Do I really need to take so many toiletries if I’m only going away for one night? Yes. Yes I do.
Thanks for watching 🙂 Should you be so inclined, you can subscribe to my channel here.
Do I really need to take so many toiletries if I’m only going away for one night? Yes. Yes I do.
Thanks for watching 🙂 Should you be so inclined, you can subscribe to my channel here.
Back when I thought I was pregnant with one baby, we were all set to go to Mallorca this September with all the family. I’d have been around 32 weeks so probably not the most comfortable, but I’d mostly be sleeping and eating chips and using a lilo to give my back a break, so I was excited.
When we found at 8 weeks that I was carrying twins though, the idea of travelling that late seemed slightly ludicrous. I mean sure, post-Brexit it would have been nice to try and wangle a couple of Spanish passports should I have given birth over there but really? The risk of NICU stays and repatriating tiny bubbas seemed way too scary for me to even contemplate going on the holiday. I know I’d have spent the lead up to the trip panicking about it, plus there would always be the risk that my consultant would say I couldn’t go anyway.
And that’s why we went to Mallorca last week! It seemed early to go on a “babymoon” – I was 14 weeks when we left, 15 when we came back – but actually it was pretty perfect timing: the sickness and comical exhaustion of the first trimester had faded and I was feeling the best I’d felt in ages. The weather wasn’t too hot, but it was still hot enough to lay out, and the resort and airports had a sense of early season calm which made everything that bit easier.
Dress – ASOS – £16 here.
There were a few things I did to prepare for the trip which are all common sense really, but I thought I’d list them below in case they’re remotely helpful. Obviously I’m just a random pregnant lady on the internet so I’m not claiming to be some sort of expert here 🙂
Anyway, here are some things to perhaps consider if booking a holiday abroad whilst pregnant…
1. Choose a destination that makes sense.
Long haul flights are a-ok in pregnancy (up until the standard cut off points!) but it’s up to you to decide how much travelling you want to do to get to your destination. It can be hard if booking the trip far in advance to guess how you’ll be feeling – I seem to change by the day – but I knew I didn’t want to fly more than a couple of hours. I get aggy just sitting in the car for half an hour at the moment!
Health considerations are important too, Zika isn’t the headline grabbing disease it was last year but the risk is still widespread and pregnant women (even women trying to conceive) are still not advised to travel to a whole host of countries. Always check the latest government advice. For Zika specifically, you can find it here. Same goes for countries that require vaccinations or malaria treatment before travel, it’s worth doing your research, speaking to your GP and weighing up if the holiday is a good idea.
2. Get travel insurance and take your EHIC card if travelling in Europe.
It’s always worth having travel insurance and single trip policies can be so cheap these days (we’re talking a tenner) that to travel without insurance seems a bit mad to me. I checked with our insurers whether or not we had to inform them that I was pregnant (and if multiple pregnancies were viewed any differently) and they said I hadn’t needed to tell them, but for the sake of a phone call it’s worth checking as different insurers will have different policies. I took down the relevant emergency numbers so that if we had needed to contact them, my policy details and contact info was already stored on my phone. Insurance isn’t just about medical cover abroad of course, if you can cover the holiday when booking it you should be able to get the peace of mind that you’ll get your money back if you do need to cancel it.
I also took my EHIC card on the trip, the E111 replacement, which entitles you to access state-offered healthcare in Switzerland and all European Economic Area countries. It’s worth pointing out that these cards are FREE, but lots of scummy websites will charge you for them. Use the NHS link to get your free one and to learn more about what it entitles you to.
3. Check with your airline what their pregnancy restrictions are.
Some will want a ‘fit to fly’ letter, others won’t give two hoots, cut off points for travel may vary (and then vary again depending on singleton or multiple pregnancy) and of course it’s also about flying home too, so don’t just calculate how far along you’ll be when flying out. A quick phone call or website check should answer any questions.
4. Follow flight safety advice.
It’s the usual stuff: move about, drink water, wear your seatbelt under your bump. I wore compression flight socks which was probably/definitely overkill for a short-haul flight but I was treated for a suspected DVT in the first trimester (NOT MUCH FUN) and so I figured there was no harm in being cautious. For longer flights you would be advised to wear them.
5. Check with your midwife.
This is obvious of course, but if you have any concerns just ask your midwife. Early in the pregnancy travel is unlikely to matter at all, but later on you may be asked to see the GP/midwives for a check before you travel.
