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STAYCATION: A weekend in beautiful North Wales on a budget with a baby

By Sarah Kowalyszyn – 5th July 2021
staycation north wales pwllheli beach hafan y mor

As soon as the government announced that we’d be able to staycation in self-contained accommodation from the 12th April, I was on it like a car bonnet.
I wanted to make sure we’d be away for at least a couple of nights by the end of that proposed week, but there were a few things we had to bear in mind:
1. Evie was a 6 month old baby, it was her first time going away and she may have hated it
2. We could only go away between Archie’s school days
3. The back of our car now has a lot less space with 2 kids and a pram
4. I’m currently receiving maternity pay, so our budget was very low

It ended up being one of the best weekends we’d ever had, with the best weather we could have asked for! Here’s how we did it:

The booking

I had an idea of where I wanted a staycation already – I love North Wales and spent a lot of time there growing up, so I love the idea of my children enjoying it there too.
Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea, so the caravans I had my eye on were gone in a flash. But I did manage to find something just right; a little apartment in the Hafan Y Mor holiday park in Pwllheli, which was £69 for 3 nights (Friday to Monday) from the 16th – 19th April. Well within budget and a place that we knew was baby friendly
We couldn’t set off until after school on the Friday, and had to leave on Sunday evening instead of Monday morning, but we didn’t mind that for such a low price. We were desperate to get away and just needed a place to sleep, eat, dump our things and escape the rain if needed.
NOTE: We went while Wales was still in mostly in lockdown, so indoor entertainment and hospitality were still closed aside from takeaways. However this wasn’t an issue as we were on a tight budget, so were planning to visit outdoor attractions and eat in our accommodation anyway.

The luggage issue

This was less of an issue than we anticipated but only because we took the bare minimum. We have roof bars and a roof bag for our car which took the bulk of our luggage as our boot was full of pram. We took our dismantled IKEA Antilop highchair to avoid the hire fee, enough toys and a tablet to keep the kids entertained, minimal toiletries and just enough clothes for rain and shine.

We brought some essential food in our electric cooler box, but it turned out we didn’t need to bother! Read on to find our more.

Day 1: Arriving in North Wales

The journey:
From South Manchester to Hafan Y Mor it’s around 2.5hrs via car. Easy without kids, but with a baby who needs breaks from the car seat and a 5 year old who announces he needs to wee when he’s ready to burst, we needed to think ahead a little more.
We couldn’t set off until Archie had finished school, so once everything was packed we picked him up (which, as usual, was to the wire) and headed straight to North Wales. If you can avoid doing this, then please do, as it wasn’t ideal to be honest! We hit a lot of traffic when we got to Canaerfon, which is when Evie woke up and decided to scream for the rest of the journey. Lovely.
We stopped about 2/3 of the way there for a toilet break and to give Evie a stretch and a feed, then carried on without stopping. The journey is really pretty if you travel using the A55 along the North Wales coast then the A487 – lots of excited squeals of “I can see the sea!” from the kids!

The park:
Hafan Y Môr is a Haven holiday park in Pwllheli in North Wales and is popular for many reasons; it’s right next to the beach, every kid’s dream for activities and entertainment and not far from Snowdonia National Park.
You can choose to stay in a caravan, apartment or lodge and it has all the amenities too. Are you ready?
Indoor swimming pool with slides and tidal pool, large evening entertainment complex with bar and shows, daily and evening children’s entertainment, aerial adventure, boating lake, new play area, adventure golf, Segway hire, bike and kart hire, their own restaurants plus a pizza parlour, fish and chop shop, cakery and Burger King, direct access to the beach with lots of space and rockpools… I’ve missed a LOT there! But you get the picture.
I’d been before as I was growing up and we also took Archie when he was a baby, but he appreciated it much more as an almost 5 year old this time.
When we arrived at the barriers we were greeted by friendly staff who took our booking reference then gave us directions to our apartment. Luckily we still already remembered where they were.
We drove through the site until we reached a large car park opposite our apartment block, and it didn’t take us long to spot ours.

The apartment:
There was a paper sticker across our patio doors that was in tact, meaning no one had opened them to enter since it had been cleaned and restocked that day.
The first room we entered was both the living room and kitchen, which was a bit on the small side, but really we just needed it as a place to sleep and eat so it didn’t matter.
Haven had provided shopping for us which we didn’t expect so it was a really lovely surprise! There were essentials such as cereals, biscuits, tea towels, tea bags, coffee, washing up liquid, bacon and butter amongst other things!
There was a master bedroom, a bedroom with 2 single beds and a bathroom with shower.
We had patio doors with our own table and chairs on a wooden veranda outside.
Although it was a small space, it was exactly what we needed – clean, comfortable and safe with everything working and the ability to cook and eat.

