A Parent’s Guide To Enjoying School Holidays

Christmas is over, but the school holidays still have weeks to go and they can be stressful. What to do with the kids, so that they don’t get bored? What to do with myself, so that I don’t lose it? And wouldn’t it be nice if, for once, I could enjoy school holidays, too? You can enjoy school holidays and here are some tips on how to do it.

RELATED: How To Prevent School Holidays Hell

Maintain your routine

You don’t need to be as strict with your routine as during school time, but kids still need some predictability in their day. For me, the biggest part of the routine is bed time. If they don’t go to sleep early enough, they don’t get enough sleep. They are cranky on the next day, and I don’t get my time to myself at night.

Plan ahead

While there’s no need to plan in advance for every single day of the holidays, it helps to know what you’re doing on the next day so that you can get straight into it. Spending time in the morning trying to figure out what to do usually limits your options – by the time you’ve decided, it can be too late for some of the possibilities.

Not every day needs to be a full-on day

If you have entertainment planned all day every day, the kids will get tired and so will you. I like to alternate family outings and organised activities with quiet days when we stay at home more, read, do some craft and go to the local park or the library. By the way, libraries can be a great help when it comes to quiet days. My school children have signed up for our local library’s reading challenge and now they’re busy reading in an attempt to win a prize.

Take breaks

Family time is great, but you also need time to yourself, so if your partner is around, take turns looking after the children. You can also enlist grandparents’ help or swap child care with another parent. The kids will love playing with their friends and you will get your much needed free time.

It’s a good idea is to build time for breaks into your days. My 2-year-old has a nap in the afternoon and I usually use this time to sneak in some relaxing minutes for myself. Before my youngest one came along, I used to announce 5-minutes breaks every so often. I’d read a book or turn my attention onto something that interested me for just 5 minutes and the kids were ok with that, because they knew I’d be back with them soon and I’d be a much more agreeable person then.

Don’t let school holidays go by as just another thing on your parenting to-do list! They are an opportunity to connect and create precious memories with your children, and you deserve to enjoy them, too.

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January 12, 2015

Top Five Christmas Stress-Busters

Has Christmas stress got you reaching for the eggnog and/or Veuve Clicquot and Christmas cake you stashed away early for your party guests? Or, instead of gift-shopping, are you fantasising about punching Santa Claus in the face?

Related: How To Prevent School Holiday Hell

Never fear, help is at hand to combat that crazy Christmas stress thanks to Escape Haven Wellness Retreats and founder, Janine Hall. Here, Janine (pictured) shares her top wellness tips to destress and decrease your waistline over the silly season.

Janine is a wellness expert who’s been helping women unwind at her Bali, Byron Bay, Portugal and Morocco retreats since 2010.

Having founded the retreats in an aim to bring peace and well-being to the lives of increasingly stressed out women, Janine 40, recognises how hard it is to find time to yourself to unwind during the festive season.

However, she says these quick and easy stress-busters, see below, will help save your sanity in the busy holiday period. What’s more, stress is one of the biggest contributors of women’s weight gain, as well as other symptoms including loss of sex drive, nausea, headaches and frequent colds.

“When we experience stress, cortisol – also known as the stress hormone – is released which leads to high levels of fat being deposited in the abdominal area. An area of fat many women struggle to lose,” Janine says. “Many women will also emotionally eat when they are stressed, and not pay attention to the foods they are ingesting.

“Women will often put their family and careers ahead of their own well-being, and this is has a long-term negative affect on both their health, particularly their weight.”

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Top Five Christmas Stress-Busters:

  1. Think happy and be happy. Your thoughts are extremely powerful and can have a major impact on the way you act and look at life. Next time you are feeling overwhelmed, take a minute to take a few deep breaths from your stomach and think about what makes you happy and calm. You’ll begin to see an instant mood raiser.
  2. Take time out to feel and think. For a few minutes each day, take the time to switch off your mind. Going on a walk and getting some fresh air can help give you a fresh perspective on the day. Taking the time to experience nature and immerse yourself with your surroundings will help give you a sense of calm and inner peace, giving you the strength to combat any problems you may encounter.
  3. Aromatherapy is your best friend. Scent is one of our most powerful senses, and can have a profound impact on how we feel in our day-to-day lives. Using calming oils can easily promote a tranquil and soothing mood. Try using different scents to evoke different moods such as energising, calming, and relaxing – the possibilities are endless!
  4. Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is key to maintaining health and well-being. Without a proper night’s sleep, you will find yourself irritable and easily stressed out. Giving yourself the time to sleep provides you with good energy levels and will also help you to feel better and make calmer decisions.
  5. Don’t take things so seriously. Remember to take the time to enjoy yourself; laughter is so important to our overall well-being. Joking around will help boost your mood and fight off small worries.

