Friday, 15 June 2018

Our Experience of Renewing A UK Adult Passport Online - A Review

*This review is based on our own experience of the service only. All application processing times will vary dependent on individual circumstances and it is important to obtain the most up date information and eligibility requirements on the official government website.

A few weeks before our trip to Portofelice in Italy, I began to prepare our documentation and realised that my husband required a passport renewal. Luckily I always do this in plenty of time after a very close call seven years ago, when my daughters renewal took over six weeks to arrive. After a lot of phone calls to the passport office, they managed to get it to us on the day that we were travelling to Tenerife, but it was certainly a very stressful time that I don't wish to experience again. This is also why the government website specifically tells you NOT to book travel until you have a valid passport and it was certainly a lesson learnt in our case.

Photo Credit: Kyle Glenn on Unsplash.com
We used to be able to pick up the usual forms from the post office just down the road, but apparently in the last couple of years they have stopped providing these and request that you go to your nearest large branch instead, which in our case is a half an hour round trip. We would then need to make an appointment at this particular branch to use the check and send service. It all seemed a bit inconvenient and it was going to be a struggle to even collect the forms during working hours, but at the same time we do understand why these processes are in place.

My husband therefore went to get his passport photos taken, which I think are extremely expensive for what they are. Our nearest photo booth is £6, but a lot of photography stores have caught on to the idea that people want to be assured that their photo is correct. I got several quotes from shops in the area that offered a passport photo service and their prices ranged from £9.99 to £14.99!

Having had plenty of ID photos taken previously, my husband was quite confident that he could get it correct in the photo booth, so popped down to our local supermarket to have them done. He returned home shortly afterwards with some interesting news and told me that it was now possible to renew your passport online. I had heard of this previously, but when I had looked into it a few years ago "renewing online" literally just meant that you filled the forms in and then still had to print them off and submit everything by post......but not anymore! We also found out that you can also take your own photographs on your digital camera or smartphone as long as they adhere to the usual passport digital photograph rules.

Placed along the top of our digital photographs was a code and my husband explained that you could now apply online and by entering the code it would bring up the passport photo on the screen. Genius! Not only that, but if it is an adult renewal and your appearance hasn't significantly changed, then you also don't need to have the photographs countersigned. This can be a struggle in itself if you don't know anyone with a qualifying profession to sign it for you.

I therefore went on the Gov.uk website to find out how we could submit the application, how long it would take and also how much it would cost.  The charge for the online service is £75.50 in comparison to £85 for using the postal service (£94.75 if you also use the post office check and send service). I was therefore pleased to find that not only was this service much more convenient for us, but it was also cheaper.

The website stated that renewals online usually take three weeks to complete, which I thought was reasonable given that it is peak season and so my husband set about filling in the online form. This was a really simple process with no over complicated questions. He was then asked to upload his photograph and so he simply inserted the code from the top of his photos and it brought the image up online. Their system then checks the photograph to make sure it complies with the requirements and will bring up an error message if it detects anything wrong. In our case the image was fine, so he continued with the application.

Once it had all been completed, we made the payment and instantly received confirmation of the application along with a reference number that would allow us to track the progress of it online. An address was also provided for us to post back my husband's old passport. In order to prevent any delays, I paid for the old passport to be sent by next day special delivery, but you can send it via normal unregistered post if you wish.

Now that everything had been submitted, it was simply a case of waiting for updates and for the new passport to arrive. My husband received regular emails and text messages which kept him fully informed and he received his brand new passport only 14 days after applying. The full timeline was as follows:

Application submitted - 6.49pm on 26th April 2018
Application received - 6:49pm on 26th April 2018
Old Passport received - 9:28am on 2 May 2018
Joined processing queue - 8.33am on 3rd May 2018
Application approved - 9:36am on 7th May 2018
Passport printed and sent - 9:41pm on 8th May 2018
Passport received - 10th May 2018

The whole process was really quick, simple and most of all stress free. There are certain requirements that are needed to be able to do your renewal online and so it is important to read the full government guidelines on the official website here: www.gov.uk/renew-adult-passport. However, if you are eligible to use the online renewal application service, then I would definitely recommend it. We found the service to be great and we were really pleased with the speedy and efficient delivery of the new passport.

Disclaimer: This review is based on our own experience only and processing times can vary based on individual circumstances. It is important to check the full government guidelines on the passport renewal website in order to obtain the most up to date and accurate information.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Our Family Holiday to Portofelice in Italy with Al Fresco Holidays

We have travelled with Al Fresco Holidays now on several occasions and they have quickly become a holiday brand that we know and trust. From the booking process to the return journey home, I can always be sure that we are in safe hands and that we are going to have a fantastic holiday.

Previously, we have visited two of their large and lively parks which were Sanguli and La Croix du Vieux Pont. This time however, we were staying on a medium sized park on the Venetian Riviera in Italy.

We chose this destination for our Al Fresco holiday due to its close proximity to Venice, which is somewhere that both my husband and I have always wanted to visit. It has also been quite some time since we last ventured to Italy, with our previous trips to both Rome and Genoa being over ten years ago. In all honesty, whilst I had often thought of returning to Italy, we hadn't actually considered it as a family holiday destination and it was only due to the fact that the Union Lido holiday park was mentioned to us during our trip to France, that we became aware of the possibility.

Once we began to look into a family holiday along the Venetian Riveria, we were actually surprised to find that Al Fresco Holidays have five parks based here. Whilst they all looked fantastic, it was Portofelice Camping Village that really stood out to us. This was due to its prime location, easy access to a beach and plenty of activities for the children. It also had some fantastic reviews and I often rely a lot on other peoples experiences of somewhere, when choosing where to stay.

About Al Fresco Holidays

Al Fresco Holidays specialise in mobile home holidays throughout Europe, with some fantastic family friendly parks on offer. Whether you are looking for a beach break, a peaceful countryside setting, or an action packed activity filled holiday, then Al Fresco Holidays is sure to have a site that will suit your needs.

Featuring 74 parks across Europe, Al Fresco Holidays can be enjoyed in France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Holland and Austria and they have all been hand picked to ensure that they have everything you need to enjoy a memorable holiday.

They offer a variety of mobile home options, which are all well equipped, comfortable and modern. The mobile homes offer a fantastic solution for larger families as some of the accommodations can sleep up to 8 people, which makes them extremely cost effective. They offer more space than just an individual hotel room and some of the holiday homes also offer decking, outdoor seating and a barbecue, which all help you to make the most of the sunshine too.

This year has also seen the introduction of two new styles of mobile homes which are the Toscanini Lounge and the Da Vinci Lounge, with both featuring an extended decking area and canopy. They can sleep up to 6 people comfortably in their 3 bedroomed models and a 2 bedroom version of the Da Vinci can also be found at the Union Lido Holiday Park on the Venetian Riviera.

It is also worth noting that the Toscanini Lounge is available as a wheelchair adapted model at the Le Clarys Plage Holiday Park in France, which has easy access, lowered surfaces and an adapted shower room.

