Hampton Court Palace – The Magic Garden and The Maze 

I wasn’t kidding when I said I intended on seeing the best sights in (and around) London, making the most of my  3 day week. Last Friday was a beautiful day so we decided to head out to Hampton Court. We took the tube to Waterloo and then South West trains to Hampton Court via Surbiton. A quick walk from the Station and you step into grounds that would fit into a Phillipa Gregory novel easily. At first glance Hampton Court Palace is quite majestic. This beautiful Tudor Palace was built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. It was never meant to be a Royal Palace but when he left in 1529, King Henry took it over. In his efforts to impress people with his grandeur and wealth, he spent what would be millions now to expand it, employing Europe’s most gifted craftsmen and gardeners. It might be almost 500 years since it was built but Hampton Court Palace (unlike the outside of Buckingham Palace) is quite simply stunning.


Last year saw the opening of The Magic Garden on the grounds of Hampton Court Palace. I’d read quite about it but we didn’t have a chance to go. Friday was the ideal day. We didn’t go into the Palace…Let’s be honest, it would be lost on our 5/6 year olds so instead bought tickets for The Magic Garden and The Maze. If you don’t intend on going into the Palace and it’s quite a warm day, don’t queue up at the main ticket kiosk. Instead make your way to The Magic Garden and buy your tickets from there instead. 


It lives up to its name…the kids had a blast!


Almost two hours later we made our way to the maze. The kids were super excited by the maze and enjoyed navigating the many corridors. At one point we thought we’d found our way out but alas it was the middle of the maze.


Right outside the exit there’s a patch of grass for the adults to rest their weary legs and hidden in what appears to be a huge bush is one of the best trees to climb.


We finally ended our day walking through the rose garden and picking up some amazing real ice cream (made with clotted cream!!)


If you’re thinking of visiting this summer, The Magic Garden is open until October. Remember to take sun cream, a spare change of clothes (there are fountains and a mini lake, as S describes it, in the sandpit) and lots of snacks (the cafés there are limited).

Don’t forget to take a picture under this beautiful arch on your way out.


It cost us £9.20 each return from Waterloo to Hampton Court on Southwest trains. If you to manage get a direct train it’s approx. 35 minutes (we had to stop at Surbiton both ways). Hampton Court Palace is very family friendly and makes for a great day out. It’s got our stamp of approval.

Summer 2017 Bucket List 

The great British Summer…There’s absolutely no guarantee of hot weather but you can always have a good time. From this week going forward I’ll be working 3 days a week (rather than 5) and I intend on making the most of August, exploring  many of the wonderful sights/attractions the UK has to offer. Here’s my bucket list for Summer 2017:

Mayfield Lavender Fields – If you’re on Instagram you can’t escape these gorgeous lavender fields. They are Insta perfect and something I definitely want to see. A little over an hour from London, in Surrey, it’s pretty easy to get to.

Hampton Court Palace – The Magic Garden looks amazing and super child friendly. 

Parkside Fruit Picking – I feel like S is finally old enough to appreciate and enjoy fruit picking. My cousins have been doing it for years and now he can join them 🙂

Warwick Castle – Which child wouldn’t like to dress up as a knight and feel like part of a castle? S has the costume and Warwick has the castle. And during the summer, kids can watch Horrible Histories live on stage in the truly unique Wicked Warwick Show!

Go Ape (Alexandre Palace) – Go Apes newest venue at Ally Pally now has Tree Tops Junior. S is a bit of a monkey and I think he’d absolutely love walking high up and ziplining through trees.

Snozoneuk – While our summers aren’t always hot, our winters aren’t extreme either which means S hasn’t seen proper snow yet. At Snozone, you can feel like you’re in The Alps while only being an hour up the M1 from London.

Camber Sands – Back in May we visited Brighton Beach and while that was cool, a sandy beach will always beat a pebble beach. Fingers crossed we have one more heat wave before school starts in September and we will be down at Camber Sands in a jiffy.

Emirates Cable Cars – For the gorgeous views of London and the thrill of riding high up suspended in the air.

