Staycation or Vacation?

When you have 6 weeks annual leave a year, it’s impossible to always use it to go away.

This year the travel pot is a bit depleted so we had to carefully think how we could recharge our batteries without breaking the bank.

Our first break in 6 months was as you know a little cottage on the Isle of Skye. It was out of school holidays so was cheap as chips. We also took the dogs which saves a fortune in kennel fees. They can sometimes be more expensive than our own holiday!

Whilst this holiday was cheap, I have to say It was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had! I felt so relaxed the minute we arrived! Yes it was basic and self catering, but somehow it felt magical!  The cottage was in a really quiet location with amazing views.   Everyday there was something new to explore.  Hubby and I would be up early and out to make the most of the day.

We both love photography so took many pictures.  In the evening we would down load both cameras onto the laptop and talk about the day we have just had.  It was lovely sitting planning the next days route over a glass of wine.

This holiday certainly proved you don’t have to spend much money to have a great time.

I was then fortunate to win a trip to Italy to see where Slimline Wine was made. It was only for a few days but the scenery, food and of course Slimline Wine were amazing !  The company laid on everything for us.  We visited the factory and vineyards, as well as having time to relax around the hotel pool.  Thanks to the generosity of Slimline Wine, we only had to pay for the dogs to go into kennels so another cheap break away!

Last week we had a week off work but opted to have a staycation! Getting away from work is always nice, but I’m not good at doing nothing ! When you are at home everyday blends into the next .

When we were in Scotland there were so many new things to see and do. You don’t want to lie in, you want to be up and out to make the most of the day.

When you are at home there is nothing to rush around for. There is also the housework, food shopping, jobs round house that need doing ! You just can’t leave it .

It’s weird,staying self catering somewhere away from home doesn’t feel the same! Yes you still have to cook and clean but it’s not a chore then . I can’t tell you why!

For me I like to use my leave to do things.  Even though I’m at home, I like to think the break has been worthwhile.  Going on long walks and exploring new things.  When your at home, we seem to struggle to do that.  My stepdaughter was with us too last week.  Anyone with teenagers will know that they are not great at getting up early in the mornings, so our days started quite late.   Then it was what to do?

When you live somewhere you tend to go round with your eyes closed.  You struggle to think what you can do or where you can go?  We did manage a trip to the cinema on one day and a lovely walk in the Cotswolds another day.  It certainly wasn’t the tourist packed days of our trip to Scotland.

As Sunday came closer, I considered the return to work the next day.  When I came back from Scotland I was so relaxed, even though we had done so much.    After our staycation, I didn’t feel like that at all.   I felt like my usual weekend had just been extended.

So am I a fan of staycations?  Certainly not.  I know that you can’t always go away when you are off, and everyone needs time away from work to unwind.  For me though getting out and exploring new things is my way of doing that.  That is why, when I do get the chance to go away I appreciate it a million times more!  I never take anything for granted.  I don’t need expensive holidays to have fun.  I just need good company.

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Is it time to open the bubbly ?

How many of you wait for a special occasion to pop open that special bottle of bubbly ?

Champagne has always been thought of as the go to drink when you have something to celebrate! The more you spend on the bottle, the more it seems you have to celebrate !

Champagne varies hugely in cost and taste, starting at around £14 for a supermarket h,ome brand to £48 for your Bollinger!

We all know though that the price tag doesn’t always reflect the taste!

Some of us like it sweet and some like it dry! At £48 that’s a lot of money to spend on something you later realise you don’t like !

Price also means that you may hold back on celebrations. I mean what counts as a big celebration?

What if you could find a champagne that was excellent value for money and tasted amazing?   Well you can !   Ok it won’t be called champagne, but as you know the name is the region, not the quality or taste!

Slimline wine now have 2 sparkling wines,  that will give any bottle of champagne a run for its money at a fraction of the price !

All the Slimline wines are produced in Calamandrana in the Piedmont region of Italy and therefore can’t carry the Champagne name! But wants in a name ? You don’t buy a car without checking under the bonnet!

