Monday 28 June 2010

Photographs of children

Where do you stand on putting photographs of children online? This is a thorny debate with lots of different views of which mine are probably somewhere in the middle!

On my blog, twitter and blipfoto (as they are very public) I hardly ever put a recent photo of my children on with their full faces showing. You never know who will be browsing through those photos. So you will get something like this:


I also avoid showing other people's children if I can.

On Facebook you can adjust the privacy settings on each album so I hardly ever let anyone not on my Friends list see photos of my children. Some albums I restrict to just family and very close friends. This way you can share photos of your children with family from far and wide without everyone seeing them.

I got a rapped knuckle from another parent last night as I uploaded photos of her daughter's birthday party and she does not like photos of her children appearing on the Internet. I had restricted access to Friends & their friends as this mum isn't on my list but has mutual friends. As soon as she asked me to take them off I did so and changed album access to friends only. Another mum at the party had taken photos of her children on my phone and she knew I would put them on FB so she could see them. 

I know the simplest way around the dilemma of not knowing another parent's views on Internet photos is to not post anything with anyone but your kids on but sometimes that means you can't share fabulous photos with close family. So is it right to post photos to private, restricted albums when you haven't got permission from their parents? In the olden days the traditional printed photos could be shared to anyone are we too paranoid in this modern era of digital images and the Internet?

Please share your thoughts whichever side of the debate they are from!

Sunday 20 June 2010

The Gallery: Creatures

It's week 16 of the Gallery and this time Tara has challenged us to Creatures!

So here are a selection of my favourite shots of Creatures Great and Small from my collection:

my daughter's hamster Nibbles

snail in the rain

Tikka the Chicken

Looking forward to seeing all the other entries in this Gallery

Saturday 19 June 2010

Legoland Survival Guide

Having survived a trip to Legoland with a 6 and 3 year old here are my survival tips!

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What age ranges is Legoland for?

Legoland caters for most age ranges. If you have older teenagers they may not as many rides as other theme parks but there are rides to suit everyone. So it's a perfect place for when you have a wide range of ages in your family. Even the grandparents will enjoy the models and the more sedate rides (my dad mostly enjoys photographing us having fun!)

When to go?

If at all possible avoid August, most school holidays and weekends (the queues are huge) plus Ascot Week (the traffic is horrendous). The quietest days are term time Monday - Thursday with Friday being slightly busier. If you're kids are not yet at school you have the most flexibility. For those with school age children go on one of their Inset days if possible.

How much will it cost?

If you just walk up to the gate and pay the standard admission fees the tickets are:

Adult: £38
Child (3-15) /Senior (60+): £28

This is well beyond many people's budgets so there are ways to save on this.
  1. book online to save 10%
  2. get a 2 day pass
  3. buy a Legoland season ticket (a basic one doesn't give you access in August)
  4. buy a Merlin pass and get access to all their venues (Alton Towers, Warwick Castle, Chessington, Thorpe Park, London Eye, Dungeons, Madame Tussauds. Sealife Centres)
  5. use Tesco Clubcard vouchers to either get individual tickets or passes.
  6. go as a group of 7 or more and phone to get a discount
  7. use one of their Parent and Toddler vouchers on selected dates.
In fact if you plan ahead you shouldn't ever need to pay the full price!

Before you go

Measure your children so you know before hand which rides they can go on. Key restrictions are 0.9 m, 1.0 m, 1.1 m and 1.3 m. Some rides have both a minimum to ride and a minimum to ride without an over 16. If you are a single parent with more than one child under 1.3 m tall persuade another adult to go with you! You can go it alone but it's easier. The park do allow you to go on consecutive times with 2 children but they are not responsible for children left unattended. They also encourage parent swapping so another adult may take your child on a ride whilst you keep an eye on their child.

Set your budget for the day and let your kids know so they hopefully do less pestering! Every different kingdom has it's own retail outlets with toys based on the theme. All of these are available at the main shop by the entrance. If you agree a max. spend with the kids and say only at the end of the day it doesn't give them false expectations and they won't lose the toy somewhere in the park!