Of course this is a limited list…London and the surrounding counties have to much to offer. I’d love to hear what adventures you’re having this summer…

Brighton Beach 🌞

When you live in the UK, you take advantage of every sunny day you get! A couple of weeks ago we had some glorious weather so decided to head down to Brighton Beach one Sunday. I’ve been to Brighton once before – years ago and by train – I expected it to take about 90 minutes from North London (it took 2 ½ hours). I thought it would be crazy busy and parking would be a problem but it wasn’t too bad. Rather than drive around looking for a spot, we parked at the High Street car park (approx. £8 for up to 4 hours) and it was about a 5-7 minute walk down to the beach.
We walked along the pier taking in all the sights before ending up at Palm Court Restaurant for lunch. Beware of the sea gulls!! A lady made the mistake of leaving her food unattended for 10 seconds – before she knew it the hovering birds swept down and grabbed her fish and chips – ruthless! Although Palm Court is right in the heart of the pier, I can’t say I was totally impressed by it. My mum and I ordered the classic fish and chips. There was far too much batter on the fish and the chips were not hot or crispy. My dad had the vegetarian lasagne which was quite stodgy. The only saving grace was S’s kids meal which he seemed to enjoy (chicken nuggets, chips and beans). Our order also took quite a while to arrive (our neighbours ordered after us and were half way through their meal before ours arrived) and we had to ask for condiments at least 3 times. Apart from the fact that we got to sit in the glorious sunshine right on the pier, the meal wasn’t particularly memorable.

Walking along the pier you end up at a fun fair / arcade. Look out for the various height restrictions so you know what your kids can go on. We bought S an unlimited band – £10 for all the kiddie rides he could go on. We started with the carousel. As he is between 0.90 and 1.20 meters, I had to go on with him but I wasn’t charged. We went on the helter skelter together and again I wasn’t charged. That was my favourite as it sits right on the edge of the pier so glance down and around and all you see if the gorgeous blue sea. He then went on the tea cup ride, the mini transports ride, the inflatable slide and the trampolines. Next on his agenda was rock throwing on the beach. It’s funny how a lot of the times we’re trying to create fun experiences for our children when they are actually happiest doing the simple things. Brighton Beach is a pebble (read rock) beach. Not super comfortable to sit on but it provides the best rock throwing opportunities. S stood at the edge of the water seeing how far he could throw rocks for about 30 minutes. We finally got up, walked across to Starbucks for some coffee before we headed back home.

Although it was a great day out, I’m going to look for a nice sandy beach not far from London for the next time we have a bit of a heat wave…although living in the UK, I could be waiting all summer! 😉

Fun Facts! 👆

Chinese Culture & Expat Living

I’ve had many a conversation with people about the pros and cons of growing up in different cities, among different cultures. I was born in Liberia and went on to live in the UK, Nigeria, India, Ireland, Hong Kong and Taipei. I loved it and wouldn’t change it for anything. My experiences have exposed me to so many different cultures, people and ways of living.

One thing I have learnt is how important it is to be sensitive to the local way of life when you’re living there. What’s considered rude in one culture may be completely acceptable in another. Things we take for granted in the West are a complete novelty in the East. Having spent 5 1/2 years living between Hong Kong and Taipei, here’s a quick list of the do’s and don’ts in the Chinese culture.

  1. Gift giving – Handkerchiefs, clocks and white flowers all symbolise death or a parting…do not give these as gifts. In fact giving someone a clock as a gift is like wishing death upon them. No shoes as presents. I once bought a friend a pair of shoes she’d asked for and didn’t want to take the money from her. She insisted so it wouldn’t feel like a gift.
  2. Eating – When dining out in Asia, they prefer family style eating. Lots of dishes are ordered and everyone on the table shares them. If you’re hosting a dinner, you’re expected to insist your guests (especially the elderly) get served first. Chopsticks should never point towards anyone on the table.
  3. Shoes in the home  – Outdoor shoes are not worn in the home. In Taipei, it’s not uncommon to see shoe cupboards outside people’s front doors so the shoes don’t even cross the threshold.
  4. During Chinese New Year, the custom is to give “laisee” (red envelopes with money) to family, friends and members of staff. When giving Laisee, it should be an even number, a new/crisp note and nothing to do with the number 4 (which is considered unlucky). Number 8 is considered very lucky as it signifies infinity.
  5. Visiting friends/family – Never go empty handed to someone’s home. This is sort of a rule in my Indian culture as well. Of course it depends on your relationship with the person but you’d never go empty handed to someone’s home, especially if it’s your first time.
  6. Business – When handing over business cards, the chinese will *always* hand it over using two hands, often with a slight bow of their heads.
  7. Paying a bill – This is common in my culture as well. Arguing over who pays the bill. You see it a lot between friends at restaurants. However, between families, in the Chinese culture, the youth always pay. Where I come from, the elders usually pay.
  8. Weight – The Chinese (although I think it’s an all over Asian thing) have no qualms about telling you how much weight you’ve put on or how much weight you’ve lost. Every time I flew to Taipei, the cleaner there would make a comment about my weight. In one ear and out the other is the only way to handle this.