6. Take a copy of your notes if travelling later in pregnancy.
I didn’t do this as I was travelling so early, but I did take a copy of my latest scan results (not the pictures!) which was on headed paper with the official due date and key measurements for each bub.
7. Know how to say “I’m pregnant!” in the language of your destination. Research if there’s a hospital nearby.
This is more if you’re paranoid like I am (I’m realising this whole blog post is probably making me look quite paranoid?!) but one of the reasons I wanted to go to Mallorca was that ST speaks the language and I know the hospitals are good. I really didn’t want to stay in the middle of nowhere in case there had been any problems and I know I’d have worried about this more if I was further along in the pregnancy. Also, it’s fun to point at your tummy and shout “gemelos!”. (Okay that’s Spanish not Catalan…and it – rather relevantly – sounds like a haemorroid treatment…but I enjoyed saying it!).
8. Take your own medicines.
Again, maybe this seems like overkill but if you’re a Gaviscon fiend or worried about travellers diarrhoea or any of that good stuff, I’d always opt to buy these things in the UK and take them in the suitcase – mostly because you can then read all the info in English and check with the pharmacist with ease if you have any questions.
9. Pack snacks.
By no means essential, but if your main pregnancy trait is CONSTANT RAVENOUS HUNGER then it might be worth lobbing some cereal bars in your case or another “healthy-ish” snack. I forgot to do this and I think my twins are now 80% salted peanuts and Kit-Kats. Sorry, babies.
10. DRINK ALL THE WATER.
You are allowed the water from the mini bar. You are allowed the water at the expensive corner shop. You are allowed to make your other half carry your two litre bottle of water round the market.
11. Be aware of the sun and that your skin may react differently.
I was never expecting to bake myself in the sun all day like an oiled up sausage, but I was taken aback by just how sensitive my skin was in the sun compared to usual. I wore SPF50 on my face, neck, hands and arms (for some reason my hands wanted to burn the whole time? I think maybe because I was washing them so often thanks to my need to wee every 20 minutes) and then I wore SPF30 everywhere else and topped up regularly. I could lay in the full sun for half an hour before I got angsty but generally I made friends with the brolly. Maaaaaan I never thought I’d be the girl who’d want the brolly. IN THE AFTERNOONS I HAD TWO BROLLIES.
12. Take it easy.
The best thing about our holiday was that we didn’t put any pressure on ourselves. Some pregnant women will be able to do loads on hols (srsly women, you rock!) but I still had really bad headaches on the holiday and needed a sleep every day. My bump was uncomfortable too and my enthusiasm for walking about had around a half an hour limit. That being said, we still had a genuinely awesome time because all we had on the agenda was read/eat/sleep/sunbathe/chat about baby names.
13. Try not to see it as your “last ever holiday”.
Nothing saps the fun out of a two hour game of cards on the beach like a woeful “WE WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN” pity party. We will all holiday again. Yes, it will be different, yes our bags will be considerably heavier (handbags, nappy bags, eye bags, saddle bags!) but holidays with children in tow will just be a new adventure. And I’ve heard that the hotel kids clubs are really good these days, right? RIGHT?! 😉
Swimsuit – M&S – £29.50 here.
I’ve probably missed some obvious things but the overriding advice is to just go and enjoy it. YOU DESERVE IT! You’re growing a baby for goodness sake, maybe two or three!
And just know that when you’ll come back you’ll want another holiday immediately. I wonder if twins means you can wangle two babymoons?!
Once upon a time, I used to fly to America a fair bit. The upside to all this? (Apart from all the cheap clothes, rollercoasters, Sephora raids and carbs smothered in cheese?)… AIR MILES. I hoarded my air miles like a squirrel manically stashing his acorns, I wouldn’t dare use them on upgrades (don’t be silly!) I’d just collect them and occasionally log-in to admire my balance. I had big dreams of using them for first class return flights somewhere really snazzy during a particularly long and cold winter. My patience would be rewarded!
Then I realised my six figure air mile balance was about to expire and, being pregnant, I probably wasn’t about to jet off to the Bahamas in some smug points fuelled daze. Like the criminally expensive dress you only save for best and then three years later you realise you’ve never worn, I was about to lose all those miles I’d been so adamant I couldn’t dip into. Damn.
A quick trawl through Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club website gave me hope though, I may not have been up for a long flight with them but I *could* trade my air miles for hotel vouchers a little closer to home. There were a few partners I could do it with, but the best deal seemed to be with Kaligo.