What do I need to take?

I always pack a perpetual picnic as this firstly saves money and secondly means that you can easily have a bite to eat or a drink between rides or whilst waiting in queues. If its going to be a hot day something like crudities or melon can be thirst quenching as well as stomach filling. There are plenty of different catering outlets all over the site if you are wanting something more substantial. Again let your kids know if you are only going to treat them to a single ice cream so they are prepared.

Take waterproof coats and possibly a change of clothes for going home. Many of the rides are very wet and you don't want to be driving home soaking wet! They do sell ponchos if you forget but I overheard several people saying they weren't very effective...

On a hot day pack the younger children some swimming things and towels. There is a fabulous wet play area for them to run around in. Next to this is a shop selling costumes if you do forget.

All this clobber can soon add up so take the pushchair even if your youngest is happy to walk everywhere! The park is very buggy friendly and before you go on a ride you can just leave the buggy in the adjacent buggy park. Keep your valuables in something watertight you can take with you on rides.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothing as you will be walking long distances. Clothes that dry out quickly are a very good idea. Pack the hats and sun cream as well - the queuing areas are often shaded but the rest of the park isn't.

Once in the park

Get there half an hour before opening time to allow getting a decent parking spot and a chance to use the loo! You can pay extra to use the nearest car park but getting there early will save you £6...

Decide which way round you are going to go and follow the map! If you are interested in any of the shows you can base your itinerary around the publicised times. On busy days it may be worth getting to the most popular rides as early as possible to reduce queuing times.

Have a great time.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Play nice or play fair?

My daughter's school had a tea party for the classes from Year 2 downwards plus junior siblings today (a small school so this only made about 35 children!). As chair of the PTA I took on the tea side but let another mum organise the pass the parcel. 

She decided to do a parcel for each gender group based upon the class sizes and not counting the siblings and new intake. This may have worked if some people hadn't sent their children without paying for them!

In the end we had a parcel aimed at 17 boys when we had 23 and one for 10 girls when 12 turned up. It was quite hard work as the music stopper making sure the parcel stopped for different kids each time, though other parents asked previous winners to pass on to someone else. Once the girls' had completed theirs we got all the winners from the boys to move out of the circle. Even then of course we had some who couldn't win (including my 3 year old son!). 

At this point the lady who did the parcel (her son is 7.5) said well that's life. Myself on the other hand thought it was too unfair for children aged 3-7 to be only in a very small minority to have nothing especially with my son crying! So I gathered round all the "losers" and said don't worry when Father Christmas came to the school he didn't take all the presents home! 

I then raided the leftover Santa gifts from the last Christmas Fayre and gave the 7 children a little prize. Would you have done the same or would have let 1/6th of the kids be upset from losing out?

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Is it time to be a paranoid parent?

I found out yesterday that someone tried to abduct my friend's 3 year old in our town centre last week. Subsequently I was told that apparently there were several such attempts that day in the town.

Until now I haven't really contemplated that some stranger would try and abduct one of my kids as we go about our normal lives. Its something that happens to other people in other places.

Since last night I have wanted to keep my children much closer to me when I we are out in busy places. All this without turning my children into nervous wrecks. I tried to explain to my 6 year old daughter today why she wasn't allowed to go choose an outside table at McDonald's whilst I was still waiting for food. I said that someone had tried to take our little friend as they wanted a child. She asked if people that already had children sometimes took other people's - I had to reply maybe. 

It is hard to clip my children's wings but the number one priority has to be to keep them safe...

As I was writing this I clicked on a link on Twitter to a story of 9 year old girl who has gone missing after been sent to the shop isn't that something our children should be able to do safely?

Monday 14 June 2010

The Gallery: Motherhood

A good challenge and a competition in the 15th Gallery from Tara at Sticky Fingers

So I'll give it a go....

Take my hand: 

You have my heart...

Give me your hand: 

and I will guide you...

Put our hands together:

One day yours will be bigger than mine...

