Once in a while when I’m stuck for inspiration I end up on one of those blogs that dispense blog topics you should write about. So I pick a few that seem interesting, write out a breakdown and then realise I’m too straight to the point and can’t even reach 200 words! I don’t want my golden answers to go to waste so here is a good old listicle…
How to Fit Everything in a Carry On – Roll your clothes, get packing cubes and if it doesn’t close a bit of violence may be called for.
What’s In Your Camera Bag – Camera bag? You mean my tote bag where let my camera and extra lens swing around? And extra battery if I’m feeling daring?
The Ultimate Paris Packing List – You mean the extra two t-shirts I packed during my 36 hours trip back in April? I’m the last person you should take fashion advice from, but I can tell you that whatever top you pack make sure it has stripes.
10 Tips on How to Save For Travel – Why 10 when you only need one: over the years I’ve tracked my average daily holiday spend so I just multiply that amount by my vacation days and divide by 12, this way I know how much I need to set aside every payday. I always calculate a bit extra, but in case I need a bigger budget for a more expensive destination I would look at cutting expenses like skipping on eating out, lunch take-away and going for drinks.
How to Plan a Trip with a Big Group – Ignore the emoji-filled Whatsapp groupchat until someone with actual planning skills steps up and volunteers.
Best Photo Spots in London – London is photogenic, so literally anywhere as long as you don’t stand in the middle of the road and in the way of people trying to pass by.
How to Book the Cheapest Flights – I don’t want to be that person that advises you to book a 6 AM flight from a regional airport 3 hours from your home just to save £30.
What posts do you have that you can’t seem to finish?
A while ago I wrote about places I loved and wouldn’t mind visiting again, but I can’t forget the places I didn’t click with. Spoiler alert: it was me, always me (not them!).
On paper, Barcelona and I sounded like a match made in heaven: much needed winter sun, lots of history and delicious food – everything I usually need to satisfy that wanderlust. But for some reason we just didn’t hit it off.
Do Different Next Time: there was some kind of spark and I’m not sure if I should revisit Barcelona or try another region in Spain to rekindle the romance.
The day I arrived in Kyoto it rained and I was jet lagged and disoriented. As me and my friends only had one afternoon to check out the Gion area and the nearby park, it didn’t leave me in awe and neither I nor the city projected warmth and acceptance. Though the geisha we spotted was a plus.
Do Different Next Time: not just use it as a base for day trips but actually book a ryokan, explore the wider city and maybe even throw in a tea ceremony.
Poor, poor Ljubljana, the city I passed by so many times, but never really gave a chance – friendzoned it almost – as it was the last pit stop on our long drives from the Netherlands to Bosnia. And the one time I did make it to the city I was too tired and I couldn’t be bothered to visit anything except the castle and the main square.
Do Different Next Time: explore the city and tourist attractions instead of just the outer suburbs, plus maybe try the prison turned hostel.
Back when I was young, wild and free I thought it was a good idea to hit the 3 Baltic capitals in 5 days. Tallinn was cute and charming, Riga was raw and romantic and Vilnius was a finish line and the place to catch a breath before taking the plane home. Which is a shame as I only remember this Alice in Wonderland mural and a coffeeshop that made amazing lattes.
Do Different Next Time: schedule in more time and see what’s beyond the streets of the hostel.
While I was in Melbourne I was on the tightest budget ever, so I didn’t get to see much of the Down Under. A weekend trip with friends to Sydney was superbudget and supershort and you really can’t cover everything in two days. The Coogee to Bondi walk and day trip to the Blue Mountains were special, while Darling Harbour and the Sydney Opera House were not so much. Also … I kept comparing everything to Melbourne, which isn’t really fair..
Do Different Next Time: you guessed it right … take the time to learn, relax and see more of the city. And stop comparing it with the ever-perfect Melbourne.
Freetown Christiana in Copenhagen was another letdown. Where I expected a hippie community living from art, producing their own goods and living the life it was overshadowed by trash, torn down sheds and people smoking hash. Not to mention men in masks selling drugs on the main street and a lot of huuuuuuge dogs were walking around.
Do Different Next Time: yeah … there won’t be a next time, unless I can find a time-travel machine!
My research on Isla Mujares made it sound like a car free paradise where you could get around by golf car and with a world-class, beautiful beach, but instead there was traffic, streets full of rude golf car drivers and beach views ruined by tons of boats doing day tours cluttering the water. Isla Mujares was supposed to be this paradise and escape from Cancun, but it was really just Little Cancun.
