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Travel | 10 luxuries every traveller should splurge on

14516492_10153883783422617_652777156361461700_nWhether you’ve won the lottery and live that luxurious lifestyle we all dream of splurging on champagne and yachts, or you live penny to penny, trying to work out how many days you have to live off lentils to afford your next flight. All us travellers have something in common – a passion to explore all four corners of the globe in our own unique way. Some do it with a backpack and others with a private jet, but no matter what style we choose, we all deserve a little treat every now and again. After travelling solo for three years around the globe, I’ve lived a poor backpacker lifestyle, I’ve been a flashpacker with my nice little suitcase, and I’ve been lucky enough to see some serious luxury. But throughout all types of travelling across Europe, Asia and Australia, I’ve realised there are some key items every traveller should think about investing in if they plan to live this lifestyle in the long term. It may seem crazy to splurge on some of these things at the time, but by spending more and investing in yourself and your travels, you could save much more in the long term.

Luggage

Now I’m not saying pay a fortune for the latest matching designer luggage set, instead take a look at the things you rely on most and think long-term. If you live out of a backpack, spend a bit more to get one from a well-respected company with strong materials and a more streamlined/intelligent design. I bought an amazing one which doubles as a suitcase from Osprey that has been a fantastic investment.14632961_10153834001527617_5767082447313156092_nIf you prefer more glamorous travel, look at the aesthetics of your luggage but choose a classic style that will stay in fashion for years to come. Think about materials and perhaps choose a hard case that is lightweight and easy to manage. Lastly, why not pick a set with a suitcase, mini-weekend case and hand luggage?

Technology

Travelling long-term or regularly? If you work while you travel like I do, think about investing in a good quality laptop or tablet that will support your work and allow you to easily complete it on the move. Love to read or listen to music? Why not treat yourself to a Kindle and save yourself lots of space in your bag by not taking books, or an MP3 player to store your endless supply of music for all moods.14523115_10153840005047617_4481383336454260593_nMy must-have investment items are definitely my collection of chargers/adapters – I have a power pack that will charge my phone, iPad and iPod while on the move, it has saved my trip so many times, and a multi-country charger with various additions that will allow me to charge everything I own anywhere in the world. Neither were that expensive but they have both saved me a lot of hassle and time tracking individual chargers down later on.

Insurance

This one is pretty obvious but you’d be amazed how many people scrimp out and go for the cheap options instead of investing in something that could save their life and their possessions. I have an annual insurance policy that covers me for absolutely everything including watersports, snow sports, extreme activities, all my personal items from loss and theft, medical treatment and care plus a lot of other things including problems with transport when travelling. Luckily I haven’t had to claim anything yet and haven’t had to use it – and I hope it remains that way – but the knowledge that I have it there gives peace of mind to both my family and I.14708107_10153842197842617_334781896553787209_n

Clothing

Now I’ve always preferred to buy clothes as I travel for convenience and because I love to shop, but there are some items it is worth investing in and spending a little more. Whether you’re a fashionista or just need specific clothing for activities like hiking/camping or climbing/snow sports, it’s a good idea to get items that will last you a long time. For instance, I work out a lot so I always try to choose workout clothes that will also work for hiking trips and in materials that are suitable for all temperatures/exercises and will last long-term.16830801_10154209457697617_3572110742311591218_nI also love to party and to wear cute outfits, so while I always pick up bargains on the road, I have a few key items that I spent a bit more money on because I wear them almost daily depending on where I am. These include my leather jacket, jeans, bikinis, a big heavy jumper and a thick shirt – all of these get worn so much that I like to make sure I buy things I really love that make me feel good when I wear them and it evens out all my Primark bargains.

Equipment

If you regularly take part in extreme sports, camp or take part in other activities that require a lot of equipment then it’s a good idea to buy good quality materials and brands that you know will last you around the world and throughout your trip. Sometimes it’s work looking at second hand items which might still be in excellent condition for a better price than those available brand new.14720564_10153865035367617_6410758111454019500_n-1


Even if you’re living on a serious budget, don’t be afraid to invest in yourself and your travels. After all, this is a lifestyle you have chosen and you should be proud to support yourself with items you really need, it’s a choice that will help build your future as a traveller. Planning a trip to Tokyo? For a real taste of luxury, look no further than luxury hotels in Tokyo.

What are your favourite investments in travel? Can you recommend investing in other luxuries?

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Release your inner mermaid at 10 awesome Melbourne beaches | Australia

15747862_10154056897662617_3367207312712882158_n-2Some people swear by snowy skiing holidays, some people can’t live without fresh mountain air – for me it’s beachy bliss and ocean dreams that fuel my travels. I’ve been a total water baby since I was a kid and I can’t stand being far from the ocean – I’ve always lived no further than 20 minutes from the sea and it’s always been the one thing to soothe me. From winter beach walks to summers running along the seafront and charing the waves, I just love the peace and simplicity of a life with sandy feet and salty hair. My farm work was possibly the hardest time of my travels – and some of that I put down to being the furthest away from the ocean I have ever been. 800km west of Brisbane, I was pretty much in the centre of Australia and a minimum of 12 hour driving away from the sea. It sounds silly, but we humans are 80% water and it seems crazy that being near or far from water cannot affect our mood.10475462_10153314611377617_6987772805095941001_n-2Since being back in Melbourne, I’ve been working like crazy sometimes 50/60 hour weeks and so it’s become more important than every that I make the most of my time off by going to new places I haven’t yet explored. For me, that means venturing in different directions to explore the best beaches and most beautiful places I haven’t yet seen in this amazing city. I love Melbourne and there is so much more for me to discover so I’ve been on the buses, trains and trams to find my favourite new beachy destinations in the area. I’ve come up with my top 10 list of my favourite beaches I’ve been to in the area – all within easy reach of Melbourne CBD and well worth visiting if you fancy a change.

