Sparkles & Stretchmarks: A UK Parenting & Pregnancy Blog

Friday, 21 October 2016

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere! - Pumpkin Picking In Devon

 If you've been on Instagram at all over the past couple of weeks, chances will be experiencing severe Pumpkin Photo envy!

Every October without fail I find myself admiring everybodys pumpkin-themed pictures and wishing I could find a fab pumpkin patch local to us...and this year I decided that I needed to take action! No longer would I sit at home, scrolling sullenly through my IG feed...looking on at the pumpkin-frolicking being undertaken by my peers. No...this year I would get out there and find a decent pumpkin patch for myself right here in Devon!

The task proved a little more difficult than I had hoped, I spent the best part of 2 days google searching and only being able to find listings for Pumpkin Days and Pumpkin Festivals at various farms and stately homes across the county...these all sound like a lot of fun but they just weren't what I wanted...I just wanted a plain and simple Pick-Your-Own Pumpkin Patch.

Somewhere that me and the kids could wander around on our own with a big wheelbarrow, picking pumpkins and taking gorgeously autumnal photos to our hearts content with no festival-style crowds, musicians, other activities, etc.

I was beginning to think all hope was lost, but then I took a chance and called Lifton Farm Shop...where we had spent a lovely (if longer than intended...) day strawberry picking this summer...their website was advertising two special Pumpkin Days next week but I couldn't see any mention of pumpkin picking prior to then...

But to my delight, the friendly lady on the phone told me that they DO offer plain old Pumpkin Picking every day (while stocks last..) we all piled into the car and off we went!

And OH MY GOODNESS...we were NOT disappointed.

I have truly never seen so many pumpkins in all of my life!

Tyne has a book called "Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere" and Lifton Farm Shop was as though this book had come to life...there were hanging baskets full of pumpkins, there were gigantic displays of pumpkins everywhere we looked, there were tractors full of pumpkins, there were even pumpkins dotting the walls right around the childrens play and picnic area....

Everywhere we looked, there were pumpkins!!

We collected a big wheelbarrow (much to Tyne's delight) and headed off to find the PYO pumpkin patch just behind the shop...two big fields full of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, and after we lingered for a while taking some photos, we filled our wheelbarrow up with 5 pumpkins (one each!) and headed inside to pay.

I was surprised to find that our 5 pumpkins of choice only cost £7 in total...bargain!!

We then headed into the lovely little area play area which the kids had loved in the summer....although it's October now the weather was still mild and sunny, so the kids had a good play here for a while and then we treated ourselves to some delicious homemade cakes from the farm shop to munch on before we headed home with our Pumpkin haul.

If you, like me, are looking for somewhere to take some Pumpkiny Pictures in Devon...Lifton Farm Shop is an absolute must!!! I can't sing it's praises enough...they have really gone all out with their displays and decorations, and it's such a lovely little afternoon out with the kids.

You can find their address and opening times at

*I was not asked to write this post or invited to visit this shop, I am writing about it purely because we really enjoyed visiting this place and I think more people need to know about how fab it is!

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Dear Bear and Beany

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Top Tips For Disneyland Paris

As you may or may not have noticed (Ha! I jest....I realise I have talked about nothing else since we got home but ask me if I care! Go on, ask me!) we have recently returned home from our first ever trip to Disneyland Paris.

If you're anything like me, a trip to somewhere like Disneyland Paris isn't undertaken without at least some degree of planning...after all, these sorts of holidays can be expensive and you want to get the most that you can out it.

Disneyland Paris Tips

When you're take that planning to the next level and spend almost every waking moment for the four weeks prior to the trip obsessively google searching "Disneyland Paris Tips" and collating a whole host of information on how to get the absolute MOST out of your time there.

But my planning paid off, and I was delighted with just how much we managed to do and see during our trip, and how little it all cost us.

We managed to do EVERY SINGLE RIDE that was open in both parks during our 3 day trip (apart from the 3 big ones which Tyne was too short for) and even did some of them multiple times, we managed to see every show bar two that we weren't too interested in, and we managed to meet every single character on Tyne's wishlist and almost everyone on mine (Except for the Wicked Stepmother, damn it!)

We came home without having to say "I wish we'd got to do that..." about anything, and we have some amazing memories from a truly wonderful holiday experience...but if I hadn't spent some time planning things out beforehand, I definitely think we would have missed a lot of things.

For example, my sister has visited Disneyland Paris three times now and until I mentioned it to her after our trip...she didn't know there was an animatronic dragon under the castle, or that you could use Fast Passes on certain rides for free...She'd even managed to miss the Peter Pans Flight ride on 3 whole visits, having no idea it was even there! (Seriously, are we really related?!)

And so, for those of you who are planning a visit soon, I have put together a list of my best Disneyland Paris tips to help you make the most of your holiday...I hope you find them useful!

1) If You Do Nothing Else, JOIN THIS FACEBOOK GROUP!