Before I go any further, I should point out that cashing in air miles for anything other than flights is rarely the best value way to use them. For every frequent flyer programme I’ve ever used you are much better off redeeming your points for flights than for any of the other treats on offer. But that being said, if you can’t easily find a flight that works (lord knows they don’t make it easy) or if you’re put off by the inevitable taxes and surcharges you still have to pay (“free” flights don’t exist) then the other perks can still be pretty great. Rather than always trying to assess a pound/dollar value for points, I think it’s sometimes better to try and assess what the value is to YOU.
The Virgin Atlantic Kaligo deal works on a three tier voucher system: you can exchange 20,000 points for one night in a “standard” 3 or 4 star hotel, 30,000 points for one night in a “premium” 4 or 5 star hotel, or 40,000 points for one night in a “luxury” hotel – think 5 star and snazzier. Brilliantly and unlike some stricter hotel programmes, you can book as many consecutive nights as you wish assuming you have the points to do so. And because Kaligo covers all sorts of hotels rather than one group, there’s a huge amount of choice – over 365,000 hotels are included. I was looking at Mallorca specifically and was stunned by how many there were to choose from all over the island.
In the end I chose to cash in 180,000 points for six “premium” vouchers, which enabled me to book six nights bed and breakfast in a great room with a double balcony at the adults only Sensimar Aguait Resort & Spa. It was a surprisingly pain free process to sort out, I just had to phone Virgin Atlantic and then they issued me with six individual voucher codes, which I then used on a special booking page of the Kaligo website. I did have my usual panic of “WHAT IF WE ARRIVE AT THE HOTEL AND THEY HAVE NEVER HEARD OF KALIGO AND IT’S ALL JUST A MASSIVE SCAM?!” but as soon as we arrived they knew of our reservation as if we were any regular paying customer – and they’d even sorted us out a particularly nice corner room.
Our flights with Monarch weren’t too bad given we flew on peak days – £300 total with bags – so all in all it was a great value trip. Certainly a lot cheaper than flying to the US/Caribbean ‘for free’, STILL paying flight taxes and surcharges and then having to pay for a hotel for a week on top. Points aficionados will argue the Kaligo deal isn’t a good value way to use miles, but it certainly felt like a good value trip to us. (Especially as the miles were going to expire!).
We really adored the hotel and we both said we’d love to go back. Given my current condition and the fact it’s adults only, we may have to wait a cool 18 years to return, but it’s a hotel I would definitely recommend. It was such a chilled week which was exactly what we were after. The customer service was fab throughout, the sea-view pool was glorious, the room size was impressive and everywhere was spotlessly clean. The food was brilliant too with a surprisingly decent range of veggie options, which I really wasn’t expecting.
I don’t think I’ll be racking up any more transatlantic miles any time soon, but it was fun to make the most of my remaining Virgin stash. I’d definitely recommend looking into the Kaligo offer if you’ve got points you’re trying to use, even for a night away in the UK.
Tomorrow I’m going to blog more generically about holidaying whilst pregnant (sneak preview: nap a lot and DRINK ALL THE WATER!) so do come back for that if of interest 😀
And hopefully I don’t need to point this out but obviously this post isn’t sponsored/endorsed by Virgin, Kaligo, Monarch, the hotel etc etc. Although I do like a free holiday, clearly, so HI! *Waves*.
After our nights in Castle Combe and Cirencester (blogged about here and here, if you’re not all caught up) we wanted to end our Cotswolds adventure with some sort of epic finale. Everyone was back at work and Instagram was awash with green juice and sweaty post-run selfies, yet here we were still desperately clutching on to Christmas with our brie covered claws. It wasn’t time to put the port away just yet. Don’t make us.
Luckily I’d found the ideal place to hole up and pretend real life wasn’t happening, a place where Henry VIII himself had done the very same centuries before: Thornbury Castle.
I wouldn’t have sought out a Tudor castle as a home away from home (though I will going forward, they’re very comfortable) but I’d found myself on Secret Escapes again after booking our Castle Inn stay and they had a special “advent calendar deal” which seemed worthy of investigation. There was a knight in shining armour on the lead picture and the prospect of pretending to be an ACTUAL Tudor royal – complete with inclusive two course dinner – seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, especially as they were throwing in a bunch of flowers for anyone who booked before midnight. (Apparently I will hand over my credit card for anything as long as there’s a dramatic clock countdown saying the deal will expire at midnight, I am a marketer’s dream).
The drive from Cirencester to Thornbury was about an hour and we realised when we got there that it’s not actually in the Cotswolds at all, but it was a lovely drive through the countryside to get there. It’s about half an hour north of Bristol which reminded me for the umpteenth time that I REALLY need to go to Bristol (and Bath!) but we only had time for our castle on this trip. “Our castle”. I liked saying that.
