Making Memories At Universal Orlando Resort

This is my final post sharing our holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I’m ending on a big one! You’ve read all about the amazing accommodation, The Royal Pacific Resort and benefits of staying onsight. And I’ve written about how to do Universal with a preschooler now here’s everything you ever wanted to know about all three of their theme parks and City Walk. Starting with the newest, Volcano Bay. A water park with gumption!

Volcano Bay

Bearing in mind the boys and I are total water babies when it comes to holidays, you can pretty much guarantee that most of our time will be taken up in water of some sort, so spending the day swimming, splashing and on the thrills and spills of the water rides kicked off our break perfectly.

As with all the theme parks, staying in a Universal Orlando resort meant we had free transport to all the parks. While Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida were only a 10 minutes walk or water taxi ride from our hotel, Volcano Bay was a short bus ride away, or the Shrek bus as the youngest called it.

Now I need you to think of the downside of water parks;  endless queues at the rides right? Only Volcano Bay has tackled that problem by supplying all their guests with a TapuTapu a waterproof watch-like device which holds your place in a virtual line for one attraction at a time.

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

Volcano Bay

Once inside, we headed to the lockers and changing rooms then found a spot to camp down on the beach area. With free loungers and life vests you only need a towel really, you can also pay for everything via their app so you can leave your valuables locked away. the boys and I headed straight into the water where the mighty Krakatau volcano is the centrepiece. It’s the hub of the park with various water slides, sand, wave machines, it really gives a holiday vibe of a Pacific isle rather than a water park.

The eldest teen soon disappeared, never to be seen for a couple of hours as he went on as many solo rides as he could (and possibly avoid babysitting duties?!) So the rest of us took a walk around the park which caters for all ages. We all rode the lazy river, an all-ages ride in rubber rings through gentle rapids and waterfalls. But the bulk of our time ended up in the kiddies splash areas and trying to prize the 3-year old away from the rides and splash areas was nigh on impossible. He loved having the independence of going down the slides himself.

Universal Studios Florida

Day 2 was all about getting up close and personal with the characters from our favourite movies, we started with a very intense day zipping through queues with the fast pass which you get automatically as a guest staying in a Universal Resort hotel and is well worth the upgrade if you aren’t.

Here, we got to dance with the minions in Despicable Me after a 3D ride helping Gru and the girls. One thing which I loved about all the rides was even the queues were entertaining and interactive.

We were lucky to  spend one of the days with fellow blogger Cornish Mum Steph and her family, which meant the boys were able to go on all the major rides and I got to see their faces when they got off; beams which were impossible to fake or hide summed it up.

During our post theme park chat they both decided that the Hollywood RipRide Rocket was their favourite, while I could’ve spent all my time in Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. Your senses go into overdrive here as you take everything. Even the shop windows come alive, and the giant fire-breathing dragon was something else, our little preschooler still talks about it now.

Even more amazing is the ride on the Hogwarts Express between theme parks, everything is so real it’s hard not to imagine you’re heading off to a term at Hogwarts as you look out of the window. I could harp on about how breathtaking this area is all day, and how amazing Butter Beer tastes. But it really is something you need to experience yourself. Although I did managed to capture a snippet of the ride on camera.

While the boys got their kicks on the roller coasters, there was no hanging around waiting for me luckily, with all various shows and street performances going on all around. I even got to join in with a singing contest (not sure I could call it singing, more shouting) with a group of cappella singers on the streets of New York.( I live streamed this on Instagram so you may have caught it?)

Best part of this park for me was walking through the different themed city areas of London, Hollywood and New York, the rides here are only a small part of the whole experience.

Islands of Adventure

Our days of getting up close a personal to all the movies and movie stars didn’t end in Universal Studios as we soon found out at Islands of Adventure! I’d say the teenagers probably prefer this park out of the 3 with it’s ultimate rollercoaster The Incredible Hulk, full on experience at Skull Island and my favourote, Harry Potters Forbidden Journey.

Along with even more of Harry Potter, you also get to see Marvel characters come to life on the streets of Marvel Super Hero Island. It was here that my 3 year old got a meet and greet with his idol Spiderman, a total heart-melting moment seeing him totally in the superhero zone.

