July family travel essentials – the round-up

In this long hot summer, golden days apparently stretching back as far as I can remember (well, at least since the start of May which is officially forever for a UK summer), this month has had a few special high points to stand out.

A girl in sunhat lies on a vintage style suitcase, flowers blooming in the background - my family travel essentials for the month

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Firstly my lovely daughter’s birthday, a whirlwind of celebrations which she managed to stretch over four days, and which gave me the opportunity to look back over our sixth year of travelling together. And then, to complete the month, the news that I’d made the Vuelio top 10 UK family travel blogger list for the third year running. Looking at the other wonderful bloggers and blogs in the top 10, it’s fantastic company to be in, including a lot of my favourites and writers whose every word I’ll happily read.

Scroll down and there’s an interview with me as well, if you’d like to find out more, plus the usual round-up of essential family travel reading and products purchased or sent for review this month. Plus two special discounts for readers and some extra summer offers.

Summer family travel essentials

With our summer crammed full of UK holidays, I’ve discovered a new and unexpected family travel essential that’s perfect if you’re planning a staycation or if you’ve just arrived back from a long trip – Gousto boxes. The concept couldn’t be simpler: from the list of recipes on the site, you choose the ones you want, pick the quantities (two or four people) and the ingredients are all delivered to you on the date you choose.

No weighing, no hunting down specific herbs, no buying a massive jar of something because you need a tablespoon: apart from some grating, chopping and a bit of oil for cooking, everything was sorted, with step-by-step instructions and delivered in chilled packaging which resisted the best efforts of the current heatwave.

I’ve tried similar companies in the past, but not for a little while so when I was asked to review this service, I was keen to see how it compared. Not only is it useful when you’re back from a holiday and there’s nothing in the fridge, it’s also a lovely idea if you’re having a self-catering UK break. I often find myself arriving at accommodation, whether it’s AirBNB or a cottage, late at night only to realise that while I’m stocked with snacks for Minnie, I end up with a random pizza from the nearest petrol station.

Collage image of Gousto Box ingredients, recipe cards and two finished dishes including beef keema and moroccan chicken - one of my unexpected family travel essentials and perfect for staycations - my review of Gousto boxes

No more! Not when I could be having Beef Keema, Moroccan Chicken or Lemony lamb meatballs – three of the dishes we ordered in our box (the fourth, a Vietnamese chicken rice salad was lovely too but a bit more fiddly if you aren’t at home). All were quick to prepare, all were completely delicious and there’s even a speedy option to filter the recipes when you’re choosing – some take just 10 minutes.

The selection changes every week too, there’s a family-friendly pick, reviews, calorie content and information on how long you’ll have to use it (having ordered four meals, I didn’t take this into account and realised that the fresh ingredients meant we’d have to munch through them all pretty quickly.

Delivery is free, and you can get four meals for four for less than £50, two meals for two is less than £25. Plus I’ve got a discount to get 50% off your first two boxes, just use the code ‘MUMMYTRAVELS’. I definitely will be!

Another travel essential with a twist for when you get back – if you’re like me, you have a gazillion photos stored digitally somewhere or other: your phone, your computer, the cloud, a mix of all three until you get constant warnings about lack of space. But I love having photo albums to flick through as well.

And while I’ve tried various companies before, finding time to upload and edit the layout means I am quite a few holidays behind. Having tested Cheerz, I have found a way to speed that up. With a code to try it out myself, I set about creating a photobook – there are also prints (which I’ve had before and loved) and photo canvases, so plenty of options if you want to display your pictures too.

The company has apps for both Android and Apple, so if your photos are all in your phone, you can upload them directly or it’s easy to do on the computer as well. Best of all, having bulk uploaded loads of photos from our Cambodia trip (told you I was behind), you can tell the software to add them in automatically. I moved a few around, dropped in a couple of others, and tweaked the default layouts (great if you want some images as big as possible) but then it was done. Easy peasy, lemon Cheerzy.

Plus you can personalise the book itself – colour, shape, size, hardback or softback, even pages which lay flat when you open if you want a shot across both. Mine naturally has a travel theme, a pic of Minnie and a sunshiney yellow cover. A couple of days later, it was sent out… and the only hitch in the whole process has been waiting for Yodel to finally deliver it. Still hanging on, several days after originally expected.

I’ve got another special discount for you from Cheerz: use ‘MUMMYTRAV20‘ on any product excluding gift cards until September 1 and you’ll get 20% off your own creations. So, if you’re at a loose end over the summer (well, you never know), here’s the opportunity to finish those albums you’ve been planning!