My top 10 beaches in Melbourne

St Kilda Beach

It goes without saying that St Kilda Beach is a lot of fun – it’s far from the prettiest beach in Melbourne but it’s the place to be if you want to enjoy beers in the sunshine, the odd festival or to warm up for a night out. I spent Christmas Day here with my nearest and dearest – we enjoyed a full Aussie Xmas Day from beers in the sunshine to water fights in the sea and a full rave on the beach – so much fun and always a good place to head to meet people. Plus, penguins… need I say more?!10600585_10153380769872617_5013501189314184811_n-2

Sandringham Beach

My new favourite after visiting the other day, this one is perfect for escaping the city. Just 30 minutes on the train from Flinders, this beautiful untouched beach promises crystal clear waters and gorgeous golden sandy beaches. Endless rock pools and nature to explore, or you can just relax in your own little cove.17264832_10154270651237617_3044248189885802026_n

Half Moon Bay

Last time I was in Melbourne, I went on a lovely date with a guy to Half Moon Bay. It was a beautiful little cove attached to Sandringham Beach but also completely separate. We had the whole beach to ourselves and went swimming at sunset, it was beautiful to watch the sun hit the water and watch the ships sailing past. A perfect spot to romance anyone special in your life.12728940_10153314616307617_2135933775195956825_n

Brighton Beach

A home away from home, this little gem comes complete with an amazing view of the city from across the water and cute little beach reminiscent of those you’ll find on quaint English beaches like those near my home. Plus, it’s only 20 minutes by train! A lovely chilled beach and great for swimming as there isn’t too many rocks in the water and it isn’t quite as shallow as some of the beaches. While you’re in the area you can also check out Elwood and Hampton beaches.16996157_10154229226972617_4915799084566740125_n

Port Melbourne

This has become my local beach of late -just 5 minutes on the tram from my apartment, it’s my perfect escape for a sunny morning before work. on the same stretch of Port Phillip Bay as St Kilda, it couldn’t be more different. Usually empty of people and very peaceful, this is more of a family beach and less party. It’s a perfect place to take a book and relax for a few hours.16603094_10154195515547617_7048427845693070214_n

Mount Martha

Halfway between a beach and a cliff face – this one is definitely worth a visit. The water was ice cold when I went but you couldn’t miss the beauty of the place. Come here for cliff jumping and a good swim in crystal clear deep waters. On hot days the place turns into a party for the Mornington crowd!15230827_10153986113157617_8100843845037770067_n

Williamstown Beach

Take a 25 minute train ride and a step back in time to Williamstown, a small seaside town with all the cuteness of a British seaside resort. I went on a windy day when it was perfect for sandy beach walks instead of sunbathing but still saw the beauty in the simple, untouched beach. Perfect if you fancy escaping the busy sands of St Kilda.16832185_10154214948637617_6379463003513546934_n

Bells Beach

Escape the city for a day or overnight like I did, I went to visit a friend who lived down in Torquay, near the start of Great Ocean Road. This was a perfect excuse to head down to the gorgeous surfing beaches like Bells Beach to walk the dogs and catch up for a few days. While you’re at it, why not hire a car for a few days and do the whole Great Ocean Road? Check out my posts for planning your trip here and here.15319029_10153978729872617_8726140641782645268_n15319070_10153978729842617_4618403670014633404_n

Mornington

I just spent a few hours on one of the many Mornington Peninsula beaches during a stormy day, but it was very beautiful and the whole area is covered with gorgeous beaches to explore. Easy to get to in a day, they’re worth exploring and if you have more time then Sorrento and the beaches down at Wilson’s Promontory are also worth a visit.15241265_10153986113162617_8413323955103607956_n

Frankston

Pretty far out of the city but worth a visit if you have more time, Frankston is full of lovely beaches to explore, most of them I saw during windy days so I enjoyed walks rather than sunbathing but they’d be beautiful on a hot day!13178557_10153502015042617_9220132387357246480_n-1


There’s something so soothing about the ocean isn’t there? If you love it as much as I do, why don’t you check out Celebrity Cruises by Bolsover Cruise Club for their take on modern luxury while you explore the globe.

What’s your favourite Melbourne beach? Can you recommend any others?

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Travel | My top 10 things to pack for a long bus journey

IMG_2380As a solo female traveller, and a backpacker living on a budget, I’m often asked about the cheapest and easiest ways to reach various locations around the world. Now much as I love flying and train journeys, they are not always the most practical or cost-effective option and, as I have discovered myself, sometimes the best choice can actually be kicking back on a coach from A to B. Not only do you get to relax and catch up on some Zzz’s, but you can often have saved a small fortune which can help you have the time of your life when you arrive at a destination. So many of us are put off by the thought of spending several hours on a bus for comfort reasons, but the truth is these days buses are some of the comfiest ways to travel with plenty of leg room, plug sockets available to charge your devices and even wi-fi. When you take into account all the rail disruptions we suffer in the UK these days and the price of internal flights – climbing aboard a coach really does start to sound like a great option.IMG_2319While it’s been a few years since I travelled by coach in the UK, I’ve found all over the world that it is more often than not the best and most efficient option. From crossing the border between Croatia and Hungary during the summer as I arrived in Budapest, to travelling huge distances up the East Coast of Australia and deep into the outback. And don’t let me forget those overnight journeys between Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia – up to 24 hours at a time but easily one of the best ways to travel so you don’t miss a single second of adventure time. In Europe and Australia I was taken aback by the quality of the bus journeys available, not only were the buses comfier than most hostels but they had great wifi so I could spend the hours catching up on work uninterrupted. The highest ranked coach, bus and train service in the UK, NationalExpress.com, offers the best of the best when it comes to bus journeys – with coaches that are fitted with leather seats, toilets, power sockets and air conditioning. They asked me to write about what makes a good bus journey and what to take with you when you set off, so here is:IMG_2366

