Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds ( 26 June – 3 July)

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

 

How was your week? Did you make any thrifty purchases, donate anything or choose not to buy?

This past week I have been raiding the library, meal planning and making my own cat deterrent spray for the garden!

  1. Following our huge monthly supermarket delivery I have tried to stick to a meal plan, and reduce waste. This has had mixed results – due to last minute family plans we had to swap meals around. I also threw away a few items (I’m going to start to keep track of what I actually put in the bin as I underestimate our food waste)
  2. I popped into the library on my lunch break and picked up a few parenting books. The ‘Simplicity Parenting’ book has been on my wish list for ages.

library, parenting, borrowing

 

3. I also made my own cat deterrent spray for the garden! My husband has been doing some serious landscaping in the garden and the freshly dug soil has created a lot of interest from the local felines. I  googled ways to get rid of cats from your garden and, apparently, a citronella and water spray is good. So I have covered the soil with loads of this mixture, in the hope to deter them from using our flower beds!

citronella spray, cat deterrant

4. We go on holiday in six weeks’ time and I am trying to get organised about budgets and packing. I have started to create a clothing list for myself: most of which I plan to get from second hand shops. You may remember that last week I also started my hunt for second-hand books to take on hols.

5. I’ve also started to investigate the best way to spend money overseas. We are going to France and, as it’s our first time since the Brexit vote and drop in exchange rate, I am bracing myself for a more expensive trip. I’ve found the Money Saving Expert website really useful for tips like whether to buy currency in advance or use credit cards/pre-loaded money cards. I’ve also been researching where we are staying, and our journeys so that we can budget for excursions, petrol and tolls (for the first time in four years we are driving, rather than taking the train).

And finally it’s the start of Plastic Free July. Although I’m not taking part in it this year (see my post here from 2014) I’m hoping to keep to many of the plastic free habits I have got into over the past few years. (Although I failed at my first hurdle on Saturday night when I went to a party and used a disposable pint glass!) Take a look at their website and see if there’s anything you can do – or are already doing – to reduce plastic waste.

I’d love to hear about your Thrifty Finds too – or if you’re taking part in Plastic Free July. Please  share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

I realise it’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted my Thrifty Finds 😦

Things have been busy here with kids off school and my other half is standing as a candidate in Thursday’s election (post to follow).

So, apologies for the lack of posting. I hope you’ve still been able to secure some Thrifty Finds, or looked at different ways of stepping off the consumer treadmill for a while.

  1. Re Game of Thrones. We finished Series Five via the library. Then my husband got a free subscription to NowTV with his phone. So, we are now working our way through Series Six….
  2. I’ve been getting into a new habit of making more use of the health food/bulk store in Bath. I’ve been visiting Harvest on Walcot Street to get filled up with washing up liquid (my bus stop is outside so I can do it on my way home)
  3.   I also try to make use of the health food store in Corsham, Green Ginger. I got very excited when I spotted these washing up brush and scourers – both made from recycled materials. You can buy replacement heads for the brush as well.

4. The big news is that I got a new (to me) mobile phone! My first ever smartphone (yes I know I’m rather slow!). My husband had traded in his old mobile and, with that money, I was able to buy a second-hand iphone 5 from the Games Exchange shop in Bath. I also signed up to a deal on ee which has given me some money back to my Qudico account.

 

5. Finally, we went camping over the Bank Holiday. Every year we camp with my  school friends, and their children, in the New Forest. The weekend is a great opportunity to catch up with good friends, let the children run wild and enjoy some good food (and drink). Apart from camping fees it’s low cost as we all bring food to share. We barely leave the campsite as well – instead we just talk and go for walks.

What did you do over the Bank Holiday weekend? Hope the weather stayed dry for you!

You can also share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Thrifty Finds

This fortnight’s Thrifty Finds ( 9 – 23 April)

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

 

How was your Easter break?I’m sure it seems a long time ago. I just realised I didn’t post my Easter week Thrifty Finds so thought I would combine the past two weeks into one post.