Their website is extremely easy to use and the added function of an online chat ensures that any enquiries can be dealt with promptly. If it is out of hours, or an online adviser is unavailable then you can simply leave a message and someone quickly gets back to you with a response. They can also be contacted by telephone, which makes dealing with any queries either before, during or after your booking really simple.

The Al Fresco Holidays website makes searching for your ideal holiday an enjoyable process and by using the search function you can refine your results to suit your particular needs and requirements. You can also make selections based on budget, location or facilities so using this can help you find your perfect destination.

There is also plenty of information available on travel options with choices such as flights, self-drive, the ferry or Eurotunnel all being something to consider. The detailed information on each park tells you where your nearest airport or port is, so if you are after somewhere with a short transfer, or would like to limit your driving time, then this information can come in very useful. If you are unable to decide which option would suit you best, then Al Fresco representatives are always happy to help and can provide recommendations.

Our Arrival at Portofelice Camping Village

We flew with Jet2 from Manchester to Venice Marco Polo Airport. We had no problems with the airline at all and everything ran to schedule. The flight time was only two hours which passed really quickly and we were transferred from the plane to the arrivals area by bus.

The airport was well organised and it only took five minutes to get through border control and to the luggage area. The children were amazed with how the airport looked, as all over the baggage collection area there was incredible art work everywhere, including the flooring and even on the grooves of the baggage carousel.

We had a transfer arranged with Sun Transfers and it was only a very short walk from meeting our driver in the arrivals hall to get to the actual vehicle. As we began to travel along the roads, we all enjoyed taking in our new surroundings and it took approximately 45 minutes in total to reach the site.

As we began to get closer to the holiday park, my son Ben noticed a sign for Portofelice at the side of the road. We were so excited to almost be there and it wasn't long before we could all see the entrance in the distance. It was time to let our holiday begin!


We arrived just before 1pm and the taxi driver parked up outside reception and helped us to unload our luggage. There were a couple of other guests in the queue, so we patiently waited for our turn to check in. The reception area has three service desks so we didn't have long to wait at all to be welcomed.

I had initially been a little concerned about the language barrier as all of my family can manage conversational Welsh, French or Spanish, certainly not at a fluent level, but enough to ask for directions, order items, general greetings or make a simple enquiry, However, we had no knowledge of the Italian language at all, so even simple words such as please or thank you were completely new to us. Fortunately the reception staff spoke extremely good English and we were able to check in without any issues. I did feel a little awkward not even being able to say thank you in the native language and wish I had learnt the basics prior to our trip, but we all made the effort throughout our stay to learn words from others and use them when we could.


The whole check in process took approximately five minutes and the receptionist provided us with a large envelope, booklet and sun lounger reservation board. She informed me that one of her colleagues would take us to our accommodation on a buggy, where we would be met by our Al Fresco representatives. I was already very impressed with the service and it was nice to be taken to our accommodation as opposed to us having to search for it whilst hauling our suitcases.

The buggy picked us up straight away and it was a short drive to the accommodation. During the journey we drove past the main entertainment area, stage and pool zone, so it was nice to instantly get a good idea as to where everything was situated.

As the buggy pulled up outside the accommodation, our Al Fresco representatives were there waiting for us and ready to show us around. As we had arrived a few hours before the official Al Fresco check in time, we hadn't expected our accommodation to be ready straight away. This was therefore a lovely surprise, as after a morning of travelling we just wanted to get changed, sit down and enjoy a drink outside.

Our representatives Michael and Kathryn were really welcoming and the accommodation was spotless. They showed us around each room and also how to work any items of equipment that we may need during our stay. As with all Al Fresco holidays, you are required to leave a housekeeping deposit on arrival of 60 euros, so I filled in a brief form confirming that the accommodation was clean and tidy on check in and handed over my deposit. I personally think that this is a really good system as it encourages all holiday makers to look after their accommodation which makes it beneficial not only for you whilst staying, but also future guests.

Accommodation

For the duration of our holiday, we were to be staying in a Da Vinci Mobile Home which is new to the Al Fresco Holidays accommodation range. Although visually it appeared quite compact on first glance, we soon found that it had more than enough space for our needs and suited us perfectly. It had been cleverly designed and made use of every square metre it had, with plenty of storage in every room.

Each mobile home on our road was nicely separated from the next and I liked how they had all been sited. On some sites we have stayed at, the mobile homes have been situated behind one another, so when sitting out on your decking you are simply staring at a wall, where as the layout of these meant that you were facing outwards and could see what was going on around you. This also meant that the children could play out with their friends and that we were able to supervise them from the comfort of our decking. There was plenty of space between each one which meant that there were no noise issues and we didn't feel too cramped in. The decking area created a lovely outdoor living space and our first impressions were great.


Although located by a road, this is used as more of a walkway and we very rarely saw vehicles on here, unless they had just arrived and were unloading their car. Once unpacked, cars would be moved to their designated parking space which was situated at the end of the road, so it was very safe for our children to play outside during our stay.

Inside our accommodation we were really pleased with both the space and the modern interior that ran throughout. The kitchen was well equipped with everything we could possibly need and due to our mobile home being a new Da Vinci model, we were actually only the second family to have stayed in it. This meant that all the items were practically brand new and some utensils hadn't been used at all. I did find that the kitchen was somewhat limited on storage areas for food as every drawer and cupboard was filled with equipment, however all the items can easily fit in one cupboard, so we simply moved some items which then gave us an empty cupboard for food.

The fridge freezer is the ideal size for a weeks stay and there was more than enough room for all our chilled items. We did a large food shop once we had settled in and despite purchasing a fair few things, there was still ample space for more and everything was kept nicely chilled during our stay.

Although equipment is plentiful, we found that there were two items that we would have also liked to have been available in the kitchen. These were a pizza cutter and oven gloves. Neither of these are provided as part of the standard inventory, however we mentioned this to our Al Fresco representatives and they came back to our accommodation within an hour to borrow us some. I felt that this was really great service, as they could have easily just told us to purchase them from the shop, so it was nice that they took the initiative to resolve this for us.


Our mobile home had three bedrooms which consisted of a double room and two twins. Our double room had a very comfy bed, overhead storage, full length mirror, wardrobe, shelves and bedside tables. It felt very spacious and there was plenty of room for us to unpack our belongings.

Emma and Riley shared one of the twin rooms and again there was overhead storage, shelving and a wardrobe. Ben had the second twin room, however one of the beds had been collapsed and stored under his bed. This gave him a lot of space and also gave us somewhere to place our suitcases once we had unpacked.

The indoor living area is relatively small, however we only ate in here for breakfast, as we utilised the outdoor space instead for the remainder of our time. The sofa was comfortable though and all five of us could sit around the table with ease. The decking area was our preferred place to relax though, as it was nice to be outdoors enjoying the weather and observing everything that was going on around us.

The outdoor dining table was a really good quality rattan and glass design, which is far better than some of the plastic tables we have experienced previously. It adds a bit of luxury to the accommodation and we enjoyed sitting out here to enjoy our lunch together. There are only four chairs, however there are also two fold away chairs stored in the double bedroom wardrobe for additional guests. As well as the dining table seating, there is also two comfortable loungers which the children in particular enjoyed relaxing on.