My top 10 things to pack for a long bus journey:

  1. My number one will always be an iPod or MP3 player – music makes the journey and I can’t stand any long journey without a great new playlist. Take some time beforehand to download a few new albums, then sit back and enjoy.
  2. Snacks can make or break a journey – always take more than you think you will need, boredom brings out the hunger in us. I personally always eat ALL the unhealthy food on travelling days, calories don’t count when you’re between places. Chocolate, crisps, fruit and sandwiches always make good travelling food.
  3. Plenty of water, some buses stop every few hours, others not for 5-6 hours at a time depending on where you are in the world – don’t get dehydrated or the journey will feel like hell.
  4. A scarf or pashmina – air conditioned buses can seem draughty when you’re tired so it’s always a good idea to have something to wrap around you or use as a blanket if you want to sleep.
  5. A change of clothes can be a lifesaver, particularly if it is very hot or cold outside and the heating or air conditioning inside will feel like a dramatic contrast. These journeys are all about being comfortable.
  6. Any travel documents you might need – if you’re crossing borders be sure to have your passport and all visa information to hand, don’t leave it in the luggage hold of the bus.
  7. A good book can be a lifesaver in case you end up on a bus that is having problems with the wi-fi or is travelling out of range, or perhaps if you just don’t fancy looking at a screen.
  8. A laptop or iPad – if you work online it can be a great opportunity to catch up on work, I use the time to write blog posts/articles or edit photos. If you don’t have any work to do, why not watch a movie or Netflix? If you pre-download you can be sure it won’t be interrupted or slow.
  9. Any charging cables you need for your phone/laptop, you should have plug sockets available so make the most of them.
  10. Anything else you need to keep you comfortable/entertained – things like neck pillows and sleeping masks for those who want to chill, packs of cards and sweets for those who need something fun to do.

IMG_2383The more you pre-plan your journey, the better it will be! We’ve all had those trips where we spent the entire time thinking “oh man this would have been so much better with (insert item here)”. I’m all for spontaneous and adventurous travel, but when it comes to actual movements, a bit of pre-planning can be the difference between the journey from hell and a peaceful cruise to your next destination. Be smart and prepare, you’ll be giving yourself the opportunity to turn the journey into part of the adventure. If you’re planning to travel across the UK whether to the airport, a festival or gig, or even into Europe – look no further than National Express for the best in coach travel. Head to nationalexpress.com to book, or for more information.IMG_2309

Have you travelled by coach in the UK – how did it compare to other forms of travel? What is your favourite way to travel on a budget?

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2016 – The end of another amazing year of travel

15747862_10154056897662617_3367207312712882158_nThere’s no doubt about it, 2016 has been a pretty incredible year for me. I’ve had some soaring highs and felt pretty low at times, but I’ve also had the chance to experience some thing I never could have dreamed I would. I crossed three continents and ticked off my 30th country, worked with hotels, spas and restaurants either side of the globe for this blog, I said goodbye to love so that I could travel Europe solo and I made some incredible friends along the way. I’ve worked as a sales manager, a cocktail waitress, a journalist along the way and all the while I’ve been working on creating amazing content for this blog. 2016 has been a year of working hard and playing harder, and as it draws to a close I can’t help but reminisce over the special times I’ve shared with amazing people. From the teary goodbyes at the airport, to the mates I’ve shared incredible road trips with this summer, to the incredible welcome home I got from some of my best friends when I arrived back in Melbourne. Getting the opportunity to celebrate a real Aussie Christmas surrounded by so many amazing friends was a perfect way to end the year. But what have the highlights been?

My top 5 travelling experiences of 2016:

Melbourne

Without a doubt, Melbourne is my number one for the year. Voted the Most Liveable City in the World six years running, it’s no wonder I’ve just moved back here for the second time. I lived in Melbourne at the start of the year and it was the first place in nearly two years that had felt like home. I had an amazing flat, a great job as a sales manager, the most incredible friends and I completely fell for a great guy. Now I’m back for round two and I’m already well on my way with a great job at a rooftop bar and my own brand new apartment. Melbourne, you are well and truly my second home.12742300_10153292964597617_7986843509108504989_n

Budapest

A city I had dreamed of visiting for years, Budapest was everything I had imagined and more. I loved the history, the beauty, the architecture and the people I met there. Part of my summer backpacking trip around Europe, it was a perfect opportunity to explore the city independently and to have some amazing experiences. One of my favourites was eating dinner in a traditional Hungarian restaurant with my newfound Aussie and Norwegian mates talking about the world under a blanket of stars. Visiting Budapest reminded me how much I love exploring a new city alone on foot, and it’s a city I can’t wait to revisit.image

