Adventures in The New Forest at Sandyballs

August 10, 2020Alex Davison

I’m sure many of you will know that we have often been to Away Resorts holiday parks and always loved them, which is why when they got in contact with us about working with them on a gifted break that we just couldn’t turn it down and was super excited to work with them to show just how good Sandyballs is for a family break, but as we haven’t ever really done a gifted holiday we were a little worried about how people would react and whether people would enjoy the content BUT when we agreed to be able to giveaway a holiday at the end of our own trip, we really just couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be able to use our platform to give something back.

Day One

The car was packed and ready before lunchtime and we were due to set off around 1pm, as the check in time is from 3pm onwards at the moment, to ensure they remain covid secure by having extra time to clean the park and accommodations before any new arrivals. We set off on the road, with car snacks and with their little portable DVD players at the ready, to try and get all the way there without stopping and most importantly without the kids falling asleep, as we always know just how difficult it can be to get the kids to go to bed when in new surroundings and a danger nap could literally make this even harder. What the kids don’t know just yet, is that we have a plan to help tire them out before bed time this evening and that is 6pm indoor swimming session, the reason we haven’t told them about this yet is that the boy would be asking every five minutes ‘are we nearly at swimming, are we nearly at swimming’ for the whole drive.

The traffic was really kind to us and we managed to get to the New Forest in just under two hours, so the last part of the drive was really fun, as literally within a minute of being into the Forest, we had to stop to allow three wild pigs to cross the road which got the boy super excited and to be honest we were both quite shocked too, as we knew there were wild horses roaming but wasn’t expecting pigs too and we have been to the New Forest quite a few times, so this was a first for us. A little further down the road and we were stopped again, this time by a herd of cows and this was really funny, as they were literally walking beside us in the car, so of course we let the past and put all the windows down for a little chat as they went past. If the kids wasn’t excited already, they were now beside themselves and then the boys regular ‘are we there yet’ questions began, at a rate of about every 30 seconds or so and then we see the sign for Sandyballs and we all cheer, not sure why we do that but it has become a bit of a tradition of ours whenever we arrive at our destination when going away.

We pulled up outside the park and there was lots of signage to remain in your vehicles, as they were running a drive through check in experience to keep the traffic flowing and avoid any unnecessary contact with other people, as remaining covid secure was clearly on the top of their priority list. I have to say that this immediately gave us a positive of feeling of being safe and like the park was fully prepared to ensure that we have a fun experience, but at the same time giving a top priority to the safety of holidaymakers and their staff, who were all wearing appropriate face masks and visors. The check in was really swift and the entertainment team were being their usual bubbly selves, talking to the kids from a distance through the windows to ensure they were entertained and building that feeling of excitement for them even more of being on holiday.

Once we had to got to the accommodation, we parked directly outside in the designated bay, unloaded the car and then completely unpacked and filled the wardrobes, so we were literally set and ready to make this home for the next five days. By this time, we had about an hour to go before we could head to the indoor pool for our evening swim, so went to explore the park with Belle to stretch her legs and ensure she settled too. The park is a lovely place for Dogs as there is so much open space and walks, with a designated doggy exercise area too, so you really are spoilt for choice and will get into lots of conversations with other dogs owners while out and about which is lovely. Belle having now had a long walk, she settled in her bed and it was time to get into out swimming stuff and head to the indoor pool for our evening swim. The kids absolutely loved it and as they both have no fear, it’s really fun as they enjoyed jumping in together and managed to burn off a lot of energy. It was clear that our plan was working. On the way back from the pool, we went via the Aubrey’s onsite restaurant takeaway service and picked them up a Pizza and Chips to share.

Once back in to the accommodation we let the kids have their dinner, got the showered and ready for bed and for one of the first times ever when away, the kids went down to sleep without too many issues, which for day one in new surroundings doesn’t usually happen for us. We then spent the rest of the evening chilled on the sofa with Belle, as we knew we had an action-packed day planned for the morning. Rich is a planner and when away on holidays, he really does come into his own and plans the days down to the minute, but it does always mean we have so much fun and fit lots in. Away resorts have their own app, where you can see the park map, the entertainment guide and make bookings for any of the activities you want, which really does make it easy to plan your days in advance and Rich certainly took advantage of this, as he knew about a month before we left what we were going to be doing each day.