A large outdoor clothes airer was also provided which we found to be extremely useful for drying our swimwear and towels. We were very fortunate to have extremely good weather throughout the whole week, so we would place any wet items on there in the evening and they would be warm and dry by the morning.

A gas barbecue was also available for us to use and there were some bbq meat sets available to purchase in the shop, such as kebabs, burgers and chicken. We had planned to have a barbecue one evening, but had enjoyed our meals in the restaurant so much that we decided to continue dining there for the majority of our stay.


The Swimming Pool

The swimming pool area was absolutely fantastic and it was also where we spent the majority of our holiday. There are three pools in total which consist of a large shallow area for infants and toddlers, a medium depth pool for general fun, swimming and activities and then a larger pool that is suitable for full length swimming. The third pool is deep and from memory it is a consistent 1.4 metres throughout, with steps on either side for entry.


Riley absolutely loved the children's pool as this was a really large area and at its deepest point it only ever went up to his waist. The pool's aren't heated and do feel a little cool on entry, but it only takes a few minutes to get used to it before it feels fine. Located within this pool was also a small slide and a large mushroom shaped fountain.

Inflatables are not allowed in the pools, but you are welcome to play with small swimming toys and so we purchased some weighted sharks which I would throw into the pool and Riley would have to find them. There was a really lovely moment during one day of our holiday when Riley made friends with a young boy from Germany. Neither of them could understand what the other was saying, yet they played together beautifully for ages, taking it in turns to find the sharks. I loved the fact that they kept talking to each other and smiling and laughing, which just goes to show that language should not be a barrier to making friends.


As I research all my holiday destinations thoroughly before travelling, I knew that we needed to book our sun loungers for the pool on Portofelice's own website if we wanted to be sure of a lounger during our stay. I know that some people may not like the idea of having to pay for a lounger, but personally I absolutely loved it and think that the idea works really well.

Firstly we were able to choose from a map online where we would like our loungers to be, so we were able to get a fantastic location right by the toddler pool. This meant that when I wanted to have a rest away from the water, then I could sit down and relax whilst still being able to supervise Riley. The biggest plus point for me though was no early morning battles to reserve a lounger with your towel. This is one of my biggest annoyances on holiday, as in some places you have to get up really early just to go and join a queue to place a towel down.

Reserving your sun lounger by payment completely eradicates that problem and once you have booked, you know that those loungers are yours for the duration you have them reserved. In total we paid 42 euros for the week which gave us two sun loungers, a parasol and a table. On arrival we were provided with a reservation board which you then simply hang on your parasol to make other guests aware that the lounger is not available. It is also strictly enforced by the pool, so you don't need to worry about turning up and finding someone else on your loungers as the pool staff consistently monitor this extremely well. You can also reserve sun loungers on arrival, however this is subject to availability.

If you don't fancy parting with your cash though and you aren't too bothered about sun loungers, then there is also plenty of open space where you are welcome to lay your towel and sunbathe. The first of these areas is located adjacent to the main pool (pictured below) and consists of a large wooden decking area. Alternatively there is another area behind the water slides where towels may also be placed.


In addition to the pools, there is also a separate waterslide area that consists of two slides, one blue and one yellow. Depending on your age you can only use one of these slides which then takes you into a small separate pool away from the main swimming areas. They are only small slides, but they do still provide lots of fun. My children went on these a few times, but tended to spend most of their time in the medium pool, taking part in the organised activities.

The entertainment staff all work extremely hard, but a special mention has to be given to the gentleman who runs the Aquagym at 11:40 each day. Unfortunately I did not catch his name, but he is an incredibly enthusiastic individual, who made keeping fit and exercising so much fun! We all enjoyed taking part in his morning activity, even Riley, who could not help but join in and do the moves to the fabulous zumba sound track.

As well as Aquagym, there was also Pilates, Games and a Water Dance session that took place each day, which we all really enjoyed. The game changed each day and both Emma and Ben were lucky enough to win the final round in two of the challenges and both won a Portofelice cap for their efforts. We later found out that these were on sale for 11 euros in the shop, so the children were absolutely delighted to have won them.


The Beach

We visited the beach on six out of seven days during our stay and found it to be a lovely place to relax and enjoy a swim. The water is really shallow and very gentle for quite some distance out, so the children enjoyed being able to swim in the sea and play games, without being too scared of going deep or being caught in currents. There is a buoy system in place and plenty of lifeguards to help ensure guest safety. We also noticed that during the busier days, there was always a lifeguard in the water as well as on the beach.


The water was much clearer than I had expected and this meant that you could safely see where you were standing and also watch the small fish swim around your legs. My son Ben also enjoyed searching for crabs and found quite a few on the sea bed. Riley really enjoyed looking for shells and finding unusual colours or designs and he would walk around every day collecting them in his little bucket.

Another popular activity was digging holes and building sandcastles. There was a slight confusion over whether this was permitted, as in the booklet on arrival it states that digging holes on the beach is prohibited, but then states that they recognise it is a popular activity so they can be dug, but must be filled in afterwards, which obviously contradicts itself. Either way the majority of children seemed to enjoy this, so we allowed our children to do the same and just filled them in as requested before we left. It only takes a minute to push the sand back in, so this really wasn't a problem.

Al Fresco Holidays also have a great idea where you can borrow outdoor items from their hut and there is plenty of fun equipment to choose from including buckets, spades, toys and boogie boards. Both Emma and Ben decided to borrow a board each and they enjoyed paddling out to sea and allowing the gentle waves to carry them back to shore.


The beach was really busy each day that we visited, but it never felt too crowded. Just like at the pool, you could reserve and pay for sun loungers if you wished, but we chose to just use our towels on the sand here, just like we do at any other beach, so didn't feel that hiring a lounger was necessary.

There was an ice cream and drinks cart that would travel up and down the beach at regular intervals and the prices were very reasonable. With it being so hot during our stay, it was nice to be able to purchase a cold refreshing drink and ice creams for the kids without having to venture too far.


By the entrance to the beach there is also a bar and cafe, which again served a wide range of drinks and snacks at reasonable prices. An extensive menu was also available here with plenty of choice for hot or cold meals and there were numerous table and chairs under a shaded area for customers. It had been our intention to eat here one evening whilst overlooking the beach, however we were unaware that it closed at 7pm so missed the opportunity. When we return we will definitely dine here, though will most likely visit for lunch instead of evening meal.

The toilets and showers that are available are all really clean and despite the beach being extremely busy, the staff obviously work hard to ensure that the facilities are well maintained. We had seen a few pictures before our holiday that showed pedaloes being available for hire which also had slides on the front. We had been looking forward to using these, but unfortunately we couldn't find anyone renting these out during our stay. It is possible that these may only be available in the peak summer season, but with the water being so clear and calm, they would be a great activity to enjoy in the water along with some kayaks or paddleboards.


On the beach we were approached by a couple of local sellers. They sold a whole range of items from coconuts to kites and we found them all to be very polite with no hard sell. A simple no thank you would see them leave you alone immediately, but I must admit that we were all extremely tempted by the kites. They looked so fantastic against the blue sky background.