Slovenia

Slovenia was an amazing experience – not only did I get to explore some of Eastern Europe, a dream of mine for several years, but I was invited along on my first blogging trip. It was an amazing privilege and a reminder of how hard I have worked to build up this travel blog over the last few years. Spending a week at a luxury glamping site on the Slovenian/Croatian border was a fantastic way to see the country – from woodland hikes to swimming in the rivers, to visiting locals and eating feasts of freshly caught local fish. The people, and the place, made it unforgettable.image

Bali

My second blogging trip of the year came about only as a last minute plan – I was at a low point and unsure of what my next move would be when one of my best travelling friends invited me to Bali. It was the best decision ever and led to my being invited along to review hotels, spas and restaurants on the island. What was supposed to be a week-long trip turned into a month and yet I still wasn’t ready to leave. I explored the Bali countryside on motorbike, visited temples, explored monkey forests, swam in the waves, spotted manatees and swam with sea turtles. It was the holiday I had needed – not just travelling, it was a holiday and one of which I appreciated every second.img_2178

Tasmania

Definitely the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have been yet, by far. Tasmania was somewhere I had longed to visit since arriving in Australia and “mini-New Zealand” definitely lived up to the hype. I spent three weeks there staying in the best hostel I have found yet in Australia, exploring Hobart and road tripping around 11 national parks in just 10 days. I hiked for days on end, camped wild under the stars and the full moon, I climbed several mountains and spotted countless whales, kangaroos, wombats and wallabies. It was a magical experience and one I’m so glad I made happen, it was just what I needed. A true breath of fresh air.img_2381

After such an incredible year, it’s hard to imagine just how 2017 could top 2016. I’ve travelled to eight different countries this year, I’ve lived in two of them long-term, I’ve gone from outback living to city slicker to beach babe and total mermaid. I’ve taken my clothes off on top of a mountain in the snow, I’ve changed my mind in 10 minutes and booked a spontaneous flight to the other side of the world. I’ve refused to stop living my dream for anyone other than myself and I’ve made a plan for the future. It’s an exciting time to be Absolutely Lucy and it all starts again when the clock strikes 12 on New Years. Another fresh start, another exciting adventure and another dream come true. I’m ready, are you?

Where has been your favourite place to travel to this year? Have you enjoyed following my adventures? What are your travel plans for 2017?

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If you’re making travel plans for 2017 already – look no further than Sunshine for cheap holidays that will bring your dream destination a little closer. With hotel deposits from just £1 and holiday deposits from just £50, they’ll help you make your dream trip a reality.

Travel | How to budget for a gap year and plan your trip

imageOne of the most common messages I receive from readers asks about how to budget for backpacking. I write about saving money and how to plan trips a lot on this site, but one thing I really want to focus on is how you can possibly know how much you will spend on a long-term trip. After all, at home you’ve been living month-to-month rinsing those paycheques dry until you’re watching the days creep by towards pay day. The thought of not having a steady income and relying entirely on your savings can be scary for some – so it’s important to budget correctly and plan realistically if you want to have the best time. I’m all about making the most of your money and every possible experience – I don’t want to miss out on a single trip, meal or massage. BUT, I aways manage to do it on a budget because let’s be honest – I’d rather keep travelling as long as possible than indulge in a week of full luxury.

So how do you budget for a long-term trip?

First of all you need to establish how long you want to travel for and where you plan to go – weighing up the cost of living/travelling in each country. For instance – travelling in Asia is the cheapest travelling I have found and I could easily do a year there on the money I would need for 5-6 months in Australia. But when travelling Australia I have been working along the way and earning a small fortune compared to what I could save at home in the UK. If you’re on a break from work and only have a month – perhaps consider Europe which although expensive is a great way to see a lot of countries in a very short space of time. If you’re looking to travel for six months on a tight budget, Asia is fantastic – you can see so many different countries and the cost of living well is very low. If you’re looking to work abroad and fancy doing a year abroad – why not go for a working holiday visa in Australia, New Zealand or Canada and try a combination of working and travelling?image

What kind of trip?

What are your priorities when you travel – are you looking for a full cultural experience of staying with locals? Are you planning to party your way around the world? Or are you a thrill seeker who wants to try every adventure trip going? You need to factor in the cost of trips/alcohol/food/living costs and be realistic. Always over-compensate – what’s that quote?

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”

I couldn’t agree more – take as much money as possible by giving yourself enough time to save and cutting costs wherever you can (check out my top tips here). I worked five jobs for a year before going away the first time – it was worth every miserable second when it meant I saved £10,000, didn’t have to work for nine months and lived like a queen! I personally like a balance of cutting costs, partying a lot and adventure trips so I always think about how I can balance them. Sometimes I will stay in the cheapest accommodation possible and live off instant noodles so that I can justify an amazing road trip or island cruise. Other times I won’t be interested in trips and will spend all my money on cocktails and my own private hut on the beach. When I budget for my trip I take that into account and over budget my living costs. I always try and budget roughly £1,000 a month no matter where I am – then I know that in Asia I will hugely underspend which balances out in Australia when I definitely overspend, likewise with Europe I budgeted more because I knew I was travelling around a lot very quickly which costs more – best way to cut costs when you travel? Stay still for a while in a cheap place and just live simple.

