A few years ago, we hit on the idea of planning a Road Trip via National Trust Properties. We had been gifted membership for Christmas, and were keen to make use of it.
Having been invited to a wedding in Sussex we wondered how best to get there with the then 20 month old, Katie. She wasn’t great at travelling in the car but we wanted to take lots of stuff with us. We decided that lots of stops was the answer and to break the journey down into manageable chunks.
Working out where to stop
To begin with, I looked at the AA route planner for the whole journey and divided the total distance by 6. This gave me an approximate idea of how far we needed to travel each day. I then looked for cities that we wanted to stop in that were approximately the correct distance apart. Some days we did cover a little more distance, but it was nice to have a day of minimal travel in the middle in which we could have more time to chill.
Taking, one day at a time, I then looked at National Trust Properties along the route of our Road Trip. The National Trust have a very helpful interactive map that is suited to this purpose.
Although you do have to be careful about opening times and days. On Day 3, there were many National Trust Properties in the area we were in but they were not open on that day for some reason. This meant that it was a little trickier to find activities to entertain Katie – we weren’t exactly enamoured with Sheffield until we discovered a lovely M&S Food the next day!
Where to stay overnight
I initially looked at options for camping overnight. But once I had factored in buying camping equipment, the costs of campsites, and our general hatred of tents – it just wasn’t worth it.
Instead, I simply scoured the various budget websites and found a hotel each night. I didn’t pay more than £50 for a room but we stayed in some lovely locations. Breakfast was included at the majority of the hotels and it meant that we were guaranteed a good night’s sleep.
My additional caveat for the hotels was a swimming pool. Katie loves to swim and I figured this was the best entertainment we could provide. Arriving in the late afternoon, we could head straight for the pool before dinner.
Failing that, we would swim in the morning and set off slightly later. Some National Trust properties don’t open until slightly later; if there was one we wanted to visit close by it was useful to have an easy way to pass the time.
Entertaining Katie at the properties themselves was a breeze. Aside from the obvious, many National Trust Properties also have children’s play parks and specific activities to do within the house.
I am a huge fan of their 50 things scheme and just think they are brilliant places for kids – especially given that I don’t find them remotely painful either!
Finding healthy food options
It is unusual to not find a cafe at a National Trust Property. The vast majority have superb kids options and amazing cake to boot. Although it wasn’t the cheapest way of doing lunch, we pretty much relied on this option for our midday meal or afternoon snack.
As part of my mega planning, I also looked up in advance places to eat dinner each night. I had asked fellow blogging friends about various local areas so got some brilliant tips of some good independent places. But failing that – I had the post code for the nearest Wagamama and Pizza Express.
I knew that Katie would start to be too hungry and tired if we ever faffed around finding somewhere to eat, so it was great to be able to have a very clear idea of where we were going.
On the odd morning breakfast wasn’t included with our hotel booking, I simply located the closest Starbucks on my phone. Katie has always adored their sausage sandwiches so it was another safe option. I know they might be a big evil corporation and all – but I also like their coffee.
Overall, we visited eleven different National Trust Properties on our Road Trip. Whilst we didn’t stay for a long time at some of them – this really isn’t that feasible with a toddler!
What we did appreciate was beautiful grounds to explore, welcoming staff, good food, clean changing facilities – and making the most of our National Trust Membership!
My final tip would be to pick up a National Trust ‘Visitor’s Passport’. Available in the gift shop for a few pounds, you can then present the passport at the property you are visiting to collect a stamp. When all thirty spaces are full you can then send off for a certificate recording the number of your visits.
Katie is already on her second passport, and will hopefully be collecting her next certificate after our next Road Trip via National Trust Properties!