Activities

Activities at Portofelice are plentiful and there really is something for everyone. My children enjoyed the arcade most evenings before the mini disco and collected tickets throughout the week on the games, to exchange them for a prize. The arcade uses a token system, which makes it easy to manage a budget. Tokens are 50 cents each, but there is a deal where you can get 22 tokens for 10 euros, so we took advantage of this and shared the tokens between us. The arcade offered a great range of games that were suitable for all ages and the fishing game, air hockey and Sega Rally game were all popular choices with my children (and husband)!


Outside the main shopping area, there was a host of activities to enjoy, which all offered really good value for money. There were bungee trampolines, rickshaw hire, bike hire, go karts, coin operated rides and Happy Land. The bungee trampolines were only 3 euros a go and a large rickshaw only cost us 9 euros for half an hour. This was really enjoyable and we rode around the whole site together to have a look at all the areas we hadn't seen previously. It was funny trying to pedal over the speed bumps and manouvere the rickshaw around the roads and we saw lots of families and groups of children having a great time with them.

Happy Land is a young child's paradise and features a range of bouncy castles, outdoor toys, pedal cars, push along bikes, ball ponds, play equipment and a fun obstacle course. Riley absolutely loved it in here and was even brave enough to try the large inflatable drop slide by the end of the week. (Personally I think I was more scared watching him, than he was attempting it)! Entry to Happy Land cost 5 euros and paying guests receive a hand stamp. I couldn't see it advertised anywhere as to how long you were meant to have access for, so we just stayed for an hour each time we visited. The large inflatable obstacle course was Riley's favourite and he loved making his way through the challenges and sliding down at the end. Benches were also available for supervising adults, so it was also nice to be able to sit down and relax whilst watching Riley play.


Portofelice provides an excellent Mini Club for younger guests as well as organised sports games. The Mini Club programme was full of fun activities that included a Sandcastle building competition, Chocolate Party and Arts & Crafts. It is designed for children between the ages of 4 to 10 and during our stay there was a morning and afternoon session on each day, with each activity lasting two hours. We didn't use the services of the Mini Club as my children enjoyed the activities by the pool so much, but it was useful knowing that it was available for us, if the kids did want to participate.


Next to the Mini Club, there is a really nice park area for children, with plenty of equipment for them to play on. This is located adjacent to the beach walk entrance, so we stopped here on a couple of occasions on our way to or from the beach. All of my children really enjoyed it here and with beautiful woodland surroundings, it made it a really nice place to enjoy some play time.

A new addition to the Portofelice site for this season is a Mini Golf Course which is situated close to the reception area. Unfortunately we completely forgot that this existed as it is located in an area that we didn't need to pass during our stay, so didn't realise until the day of our departure that we had missed this out.

The coin operated rides were very popular with Riley and the costs varied between 50 cents and 1 euro. Located next to these rides was a large open space with astro turf grass that gave children somewhere nice to run around and play. We spotted a few geckos running by the trees and rocks here, so this also became a regular activity for the kids who found it quite a novelty to have little lizards running around near them.



Food & Restaurants

Our initial plan had been to cook meals in our accommodation most nights and enjoy a couple of evenings out. In reality we actually only ended up cooking on two occasions as the on site restaurant Burlina's offered really good value for money along with great service and food, so ultimately we ended up eating out during the majority of our stay.


We purchased some fresh buns, salad, cheese and some meats from the supermarket, so that we could enjoy some sandwiches at lunch time, then made the most of the on site dining in the evening. The food was absolutely fantastic and we were really surprised with how good the prices were. For our family of five with drinks, we paid between 30-50 euros each visit and felt that this was extremely good value for money, especially given the large portion sizes that were provided.


They also offer a range of deals such as early dining discounts, family meal deals and specials. In the welcome brochure we received on arrival, there was a voucher for a free round of aperitifs when dining in the restaurant, so on one evening we combined this with their 20% off early dining offer and received all the following for only 37 euros:

1 x Diavola Pizza (Pepperoni)  - 7.10 euros
1 x Proschiutto E Funghi Pizza (Ham & Mushroom pictured below) -  6.95 euros
1 x Patate Frite (Fries) - 3.90 euros
1 x Kung Fu Panda Pizza (Cheese, Tomato, Hotdog & Fries) -  5.90 euros
1 x Pikachu Pizza (Cheese, Tomato & Ham) - 5.90 euros
1 x Hamburger & Fries -  6.50 euros
2 x Spritzers - Free with voucher
3 x Fruit juice - Free with voucher
2 x Small Sprites - 5 euros
5 x 1 euro service charge - 5 euros

In total this came to 46.25 with a 20% discount for dining at 6pm which meant the total bill was only 37 euros. This was an absolutely delicious family meal at a bargain of a price and the pizzas were fantastic.

The meals are also available as a take out option and so on the day we returned from Venice, we purchased some pizzas to eat back at our accommodation. Again this was really good value and we purchased 3 Kung Fu Panda pizzas to share for only 17.70 euros.


Evening Entertainment

Another thing that Portofelice get absolutely perfect is the evening entertainment. They have a large outdoor stage with plenty of seating for guests. There is also ample space behind the seats so if you arrive a little too late to grab a chair, then you can easily stand behind the main seating area, or relax on one of the nearby benches.

Every night the entertainment would commence with a children's mini disco at 8:30pm where children (and adults too) could learn dance moves to some popular disco songs and also have the opportunity to go up on stage as well.

This would then be followed at 21:30 with "Show Time" and each night during our stay there was a different form of entertainment suitable for families of all ages. We really enjoyed the Variety Show on the first night of our stay, but our personal favourite was The Foam Party, which was absolutely fantastic. It was so much fun dancing along, whilst huge bursts of foam were sprayed into the air and onto the children and adults partying below. At one point there was so much foam it was up to our knees and we had the best time together enjoying all the fun.

Another highlight of our week was on the Saturday night before our departure, a professional Brazilian Circus team performed a wonderful show that was really spectacular and also a perfect way to end our holiday.


In the Local Area

We had initially planned to have several days out as there is plenty to do in the local area. On arrival I had mentioned to our Al Fresco representatives where we had planned to visit and they said that a lot of guests come with the same intentions, but end up staying on site for the majority of the holiday. Initially I didn't think that this would be the case with us, as we usually like to split our time on holiday both relaxing and enjoying the local attractions and so we will often alternate days on site with a day off exploring. However, the reps ended up being absolutely right and despite intending to visit numerous places, we ultimately only ended up having one day off the park, due to the fact that we loved it so much.

If you do want to enjoy some of the local attractions though, then there is an information office that provides lots of details and leaflets on where to visit. There is also a touch screen computer available that can tell you more about the local area and the upcoming weather to help you make an informed decision. Nearby attractions includes Aqualandia, the Sea Life Centre and Go Karting.


Of course we could not travel to the Venetian Riviera without visiting Venice and so we had one day out to explore this fascinating city. I purchased a Quickly Bus and Boat ticket for us all which cost a total of 107 euros for our family of five. Refunds cannot be given on these if you later decide not to go, so it is worth checking the weather before purchasing to make sure that you will be able to make the most of your visit.