Be realistic

We all have those times when we accidentally splash too much cash, when we shop too much in the markets or take our card on a night out then look at our account the next day with horror. I know I’m definitely guilty of that at home and since I’ve ben travelling – but it’s good to acknowledge it. If you admit you are possibly going to do it, budget for it and give yourself a cushion of cash to keep yourself out of the red.image

Don’t forget

Remember to account for any home costs while you’re away – if you’re still paying rent on a house or phone bills/credit cards you need to make sure you have the money available in the correct accounts at all times. You need to make sure you can afford to do this and don’t end up in more debt as a result of messing up your money or under-budgeting.

Don’t let budgeting put you off

Remember you will never have as much money as you would like. It would be great to live in that dream world where you have a constant supply to keep you going, but it may never happen. Don’t let that stop you from travelling – I know people who have gone away with £1-2000 for a long trip and who have just figured it out along the way. I always think the less money we have, the better we are with it. And always remember – there are so many amazing options for working abroad these days – those working holiday visas I mentioned earlier, see if your own current working company can transfer you abroad, study abroad, teach English around the world, volunteer, work for accommodation. The options are endless and there is always a way to make your travelling dreams a reality. I’ve been both the richest and the poorest I’ve ever been since travelling and I can assure you I’ve lived the dream throughout both. If you’re determined and committed to making it a reality, you will always find a way.

This post was a collaboration with Auto Advance.

Need budget tips for your upcoming trip – leave a comment below with any questions! What are your best budget tips for preparing for a long-term trip?

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Indonesia | Explore Yogyakarta, the soul of Java

imageWhen I travelled to Bali last month, I only planned to stay for a week but I fell in love with the Indonesian culture and the incredible landscape. A month later I only left because of my visa but I know for sure I’ll be back in the future to explore more of Indonesia in the years to come. There are thousands of incredible islands waiting to be explored and each come with their own incredible sights, customs and experiences just waiting to be discovered. From the jungles of Borneo to the beauty of the Gili islands and the wildness of Komodo Island – Indonesia truly captivates the soul. One area I would love to visit is Java, and when the team at Hotel Tentrum Yogyakarta asked me to write about my perfect trip there, I couldn’t resist the chance to share it with you guys. Yogyakarta has long been described as the artistic soul of Java and it’s easy to see why when it has combined the traditional Balinese culture with modern living. Now famed for its arts and culture, the city remains protective over its customs combining the new with the old.imageIf you’re planning a trip to the city, be sure to check out some of the incredible natural sights that lie all around, delve into the history of years gone by and indulge in the foodie highlights around the city. Don’t miss these top sights:

  1. Stand in awe of the magnificent Prambanan Temple, the 9th century Hindu temple is part of the Indonesia UNESCO World Heritage Site, being one of the largest Hindu temple architecture in Southeast Asia. Just 18km outside of Yogyakarta, it can easily be reached by bus and is well worth a visit.
  2. Just a short walk from Prambanan, the eerier Sewu Temple will leave you with chills as you walk around and attempt to uncover the mystery of this captivating temple. Be sure to explore every dark corner to discover some incredible carvings.
  3. Even for those who usually don’t hike or climb, the short hike to Mount Merapi is a sight that will leave you humbled as you walk through the leftovers of homes shattered by the 2010 eruption of the volcano.
  4. For a peek behind-the-scenes into the opulent world of a sultan, visit the Taman Sari Water Castle and explore the huge complex that used to be a former royal garden.
  5. Try Gudeg, the most famous dish in Yogyakarta, this unique Indonesian dish is a stew made from young jackfruit (nangka) with palm sugar, coconut milk, meat, garlic, and spices.
  6. Shop at Jalan Malioboro and Pasar Beringharjo for bargains when it comes to silver jewellery, food and almost anything you can think of. Barter with market stall holders for the full Indonesian experience.
  7. In total contrast to the temples and culture of Yogyakarta, head out for a day trip to Jomblang Cave if you fancy an adventure. Visit the ancient forests, try your hand at vertical caving and lots more. An astonishing natural sight, prepare your camera for some amazing shots.
  8. The cable cars at Timang Beach will give you a day off sightseeing as you travel suspended high across the bay and enjoy the beautiful sights.
  9. Fancy dosing up on a bit more local culture? The Ullen Sentalu Museum showcases a lot of old photographs, paintings, fabrics, old letters and statues that show Javanese culture.

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If that’s whet your appetite for a visit, why not take a look at these Yogyakarta hotel deals and start planning your trip? Have you been to Yogyakarta – what was your highlight? Can you recommend any places to visit?

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Travel | 10 ways to make long-haul flights bearable

imageWhen it comes to tropical holidays on those pure white sandy beaches – often it seems nothing but a dream to those with one great big barrier standing between them and paradise. Long-haul flights are either amazing or horrendous – every person feels a little differently about them but for so many they actually prevent them from exploring some of the world’s most exciting and beautiful destinations. I’ve always loved flying, since I was a little girl I loved the excitement of getting up in the middle of the night and stealing away to the airport, of watching planes taxi down the runway and eventually that moment when you take off to somewhere hot and sunny. But despite enjoying them for the most part, I will definitely admit long-haul flights are a slog and having several connecting flights can be a total mood-kill when you just want to be on holiday. In the last two years I’ve completely lost count of how many flights I’ve been on, both short and long-haul, and I’ve literally flown from one side of the world to another several times, so I’m getting pretty good at knowing what makes my life a little better when I travel.imageThe team behind Optrex are also pretty good at knowing what will help make that journey a little easier – when they heard I was flying to Bali they popped a little something in the post for me. Their Cloud Nine kit was just what I needed to get me through a long layover between flights in Dubai airport. The box came complete with a great little travel wallet to store all my important travel documents – the perfect size for your passport and money. To keep me entertained on the one flight there was a pair of headphones which block out noise from the plane engines and the departure lounges as I listen to my chill mixes and caught up on some zzz’s. For someone who normally just sticks to earphones, these were a great new addition to my hand luggage. Finally the highlight of the package – the brand new Optrex Warming Eye Masks – one of their newest products and one that I now swear by for travelling. I never would have thought of an eye mask as something useful for travelling but it was a total game changer on that flight to Bali. When you pop the mask on it instantly starts warming the skin around your eyes and soothes tired, dry eyes – as someone who suffers with hay fever, I could tell they would be great for easing the itchy feeling. The masks are perfect for sensitive skin and use Microsteam technology that is air activated, they’re available unscented or with a hint of lavender to help you sleep. I’ve been rationing the rest of the pack on my flights since to make sure I always have at least one mask in my bag for any long journeys.image

