Tag Archives: shopping

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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Santorini | Discovering handmade treasures when you travel | Greece

imageSomething I really love about travelling is the shopping – I can never resist a good market or a browse around a boutique filled with delicate handmade crafts. There’s something beautiful about the way so much effort is put into the creation and sourcing of such wonderful products. It’s just so pure when you come from a world of mass-produced fashion where everyone dresses the same and personal style can sometimes lack a bit of soul. I’ve always much preferred something a bit quirky, something not everyone else wears – I love clashing colours, bright prints and vibrancy that reflects my personality. When I traveled in Asia, the markets filled with tie-dye, patterns and colours were made for me, the delicate shall bracelets and coloured anklets were the stuff my dreams were made of and the cheap prices allowed me to reinvent my image every few days.imageWhen I was in Australia, even when things were a touch more expensive, I couldn’t resist the lure of a beautiful handmade jewellery shop in Darwin that has given me one of my favourite pieces of jewellery. Never leaving my ankle, this dainty silver piece was handmade and holds some of my most precious travelling memories close to me wherever I go. It’s amazing really how a well chosen memento can transport you back to a moment in seconds, how it can transform your day with just a glance by reminding you of happier times. Something handmade always seems that much more precious because of the time, effort and heart that has been poured into the creation of it. It just seems so much more special because it is a handcrafted reminder of not only the place, but the people who created it and the history behind it.imageSantorini was surprisingly a hidden gem when it came to shopping after warnings it was an expensive island. I actually found the shops very reasonably priced, especially for the quality of the items on sale. And actually having a suitcase with me instead of a backpack for once – it seemed rude not to indulge! While there didn’t seem to be any markets to browse, there were several shops and lovely little jewellery stalls scattered around Perissa, where we were staying. My favourite item of the holiday was without a doubt my mermaid dish, pictured at the top, it is absolutely beautiful and perfect for holding all my favorite jewellery. I love the shimmering shell and it was a total bargain for something that will fit beautifully with my room at home and make a perfect present for friends. For any other mermaids out there, it’s a perfect reminder of those gorgeous ocean blues when you’ve had a long day at work or the weather is kind of crappy at home.imageEverywhere you go in Greece there are shops selling handmade sandals, wallets and bags, and usually I’m not very interested. But when I stumbled across a little shop full of some of the most beautiful, and quirky, handmade sandals I’ve ever seen – plus a real-life cobbler whipping them up in front of my very eyes – I just couldn’t resist! This shop was amazing and I decided to treat myself to a new pair of sandals which are already the most comfortable shoes I own and I know I’ll have for a very long time. The cobbler was so friendly and even made my mother and I matching bracelets to wear with the shoes. The whole process of watching him create these beautiful shoes from pieces of leather and fabric was just amazing, and it was so lovely to witness as you were buying the shoes. It really gave you a sense of where the shoes came from and made them that much more special.imageFurther along the seafront we discovered a little shop with some of the most beautiful dresses, jumpsuits and jewellery adorning the rails inside. A total mish-mash of creative, colourful trinkets lined the shelves, including some rather odd items such as decorative penises, and a host of gorgeous decorations for your home and even photo albums. I couldn’t resist trying on this beautiful dress, and I found an amazing jumpsuit and dress for my mum, plus I treated her to a cute little bracelet as a reminder of the holiday. The staff were so friendly and put the emphasis on the handmade elements of the clothes and jewellery within the store, that was what really sold the items to us, the fact that they were one-of-a-kind with only one of each in the shop. That’s something you really struggle to find back home where everything is available in every colour and size, so it just means everyone has one.imageIf you’re looking for a handmade gift that is just a little bit more personal, why not try Forever Handmade – they focus on using centuries old techniques to create modern looking accessories. This post was a collaboration with Forever Handmade, but as usual, all views are my own.

What handmade treasures have you discovered while travelling? Which purchases have become treasured possessions?