Our Thrifty Finds were:

  1. During the school holidays we took a trip to London to visit the Churchill War Rooms (not cheap: £51 for our family ticket). The younger kids travelled free on the tube and we managed to get an all zone travel card for our 15 year old for £6. We took a picnic and later had a great value Chinese buffet in China Town for £8 each (or only £5 each if we’d had the food to go). Despite the attempt at educating the kids on World War Two, they seemed to enjoy playing in Hyde Park and visiting Primark (my eldest) more than anything else. This has led us to re-evaluate what we pay for days out and, rather sadly, have decided that unless they are really interested in a subject, it’s just not worth paying for a ticket 😦
  2. We also had a trip to Bath where I managed to return a couple of items. We changed a pair of shoes in Clarks for my youngest as the style was hurting her ankles. I also managed to exchange the supposed bottle of olive oil that I’d bought in Holland & Barrett – turns out it was chilli oil instead!

 

3. We continued with our hunt for Friends DVDs. The kids have really got into the series and we’ve been gradually buying the series second-hand. We found season five in a charity shop and snapped it up for £6. UPDATE: We got through that series pretty quickly and managed to pick up season six in another charity shop for just £3.

 

4. Every Easter holiday the village school organises an Easter Trail. You buy the trail sheet for £2 and follow the map around the village guessing the clues that people put up outside the houses. This year the theme is ‘Famous People’. It’s a really cheap and easy thing to do and easily fills a couple of afternoons during the school break.

5. We also took the kids swimming to the local leisure centre. During the school holidays children swim for free so that saves us quite a lot of money. Having children ranging from 15 to eight it’s also one of the few things we can do that everyone still enjoys.

6.Last weekend my husband picked up a couple of second-hand records at a World Record Store Day event. I also bought a couple of books from a charity shop.

Did you have any Thrifty Finds this Easter?  Please  share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

What I learnt from our Staycation…

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While we have failed to have a ‘proper’ holiday this year, we have really been enjoying our Staycation,which goes to show that every cloud has a silver lining.

I have learnt that the main advantages to holidaying at home are:

  1. You can really make the most of the weather. Rather than going away and hoping for good weather (especially in the UK) you can wait for the right forecast and enjoy a scorching day out. Last Monday we hit the beach at Weymouth, Dorset. The weather was good, we picnicked on the beach and the kids enjoyed some seaside fairground rides. We also took a saunter around the (secondhand) shops, pausing to watch the boats sail into the marina. All it cost us was car parking, ice creams and a fast food restaurant on the way home.

Weymouth beach

2.You don’t have to go far. Wherever you live I bet there’s an interesting town, well-known (or lesser known) attraction, piece of coast or countryside near to you. I admit we are very lucky to live in the South West. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Bath is only 15 minutes away and, within two hours we can be on some stunning Dorset beaches. Closer to home we have some picturesque Wiltshire and Cotswold towns to explore.  When the weather turned hot a couple of weeks ago we spent the day by the river in Bradford on Avon, just ten miles away.

playing by the river in Bradford on Avon

3. You don’t have to go anywhere. This is something I have been learning for the first time this summer. The children have had as much fun playing with friends in the garden.They have staged plays and shows on the deck; we have eaten in the village cafe; had sleepovers with friends and visited the local parks (including the school playground which is always open)

Playing in the school sandpit

4. If you do go somewhere you can stay with friends. We spent last weekend visiting an old school friend who lives on the outskirts of London. We had such a great time, catching up with her family and also making the most of their convenient location at the end of the Northern Line on the Tube. Using Oyster cards (and a £6  travel card for our 14 year old) meant we were able to visit the capital very cheaply. As well as doing free museums and packing picnics we also visited other (free to us) sights such as Platform 9 & 3/4 at Kings Cross and the giant M&Ms store in Leicester Square (the girls bought one gift here each with money from grandparents). Having taken the kids to see The BFG film we learnt about the BFG/Save the Children Dream Jars that are dotted around London this summer.We downloaded the app and were able to locate a few of these jars which were, surprisingly, crowd free. (plus a bonus for us adults: we got to ride the Tube with a Game of Thrones actor!). We had a great mini break and it didn’t make too much of a dent in our piggy bank!

5. You don’t have to spend much. This is one of the big advantages of staying at home. However having a Staycation doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. I price compared local cinemas and saved a lot of money by taking the kids to see a new release at the local two screen theatre, rather than the newly opened multiplex. We have also taken advantage of council run schemes such as the Big Read and free swimming for children in the holidays.

While we didn’t intend to spend all the summer at home we have really enjoyed ourselves over the past month. By taking it easy, but also booking in days out/a weekend away we really have had the best of both worlds, without breaking the bank. What have you been doing this summer?