Do Different Next Time: lower my expectations if I ever get the chance to go to Yucatan and maybe visit Isla Cozumel, Isla Holbox or one of the other smaller islands instead.
It’s no Glow Eindhoven or Vivid Sydney, but Lumiere London is a pretty good reason to brave a cold, damp January evening. For four days, international artists get free reign to light up London with over 50 installations.
What they don’t mention in the press release is:
2 rude Dutch people
3 crying mums
10 kids on scooters
12 places trying to seduce you with hot chocolate
20 sites where you’re not sure if it’s part of the festival or just accidental Lumiere.
Despite this, there’s more than a few bright lights to dazzle you. Mine were:
Child Hood @ Trafalager Square – all my Hertz go to this one
Harmonic Portal @ 197 Piccadilly – loved these watts and wats
The Wave @ the South Bank – lightened up my mood
Entre les rangs @ King’s Cross – was truly delightful to walk around
OSC-L & Sixty Minute Spectrum @ South Bank – leave you in the dark
You might want to dim your expectations when you come across these ones:
Slow travel and digital detox! These buzzwords are going to be everywhere in 2018 so before you get bored of them here’s my Expectations vs Reality on travelling digiless.
When I planned my trip the plan was to do a little hike here, see a museum/castle there but mainly enjoy a few days off.. As Innsbruck looked compact, going digiless seemed perfect.
Expectation: I don’t use guidebooks too much, I prefer to research online and put together my own itinerary. But part of the magic was supposed to be to go around with a map and an old fashioned guidebook.
Reality: I was hit by this one quite early as it turns out there isn’t an Innsbruck guide. The best on offer was a regional guide so that idea went out the window. I ended up using a map and booklets from the tourist office and a charming folder my Airbnb host had prepared.
Expectation: Get a paper map and follow it travel nirvana.
Reality: The airport bus took 15 minutes to the centre, with the Airbnb a few minutes from there, meaning my first travel test felt a bit of a cheat.
Still it CAN go wrong and one CAN walk past the ski lift entrance. In my defence, my digiless experiment in asking a kind local for directions was a terrible mistake. Getting lost was actually ok as I got to talk practice my German and talk to people but it did almost cost me my relationship.
Hiking trails are beautiful, relaxing and some of my favourite places. BUT the sign posts are open to interpretation, which may have resulted in going down the wrong side of a mountain.
Expectation: Getting my Warhol on and snapping some magical Polaroids while on the go.
Reality: Well that magic was lost soon when it proved too cloudy atop the mountain and you actually can’t get the gorgeous landscape in frame. Thank God I was with a sane person who did bring a DIGITAL camera.
Expectation: Just go with the flow and see where you end up foodwise, why not ask a random person what their favourite place is or go where the locals seem to hang out.
Reality: I soon learned that you often need to book a table, I always forget that outside London this is essential, especially on Friday night. But I also learned that the most touristy spot in town that I would usually avoid actually had the best kaesespaetzle that has ever melted on my tongue.
Expectation: Who needs planning and getting travel tickets booked ahead of time? Why not spontaneously head down to the station and see what the lovely ticket office staff have to offer?
Reality: So many reasons why not! But guys … you can’t blame me for wanting to do Before Midnight and get on a train to anywhere but without booking it online weeks ahead I could barely afford 3 stops. Wait for me Ethan!
Expectation: Have a old fashioned notebook with scribbles of my adventures (and of course the perfect spot for accompanying Polaroids)
Reality: This is actually a great one … until I remembered I am missing the creative gene. And now I’m left with a notebook that’s 3/4 empty filed with handwriting that turns indecipherable after 3 sentences.
Conclusion: It isn’t that hard, it’s just a switch that needs turning off.
I’m not on Instagram or Twitter too much, so going digiless isn’t a giant step but I love the idea of doing it as much as possible, even if it doesn’t always work out as expected. However, I will say, there’s something about walking around London using memory, logic and landmarks to find my way. It’s somehow less draining (on my brain and phone battery) than following whatever Google maps has to say, so give it a try!
Chances are your relationship with your bank account is feeling a little strained at the moment. There was the expensive December month and you might have booked a flight or two when you panicked during your first week back in the office. Now you’ve got a few months to go and save up, but have you considered the money you might waste while on holiday? Here are some tips to avoid financial heartache I made so you don’t have to. You are welcome.
Not packing strategically can cost you quite a bit of money. Not only in terms of exceeding the weight allowance…but how many times have you forgotten your toothbrush? Not to mention all the full size products you by accidently packed and had to hand in and repurchase again. So make sure that you write down a packing list and double check.