Even walking around the Jurassic Park area was an experience, right down to the fossils embedded in the walkways and dinosaurs hiding in the bushes. The older kids got their water ride fix here while the youngest and I took a slower aerial view of the park on a Pteradon Fliers and ran around Camp Jurassic.

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

CityWalk

You can’t reach Universal Studios or Islands Of Adventure without passing through City walk, and  although not a theme park per say, it was pure entertainment with its many bars, clubs and shops.It was great to see the security and bag checks at every entrance. It’s sad that this is the type of world we live in now, where you need extra levels of security to feel safe and be able to relax at big public areas like this. Nonetheless, I felt much happier having to go through this each time we visited.

We dined out in the new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savoury Feast Kitchen, The NBC Sports Bar, The CowFish and The Hard Rock Cafe. Food was utterly amazing, with a good choice for all of us, including me as a vegetarian and portion sizes – wow! We left every restaurant with a carry home of some sort. Special mention has to be the milkshakes in The Toothsome Emporium, probably not the best choice of drinks for the teens as they struggled to make a dent in their meals.

You can order child’s meals in all the restaurants we went to at a fairly decent price, not sure I’d call them child portions mind! They’d have been fine for me to be honest.

Universal Resort Orlando In a Nutshell….

Totally and utterly amazeballs for all ages and all genders. The quality exceeded our expectations and left us speechless on many occasions. Go prepared with your camera, comfy shoes (wear trainers, it’s a lot of walking!) and get there early. My best advice is to start at the back of the park and get the big rides done asap then plan the rest of your day taking your time and don’t rush around from one area to the next. There are so many hidden extras and doing your research on the internet really helps. Little things like how to get the interactive cauldren to move in Diagon Alley, to spotting Kreacher the House Elf peaking through the window as well as the real-life characters popping up everywhere.

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

This was one of those holidays which we hope to do again one day, but even if we don’t, the memories we made will last a lifetime and for anyone wondering if it’s do able as a single parent, or with children of any age or gender.

 It totally is. 

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

Universal Citywalk at Night

Disclaimer

This is a collaborative post between Mumsnet Bloggers Network and Universal Resort Orlando

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STAYING AT THE LOEWS ROYAL PACIFIC RESORT, ORLANDO.

Imagine traveling abroad on a (nearly) 9-hour flight, navigating your way around a sort of familiar airport, relaxing for 20 minutes in a luxurious airport transfer and stepping out to a hotel lobby that sparks the simple words “wow.” Well, I did that, along with my 3, 13 and 17-year-old sons and the hotel I’m talking about was the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando Resort.

Staff at the front, helping you unload your luggage and giving you that typical American warm welcome was a hint of things to come and if I’m honest, being on site on the Universal Resorts, I was kinda expecting a more well, gimicky, kid theme. Oh, how wrong was I!


It soon became apparent that not only was I to experience a taste of Floridian life, I also got a sampler of a South Seas Pacific holiday. think palm trees, elephant statues, colorful Balinese umbrellas and reflection pools, along with a distinct floral scent filled the air. All senses were in overdrive!


Checking into the vast, dark wood reception area, while the boys tucked into the complimentary lemon water, we were given with our room keys (which also acted as fast pass and early entry to Universal theme parks) as well as our flower lei leis. For a moment my fuzzy, jet-lagged brain toyed with the thought we’d ended up at the wrong hotel, maybe even the wrong country. But I liked what I saw so was in no need to question it!


Plus, it soon became apparent that this was just what we would need to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy theme parks nearby.

Facilities at The Royal Pacific

It depends on what your expectations are for a holiday, but for 2 teenagers and a 3-year-old, high light of the whole stay was and always is, the swimming pool. With free use of towels and chair covers, we set up base here as soon as we’d unpacked. I liked that the whole swimming pool area is gated off too, no chance of my lively little one darting off for an unexpected swim!