Did you go away or have you been ‘staycationing’ too?

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Best Laid Plans….

So this time last week we loaded the car with all our camping paraphernalia and headed to the Dorset coast for a week of camping.

By Tuesday evening we had had enough of the wind, wet weather and leaky tent and drove back home!

This wasn’t in the plan at all. Having spent an amazing three weeks last year touring Europe by train and camping in the Italian heat, we knew we weren’t going to be able to afford the same holiday again. However at the beginning of this year we purchased a new tent and planned a modest and affordable week’s camping in our favourite UK destination: Swanage and the Isle of Purbeck.

This is our ‘happy place’ and the location for many short breaks and days out (we can drive to the Dorset coast in two hours from home). We had a big list of things to do, whether wet or dry, which included:

  • hiring a National Trust beach hut at Studland Beach for our youngest’s eighth birthday The day was so windy, and we were still trying to mop up our tent. Instead we met friends in Poole and went for a meal and game of ten pin bowling which cost £70 in all
  • journey on the Swanage Steam Railway. This we did achieve and even went first class so that our middle daughter (who is into Harry Potter) was convinced we were onboard the Hogwarts Express!
  • trip to National Trust’s Corfe Castle Driving back from our trip to Poole the weather was so wet and misty you couldn’t even see the top of the castle! Alas we went home before we visited these amazing ruins.
  • playing mini golf and a trip to the amusement arcade. Because of the wet weather we actually visited three amusement arcades! It’s a great way to use up all the 2p coins we had collected over the past few months.
  • ice creams, fish and chips and milkshakes. Managed the latter two, although found a trip to the Wimpy (yes Swanage still has one!) was far cheaper than the American themed diner on the front
  • watched Swanage Carnival Procession and Fireworks The first two days of our holidays were actually really hot so we enjoyed watching the carnival procession on the Sunday.However by the time of the carnival fireworks on the Wednesday we had gone home.
  • walking. We took a walk to Dancing Ledge on the coast, which features a man-made swimming pool. And we managed this before the rain set in!
  • Purbeck Stone Carving Festival. Alas, we didn’t manage this at all, although we have been previously and enjoyed the ‘Fair on the Square’ run by the local pub in Worth Matravers
  • Browse the charity shops. This is a ‘must’ when I go on holiday. I had a good browse of Swanage’s charity shops and its excellent Secondhand Bookshop and Oxfam Bookshop. In the former I managed to pick up a couple of gems which I will blog about later

Looking back, I’m surprised at how much we did achieve in just four days. A very windy and wet night on the Sunday had led to little sleep and a leaky tent. Despite mopping up the leaks, the tent still didn’t dry out and by Monday evening, with the forecast not looking much better, we decided to cut out losses and come home.

So the last few days have been spent unpacking, finishing off our camping food (and contacting the tent supplier). We are also determined to spend the next few weeks enjoying a ‘staycation’ at home and I will report back on what we have done (in our warm and dry house!).

Hope your summer holidays aren’t as wet and windswept as ours!

Christmas time board games

board games at Christmas

Do you play board games at Christmas? We tend to buy a new (to us) board game every year or, as the children get older, introduce them to classics from our own childhood, such as my family’s Scrabble set or my old Monopoly game. A couple of years ago we picked up a mint condition (if dated) version of the board game, Risk, which – I have to say – we have only just begun to master.

This year we added a brand new board game to the collection. (Every Christmas time I gather together toys, games, books etc that the children have outgrown and sell them on a local facebook site to raise some pennies for a Christmas treat. Last year it was cinema and pizza. This year we bought a board game)

It’s called Ticket to Ride: Europe and we bought it partly to remind us of our  rail journey through Europe this summer.

Playing board games: Ticket to Ride (Europe)

Board games at Christmas: Ticket to Ride

We’re still working out all the instructions (one thing I’m learning is how complicated some board games can be when you buy ones for older ages). The aim of the game appears to be to create as many rail routes as you can throughout Europe (the longer the route the more points you get) but there are other elements to it as well: creating long distance routes, building train stations etc.