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Backpacking | My ultimate girl’s packing guide for a long-term trip in Asia & Australia

11873736_10153005033717617_683763527235870508_nI used to love packing for a holiday – the time spent planning my wardrobe, the purchasing of sun lotion and beach towels. Those final moments trying to make everything fit and realising there’s just no way you’ll squeeze in another pair of sandals. I think I used to love it because it only happened once a year so I associated it with the excitement of going away. But now, after an 18 month backpacking trip across Asia and Australia, I think I can safely say, I’m done. When you’ve spent so long living out of a backpack, or trying time and time again to squeeze in your few possessions into your bag with just a few minutes to spare, it gets kinda old real quick. When I was packing for my holiday to Santorini two weeks ago, I thought “oh this will be easy having a whole suitcase to fill!” but how wrong I was – if anything the packing was a lot harder and more stressful. Having all this extra space just paved the way for me to cram more shoes, clothes and rubbish I didn’t need in my suitcase. I actually thought to myself how much easier it was to pack for a long-term trip because you’re less likely to indulge if you have to carry your life on your back.

I’ve started many times to write a packing guide for an extended trip, but have always ended up trailing off to something else. But when Shiply asked me to write about my top packing tips it seemed only right to explain how I managed to cram my life into a 65l rucksack to travel across Asia and Australia for a year and a half. So how do you pack for a long-term trip?11659517_10152807344362396_558828969069746182_n


Choosing a bag

I was lucky and already had a 65l backpack from when I did Duke of Edinburgh a few years ago, it was a good quality rucksack that had been in the sale in an outdoor shop in town. It was strong material, came with lots of useful pockets and had good, thick, supportive straps that would protect my shoulders. If you need to purchase a bag, think carefully when you do, don’t just buy the cheapest or the first one you see. In Asia, you spend a lot of time carrying your bag sometimes great distances, so it needs to be comfortable for your shoulders and it mustn’t be too heavy. If you ask me, 65l is perfect size especially for Asia, but it is also worth seeing if you can find a bag that also has wheels for when you reach Australia. Make sure the bag has strong material – I later had to buy one in Asia and the cheap material ripped very easily. If you’re heading just to Australia, get something on wheels. The whole concept of backpacking is different there and there is no actual backpack needed – you can take a one, but if you prefer you can just use a suitcase or a backpack on wheels which may give you a bit more space.


Shoes

Much like for soldiers in the trenches, as a backpacker, your feet and legs are everything to you. You walk everywhere and in Asia, you definitely don’t want to risk blisters or cuts from bad shoes that could lead to infections. I had a friend who skidded off a motorcycle and scraped the skin of his entire leg – he had a nightmare trying to protect the wound from dust and cleaning it each day. You want to make sure you have comfortable, good quality shoes that will support your feet and will last you. There are three types of shoes you definitely don’t want to leave home without:11751414_10152949592672617_3776395476331486033_n

  1. 1x trainers for walking/hiking and activities. I took Converse with me which lasted beautifully and were really comfortable even when I was hiking mountains and climbing through caves. I later bought some Nike running shoes over there which are my absolute favourite shoes ever.
  2. 1x rubber flip flops for using on the beach, in the showers (trust me) and everywhere else. I took Havianas at first but these broke within a week so I relied on ones from the market which were actually more comfortable and supportive.
  3. 1x sandals – this is where you can take something pretty for the evenings, something a bit smarter for when you hit the bars or want to go somewhere a bit fancier. I’ve found great sandals from Primark/New Look and similar shops that lasted me all around Asia.

Don’t take high heels. You don’t need them, no-one wears them in Asia and I barely saw anyone in them in Australia. They take up space and weigh a lot. Same goes for walking boots – unless you are going specifically just to hike and climb mountains the whole time, trainers will do.