Once we found our spot, my favourite being in the sanded area where there was a very gentle slope into the pool, the boys were off! It’s safe to say that some of my best and happiest moments on this holiday were watching my 3 play together here. The younger 2 often went straight to the Royal Bali Sea interactive water play area, while the eldest chilled in the hot tub,(jealous me? Yep, big time!) but they regularly regrouped to mess about in the pool, watch movies or play water polo and with the Despicable Me beach balls provided. moments like these were priceless. It’s not often the 4 of us get to relax and have fun like this, I had total proud mum moments every time!

When I needed some chill time, the kid’s pool was the perfect spot. Gated off from the main area, it was shallow enough for my 3-year-old to play on his own while I read a book on the (very nearby) lounger especially with the bonus of a sandy area complete with toys. As a single parent holidaying without back up childcare, it was just what I needed, and while the thought of escaping off to the gym or the spa would have been my ideal time out, this was a much welcome 2nd choice.

There are several restaurants onsite too, we had pizzas at Jake’s American Bar and nachos poolside. Staff comes round regularly while you’re chilling by the pool, checking if you need anything. Being waited on hand and foot was simply divine and the food portion sizes were something else. Considering I have 2 teenagers with very big appetites, 1 nachos snack dish was enough for us all, with leftovers.

Being part of the Universal Resort, you also get complimentary water taxis to Universal City Walk which is where you access the theme parks. It’s a very gentle 5-minute ride, just what you need after a busy day, saying that, I really liked the walk to and from the hotel to City Walk. Either way, you go through security every time, there was never a moment I didn’t feel safe here.

 

There is also a small beach style area away from the swimming pool, using the same waterway that the water taxis travel. We never made it here on our stay, in an ideal world, we’d have had a couple more days to chill at the hotel and break our theme park days up a little. But the real beauty of staying on site, at a Universal Resort hotel, is that you can come and go as you please. When we’d burnt out at the theme parks, we simply headed back to recharge at the hotel. It was total escapism.

 

To stay on site at The Royal Pacific Hotel or not?

Not having to worry about parking was a huge plus, considering the type of holiday it was, with the thrills and spills of Islands of Adventure and all the experiences at Universal Studios, 10 minutes after leaving City Walk, you were on a quiet, relaxing stroll or ride back to your hotel. I can’t tell you enough just how much easier this was. It’s not the first time I’ve been to Orlando, my first visit we stayed offsite in Lake Beuna Vista and did car hire. This was by far much more convenient and although we didn’t have time on this break to get out and about, not having the stress of parking, and driving in another country meant it was a total stress-free break.

In a nutshell…..

Beds you can sink into after a long day, complimentary water delivered to your door every evening, quality restaurants on site, a gym, spa, arcade, kids club (sadly my 3-year-old was just too young to try.) evening outdoor movies played by the pool you can even bob away in the water while watching, or simply stretch out on a lounger. There was everything we needed for a luxurious break, without having to sacrifice a thing simply because it was a family holiday.

So did we enjoy our stay?

I don’t want to go home

– Ky age 13

I want to go back to our holiday home

– Ronnie age 3 ( every day since we got back)

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Part 1 of our holiday – Visiting Universal Resorts with a Preschooler is here if you’d like to read more 

Disclaimer

This was part of a collaboration between Mumsnet Bloggers Network  and Universal Orlando Resort

 

 

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Experiencing Universal Orlando Resorts With A Preschooler

If you’ve been watching my social media channels you’ll know the boys and I spent October half term enjoying the thrills and spills of the Universal theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Which, in a nutshell, was total amazeballs. My aim for this holiday wasn’t an opportunity to showcase some bragging rights though, I know how lucky we were but I also didn’t want to say ‘wow, look at how amazing our life is’ quite the opposite. My motivation was to show you all that a Universal Orlando Resort Holiday can be enjoyed by all, be that a preschooler, a teenager or a single parent.

You see, despite being a warrior mum with nerves of steel. I try to lead my kids at the helm, often fuelled with a dose of guts and determination so they can experience anything they would’ve if their parents were together. Yet every now and then, the reality of not having a co-pilot in parenting takes stock. Especially when we have to tackle a ‘first. If I’m honest, I nearly bottled it, I wasn’t entirely sure I could pull out the big guns to go through with taking my guys on a long haul holiday on my own.