So if you are considering a celebration,  before you go running to the champagne, consider these two options:

Slimline White Sparkling

Made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio, this sparkling wine is equal and better than any champagne I have tasted

Pink Sparkling

If you like a sweeter taste this is your baby ! Made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio and Barbera it’s fruitier that the white . It’s like no other pink champagne on the market !

The best bit!

Both wines are gluten free, sugar free, carb free, suitable for vegans, and due to the reduced sulphur doesn’t give you a hangover ! I can certainly vouch for that!

The whole bottle is only 410 calories so perfect if you are watching your weight!

Less than 2 weeks ago, I was one of the lucky people given the opportunity to see where and how these wines were made.  I also tasted a lot of bottles (for research purposes of course!).    Both bottles are equally as good, but for me the new white is the new Bollinger!  I am no longer going to be spending almost £50 for a celebration!  Its Slimline sparkling all the way!

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What’s more, because of the price, I don’t have to wait for a really big celebration to share it with family and friends.  In fact every weekend is now a celebration!

Both are currently on offer for £9.99 a bottle. It’s currently only available on-line but if you buy 6 bottles , use SLIM offer code and get free delivery !

Why not give yourself more reasons to celebrate! At this price you can pop that cork more often!

Summer is here, the BBQ’s will be coming out.  You will be having garden parties, birthday, weddings, christenings, or just because events.  Make sure Slimline sparkling is a feature of them.  It will make your event go off with a sparkle!

It is also very versatile for cocktails.  Visit them on Facebook to see some of the many suggestions.

You won’t be disappointed!

Check out https://www.slimlinewine.com

Slimline also do a cracking White and Red which I highly recommend.

My trip to the birthplace of Slimline Wine in Italy

We all know the expression – do you remember where you were when President Kennedy was shot?  Well I certainly remember where I was when I heard I was one of the lucky few invited by Slimline Wine, to see where and how their amazing wine was produced!   The date was 5 March 2018 in the Novotel Hotel in Leeds!

A few weeks before, Slimline had announced 5 lucky winners who were going to be taken on a trip of a lifetime to Italy.  I waited in anticipation as the names were called out!  I was away with work in Darlington, so was sat on my bed praying it would be me!  As the names came out one by one, Stu, Jac, Gaynor, Lisa and Sue, my heart sank.  I was pleased for the winners but disappointed for me.

I still loved the wine and believed in the company, so continued to follow and support them.

They had now started doing a cooking show live of Facebook with Chef Andy.  I loved this as it paired the wine up with some amazing meals.  I would set my alarm on my phone each week to make sure I tuned in.

I was away with work again on 5 March.  The Wi-Fi in my room was breaking up, so I was having difficulty in getting to watch that weeks cooking show properly.  Eventually I managed to watch it back on catch up.  To my complete surprise and joy, Miriam announced live that they wanted me to go too.    If I said I was excited I would be underestimating how I felt!

A group chat was set up with all the winners, and over the next few weeks we would message each other daily.  We were a group of strangers with one important thing in common.  We all loved Slimline Wine!

We were all given the option to bring along a plus 1 on the trip.  Sadly 1 of the group couldn’t make it.  Another winner, Julia, though was added to the happy band of Slimline friends.

If you want to know more about the wine, check out my previous blog ‘Slimline Wine – So what is the fuss really all about!’  (https://bit.ly/2IfbP0A)

The Trip

On Friday 15 June 2018 11 complete strangers met at Gatwick Airport along with 2 of Slimline Wines staff – Matthew Tanner and Simon Palmer.  The only thing in common was the wine.  We could absolutely hate each other or become lifelong friends!

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Matthew Tanner & Simon Palmer

One by one we arrived and introduced ourselves to each other.  Straight away there was an ease about us all.  It was like we had known each other for years!

We had time in the airport so took the opportunity of visiting the shops, before having a drink in the bar together.

We all boarded our 1 hour 45 minute flight, and travelled the 546 miles to Turin Airport.  There, we boarded a large minibus and embarked on the 1 hour 30 minute drive to our Hotel in Calamandrana – the home of Slimline Wine.

Our hotel – Le Corte was absolutely beautiful.  An old farm house, it oozed rustic charm.  As I stepped off the bus, the views took my breath away!    We walked into the courtyard to be greeted by a voice in the distance, inviting us to drop our bags off and to have a drink!  None of us needed asking twice!  The voice was from the one and only Paul Anthony Gidley.  The man on the back of the bottle!   The man who started the company and after a conversation with his partner Miriam, came up with the idea of a wine with lower calories.

