing a picture of their vouchers.

The giveaway will run until 12am on Saturday 11th April 2015.

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  In association with Sainsbury’s

This competition is listed on Loquax, Prize Finder and Competition Hunter.

Things to do with kids in Bern, Switzerland

I recently had the opportunity to visit Bern, the capital of Switzerland and UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It’s a great destination for families who are interested in exploring the historic city of Bern and surrounding area including Lucerne, Interlaken and Gruyères.  Before heading out to the countryside, do take some time to explore Bern as there are quite a few things to do with kids.

Clock Tower (Zytglogge)

Clocker Tower, Bern

The Clock Tower is one of the main attractions in Bern, which was built in 1530, includes an astronomical clock and dancing figurines.  Get there on the hour so you can see the revolving bears, crowing golden cockerel and kicking jester put on a show.  If you get an opportunity to, go inside and see the inner workings of the clock, climb the tower and enjoy the panoramic views of the city.

Inside Clock Tower in Bern
Photo Courtesy of David Trayner, Southend Echo


Bern Clock Tower


Bear Park

Brown Bear in Bern
Photo Courtesy of David Trayner, Southend Echo


Within a 5 minute walk from the Old Town, you can visit the 19th Century Bear Pit, that houses several Brown Bears, the symbol of Bern.  During the winter months they are less active and may have disappeared inside.


Take a Dip!

The Aare River Bern

If your children are confident swimmers and your visiting in the summer, why not float down the River Aare with the Old Town Looking Down on you.


Child-Eater Fountain

Child Eater Fountain
Photo Courtesy of David Trayner, Southend Echo


There are more than 100 fountains in Bern.  However, if your children need to be reminded about their behaviour while away, you may want to take them to visit the Child Eating Ogre Fountain, he’s half-way through devouring one and 3 others look on in terror.  It’s easy to find in the Town Centre.  No one really knows why it was made in the first place, over 500 years ago, but has acted as a good reminder to the children of Bern to behave themselves.


The Old Town

The Old Town Bern
Photo Courtesy of David Trayner, Southend Echo


Go for a stroll around the Old Town which has been a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1983, but watch out for the man eating drains.

Drains in Bern


Einstein House

Einstein House Bern

Visit the second floor apartment where Einstein, his wife and son lived when he discovered the Theory of Relativity.  I’ve included this as I found it very interesting and had no idea about the scandals in his personal life.  However, it may not have enough to hold the attention of younger children but older children, who are familiar with Einstein, may find it interesting.

Outside of Bern

Schilthorn & Piz Gloria

Viewing Deck Piz Gloria
Photo Courtesy of David Trayner, Southend Echo


Travel 2970 meters above sea level on the Schilthorn Cableway, which was featured in the 1968 James Bond film, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’.  On a clear day you can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of over 200 peaks from the viewing platform.

Piz Gloria

Have a spot of lunch or a coffee in Piz Gloria the revolving restaurant.

Explore the new interactive 007 Bond World, which is great for both kids and adults.


The Chocolate Show Schuh, Interlaken

Chocolate Show Interlaken

If you find yourself in Interlaken, which is nestles between two lakes in the beautiful Mountain Region on Jungfrau, I would recommend a visit to the Chocolate Show where you can learn the secrets behind Swiss Chocolate, try your hand at being a chocolatier and it would be rude not to try some.

Rail Bike Ride in the Sense Valley

Rail Bikes in Switzerland

Ride the Rails! Travel along 4 miles of decommissioned railway from Laupen to Gümmenen on these modified bikes.

Feeding the Family

Typical food in Bern

Feeding your kids really won’t be a problem as you can get almost any type of cuisine and besides the abundance of chocolate, the typical food includes Rösti (grated potatoes formed into a small flat cake and fried), Cheese Fondue, Käseschnitte (toasted cheese sandwich) and Sausages, which most kids will eat.


Getting there and Away

I flew from Southend International Airport with SkyWork Airlines to Bern.  As I live in St Albans which is 20 miles directly north of London, I would typically use Gatwick, Luton or Heathrow.