Have you come across any other cultural differences I’ve missed out? I’d love to hear your experiences while travelling/living abroad.

The Family Travel Show, Olympia Oct 31st – Nov 1st

If you’re busy the last weekend in October, cancel all plans because you don’t want to miss this! The Family Travel Show is coming to Olympia. It’s the UK’s first ever event, totally dedicated to Family Travel. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?!

Family holidays are the chance to create memories to cherish. Whether you’re holidaying with your kids or your parents, there is always so much to see and do. In the last year we’ve visited Cebu, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Morocco to name a few and I truly believe that every holiday has even taught S, who is still so young, so much. He comes back having seen so much more and done so much more than he usually would. People often comment that he won’t remember all these holidays. But the way I see it, it adds joy to his upbringing. He may not remember them all in years to come, but they would have played a small part in the person who grows up to be.

The Family Travel Show will give you the chance to get face-to-face with the best family holiday providers and specialist operators all under one roof, take advantage of exclusive show-only offers and competitions, gather impartial advice and inspiration, and of course quiz the experts on those all important questions.

Whether you’re looking to do some research on your next perfect family holiday or simply want to have a browse of all the amazing places you could visit, there’s all that and more at the Family Show.

I am giving 1 lucky person the chance to win a pair of tickets to the show! Just answer this simple question below:

Where is The Family Travel Show taking place??

Answers in the comments please. A winner will be picked at random on Monday 5th of October.

UK participants only.

*The tickets will be provided by The Family Travel Show

**Competition winner will receive their tickets ahead of the show

Ayubowan Sri Lanka

We’re quite lucky when it comes to travel. I’ve had lots of family destination weddings in the last year which have taken us to Goa, Manila, Cebu and more recently, Sri Lanka. My cousin Jaya got married at the beautiful Jet Wing Blue, located on the West Coast of Sri Lanka in Negombo. Only a 20 minute drive from the airport, it’s convenient and easy to get to. We arrived at 8pm so we missed the sunset but a friend had sent me a picture in anticipation of us arriving. What a sight…

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Jet Wing Blue falls under the Jet Wing umbrella which boasts numerous resorts around Sri Lanka. Although we were in the main Blue hotel, a few of the others were connected to ours and we had access to all their pools and of course the whole stretch of beach.

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The rooms were large and spacious and they each had a balcony attached. Ours overlooked the beach which was amazing!

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I loved the fact that they are concerned about the environment and have systems in place to reduce the wastage of water.

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Although I don’t have any pictures of their food, I can tell you it was amazing. For those with a more dulcet palate, beware! The food can be quite spicy. Ask your servers and avoid the extra’s that come with the local string hoppers and egg hoppers. They tend to be on the spicy side. The hotel also has a crèche/playroom so if you fancy a quick massage or a kids free dip in the ocean, you can leave your kids in safe hands here. We never used the crèche, however we did avail of the babysitting services of the crèche manager who was lovely.

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The people of Sri Lanka are very hospitable and always have a smile on their face as they wish you Ayubowan (welcome/hello in Singhalese). However, expect to ask for everything twice as their service often moves at a glacial pace!

The only criticism I have of the hotel, and it’s not really their fault, is the bugs. Given that it’s a completely open plan hotel (which is part of it’s beauty…you can literally see through it) and the back opens straight out onto the beach, there’s nothing really you can do to keep the bugs out. As long as your balcony door is shut, you don’t have to worry about any in your room. Take lots of insect repellent spray and you’ll be fine!

Although we stayed in the resort the whole time with just a day trip to Colombo, there is a lot to see and do in Sri Lanka.