Paul & Dan

We were greeted by Sam the waiter serving us a Slim Aperol Spritz.  I’d never tried this before, but I will certainly be having it again.  It’s a mix of Aperol, Slim white fizz and sparkling water.  Perfect for a hot Italian evening and so much better than Pimms.  This is the new summer drink!

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Aperol

This was our first chance to really sit down together as a group and get to know each other.  More Slim followed until it was time to check into our rooms and change ready for dinner at 8 pm.

Our room was 204, the junior suite.  It was absolutely stunning, with amazing views.


Dinner was a set menu, with of course Slimline Wine.  The restaurant had, just like the whole of the hotel, dramatic views.  We watched the sun set over the vineyards whilst sipping our Slimline Wine.  The food was really tasty and plenty of it!

The staff at the hotel were so friendly.  It was like everyone was part of the family.

It was a perfect first evening, and by the end of the night (ok early hours of the morning!), we were all truly good friends!

Day 1

Considering it was a late night, we were all up early the next morning ready to start our tour of Slimline.  Well ok, all except one of the group, who had forgotten to move her clock forward!

The first stop was the factory where the wine is made and bottled, in Calamandrana.  There we met the other important man behind Slimline Wine, Dan Cusmano.  (Photo above).  Dan gave us a tour of the factory explaining how it was made, from the moment it leaves the vines, to when it is bottled.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some videos of our tour on my Youtube channel so make sure you subscribe to it, so you don’t miss them!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtOMdWgPgwbfW8MvZonlVbw

What was evident was the passion both Dan and Paul had for their product.  They had spent many months making sure they had the perfect grape, the perfect combination and conditions, to give us what we have today.

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If any of you have tried the white fizz, you may have experienced problems getting some of the corks out!  This was a great opportunity for me to ask Dan about this.  He explained that in the early days, the focus was on creating the perfect wine.  The cork wasn’t one of the main priorities.  On learning our difficulties, they realised they needed to fix this, so new corks were produced.  The new ones come out a lot easier!

The next stop was one of the vineyards.  As you walk through the straight lines of vines, you can feel the love that has gone into planting them and making sure they grow into the perfect grape.

The grapes won’t be ready for picking until September.  We were invited to go back to help with this.  I’d love to do this, however as I already have a holiday booked at this time, I sadly may have to decline this offer!

Lunch was at a beautiful family run restaurant in Loazzolo.  The views from this place were amazing, as was the food.   The lunch consisted of 5 courses!   We weren’t expecting that much initially, so filled up on the bread!  Big mistake!  It was absolutely delicious.  No Slimline wine was served, but we did get to try some other white and red wines of the region.  Equally as good however with more calories!

After 5 courses, a walk was required, so we did a visit to a lovely town called Acqui Terme.  In the square there was a fountain where natural hot spring water flowed.

It was then time to return to our hotel for quick dip in the pool before dinner!

Tonight’s dinner was being held at the home of Dan’s father Raymundo.  His villa was just above the hotel.  When I thought our views couldn’t be improved on, Raymundo’s balcony blew me away!

Raymundo personally cooked us a variety of meats and breads on his BBQ, served with fresh salads from his own garden.  It was such a lovely gesture.  We were so relaxed and had a great time.  This was all washed down with Slimline wine and some great company!

We returned to our hotel to have a nightcap or 2, of more Slimline Wine!

Day 3

Today was a going to be a little bit more relaxing!

After breakfast, we had a quick wander into the village of Calamandrana before heading off to Canelli.  Here, we went on a tour of the wine cellars of Bosco who produce Asti Spumante.  At the end of the tour, we got to try 3 of their products.  I have to say, whilst I loved the tour, the wines are not a patch on Slimlines!

We then retired to a lovely bar in the square waiting for a classical concert to start.  Sadly, by the time our transport back arrived, the concert hadn’t started!