As you’d expect with a castle, the whole thing is just ridiculous from the moment you approach it. “Are we actually going to sleep in here? Is this ACTUALLY our address for the next 24 hours? And are you sure I can’t borrow a horse and try a bit of jousting in the grounds later?”. It felt weird to be allowed into the car park without having to faff about looking for a National Trust card.
The first thing you see as you open the door to the castle is your bodyguard for the duration of your stay…
And from there on in everything just blows your mind a bit as you try to fathom everything those walls have seen over the past 500 years. Anne Boleyn honeymooned here, for goodness sake.
We were taken to our room and whilst I had pretty high expectations, it was even more bonkers than I could have hoped for. The extravagant bay window is the only of its kind in Europe and to look out over the grounds and church felt pretty damn regal. Which is, I guess, appropriate.
I’d arranged for us to have a tour of the castle and grounds with a local historian (this is offered by reception when you book and is really easy to arrange) and I am SO glad we did as this really brought the whole thing to life. The tales of paranoia and envy and backstabbing over the centuries would gladly put any Jeremy Kyle episode to shame.
After our tour we relaxed in the lounge with books, cards, gin and cake (is there a better way to relax?!) and before we knew it it was time to get ready for dinner.
Regardless of the history and the general opulence of STAYING IN A CASTLE, dinner was a true highlight. It was the best meal we had over our three nights away (it was actually the best meal I’ve had in ages full stop) and every course was proper knock-it-out-of-the-park brilliant. We’d been asked our dietary requirements well in advance of our stay which was great as it meant the kitchen had time to prepare bespoke menus and amuse-bouche and we had lots of choice as vegetarian and pescetarian fusspots.
I need to mention the cheese trolley though because that was just something else. If you are going to Thornbury Castle then do not pass up on the cheese. DO NOT. These cheeses were exceptionally good, especially the aged cheddar drizzled with truffle honey. Oy! I’d also recommend you try the Three Bridges Botrytis Semillon if you’re going all in for the cheese. It was the perfect pairing.
We slept really well (errrr, except for when I woke up in the night suddenly really paranoid about Tudor ghosts) and waking up in a four poster bed is something I definitely recommend…
The good food continued through to breakfast, where I enjoyed dining under this super casual baby…
And whilst I forgot to take any pics of the food, it was again delicious.
It was particularly hard to say goodbye to Thornbury Castle, partly because I’d grown accustomed to high ceilings and open fires in every room but mostly because I didn’t want our mini-break to be over. And I didn’t want Christmas to be over! But I do love knowing that these special places are only a couple of hours away in the car. All our hotels were in areas that we want to explore more.
Now, how do I convince ST that we need a four poster bed at home?!
Details and rates for Thornbury Castle (as well as some properly gorgeous pics of the hotel) are here. As mentioned in the post, we booked our dinner, bed and breakfast package on Secret Escapes for £229, which was advertised as 45% off the usual rack rate. This post isn’t sponsored, discounted or PR-ified in anyway (is PR-ified a word?), I just really do love Secret Escapes as every trip we’ve booked with them has been a triumphant success.
After our sleepy step back in time in Castle Combe, we headed for the bright lights of Cirencester.
Cirencester felt like a capital city compared to Castle Combe (it has a House of Fraser!) but it’s still very Cotswolds: steeped in history with gorgeous buildings and plenty of tea rooms to hide away in.
Now I should start with a full disclosure before we dig into this post: we were guests of The Kings Head hotel. I’d been asked if I’d like to review it last year but hadn’t had time, so when I booked the Castle Inn stay I had the (somewhat brilliant) idea to see if I could combine the two trips. And I could, they had a room available! HURRAH! The Kings Head is only a 40 minute drive from Castle Combe, so it worked perfectly.
As soon as we arrived at the hotel I knew we were going to love it. I was basing this purely on the velvet sofas in reception, but when we were taken up to our room it turned out I was right to assume that this was my spiritual interiors home.
Please do feel free to note the wallpaper, the cushions, the coffee table, the curtains, the textures, the lighting and the general ambience. (But also feel free to forget all this and pretend it was all MY idea if I do ever manage to recreate this look in one of our bedrooms).
We really did adore this room, not just because it came with homemade chocolates and cake slices (although all hotel rooms should, I have now decided) but because it was truly very comfortable.