Visit the Uda Walawe National Park which I’ve heard rival’s some of the safari’s in East Africa. With herds of Elephant, Buffalo, Leopards and Deer roaming free.

The Golden Temple in Dambulla with huge gold statues of Buddha is a beautiful and peaceful sanctuary.

If you love elephants (and who doesn’t love elephants), you must visit the Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary which is about 90km from Colombo, on the way to Kandy. Here you can watch the elephants as they bathe and play in the open waters.

Sri Lanka is famous for it’s Ceylon tea so if you have enough time and you fancy something a touch more luxurious then be sure to check out the famous tea trails.

Lastly, a trip to Kandy. Located in the central part of Sri Lanka and boasting some amazing resorts, a short trip to Kandy is a must. We didn’t get to see or do much while in Sri Lanka but I definitely think it needs to go on our bucket list of places to visit again.

Have you visited Sri Lanka? Is there anywhere else you’d recommend visiting?

Mummascribbles
The Little Life of Ickle Pickle

Mount Everest

I was watching an episode of Ben and Holly this morning, as you do as a mother of a toddler, when Ben, Holly, Nanny Plum, Mr. Elf and a few others got stuck at the top of a mountain. A few minutes later Mr. Elf proclaimed they were at the top of Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world. This made me a smile a little.

Since I was about 12 years old I’ve had an unexplainable obsession with Mt. Everest. I’ve read several books, done quite a bit of research and in 2007 my friend B and I went trekking to see her (Mt. Everest that is)!! I wish we’d done Base Camp but given that we were 2 girls on our own, we decided to go as far as Tengaboche (where you can find the world’s highest Monastery). To say it took my breath away is an understatement. The Himalayas have such a magnificent spiritual energy about them.

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As we were both already in India, we flew to Kathmandu via Delhi. On the 25th of February 2007, we headed to the local airport to fly to Lukla where we’d begin our 6 day trek. We arrived at the airport just before 7am and this is an excerpt from my diary at 12:40pm.

“We’re still at Kathmandu airport, I’m cold and hungry – my butt is numb and cold – I’m hungry, frustrated and tired. We’ve been here for 6 hours now. All other flights to Lukla have been cancelled. Sita Airways hasn’t yet but I wish they’d tel us either way so we can do something with our day. They took us out to the aeroplane at 10:30 but brought us back to the terminal 20 minutes later. There are loud announcements every 5 minutes of delays and cancellations so we can’t even fall asleep. Sushil (our guide) recommends trekking in Pokhara if we can’t get to Lukla. I don’t want to go to f***ing Pokhara, I came here to see Everest!”

It’s quite common for flights to be cancelled or delayed due to the fog and I guess with Lukla being the world’s most dangerous airport (in terms of landing) and flying on such small aircrafts, they have to be cautious.

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We finally left Kathmandu for the mountains on the 26th of February. We trekked from Lukla to Phakding along the Doodh Koshi (meaning milk river due to it’s white colour), up on to Namche Bazaar where we stayed to acclimatise for 2 nights.

“Coming here is like a dream come true, it’s not something I ever imagined I’d do – just one of those things I always thought I’d talk about. I feel great, I’m tired but I feel alive – like I’ve pushed myself further than I’ve been before and it feels surprisingly wonderful.” 

On the 1st of March we ascended to Tengaboche which lies on a ridge, 3868 metres above sea level.

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Day 1 – Lukla – Phakding 6km

Day 2 Phakding – Namche Bazaar 12km

Day 3 (Acclimatising) Namche Bazaar – Sangaboche – Khumjung – Namche Bazaar 7km

Day 4 Namche Bazaar – Tengaboche 11km

Day 5 Tengaboche – Namche Bazaar 11km

Day 6 Namche Bazaar – Lukla 18km

Highest Altitude – 3868 metres

Total Kilometres – approx. 65km.

We got back to Kathmandu on the 4th of March 2007. Do I regret not going to Base Camp? Yes! Will I attempt it again? I’d like to think so but with a 3 year old, it’s certainly not happening in the near future. So until then I’m living vicariously through Triphackr. I swear I’m not jealous at all!

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If you fancy indulging in your wild side, trekking the Himalayas is definitely something I’d recommend. You won’t regret it!

Pushchair dilemma….solved!