On our return to the hotel, we headed to the pool.  Whilst the boys had a dip, the girls relaxed and enjoyed more slimline wine.  A lovely table of cheeses, hams and breads was laid on for us, with yes you guessed it, more Slimline wine.

Day 4

This should have been our last day!  Today we headed back to Turin Airport for our return flight home!

Unfortunately, due to an accident on  route, we were held up in traffic and so we missed our flight home!  Were we cross?  No!  We had had such an amazing time, we were all good friends, it was no-ones fault, so we did the only thing we could do!  We worked together to make arrangements for alternative flights home.

This ended up being another trip to an airport hotel in Milan, with a flight booked for the next day!

That evening, we enjoyed a drink in the hotel bar, before heading off to a local restaurant.  It was a lovely evening.

Day 5

We all said our goodbyes and headed home.

Thank you Slimline Wine

We had the most amazing time thanks to everyone at Slimline Wine.  We wanted for nothing during our time there.

Paul, Matthew and Simon were the perfect hosts.   Slimline Wine was as amazing as ever, and now I know what has gone into making it, I will be enjoying it even more!

If you haven’t tried it yet, please do!  Its only online at the moment, but will be coming to a Tesco store near you, very soon.

We drank a lot of the wine while we were there!   I can promise you, I never woke up with a hangover once!  The reduced sulphur is an added bonus!

Follow them on Facebook.  You never know when they will be having another competition like this one.  It really isn’t something you want to miss.

When I started drinking Slimline Wine, I never realised how it would change my life!  I can now drink wine that doesn’t give me a hangover, is less calories and has helped me make friends with a great group of people!

What is not to like!

What does the future hold?

Slimline is going to keep growing.  With smaller bottles planned already, you know there is more to come.  Seriously, this is a company to keep a watch out for!

Get clicking on their Facebook page, and be one of the first to find out their new products and deals!

Hot off the press

On Sunday 24 June they are offering our first opportunity to buy their vintage fizz for £9.99 a bottle, with free delivery on 6 bottles ! Having the pleasure of being one of the first to try this in Italy, I would highly recommend it !

Get yours while stocks last ! Much better and cheaper than any champagne you will buy !

Top tips when planning a trip to the Isle of Skye

Are you planning a trip to this beautiful island?  Well if you are, you have made an amazing choice.  I cannot recommend the Island enough!

To help you enjoy your experience even more, here are a few top tips!

What to take with you?

Food and Drink

Are you self catering?   If you are, don’t expect to get to the Island and find lots of supermarkets.  We were there for a whole week, and the only supermarket we found was a Co-op, just as you come across the bridge.  Now for a small island that doesn’t sound bad, however there are a couple of things to consider here.

Firstly, choice.  From our point of view, when we went in there, it isn’t massive, its  a reasonable size, but I couldn’t see a lot of the things we would have liked to have bought.

Second, its location.  For us, it was 90 minutes away from where we were staying!

There is the odd shop across the island but they are small.  Also, if you are like us and going for the walking, there were days when we actually didn’t pass any shops.  When we wanted some fresh bread for instance, we had to go in the opposite direction to find somewhere to buy it.

I did try to get Tesco to do a delivery as I usually do when I go away in the UK, but unfortunately, they said as it was a commercial property they couldn’t deliver there.  We did see a lot of Asda vans around the island, so you could try asking them.  I will certainly be doing that next time.

There was a bakery in the next village, Dunvegan.  It is apparently, the oldest one on the island.  Sadly when we went there, it was either closed due to a family funeral, or had closed as sold out for the day!

Thankfully, a friend had warned me about the shop situation before we went, so we did take everything we needed.  We had a good sized fridge and freezer in our cottage, so apart from fresh bread mid week, we were fine.

Please don’t be put off by this, for me it is one of the things that makes the island so relaxing and beautiful.

Midge Repellent Spray

From the end of May to September, you are going to be bitten to death by the midges.  Especially early evening.  Make sure you go prepared.  You will see the locals wearing nets over their faces if they are outdoors.  You don’t need to go that far.  Take some repellent spray with you.  I bought Jungle Formula Maximum from Amazon which worked perfectly well!  (https://amzn.to/2JMjl6R)

Guide Books

Skye has so much to see and do that you really want to make the most of your trip.  Get yourself a couple of good books.  A walking book and a guide book.  It will ensure you maximise the time you have there.

