With half term rapidly approaching, parents are sure to be pondering what to do with their little ones during the break.
The best solutions normally include space, for them to run off all that enviable energy, and lots to see, to keep their expanding minds buzzing.
One answer could come in the shape of Colchester Zoo.
With 260 species to view and set in 60 acres of beautiful parkland, this brilliant animal park offers oodles of the above and much more.
But if you think going to mid Essex and back in one day is a bit much, then a lovely hotel just down the road could be just what you need.
Holiday Inn Colchester is just minutes by car from the family attraction and offers comfortable bed and breakfast rooms at a very reasonable rates.
We got caught in M25 traffic and the staff were extremely accommodating when we phoned to ask if, because of three very hungry little boys travelling with us, we could eat the minute we arrived.
The pleasant restaurant was very family friendly, with activities provided for the kids, and enough space that diners looking for a more relaxed meal could be seated far away from our excitable brood.
Our room was big with a bed, sofa bed and plenty of room for a travel cot - but all kipping in the same space didn’t lend itself to a brilliant night of sleep.
So we were up early the next day to take full advantage of the good breakfast spread - complete with make your own pancake machine that went down very well the six-year-old in our group - before heading off to the zoo.
Had we had a bit more time it would have been nice to take advantage of the hotel’s health spa, including very relaxing looking pool. But this break wasn’t about us being pampered, it was about fun for the kids.
So on to Colchester Zoo, named Large Visitor Attraction of the Year by the East of England Tourist Board, which boasts over 40 daily displays plus an undercover soft play area.
The Lost Madagascar Express road train gives you a chance to take the weight off your feet while it trundles past some of the cages before pulling up near the walk in Lemur enclosure. But be warned if your tiny tot is as fond of animals as mine is, they might try and grab the furry creatures’ tempting long striped tails as you wander round.
What this park does really well is give you a really good look at the animals while not seeming too intrusive. For example, a raised viewing platform above the Rhinos lets you get really close as the majestic beasts saunter below.
Some people will never like the idea of keeping animals in captivity but if, like me, you can recognise the good work they do in conservation, you will appreciate how much effort has been put into making sure these creatures are given room and privacy. This is clearly a park designed by people who do care about the welfare of their exhibits.
Travelling home I asked my exhausted animal mad nephew if he’d enjoyed his day.
His beaming smile said it all.
Helen and family travelled courtesy of Holiday Inn.