A more traditional essential for my suitcase, after my favourite loose summery trousers from Matalan (which I bought last year for the summer and for travel) wore out entirely – having seen me through Cambodia, Oman, Langkawi and most of May and June in the UK, it was time to find a replacement. I’m slightly gutted that although some prints are still around this year, my favourite palm one isn’t but these floral trousers have been doing a great job instead.

Collage of three pairs of summer trousers from Matalan - two palm print, one floral, and some of my new summer travel essentials

And I also found these palm print trousers which are in a thicker material, but astonishingly comfy – great for summer when it’s not 30C. In fact, I got this bright palm print version too. Some of the prints work better on me than others, but as they’re all under £15, I’ve kept far more than I’ve returned.

Last, but never least, our favourite new card game – Exploding Kittens. Frankly, it’s already off to a good start with a title like that. It’s one of those games where the instructions initially seem baffling but once you start playing, you quickly start to pick it up.

So much so, that my six-year-old is now at least as good as me. You can be sneaky, you can scupper other people’s cunning plans, and it gets addictive enough that my husband and I have been playing the game after Minnie is tucked up in bed. Even though he keeps winning! Another easy one to throw into hand luggage or play on train journeys… time passes very quickly when you’re wondering exactly where in the pack that kitten is hiding!

Best of the rest

Summer family travel: essential plans and reading

Curl up, grab a cold drink and find a comfy cushion (nothing too fluffy, it’s too hot) – I’ll bring the reading… If you want to find out a little more about me, here’s that interview I promised above, or some more family travel inspiration looking back on my latest year of travel with my daughter and the ways things have changed over the past 12 months.

And we’ve packed more travel in since, including a few firsts. After promising for the past few summers that I’d make it to a lavender field, we headed to Surrey as soon as the summer holidays started. To meet My Travel Monkey and her boys at Mayfield Lavender Farm,  to wander among the flowers, drink in the scent and feel lulled by (or run shrieking from) the low buzzing hum of countless bumble bees, drunk on the sweet nectar.

Collage of photos from Mayfield lavender farm in Surrey - my daughter among the flowers and with bees flying in the background, myself and Ting from the My Travel Monkey blog, plus a close-up of the lavender flowers

As far from the fields of purple as you can imagine, we followed it up with a day in central London for the launch of Kids Week – actually a month of special offers for many family shows in London’s West End, with kids getting free tickets. It was a reminder of just how many shows there are for children of all ages, and the perfect inspiration to book my daughter’s first West End show too… We even came across Mod Pizza, just off Leicester Square, which is a new favourite!

Then on to Bristol for the first of many long car journeys across the country this summer – helping inspire my tips for surviving road trips with kids – where we were spotting statues of Wallace, Gromit and arch-villain Feathers McGraw (90% penguin, 10% chicken, 100% bad) across the city, on the Gromit Unleashed 2 trail.

There’s a full post coming soon about our stay, arranged by the tourist board, plus you can see our own attempts at making Gromit from clay under the expert eye of one of the model makers from Aardman Animations. When he introduced himself at the workshop, in Bristol’s We The Curious, a little voice from across the room said, ‘Wow!’

I’m with them… what a cool job. Mine is pretty cool too, admittedly, getting instruction from the professional on how to create my own. I was a bit impressed with the results!

I’ve been catching up on some posts from our trip to Tallinn as well, back at half term – if you’re wondered about going, I’ve found 29 reasons to visit Tallinn with kids, including (for older ones), the fascinating KGB museum at Hotel Viru. Plus some more inspiration in pictures from this astonishingly picturesque city.

There’s more inspiration if you’re staying in the UK too, with another previous trip, this one to the Peak Wildlife Park on the edge of the Staffordshire Moorlands. And as I type, I’m preparing to head back up that way (although with days out in Cheshire and Shropshire planned this time) – keep an eye on Facebook and my Instagram Stories for updates.

I’ve already downloaded our latest audio book from Audible for the car journey. A glorious 21h and 36 minutes of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to keep us going! Now that’s easily worth a £7.99 credit…

Summer family travel: essential deals

In case you scrolled on past without spotting them, don’t miss *two* discounts above for Gousto boxes and for Cheerz. But there are more deals around to help you get away, if you’re still planning the summer – DFDS has ferry crossings to France from £39, as well as 27% off mini cruises from Newcastle to Amsterdam.

And Travel Supermarket has inspiration, package deals (three nights in Barcelona for under £300 including flights? Tempting) and all the extras from car hire to insurance to airport parking. Or up to 25% off Hilton hotels


Disclosure: contains affiliate links – any purchases you might make are unaffected but I may get a few pennies in return. If you book your first AirBNB stay using my link, we both get some credit to travel with. Some products have been sent for review but all opinions, including an addiction to exploding kittens are my own.

Main image courtesy Pixabay. Product images courtesy of the retailer. All other images copyright MummyTravels.