Flying over Leeds Castle

wendycourse3

Get in the trees!

When our family ventured to London last June, we researched fun things to do with TEENS beforehand. Traveling with older teenagers is not like traveling with tiny children – but they aren’t quite like traveling with a set of contemporaries either.

adventure-GoApefamilyOne of the fun adventures my husband stumbled across online was Go Ape, a tree-top adventure that lets you “get in touch with your inner Tarzan.”

Their course includes a high ropes course adventure with a zip line at the end of each challenge. Our family had done a ropes course at Dollywood, but certainly not in treetops near a castle! And it did not include ziplining. (After only three years, Dollywood removed the two-acre Adventure Mountain multi-level rope course, so don’t go looking for it now…)

While at Dollywood, I found myself gripping the ropes tighter than I thought I would, getting a little stressed about falling despite the harness and safety wire. It was still an enjoyable trip, though, so when Brian recommended taking a train to Kent for the day and trying the Go Ape course, followed by a castle tour and hedge maze large enough to actually get a little lost in, we were all really excited about it.

On the train from London to Kent you can read, nap, chat, and enjoy views like these!

On the train from London to Kent you can read, nap, chat, and enjoy views like these!

We prepped by reading their website. The text and photos promised breathtaking views of the beautiful area surrounding Leeds Castle (near Maidstone), and “obstacles that will get the hairs on the back of neck bristling”. It also said the high ropes courses were approximately 40 feet above the forest floor and zip wires were over 800 feet in length – and my favorite part “leap off our Tarzan Swing and tackle our crossings whilst enjoying some of Britain’s most breathtaking scenery“.

Gorgeous castle grounds

Gorgeous castle grounds

raffi apeAlso thanks to the website, we knew how to get there, how early to arrive before our scheduled flight time, and what to wear – something you don’t mind getting grubby that covers your stomach and an emergency rain jacket. Appropriate close-toed footwear with soles with good grips – no sandals or slip-off shoes. Long hair should be tied back. And they recommended gloves, so I grabbed a pair of those $1 stretchy Target gloves for each of us. (I was the only one who wore them. I thought they were to avoid rope burn, but they were really to prepare for bad weather – and we had GORGEOUS weather!)

You can bring scaredy-cat friends who don’t want to participate to enjoy the forest grounds and take photos for you. You can also bring little ones: the Tree Top Junior Adventure includes up to an hour of exploring the tree tops for 6 – 12 year olds to enjoy.

We arrived right on time, locked up our belongings, signed insurance waivers, and got fit into our safety harnesses.

Brian steps into his safety harness

Brian steps into his safety harness

An adventure begins with a safety briefing. There was a group of teens there celebrating a friend’s birthday, and we had our safety talk together. That was nice, because you could see the information repeated a few times so it would sink in despite your excitement.

Then there are a couple of easy obstacles to try near the start, so the safety person can make sure you are doing them correctly, and so someone can back out if they are too uncomfortable.

Then you are led by signs through the forest from obstacle to obstacle, climbing at the start of each one, and meeting the ground after each one with a fun zipline down!

My daughter ascending to an obstacle

My daughter ascending to an obstacle

All of us enjoying the course

All of us enjoying the course

DD1 gets ready to zipline down!

DD1 gets ready to zipline down!

DD2 wanted me to take photos and videos of her throughout the course, but my hands were shakey from the height and from gripping so hard, and I was worried I would drop her iPhone! That didn’t stop her from making her own videos and taking selfies up high in the treetops without fear.

teen happy on ropes course

At one point my nervousness got the best of me. I ziplined down to the ground and took photos for a few minutes, and then finished up the course with the rest of the family. I just needed to feel solid ground for a few minutes, and my daughters applauded me when I stuck with it and climbed back up! #gotMyBack

Here are some more visuals of our tree-top Go Ape adventure:

teen on Go Ape ropes course

“I’m so glad we did this instead of Harry Potter, mom!”

wendyselfiefamily

Aliceropescourse

familyfinishedcourseGoApe

At the end we all received certificates of completion, as a memento to the fun you just survived. Just a short walk from the course is Leeds Castle, known as the Queen’s Castle and “the loveliest castle in the world“, where we planned to have a picnic lunch.