Sunday 13 June 2010

Comfort Eating

It's been a bad day, kids playing up, nothing going right - what is your response? Do you find yourself reaching for the biscuit tin or a glass of wine? Or maybe your kids have refused to eat the home cooked food you've slaved over for hours - do you scrape the leftovers on your plate and eat them?

Why is it that a lot of ladies get such a comfort from doing something that is bad for us? I know that I am guilty of it myself and keep saying to myself not to buy the "naughty" things in so I can't eat them. Then I find myself putting them in the trolley at the supermarket as they are for the kids... who am I kidding and my kids shouldn't be eating them either!!

A couple of years ago I lost 5 1/2 stone on the LighterLife plan - I looked and felt fab. A little bit went back on fairly quickly as I went too skinny but as life wasn't treating me too badly I stayed a slim size 12-14. Then my marriage broke down and gradually the weight has crept on. I have obviously been consoling myself with over eating and a regular glass of wine.

It is a big thing to get myself out of. On days I feel positive the calorie intake is definitely lower. Unfortunately at the minute life keeps throwing bad things my way: marriage break up, my grandfather dying, money worries and having to keep up work. I'm also trying to work out what I can take from my big family home to my new small one.

In this situation it is ever so easy just to snack as you go and usually this is unhealthy. I've been tracking my diet with Weight Watchers and it's easy to see where points can add up - also forces you to eat more veggies as they are mostly 0 points!

I am really hoping that I can banish the comfort eating cycle and get myself fit and healthy for both my sake and for my kids!

Hands up if you are also a comfort eater? And yes I know men can suffer too!

Friday 11 June 2010

Chuck It, Give It, Flog It, Donate It

What do you do with your surplus stuff? 

1) Do you just trot on down to the dump and chuck it?

2) Maybe you subscribe to your local Freecycle etc. and give things to whoever wants it.

3) Then again do you spend the time putting it on eBay or your local paper to sell it or maybe do a Yard Sale when you know you'll only get a fraction of what it cost you?

4) The final option is to take it straight to your nearest charity shop - tax deductible in the USA but not in UK. 

I'm a combination of 2, 3 & 4 with emphasis on 3 as the kids need some money to pay for them to have fun!

Thursday 10 June 2010

Lottie Loves - Finishing School Workshop - Week 1 – A is for Attitude

The gorgeous Lottie has started a one woman campaign to get us ladies to get back in touch with our feminine side and feel fabulous. She started with the Twitter campaign to get us back in dresses on the first May Bank Holiday this year and this was followed by the #thinkfrockitsfriday campaign. Basically this is a challenge to get us all wearing a dress on a Friday. I've really enjoyed joining in and getting compliments as well as making me feel more girlie.

To follow up on the success of this campaign she has now started her own Finishing School to help us even further. Every two weeks she will set us a challenge for us to complete and blog about. The first one is to think about what makes us happy about ourselves without a hint of negativity... not necessarily an easy task but I am going to have a go...

I love the fact that I have really long legs, in fact if my body had reached the same proportions I would be 6 ft!! It's lovely to be able to stride out and I can reach places others can't and have fun on the way... Sometimes I give people a real surprise when I've been sitting behind a table and then stand up as there is more to me than they expect.

My breasts are a very good size - not too big (unlike when breastfeeding my daughter!) but it doesn't need any cheating to have a great cleavage. I probably don't wear clothes that make the most of this feature and hope I can afford to change my wardrobe and do something about it!

I am lucky with my skin in that on my face it is neither too dry or too greasy. I rarely wear foundation and I think that this has kept the skin in better condition.

Everything else is a work in progress and when I put in the effort I will regain my curves....

Tuesday 8 June 2010

"Wot I dun in the Skool holydayz"

In honour of all those essays we used to have to write on the first day back in school after the holidays I thought I'd blog about the fun things my kids and I did during half term!