So many people actually let a long flight stand in the way of them seeing what’s on the other side of the world, when there are so many ways to make long-haul flights that little bit easier. Check out my top tips for changing your in-flight experience:

10 ways to make long-haul flights more bearable:

  1. Dress smart – the clothes you wear to the airport can change your whole experience. Always put comfort first – I usually travel in leggings because they’re much softer than jeans and they don’t wrinkle. Plus you can make them look much smarter with a nice top. Always take a scarf to block any drafty air conditioning on the plane, and remember to try and look a bit smarter – you’re more likely to get upgraded if you look the part. I always get cold when I travel so I always take a few layers with me.
  2. Home comforts – you’re going to be travelling for up to 24 hours with barely a break, things are going to get a bit gross. Always pack your toothbrush and toothpaste – it’s amazing how brushing your teeth can make you feel like a new woman. And I always pack face wipes and moisturiser so I can take my make-up off, or put it on. Plus the air on the plane is very drying so it can feel amazing to put moisturiser all over your face.
  3. Bring entertainment. Whether you take your laptop and work through the flight, a book to read or music to listen to, make sure you have something. Most long-haul flights come with in-flight movies and entertainment now but it still doesn’t hurt to come prepared in case those break or are unavailable – 24 hours is a long time to stare at the seat in front of you.
  4. Eat – I always treat travel days like treat days – I usually never know where my next meal is coming from and find myself bored and waiting around a lot so I just make it my business to eat as often as possible – my record is 12 meals in 24 hours. Calories don’t count if you’re on different continents.
  5. Head to an airport lounge for some pre-flight relaxation – if you’re going to spend the next 48 hours travelling, it’s nice to treat yourself a bit before. Lounges offer a perfect place to unwind, eat and pamper yourself before taking to the skies.
  6. Catch up on sleep – a lot of people struggle to sleep on long flights, the noise and lack of legroom can make it hard to relax enough to sleep. I know I usually end up either working or watching movies the whole way then end up feeling wrecked when I arrive. But a perfect chilled playlist on your iPod can change everything – I always make sure I have a few super chilled albums to listen to – my favourites are The XX and Lapsley at the moment and never fail to relax me enough for a good sleep.
  7. Organise yourself well beforehand. By making sure you have all your travel documents to hand, all your visas are in order and your airport shuttle at the other end is booked – you’re free to relax and enjoy the journey.
  8. Give yourself peace of mind by ensuring that your home and belongings are safely locked up at home – check out my guide for keeping your home safe when you travel.
  9. Don’t forget your manners and talk to the staff – airline staff get a bad rap when behind-the-scenes they do a very hard job. They are in charge of your in-flight experience and can make-or-break it for you, so throw a smile their way and chat to them – it can be the difference between a miserable and a great experience.
  10. Always remember, the journey is just as important as the destination – some of my greatest travelling memories have been the anticipation of the trip and the experience of getting there. Don’t get so caught up in the length of the flight that you forget to enjoy the pre-holiday build-up!

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What are your best tips for making long-haul flights bearable? What are your most important hand luggage items?

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Food | Talking oils and nursing myself back to health

