A few weeks ago, I got a email from the lovely people at Travelodge, asking whether we'd like to review their Bournemouth hotel and explore the local area as part of the #Bloggerlodge campaign. After a pretty skint year, we couldn't afford a break at all this summer and jumped at the chance - so last Thursday we pcked our bags and headed off for two nights.
I'd been watching the weather forecast crossly for about a week before we left; originally there had been rows of little happy sunshines, all lined up together. But by the time the day before rolled around, they'd all been replaced by big black threatening-looking clouds, and the promise of thunderstorms and flash floods - and sure enough, when we arrived, it was absolutely hammering it down.
I huffed quietly for a bit until we found the Travelodge, and then huffed a bit more once we discovered we had to pay for parking (I always assume parking in these places is free and of course, we didn't have any change on us, doh.) The room itself was great, though - our bed was impressively large, there was everything we could need and it was so clean you probably could have eaten your dinner off of the carpet. It was quite late in the afternoon by the time we arrived, so we went out to dinner, then came straight back to the hotel and tucked the kids up in bed with a DVD, then went to bed ourselves.
The beds themselves were fine; the mattresses were firmer than I'm used to, but they obviously can't cater for everyone - the real problem was the stifling, smothering heat of the room. Despite there being a friendly little notice advising us to keep the curtains closed during the day so the room didn't heat up, the first thing I did when we got there was enthusiastically throw them open to see out - and then didn't remember to close them again afterwards. Which basically meant that despite having a fan blasting all night, it was a bit like being in the Sahara!*
When we woke up on Friday, it was still pouring with rain but the breakfast kind of made up for it; priced at £7 for adults (children eat free), it was an all-you-can-eat breakfast frenzy. Once you've paid, you can have what you like, and as much as you like; from memory there was toast with a variety of toppings, bacon, sausages, eggs, beans, tomatoes, yogurt, croissants, pastries, a huge variety of cereal, stewed fruit, fresh fruit, tea, several different kinds of coffee and two different juice flavours. At home, breakfast for me is usually half a cup of cold tea and twenty minutes of shouting, so this was a rare treat. Sitting down! Hot food! No rushing! No fighting!
As we're only forty minutes away, we've been to Bournemouth a few times before, so we already sort of knew what there was to do. The main attraction is obviously the beach and everything around it; there are a few museums, but nothing that would massively interest really young children, so we decided to hide from the rain at Tower Park just outside Poole. It's a massive complex with swimming, bowling, soft play, a cinema and a tonne of restaurants, so we passed the time here until the clouds started to lift. By about 2pm it had brightened up a bit, so we decided to go and explore the seafront for a while; with miles and miles of sand, fairground rides, amusements, telescopes for gazing out to sea and plenty of ice cream opportunities, it's definitely a good place to go if you're looking for a proper seaside holiday.
Saturday was check out day, but when we woke up it was gloriously sunny, so we decided to hang around for the day and go home later. Bournemouth in the sunshine is an entirely different experience; we had a great time meeting up with friends that live locally, running about on the beach, eating fish and chips and squeezing in as much ice cream as we could (because obviously, we don't have ice cream up the road in Portsmouth!). One thing we really enjoyed was taking a trip on the Land Train up to Boscombe Pier; the wind was blowing in our hair and the air had that lovely freshness it gets after days and days (and days) of rain.
I've always been a bit 'meh' about Travelodge Hotels; if we're going anywhere (which is rare!), I always try to support local and independent businesses. They often tend to be a bit more quirky and unique, which is just something I look for. (That, and a good breakfast!) That said, we really enjoyed our stay. and I think you get an awful lot for the price - it's definitely somewhere we'd think about staying again.
- Super helpful staff, who were really accommodating (the kiddos usually have warm milk at bedtime, and they were more than happy to heat some in a mug and give it to us to take up to the room.)
- Everywhere was really, really clean - even the lifts were spotless!
- Large beds and nice, crisp bedlinen
- A TV in the room with plenty of channels (helpful when you're trying to keep the kids quiet!)
- The breakfast, oh, the breakfast!
- The opportunity to have an evening meal in the cafe - the menu looked really impressive
- The parking was awful - it was an underground carpark, and was really difficult to navigate.
- The fact that you had to pay for parking, and it was done on an hourly basis rather than for the duration of your stay.
- You had to pay for WiFi - there's a complementary half an hour, but after that it's £3 for every 24-hours. It's not a great expense, it just seems a little outdated as most other places offer free WiFi (even my doctors surgery has free internet!).
Great Things to Do in Bournemouth
- If it's sunny, definitely head to the beach. There's absolutely loads to do, plenty of eating opportunities and the beach itself is 7 miles of golden blue-flag sands. It's also really flat, meaning it's great to keep an eye on the little ones - we usually go to West Witterings, which has loads of dunes and hills. Good for leaping and jumping, not so good for keeping track of multiple children!
- Take the land train up to Boscombe Pier. I was so glad we did this; we caught it up by Bournemouth pier, and it travelled along the seafront down to Boscombe, then back through the town centre and Boscombe Chine Gardens. If you're short on time, it's a really good way to see things you might otherwise miss.
- Explore the Winter Gardens; these are just across the road from the pier, and are full of plants, flowers, seating areas and little street food stalls. Although it would probably be better to go in early summer when the flowers are at their best, it was still a nice place to potter about in.
- Visit the Oceanarium. We didn't actually go inside, because we'd been to the Aquarium in Southsea the week before, but it looked really good. Rather than just sea creatures and fish, there are also otters and a new penguin exhibition, which makes a nice change!
- We didn't do much shopping, but there's LOADS of different opportunities in the area. If you're into food, Southbourne has got loads of cafes and delis, and the vintage quarter in Pokesdown has loads of quirky little shops for vintage lovers. There's also all the main high street shops, if you're looking for something a bit more mainstream.
Many thanks to Travelodge for collaborating on this post with me, and kindly providing us with a room for two nights.