The bus picks you up from outside the park on the opposite side of the road and then transports you to Punta Sabbioni where you then board a boat. The bus journey lasted approximately an hour and then it was a further half an hour on a boat to reach Venice.

We really enjoyed the boat trip and it was lovely to be able to take in all the scenery whilst gliding along the water and the seats were very comfortable. There was enough room for everyone and my children enjoyed waving out of the windows to the other boats as they passed.


I will be writing a separate blog post about our day in Venice, but in brief it was an incredible city packed full of interesting architecture and narrow streets. There was something quite soothing about watching the gondolas travel down the waterways, which made me forget all about the busy crowds around us. The first tourist hotspot we came across was the Bridge of Sighs which connects Doge's Palace to the Jail. It is constructed of white limestone and looks really beautiful and unique.


A short walk from the Bridge of Sighs led us to the bustling St Mark's Square, where we made our way to St Marks Basilica. This is an absolutely stunning and magnificent Cathedral and it can be entered free of charge. However there are very lengthy queues, so we took advantage of the Skip the Line system and purchased entry for 3 euros each, which meant we could enter straight away without the need to wait. There are a few rules that need to be observed when visiting St Mark's Basilica and they request that shoulders and knees remain covered at all times. You are also not permitted to film or take photographs inside, which is a shame as the interior is incredible. Bags are also not allowed to be taken in to the cathedral, but they do offer a free left luggage room just across the road.

The Bell Tower also looked fantastic, but since both Ben and I are scared of heights, we decided not to venture up and instead we began to explore the narrow streets. Some of the shops sold such beautiful items and I could have literally spent the whole day just window shopping. We found a lovely little bakery that sold tasty Ciabatta sandwiches for only 3.50 euros each, so we purchased some of these for lunch and went and sat on a bench near the waterfront to watch the boats go by.

Our time here literally flew and after having lots of fun exploring we caught our boat back to Punta Sabbioni. As it was so busy we decided to return slightly earlier, as I was worried that if the boat was full, then we would miss our bus. This actually ended up working out really well as Punta Sabbioni was extremely quiet when we returned and we enjoyed some food and drinks in one of the cafes whilst waiting for the bus.

I am so glad that we were able to visit one of my bucket list destinations and it was even more beautiful than I had expected. It was very hot and extremely busy, but what an amazing place it is. I would definitely recommend a day trip here if staying at Portofelice.

Hints and Tips

Whilst my review should give you a really good idea of what to expect at Portofelice Camping Village, I wanted to summarise some of my top tips for you, to help with planning your stay.
  • Book your pool sun lounger in advance - If you enjoy soaking up the rays by the pool or simply love to relax and read a good book, then make sure you visit the Portofelice website prior to your visit to reserve a sun lounger. There are only a limited amount and these have to be paid for if you wish to make use of them. Whilst this may seem strange, we absolutely loved it and felt that it worked really well. It prevented that really annoying early morning rush for sunbeds that you have in most places and each set of sunbeds was nicely spaced out ensuring that you weren't too crammed in. We paid 42 euros for two sunbeds, a parasol and table for our 7 day stay.
  • Plan your day visits - During the week that we stayed the buses only ran on certain days, this may increase as the summer season progresses, but is certainly worth checking if there is a particular place you are wanting to visit. For example the buses to Aqualandia ran on Tuesdays & Thursdays, whilst the Quickly Bus and Boat service ran on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  • Read the booklet you are given on arrival - There is a voucher inside for a free round of aperitifs when ordering a main meal from the restaurant. Adults receive a spritzer and children receive a fruit juice. Alternatively, if you request a paper copy of the takeaway menu, there is a paper voucher attached to the bottom of this too.
  • Visiting Venice - If planning a day trip to Venice, then consider booking skip the line tickets for the most popular attractions. St Marks Basilica is free entry, but the queues are really long which is not ideal when travelling with children. We therefore booked skip the line entry which cost us 3 euros each and was definitely worth the money. Skip the Line can also be booked for The Bell Tower and the Doge's Palace.
  • Quiet Time - The site observes a quiet time in the afternoon between 1pm-3pm each day. During this time the pool, shops and activities are all closed. We chose to return to our accommodation for lunch and played some table games to keep the children entertained. However, the gate for the beach does remain open, so you are still able to access the beach front if you wish.
  • Take out some store cupboard essentials with you - Whilst the on-site shop is reasonably priced, the cost of cleaning products, condiments and snacks etc, can quickly add to your grocery bill. We therefore took tea towels, flash cleaning wipes, washing up sponges, pasta, savoury rice, crisps and biscuits out with us, which helped us save quite a few euros.
  • Inflatables cannot be used in the pool, but are extremely popular on the beach. The on-site shop sells a great range of both inflatables and beach toys at really reasonable prices. The Al Fresco representatives also have a great range of toys and boogie boards that you can borrow for the duration of your stay, which really helps if you are on a budget or worried about luggage allowance on the way home.
  • If you do purchase inflatables then don't struggle trying to blow these up. As you arrive at the beach, turn left and walk along the wooden walkway, pass the toilets and to the showers. On the wall of the end building right by the showers, there is a small air hose that can be used for inflating items free of charge.
  • The restaurant offers an early dining deal for guests that visit at 6pm. This gives you a reduction of 20% off your bill. In addition to this you can also save 10% in the takeaway restaurant between 12-2:30pm each day. These times and offers were available during our stay but are of course subject to change throughout the season, so would recommend checking that these deals are still available when you arrive.
  • Make a reservation for dinner if you wish to dine at a particular time - Whilst we had no difficulty in getting a table during our stay, we noticed that the restaurant became extremely busy at times. They do accept reservations, so if there is a particular time you are wanting to eat, or are dining as part of a large group, then I would definitely recommend arranging this with the restaurant in advance.

Our Overall Opinion

Our holiday to Portofelice Camping Village is definitely up there as one of the best we have ever had. The whole site is spotlessly clean, the staff are really helpful and the entertainment is first class. Although it is a relatively small park, this actually worked out really well for us, as everything was in easy reach of our accommodation. The site seemed very secure with the use of security barriers and wristbands for all guests, so this also allowed us to give my older children (Ben & Emma) a little bit of independence and we allowed them to go over to the main entertainment square with their new friends in the evening on a couple of occasions. We loved our holiday to Portofelice so much that we are going to book a return stay there in a couple of months as we literally cannot wait to go back. Overall the site truly offered us everything that we look for in a family holiday and much much more!

Al Fresco Holidays currently have some fantastic deals on 2018 holidays and bookings are now also being accepted for 2019. If you would like further information then please visit Al Fresco Holidays on the following channels:

Website: Al Fresco Holidays
Facebook: /AlFrescoHolidays
Twitter: @AlFrescoHols
Instagram: @AlFresco_Hols


Disclaimer: We stayed at Portofelice Camping Village as guests of Al Fresco Holidays for the purpose of providing an honest and informative review of our experience. All opinions and photographs are my own unless stated otherwise. This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Dates for your Diary - What The Ladybird Heard Live on Stage at The Lowry 1st-26th August 2018

Based on the best-selling picture book by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks, Kenny Wax Family Entertainment in association with Matthew Gregory presents What The Ladybird Heard Live on stage at The Lowry from Wednesday 1st to Sunday 26th of August.

