May family travel essentials

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My daughter’s face fell when she realised our May half-term didn’t involve a beach hotel with a pool. But after our holiday in Tallinn and Helsinki (where we did find both beach and a pool!), she’s been reminded that city breaks can be very fun too.

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

As have I – a fantastic staycation to East Anglia to start the month and our cities trip to end it has made for a month of sunny chilled out memories. I have so much to catch up on, I may need to spend all of June writing posts… Well, except for a long weekend in Menorca where I’ll be staying in an adults-only hotel for work (and visiting a vineyard and cliffside bar as well!)

Even if my top family travel essentials won’t come in quite as handy there, I am certain I’ll be using them again – so here is this month’s round-up of products purchased and sent for review, plus a few special offers and a giveaway (keep reading…)

Family travel essentials

Buying *two* city breaks for half term has been my main purchase this month – so happily I was sent a copy of Lonely Planet’s Pocket Helsinki guide, published in April to use during our stay.

I love these little city guides with the highlights to see, useful maps, walking routes and a few tips on what to see with kids, and I’ve made a note of quite a lot of things to do in the Finnish capital before we took off.A view of Tallinn Old Town and the Helsinki waterfront as well as Lonely Planet's Pocket Guide to Helsinki and DK Top 10 Tallinn - some of my family travel essentials for May after our twin city break

One of my favourite things about the Pocket guides is that while it covers the key information, you also get quirky details like where to find a Moomin themed cafe, for example. Although that may well fall under essential information when you’re in Finland with kids.

With such helpful timing for the Helsinki guide, I shouldn’t be too cross that Lonely Planet doesn’t have the equivalent for Tallinn – in fact, recently published guide books to the city seem to be thin on the ground, but I picked up Top 10 Tallinn – DK Eyewitness travel guide as it also had a map, a kids’ section and lots of tips for the trip.

Slightly bigger, it’s still easy to drop into a bag and had some great ideas of what to discover inside the picturesque Old Town, as well as what you can see outside… not least the nearby beach. And if it hasn’t knocked the Pocket guides off my ‘favourites’ spot, it’s a great alternative, definitely one I’ll be checking out again.

We also had two other great books sent to us to review by Lonely Planet – and I have a copy of each to give away too. Scroll down to enter! Both My Holiday Scrapbook and My Holiday Drawing Book came on our city breaks with us, with my five-year-old enthusiastically collecting tickets, entrance stickers and leaflets for the former.

I managed to forget to pack glue, tape or scissors, so the finishing touches are being added back at home but with other sections to write notes and draw in, there was plenty to do while we were away as well and lots of inspiration to create some holiday memories.

Along with straightforward sticking in of tickets etc, there are suggestions to collect leaves, napkins and sachets of sugar, even smush food within the page, as well as designing a flag and even creating a cityscape and pictures from found items.

Collage of Lonely Planet Kids Holiday Scrapbook and Holiday Drawing Book, including my daughter using both - two of my family travel essentials for May

I’m a big fan of travel journals, and Minnie has been keeping her own (sometimes a more formal one like this travel journal also from Lonely Planet Kids, sometimes just in a notebook or drawn on paper) so this seems the perfect next step for kids who want to get a bit more creative. I love the idea of having a whole set to look back on in years to come too.

Some sections of the Holiday Drawing Book are perhaps better for slightly older children – Minnie will happily draw for hours at a time and got stuck in to this instantly, but the sections on perspective and the how-to guides on smudging and 3D effects went slightly over her head for now.

But there are also ideas on designing signs, drawing a picture of how you got from A to B (or how you might have done in your imagination) and drawing snapshots of moments from the trip too.

It’s the perfect size to slip into a bag, and a great option for whiling away some time in a cafe or by the beach while I got on with people watching – along with discovering that the thing my daughter was most looking forward to was bouncing on the beds!

Family travel: essential plans and reading

Looking back on May, it feels like we had blue skies almost constantly – thankfully after the endless winter. First, the unexpectedly gorgeous bank holiday sun as we travelled around East Anglia, staying in a gorgeous little cottage a shell’s throw from the beach in Aldeburgh and exploring 2,000 years of history across Suffolk and Cambridge as part of the #hyundaiadventures campaign with Hyundai, who also provided our Kona with its ventilated seats.

Then closer to home at Windsor where we had a rather different type of ventilation in an open-top bus, taking the Original Tour through the countryside around the town and castle, a week before *that* royal wedding.

Then it was time to head off to our city break hop – is that a thing? It should be. First Tallinn and the fairytale Old Town, complete with medieval restaurants and marzipan models. The restaurants might be kitschy but the capital’s historic centre is a Unesco World Heritage site and somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. Not just for the marzipan either.

Having discovered you could take a ferry to Helsinki in a couple of hours, it seemed rude not to add a second city trip on to that. In fact, if we’d had just a little longer or I’d felt like squeezing the week even fuller, we might have added Stockholm to the end as well. As it is, Sweden has to wait, and Moomins and open air swimming pools (I sensibly stuck with the heated one although I braved the Baltic sea pool for a whole width) topped the list.

I’ve got a couple of Pinterest boards if you’re planning a similar trip – and obviously blog posts to come once I get chance. And caught up on Langkawi from April! Good job I only have a couple of short breaks planned for June: that long weekend in Menorca, and a day aboard a cruise ship for one of the most interesting kids’ programmes to be found at sea.

As ever, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will have photos and my first impressions if you fancy a sneak preview.

And I’m not the only person looking at holidays and days out within the UK – my most popular post of the month is an oldie, 30 things to do in Devon with kids, although my piece asking if you would fly Ryanair has evidently struck a chord as well… So, would you?

Family travel: essential deals

If you’re booking as many trips as me, Expedia has a 30% off summer holiday flash sale, while Inghams has deals on summer lakes and mountains holidays with seven nights from £399.

I also read this great post from Tin Box Traveller on Jack’s Flight Club – I’d heard of its reputation for saving money on flights but had never properly investigated how it worked. I’m now very tempted to sign up and find something amazing for our yet-to-be-booked summer trip. Happy travels!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: contains affiliate links – any purchases you might make are unaffected but I may get a few pennies in return. Some products have been sent for review but all opinions, including a willingness to travel for marzipan and Moomins, are my own.

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