It was a very busy but fun week altogether as we kicked off with a birthday pool party at Crowhurst Park. My 6 year old had been invited and it was extended to myself and my son. It was great hour of splashing around on floats in a sectioned off corner of the pool. In total there were 15 kids and 4 adults in the water and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. May have to save up to do the same for my kids one day! The pool fun was followed by a lunch with cake etc at the birthday boy's home.

was he 9 or 6?

We then high tailed it over to Arundel Castle for a medieval weekend with the Company of St Barbara. I already blogged about this over at Metajugglamum's place... There was a lot of fun living the medieval life in the grounds of an amazing castle.

our camp from the medieval keep

We took a relaxed approach to Tuesday as all the fresh air and late nights at Arundel had worn us out!

On Wednesday we were up early to catch a bus then train to London. I was well prepared with plenty of drinks and snacks plus activities to keep the kids occupied on the nearly 2 hour trip. We arrived safely and sat in Covent Garden watching a street performer whilst waiting for my step-daughter to arrive with her mum:

fab Covent Garden

Once I had all 3 children (ages 12, 6 & 3) we headed for the Underground to get to the Natural History Museum. I had taken a straw poll via Twitter and Facebook on having a buggy with me and on this first stretch it was certainly useful. Covent Garden station has an elevator down to the platform so getting to the train was easy (and I was pleased that the 2 little ones were free on the Tube). We all had to stand but it wasn't too much of a problem and the buggy carried all the bags. South Kensington station was a bit more of a nightmare as I had to carry the buggy up several sets of stairs/escalators. Good job my step daughter kept tight hold of my 3 year old's hand! The underpass to the museums makes for a very safe way to get children safely across London.

The museum itself was very busy so we were directed to the old Geological Museum entrance though the museum is now all combined into one. Near the entrance is a cloakroom where you can leave buggies for free although other bags have to be paid for. Under instruction from my 3 year old son we headed straight to the dinosaurs following the really clear maps that are available at the museum. As it was the holidays the museum had a queuing system to get into the exhibit. Again the snack selection helped to keep kids happy whilst we waited. 

the queue for the dino exhibit

Once in to the exhibition itself all three children were fascinated by the models, fossils and facts. They seemed quite content to wait their turn and even complained when a family from overseas jumped the queue! It was worth it for the animatronic T-Rex that was waiting at the end:

Other children found the T Rex quite scary but after seeing Walking with Dinosaurs at the O2 last year it was quite mild for mine! Afterwards there were more dinosaur exhibits and finally the Dino Shop - heaven for a small boy...

The next exhibition was about Human changes and how the body works. My 12 year old step daughter found this one a bit embarrassing after doing sex ed at school. It didn't help that my 6 year old daughter said in a loud voice what part a man's willy played in making babies.... We all liked the hands on section where you could see how parts of the body worked. Some of these bits I can remember from the 1980s but they are still fascinating to today's children.

The girls wanted to see the mineral display so we went up the magnificent staircase to a room with rows and rows of minerals. My son thought this bit wasn't very exciting but the girls were happy to browse for ages especially in the Treasure Chest. Needless to say they both spent their pocket money in the mineral section of the gift shop!

the landing outside the mineral exhibit

We had a quick pit stop in the cafe. Reasonably priced coffee but the kids' cakes and drinks were quite pricey. Then a foray into the insect display which didn't last long as my step daughter is scared of spiders. Our visit was completed with the Earth Sciences section. My son was scared of the earthquake simulator but otherwise we all enjoyed the sections that were open. They are repairing the roof in the main hall so this was closed.

The return trip on the Tube was a bit more fraught as we hit the start of the rush at 4 PM. It was very crowded and the train stopped for quite sometime between stations which was stifling in the heat. This was the point when I nearly regretted having the buggy as I had to ask my step daughter to ensure all the children got out of the train and then almost force my own way through. Luckily we did make it off together.

After handing my step daughter back to her mum we caught the train back home. This saw the end of the last of the picnic! Unfortunately a track side fire caused our train to be held up for about 15 minutes which resulted in us missing the bus home - a 45 minute wait is not ideal after a busy day out.