Disneyland Paris For Brits is a Facebook group that I was added to by a friend when we booked our trip and I am eternally grateful for that, they were INVALUABLE when it came to planning.

There are 35,000+ members in that group and many of them are quite the Disneyland Paris experts - you can post any question you have about your holiday at all and you can bet your bottom dollar they will know the answer. I asked about dining concerns, park opening time queries, and lots more and each and every time I was given really helpful answers and suggestions.

Even if you don't have specific questions, you can learn SO MUCH just from observing the posts in that group - they are truly a font of Disneyland Paris knowledge and you NEED TO JOIN!

2) Shop Around For Your Holiday Package

It is truly overwhelming just how many companies there are out there who offer trips to Disneyland Paris but take your time and shop around for the deal that most suits your needs and budget.

When we visited, we didn't have a fortune to spend on it - it was a last minute trip that we booked about a month before we travelled - we booked directly through the Disneyland Paris website as we were happy with the price, but going via the German version of the website can save you a fair amount of money (just translate the webpage to book).

There are also plenty of options of travel too - we travelled via Eurostar as I hate flying and we also found this option to be about £200 cheaper than flying, but this could vary depending on where you are travelling from.

Another option is to look into coach companies as many offer Door to Disneyland services for as little as £500 for a family of four.

Above all else, don't just assume that Disneyland will be out of your budget as you may just be surprised - our holiday including transport cost us £750 for 3 nights, but I have found deals for next year for as little as £600 for 4 nights including travel and a half board meal plan!

3) Choose Your Hotel Wisely

There are numerous Disney hotel options, ranging from the most expensive Disneyland Hotel which is directly at the park gates - to the mid range Hotel New York and Newport Bay Club which are around a 10 minute leisurely walk away through the Disney village, to the lowest priced options Hotel Cheyenne and Hotel Santa Fe which are around a 15-20 minute stroll from the park.

We chose Hotel Santa Fe and although it wasn't the most stylish hotel in the world (it was Disney Cars themed!), we spent hardly any time in it at all as we were out from 8am - 11 pm most days - it was literally somewhere to wash and sleep, so is it really worth spending an extra £300 on for a mid range hotel?

If your budget allows a little luxury, by all means go for it - but personally I would rather use that extra money in the gift shops!

Of course there are also plenty of hotels to stay in outside of the Disneyland Resort, which can reduce the cost of your trip - but this does mean that you miss out on the perk of Extra Magic Hours, which I personally couldn't do.

Disneyland Paris Tips

Disneyland Paris Tips

4) Use Extra Magic Hours For Photos!

If you are staying at a Disney hotel, then you will be eligible for entry during Extra Magic Hours.

This is 2 hours additional park time when it is open exclusively for Disney hotel guests - It makes a huge difference to how busy the park is, and it's the ideal time to take photos!

We took the photos above in front of the Castle during Extra Magic Hours as there was hardly anybody around to get in the way, and they are some of my favourites from our trip.

We also found that Extra Magic Hours were the best time for meet & greets with the characters, as lots of them were out on Main Street each morning and the queues were pretty short.

You can also use Extra Magic Hours to go on rides or get fast passes for later in the day.

5) Get Your Spot For Dreams & The Parades Early

This probably goes without saying, but the parades and the Dreams show at park closing time get very busy and if you want a good spot - you need to secure it early.

For the parade, you can arrive around 20 minutes before the start time and you'll be able to get a decent spot at the side of the road (We found the best place to watch was down by the park entrance as there weren't too many people there at all during our visit).

However for Dreams, people start claiming their spots around an hour before the show...sometimes even earlier! So be prepared to camp out to get a good view, its worth it even if you only do it once during your visit - get yourself a spot somewhere central, and send a member of your party for hot dogs from Caseys Corner or cakes from Cable Car Bake while you wait!

Disneyland Paris Tips

6) Use Your Fast Passes!

Do not be like my sister and not understand what they passes are your friend!

Fast passes are NOT something that you have to pay extra for at Disneyland Paris, they are FREE to use so why wouldn't you make the most of them?!

Not all rides have them but some of the busiest ones do such as Peter Pans Flight and Ratatouille.

We visited during a very quiet time of year when the ride queues were around 5 minutes at the very most, but during the mid afternoon there were ALWAYS 20 minute long queues for Peter Pans Flight and Ratatouille...these are very popular rides.

So..this is where to use your fast passes! 

All you need to do is go over to the ride and locate the fast pass machines...You will see an electronic sign above them displaying two times. These are the times that the machines are currently giving fast passes out for.

So you just need to scan your park tickets, and you'll get your fast passes...If your passes say 10:30-11;30 then you just need to return to the ride at any point between those two times, hand over your fast pass tickets at the fast pass entrance...and stroll past the big long queue and onto your ride!!! Perfect!

Remember that you will need to get fast passes for each member of your party who wishes to ride, and that you can only have one fast pass at a time - once you've used your fast pass you can then get another one for a different ride (or the same again if you want!)