Two crafty robbers, one tiny ladybird and a whole farmyard of fun!


What The Ladybird Heard Live comes to the Lowry from Wednesday 1st to Sunday 26th of August as part of a major UK and international tour direct from the West End.

Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len have a cunning plan to steal the farmer's fine prize cow. But they reckon without the tiniest, quietest creature of all: the Ladybird has a plan of her own.

Join the woolly sheep, the hairy hog, the fat red hen and the dainty dog as they take on the villains in this hit musical stage adaptation of What The Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks, published by Macmillan Children's Books. This action packed 55-minute adventure has original songs, live music, puppetry, plenty of audience participation and lots of laughs, making it the perfect treat for families with children aged three and up.

Julia Donaldson says of the show: "I love the songs, the farmer's song at the beginning is wonderful and the lovely, lively acting set against Lydia's [Monks] farmyard is a joy".

The cast includes: Emma Breton - Farmer, Emma Carroll - Lily/Ladybird, Edward Way - Hefty Hugh, Benedict Hastings - Lanky Len and Will Steele - Understudy/Assistant Stage Manager.

The creatives include: Graham Hubbard - Director and Adapter, Bek Palmer - Set & Costume Design, Lydia Monks - Design Consultant, Ric Mountjoy - Lighting Design, John Fiber and Andy Shaw - Composers and Sound Design for JollyGoodTunes.

Listing Details

Show: What The Ladybird Heard Live
Venue: The Lowry
Address: Pier 8, Salford Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ
Dates: Wednesday 1st August to Sunday 26th August 2018 (excluding Mondays)
Times: 11am & 2pm
Tickets: £16
Age guidance: Recommended for ages 3+
Website: The Lowry

Photo Credit: Michael Jean-Marain

Disclaimer: Details provided are correct at time of writing, but are subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting venue's own website, in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Dates for your Diary - Brazilica to Return to Historic Pier Head for 2018

Liverpool Carnival Company recently announced that Brazilica Festival, one of the hottest events in the festival calendar, is back for 2018.

Returning to the city this July for the 11th consecutive year, with the main carnival day taking place on Saturday 14th July, organisers of Liverpool's International Samba Carnival are excited to now reveal that the main stage will once again be located at The Pier Head.

The Brazilica main stage will take pride of place within The Pier Head Village - a family focused festival coming to Liverpool's Waterfront for it's 3rd year again this summer.

The Pier Head Village will deliver a programme of world class entertainment, locally-sourced street food and artisan markets, world class high flying thrill rides and activity-based family entertainment, offering a complete day to night summer experience designed to entertain all ages.

Guaranteed to create a spectacular carnival atmosphere, the site will be brought to life with a colourful celebration of the sights, sounds and tastes of Brazil on the Brazilica main stage.


Brazilica organisers are busy putting together the programme for the main stage which will run throughout the day on Saturday 14th July from 12pm til 8pm, and the full line-up will be announced in the coming weeks.

It is certain to feature plenty of Latin fever, extravagant costumes, exotic music, and of course, plenty of samba, with a host of activities to celebrate the very best of Brazilian culture.

Already confirmed for 2018's festival, the Brazilian Film Festival will once again return, plus a Fringe Festival packed with a wealth of exhibitions, workshops and performances.

The hugely popular and extravagant Carnival Queen competition will also return on Friday 13th July; the winner crowned at the event will lead the sensational night-time Carnival Parade on Saturday 14th July, which remains the festival highlight and features Samba bands from across the UK and overseas.

The UK's largest Samba Carnival event, Brazilica has become one of the flagship events of the year in Liverpool's festival calendar. A colourful celebration of Brazilian music, dance, culture, food and sport, it attracts over 60,000 visitors to the city centre.

2018 promises to be even bigger and better, and Brazilica will form part of the city-wide year-long cultural programme of events, as Liverpool celebrates its 10-year anniversary of being named Capital of Culture.

Maeve Morris of Liverpool Carnival Company said: "We are very excited to be returning to the Pier Head for 2018 with the Brazilica main stage as part of the popular Pier Head Village. We have some very exciting acts in the pipeline which we will be announcing very shortly, and it promises to be a fantastic day of live music and entertainment."

Martin O'Shea, managing director of The Pier Head Village, added: "While we are still preparing the announcement of our full programme for the Village for the summer, we are delighted to lead with the news that Brazilica is returning for another year. The performances last year were truly world class and the vibrancy and excitement it brought to the Village was wonderful; we can't wait to welcome the crowds back again."

The full programme details are to be announced very soon, but to keep up to date with all Brasilica Festival activity in the meantime, then please visit their website or social media accounts below:

Website - www.brazilicafestival.com
Facebook - /brazilicafestival
Twitter - @BrazilicaFest


Disclaimer: Details provided are believed to be correct at the time of writing, but are of course subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the events own website in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Dates for your Diary - The CBBC Summer Social Comes to Liverpool 3rd-5th August 2018!

It is official, we are now in the final term of the school year, which means that there are only seven more weeks to go until the summer holidays. We are extremely lucky as a family that we get to spend the full six weeks together and this year we are determined to make it our best summer yet!

I have already been busy planning places for us to visit and events to attend, so we were all really excited to learn that the CBBC Summer Social was heading to Liverpool this August. This fun packed family festival, will be held at Croxteth Country Park from Friday 3rd August to Sunday 5th August and features a stellar line up of stars, acts and entertainment.

Guests at the event can expect the very best of CBBC programming including immersive activity zones, theatre shows, interactive and inspiring art workshops, top class musical experiences, cool outdoor and sporting activities, junior discos, themed treasure hunts, gaming areas, character walkabouts, vlogger meet and greets, live appearances from the most popular children's authors and much, much more.

The CBBC Summer Social is being organised in partnership with Liverpool City Council and forms part of Liverpool 2018 - a year of projects marking a decade since Liverpool was European Capital of Culture. Taking place from the 3rd to the 5th August at Croxteth Country Park in Liverpool, CBBC Summer Social is the BBC's biggest ever kids event, and the only festival to give 6-12 year old's and their families a unique lineup of CBBC favourites, alongside a host of international music acts including Union J, Johnny Orlando, Matt Terry and Mackenzie Ziegler.

Incredible artists including Max and Harvey, Sophia Grace, KIDS BOP and Merseygirls will also feature, and it was recently announced that the global sensation New Hope Club will also be performing.

West End and Broadway hit, Shrek the Musical, has also been added to the bill for Sunday 5th August. The theatre adaptation of the animation has picked up excellent reviews so far this year whilst on its new UK and Ireland tour, with a feisty princess, a lovestruck Dragon and all the charm of an ogre, the performances are sure to bring the magic of the big screen.

For the under 6's, there will be a Cbeebies Village which ensures that even the youngest of guests can have a great time. Popular favourites including Mr Tumble, Andy Day and Cook & Line will be in attendance, as well as Fern & Rory from Vet's Tales.