The bed wasn’t just king size, it was the kind of size where you could easily forget anybody else is in the bed at all. (Call me unromantic, but that is my dream sleep situation). The sofa was so sumptuous that I very nearly took it apart to try to see who made it and then there was the window seat which proved to be the perfect place to lay with a book.
There was also a GIGANTIC terrace which, if it hadn’t been a comically freezing January day, we’d have thoroughly enjoyed.
Then the room also had the little extra that always makes any hotel room feel that bit more swanky: stairs.
Yep, our bathroom was up a flight of stairs. I LOVED THIS SO MUCH.
We headed back out to explore Cirencester a bit more, starting with the Corinium Museum as I was desperate to see the Tony Meeuwissen exhibition that I’d spied being advertised in the window. The museum was really interesting and I’m ashamed to say I would never have known about the rich Roman history of the area if we’d not gone in, so it’s worth a visit. Understanding the significance of various local historical artefacts meant we could better appreciate a lot of the local art we’d seen too – and understand the love of giant hares! (I really want a giant hare).
A casual 2nd century mosaic.
There were loads of places we could have gone to for lunch but the sweet treats on the counter of Jack’s lured us in. I could have had something sensible like a toasted sandwich but I “didn’t want much” as I was having a massage back at the hotel shortly after. So I just ordered a slab of cake the size of a small baby. Ok then!
After exploring the church and nosing around some of the shops, it was time to head back to the hotel for my spa appointment. YES.
It was a great disappointment to realise I wouldn’t be able to smuggle the spa reception chairs home in my suitcase.
The vaulted subterranean spa is a wonderful little hideaway. I didn’t bring my cossie (WHY?!) so I couldn’t make use of the jacuzzi and steam rooms, but I did enjoy chilling out on the fluffy relaxation beds with a stack of magazines. I was lucky enough to be the only one down there and I’m sure I’d have fallen asleep if I hadn’t been heading off for a treatment.
I had the full body massage and it was really lovely, particularly because there was a decent playlist (no whale music here) and my therapist was really good at making sure the pressure was ok and that she wasn’t going over any bruising and so on. (Sounds obvious, but communication does make a big difference).
Before long it was time for my favourite activity – cards in the hotel bar! I need to give a shout-out to Danilo who was working in the bar the evening we were there, he could make a mean vodka martini. When I used to write about bars, I was always told that martinis were one of the best cocktails to judge a bar by and it does make sense. They are very simple drinks, but with so many variations to consider (dry, wet, perfect, dirty, ya de ya da) there’s a lot that can wrong. Danilo’s were exceptional. (He used to work in Bull in a China Shop, so it’s no big surprise that the drinks were so good).
Heading over to the Kings Head’s restaurant for dinner, we were again treated to fabulous service from our waiter Matteo. He really looked after us when we had a problem with one of the starters, rectifying it quickly. Having worked in some great London kitchens himself, it was nice to chat to someone so passionate about the food he was serving. He really made our evening.
Now I know I said in my post yesterday that I was thrilled to have anything-but-risotto as the veggie option, but I did opt for risotto at The Kings Head. It was my favourite type – beetroot, goat cheese and walnut – and it was what we had on our wedding day, so I wasn’t going to pass it up 😀
It was ridiculously lovely and the standout highlight of the four courses.
The wine list was really good too and we were so very excited to see our favourite English wine on the menu…
Do try it if you ever see it on a wine list!
The next day, breakfast was just what the doctor ordered…
And then all that was left before check-out was a tour of the hotel to see the rooms we’d otherwise not have stumbled across. A guided snoop around, essentially.
I was glad we did the tour as I’d have never dreamed the hotel was so big otherwise. THERE ARE SO MANY ROOMS. It’s like a tardis. I found five different dreamy spaces for imaginary parties/weddings and I was a bit gutted there wasn’t a wedding going on that day which I could have gatecrashed.
We also took a look at the other category rooms (I’m always slightly wary of raving about a hotel when it may be that you were just given by far the nicest room for review purposes) and let me tell you straight up…ALL the rooms at every category are gorgeous.
This is an entry-level room, for gawd’s sake…
We were sad to say goodbye to The Kings Head but we weren’t going home just yet…we had a Tudor castle to stay in first! More on that in tomorrow’s post 😉
Thanks very much for having us Kings Head, we had a fab time.
B&B rates at The Kings Head start at £140. Our room was a “Feature Room” where B&B rates are from £179. You can find all the hotel info on their website here.
We were incredibly lucky to be guests of The Kings Head Hotel. You can read more about how I work with brands here. This is not a paid-for post.