Enjoying the walk to the castle

My family walking to Leeds Castle on a gorgeous summer day in the UK

With peacocks roaming and sheep wandering, you’ll feel like you’ve gotten away from it all! I loved much of the art inside the castle as well.

castle1 IMG_2333 castlegrounds3 IMG_2336 castlegrounds IMG_2331

Outside the castle an animal show geared towards young children was going on. We went into the hedge maze while many of the other guests are occupied. It’s NOT an easy maze.

hedgemazepanoramic

couple in hedge maze near leeds castle

The maze ends in the center, where you take steps down to an underground grotto!

Grotto near Leeds castle

In the grotto

On our way back to the meet the shuttle to our train, we spotted pre-wedding photos happening on the castle grounds. The castle was closing as the wedding caterer arrived.

wedding at leeds castle, kent, uk

This was certainly one of the best days of our London vacation in the summer of 2015! We had active time and passive time, we worked individually and as a team, we got exercise and enjoyed the amazing beauty around us. If you take a family trip nearby, I recommend a day trip to Kent, Leeds Castle and the GoApe treetop zipline adventure for sure!

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Ultimate College Packing List

packinglistfeaturedAfter scouring the internet (mostly Pinterest) and getting advice from college freshmen boys and girls as well as a recent college GRAD, I present my Ultimate College Packing List!

Please keep in mind, tastes on food certainly differ, and boys and girls don’t need all of the same items (e.g. tampons!), but this is a robust list that will help you get ‘er done!

Parents, maybe shopping can take your mind off the whole LEAVING part…

[Printable Version-PDF]

Bed

  • Bed Sheets (usually Twin XL for dorm beds)
  • Blankets/Comforter
  • Mattress Pad
  • Pillows (at least one extra for when people crash at your pad)
  • Pillowcases
  • Sleeping Bag
  • legraisersUnder Bed Storage – check these out: bed leg raisers with USB and outlet chargers built right in! Helps make more room for storage while letting you charge your gear on or under your bed. Target has them too.

Desk

  • Agenda/Calendar – at the very least a digital one, but writing helps to remember!
  • Desk Lamp
  • Paper Clips
  • Pens & Pencils
  • Post-It Notes
  • Postage Stamps and Envelopes
  • Rubber Bands
  • Ruler
  • A small safe or lockbox (for meds, money, laptop, video games, ipod…)
  • Scissors
  • Staple Remover
  • Stapler & Staples
  • Three-hole punch
  • Wastebasket
  • White-out
  • A package of simple, professional Thank You notes

Tech Related

  • Cell Phone & Charger
  • Computer with software, iPad
  • Cables, Chargers, Power Strip, Extension Cords, etc.
  • DVDs
  • CLIPFANFan (clip on?)
  • Flash Drive
  • Flashlight, batteries
  • Google Drive Account
  • Headphones
  • Keyboard
  • Light Bulbs (rarely)
  • Mouse
  • MP3 Player
  • Printer with ink and paper
  • Surge Protector
  • Speakers
  • TV
  • Video Game console
  • Some students take a small lock box or a locking cable for their tech. If your roommate fails to lock the room, or someone breaks in, or you make new friends who are a little sketchy – you can lock up valuables while keeping them in your room.

Room

  • Alarm Clock (be careful if you rely on your phone, because you may be up late and the battery will die!)
  • Command Hooks
  • Duct Tape
  • Games
  • Earplugs, Eyemask
  • Instrument & accessories, if you play one
  • Posters / Photos
  • Safety Pins
  • Safety Whistle
  • Sewing Kit
  • Sleep Mask
  • Sports Equip.
  • Sunglasses
  • Umbrella

Classroom

  • Backpack
  • Calculator / Graphing Calculator
  • Dividers
  • Erasers
  • Row of color office foldersFolders, Binders
  • Highlighters
  • Index cards
  • Notebooks, Notepaper, Graph paper
  • Textbooks
  • Large schools may require you to buy a clicker for students to answer questions and take attendance in large lecture halls

Clothing

  • Belts
  • Dress Clothes
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Jackets (coats, rain jacket, fleece)
  • Jeans
  • Jewelry
  • pjsPajamas
  • Pants
  • Purses
  • Scarves
  • Shoes, Boots, Flip Flops
  • Socks, stockings, tights
  • Shorts
  • Skirts
  • Sweaters, Sweatshirts
  • Swimsuit
  • Underwear, bras
  • Watch
  • Workout Clothes

Laundry

  • App (some school have an app to download to track when your laundry is ready for the dryer. If your school doesn’t have one, set an alarm on your phone for :45 minutes.)
love these for better smells!

love these for better smells!