Performances, guests and acts vary each day, so please check the full line up before deciding which day to purchase your tickets for, especially if there is a particular artist or act you are wanting to see. I have added the current line up below, but this is subject to change, so would always recommend visiting the official CBBC website in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Early Bird Tickets are on sale now priced from £28*. To purchase tickets or for more information, please visit bbc.co.uk/cbbcsummersocial

*All ticket prices are per day. Booking and transaction fees apply.

You can also find out more on the CBBC twitter page @cbbc

The current line up is as follows:

Friday 3rd August

Featuring: Andy Day, Art Ninja, Bars & Melody, BBC Music introducing in BBC Merseyside, Ben Shires, Clangers, Everton in the Community, Go Jetters Disco, Got What It Takes, Hacker T Dog, Johnny Orlando, Liverpool Football Club Foundation, Liverpool LIMF, Mackenzie Ziegler, Mr Tumble, Naomi Wilkinson, New Hope Club, Opera North, The Pets Factor, Sam & Mark, Saturday Mash-Up!, The Next Step, Worst Witch, Yolanda Brown and more to be announced.

Saturday 4th August

Featuring: Andy Day, Art Ninja, Bars & Melody, BBC Music introducing in BBC Merseyside, Ben Shires, Clangers, Everton in the Community, Go Jetters Disco, Got What It Takes, Hacker T Dog, Johnny Orlando, Liverpool Football Club Foundation, Liverpool LIMF, Mackenzie Ziegler, Mr Tumble, Naomi Wilkinson, New Hope Club, Opera North, The Pets Factor, Sam & Mark, Saturday Mash-Up!, The Next Step, Worst Witch, Yolanda Brown and more to be announced.

Sunday 5th August

Featuring: Andy Day, Art Ninja, Bars & Melody, BBC Music introducing in BBC Merseyside, Ben Shires, Clangers, Everton in the Community, Go Jetters Disco, Got What It Takes, Hacker T Dog, Johnny Orlando, Liverpool Football Club Foundation, Liverpool LIMF, Mackenzie Ziegler, Mr Tumble, Naomi Wilkinson, New Hope Club, Opera North, The Pets Factor, Sam & Mark, Saturday Mash-Up!, Shrek the Musical, The Next Step, Worst Witch, Yolanda Brown and more to be announced. 

Disclaimer: We have been invited to attend this event and will be receiving a complimentary family ticket in exchange for an honest review. All opinions as always are my own.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Planning Our Family Holiday to Venice, Italy with Al Fresco Holidays

Europe features so many wonderful countries and for the past few years, we have enjoyed visiting numerous places including France, Germany, Spain and Ireland to name just a few. We have stayed in all kinds of accommodation ranging from tents to luxury hotels, but we have found that one of the most cost effective ways for us to stay abroad is through Al Fresco Holidays who have over 70 holidays parks in some of Europe's finest locations.

Their parks range from small and tranquil, to large and lively which offer the ultimate fun for families. We have previously stayed at Sanguli in Salou as well as La Croix du Vieux Pont in Berny Riviere and had a fantastic experience at both parks. However, my husband and I have both wanted to return to Italy for quite some time, having visited both Rome and Genoa as a couple quite a few years ago. I was therefore excited to see what parks Al Fresco Holidays had in Italy and whether there were any situated near one of my bucket list destinations of Venice!

Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

When we visited La Croix du Vieux Pont last year, we had a good chat with one of the Al Fresco representatives, who had previously worked on a site called Union Lido and highly recommended the area. I therefore knew that there was at least one park that may be suitable for us, but was pleasantly surprised to find that Al Fresco Holidays actually have five parks based along the Venetian Riviera. One of the parks that really stood out to us was Portofelice Camping Village in Eraclea Mare. This was because it is in a prime location with its own beach access, as well as offering plenty of activities for younger children. It is just over an hour away from Venice, which means that we can relax and enjoy the activities on the park, but also be within easy reach of one of my must-visit destinations. We therefore began to research the area and began planning for a family holiday to Italy. We are so excited to be visiting Portofelice in the very near future!

Getting to Portofelice

We are flying from our nearest main airport which is Manchester and we have an early morning flight booked for us all. Airlines can have different rules and regulations when it comes to seat allocation, luggage and checking in, so it is important to always check everything in plenty of time before you travel. Some airlines allow you to check in online up to 28 days before departure, where as others have much shorter time frames, so it is best to be aware of your airlines policies in advance of your travel dates. Our airline has already allowed us to check in, so we have confirmed our seating and baggage allowance and printed off our boarding passes ready for the journey. This means that it is simply a case of dropping off our suitcases on arrival at the airport which is usually quite straightforward.

The flight operator we are travelling with, also gave us the opportunity to use mobile boarding passes, however we have done this previously when returning from Dublin to Manchester and had a huge panic when the battery on my phone suddenly rapidly decreased. We managed to board the plane with only 1% battery remaining on my phone, so I have decided to stick to paper boarding passes for the foreseeable future.

On arrival in Venice airport we have a private transfer booked to get to Portofelice. We had debated hiring a car, but after reading reviews from previous guests, we discovered that a lot of people hired cars and then didn't use them for the remainder of the holiday, so we felt a transfer and using public transport would be more cost effective. Our transfer will take approximately 40 minutes by car, but I always find that this time goes quite quickly when you are excitedly taking in your new surroundings on the journey.

The Holiday Park of Portofelice

I love to do plenty of research before travelling and will read past reviews to help gain some valuable tips and advice. I will also make sure that there is public transport available nearby so that we can enjoy some off site visits as well as everything on the park. It is nice to get a change of scenery whilst on holiday, so it is important to us as a family that there is plenty to do both on site and also in the local area.

I was pleased to find many excellent reviews of the park, which reassures me that we have made a great decision in choosing to visit this site. One interesting point which came to light, was the fact that you have to pay for sun loungers at the pool. This was something completely new to us, that I haven't heard of before, however personally I actually think it is a great idea. I absolutely loathe having to get up extremely early whilst on holiday. just to join the masses in reserving sun loungers, so I am more than happy to pay to ensure we get a prime location by the pool without the need for any early morning starts. For seven days this has cost me approximately £35 for two sun loungers & a table and involves a quick and simple online booking process through Portofelice's own website. I believe that the sun loungers can also be booked on site in their reception area, but will be subject to availability.

 Photo courtesy of Al Fresco Holidays

A lot of reviews also mentioned that the prices in the supermarket are quite varied, with some items being very reasonably priced and others slightly expensive. This sounds very similar to most places we have visited in Europe and so we are planning on taking some basic store cupboard essentials out with us such as biscuits, pasta and snacks. We also usually take some cleaning items with us such as a travel sized bottle of washing up liquid, bin bags and dish cloths as these can quickly cut into your budget if you need to purchase them abroad.