For more information on Escape Haven, visit

December 8, 2014

Melbourne’s Best Family Outings

Anyone who has ever visited or lived in Melbourne, knows it an amazing city. Going out as a family can be pricey though, plus there’s always that unpredictable weather. I’ve gathered some intel for the budget-minded family and found the two best outings, for rain and shine.

RELATED: 5 Of The Best Beach Holiday Getaways


If you are looking for that one family outing that you can do when it’s pouring outside; you can’t beat The Scienceworks, for entertainment and affordability. Patrons are encouraged to touch, play and interact with the exhibits; spend hours exploring and learning new things. The facility houses several other attractions; including The Planetarium. (It’s defiantly a bucket list experience!) Trust me; even Dad will get into it!

As the name suggests, it’s all about science. There is a section for younger children upstairs and a large outdoor area, with a playground, for those who want to bring their lunch and make a complete day of it. There’s a gift shop and canteen, as well as having some of the most spectacular views of the city, from within its confines.

Car parking is available for a flat rate of $2. The only issue; be prepared for a crowd, because it really is one of Melbourne’s most affordable and entertaining, family outings. Even with a crowd, it’s a top day out.

Here’s the run-down of the most important info:

Address: 2 Booker Street Spotswood, Victoria, Australia

Hours: Open daily, 10am – 4:30pm (Closed Good Friday & Christmas Day)

General entry: Adult $12.00; Child (0 to 16 years) and Concession free

Optional extras (Planetarium show, Lightning Room show, Rescue exhibition): Adult $6.00; Child $4.50; Concession $5.00

Bookings and enquiries: 13 11 02

The Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens

For a sunny day outing, the best pick would have to be The Melbourne Zoo. It’s undergoing some extensive renovations to it’s predator enclosure; but don’t let that deter you. It’s excellent value and looks like it’s only going to get better!

There are animals from all over the world, as well as a selection of Australian native inhabitants. The monkeys, tigers and elephants are a real treat and just before closing, the elephants go out to feed. There’s even a baby elephant, who is sure to capture your heart.

There are various food options and plenty of room for everyone to spread out and pull up a piece of grass for a picnic, if you want to keep the cost down. There are gift shops scattered throughout and prices start low enough, to take home a small souvenir or two.

Getting there is relatively easy, either by car or train. Once again, car parking is a flat rate of $2 for 5 hours. For most families, 5 hours of wandering around the zoo is plenty, but it’s so big you’ll probably need to make a second trip. It’s stroller and wheelchair friendly (tip: call and pre-book, if you need one for Nana), but some of the pathways do get muddy in wet weather.

Here’s the most vital info:

Address: Elliott Avenue, Parkville 3052.

Hours: 9:00am to 5:00pm every day of the year.

Cost: Adult (Ages 17+) $30.80; Adult concession $23.60; Child 4-15 years (weekends, Victorian public holidays and Victorian government school holidays) free; Child 4-15 years (Monday to Friday, outside holidays) $13.60; Child (0–3 years) free

Family package deals (Monday to Friday – except school holidays): 2 adults with 1 child $74.60; 2 adults with 2 children $74.60; 2 adults with 3 children $81.60; 2 adults with 4 children  $88.40; 2 adults with 5 children  $95.20

Tickets and bookings: 1300 966 784

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October 2, 2014

How To Prevent School Holiday Hell

Are you dreading the impending start to the school holidays? Do you find it hard to relax yourself, when caring for exuberant littlies? You’re not alone – many, many women find family holidays stressful. In fact, family demands could see you crave another holiday as soon as you return to work!

Never fear, help is at hand thanks to wellness expert Janine Hall (pictured), the gorgeous and successful entrepreneur/founder of Escape Haven – a group of popular women’s surf, yoga and luxury spa retreats in Bali, Byron Bay, Portugal and Morocco. “There is this idea that holidays are supposed to be happy and stress-free, however that’s not often the case. There is a lot of planning and organising that goes into a holiday,” Janine says.

“Coupled with the distraction of work emails we shouldn’t be reading and families demanding our undivided attention, these factors can dramatically impact the enjoyment of a holiday.

“Every year women pour into our wellness retreats with physical indicators of stress and anxiety. However that doesn’t mean the solution is to skip a holiday entirely.”