A lot of what we saw or did on the island were not signposted, so without the books, we would never had known about them.

The books we used were The Isle of Skye by Charles Tait (https://amzn.to/2JMjl6R) and Walks Isle of Skye (https://amzn.to/2JJSxkx).  Both from Amazon

Each evening we would sit down and plan the next day.  It really helped us see the beauty of the island.

Walking Shoes

That might sound really obvious but you might be surprised to know, I actually saw a man trying to walk up the Old Man of Storr in sliders (flip flops!).

I’m going to make my own confession here too!  No I didn’t wear flip flogs, but I did wear my trainers!  You may think that sounds ok, but I struggled on some of the steep paths because I didn’t have great grip in them.  I was so cross as I had proper walking shoes in my car!

If you have ever worn proper walking shoes, you will know the difference they make.  You can buy some quite cheaply these days, if you just want them for this trip. You won’t regret it.  I walked over 110,000 steps in 7 days which included driving 1770 miles!

Drive Carefully

Skye is only small and very rural.  There is a couple of double lane roads, but most will be single lane.  There are a lot of passing places, but drive carefully as there are some tight bends, which reduces viability to see what is coming in the opposite direction.  I was initially a bit nervous about this, but you soon get into it.  Everyone is so polite and there are no problems getting around. It just take a bit longer!

You will also note that the quality of the roads is really poor, with lots of pot holes, so beware!

Sheep wander freely too.  They don’t seem to mind the traffic, but they don’t seem to mind where they lay either.  This could be in the middle of the road!  They do move but just take it slowly.  When we were there, they had their lambs with them.  Even these youngsters seem to realise they need to move out of the way of cars.

Look after your dogs!

As there are a lot of sheep about, dogs can get ticks!

People can catch Lyme disease from ticks, just as dogs can. Lyme disease is serious, so if you walk your dog in areas with deer or sheep, make sure you take precautions to avoid them and you being bitten.   Make sure your dogs are treated for ticks and remove them as soon as you can.  Lola and Fido both got them.

You can buy treatment from your vets or Amazon (https://amzn.to/2MmhTGH).  It is best to apply if before you go, but even if you apply it as soon as you get home it will still help.

Bob Martin Flea & Tick Clear Fipronil Spot-on for Large Dog, 3 TubesImage result for sheep ticks in dogs

Symptoms of Lyme disease include a circular rash, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue.

Fuel

As with supermarkets, there are not many petrol stations on the island that we saw.  Again, if you are not going via any of the bigger villages, you won’t pass these.   The rule we had was to fill up as soon as we passed one, when the tank got to half full!

Petrol prices on the island are in line with the mainland, so don’t worry that the lack of them will make it expensive!

Toilets

One of the things that makes Skye so beautiful is that it is unspoilt!  This means that they have not ruined any of the main sights with toilet blocks too!  If like me, you have a weak bladder, be warned!

My advice is to make sure that if you do see a toilet you use it!  Alternatively look for great spots in the bushes!  There isn’t many opportunities, so when you see them, take them!

Enjoy Skye

Don’t be put off by anything above.  It was one of the most magical places I have ever visited.  I’m currently vlogging on YouTube my trip to try and show people, why it has to be one of the places you visit.  Check out my journey as I publish them by subscribing to my channel.  (https://bit.ly/2MnaWFe).

If you like seafood too, don’t miss the Oyster Shed!  The best seafood platter ever!  It is literally a shed, but well worth it!  Head to Talisker whiskey distillery and you will see sign posts for it!

So get onto the internet and start booking your trip to Skye!

Travelling in a car with your dog

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It’s true that a dog is a mans best friend (and women!).  My two definitely are for me. It is therefore really important to me that I ensure they are safe, and well looked after at all times.   Taking them out in the car is no exception.

We all ensure our dogs are on leads when we take them out, have food and water at home, and go on regular walks, but what happens when we take them out in our cars?  Whether its a short or long journey we should still ensure they are well looked after.

The legal bit!

Did you know that if your dog isn’t secured in the car you could face a fine of up to £2,500, as well a getting 9 points on your licence?  Well you can.  Rule 57 of the Highway Code states: ‘When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly.’  A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.