The Accommodation

We were lucky enough to be staying in the Indulgent Zen accommodation with a Hot Tub, which for us is always a winner, as it gives you some nice chill time to look forward too once you have got the kids to sleep. We always pack the video monitor, even though the kids don’t really need it anymore but there is something quite lovely about putting the monitor on the decking outside the caravan and seeing both your kids sleeping away, while you enjoy a nice relaxing hot tub in the middle of the new forest and just look up the stars.

The Zen itself is a two-bedroom accommodation with an+ open-plan living space which is fully equipped with sofa, dining table and a 55inch TV. Bedroom one is a double bedroom with an en-suite with a double shower and yes there are actually two separate shower heads in there and as romantic as that may sound, it was actually really useful for us as the kids showered together every day. The second bedroom has two single beds and a single bunk bed on top, so in total three singles and yes the kids did use all of them, well they slept in the two singles and used the top bunk a bit more of a fun den, as it even had its own little TV up there too. There is also a second shower room with toilet, which was right next to the second bedroom and could have sort of been considered a second en-suite. There is also a large decking around to the front, which for us dog owners was brilliant, as it was gated and meant Belle could go in and out and as much as she wanted through the bi-folding doors at either end of the caravan without the worry of her running off somewhere. The outside garden area consisted of a small table with 4 chairs and the of course the round hot tub.

Day Two

The day started with Rich taking Belle out for a nice walk and the kids just chilling watching some kids tv, before we headed for the first breakfast slot at Aubrey’s restaurant. Rich loves a full English breakfast and would probably have one every day if he could and after having his breakfast it was clearly a winner for him, as he made a point of saying that it would be good to have breakfast in there again on Friday before heading home, to make sure that we all had a good meal before leaving, but I know what he really meant was that he wanted another full English. The little bonus though that we were not expecting, was that we had paid a £5 deposit per person to book the table and when asking for the bill, we were very pleasantly surprised that they owed us money, as they are supporting the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme in August and we got the meal for half price which was an absolute bargain and really started the day off so well.

While eating our breakfast we saw the Alpaca’s arriving in their zone and the kids were starting to get all excited, as we were booked to take them out for their early morning walk. So, on leaving the restaurant we headed over to the Alpaca area and started to have a chat with one of the entertainment team, while the kids were petting and chatting to the Alpacas. We were then invited in along with three other families, to choose the Alpaca we wanted and the boy chose ‘Joey’ and he was great. The Alpacas are such calm animals, really interact so well with the kids and seem to really enjoy the walks and stopping along the way to eat from the bushes, graze on any grassy sections and search for as many acorns as they can on the way. The girly as usual showed no fear at all and was petting and stroking Joey as often as she possibly could and even took control of the lead for a short while too, just to feel like a big girl, with her brother watching over her at all times to make sure she was okay. The walk itself is around half an hour and was such a lovely way to get around the park, with a stop at good Friday hill for a selfie with the Alpacas too.

By the time we were done with the Alpacas and said our goodbyes today to them, it wasn’t going to be that long before we were booked in for swimming but this time in the outdoor pool, which was all very exciting for us as we haven’t ever used it before as we have only ever been here in the winter, as we like to come around Christmas and New Year time as it is always decorated so lovely and feels really magical. We head back to the Zen, where Belle has been having her own little chill and then we all headed out with Belle for a walk and find a brand-new adventure play park fully equipped with a zip line and everything. We didn’t stay for very long as we were going swimming and had the dog with us, but promised the kids that we would go back there tomorrow.