The 2 teenagers were the easy ones, my biggest concern though, was making sure my 3-year-old preschooler got as much out of the holiday as he could. Could I do that on my own and make sure my teens had an amazing time? Spreading yourself equally among 3 kids is hard enough, my mum is amazing and helps make that possible but I would have zero help on holiday.

Starting with the flight, I packed my little man’s Trunki (which you can take on a hold luggage) with some essentials – books, change of clothes, small Connect 4 game, colouring pads, crayons, and iPad. Along with a backpack of small snacks and toys. Turns out we didn’t really need much if these as he was so engrossed by the novelty of the TV and films on our Virgin Atlantic flight along with the contents of his complimentary bag with goodies, so only a few of my prepared bits and bobs got an airing. I will say that pulling him through baggage collection on a Trunki really helped my panic at losing him too!

Kiddie pool and sand play area at The Royal Pacific Hotel
We stayed at Royal Pacific Resort Hotel which was part of the Universal Orlando Resort group and only a short complimentary water taxi or walk from the theme parks and Universal City Walk. I’m planning a separate post on the hotel so I won’t elaborate too much on the accommodation but one thing I will say is, staying on site is absolutely the way to go when planning a Florida theme park holiday, especially when you have a hotel with so much to do.

The water taxi
Theme park days can be exhausting for any age, there’s so much going on mentally and physically that having some time out in the hotel is a must if you’re going to make the most of your break. I’d say this was even more important when having a youngster with you. It meant we could pop back and chill by the pool or in our room whenever we (or he) needed. It also meant we could do things ad hoc and weren’t pinned down too much by a schedule.

Saying that, a schedule does help when holidaying here with young children, and while you typically think of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure as being perfect for older kids and teenagers (which it is, my 13 and 17-year-old went on every ride and needed time at the pool for chilling as much as their little brother did) there are areas of the parks which are perfect for younger children. The time difference meant we were up early so getting to the parks first, coming back to the hotel in the afternoon and then back out to City Walk early evening seemed the perfect plan for us all.

We started our holiday in the newest part – Volcano Bay. A water park where everything is thought of, right down to reducing queuing time in a cossie with the TapTap – a watch-style device which saves your space in the queue. This meant my boy and I didn’t waste a minute. We chilled on the beach, wandered around the park, played in the waves and spent most of our time in the fantastic kiddies play area with its smaller slides and varying watery activities. Life jackets are available for the lazy river ride which he was able to go on too.

 

All the Universal restaurants we went to cater for kids with gumption! Be it the guitar-shaped plates in The Hard Rock Cafe to the CowFish sushi burger bar with their hand sized mini burgers & mock sushi rice crispy pudding, complete with fish-shaped sweetie topping. Then there’s my favourite; the new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savoury Feast Kitchen which gives a whole new meaning to a milkshake, and pudding sizes…Wow! (Worth noting that food here exceeded all my expectations.)

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savoury Feast Kitchen
In Islands of Adventure, The Dr Suess area is the perfect area for any child and after watching his brothers scream their way around the roller coasters. Tthe play areas here, with train style rides, carousels, story style rides as well as wet (great when they need to cool off) and dry play areas were where he got to experience Universal at his own pace. There’s free WiFi throughout Universal so while the little one and I were busy, the older 2 could sit and catch up with friends back home. Should probably add that they were able to go on the rides but opted not to!

I also found that this part of the park, along with the Woody Woodpecker area were some of the quietest areas so there were no long wait times, although I would recommend upgrading your pass to an Express to avoid any queue times, it does make a huge difference.


Over to Universal Studios, we all loved the Animal actors show, mainly for the chance to sit down for 30 minutes. It was just long enough to keep my youngest’s attention before he wanted to go off for more fun. AND we got to see THE Marley from Marley and Me. Never thought I’d be star struck by a dog.

