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













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.



Travelling to Iceland with Kids

Is Iceland Child-Friendly?

‘Mummy can I go with you so we can throw snow at each other?’  Madame Age 6

In December, I had the opportunity to go to Iceland for a few days, I’d been once before about 14 years ago and my  husband coincidentally was there for work back in October, now I’m desperate to take my daughter back.

‘If you don’t like the weather wait 15 minutes’ a local

I’m not going to lie to you it was cold, very cold, temperatures ranged from -5 to -10 degrees but according to the locals it was an unusually cold winter, typically at that time temperatures normally hover around 0 degrees, which I found surprising.  If you take loads of layers, including thermals and you will be fine, they say that summers are quite pleasant, all though the sea never warms up enough to swim in it.  Nevertheless, there are loads of natural hot springs you can wallow in to warm up.

It’s on everyone’s bucket list!

Iceland Landscape

Iceland is the perfect destination for families, beyond the obvious ; the natural beauty, excellent food, friendly people, and culture but because it’s so different to anywhere I’ve ever been to before, a truly unique destination.  Clearly I’ve never been to Mars, but the landscape is out of this world.


Icelandic Pony

Iceland is not known for vast amounts of native wildlife, except for the Arctic Fox.  However, there is an abundance of Bird and Marine Life.  You can take to the seas and go Whale watching, something I would love to do.  As my daughter is in Puffins class this year I’m sure she’d insist on going Puffin watching.  I’d also like to take her horseback riding on the small but hardy Icelandic Horses.


Most kids are drawn towards theme parks for adrenalin but there is nothing more exciting than the power of mother nature.

Golden Circle

Golden Circle Tour Iceland

A drive to the Golden Circle is a must, a 160 mile round trip from Reykjavik, you could either hire a car or take one of the many minibus or 4 x 4 tours.  The Golden Circle Tours include Gulfoss, Iceland’s most famous waterfall, Strokkur Geysir which erupts every 5-10 minutes and Thingvellir National Park, where you will learn how Iceland was born.

Blue Lagoon Thermal Pools and Spa

Blue Lagoon Iceland

We only had a fleeting visit to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, which was accidentally formed following activity at a nearby geothermal plant in 1976, which proved to have health benefits, but I would have loved to spend all day there.  I’m sure my daughter and I would have a scream covering ourselves in mud.

Quad Biking

Adventure Iceland

Quad biking with ATV Adventures Iceland was the highlight of my trip.  We zoomed along the rugged coastline in the snow.  I have experience quad biking in Canada, but nothing like this.  Don’t worry you don’t need experience but you do need to hold a valid driver’s license and children as young as six can go along as a passenger.

Northern Lights

Most people have Iceland on their bucket list to see the Northern Lights.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see them, you will know by 6pm each day if the weather condition will be right to see them so you can plan accordingly.  Personally, this wasn’t a disappointment for me as I grew up in Canada and have seen them in the north quite a few times.

Bizarre and Exciting Foods

Reykjavik is a foodies paradise.  You can get just about anything you would get at home from Sushi to Pasta, plus you can also be a bit more adventurous and try some of the local fare.  We went on a walking tour ‘Reykjavik by Food’ which was very interesting.  You could try everything from Rams testicles to Sheep’s head (inclusive of eye-balls) to Fermented Shark.

Fermented Shark

They opt to eat rotten shark as this particular shark can’t be eaten fresh as it would be poisonous, as it has no kidneys  and all the toxins pass through the flesh.  I can’t begin to tell you how awful it tasted and requires a shot of local spirits to wash it down.

I also tried Minke whale, reindeer and several types of dried but couldn’t bring myself to try the horse or puffin.

Fussy Eaters

However, if you’re children are not that intrepid you can always go for a Hotdog, arguably Iceland’s National Food, at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur or grab a burger at the Hamburger Factory.  Don’t worry they won’t go hungry.

And you also have to take a trip to the Laundromat Cafe, it’s truly child-friendly with a children’s menu, but pop downstairs and check out the Laundromat, with an area for parents to read the papers or surf the net whilst doing laundry and a play area for kids.  Pure genius!



(That is an iPad on his chest)

Even though Icelanders do have a lot of guns per capita, there is very little crime and you’ll feel extremely safe walking around but obviously do apply some common sense.

‘Violent crime was virtually non-existent. People seemed relaxed about their safety and that of their children to the point where parents left their babies outside and unattended.’ via BBC News Magazine



We stayed in the stunning  ION hotel en route to the Golden Circle, with an award winning ‘Northern Lights Bar’ and the Hotel 101 a boutique hotel in the heart of Reykjavik, which made it perfect for exploring Iceland on foot.  However, if I went with my family I would opt to hire a car and go self-catering.

Getting there and away

easyJet now operates ten flights per week to Reykjavik from London Luton, Manchester, Edinburgh and Bristol Airports.

easyJet Prices Iceland

It’s the perfect destination for families, we only live about 20 minutes from Luton Airport so it’s very convenient for us.  The flight to Iceland due to head winds was just over 3 hours but it was only 2.5 on the way back.


Disclosure:  My trip was compliments of easyJet for purposes of this review.




How to avoid the dreaded Motorway Services

How to find a decent place to eat when on a road trip in the UK

I have a deep hatred of UK Services on the motorways.  Please don’t take this personally, but I vividly remember experiencing my first UK Motorway services about 14 years ago; after badly navigating the one way system almost exiting by mistake, then fighting for a parking spot, nervously leaving your car fully loaded with valuables, hoards of stressed people to then be offered substandard fast food, notably Wimpy in this case.

In Canada, services are very minimal, sometimes you will be lucky to get a flushing toilet and a few picnic tables, but normally in quite beautiful surroundings with the odd bit of wild life wandering around.

Off the beaten track

We do try to avoid them at all costs and thanks to technology we can.  I have the Good Pub Guide App (£4.99) on my phone.  I simply have to select, ‘find a pubs and breweries near me’ then I can scroll through and find one that is close, serves food and is child friendly.

How to find a good place to eat

We’ve found some absolute gems and they are only minutes off the motorway.

How to find a place to eat in the UK

Once I find one in the guide I simply enter the post code into my Sat Nav and off we go.  If you want to plan ahead you can also use the post code and address option.

Do try it as it will make your journey much more enjoyable.

Happy travels…..