Saving yourself £30 and flying with a budget airline to a smaller airport can feel like you just entered the wonder world of Extreme Couponing, but then you find out it takes 2 hours and £50 to get to the city from that small airport. So always compare how much it will cost you to get to from main as well as the regional airport to your destination. It might be dull, but worth it in the end.
Spontaneous decisions can end up fun, but could also end up costing you a lot, so you might want to look into planning your activities ahead of the trip. The train tickets for that day trip you planned might end up being the same amount for as it would have cost you to fly to your holiday destination.
Money exchange costs, especially at airports are a massive money trap and you should never ever change currency at an airport. Check online for the best deals in your country or use your card to withdraw cash when you arrive.
But before you do that do check how much your bank charges you for paying/withdrawing abroad .The first time I went abroad with my UK card I found out I paid over £30 for card charges! With that money I could have bought a one way ticket to Paris.
Not reading the fine print. So forgetting to check in or finding out your suitcase is literally 2 mm too big for the budget airline and you end up paying an additional £60. And you know what? You are the only to blame so next time listen to your mom when she asks you if the suitcase isn’t too big, they have a special extra sense for this.
Not making use of your hostel/Ar BnB kitchen can cost you a lot. Ok, true … in some countries it can actually be cheaper to go out, but your first stop should the supermarket. There you can explore and stock up on goods you can’t find at home. It doesn’t have to be a 4 course meal, but get your baguette and cheese for breakfast and invest what you save in an extra drink that evening – or invest it in something more useful.
It’s fun when you mix up the exchange rate and everything is CHEAPER than you thought, but it’s not too great when it happens the other way round. I remember in Latvia everything seemed super super cheap until I realised I mixed the exchange rate up and in the 48 hours I spend there costed way more than it should have been. It’s 2018 and there are apps for this so no more excuses.
How much have you wasted during your last holiday?
Happy New Year and heeellow 2018! Before I start spoiling you with new content let’s look at what I was up to in the last 3 months of 2017. Spoiler alert: actually not that much.
Mexico: Cancun – Vallolidad – Tulum – Isla Mujeres: to eat tacos and look at rocks that the Mayans left us.
I finally made it to Mexico! I had just over a week to see what the Yucatan region was all about:
The food guys! The food! We can all agree that visiting a new location is all about how many meals and snacks you can fit in between all the other activities and it did not disappoint. The variety in tacos, quesadillas and salsas was beyond even my high hopes – the overall winner had to be Antojitos La Chiapaneca in Tulum, mainly because of the giant salsa table with every topping imaginable.
Vallolidad was everything I wanted and more, from checking out to colourfull buildings to cooling down in nearby cenotes (underground caverns) and evening walks in the park – even the schoolband that practices their Christmas show until 3 AM outside the hostel had its charm.
And then there was the magnificent Chichen Itza – you can read the high and lowlights here.
I still don’t know what to think of Cancun itself – one day I might share the story on how I looked death in the eyes not once, not twice, but three times while in Cancun…
I have read and seen so much of Tulum on blogs that I had the feeling I already kind of been there and it all sounded amazing on paper but apart from above mentioned tacos I didn’t really feel it… though the swings do get you a lot of IG likes.
I wish I could hibernate through the winter months, but as that’s not too healthy I managed to make something out of the cold and wet London days and I:
did the Underground Tour that I had been trying to get to tickets for forever – LOVED IT
drowned my tastebuds in a cheese fondue – why did I wait this long!?!?
kicked off the first section of the Green Walk – more like a grey walk, but that for another time
saw lots of movies – Thor:Ragnarok being a absolute highlight and Justice League the ultimate lowlight
made it to The Kitchens in Spittalfields – two thumbs up for the mezze and steamed tofu buns
peeked at the Geffrye Museum before they close for refurbishment – great if you love peeking inside other people’s homes
checked out the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret – such a little gem and I can’t wait to share more soon
Seeing the amazing Chichen Itza, finally getting one of the Underground Tours AND eating Tacos and Quesadillas for a week without getting sick or bored of it. Check, check and check.
As if an 8 hour hour flight isn’t bad enough, mine came with a really really loud little neighbouring passenger. It would have been understandable if the kid was in pain, but the tears were just for attention, and it only zipped it after it got what it wanted.
Missing out on tickets for the Harry Potter exhibition. By the time this self proclaimed fan found about the exhibition the weekend tickets were long gone and I’m not sure I can justify taking time off work for it! Thankfully I caught a documentary on the whole thing, so hopefully that can hold me off for the moment.
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