I thoroughly recommend both Arundel Castle and the Natural History Museum as great places to go for a family day out. Next time I'm taking my daughter to the British Museum on her own.

Friday 4 June 2010

Saturday Silly: The Blog roll

Brighton Mum - Teenage Angst has decided to get us to all go out a photograph our loo rolls and share them with the blogosphere! 

Afraid we don't have a loo roll holder as for the 5 years after loo was re-plastered hubby didn't think it was important to have one put back...

With 2 small people there is a huge stash of loo rolls lurking to the side of the toilet!!

Normal service will be resumed soon...

Guest Post: Travelling on the Continent with Small People

It's time for the lovely Metajugglamum to guest post on my blog as I'm over at her place today! So here are some top tips from her:

Driving On the Continent with Small People

I have seen a couple of tweets lately requesting advice on travelling to Europe from the UK with a little one. My family is distributed across 3 countries, so, by default, I have become quite adept at commuting from one to the other over the last 16 years - and since 2007, alone with a baby / toddler.

Flying from place to place has its challenges, especially with young children but at least there is a vague structure with people to ask if things start to go wrong! Not so driving ... any number of things can get in the way of moving from A to B and how the trip progresses really can change by the minute.

Far be it from me to try and teach Grandma to suck eggs, but I'd like to share some of the little things I have learnt over the years regarding packing and general travel tips which made my long journeys with a small person easier or at least a little more tolerable!

I have included info on the following points in the hope that some of it might be useful to someone: 

1.Things not to forget when packing the car for a small person, 
2. Legal requirements for driving on the continent, 
3.Travel in France (tolls, services and facilities), 
4. Use of Navigation Systems in France.

v  Packing:


You may think you are travelling within the EU and therefore don't need them ... you DO! You may also be asked to produce them as pieces of identity for hotels.

Ø  Changing bag
Probably the most obvious item but the most often forgotten or or worse, buried at the bottom of the boot under 3 weeks worth of packing!

§  Pack up a separate changing bag with as many nappies, wet-wipes and cream as you will need just for the entire journey (plus spares) along with at least one change of body / t-shirt / trousers and socks for those explosive accidents. This will save you having to unpack half the car looking for more spares along the way.

§  Service stations are not renowned for their cleanliness, although in Germany they are getting better. France has a long way to go and certainly has not grasped the idea of baby-friendly changing facilities yet. One highly recommended addition for your changing bag is a waterproof roll-up / fold-up mat, or at least a towel to lie your baby on. Similarly in France, don't ever rely on there being paper towels or toilet roll. Pack accordingly!

§  Lots and lots of little plastic bags! These are indispensible (if you forgive the somewhat controversial pun) for nappies, wet / dirty clothes and general rubbish.

Ø  Mini-packets of 10xtissues - hundreds of them! (Better than a box as more portable and the tissues stay clean. Can be stuffed into pockets, hand-bag, changing bag and tend to be more durable than box tissues, so can also be used for 'mopping up' ... interpret as you will!

Ø  A large tub / pack of wet-wipes in the glove-box. You will not believe the things I have used these for! One day I will blog on this.

Ø  Several cotton muslins.
Of all the presents I was ever given when I had my baby, my 20pack of muslins was by far the most useful ever. When travelling, they are the most versatile of accessory; they don't take up much space but can be used for anything from hanging up at the window as an additional sun-visor, to wrapping around a child's head pirate style to protect from wind / sun / cold. They are also brilliant for lying a child on to change him, or for drying him off after a wash.

Ø  Babyfood / food for toddlers

§  Don't depend on service stations selling baby food. Most of them do, but in France you will find the choice is pretty limited and is pricey along the motorways, so probably best to pack up enough to last the journey and keep cool, somewhere accessible.

Ø  In-car entertainment

§  Irrespective of age, music is always a great distraction to children, especially if reasonably interactive. Pack up a variety of CDs - lively for the mornings and some calmer softer music for sleep times. Audio books are wonderful for older children and are a welcome change from the Wheels on the Bus for the bigger kids! (I haven't resorted to the DVD option yet!)