Also keep in mind that Fast passes usually sell out by lunchtime, sometimes even much earlier during peak times so get them early if you can!

7) Take Snacks For The Queues

We were lucky that the queues were almost non existent when we visited, but we did encounter one long queue to meet Mickey & Minnie and we found that snacks to keep our toddler occupied were a LIFESAVER!! Things like mini cheddars, crisps, lollipops, haribo and rice cakes were perfect.

8) Take Drinks Or A Water Bottle With You

Soft drinks in the parks are EXPENSIVE and if you bought them multiple times per day, it would really add up - we took our own multipacks of pop and fruit shoots with us, and took a supply into the park each day in my partners ruck sack. This meant we never had to pay park prices or queue up to buy them!

There are lots of water fountains dotted around the parks so you could also take water bottles with you to fill up.

9) Download the Disney app

The Disneyland Paris park app is really handy to have as it gives you live wait times for all of the rides in the park, as well as being a handy map too!

If you don't have the app, do make sure you carry a map around with you as its easy to get lost - there are maps available as you enter the park.

10) Have a daily plan

We found it was best to try and have a plan each day of what we wanted to do rather than wandering aimlessly. So one day we focused on doing all the rides we wanted to do, the next day we focused on meeting as many characters as we could.

It's also best to do Studios and the main Park on separate days to save going between the two, and it's a bit of a walk and you usually have to queue to get into each of them.

Disneyland Paris Tips

Disneyland Paris Tips

11) Keep Your Eyes Open For Pop Up Meet & Greets!

There is a list of the scheduled meet & greets in the park guides each day, but there are plenty of other pop up opportunities too - keep an eye around Main Street for these!

We also found that, around half an hour before closing time, there were tons of characters down at the park entrance just playing around with the guests and interacting.

12) Take A Bike Lock For Your Pram!

People DO steal prams often in Disneyland, its reported on the Disney group at least once a week at the moment so don't take the chance...just use a bike lock around the wheels to stop people being able to move it.

13) If Your Child Loves Character Meet & Greets, Consider A Character Dining Experience

For children who love meeting characters but hate queuing, character dining restaurants are perfect.

They're not cheap but if you can find the funds for a visit one evening it is well worth doing, we found that the characters in the restaurants visited our table a lot and spent a decent amount of time with son just loved it!

A cheaper option than a character dinner is a character breakfast at Cafe Mickey, all the same interaction but a fraction of the cost!

14) Buy A Photopass Plus If You Can

We ummed and ahhed over whether to buy a Photo Pass Plus, but I am so glad that we did because the pictures we got on there are my absolute favourites (All of the ones directly below are photo pass plus ones)

Disneyland Paris Tips

Disneyland Paris Tips

Disneyland Paris Tips

Disneyland Paris Tips

Disneyland Paris Tips

Disneyland Paris Tips

Yes the cast members at the meet and greets will take photos on your camera for you, but the quality of the photos from the Disney photographers was fantastic in my experience and it meant that we could just relax and enjoy the character experiences rather than worrying about the photos.

We paid £40 for the Photo Pass Plus through Disney direct when buying it at the same time as booking our trip, but you can also buy them in the park for a slightly higher price.

15) Make Use Of The Disney Express Luggage Service When Arriving By Train

We paid an extra £15 for this service at the time of booking and it was worth every single penny.

The service meant that when we arrived, we simply took our luggage upstairs in the train station where it was taken from us to be delivered to our hotel. We were then given our park entry tickets, photo pass plus and check in documents and could go straight to the park!!

We didn't bother checking in to the hotel until 10pm that evening, which meant that there was no queue - we noticed that during the day time there was always a long line to check in!

When departing, we simply dropped the luggage off at the hotel baggage area and it was taken to the train station for us to collect when we were leaving...

It saved us so much time and hassle, a brilliant service!

I'd love to hear any of your tips for our next visit too!!

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Best of Worst



October half term is the perfect time to make the most of bright and crisp autumn days with the kids - before the clocks go back, days get shorter and Christmas mayhem descends.   
Whether you’re looking for sea air, city exploring, or bracing country walks, here are five trips to take in the UK for a perfect change of scenery, courtesy of     

ImageThe beach break - Brighton 
The great British seaside may come into its own in summer, but a trip in autumn can be just as good.  Head to the beach for stone skimming, paddling (yes really, the water’s warmer in October than the whole of summer) and beach games.  The infamous Brighton Pier is open year round, with seaside stalls, fairground rides and plenty of food options to keep the kids entertained.  And don’t miss a ride on the ghost train (it is almost Halloween after all).  If the weather’s not playing ball, head inside to the Brighton Sea Life Centre which is home to sharks, sting rays, turtles and jellyfish amongst others. 

Located right on the sea front and close to the West Pier, this hotel makes for easy navigating of the beach and town. Double, triple and family rooms are all available and lots have sea views to make the most of your beach break.