Here, Janine, 40, gives SHESAID readers her top five tips to avoid holiday stress:

  1. Make time for “me time”: Set time aside for you: this means switching off emails and having time away from the kids. No matter whether it be taking a leisurely bubble bath, meditating or writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal, setting time aside for you is integral for keeping stress at bay.
  2. Get the kids to cook dinner: Put your feet up and get the kids to cook you dinner. It’s also a great kids’ activity which teaches them how to cook with healthy ingredients and safety in the kitchen.
  3. Take a digital vacation: Between our iPhones, computers and TVs, we’re constantly online checking emails and the news. Do a digital detox – turn your phone off and get outdoors!
  4. Book a wellness retreat: Take a break from family and work pressures by booking a solo wellness retreat and giving yourself the holiday you deserve.
  5. Go on, girlfriend, get crafty: Get creative – whether it be crafting a photo album, sewing a new skirt or repotting plants in your garden. Getting your creative juices flowing will help relieve some of the stress you’ve been feeling from work and family pressures.
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September 15, 2014

Why New Zealand Should Be On Your Bucket List

Just a short four hour flight from Australia you can step foot into one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I suppose I’m bias because I was born there but after travelling extensively in past years I truly believe that New Zealand has some of the best scenery in the world.  If you haven’t been, I strongly suggest you make a point to travel there at least once in your life.  Here’s why:

Abel Tasman National Park is breathtaking

Located at the top of the south island Abel Tasman National Park is home to golden beaches, native forest, marble formations and an ancient Maori fort site.  You can travel to the Abel Tasman National Park for a day trip and explore on foot or by boat but the most popular activity is to embark on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track walk which takes between three and five days to complete.  There are basic huts along the track as well as campsites which need to be pre-booked because of its popularity.  Native wildlife including Tuis and Bellbirds fill the forests and blue penguins as well as fur seals also live on the rocks near Tonga Island.  Enjoy swimming, kayaking and being at one with nature.

Why Travelling to New Zealand Should Be On Your Bucket List

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Waiheke Island is paradise

Waiheke Island is located in the Hauraki Gulf just a short distance from Auckland and has some of the most outstanding scenery in New Zealand.  Because of its beauty and relaxing atmosphere it is a popular spot for weddings and events.  On Waiheke Island you’ll find white sandy beaches, pristine blue water and some of the most luxurious accommodations in all of New Zealand.  Also on the island are a number of wineries as well as a brewery, an art gallery, a flying fox zipline and forest walk experience, a sailing charter and so much more.

Why Travelling To New Zealand Should Be On Your Bucket List

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Queenstown is a winter wonderland

Tourists from all over the world travel to this resort town each year to experience unforgettable thrills and spills.  Perched on the banks of Lake Wakatipu in Otago, Queenstown is a scenic town brimming with adventure activities for all ages all year round.  If you love skiing then you’ll be in paradise in winter with four ski fields in close proximity to Queenstown including Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Treble Cone and Cardrona.  If skiing isn’t your thing then consider bungy jumping, rafting, jet boating, para sailing, luging, golf, fishing…the list just goes on.  For a more relaxed experience take a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw then disembark for a farm tour at picturesque Walter Peak, relax at a day spa or visit a winery.

Why Travelling To New Zealand Should Be On Your Bucket List

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Bay of Plenty is plentiful

In 1769 James Cook gave Bay of Plenty its name when he found a bay full of plantations and villages and to this day it holds true to its name.  It is famous for fruit orchards including kiwifruit, citrus and avocado as well as wineries and fresh seafood.  In Mt Maunganui you’ll find some of the best surfing beaches in New Zealand and close by is White Island – an active volcano that you can explore on foot.   Because of the volcano, Bay of Plenty is well known for the thermal hot pools and spas that can be found in the area.  Go fishing, spot dolphins or plan a romantic getaway to this relaxing part of New Zealand.

Why Travelling To New Zealand Should Be On Your Bucket List

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These spots along with countless others that I haven’t had time to mention (the glaciers, Mt Cook, the thermal city of Rotorua and the stunning Coromandel Peninsula) are the reasons why you should consider a trip to New Zealand soon.  It may be small but it has a heck of a lot to offer.

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July 21, 2014

7 Family-Friendly Holiday Destinations

Travelling with children can be difficult enough, but finding a child-friendly hotel and environment can prove daunting on parents with large families. Although there are many domestic and international destinations which offer a relaxing atmosphere, and a bunch of activities perfect for parents with children. Below are just a few places to get you inspired for your next trip with the whole family.