We all went on the Despicable Me ride, younger riders are confined to the stationary seats at the front, but still get to experience the 3D adventure, I did hold him very close explaining that the tense bits were funny and not scary, he was then captivated by the characters he’d just watched on the ride, dancing in the parade. (I’ll leave talking about the Awesome Harry Potter themed areas to another post, my preschooler has never seen the films, he still gawped at the fire-breathing dragon and snow-topped houses mind.)

visiting Universal resorts with a preschooler

The highlight of the whole holiday, however, had to be meeting Spiderman. It was on par to seeing your child visiting Santa, only my boy embraced the experience with both hands and not an ounce of nerves. In his world, Spiderman is THE ONLY man who saves the day, it is firmly set in his mind that he’s real. End Of. I can’t quite explain what was going through his mind as he watched all the Marvel superheroes who grace his clothing, books and toy box right walk through the park, right there in real life form (Although he wasn’t impressed to see his mum posing with Doctor Doom and the Green Goblin.)

Here's our experience of visiting all three Universal Resorts theme parks with a 3 year old preschooler, with hints & tips
Those guys were so realistic (I’m a mum of 3 boys, I’ve seen ALL the films) even I got a little star struck.

Which I guess, is what Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure do so well. You all get to experience a little of what you see in the movies, the books and all the paraphernalia which goes along with it, with no expense spared. It is quite breathtaking and stirs so many emotions. It’s also a holiday where you can ensure every age group is catered for.

And for that single mum, holidaying on her own with a 3, 13 and 17-year-old. It was one of the easiest, most stress-free holidays I have ever been on.

<insert relief face>

Here's our experience of visiting all three Universal Resorts theme parks with a 3 year old preschooler, with hints & tips

Disclosure

This post is in collaboration with Mumsnet Bloggers Network and Universal. 

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Slowing Down the pace on a cycle holiday

Bike riding has always been one of our favourite family activities, even with a toddler in tow, it’s a case of strap them in the trailer and off we go! From Center Parcs breaks where we spend the whole time biking around the village to day trips exploring  Holden Forest on 2 wheels and more recently, and my local cycle path favourite, a long leisurely ride from Darts Farm in Topsham, along the coast and stopping in Exmouth.

It’s only part of stretch of family friendly cycle routes in Devon, I prefer to keep off the main roads as much as possible as it takes all the stress out of keeping the kids safe and is nearly all on the flat, give or take a couple of hills. I don’t mind getting off and pushing my bike here as it gives you a chance to meander though the pretty village of Lympstone as well as have a gawp at the stunning houses and see how the other half lives. There’s also a couple of pubs along the route as well as a local shop where we stopped for an ice-cream.

Living in a hilly village, I don’t get to use a bike as much as I like, as much as it’s easier going down, it takes just as long to ride coming up and that’s without a toddler on the back so the only chance I get is when I’ve planned a day out and hired bikes or on holidays. Which is exactly why I would consider taking a biking holiday like those offered by the Slow-Holiday company, Inntravel, where they plan all their biking holiday routes carefully.

Just imagine being able to take in the scenery at a much slower pace, they make sure their tried and tested routes as enjoyable with quiet roads and country lanes wherever possible.The Topsham to Exmouth route would fit their bill perfectly. I’d need that reassurance when exploring another country on a bike

With detailed maps and route notes I’d feel suitably prepared they even transport luggage ahead to your hotel. <cough, cough,> (British Airways couldn’t even manage that for us!)  To top it off, as these bike holidays are for individuals, not groups, you can take your pick of the routes suggested each day and cycle at entirely your own pace.

I’m thinking Tuscany……. vineyards…….sunsets……bliss!

slowing down the holiday pace with a cycle holiday

 

Disclosure

This post is in collaboration with Inntravel

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As promised, here’s part 2 of my review of our stay at Perdepera Beach Resort in Sardinia with Mark Warner. (If you missed part 1, read all about the accommodation and restaurant here )  

What sets a Mark Warner aside from other travel companies are the activities for all the family. Our break had group sailing and windsurfing lessons, mountain bike, tennis, sea kayak and paddle board hire,as well as half day childcare and evening childcare and kids club sessions all included. And there’s one word which goes above ALL those activities and that’s quality.

There are no half measures on a Mark Warner holiday, especially when it comes to the the staff, everyone we met seemed to love their job and that radiated into how friendly, helpful and happy they were. For a mum who’s never used kids clubs on holiday before, I needed to be sure that my children were in capable hands but it soon became clear, from the quality of the rooms to the manner and friendliness of the Mark Warner nannies, that I had no reason to worry.