However, the benefit of flying with SkyWork is that they pride themselves in 20 minute check in times and you get fast tracked through security. Normally when I use the other larger airports I have to be there 2-3 hours before take-off.   The airport is easily accessible by train or car and doesn’t share air space with the larger airports so planes typically don’t get stacked, resulting in the dreaded holding pattern.


Getting around

Chocolate Train in Switzerland

Probably the easiest way to get around Switzerland is by train, and as you would expect, the trains in Switzerland run on time.

According to several people, the train timings are so good in Switzerland that they use it to set their watches. (Not the other way around.)

The trains put ours in the UK to shame, they are modern, clean, fast and not overcrowded.  It’s a very civilized an relaxing way to travel, there are a multitude of different train passes that you can purchase which allows you to travel by train, boat or bus.

I’m sure my daughter would love The Swiss Chocolate Train.

I will definitely be going back but will be taking my daughter next time.

Have you been?  What would you recommend?


Disclosure – the trip was compliments of SkyWork Airlines for purposes of this review.


Things to do in North Norfolk with a 7 Year Old

The Christmas before last, we went away for the first time.  As a small family of 3, Christmas Day at home is nice but with limited family around the rest of the holiday can be rather quiet so last year we decided to go away.  We went to Coombemill in Cornwall, it worked out so well we decided to go away again this Christmas.

Where to Go?

Norfolk Beaches

This year we decided to go to North Norfolk, Salthouse to be exact, which is less than 3 hours by car from London.  We hired Corner Cottage which is on the coast between Sheringham and Holt and less than 200m from the Saltmarshes.  The 1730s Cottage itself was perfect and ideally located for exploring the surrounding area.

Accommodation in Salthouse, Norfolk

Facilities Corner Cottage Norfolk

Corner Cottage - Salthouse

Corner Cottage Accommodation Norfolk

Accommodation in Norfolk

The Cottage is incredibly well kitted out, decorated to a high standard, sleeps 4 possibly 6 if you utilise the sofa bed in the lounge and the best bit is there is an excellent child and dog friendly pub, The Dun Cow, less than 200m away.  I would strongly recommend booking in advance as it’s very popular.

The Dun Cow, Salthouse, Norfolk



In addition, there is a shop right next door to the Cottage and legendary Cookies Seafood is only a couple of doors down and they also do take-away Lattes and Bacon Sarnies in the morning.

Going away for Christmas can be a bit stressful as you have to have everything ready in advance,  no last minute rushing around; packing, wrapping presents and ordering food in (Tesco deliver to the cottage) needs to be done in advance, but once you’re in the car on your way, everything is done and you can sit back and enjoy the holiday.

There is so much to see and do in the area and we will definitely be going back but these are a few of our highlights.

Crabbing – Wells Next Sea

This was pure magic.  The Quay in Wells is the perfect place to do a bit of crabbing.  Check the tide times the night before and go about an hour after High Tide.  Don’t worry if your hubby packs the net and bait in morning and then proceeds to forget to put it in the car, as there is a shop near the Quay where you can buy one for a couple of quid.

Best places for crabbing in Norfolk


I really wasn’t confident we were going to catch anything, especially after talking to the Harbour Master who said we’d be very lucky if we did as the water was too cold.  Boy, was he wrong, within a couple of minutes of launching the net, I could hear excited screams from my daughter as they pulled up at least 4.  We lost count after awhile.

Warm up after with a coffee and spot of breakfast at the Wells Deli.


Blakeney Point Seal Trips

A boxing day to remember.  There are quite a few different companies going out to Blakeney Point from Morston, to see the Common & Grey Seal Colonies, which can number into the 1000s at this time of year as they are coming in to have their babies.    We chose Beans Seal Tours , it was an information and entertaining tour.  It’s only a short boat trip out to the point but with stunning scenery and an opportunity to hear about the history of the Old Life Boat House.  Do wrap up warm.  I was surprised that we were allowed to take our dog with us.

