Safari Tent Glamping At Crealy Meadows, Devon

Many years ago I had the idea that camping was the way to go to guarantee precious family time and bag a cheap summer school holiday break. And it was, of sorts. What I didn’t bargain on was gale force winds and rain resulting in one of the most scariest holiday experiences ever and put an end to my brief encounter to sleeping under canvas. But not one to be defeated, I thought I’d give it another go, only this time as a glamper, not a camper, staying in a safari tent at Crealy Meadows, just outside of Exeter in my home county of Devon.

I still craved the peace and tranquility which camping had to offer; no TV, reconnecting as a family and my kids getting as much fresh air and escapism from their iPads, iPhones and games consoles. Yet I didn’t fancy splashing out on all the camping paraphernalia needed for a tent holiday, just incase my second attempt became my final.

Glamping was the perfect answer.

And here’s how we got on;

safari tent glamping at Crealy Meadows

Checking into Crealy Meadows

Driving up to the main Crealy entrance you carry past the theme park on to a large, well maintained reception area, first impressions were fantastic. As we checked in, I had my first taste on the 5 star staff service which seemed to be a common theme throughout the whole park, not just in Crealy Meadows but the theme park too. You get vehicular access to Crealy Meadows via a key coded gate, both to get in a out, security felt a high priority on the site.

Accommodation

We were located in the African Experience section of the campsite, in a quiet and well placed cul d sac of safari tents. Life sized animal scattered the area giving a fun feel. There’s parking for 2 vehicles directly to the front which makes unloading a breeze and also gave you extra privacy from the tents and other guests, without being too obstructive. Each tent has a small, fenced decked area with rattan tables and chairs and french doors giving you access to the inside.

Inside you have a double futon, solid wood table and 6 chairs and a kitchen area. You’re greeted by the smell of the real wood furniture and the aroma of the wood burning stove, a real surprise as I braced myself for the waft of damp canvas!

There’s also a fully stocked kitchen complete with fridge, Belfast sink, kettle, washing up bowl, crockery and cutlery. All we needed was a tea towel, dish cloth and washing up liquid, This meant no late night shower block runs for teeth brushing and drinks, plus less packing. Bliss.

safari tent glamping at Crealy Meadows

We had 2 separate bedroom, each with a solid wood double bed and bunk beds. The kids room was huge and you could easily accommodate a travel cot. There was also a double cabin bed with doors either side making it full enclosed and separated the living room area from the bunk bed room, the space underneath was also a great spot for storing suitcases. The chest of drawers in the double bedroom was ample enough for all our clothes.

 

 

We had 2 separate bedroom, each with a solid wood double bed and bunk beds. The kids room was huge and you could easily accommodate a travel cot. There was also a double cabin bed with doors which made it full enclosed and which separated the living space from the bunk bed room, the space underneath was also a great spot for storing suitcases. The chest of drawers in the double bedroom was ample enough for all our clothes.

safari tent glamping at Crealy Meadows

There a huge leather bean bag which was perfect for chilling on outside after a busy day. We were so lucky with the weather that we made the most of being outside by bbqing our evening meals. Don’t panic if the forecast isn’t great though, there’s heating in the main living area and one of the bedrooms. Although I doubt you’ll need it as the wood burning stove kicks out some heat and the tents are insulated so we didn’t feel the cold at all!

safari tent glamping at Crealy Meadows

Facilities at Crealy Meadows

A very short walk from our tent, and still within our sight when sat on the deck, is a small enclosed play area which was perfect for the younger members (3 & 4 years) of our party. There’s also a larger one for the older kids and with plenty of space to the front and sides of our tent so they could play frisbee and set up a mini tennis area.

The shower blocks were amazing. With under floor heating, makes them toasty warm and each shower cubicle is cleverly designed so you can easily accommodate a parent and couple of children. You have 2 hooks, a bench and sectioned off shower area. There’s also a large communal mirrored area. Music is played though day and night too which was a really nice touch.

safari tent glamping at Crealy Meadows

We had complimentary tickets to the adjoining Crealy Park which was also where the evening entertainment was held. The small onsite shop stocked all the basics and we managed to buy enough from here for our impromptu bbq. Meals are also available in the main park day and night, (although being a vegetarian, I didn’t find much choice for me) this meant we didn’t end up leaving the whole Crealy resort for our long weekend. (tip, if you need to pop out for food which you can’t buy in the shop, Greendale Farm shop is 10 minutes up the road and has a much greater choice.)

The older kids loved playing in the late indoor play area in the evening while the adults sat and watched the younger kids joining in with the disco and games. After 3 nights and 2 full on park days, sleep was never an issue, quite the opposite. With the tent being so dark, it was a 9.30am wake up the first morning!

So it’s safe to say I’m a total glamping convert, especially as it only took an hour to pack up the car and no stressful tent dissembling!

safari tent glamping at Crealy Meadows

What to bring

A potty if you’ve got small children for late night toilet runs.

small lamp for the bedrooms, they get very dark at night & the main light doesn’t feed through

a torch

tea towel

dish cloth

crocs or flip flops for quick toilet / shower block runs

hairdryer or 20p’s to use the shower block hair dryers

outdoor / camping light

disposable BBQ

duvets and pillows (and covers)

shopper bag for shower trips

cards and board games (you can hire them from the shop too)

Disclaimer

We enjoyed a complementary stay in return for sharing our stay. 

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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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My Pick Of Holiday Wardrobe Essentials From Debenhams

We off on our holibobs soon! CAN.NOT.WAIT!

