This blog didn’t exist a year ago. In fact, I didn’t really know much about blogging at all. (Several years ago I started a blog called ‘That’s Your Lot’ about 100 old cookbooks I purchased from a local auction. I chose one recipe a week and made something. It was a disaster. I got bored after about six months. About five people a week read it – including my mum.) And yet here I find myself writing a blog post as a finalist in one of the country’s biggest parenting blogging awards at the weekend for this website. No-one is more surprised than me. I’ve actually debated writing this post as it’s one of only a few I’ve written that haven’t been about a place to take the children. But I write it as thank you to all those who voted for me; those bloggers who I’ve met along the way; and to the organisers of the event. These are the five things I’ve learned from being a finalist at the Mad Blog Awards.

Mad Blog Awards 2016

Enter awards even if you think you have no chance of winning – When the blog award nominations opened I’d only actually been blogging for 7 months. The awards require you to ask for people to nominate you, and then again for people to vote for you if you make the final. What chance did I have?! I have some lovely friends and family who would probably spend a few minutes filling in an online form, but would anyone else bother? I wasn’t really known in the blogging world so it was going to be down to those of you who have visited the parks, country parks and farm parks that I had recommended. Well I got over the slight awkwardness of having to say ‘if you like my blog could you possibly…?’ and was overwhelmed to find out that many of you did take the time to vote for me – enough to get me through to the final in the family travel category – incredible – I couldn’t believe it. It boosted my confidence so much and propelled me through the summer writing no end of posts about all of the fun places we had visited.

2. It proved you should blog about what you love and know about. There would be absolutely no point in trying to be anything like any other blogger. I admire the bloggers who have taught themselves how to take beautiful pictures of their family – I love to look at them, but that’s not me. I adore reading hilarious posts from mums who give us a real insight in to what life is really like at home, but that’s not me. I aspire to visit some of the incredible places around the world that other travel bloggers have visited, but we’re not in a position to do that at the moment. We live in Milton Keynes and we do stuff near where we live, and we enjoy it, so I write about it. And I’m delighted that so many of you find it useful and I got to the final of an awards ceremony for doing it.

Mad Blog Awards
Mad Blog Awards 2016

3. You meet some really fabulous people who write really fabulous blogs. If you were get advice from really good bloggers about what it takes to be a really good blogger they’d probably tell you to read lots of other blogs, comment on them, and interact lots on social media. They’re absolutely right of course. The blogging community is extremely supportive and you may meet virtually (or in person) people who are doing something similar to you and form ever-lasting friendships. I haven’t really done much of that at all. I know. I’m actually a terrible blogger. It’s been mostly down to time – I’m now back working 4 days a week and I just about make time in the evenings to write this blog in amongst doing all of the boring stuff like cleaning, tidying and washing that’s invariably left to when my two boys are in bed.

And yet as a result of reaching the final in the Mad Blog Awards I got to meet a number of women who are both fabulous in person and write fabulous blogs – many of which I started reading several months ago when I was nominated. There are loads, but those who deserve a special mention who I had extensive chats with – Katie who writes at There We Go – family travel with a sense of humour – she’s also from Bedford so does some local stuff too; Polly who compares her life to that of the Duchess of Cambridge in her hilarious blog Right Royal Mother; and Kirsty who writes at My Two Mums – a blog about the adventures of being same sex parents. Do check them out. I now read blogs in the same way I catch up on the news online or browse social media. What was fabulous to see was the friendships that have formed as a result of blogging and the loyalty many of the parents have for each other.

4. Awards ceremonies are really fun – Ok I’ll re-phrase that, this awards ceremony was really fun. I hadn’t been to an awards ceremony since 2011 which was for something for work so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Ladies, imagine a combo of pampering and Prosecco, as well as the chance to get dressed up and spend the evening with some really wonderful people… oh and it’s all free, including a three course meal. I know. Given that my blog is a hobby and most of my income is about to go on paying for two children to be in childcare it’s really hard to justify spending money on myself for something that isn’t my job. So all credit to Sally and Emma and the rest of the Tots 100 team for putting on such a brilliant event and making it accessible to so many parents. Thank you to the Powderpuff Girls and the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington for helping to make this mum’s night out a glamorous one. Oh and to comedian Helen Lederer for hosting – she’s very funny, hire her.

Mad Blog Awards
Mad Blog Awards

5. It’s the entering that counts – Ok, so if you’re reading this wanting to find out if I won at the awards then you’ve probably already guessed I didn’t. And I didn’t expect to.The family travel category was won by Karen from Mini Travellers – an absolutely lovely website all about family days out, destinations and travel tips… but it easily could have been won by Claire from Tin Box Traveller (a delight to speak to in person and a fab website about UK and overseas trips) Nisbah from Five Adventurers (goes to some incredible places) Katja and Victoria from Globe Totting (wonderful exciting worldwide adventures) or Ting from My Travel Money (adventures at home and abroad as well good travel tips). So to be quite honest it was a pleasure to be among such esteemed company.

So what’s next for me? Well making the final of the Mad Blog Awards inspired me to enter other awards, but more closer to home. I’m over the moon to find out I’m a finalist in two categories of the Milton Keynes Women’s Leaders Awards – creative industries and community impact (voluntary) and three categories of the Milton Keynes Digital Awards – blog, social media and tourism. Both of the finals are in October. Wish me luck!

I'm Laura, mum of two boys - aged six and four. I started this website at the end of Sept 2015 whilst on maternity leave. I now work four days a week and do this blog late at night once the little boys are sleeping. It's won several awards over the last four years and I continue to run it for free and mostly focus on free, cheap, and good value days out. Do drop me an email if you want to contact me. Don't forget to follow all of our latest adventures on facebook, instagram and twitter and have a look at all of the videos of the places we visit on the Milton Keynes Kids YouTube Channel - subscribe to it for notifications every time I add a new place. And remember... you may been reading this post months after we visited, do check with the destination you're visiting for up to date opening times and prices. If you find this blog useful then please do comment on my posts and leave me a Facebook review - it makes doing this all the more worthwhile.

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