imageI’ve been writing a LOT about travel lately, and while I still have so much to share with you all from my month travelling around Europe and now Indonesia, I thought it would be a nice time to take a moment’s break to talk about two of my other passions. Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a big foodie at heart and that I love to stay fit and healthy – combining the two is a big love of mine and something I dedicate a lot of time to when I’m not travelling. We all know how hard it is to keep it going when you’re on holiday – well apparently my life is a holiday but if there’s something I hate, it’s getting ill while travelling. I’m actually writing this when my body is a wreck – too much partying means I’m now popping Vitamin C and painkillers to stave off every illness going and I know exactly why. It’s because my diet has suffered since being in Bali – I haven’t been eating as many fruits and vegetables since being away, I haven’t been eating enough and half the time I’ve had an upset tummy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast here, but it does catch up with you! So now I’m taking a few days of good, healthy food, fresh fruit smoothies and good sleep to recuperate.imageA few days off partying and sightseeing has given me time to use my brain a bit and talk to people, quite a few of these conversations have naturally led to one of my favourite products and one that is widely available in Asia – coconut oil. I love everything coconut – from the meat, the milk and the water, to the oils and natural products created from them. It is lifesaver for a girl with skin as delicate as mine – coconut oil is one of the few things I know I can use liberally without causing rashes both to eat and on my skin – it’s so pure that it can do no wrong. And one of the lovely things about buying it out here, is not only that it is so cheap, but that it has no preservatives or nasties added to it – it’s pretty much as pure as you can get it without the “health food” price attached. Even when I’m in the UK, I try to make sure I drink as much coconut water as possible and use coconut oil on my skin, hair and nails – it’s definitely a lot more pricey than it is out here but it’s worth it. Even long before it became “fashionable” I knew the value of using oils instead of lotions and creams that were packed full of things I could be allergic to. Trust me, once you find that out the hard way a few times, you become very cautious about what you are putting on, and in, your body.imageIf you do struggle with your skin like I do, particularly with eczema and dry patches, it’s a really good idea to take a look at your oil use. I’ve always alternated the use of coconut oil with olive oils to get the best results – both in my food and on my skin. While both have amazing affects when you add them to your diet, I notice huge differences when I also apply them externally. Often before going to bed I will cover my skin in coconut oil, or will coat any dry patches in olive oil, then allow it to soak in. By doing it when your body is resting, it has so much more time to really soak in and work it’s magic, trust me – as someone who has suffered with these problems for years – nothing has ever worked better than simple oils on your plate and on your skin. It’s also great to combine the oils with a body butter, if you can find one pure enough, that way the deeper layers of your skin absorb the oil while the butter moisturises the top layers. I personally find The Body Shop’s argan oil or cocoa body butters work really well this way, plus they smell amazing!imageIf you followed my blog over the last few months, you’ll know that I holidayed in Santorini with my parents for a few weeks. Greece is a big favourite with my parents – they love the food, the culture, the landscape, and after years of holidays there I can only agree with them. It’s a fabulous country and particularly when you get down to the islands, each one is completely different but still maintains the charm and traditions of Greece. One thing I really love about Greece is their Mediterranean diet, I do think Greek food is one cuisine that I could happily live off for the rest of my days. Maybe less of the bread, but throw all the seafood, salads and wine at me! We were living off the most delicious Greek salads, and even Santorini salads, dressed in the simplest of dressings, just the very finest olive oils and vinegar – so good they speak for themselves! When it came to seafood, the simpler the better. I’d have sea bass or bream, or even snapper, dressed simply in herbs and drizzled with olive oil before being barbecued. It was some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had and yet some of the simplest. The Greeks sure know the value of quality over quantity – they would rather serve just three ingredients but the very finest quality and flavours than have a whole plate of tastes that don’t quite get your palate excited.imageAt home we use a lot of olive oil in cooking and preparing meals, so if you’re struggling to think of ways of integrating more good oils into your diet it’s worth trying out some of my favourites. Salads are an easy way to introduce olive oils to your diet – drizzle olive oil and either balsamic or white wine vinegar over your salad, and the beauty of salad is that it doesn’t just have to be boring lettuce. You can mix it up and try quinoa, pumpkin, cous cous, spinach and all kinds of other tasty treats. If you like seafood, you can’t beat a nice bit of salmon wrapped in foil in the oven for 20 minutes, drizzle oil over it and add chilli or paprika for flavour – serve with sweet potato fries or minty potatoes. And if you need a little something for the side, why not add roasted vegetables? Just chop up loads of veg in a tray then drizzle oil all over it and season, stick it in the oven and roast for half an hour or until soft – perfect side dish. Or if you’re just cooking for one – do what I used to do at uni, roast loads then keep it in the fridge for wraps – yum! If you want to learn a little more about the different types of olive oil and what to do with them – you should check out this great infographic from Jamie’s Italian. It tells you all you need to know about how to cook with different types of oil to get the best results.jamies-italian-olive-oil-buyers-guide_57320f2dda035_w1500

Or, if you’re feeling like treating yourself, why not click here to book a table at Jamie’s Italian and let the pros show you how it’s done?

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London | A bittersweet trip to the Caribbean with Cottons