We’d booked morning sessions for Ronnie which ran from 9.30 – 12.30 am, with a programme of organised activities including bubble play, fun pool sessions (where all kids wore float suits and sun hats) beach sessions where tried mini on-shore sailing & playing on the paddle board or in the waves, as well as crafts, play time and singing and dancing. Phew!

In the afternoons, when he wasn’t booked in but spotted Phee, his Mark Warner kids club nanny, in the pool he tried to joining in. A sure sign he loved the kids club sessions, I’d say. What I really liked though was that the childcare team would stop and talk to him even when they saw him around the complex. (watch my video below if you want to see the cutest stage performance of the Mini’s which proceeded a presentation to conclude their week)

As for Ky, my awkward and shy teenager, the kids club was the making of the holiday for him. Initially he was very reluctant to join in but I explained that everyone was in the same boat; not knowing anyone and persuaded to give it a try. His had the opportunity to join in with as many or as few sessions as he wanted throughout the day. The schedule of activities would be listed on a board outside the kids club hut so he knew exactly what was on and where to go. It took just that first one session for him to make friends and end up having his best holiday ever.

From beach rounders, group games involving water fights, pool games and sailing sessions, he was spoilt for choice. And when the kids club finished, he was off with his new co host of Mark Warner teens and tweens. The complex is compact so quite safe leaving this age group to roam free. It probably explains why he was so tired in the morning and ate more than I though humanly possible. He made new friends which he’s still in touch with and more importantly, some of the best holiday memories money couldn’t buy.

I don’t want to go home and if we do I want to come back here for every holiday from now on

were his exact words!

the stunning beach at Perdepera beach resort in Sardinia
The evening childcare was a bonus too. After taking the kids to an early dinner at 5.30, it was back to the room to change Ronnie into his pj’s then back out to watch a movie with his new friends at 7.30,   The room was kitted out with mini camping beds and sleeping bags as well as the sofa area for movie time, and when he was tired he’d settle down and go to sleep. All under the watchful eye of British trained nannies and opposite the restaurant, so we were nearby if he was upset.

This was another 1st for me, although Ronnie’s stayed at his Dads and my mum’s plenty of times, he’s never had a babysitter but I soon realised it was a much nicer way for him to spend his evening rather than sat still in a restaurant for a couple of hours!

And finally, it wasn’t all about the kids. I got to try out some activities too. Unfortunately we missed a couple of days due to the chaos of British Airways IT failures, so I didn’t get to do everything on my list. But that just gives me a reason to start saving for another Mark Warner holiday!

I did, however, get to try windsurfing under the patient guidance of Maddie, my instructor, albeit in very choppy waters which meant I spent more time in the water than on the board. Sea kayaking on a calmer day was absolute bliss and (SUP) paddle boarding was a lot harder than it looks, but just as fun. Next time I would love to make use of the mountain bikes available and see a little more of the island while learning to sail is my number 1 priority. We met a couple who were keen sailors and had stayed in other Mark Warner resorts but found that Sardinia had perfect sailing conditions. The winds were stronger in the afternoon and calmer in the morning so for a newbie like myself, that would be the best time to learn.


As well as windsurfing and sailing tuition, there were also organised group sea kayak adventures, catamaran tasters or you can pay extra for 1-1 sailing sessions. For the days when you’re feeling a little less energetic, Perdepera Beach Resort has a chic, adult only pool with jets and a tranquil decking area or you can book a treatment in the mini spa

 

And if you’re really lucky and British Airways manage to lose everyone’s luggage, you get to spend the morning in a local shop buying essentials! Joking aside, I should  say a huge thanks to Mark Warner and Colette, our resort manager, for making the best of a difficult situation and going above and beyond their duty in helping us to enjoy our holiday after being stuck at Heathrow for 2 days during the British Airways IT failure. It didn’t go un noticed and was hugely appreciated not just by myself but other guests we spoke to.

the stunning beach at Perdepera beach resort in Sardinia

And if you want to see more, here’s a whistle-stop tour of the complex;

Disclaimer

This is a collaborative post but all words and photography are my own unless otherwise stated.

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