Blakeney Point Seal Tours


Holkham Nature Reserve & Beach

Recently Voted ‘The Number 1 Beach in the UK’

Christmas Day involved a lovely blustery walk on Holkham Beach, 4 miles of sandy unspoiled beach.  There is ample parking but bring change,  a wooden walkway leads you from the tree lined car park through the pines opening up to a crescent shaped beach with loads of pools to explore.

Best Beach in the UK



The Chocolate Box in Sheringham

I really don’t need to say much more – Kids love Chocolate!

Chocolate Box in Sheringham, Norfolk


Steam Train from Holt to Sheringham or Vice Versa

Unfortunately, I messed this one up.  We were hoping to take the train from Holt to Sheringham, followed by a spot of lunch at the Funky Mackerel, but I misread the timetable and didn’t realise they were only offering a Special Christmas Service and it was sold out, but will definitely try the Steam Train again next time.

Things to do with kids in Norfolk

Salthouse Church

As a family we’re not religious, however, my mother in law was an avid church goer, so every Christmas we attend a service around Christmas time and light candles in remembrance.  This gives us an opportunity to tell our daughter a bit more about her grand-parents who died when she was young .  We strolled up the hill to the spectacular Salthouse Church on Christmas Eve to attend the Christingle Service.

Salthouse Church, Norfolk


Take a Stroll

As I mentioned earlier, the Cottage is ideally located for exploring the local area.  Most mornings were spent walking our dog through the Saltmarshes to the beach which is less than 200m away.  Just outside Corner Cottage there is a lovely walk through fields and woods which will take you to the Wildlife Centre in Cley where you can have a spot of lunch.  (Note:  Dogs are not allowed – which makes perfect sense as they’d scare all the birds away)

Things to do with kids in Norfolk


As you can see I highly recommend both the area and cottage for a destination with kids.  If you’re interested in Corner Cottage you can book via the link above or contact Clare Suttie direct on Twitter @atlastranslate.

Note: I just wanted to note how incredibly dog friendly North Norfolk is, we found very few places that were not dog friendly, as new dog owners this was welcomed as we could take him out with us and didn’t have to leave him behind.

Copyright Notice – photos of the Saltmarsh and Corner Cottage are courtesy of Jeanette Lendon Photography.



Do you let your kids stay up till Midnight on New Year’s Eve?

Celebrating New Years Eve with Kids

I have absolutely no problem with people allowing their kids to stay up till Big Ben tolls.  In fact, I’m jealous of those that can keep their kids up and then they sleep in the following morning.  This would be a win win.

The Dilemma

However, this is not the case with my 7 year old daughter.  If I keep her up late she still gets up at the same time.  Then I have to deal with a tired grumpy child whilst nursing my own hangover.

So how could we ring in the New Year and avoid a disastrous New Year’s Day?

And the answer popped into my FB timeline.

Things to do with Kids on New Years


I personally think it’s a genius idea, so I nicked it and this year we celebrated a Thai New Year which is at 5pm our time.  It wasn’t particularly authentic but good fun.

Celebrating a Thai New Year

What you will need to celebrate a Thai New Year

  • Invite a couple friends around
  • Pre-order a Thai Take-away
  • Find a Countdown Clock Online for Bangkok
  • Check out YouTube for video of previous years fireworks in Bangkok
  • Download a version of Auld Lang Syne from iTunes
  • Scour the house for things that are vaguely Thai, no one will notice that your elephant candle holders are actually African Elephants and not Asian ones and your table runner is from South America.
  • Order silly little miniature Buddha figurines from Amazon, then research the meaning of the different ones with your kids.
  • Slightly naughty but order a few Eco Friendly Chinese Lanterns and set them off with the kids and get them to make a wish for the coming year or to remember those who are no longer with us.

The beauty was, we did everything you would normally do on New Years but we all crashed by 10pm and we had a lovely New Years Day.

Next year I reckon we head to India.

Happy New Year and all the best in 2015