A few years ago I wrote an article on board games for Green Parent magazine. I really enjoyed writing it, interviewing families who like to play games and researching the different types of games that are out there: board games, cards, cooperative games. I’m sure it’s quite obvious but research indicates that playing games helps children to develop numeracy, literacy and emotional skills. I think they are great levellers in families: people of all ages get to play together and everyone is equal.  I concluded by saying:

“Playing games can create happy experiences where family and friends come together. It can reflect old traditions or make new ones and is something that includes everyone, whatever their age or ability.”

I hope you get the chance to dig out the board game this holiday. What are your favourites?

The benefits of not having a car


the benefits of not having a car

First of all I should come clean and say that we do own a car. When we moved to the village 13 years ago my husband rode a motorbike, or took the bus, and I drove the car to work and childcare. Then I gave up work and his job changed. He now drives every day to work in Bristol and I am, more or less, car free. I do have some access to my parents’ car (they also live in the village) but this is intermittent.

Living without regular access to a car in a small village with a limited bus service has proved challenging. Yet we have deliberately chosen not to buy another car for four reasons:

  1. We can’t afford to buy and run another car without incurring debt
  2. For environmental reasons
  3. Parking is very limited
  4. We don’t really need one

I also enjoy the ‘freedom’ that not having a car generates. Yes, I know that sounds odd but I like being free from having to commit to things that mean I have to get in the car to drive to them. It means that when the children were little I didn’t have to strap them in their car seats to go to 101 activities. Instead, we stayed at home, saved money and did our own things at our own pace.

To me, the benefits of being car-free are many:

  1. We make our own entertainment. When I look back on the time before the girls went to school I remember the small, precious things like going on walks to look at the sheep, visiting the village parks or being inventive like exploring the churchyard or playing in our Millennium wood. Now that they are older they have friends to play and my eldest goes on walks and bike rides with friends. Although my husband and I do have the car we are far too lazy to use it to go out socially and, instead, have a great social life with friends within the village (our 80s party every January has become legendary!)
  2. We make full use of local facilities. Our village has a small cafe that opens twice a week so I often meet friends for coffee or we may go there after school for a treat. On Wednesdays we use the mobile library (sadly soon to become a fortnightly service). When the children were small I was actively involved in the local Toddler group and Playgroup, and made some great friends there.
  3. We shop locally – or get deliveries. I know I have gone on a lot about our doorstep milk delivery which I cannot praise enough. We also get a fortnightly veg and fruit box delivered and, once a month, I have a supermarket delivery. When we run out of groceries, I use one of our three two local shops (newsagent with some Post Office services, Post Office, Premier Express). I also rely on the internet a lot for when I just can’t get out to buy presents, clothing etc.
  4. We use the bus. My children have always used the bus. Even when the two youngest were tiny and I had to struggle to get the buggy on board we have found ways to use this service. The bus travels five times a day to Bath and, despite the hefty fee (£6.40 for an 8 mile journey) it’s still cheaper than driving and parking. During the school holidays the kids go free so we often find ourselves heading into the city for the day. This service is a lifeline for people like me, and those villagers who don’t drive. UPDATE: since taking on a job in Bath at the beginning of 2017 the bus has been even more of a lifeline: it’s how I get to work every morning (arriving at my desk for 8.30am) and it’s how I get home (picking up the 5.45pm from the bus station). Without the service I would really struggle to get to my job and, as I work in central Bath, buying a car to park nowhere near my job, would be ridiculous.
  5. We say no. As I mentioned when the girls were little we just didn’t go to baby gym, singing sessions, baby signing, baby yoga etc. (unless I could get there by car). We have always adapted our needs to what can actually be achieved. The children have Saturday swimming classes because that’s when the car is free. Sometimes saying ‘no’ can make our life easy (and cheap) but sometimes it’s hard. My eldest would like to do after school clubs but that’s just not possible. At present she does a drama course one evening per week and we have to make complicated travel arrangements for it to work.
  6. We walk (and sometimes we get wet!) We are a ten minute walk from school and I am constantly amazed when I see neighbours drive to school. Yet I’m also envious on wet and cold days. But we adapt and I have long since invested in wet weather gear for drizzly school runs.

However I don’t want to give the impression that living in a village without a regular car is easy. There are times where we really struggle and I can become exasperated at how difficult it can be. Last week I had to travel six miles to another town. I had to take two buses, it took me nearly an hour and cost £8 in total (for two single tickets!). Being without a car in a rural location is no joke and only serves to highlight how important those village services – both public (subsidised bus, mobile library, schools, doctors, internet access and speed!) and private (pubs, shops, cafes, classes) – are. It’s more important than ever that we support them, and fight for them to stay.