§  When I travel down to see my folks I generally take my 3yo's plastic Ikea bathroom stool with us! Odd though this might sound, it serves both as a stool (obviously) in their bathroom, but, upside down in the car next to him, it doubles up as a sturdy box into which I pack a huge variety of smaller toys. Lego is fabulous as it is diverse in its usage and a carefully selected handful of different bricks / animals and people along with a couple of dinosaurs, a tractor and some books will generally keep him occupied for hours.

v  Driving on the continent

Ø  If you are bringing your own car from the UK, you will need to buy deflection stickers for your headlights. By default, headlights do not shine directly ahead, but slightly into the side of the road. When driving on the 'other side' however, this can be blinding for oncoming traffic and is actually illegal. The stickers simply deflect the beam away from the middle of the road. These can be bought at Halfords or any similar car accessories store. They can also be bought on most continental ferries but at a hugely inflated price. (Don't forget to remove them again once back in the UK!)

Ø  You will need a reflective security jacket accessible in the car for every member travelling including children. Accessible means, not buried under 3 weeks worth of luggage in the boot. Police do look for them as part of their random checks.

Ø  It is now also a legal requirement in most EU countries to carry a warning triangle and a standard approved EU First Aid kit. You may incur an on-the-spot fine at a random police check if these items are not accessible.

Ø  Yes, France does like their 'random' police checks. You may be asked to empty your car. (Only happened to me once in 16yrs however, despite being stopped over 20 times).

v  Driving in France

France, like most countries it has its own unique peculiarities, some of which are not very predictable and which can therefore be pretty testing on the nerves! Hopefully the following tips will spare you a little pain! Some things to note:

Ø  Tolls
France charges by department for the use of its motorways, which means you have to stop at various points along your journey to a) take a ticket and then b) some kilometres later, pay, depending on how far you travelled along that stretch of motorway.

§  Don't forget, toll booths will be, for the most part, on the LEFT side of the car! If you are driving alone in the front, you may have to get out to take the ticket / pay.

§  Put the ticket somewhere SAFE!  i.e somewhere where it won't blow out of the window should you open it whilst driving, and somewhere you can access it relatively quickly! Emptying the car to look for it at the next toll station is stressful. People behind you get cross and honk a lot!

§  Some toll pay-stations have baskets not unlike a low-lying wide-angled basket-ball net! If you have the right change for a fixed price stretch of road you can just throw it into the net (aim well or you'll be grovelling around under the car looking for it, see previous point!) and the barrier will open automatically. Don't expect any change. You won't get it!

§  Toll booths generally do take credit cards over the counter and I find this to be the easiest, most stress-free way of paying. They don't ask for a signature so your are underway again very quickly. (Be wary of putting the credit-card into the ashtray slot for ease of access, however ... in some cars there is a slit at the back just wide enough for such a card to slip through. Voice of experience here!)

§  Should the booth not be manned, you will need a pin-number for your credit-card and not all cards are accepted (debit cards are NOT). Having some cash in the car is always a good thing just in case.

§  If you do happen to lose your ticket (not uncommon!) you will be charged a standard fee which will probably be the maximum price for the full stretch of motorway, irrespective of how far you travelled. If you can't pay, they don't let you out! Simple!

Ø  Services:

In Germany and Austria, these are improving all the time and the bigger chains are generally clean and well maintained. France, however, is a completely different story!

§  Toilets in France are often quite horrific, to put it bluntly. To add to the pain, in the smaller service stations it is rare to find specific baby- changing facilities and the overall hygiene in the wash areas leaves a lot to be desired. Make sure you have a waterproof mat or at the very least a towel to lie baby on for changing and take everything you need for cleaning and drying him. To be honest, I have opted to change mine on the driver's seat of the car as a cleaner alternative on occasions in the past!