We arrived later than we wanted to, so for dinner we just used the Haven app to pre-order takeout food from the on-site fish and chip shop. The sun was still shining and people were buzzing around outside before bedtime, so we walked to the chippy to collect our grub. It was a pleasant walk and we ate at our dining table indoors before we all turned in for the night. We knew we had a busy day the day after.

Day 2 in North Wales

We knew exactly where we wanted to head this day and we’re so glad we did – it was the incredible village of Portmeirion!
We’d booked our tickets in advance online to guarantee entry as I wasn’t sure if they were allowing walk-ins due to COVID restrictions.
Because we travelled whilst outdoor hospitality was still closed, we prepared our own picnic and drinks and used a baby carrier for Evie rather than a pram. We were aware that there were some narrow, steep steps that we didn’t want to miss out on!
The sun did us proud and gave us what felt like a summer’s day.
We set off in our car after a late breakfast and arrived just before midday, not really knowing what to expect. It only took around 25mins from Hafan Y Mor and we had no problem finding a parking space – I imagine this may change during peak season.
After checking in with the friendly staff at the entrance, we were wowed with heaven almost immediately.
Seriously, WOW.
We walked through a colourful archway that gave a hint of Mediterranean architecture, but as soon as we came out of the other side, the vast blue sea appeared on our left, sparkling like jewels in the sunshine. We didn’t realise how high up we were so the view was absolutely breathtaking.
This trend continued throughout Portmeirion with its stunning views of the sea, beautiful rustic-meditterean architecture, lush gardens bursting with plants and flowers and lots of nooks and crannies to explore. The village even boasts coastal and woodland walk paths, both of which are well worth doing – the coastal path allowed us to go inside a little lighthouse and to climb around some picturesque rocks leading down to the sea, which was great fun and really made us feel like we were abroad!
We had a picnic with an amazing view and later on, treated ourselves to some decent ice creams from one of the villages ice cream shops.
There were toilets with a baby changing facility and plenty of places to sit outside.
Honestly, this was the highlight of our holiday and I cannot recommend Portmeirion enough!

We left in the late afternoon to head back to our apartment and get ready for our next dose of fun – the beach.
As I mentioned earlier, there is direct access to the beach from Hafan Y Mor and it’s excellent. The apartment blocks are close to the entrance too so it didn’t take us long to walk there.
We brought some snacks, drinks, a sand-proof blanket and some beach toys, and hoped that the tide would be out. Turns out the tide was well out and the sun was still shining, so we spent a few hours introducing Evie to her first beach and playing in the rockpools with Archie.
In normal times, Haven have entertainment staff who can take children here for some rockpool education or beach activities!
We headed back to our apartment when the temperature started to drop to make some homemade spaghetti Bolognese while the kids watched some TV. We were able to give Archie a shower and Evie just had a wash in the sink before bed. Kov and I settled down to watch a film with a drink but were ready to crash out before we knew it.

Day 3 in North Wales

Sunday was our last day, although we didn’t actually need to check out until 10am on Monday. This gave us the sweet advantage of avoiding the manic morning check-out rush, but it did mean we lost a potential full day out on Monday.
We planned to head home after a late dinner so that the kids would sleep all the way home, so before then we decided to just do some relaxing activities.
After breakfast we headed out for a walk through the woodland area of the park which eventually led us to a coastal path with beautiful views overlooking the sea and Cardigan Bay. If we’d have continued following this path South we’d have reached Abererch beach, which is a 4 mile stretch of a golden sandy beach with equally stunning views.
We were a little short on time to do this, so we turned and headed back into the woods to find the fishing lake and then try out the excellent new on-site play area.
For lunch we headed back to the apartment and used up some food that we didn’t want to take home with us, then we headed out to Abersoch beach where I’d been wanting to visit for years.
A friend recommended the car park right near the beach which was almost empty when we arrived. A quick fiddle with my phone to pay for parking and we soon made it to the soft, golden sands of the beach there.
It was quiet when we arrived as it was still overcast but this didn’t spoil the fun for any of us – beaches are mainly what we came for. We settled down on our beach blanket and watched Archie get stuck right in with playing with sand and sea, enjoying the backdrop of the colourful beach huts stretching across the beach behind us and the blue sea and land ahead of us.
The clouds soon cleared and the sun joined us, attracting more beach dwellers to come and relax on the sand. After a few hours of kite flying, ball throwing, sandcastle building, ice cream eating and shell collecting we headed back to our apartment to pack up and have dinner.
Readymade pizzas and garlic bread from the Co-op on-site were a winner for a speedy dinner, then at bedtime we set off home after depositing our key at the barriers on the way out. The kids slept all the way home – GET IN!

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Check out my other reviews and recommendations here and follow me on Instagram at Girl About Manchester for more!

Thank you for reading!

Sarah x

Sarah Kowalyszyn Manchester
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