Waste Free Holiday Travel

Last month our family of five travelled through Europe. We went to France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium by rail. We stayed in hotels, hostels, with friends,  and we also spent ten days camping (in a ready erected tent).

As we had made a conscious decision to travel by train  I was also determined to minimise our impact on the environment. I have been trying to reduce my consumption of single use plastic for a while as well as trying to follow some zero waste principles. It seemed that a rail holiday through some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe would be the perfect opportunity to put some zero waste ideas into action. This proved to be a great learning experience for us all.

Below are the things that worked for us – and didn’t

  1. Toiletries. Having discovered Lush last year when taking part in Plastic Free July I  returned to the store to purchase solid shampoo and conditioner bars plus a gentle body and face soap. I also bought my first ever compostable toothbrush:

Zero Waste toiletries: Lush shampoo and conditioner bars; compostable toothbrush

It turned out that, despite reading mixed reviews, the compostable toothbrush was great. This is the second holiday I have packed Lush products and, although they are small and have less of an environmental impact, we did find that they were fiddly to use and the shampoo and conditioner didn’t work well enough for me.

2. Picnic Set. I added to my Zero Waste Travel Kit with a small metal sandwich box and reusable bamboo straws. We also took sporks, napkins and (somehow smuggled through security) a small vegetable knife.

The picnic kit was invaluable. We could put all sorts of leftovers in the metal sandwich box (which had two compartments and a separate smaller tin). As most of our train journeys were at least four hours we got into a routine of buying food before embarking and then making up sandwiches, cutting fruit etc when on board. Some of the food came in plastic wrapping but by making up our sandwiches etc we did save some waste.

 

3. Water bottles.

Although made of plastic, our collection of water bottles proved to be one of the best buys. The girls each had one of these leak-proof bottles. The top unscrewed and became a small cup. My husband also had a foldable water bottle.

Images waste free travel: reusable water bottles

 

I used my trusty thermos-type bottle which is also great at keeping drinks cold. I also added some sprigs of mint to the flask to add more flavour.

Drinking out waste free

These were invaluable and probably the best thing we took. Public water fountains seem to be more prevalent in mainland Europe and we were able to fill up everywhere. When we arrived at the campsite in 38 degrees heat we made the mistake of buying a pack of plastic water bottles from the supermarket. But after this we relied totally on the standpipes, which meant we didn’t have to pay out for water at the supermarket or have to carry it back!

Waste Free Travel: refilling water bottles in Milan

4. Onya produce bags and other reusable bags

This was our most successful holiday for using cloth bags. We barely bought a plastic bag (and when we did these became rubbish bags). The Onya produce bags were great for buying fruit and vegetables at the campsite and at other markets. Although most shopkeepers weren’t familiar with them there was never a problem with filling and weighing them.

Plastic Free shopping: net produce bags

5. Recycling. While I’m more of a fan of pre-cycling, or refusing packaging in the first place, I was impressed by the number of recycling options there were on our travels. Having camped in France a couple of years ago where there was barely any recycling facilities I was delighted to see so many bins on our Italian campsite (apologies: I think I became a bit of a ‘bin bore’ on holiday). As you would expect the German trains had some great recycling options and, when staying with friends in Holland, I was amazed by the prevalence of recycling bins at the end of nearly every street.

While I would like to give the impression that we were waste free on our travels this wasn’t strictly true. I had two ‘fails’: when it came to using straws I completely failed to use the bamboo ones as I kept forgetting to take them with me. I also realise I need to get a reusable coffee cup to fit underneath coffee machines as my insulated flask does not do this.

In conclusion I  think we reduced our waste a little while on holiday, and am pleased with our use of cloth bags and water bottles. There were some situations where, due to the heat, children’s appetites and lack of time, we had to use disposable items. If you want to travel completely zero waste I think you have to really plan ahead and it’s hard to do this if you are travelling with limited baggage.

 

Travelling by rail through Europe – and how quickly things have changed

Last month I wrote this post about our impending travels through Europe. 20 days, 11 trains and seven countries later we returned home with heaps of washing, very few souvenirs and lots of amazing memories.