1. Outrigger on the Lagoon, Sigatoka (Fiji)

Not only is Fiji known for it’s crystal-clear beaches and delightful weather all year round, but it’s one of the best locations to bring along the kids. There are many resorts around the island which are specifically designed to suit the needs of up to four children per family. Outrigger on the Lagoon features a free kids club for children aged between 3-12 years old, with many outdoor activities to keep them occupied during their stay.

2. Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui (Hawaii)

Hawaii is often dubbed one of the most family-friendly destinations in the entire world, and with good reason! Kauai, Big Island and Oahu are all filled with resorts catered to children so they’ll always have some fun activity to look forward to. The Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui offers impeccable villas, a toddler pool and outdoor activities such as swimming, kayaking and surfing for children aged 5-13 years old.

3. Sea Gypsy Village Resort & Dive Base, Johor (Malaysia)

Now you can enjoy the rich culture, sights and scenery of Malaysia without doing a solo trip without the kids. With over ten family-friendly resorts to choose from, you’re spoiled for choice regardless of where you choose to stay! The Sea Gypsy Village Resort & Dive Base is perfect since it reinforces local traditions and engages children to take part in snorkelling courses, outdoor activity and of course traditional Malaysian cuisine.

4. Edgewater Resort, Lake Wanaka (New Zealand)

The Edgewater Resort is located on Lake Wanaka and is New Zealand’s fourth largest lake, with spectacular views of the South Islands. Expect lots of family-friendly outdoor activities such as tennis, rafting, horse riding and an exclusive kids menu designed especially for those picky eaters in the family.

5. Villa Pia, Lippiano (Italy)

Why not experience an incredible Italian summer getaway this year with the entire family in the coveted countryside? Villa Pia is known for it’s baby-friendly atmosphere and is perfect to relax and unwind with the kids. Easily accessible from Florence, Sienna and Rome, the hotel is equipped with a daycare service, interconnecting rooms and many outdoor activities for older children.

6. Sea World Resort, Gold Coast (Australia)

Sea World Resort on the Gold Coast is the number one destination for travelling with kids if you don’t plan on an overseas trip. Just a short plane ride away, kids can play in the ‘SpongeBob SplashBash’  poolside theme park which is accessible all year round. Equipped with a Kid’s Club (for children aged 4-12 years old), while parents have complete access to the gym, spa, sauna and so much more.

7. Disneyland Hotel, California (USA)

Make your children’s dreams come true by staying at the modern Disneyland Hotel located in Anaheim, California. Equipped with signature suites just like scenes from famous Disney movies, and full access to the pool and spa with a valid park admission.

Image via Wikia

By Felicia Sapountzis

July 6, 2014

5 Great Holiday Resorts For Kids In Australia

Are you thinking of going on holiday and want to go somewhere you know the kids won’t get bored?  Take a look at these kid-friendly resorts where there is fun for the whole family, grown-ups included!

Kingfisher Bay Resort

If your children love nature then the Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island in Queensland could be the place for your next family holiday.  The Junior Eco Ranger program they offer during weekends and school holidays provides children with a unique and informative learning experience.  Some activities included in the program are sand sculpture art and craft, spotlighting for bats and frogs, stargazing, leaf identification, canoeing and a ropes course.  They cater for children of all ages, except in the evening sessions when children must be 5 years and over.

Zagame’s Paradise Resort

Zagame’s Paradise Resort, located on the Gold Coast in Queensland is literally a kid’s paradise.  It has a waterpark, kid’s club, rock climbing and ice skating rink all on site.  The kid’s themed hotel rooms are brightly coloured and some of them have a designated area for gaming.  The hotel is located just minutes from Surfers Paradise and is the ideal place for a family holiday, although be warned – you might not want to leave the resort!

Breakfree Aanuka Resort

Looking for a holiday on the Coffs Coast?  Consider a trip to the Breakfree Aanuka Resort in Coffs Harbour which is located just a short stroll from Digger’s Beach.  This resort has a huge range of activities for the kids including a children’s pool and waterslide, cave spas, playground, tennis courts, beach volleyball and mini putt.  They also offer a child minding service so you can take some time off and get pampered in the Mi-Time Day Spa.

Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort

This stunning resort in Monkey Mia, Western Australia is where you will find dolphins and activities galore.  Every day the dolphins come to shore and you can get up close and personal with these amazing creatures, just steps from your beachfront accommodation.  As well as interacting with the dolphins there is a pool, tennis facilities, beach games, wildlife cruises and complimentary barbecues.  Just a short distance from the resort are a number of attractions including Ocean Park where children can learn all about marine life found in the area.