When you find out you’re pregnant, there are so many things that cross your mind. Will I have a boy or a girl? What should I name my baby? Which hospital should I have my baby at? In some cases, which country should I have my baby in? What pushchair should I buy? Will I used cloth diapers or disposable?

Funnily enough, after speaking to many friends, one of the toughest decisions is deciding on a pushchair. There are so many great ones out there at the moment. I always had a name I loved but when deciding on a pushchair, I spent countless hours researching, reading reviews, watching Youtube demos and visiting stores to see how each and every one worked. Quite honestly I drove myself mad and in the end I don’t even think I made the right choice!!

So to help you along a little, here are some tips on picking the right pushchair. For me, the three most important things were:

1. It had to face both ways as I wanted to be able to see S when I was pushing him along.

2. It needed to be lightweight.

3. I needed to be able to fold it easily.

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before deciding on a pushchair:

1. What sort of terrain will I be using it on?

2. How important is it for me to have a bassinet/carrycot with my pushchair?

3. Will I be on my own a lot or will there always be someone to help me with it?

4. Do I have a lift or will I need to be able to lift the pushchair up stairs?

5. Do I want it to be compatible with my car seat?

6. Do I want it to be able to convert into a double in the future?

7. Is it important to me that my baby is parent facing for the first few months?

8. Will I be travelling frequently?

9. How big is my car? Will the pushchair of my choice fit in my booth?

10. Do I want to be able to jog with it? Suspension then is very important.

Now you see how complicated it can get? I used to think maybe I am overthinking things but having spoken to a few mummy friends about it, I think the dilemma of finding the perfect pushchair is on all mama’s minds and funnily enough, I’ve read that a) most people make the wrong choice the first time round and b) the average number of pushchairs owned by a family is apparently 4!!

Here is a round up of some of the best pushchairs (in no particular order) and why:

1. Maclaren – The good ol’ Maclaren, almost every parent has one. Even if it wasn’t their first pushchair, it becomes one that they buy later on as their child grows and they want something lightweight or if they are travelling and want one that folds down umbrella style. The Quest and the Volo are the two popular lightweight choices, followed by the Techno XT and the Techno XLR. I always thought of Maclaren’s as only being forward facing and so a great option for when your child is 6 months+ and not before that (at least for me). Until I discovered the carrycot for the Techno XLR. This can be bought separately and it fits onto the seat of your pram, leaving your child parent facing. Suitable from birth, this pram most definitely grows with your child. Maclaren’s don’t break the bank and they are quite reliable as far as pushchairs go. The Techno XLR retails for approx. £230 but the carrycot needs to be bought separately. It comes with a rain cover, has an extended sun cover, a foot muff, a pram liner and comes in a variety of fab colours.

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2. Bugaboo – Bugaboo’s are relatively new to the pushchair market and now they are all the rage. Almost every second pram in a mall in London is a Bugaboo. The most popular being the Bee, given it’s urban chicness. It’s lightweight, easy to steer, grows with your child, is suitable from birth and comes in a range of colours. The seat can face both ways, the pram folds down quite compactly and can be done one handed. The Bee retails at approx. £500 and you’ll also need to buy the cocoon to make it suitable from birth. This retails for approx. £70. It comes in a variety of pretty colours and designers like Missoni and Andy Warhol have also teamed up with Bugaboo to come out with limited edition Bee’s. Other options are the Chameleon (if you’d like the carrycot option), the Donkey (if you’re having twins or would just like the option of more basket space) and the Buffalo (an all terrain pushchair).

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3. Baby Jogger City Mini – Funnily enough, in all my research, I never came across this one!! Go figure?! The BJCM is sturdy, easy to steer, super easy to fold (again, one handed) and good value for money. The only thing that would have put me off is the forward facing only position. But if you think that is something you can compromise on and you live in the city then this is the pushchair for you.