We saw some wonderful sights: huge cathedrals, stunning countryside, lakes and mountains, historic cities and cultural sites.

Travelling by train proved to be so easy and hassle free. We were only delayed twice (both short delays on Eurostar). Booking through the fantastic Loco2 website proved to be so easy (despite my doubts about paperless ticketing). And, yes our £22 individual tickets from Paris to Milan (7 1/2 hour journey) really were valid! The trains were amazing – the majority of them were roomy and comfortable and we even experienced the dining carriage while travelling through the Brenner Pass in Austria.

Our kids became great train travellers, managing to climb aboard each carriage, find their seats and then occupy themselves for up to seven hours.

However I feel that I can’t finish this post without commenting on how much the Europe that we travelled through only one month ago has changed.

It seems incredible to think that less than a month ago we were at Munich train station. Since then the city has seen tens of thousands of refugees arrive. It is amazing to think that we were able to travel freely through seven countries, barely having to show our passports because of the Schengen Agreement which allows/did allow for document-free border crossings. We weren’t turned away at borders, we didn’t have to fight to get on board trains or sleep outside railway stations. At the end of our holiday we could return to our own safe island.

Yet as I write the European continent is now struggling with 400,000 refugees. This has become the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War and it shows no sign of improving.

Red Cross Refugee Crisis Appeal

UNHCR Appeal

 

Slow Travel Through Europe

In just over a week we will be embarking on a family holiday to mainland Europe. We will be visiting/passing through six countries – and all by rail. We won’t be driving a car for three weeks and I can’t wait!

A couple of years ago we enjoyed  a Eurocamp holiday in the South of France and travelled by train to get there. This was such a memorable experience that we have decided to branch out and visit Lake Garda in Italy by rail. One of the main criteria for booking the Eurocamp site was that it was close to a train station and we could get around by foot, bike, boat and rail – without the need for a car.

We will be away for three weeks and have extended our rail plans to include a visit to Germany and then the Netherlands, to stay with friends. We used the excellent Loco2 website to book all the tickets

Our itinerary is something like this:

Ashford International (UK) to Paris on Eurostar

Overnight in Paris 

Paris to Milan

This is a seven and half hour TGV service. Having taken the TGV in 2013 we know how comfortable they are. The kids can read, play games and go to the toilet whenever they want! We get to sit back, enjoy the scenery and have a glass of wine! Overnight in Milan

Milan to Lake Garda

On our way back from Lake Garda we will be travelling:

Lake Garda to Munich

We will be travelling through Austria on this one . I’m looking forward to the beautiful scenery.Two nights in Munich

Munich to Colgone

Overnight in Colgone

Cologne to Leiden, The Netherlands

Staying with friends

Leiden to Ashford, via Brussels

This is a four and half hour hour train trip, including 50 mins in Brussels

When we’ve told friends and family about our rail trip they have been surprised and curious. Many have asked about luggage for the five of us. We will be hiring linen and towels at the campsite. We will be staying in a ready erected tent and don’t need any camping equipment as it is supplied for us. I will talk a little more in detail about our packing in another post but, suffice to say, we will be taking two backpacks (adults), one wheelie suitcase (oldest daughter) and day packs for our younger children.

People have also asked about the cost of travelling by train versus flying. For me, flying isn’t even a consideration. For a start, I hate flying. It is not an enjoyable experience and I can’t bear to think about the emissions. On the Loco2 website it details how much CO2 you have saved on a journey, as compared with flying. I also don’t want to travel by car all the way, and then get stuck in traffic jams around Lake Garda, which we have been warned about.

For us, travelling slowly by train is part of the holiday. It allows us time to sit back, talk to each other, play games and enjoy the changing scenery. We will also be stopping at some major European cities where we will have time to visit and explore the sights, rather than flying to an anonymous airport or driving on a motorway.

When we had a quick look at pricing a flight home from Amsterdam to Bristol, as opposed to taking the Eurostar home, it was £50 cheaper. This included parking fees, petrol costs etc. But we didn’t factor in the things you can’t pay for: the ease of checking in and less security restrictions; the thrill of actually arriving in a city rather than some tarmacked terminal on the outskirts; travelling through six countries and seeing the scenery change; listening to different languages being spoken on the train; letting someone else do the driving etc etc.

It may be a cliche but, for us, the journey is part of the holiday.