Falls Creek Alpine Resort

If you love skiing then Falls Creek Alpine Resort in Victoria is the ideal place to take your family on your next holiday.  As well as providing kids lessons in the Snowsports Centre the Snowplay Park within the resort has a range of activities including tobogganing, snow tubing, snow trampolines, snow painting and kid’s snowmobiles.  The resort also offers a child care service which is open seven days a week throughout the ski season.  There are a range of accommodation options in the village including apartments, lodges and hotels.

So what are you waiting for?  Book that family holiday today!

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By Karyn Miller

June 28, 2014

5 Destinations To Visit In South America

The South American continent is a popular tourist destination offering a wide selection of rich culture, breathtaking views and unique experiences for visitors. From the Caribbean coast, to the iconic beaches of Rio de Janeiro there is definitely something suited for everyone in this marvellous continent. If you’re only around for a short period of time, consider the following destinations before jetting back home.

Swing at the end of the world, Ecuador

Also known as the Casa del Arbol or ‘Treehouse’ this one is definitely for those who want an adrenaline rush, and a good shot for their travel album. The Ecuadorian forest is home to a single swing hanging from a cliff-side treehouse, which is also an impressive tourist destination. In the near distance is a majestic view of Mt. Tungurahua which is an active volcano covered with beautiful trees and foliage. No safety net, no harness and a whole lot of adrenaline awaits.

Inca Trek to Machu Picchu, Peru

This popular trek is considered one of South America’s major tourist attractions. Retrace the steps from one of Peru’s oldest ancient civilisations which will take between 2-3 days to complete. The trek’s are taken in small groups, and a local tour guide explaining everything from the ancient city built in the 15th Century. Don’t forget to pack your camera!

Ipanema Beach, Brazil

This little part of the world is well known for it’s strip of clear waters and attracts travellers from all walks of life. You can hike, swim and relax in this family friendly atmosphere with perfect weather year round. The iconic boardwalk is a must if you’re passing through Ipanema, and there is much occupy yourself with since soccer and volleyball games are always on with the locals.

The Amazon, Amazon Basin (runs through numerous countries)

The amazing Amazon Rainforest is a must for any lover of the great outdoors. The best time to visit is generally May through to June since these are the least rainiest months and will offer good weather for travellers. Jungle lodges are located throughout the rainforest, many offering a chance to sleep there overnight. Boat rides, tree climbing and fishing are other fun activities for your stay in the Amazon.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Bolivia’s world famous salt flats are located in the southwest region of the country and are just one of the many highlights in South America. The unique terrain sees the sky and ground reflect onto each other, and as such make for a great experience and one of a kind travel photos. There are many small tours which explore this area and give travellers a unique experience to get up close and personal with the infamous salar de uyuni.

Image via Bit Rebels

By Felicia Sapountzis

June 20, 2014

Caribbean Travel Guide (Contd)

Glitter Bay

Porters, Barbados

Tel: +800 223 1818

Fax: 246 422 3940

Website: www.cphotels.caIn the case of this classy resort, all that glitters is…everything; from the accommodating staff to the polished suites to the sparkling Caribbean. This place is so popular with returning guests that you may you have to book a year in advance if you are planning to visit during high season.

Hitting the Beaches

On the East Coast:

You’ll see miles of untouched beach along the island’s wildest, hilliest and most beautiful stretch of coast. Bathsheba/Cattlewash beach is the premier destination for surfers keen to lap up the East Coast’s crashing waves. Locals ride the waves here daily but swimming here or anywhere along the Atlantic coast can be extremely dangerous, so you should stick to sightseeing in this area.

On the South Coast:

Here you’ll find medium waves and a young, energetic crowd. The beaches are consistently broad with white, powdery sand; the reef-protected waters are crystal clear and safe for swimming and snorkeling. South coast beaches to check out: Accra, Casuarina, Needham’s Point, Sandy, Bottom Bay and Silver Rock.

On the West Coast:

If you want the calm, magnificently clear Caribbean, head for the west coast, where you’ll find stunning coves and sandy beaches as well as excellent water sports. You can even water ski here. This area is also nicknamed the ‘gold coast’ for it’s unbroken chain of beaches. Beaches to check out: Mullins, Paynes & Bombas.

Read more about this exciting destination in California for Dummies Travel Guide or check out The Travel for Dummies series covers many more of the world’s most fabulous cities. The Travel for Dummies series is available from all good book stores nationally.

March 1, 2001