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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Making a journey an adventure - bikes

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post looks at ways to make a short cycle ride across the city into a mini-adventure. How do you turn a journey into something to enjoy rather than to endure? Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

The start of our ride across London - about 10 miles round trip with an art show at the end. What's not to like about getting some exercise and a sightseeing tour of Bloomsbury, Soho, Trafalgar Square and Westminster? To make it fun we stopped half way for a snack.
Britain's biggest cities have good transport, so because I live in London I don't need a car. However my children are now teenagers and getting to the age when I possibly need to rethink decisions about how to get around. It's hard to learn to drive a car but a licence gives you all sorts of things - confidence, ability to rent a vehicle, possibly even jobs. I notice that lots of professional child-carers in the countryside have to pick kids up from school and then drive them somewhere else for tea or to meet their own families. Maybe when my oldest is 17 she'll be interested in learning to drive and I suspect that is far easier if you are able to pop into mum or dad's car for a practice...

Until then we have the bus and the tube. At 11 and 16 you need a different type of Oyster (zip) card. And at 16 you lose your cheap child fare but can use another discounted card (student rail card) until you are 25 or give up studying. After that the next discount is at 60. I've already noticed an increase in train travel bills, but for my family this was still far cheaper to use intercity trains and the occasional taxi than to either rent or buy a car we only really needed to use for three weeks in the summer.

Taking a long look at a crazy display in a pub window.
But I still want my kids to have a proper sense of direction. Sat Nav will help them if they end up getting behind a wheel, but before then I've been trying to show them how to read landscape and be bold about routes. Finding your own short cut is a strange pleasure however you are travelling. But you can only find shortcuts if you have a feel for where you are going, how the sun lines up or how your city is laid out.

I like to think of journeys as mini adventures, wherever I'm going. Sometimes it's nice to stretch your legs with a quick park detour on the way to the shops. Or you can make it more fun by using a bike and a map to add to your city-map knowledge as you exercise on the way to somewhere that's awkward to get to but an interesting destination, like an art gallery. Last weekend Nell, 13, and I cycled across London to a show at Tate Britain. We used a London cycle map to guide us through the back streets of Westminster, the only bit I was a bit vague about. The route was fantastic - although if you are nervous about traffic it's worth doing your exploring on early Sunday mornings when London is always quieter.

Here's an idea for a book about time travel, written by Pete May in this relevant space and dimension. It's called WHOVIAN DAD: Fandom, Fatherhood & Whovian Family Values.  Definitely funny.

Over to you
How do you encourage your kids to think of a journey as a chance to explore rather than endure?