  • Detergent + yummy scented beads
  • Collapsable drying rack or this great IKEA tool
  • Fabric Softener, if you use it
  • Hamper
  • Hangers
  • Iron & Pad (Ha! Yah right)
  • Quarters, if the machines need them
  • Stain Remover
  • My daughter has a separate, zip-up lingerie bag so favorite bras or bikini-top strings don’t get caught on the washer drum.

Food

Of course everyone has their own favorites, but here are some staples for many college students:

  • Bagels, Bread
  • Cereal
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Coffee, Tea
  • Condiments
  • Crackers
  • Fruit
  • Granola bars
  • Ketchup
  • Mints
  • cookiebnutterNut Butter & Jelly
  • Pasta
  • Pepper
  • Popcorn
  • Salt
  • Soup
  • Veggies

Kitchen Supplies

  • Bowls
  • Can/Bottle Opener
  • Chip Clips
  • Coffee Maker
  • Cups
  • Microwave
  • Microwavable mug/plate
  • Minifridge
  • Paper Towels
  • scizzaPizza Cutter
  • Plates
  • Plastic food containers
  • Sponges
  • Sports Bottles
  • Towels
  • Utensils
  • Ziplock bags

Bathroom

  • towelsBath Towels & Mat
  • Bathrobe
  • Bobby Pins
  • Contact Lens gear
  • Cosmetics
  • Cotton Balls, Q-Tips, Tissues
  • Deodorant
  • Eye Glasses
  • Face wash
  • Feminine Care
  • Hairbrush / comb
  • Hairspray / products
  • Hair Appliances: Hair Dryer, Curling Iron, Flat Iron, etc.
  • Hand Lotion
  • Lip Balm with SPF (boys too!)
  • Mirror
  • Nail Clippers, file, nail polish, remover
  • Razor, shave gel
  • Shampoo / Conditioner
  • Shower Caddy
  • Shower flip flops
  • Soap
  • Sunscreen
  • Toiletry Kit
  • Toothpaste, Toothbrush, Mouthwash, Floss
  • Tweezers
  • Washcloths
  • My daughter’s suite had a shower that had a plastic liner already hung for them, but they added a pretty shower curtain. The school provided toilet paper.

Medicinal

  • Acne wash, cream
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Band-Aids
  • Birth Control, Condoms
  • Bug Repellent
  • Cough Drops
  • Decongestant
  • First Aid Kit
  • Hot / Cold Packs
  • Pain Reliever
  • Pepto Bismol
  • Thermometer (digital)

Important Docs

  • Bank Info, Checks, Cash Card (You might want to see which bank has an ATM on campus before opening your account)
  • Car Registration (if driving on campus)
  • Drivers License
  • Financial Aid Forms
  • Medical Insurance Card
  • Renters Insurance – I called my insurance and they made it sound like a chore to search my policy about dorm rooms specifically, but once they did we found out exactly what was covered for a student on my plan in a dorm room! Very helpful.
  • Resumes – printed on nice paper & saved digitally. [Learn more here.]
  • Social Security Card
  • Student ID, holder
  • Do you get extra time for test taking? Bring a copy of the paperwork supporting your need.

For athletes

  • sm_grid_foam_matrix1Compression socks
  • Foam Roller
  • GPS watch/tool & charger
  • Gym Bag
  • Nuun and a few sports bottles to stay hydrated
  • Specialty Equipment
  • Yoga Mat and carrier

[Printable Version-PDF]

If you have something to add to my list, please leave a comment and let me know! I’ll keep this updated.

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