It was now time for swimming, so we got ourselves ready and it felt like we were abroad on holiday, as the weather was really lovely and on getting to the pool, we had a set of sun loungers and everything. We could have literally been anywhere in the world right now, but in fact we are on our own doorstep just over 100 miles down the road in the lovely New Forest. The pool was lovely and had a really shallow end for the kids, which meant they could both stand up and just splash around and play to their hearts content. The kids absolutely loved the outdoor pool, I think it was now going to be the pool of choice for them over the indoor pool as it was really geared up for kids. For the adults, the indoor pool does have a large jacuzzi and sauna normally in action, but due to the current covid situation they were out of bounds to ensure people maintained social distancing but something to consider for the future.

After swimming we headed back to the caravan for some food, as you are always hungry after swimming and the kids needed their lunch, although a little later than normal. The rest of the day consisted of me being booked in for the Nerf Challenge with the Boy late afternoon and then a relaxed evening, as we will all have burnt off so much energy, hopefully an early night for the kids and then a nice hot tub under the stars with a glass of bubbles. Lunch eaten and energy levels back up, the boy was super excited for the Nerf Challenge but I wasn’t really sure on what to expect. On arriving as the ‘battle zone’ it looked brilliant, I knew immediately that he was going to love it. There were target setup everywhere, large tyres around the course, nets everywhere and it basically looked like an army style training field for kids. He was beyond excited, which I can always tell as he starts to speak at a rate of about a thousand words a minute and he was immediately asking the entertainment guy question after question about what we were doing. The session last for around 40 minutes and was so interactive, with targets and point scoring being the main aim of the game, so of course my competitive nature then kicked in and it was me vs the boy, as you cannot just let them win all the time can you, although he was probably better than me with the Nerf equipment.

We both had a great time at the nerf challenge and the boy didn’t stop talking all the way back to the Zen, all about the targets that he hit and all about what he thinks we could setup in the garden at home and he couldn’t wait to get back and tell Rich all about how he beat me. Obviously, I let him win, well at least that is what I told Rich anyways. The boy was completely full of himself, you could just see in his face that he was having such a great time and was so excited when telling his Dad all about it. The girly had also had a lot of fun, as they had taken Belle out for a walk and discovered another play park, but this one was aimed much more at smaller children, so it sounded like she loved it. The rest of the day was far more chilled as we had been so busy all day and you could see that the kids were tired, so we had some dinner in the caravan and the bedtime routine went to plan. The girly actually fell asleep on the sofa, so we just transferred her to the bed and the boy went out like a light.

The kids being nicely asleep could only mean one thing, hot tub time! Like children ourselves, we rushed into the bedroom to get our swimming shorts on and sort of had a race to see who would be first in the hot tub and obviously Rich one, but he sort of cheated as he pretended he couldn’t find the monitor but the truth is that he had hidden it under my pillow knowing that he would then win. I didn’t mind though, as it meant I was then able to grab the bottle of Prosecco out of the fridge and pour myself a nice glass before then stepping outside for a nice dip in the hot tub.

Day Three

We didn’t really have many set plans for Wednesday as we thought after two full on days, we didn’t want the kids to peak so we thought to just let them lead the day. Long days and late nights are not a great match for young children we find and though at the time it’s all fun and games you can pay for it the next day. We always make sure the Wednesday is not as hectic so the kids can catch up and enjoy the rest of the holiday just as much.

The boy had remembered from yesterday that there was a zip line in the adventure playground and he really wanted to have a go on it. Perfect plan as the girly loves to climb so we knew this would keep them both happy and entertained. The play park itself is situated near the back of the park close to the new development area but only took about five minutes to walk there, the equipment is all made out of wood to keep in the theme of the New Forest. It was not long before we are both climbing about ourselves, getting a few odd looks but the kids love it when we are silly and join in and of course we had to have a go on the zip line too. One of the funniest moments happened in the park when all four of us were attempting the see saw, and watching the girlies face as she shoots down, to us it probably didn’t seem that scary but to her it was probably like being on ‘The Terror Tower’. There are a few play parks on site but this was the boy’s favourite and they are just at the perfect age where the girly can join in with a little help.