If it is felt the dog caused or contributed to an accident, you car insurance can also refuse to pay out.

How to make travelling with your dog easier and safer?

Firstly, take them for good walk before you start their journey.  Make sure they have been to the toilet.  Which reminds me, keep plenty of poo bags in your car too!

Don’t have your dog on your lap or loose on the passenger seat.  You may think your dog is well behaved, but what if something distracts them?  What about if you have to do an emergency stop?  You could cause them significant injury or death as well as to yourself.

I have 2 dogs.  If I am going a short journey then they are both happy to be in the boot.  Fido is happy to lie down and just chill, but Lola likes to see what is going on around her.  She will spend the journey looking over the back seat or out of the window.  Whilst she is in the boot she is safe and can’t distract us.   If I break the back of the boot will stop her going too far.

For longer journeys though, I put Fido in the boot and Lola on the back seat.  To comply with the law and to make sure she and us are safe I use a dog seat belt.

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These are relatively cheap to buy.  This is mine and only cost £4.95 from Amazon.  If using one of these, I would suggest you use it with a harness as it allows the dog to turn around more easily.  You attach the lead part to the harness which is usually in the centre of the back.  If you have to break the harness will give greater support.  Putting it on the collar not only restricts the dogs movement, there is more likely hood of them becoming tangled, which will distract you as they will no doubt get distressed.  I also feel it would damage their necks if I braked heavily so don’t like the idea.

By separating the two dogs, I feel helps them to be more comfortable.  Fido just wants to lie down and sleep, which makes the boot perfect, and Lola likes to be nosy, so can look out of the windows.

Some owners like to use crates.  This is also a good way of transporting your dogs, but please make sure they can stand up and move around in it.  They also should be able to see out so they don’t feel frightened.

I always cover my back seat with a travel rug, with the underside upwards.  This way the dog hair won’t stick to it, and I can use it if we want to have a picnic to lie on.  I then cover this with a towel or blanket for more comfort for the dogs.

As with us, dogs need food and drink.  I would suggest you don’t feed them for a couple of hours before the journey, especially if they get travel sick.  Thankfully both my dogs are fine, but my previous dog was terrible.  He loved the car, it just didn’t love him.  The vets gave me some great tablets that prevented travel sickness.  They are not cheap, but worth it for my dogs happiness.

I always make sure I have plenty of water in the car.  Stop regularly to give them the opportunity to stretch their legs, just like you will need to.  You don’t need any fancy water bottles, old squash bottles will do just the job.  I do have travel bowls though.  They fold up nicely in the car when not in use, but I can also put them into my bag if we go walking.

Dog bowl

Again you can get these quite cheaply from Amazon for around £5.00.  If you don’t want to buy one, an old takeaway pot works just as well.

Take a small pot of food with you.  Just a little treat to keep them going will help them.  There is nothing worse than your dog starving when you are sat in the front munching on your travel snacks.  Just limit it to avoid car sickness!

Never leave a dog in the car.  Many people think that if they park in the shade or leave a window open, then it’s ok to leave the dog.  It is absolutely not.  The car can warm up faster than you think.  A dog can die in the car in less than 20 minutes.  If you wouldn’t leave a child in the car why would you think its ok to leave your dog?

If you need to pop somewhere such as the toilets at a service station, and you are on your own, securely tie it up outside, in the shade!  Maybe ask someone to keep an eye on them for you.  Pop a bowl of water down for them too.  If you can, take them with you.  I have taken my dog into a public toilet with me before now.

It’s always good to plan your journey in advance if you are taking your dogs.  Find places on the map you can stop safely.   Is there somewhere you can walk them?

Keep cleaning clothes and black bags in the car too!  Your dog might not have shown signs of car sickness before but you never know!  On one journey one of my dogs got a little sick.   I was able to pull into a parking spot, clean her bed up and put her bedding into the black bag, tie it up so it didn’t smell the car out for the rest of the journey!

Dogs are such a joy to have around.  Don’t be afraid to take them away with you or for days out, but as you do with young children, plan what you need to take.    This can make your life and theirs more enjoyable and relaxing.