The on site restaurant has received many recommendations and I was pleased to find a copy of their menu online. I try and budget as best I can when travelling, so it is always handy to find out the average cost of meals so that I can factor in a couple of meals out during our stay. Having looked at their menu, I think it offers a great deal of variety and I am definitely looking forward to trying out some of the pasta dishes. The prices seem to offer really good value, with childrens meals costing between 5-7 euros and my favourite pasta dish of Spaghetti alla Carbonara being only 6.90 euros. We are hoping to eat out on at least two occasions so it is great to have an idea of cost so that we can plan ahead.

There seems to be a wide variety of children's activities on offer as well as family entertainment in the evening, which my kids are already really looking forward to. I have found out that there are bouncy castles, go karts and trampolines also available, so this will give us plenty to enjoy at night.

The beach is a short distance away from the park and you can also reserve sun loungers on here too. I have decided not to do this at the moment as usually we would just place towels on the sand, however I believe these can be booked whilst on site, so may consider this at some point during our stay. Riley absolutely loves the beach, so again it is great to have choice of things to do for the days we stay on site at Portofelice.

Photo courtesy of Al Fresco Holidays

The Accommodation

We will be staying in one of Al Fresco Holidays newest accommodations which is the Da Vinci Lounge. This is a three bedroom mobile home with a nice outdoor decking area and dining furniture. It has one double room and two twin rooms which will provide us all with plenty of space. I love the fact that there is decking, as this will provide my husband and I somewhere to sit and have a drink in the evening once the children are in bed, meaning that we can also have some time as a couple as well as a family.

It will also give us the opportunity to eat outdoors or simply relax during the sites siesta time, which is in between 1pm & 3pm. I actually quite like the idea of returning to the accommodation during this period so that we can enjoy some lunch and drinks together, whilst also keeping the children out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. I am going to take some small games and activities with us such as dominoes, cards, colouring pencils and books, so that the kids can also have some fun together at this time.

We have pre-booked the linen packs for the duration our stay, which will give us a lot more suitcase space. When we visited both Sanguli and La Croix du Vieux Pont, we chose to take our own linen and towels with us, but it will be nice to know that everything is already there waiting for us on this occasion instead.

We have also pre-booked the air conditioning in the mobile home as we have found that during hot days, it is very refreshing to be able to have somewhere to cool down and relax. Temperatures are currently expected to be around 28 degrees celsius during our stay, so I am sure that the air conditioning will come in very useful.

I have also read carefully through the booking confirmation and found that we will need to pay a security deposit of 60 euros in cash on arrival. We have paid deposits previously by cheque which has meant that it doesn't affect our budget as the cheque isn't cashed, but our booking specifically states cash on this occasion. You get this returned to you on departure, providing that the accommodation is left to the same standard as it was on arrival. We always clean everything thoroughly before leaving, so I have no issue in providing a deposit. I actually think it is a very good idea that will encourage guests to leave the accommodation clean and tidy, ready for the next visitors.

Days Out

I have had a good look at the local area and for some ideas on where to visit. Venice is an absolute must, so we will be catching the bus from outside the park into Venice on at least one day during our stay. Whilst there we have decided to visit St Mark's Basilica, The Bell Tower and Doge's Palace, which all look absolutely incredible.

Both my husband and I would love to enjoy a ride on a Gondola, however none of the children seem very keen on this idea, so I think that this will be something we decide to do once there, depending on both price and availability.

One thing that did concern me, was how expensive it would be to eat out whilst in Venice. A lot of reviews online mentioned that prices could be quite extortionate in the main tourist areas such as St Mark's Square, however I have found that there is a Hard Rock Cafe located nearby, so we will be eating there during our day out. Although the menu prices weren't displayed on their website, I sent them a quick email and their sales manager very quickly responded with copies of both the main menu and the children's menu which both seem to offer some tasty dishes at great value. We know the Hard Rock Cafe brand well and have visited plenty of their establishments all around the world. We therefore know exactly what we will be getting for our money and the kids always enjoy the experience too, so I feel that this will be a geat decision, that will suit our family.

Another place we have decided to visit is the Aqualandia water park located approximately 40 minutes away. It looks so much fun and is also home to Europe's tallest waterslide, Captain Spacemaker. It stands at 42 metres high and can reach speeds of up to 100km/h. My husband is very keen to try this ride out and if action cameras are permitted then he will be sure to record this too!

We have also discovered that you can hire bikes from Portofelice, so we are looking at taking a bike ride through the woodland and into the nearby town of Eraclea Mare, where we can visit a local pizzeria for lunch. I also believe that there is an open air market in this town on a Tuesday evening, so this is something we will also consider visiting depending on the weather.

Photo Credit: AussieActive on Unsplash

Budget

At the moment I have budgeted approximately 350 euros for activities & excursions, 100 euros for a food shop on arrival and 300 euros for meals and drinks based on the research I have done so far. It will be interesting to see just how well we can stick to our budget of 750 euros which is approximately £656 based on the current exchange rate. The children also have 30 euros each to spend on the arcade and on gifts for friends.

I always think it is good to have a rough idea of your expenditure so that you can enjoy all the things that you have planned, whilst also being aware of what you are spending. We always take a credit card or a travel card with us as a back up just in case, but we try not to go over budget when possible.

Insurance 

I often get surprised by how often I hear friends and family say that they don't purchase travel insurance. To me this is a MUST especially when travelling as a family. An accident or illness can strike anyone at anytime and the financial implications of this when abroad can be huge. I find that travel insurance is a relatively small price to pay for that added reassurance that if something was to go wrong, then you would be covered. It is also important to ensure that you disclose any illnesses or existing condition and provide accurate information to the insurer. Usually we pay around £12-£15 for single trip family insurance, but on this occasion it has cost us £22 with the Post Office. This is because my husband is currently undergoing physiotheraphy treatment for achilles tendonitis and whilst I cannot see any reason why this would cause a problem on holiday, it is an ongoing issue that the insurers need to be made aware of just in case. I still think that £22 is very reasonable though and is certainly worth paying for that added piece of mind.

Clothing

Whilst it can be tempting to simply pack a bundle of shorts and t-shirts, it can be sensible to prepare for all weathers. We therefore usually take a lightweight coat for each of the children as well as some jeans and joggers, just for cooler evenings or rainy days. I always check the pool guidelines as well, as some European parks will only allow men to wear swimming trunks as opposed to shorts and similarly some sites require the use of swimming caps. I haven't found any information that suggests either of these are required at Portofelice, but I will check with them prior to travelling just in case.

Whilst researching places to visit, I also became aware that Basilica di San Marco has a dress code due to being a place of worship. Their guidelines require that guests have no shoulders or knees visible and so I will make sure that we dress respectfully during our visit and pack something suitable.

The Al Fresco Holidays Experience

The whole booking process and build up to our holiday with Al Fresco Holidays has been fantastic so far. They have kept me fully informed with all of our booking details and made me aware when we could check in for our flight. If I have had any questions about our stay then I have found their online support to be brilliant, with any queries answered really efficiently.

We are so excited for our trip to Portofelice and I look forward to updating you all on our adventure when we get back!

Photo courtesy of Al Fresco Holidays

Disclaimer: We are visiting Portofelice holiday park as guests of Al Fresco Holidays. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post does not contain affiliate links at present.