§  If there are two of you, things are, of course, substantially easier as one can 'go' while the other holds the baby. Travelling alone with a tiny person is not quite so simple. The easiest way, therefore, to combat the above, is to aim for the larger service stations if you can... indicated by the full restaurant sign as opposed to just the cafe-type services (cup and saucer sign). The larger restaurants generally have dedicated baby changing facilities and a decent shop.

§  One great little tip if travelling by yourself with a baby too big for a carrier, is to nip into the restaurant first and grab a high-chair. These are often on wheels. I would ignore the strange looks and 'wheel' my baby to the toilets, enabling me to 'go' in relative comfort myself, without having to balance baby on my lap! (great thigh training however!) or put him down somewhere evilly dirty/wet.

§  Unlike Germany and Austria, I have yet to find a service station in France with an openly accessible microwave for warming milk / baby-food. They are, however, normally very amenable with regard to doing this for you if you ask.

Ø  Petrol:

§  Petrol stations are fairly regular along the major motorways in France, however, be warned, on the Nationals they are not! If travelling a long way, I would advise never to let the car go under one quarter full as you may be unlucky. Monday is closing day in France and this is acknowledged by almost everyone, including local petrol stations.

§  24/7 stations: Yes these do exist, but they are rarely manned and are very fussy about the type of cards they take. Even the most common VISA and Mastercards are sometimes rejected.

§  If you have SAT NAV and notice a local petrol station just off the motorway, I would advise that you take the 5 minutes to divert and fill up there. Petrol prices at motorway services in France can be astronomical!

Ø  Hotels / B&B en route

§  France has any number of hotels and Bed and Breakfast places along the major routes and the rooms are generally ok. The Routier hotels tend to be clean, if basic. If travelling with a baby, I would, however, ALWAYS ask to check the room first and get a visual on the cot if you don't have your own. Sometimes the rooms are cold in winter and the bathroom facilities not ideal for washing / bathing a small person. I have had to sleep my baby in a laundry trolley before now, hence this tip!

§  I do not generally like to put down a brand in an open forum such as this, but be very careful if booking in to 1* /2* chains such as Formula One ... these are clean, very basic but cheap and hence are a great attraction to backpackers / groups of kids on events holidays. The lack of individual room facilities and the (often) plastic bathroom cubicles with very unsubstantial soundproofing means they can be extremely noisy, particularly in high season. Always ask about other reservations first, especially if you are travelling with a baby.

Ø  Monday is closing day in France, as already mentioned above and includes pretty much everywhere. (This does not apply to motorway services of course). If travelling long distances on the Nationals, make sure you pack enough water, food and general supplies before you go as it may be difficult to find a cafe or restaurant open when you need it.

Ø  Speed Traps
France love their speed traps and fixed cameras are not marked yellow as in the UK. If you see a warning sign on the side of the road indicating that a camera could be in the area, then there generally is one!

Favourite locations for mobile traps are the off-ramps from motorways set at 90kms/hr. or convergences of lanes from two down to one after a dual carriage way. If there is a police gun on such a stretch you are probably looking at an on-the-spot fine of up to 100Euros when they pull you in a few hundred metres later.
Should you be stopped and fined, you will be given the option to pay now, or have the bill sent home. If you pay cash immediately, you may save up to 50Euros. A  bill sent by post will always be higher and you will incur additional costs again for the international transfer. It is therefore always advisable to carry up to 100Euros cash in the car when travelling. Just in case ;-)

Radar detectors are, by the way, absolutely taboo ... if you are found with one in your car, it will be confiscated there and then and the consequences could be heavy.

Ø  Navigation Systems
In France : .... great on motorways which have been there for 30 years. That is all!! Do NOT depend on it if you are travelling well into the country, particularly around the Massif Central... it can be more than the nerves can stand!

Take. A. Map!!

I hope there was something in here which is of use if you are travelling on the continent for the first time. All that is left for me to say, is 'Don't be scared' by the list ... these are simply things I have learnt over 16 years of driving around and which have made my life a tad easier driving alone with a little one. My little one loves the car, and I adore driving with my little one .. it's just one big adventure! Hope you do too :-)

Have a great holiday!