Dolphin Cove, Montego Bay

Ok, I’ll get straight to the point with this one

If you ever get the chance to swim with dolphins, do it. Do whatever it takes to do it.

Yes, you may not enjoy it, but you can say that you have done it. This was the highlight of our holiday and is the one thing that Heidi always mentions when she is asked about her holiday.

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We booked the visit, including transport, directly with Dolphin Cove and it felt a bit safer and more official doing it that way. The journey took about 40 minutes from Montego Bay and the driver was excellent in making us feel safe on some very unsafe roads. Our guide for the day told us lots about the local areas we passed through.

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Because Heidi is only 4 and not a brilliant swimmer, we booked the Encounter Experience which involved stroking, dancing, singing and generally playing with the dolphins. Each person got a couple of minutes as a time with the dolphins doing each activity and as there were 6 in our group, it was quite fast paced, but not at all rushed. I didn’t feel like we had done a “cheap” option.

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Even though we had lifejackets given to us, I felt that it was best to hold Heidi throughout, so she could have the security of knowing she was safe, so she could enjoy it more, as the water was about 4 ft high. However, at no point did any of us feel unsafe.

The dolphin handlers were amazing and were particularly good with Heidi, especially as she was the only child in our group and took time afterwards so she could feed the dolphins a few more fish!

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The attraction also has a stingray enclosure, a camel, donkey and ostriches (the shark attraction was closed) but let’s be honest, it’s all about the dolphins!

A couple of tips which might help if you go…

  • Take a full change of clothes as the last thing you want is to wear your swimming clothes on the coach on the way back to the hotel
  • Budget for buying photos if this is your first time of swimming with the dolphins. The photos are amazing, as I’m sure you can tell, and if you go into the day knowing you’ll buy them, then you won’t have an awkward decision to make.

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This is our first time swimming with them and hopefully, if money allows, we can do it again. If any businesses want to give us a free dolphin swimming session, I won’t say no!!!


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Rumpelstiltskin – Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

The national performance by the balletLORENT theatre company made its way to the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield to showcase their latest production – an adaptation of the fairytale of Rumpelstiltskin.

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It’s difficult to write a review of a performance without giving away any particular surprises, especially when the story is well known, so here are a few reasons why you should go to see the performance:

  • It is a professional production. The narrator is from the Game of Thrones, the Artistic Director has an MBE and the composer has worked on Doctor Who – they know what they are doing and it shows in a very polished performance.
  • You don’t have to take the kids! Whilst it is a fairytale storyline, if you’re child free, you will enjoy it just as much as those who take children along!
  • It is just long enough for the kids. The first half is 30 minutes long and the second half is 40 minutes long, with a 20 minute interval. Heidi (aged 4) struggled with the last 5 minutes, but the length was just right.
  • The sheep!! Not wanting to give any surprises, but the acting by the sheep was amazing. I am sure that a few of the audience thought that they were real!!

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The performance is aimed for children 7+ and that feels right as there are a few dark moments in the first half. With Heidi being 4, she struggled in the last 5 minutes of the show (the sugar rush had worn off!), but really understood the storyline, so it depends on the maturity of your child.

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Whilst this is a national production, if you’re going to see it at the Lawrence Batley Theatre and have never been, there is a multi-story car park quite close and as the theatre isn’t huge, it means that the seats generally have good views (and decent legroom!)

Full disclosure: I was provided free tickets for the purposes of this review, but the views are my own and have not been influenced or edited.


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Club Mobay – Montego Bay

As you may know, I went to Montego Bay, Jamaica, with my 4 year old daughter, as a single parent. (You can read my open letter to Heidi here)

One of things that made me feel better about the travelling experience was the Club Mobay service both on arrival and departure that we had booked. As they are both different, I thought that I would break them down…

Arrivals

A Club Mobay member of staff meets you as you get into the terminal and escorts you through the entire passport/customs process through to where your transport is.

You do save plenty of time going through passport control as the queues can be long, as you get the next available passport control officer, and getting through baggage reclaim and customs is generally a breeze anyway. The best bit is where they direct you to where you need to go once you clear customs – in a strange airport in a new country, having that helping hand to make sure you’re in the right place really does help.

You can make use of the arrivals lounge if your transport isn’t ready and there are drinks and snacks (and lovely cold towels!) and we did find that by saving time through passport control, you did end up waiting for other people who were going to be on your coach to the hotel, so you don’t really save much time in total.

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Very tired after a long day of travelling!!

However, you are looked after from start to end and it is a very friendly welcome into Jamaica.

Departures

The Departures service is a bit less personal as there is no meet and greet service. You get a separate lane through passport control and security, which is useful and you get a lounge with food and drinks before your flight. If you are going to have a meal before your flight, it might work out cheaper to do this option.

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Jamaican Beef Patties

As the food is a complimentary buffet, then you can eat as much or as little as you want and there is a kids play room which is a good touch (not all airports have them!)

One thing I would recommend is to arrange for an earlier drop off at the airport. The check-in process was long when we departed and as a result, we didn’t have that much time in the lounge. As a result, I would make sure you get to the airport earlier to make best use of the service!!

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Buffet Service

All in all, it is a wonderful little service that is offered and one that I am sure that we would use again. It is perfect for families as it just takes a little bit of the stress out of travelling!!


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Travelling with a 4 year old as a single parent

The thought of travelling as a single parent is a scary prospect.  That is not a bad thing – it shows that you care. However, having been to Jamaica (with a connection in Atlanta) with just myself and my 4 year old, I thought that i would give some hints and tips which might make it easier, especially (but not specifically) if you’re a single parent.