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4. Uppababy – A bit like the Bugaboo, the Uppababy range of pushchairs have become quite popular in recent years. When I was pregnant with S, the one I had my heart set on was the Vista. However, after much deliberation, I realised it would be quite big for Hong Kong and so changed my mind. If I lived in London at the time, I think I definitely would have gone for that. The Vista has won several awards since it came out a few years ago. It comes with a carry cot, 2 raincovers, 2 SPF 50 sunshades, 2 insect nets and Maxi Cosi car seat adaptors. All this retails for approx. £630 which is good value considering how much you’re getting. The carry cot mattress is good enough for your child to use as a stand alone bassinet at home as well as out and about. When S was a few months old, Uppababy came out with the CRUZ pushchair. It’s a compact stroller solution that doesn’t compromise on the features of it’s big brother the VISTA. It’s suitable from birth (with a carrycot), compatible with a Maxi Cosi car seat, has a great canopy for those sunny days and their USP is most definitely the size of their basket.

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5. Mama’s & Papa’s – M&P’s carry a huge range of pushchairs, I could go on forever if I had to go into each individual one. Essentially I found that many of their pushchairs were inspired by existing models in the market. The Mylo reminded me of the Stokke and the new Armadillo is very similar to the Bee. M&P’s thrive on great products at decent prices. I actually ended up buying a Sola, used it a few times before I realised I wouldn’t be able to manage it alone in Hong Kong without any help. Although the seat faces both ways, the pram only folds down with the seat forward facing which gets annoying very quickly. The sola retails for approx. £340 but look out for deals because M&P’s are always adding on their Aton car seat at a bargain.

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6. The BABYZEN Yoyo Stroller – Why oh why was this not available when S was born? The BABYZEN Yoyo was created by 5 French individuals who probably thought “Why on earth are we carrying our babies around in big, bulky, difficult to fold pushchairs?” It is a lightweight stroller that offers spectacular folding, a smooth ride and a sleek design. It is the perfect pushchair for city dwellers and frequent travellers. If I’m not mistaken, it is the only pushchair you can actually take on a flight with you because it closes down small enough to fit in the overhead compartment. Now that is small!!

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There are lots more pushchairs out there – Graco, Quinny, Icandy, Stokke, etc but I think the line needs to be drawn somewhere and above are my top choices.

For my readers who live in Hong Kong, the Combi is a great option. To be perfectly honest, I was never a fan initially but having lived in Hong Kong and realising how un-pram-friendly it is, the combi is super super lightweight, folds down one handed, steers easily and the new ones even face both ways. My only reservation would be the small (and somewhat un-sturdy) wheels but many Combi users reassure me that this isn’t an issue.

What pushchair do you use and are you happy with it?

Mums' Days

Virgin’s little secret

Before anyone starts getting too excited, this post is about Virgin Atlantic’s little secret and not anything else 😉

I’ve noticed on the HK mom forum I’m on, one of the most frequently asked questions is “Which is the best airline to fly with my baby/toddler?” The people of HK are lucky in that most UK based flights fly via HK to Australia and so they don’t just have to consider Cathay or Quantas but can also fly British Airways and Virgin from Hong Kong to Australia.

For the last five and a half years I have flown with Cathay Pacific and I have to say, they have been great. Their level of service, their offers and for the most part, their aircrafts, have been of a good standard. Then along came S. Cathay Pacific charge 10% of the highest fare in your class of travel for infants. Said infant does not even get a seat but rather a bassinet or your lap. They have no hand baggage allowance and only 10kg checked in luggage and you can either check in a stroller OR a car seat. Suddenly flying with an infant, Cathay doesn’t sound that appealing.

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In come Virgin Atlantic. Last week S and I flew from London to Lagos (Nigeria) to visit my brother. It’s a relatively short flight (6 hours) and there is no time difference between London and Lagos so jetlag isn’t an issue. When we booked our seats, the lovely lady at Virgin let us onto a little secret…seat plus!! So what is seat plus you ask? Staring from only £60, you can essentially buy the seat beside you. Virgin guarantee it will be free, making your journey in economy a lot more comfortable.

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Seat Plus was a lifesaver! The seat beside me was free so after take off I was able to lie S down and he could sleep comfortably for the duration of the flight. The second great thing about Virgin Atlantic is their baggage allowance. An infant gets 10kg hand baggage, a 23kg checked in bag and the option to check in a stroller AND a car seat. Also, you can buy up to 10 checked in bags for a fee on any route and an infants ticket is 10% of your ticket and not the full fare on that class.

The staff were pleasant and helpful and we enjoyed our journey with them. I’m still a Cathay fan but when travelling with an infant, Virgin gets my vote!

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What airline do you usually travel with?