There was also a local playground to the park in Fordingbridge, which some our Instagram followers had told us to go to, it’s around five minutes’ drive and also has a river running through it, which is very shallow and lots of children were paddling in it fishing with their nets. I can imagine it’s the place to go for the locals as its all completely free and on a nice sunny day you could really make a day of it.

The Sandyballs park is surrounded by woods so Belle our dog had the time of her life as each walk was like a mini adventure, Belle is so important to us and we try and bring her to every break we can and Sandyballs is amazing for pet owners. They have dog stations around the park and the accommodation standard isn’t different at all, we have stayed some places where if you are bringing a dog this can make a big difference. You can even take your dogs into the onsite pub The Woodside Inn and there is an outside area in the Aubrey’s restaurant which allows dogs too, I suppose each owner needs to make that judgement as we know Belle would be up on the table trying to steal the kid’s food.

We are heading to Aubrey’s for dinner tonight and if the breakfast is anything to by, then the dinner is going to be lovely too and believe me when I say it didn’t let us down. The menu is quite Italian inspired with Pasta and Pizza being a large section, but they also had things like Cajun Burger and Fish and Chips, so you could really cater for anyone in here. I mean Rich was fine and loved his meal and we probably all know by now just how fussy he can be with food, as most families often have to be worried about the kids and what they will eat, whereas we are always thinking about the fussy Dad. The good news is that the park offers free WIFI and we certainly used it at times, especially during this dinner, as the kids have sort of got out of touch with what it is like to sit in restaurants due to the whole lockdown and we did that thing that some parents completely look down on and let them have the iPad to keep them entertained and not annoy any other diners. Thank goodness we were not the only ones with kids on screens during dinner, so we didn’t feel too bad but sometimes these things have got to be done and we cannot pretend that our kids are these always well behaved little angels, because every child has their moments and ours usually like to have them at the dinner table in restaurants.

During dinner, we decided that we would head out for an evening beach trip Southbourne Bay with Belle, so they could all have a good old run around, with the hope that they would fall asleep in the car on the drive back and then transfer into bed, so we could again have a nice relaxing evening in the hot tub. The first thing that really caught our eye when we arrived at the beach was the sheer vast amount of golden sand that seemed to stretch for miles, what a lovely place and the second was the amount of cruise ships that were just moored up a mile or so out at sea. It was lovely to be able to see them all so close together and realise again just how big they are, but it was quite sad to think that there must be thousands of them just doping nothing at the moment, so fingers crossed it won’t be too long and they will be back sailing. It was quite windy by the sea, so we took a brisk walk along, threw some stone, found some shells and had a little paddle before heading back. Our plan completely worked and both the boy and the girly were asleep within a few minutes on the drive back and transferred nicely, so we rounded off day three with another hot tub, but this time without any bubbles.

Day Four

We headed off the park this morning to a place that was recommended to us called Splashdown Water Park and I can honestly that this recommendation is a brilliant one, especially if you love big thrills on water flumes and have kids with no fear like we do. It’s probably not a place for the faint hearted, as there isn’t a big lazy swimming pool or anything, it is really full of slides and rapids and lots of them. It was a great morning indeed and was based in Poole which was only a half an hour drive through the lovely countryside. It has a large outdoor section too, so if you have the weather on your side then you could always have a chill outside on the sun loungers while other enjoy the fun and for the not so good weather, there is an indoor café where you can get food and drink too with WIFI available for free. The boy really did take on some huge water slides and I think we were more scared going on them than he was and as for the girly, well if we let her, she would have probably gone on the big ones too but for her she could play in the under 5’s area and was a complete pro on the slides in there. It was actually quite funny at time, as some parents we could hear saying to their own children “look, that little girl is going on, you will be fine” which was quite funny as she is so small and diddy on her feet but willing to take on anything bless her.