Half the fun waiting for the big take off day is the planning (isn’t it?) I love the whole ticking off my list thing and sorting through my wardrobe for things to pack. A whole week of sunshine, fingers crossed. < adds poncho to the list just in case > My go-to summer wardrobe is in need of a little updating though while my teenager , who is growing at a rate of knots, is on track to need a whole suitcase full of clothes.

Being a busy mum it’s much easier to do all my shopping at one place rather than spending hours surfing the web and paying lots of delivery prices, like one-stop online department stores, such as Debenhams, which has a holiday shop to help with those wants and needs.

Challenged with choosing a dress which would be suitable for daytime and evening, I’ve decided that a longer style to cover my milk bottle white pins which haven’t seen daylight since August 2016 is an essential holiday item, especially for the first few days and nights.

This Red Herring bohemian style maxi with cold shoulder straps is holiday packing gold as it won’t need an iron. At 5ft 3″,  it skims the floor when barefoot so I’ll be wearing it with my FitFlops to give me the extra inch or so to make it hang better. I usually tend to avoid maxi dresses as getting the length right is a nightmare, but the elastic under bust waist gives me a little leeway to pull up. Dressed down with a denim jacket will see me through the British climate too.

My pick from the Debenhams boys range for Ky are some shark print swim shorts. He’s going through a must-wear-only-black-items at the moment so it’ll be nice to see him in colour. I can’t think of who he takes after Also packing some Hollister aftershave and shower gel for his holiday smell throwback.

All which will be safely transported in an easy to spot on the floral suitcase and leave just enough time for the remaining holiday essentials (inspiration needed please- so far my list consists of suncream, travel nail polish remover and disposable toothbrushes!

Best get this little lot packed away.

I've picked out a few essentials, a dress, suitcase & swim shorts, from the Debenhams holiday shop to take on our summer holiday this year.

 

Disclaimer

This is a collaborative post 

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My 10 Travel Essential Wants And Needs

I adore planning holidays. I love researching, comparing reviews, checking blogs and making sure that those precious weeks escaping the rat race and spending time as a family are as perfect. As a large age range family this is no mean feat though, I have to make sure our break caters for everyone from preschooler to teenager with a pre teen in between. And then there’s me, chief holiday planner, cause if mama aint happy, ain’t nobody happy!

So lets say, for arguments sake, that I had to pick out 10 travel essential items which would ensure our holiday went as smoothly as possible. Where would you start? I know what mine would consist of…….

 

Friendly Holiday Reps

Having the security of well informed, friendly and happy holiday reps at your destination is a make or break for me. You’re in unfamiliar territory and having someone who you can go to for information, problems or just a cheery good morning should never been under estimated.

We’ve got that #fridayfeeling #mwmoment #summer

A post shared by Mark Warner (@mwholidays) on

 

Waterproof mascara 

Don’t think for one minute that I like to go out with my full war paint on during a break, far from it. But just a little mascara maketh the (wo)man and whether i’m swimming, sunbathing, sightseeing or skiing, panda eyes is not the order of the day.

Sunglasses 

Not just for me, this is an essential for all of us. I started encouraging my youngest to wear them last summer to protect his eyes. The older 2 are a little reluctant but I keep pairs in the car, at home and in my handbag. If I was to land in on a beach somewhere hot and sunny right now sans sunnies it’d be game over. THAT’s how essential they are!

Tangle Teaser Detangling comb

All that sun, ski and swim plays havoc on my barnet. A tangle teaser comb will go where no other comb or brush would dare to go. It’s also the best way for tackling my toddler’s bed head without any trauma.

 

Sun suit

Summer holidays should be all about relaxing the rules and enjoying the moment. So taking out any worry factors in a biggie. I love sunsuits which protect my toddler’s delicate skin. My tween and teenager are quite partial to UV tops too, luckily, as it stops any embarrassing moments of mum running after them with suncream to top up their backs. It’s a lesser of two evils.

I think that a sun suit is a travel essential for a holiday with toddlers

Universal iPhone charger

Yes, I know, holidays should be all about leaving your smart phones at home and spending quality time as a family, I get that. But iPhones are also really good cameras and rather than lug my bulky DSLR camera around, I’d rather pack my phone in my pocket and go. So a universal charger is a must.

A clean modern hotel or villa

….with family safety paramount. I’m hesitating at saying a home from home as a holiday is about experiencing something different form the usual. Comfy beds and clean bedding are a must. Have a peak at my Pinterest board if you need a little more of an idea of what I’m hankering for.

A pillow protector

“What?” you say “an essential, are you sure?” ummm, yep. To me it is. You see the thought of lying on a pillow with the drool remininants of the previous guests is a niggling yuk of mine so if I can put an extra centimetre between said drool and my cheek then I’m willing to sacrifice some suitcase space for my own pillow protector. That’s got you thinking now, hasn’t it!

P20 suncream

I use this sunscreen every summer. It’s a one stop shop in the morning to afternoon, I do top up though, I’m not willing to gamble sun damage to test out a theory to see if it does what it says on the tin (bottle.) 

Free wifi

(See iPhone charger above) I’m playing devils advocate here on what a family holiday should be. But let’s be honest here, anyone who’s holidayed with a teenager knows that they would crumble at the thought of not being able to Snap Chat their finest moments. It’s like a modern day postcard. I’d bargain some phone / iPad free time into the mix, but that free wifi will have it’s uses. Like getting inspiration for last minute things to do locally, or checking reviews on places to eat.

This is an entry to the Mark Warner Holiday Ambassador Programme. 

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