Plan your bags

Chances are that you’ll be in a cramped seating area with your beloved child and they will want everything out of the bag at once – tablet, sweets, drink etc!! The best way to avoid a meltdown is to organise your bags – sweets in one section, travel documents in another, spare clothes well away from the sticky lollies!! That way, you can quickly pick items out of the bag without disrupting where everything else is!

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Food always helps!

Travel and Legal Documents

Might sound a straight forward one, but make sure you have your tickets, travel vouchers for the hotel/transfers and your passport. Make sure your passport is in date, especially as some countries require you to have 6 months left on your passport when you enter the country. Also, make sure you don’t need any additional Visas or injections. (My guide to applying for a passport can be found here)

Also, if you’re a single parent, make sure you have a copy of your child’s birth certificate and correspondence from the other parent that you have their permission to go out of the country. I never got asked for these, but I have heard of people who have been asked.

Oh and take copies of the documents and put a set in a different bag, a set with someone at home and ideally an electronic copy as well.

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Security

Airport security is perhaps one of the worst things in the world to do as a single parent.  One tip is to look really stressed and tired and hope that an airport employee takes pity on you and helps you through the process a little!!

However, when you know when you’re going to be going through it, take all your electronics and fluids out and either carry them, or put them in a carrier bag so when you get to the x-ray machine, you can easily put them on the conveyor belt and disregard the carrier bag if needed.  Different countries have different rules about children taking their shoes off, so either ask before you get to the x-ray machines or just get your child into the habit of taking them off.

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Hopefully the destination will be worth it!

Take pictures

Part of this is to look back at the brilliant time you have had. However, it is useful to take pictures of your bag so you can remember what it looks like when you land. Also, take pictures of your child so that if the worst happens and you lose them, you know what clothes they have on.

If you want ultimate parent points, just go for matching clothes – it really does work!!!

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This combo got amazing comments!!

Have fun!!

Life is about having fun and chances are you’re going on holiday and will have a great time. Relax and it’ll all be fine!

I have blog posts on Flying with a toddler and Flying with a 3 year old if they are of interest too!!

If you have any other hints or tips, please leave them in the comments below!


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Junior Kitchen – Morley, Leeds

A last minute Heidi Sunday with snow in the air took us to Junior Kitchen in Morley for an impromptu cupcake session. I had been tipped off about Junior Kitchen from a school mum and with the weather looking dodgy, I booked on early in the morning for an afternoon session.

The one thing that struck me as we were in was how fresh, modern and clean the facilities looked. It was bright and funky and just a nice atmosphere to spend time with your child.

Whilst Junior Kitchen do lots of different classes for all sorts of age ranges, we did the cupcake decorating session. The session was £15 (per child!) and lasted around 75 minutes as the very friendly teachers/chefs gave out the icing to help you decorate the cupcakes.

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To start with, we were given set designs to follow, but as we all started to get used to the icing and get a bit more confident, we were given free play to design cupcakes and towards the end, we got butter cream icing to design a few more cupcakes!

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All in all, we got to decorate 14 cupcakes and so you can see, it was tremendous value for money! (Just make sure you have space for the food you bring home!)

Talking to one of the teachers afterwards, they do tailor the session for the age range of the children, but with parental support, you could take a 3 year old to this with no problem. I would say that there is no upper age range as the adults were having just as much fun as the children! The staff are super friendly so if you’re unsure, just ask before you book on.

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The box was completely filled at the end!!

As you can see, we had a brilliant time and as the session also included complimentary tea/coffee/juice, they have really thought of everything.

There are loads of different sessions so there is bound to be something for everyone at some point and I’m sure we will be back to experience more!


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Our First Holiday – an open letter to Heidi

As you may or may not know, I just took my first overseas holiday with my 4 year old. It was the one thing that kept me going during the dark times of stress and separation – it was the one thing I fought so hard for. And it was worth it, totally worth it.

I wrote this on the way home, whilst Heidi was asleep on me. I have to admit that I shed a tear whilst writing it, but it was a tear of happiness (and maybe a bit of fatigue!!). Anyway, enjoy….

———

Dear Heidi

I am writing this somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean, on our way back from our first overseas holiday with just the 2 of us.

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It could have been the most horrendous holiday ever full of stresses and strains and not at all enjoyable for either of us. There were times running up to it where I thought that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was under so much pressure to cancel it.

However, my trust and faith in you was so strong, I didn’t give in and I didn’t give up. I have dreamt of this holiday for a couple of years and I have to admit almost every day of our holiday, there were tears of unbridled joy that we were free and enjoying new adventures.

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Heidi – you have been an absolute star. I always say that I can take you anywhere and you have proved it so much this holiday. We have had fun, made friends, done new things and been living in each other’s pockets for just over a week and we have never got bored or fed up of each other.

So many people have said how well behaved you are or how they think you’re 6 years of age or older because of the way you hold a conversation. You make strangers smile in your company and most importantly, you make me smile so, so much. There were times when you were tired when travelling, but so many people said that you were such a good traveller and they were right.

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I am proud to be your daddy. I am proud to be your travel buddy. I am proud to be one of your best friends.

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Matching T-Shirts!

As you lay asleep next to me, I know these adventures won’t last forever, nor these moments of childish joy. However, let’s enjoy them whilst we can and live life to the fullest.

Time to look for the next adventure….

I love you Heidi
Daddy
XxX


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