imageI’ve had people ask me before whether I really like things as much as I say in reviews, whether I’m just sugar-coating because I got to eat or stay somewhere for free. I can’t help but laugh when I hear this, because anyone who knows me well will agree that’s it’s almost impossible for me to hide how I feel about things, and lying just isn’t in vocabulary. I’m always honest and have just been lucky that so far I’ve never really had a bad experience when I’ve reviewed products or places, but that doesn’t mean I would hide it from my readers if I did. I actually had my first disappointing experience at a restaurant review a few weeks ago and wanted to make sure I shared this with you, because my blog is about life – the good, the bad and the ugly. No sugar-coating and no editing out the bad bits, just honesty about my experiences so that perhaps they can help you to plan yours.imageYou guys will already know I went on a little weekend jaunt to London a few weeks ago when I stayed at the gorgeous Mandeville Hotel – find my review here – well I actually went to London because I had a series of restaurant reviews booked in. Lucky me, I love food and I love visiting new restaurants so this is a serious perk of running this blog, and I wanted to make sure I squeezed them all in quick before I head back to Australia. The first restaurant review of the weekend was actually the one I was looking forward to the most, and sadly it was the most disappointing. Cottons Rhum Shack and Restaurant in Notting Hill was where we were headed and I was looking forward to a night of Caribbean cuisine and rum cocktails. It was a cute little restaurant with all the colour and character a Caribbean restaurant should have and the Rhum Bar looked like a fabulous place to sip on a cocktail. So what was the problem?imageWell, from the second we walked in the door, we just didn’t feel very welcome. The service sucked, big time. The staff barely looked up when we came in and just seemed like they couldn’t be bothered to chat to us or welcome us as we went to our table. It took about 15 minutes before anyone even came over to ask if we actually wanted any drinks or if we understood the menu, I could understand if they were busy but this was a quiet Sunday night. For me, the service really makes a restaurant – whether it’s a fine dining or a budget chain, the level of attentiveness can turn an average dinner into a really lovely evening. As someone who has worked in hospitality across pubs, restaurants and bars, I know full well how much it sucks to work the Sunday shift when perhaps you’re tired or hungover from the night before, but that doesn’t mean you offer lower quality service. It’s always so important to remember that each customer who comes in is paying for top quality service and food and I just didn’t feel like that was a factor in our meal.imageWe indulged in rum cocktails – I went for the Wild Tiki which was spiced rum flavoured with Maraschino liqueur, passion fruit, pineapple, kafir and lemongrass. It was delicious, like a slightly more exotic Pornstar Martini. While my friend went for the Reggae Rum Punch – going for Wray and Nephews rum mixed with fruit juices – always pretty tasty. The cocktails were a real highlight of the night because I’m pretty picky about the quality, I hate when you get a cocktail and it is just watered down juice. Then our dinner arrived, I’d ordered the Spiced Coconut Seafood Casserole which was packed full of clams, squid, crab and red mullet, annatto potatoes and was served with scotch bonnet rouille. It was fantastic, the coconut flavour was absolutely delicious and I loved the mix of seafood as I’m a big fish fan. But my friend was left rather disappointed by the Montego bay Jerk Pork and Ribs – he actually ordered off the Caribbean Classics menu so we expected that to a lot better but there was a real lack of meat served. As someone who has worked in a Caribbean restaurant and who loves the food, he was pretty disappointed with his meal.imageIn the end it was a pretty bittersweet evening, while the cocktails and my dinner were good, my friend’s meal and the service on offer left a lot to be desired. I personally wouldn’t eat there again, if I fancy Caribbean food in future I would probably try to track down a different restaurant. It’s a shame because the restaurant was in a great location in Notting Hill and had most of the ingredients to be a success but it just didn’t quite make it. Here’s hoping the staff were just having an off-night, but having someone walk off as I started to place a drinks order wasn’t a good sign. I’d be curious to know if anyone else has eaten at one of the Cotton’s Restaurants and whether you enjoyed your experience – please leave a comment below and tell me about it.

How was your Cotton’s experience? Can you recommend any other Caribbean restaurants in the UK?

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London | Dining on Dim Sum at Royal China

It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten Chinese food, but anyone who has been following my travels through Asia will know how much I loved the food there. Asia food is one of my absolute favourite cuisines and something I just know I could eat every day for the rest of my life. I love how fresh, light and healthy it is, and I’m a huge fan of their colourful dishes whether Thai, Vietnamese or Cambodian. When it comes to Chinese food, I’ve always been a little put off by memories of greasy Chinese takeaways filled with stodge and feeling really sick after scoffing one. It put me off for years but when I was invited along to try out the special Dim Sum menu at Royal China’s Queensway Restaurant, I figured it was time to give Chinese food another try at one of Royal China’s eight restaurants.royal-china-queensway-restaurantWe were welcomed by the staff as we arrived and were taken to our table – I was astonished by the size of the restaurant, it was huge, but was told that it has recently been extended and yet still has queues out of the door some days. It seems Royal China is a bit of an institution in the area and after being there for 20 years, who can be surprised? You walk in and see a room filled with 85% Asian people and quite frankly you know the food must be good if they’re choosing to dine out here. I was impressed by the decor at the restaurant, instead of the bright and colourful designs of most Chinese restaurants they had gone for a much sleeker and more elegant look that really gave the place a great atmosphere for a dinner. We were just having lunch but already the restaurant was mostly full on a Monday lunchtime, you can understand how busy it must get at peak times.royal-china-queensway-barI really felt the restaurant would be a great place to come with a larger party, the tables are big and could easily seat bigger groups and if you ask me, Asian food is always great for sharing with friends. We ordered several items off the Dim Sum menu including the sesame prawn rolls and the plain Cheung Fun with peanut sauce, seafood pancakes and the roasted duck dumplings, then picked others off the larger menu such as the aromatic duck, the spicy prawn stir fry and the pak choi. The food was delicious and served quickly but goodness me there was a lot of it. It would definitely be a place to go with friends, between the two of us we struggled to eat everything but really enjoyed the flavours. Although I have to admit, I’m still not entirely sure what Cheung Fun is – it was a very strange dish I have never tried before. The service was excellent throughout and the staff kept coming over to check if we needed anything at all, or just to talk to us about the dishes.dim-sum-at-royal-china steamed-prawn-dim-sum-at-royal-chinaOverall I would say the restaurant was lovely, we really enjoyed the meal and the atmosphere of Royal China. But we did find the dishes rather expensive for the size of the meal, perhaps it would have been less noticeable if you were sharing the meal with a group and were sharing lots of dishes but for two people I think it would have been an expensive meal out if you wanted to taste several dishes. However, the food was of a very high standard and very well prepared, it wasn’t at all greasy and had lots of flavour. If you were going to eat Chinese food, this would be the place to do it. For me personally, I don’t think Chinese food is for me, I’m glad I’ve given it another shot but I think I’ll stick to Thai and Vietnamese food from now on. If you fancy trying out Royal China, you’ll find restaurants on Baker Street and in Bayswater, Fulham and Canary Wharf. More information about Royal China available online.steamed-chilli-pork-dumplings

Have you eaten at Royal China – what did you think? What’s your favourite Chinese dish? What other restaurants would you recommend in London?

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