After nearly three hours of wet and wild fun, we headed back to the park as the characters we due to do a meet and greet covid style and so we really wanted to check this out, as we knew the kids would love it. We managed to get back just in time to go on a character hunt and we found them, Bear was out and in his own full covid visor which really was a lovely touch to help the children feel like all of the extra precautions were normal. We headed in to Bear’s onsite home, which was set up perfectly for selfie opportunities from a distance and both our kids and others that were there with their families were all clearly having a great time. I have to take my hat off to the entertainer, she really was great as being interactive with the kids and making them feel special, while clearly being very thoughtful about space and social distancing, well done Sophie who we feel deserves a special mention as the boy often asks lots of questions and she was brilliant with him.

After all of the fun of the day so far, it was quite late and we had sort of missed lunch time, although the kids had a half time snack at the waterpark this morning, we decided to have a late lunch and early dinner at the Woodside Inn Pub on site which we noticed had been completely redecorated since we have last been to Sandyballs and it was lovely in there. The menu is a classic traditional pub style menu, with its own kids’ menu so was perfect for us and set us up for the rest of the day. Having filled our tummies, the only thing that the boy really wanted to do that we hadn’t yet done was go for a bike ride, which is something Rich will love but not so much me, as I get nervous on bikes and always think I will end up falling off. Especially as it has been years since I have properly ridden a bike and to add to that, I will have to have one of the kids on the back too but we didn’t want to let him down and Rich went to make the arrangements with the onsite bike hire team.

We initially headed around the park on the bikes to get our bearings and get used to riding with the kids on the back and then we ventured out of the park and down the road into wilderness. It was such great fun and the Horses, Donkeys and Cows were all out in abundance which meant you could really get up close and see them just living their best lives in the wild. We had been told about an ice cream van that was a little way down the road, so decided to head there via some scenic views and by the time we made it we were all ready for an ice cream. It was literally such a hot day and the sun was blazing, so the ice creams were exactly what we needed. We were out on the bikes off and on for about three hours and had so much fun, the boy was loving his pull along extension to Rich’s bike as eh thought he was in control which he obviously wasn’t but we had a good laugh with him by letting him believe that he truly was driving.

It was our final night and we got the kids to bed and packed everything up, ironed our clothes for the morning and basically made sure that we would be ready to check out on time, allowing for us to fit in a dog walk for Belle and a farewell breakfast at Aubrey’s to round off a lovely holiday and headed to bed for an early night ourselves.

Day Five

We were packed up nice and early, Rich took Belle for a bit of a longer dog walk, as we knew we had the drive home and we headed for breakfast. It was a lovely way to finish the holiday and were all talking about how much fun have had and then the boy comes out with “can we just stay here for 50 more months” which was really funny, as he clearly doesn’t know how long that actually is but I think he knew it was a long time and just showed how much he had enjoyed himself.

The checkout time is currently a strict 10am, to allow enough time for the park staff to be able to properly clean everything ready for the next set of holidaymakers and maintain the very high standards and feeling of being completely covid secure, which we really didn’t mind at all, as that feeling of everything being clean, a very well working one way system and staff with masks on really did make you feel that extra bit comfortable and just allowed you to worry about enjoying yourself. The checkout was also a completely contactless process, with the keys just needing to be put into a dropbox at the exit and that was it, we were off on our way home.

Thank you so much to Away Resorts Holidays for inviting us and to all the amazing staff at Sandyballs for making it so memorable, we really do appreciate the opportunity and we hope that you all enjoyed seeing what we got up to while we were there too. If you are considering heading to Sandyballs then why not take advantage of a 10% discount by using our code TWODADS10 if you book a Sandyballs holiday for either this year or next year, by the 31st August 2020.

Finally, to give yourself a chance of winning a 4-night holiday to Sandyballs then head over to our Instagram page and enter the competition that will be closing on Sunday 16th August at 5pm with the winner announced on our Instagram stories just after 5pm.

To book your own away resorts holiday click here and remember for Sandyballs breaks it TWODADS10 for 10% OFF

To enter the Sandyballs holiday giveaway then click here and remember it closes at 5pm on Sunday 16th August 2020 when the winner will be announced on our Instagram stories

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE

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