Clothes

Now this is where it gets tricky. Let me start by saying forget all those beautiful boho Instagrams you’ve been stalking – forget the gorgeous floaty white lace items that will be ruined in a day. Keep it simple and keep it practical. If you’re heading to Asia – you want to take as little as possible and just buy clothes out there for a fraction of the price and a lot more traveler style – that’s what I did. I was lucky and already had a lot of summer/festival/traveler style clothes in my wardrobe so I didn’t actually buy much at all. It’s definitely best to use what you have and head to the markets when you arrive, but there are a few key items you want to make sure you remember:11136690_10152722008812617_6311377351277944564_n

Asia:

  • 2x bikinis – one practical for water activities like diving/watersports, and one pretty one for beach parties
  • 2x t-shirt/long-sleeved top to cover up when visiting temples
  • 1x full length skirt/trousers and 1x shorter skirt
  • 1x denim shorts – they go with everything and don’t show dirt!
  • 1x shorts
  • 3x  tops/vests
  • 2x dresses or playsuits (My wardrobe seems to be made up of one or the other, but I think they are the BEST for dressing up or down.)
  • Pants/socks/bras – you decide, but trust me you’ll need a lot less than you think. You’ll be spending most days in bikinis and flip flops, so keep it to a minimum. I took two bras, three pairs of socks and five pairs of pants.
  • 1x leggings and warm top – these are a MUST for when you’re on overnight buses/flights/trains and the air con is on full blast.
  • 1x scarf/pashmina – great for covering up in religious places and warming up if it gets chilly

Everything else you can buy there!11112211_10152889525942617_4295118282751061184_n

Australia:

  • 1x leggings/workout leggings – trust me, these were my most worn items when travelling around or during the winter.
  • 1x big shirt to wear over clothes (my checkered shirt was my fave travelling item and will be the first thing I pack when I go back!)
  • 1x jumper – trust me, Australia gets cold too and you will want a warm sweatshirt!
  • 1x jeans – if you arrive in winter like I did, these are a must!
  • 1x denim shorts, the staple of every travelling girl’s wardrobe
  •  When it comes to underwear you may want a little bit more with you as you’ll use them more in Oz and washing is more expensive.
  • 1x smart dress for job interviews/nights out to fancy clubs if you choose.
  • 5x tops – take a mixture of styles as the weather can vary depending on where you’re going
  • 2x bikinis – one practical for water activities like diving/watersports, and one pretty one for beach parties
  • 2x playsuits/dresses/skirts for nights out

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TOP TIPS:

  1. Always choose patterned and coloured items, white turns grey very quickly when you’re travelling and patterns will hide any unfortunate stains. Also, choose hard-wearing fabrics, don’t go for anything delicate or anything that will crease easily.
  2. If you have to buy clothes in Australia, head to the Op-Shops – they’re amazing and full of vintage/bargains often fresh out of the shops!

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Other practical items

These ones are good ones to remember for any destination:

  • A large padlock for lockers, or even the door to your hut.
  • A small torch
  • A travel towel – takes up half the space and dries much faster
  • Plastic bags – don’t waste money on packing cells when bags will do the same job, just don’t be the person who wakes everyone up rustling in the middle of the night.
  • A sarong for the beaches – don’t bother with a beach towel
  • Jacket/coat/raincoat – look carefully at the weather and time of year you are going. Winter in Australia – you need a jacket. Wet season in Asia – a raincoat is a good idea.
  • A hat – if you burn easily this is important for protection.
  • A smaller carry-on rucksack
  • 2x Adapters so you can charge multiple items

10407945_10153743643145744_3804068750240679927_nSo there you have it – my ultimate girl’s packing guide for a long-term trip. Best thing to always remember is that if you’re starting out in Asia it is a much better idea to buy clothes out there. If you’re spending several months in Asia and have no space to pack for Australia – why not do what I did and send a holdall of clothes back from Asia then either raid charity shops in Australia. Or if you fancy some of your slightly more stylish clothes from back home, get your mum to post out a few of your favourites from home. It’s much cheaper than you think to do this and it can be lovely to get a care package from home with all your favourite goodies, plus it’s always a lovely idea to send a package of gifts for your family. I sent mine a package of jewellery, coconut oil, clothes and Vietnamese coffee – what will you send back from your travels?

If you’re thinking of sending gifts home or want your family to send out packages to you, why not try out Shiply? The courier service will deliver to almost anywhere in the world and will take all manner of items – perfect for travelers all over the globe.

Disclaimer: This was a sponsored post but as usual all opinions are my own.10417584_10152668456562617_4921039091851626771_n

What are your packing essentials for a long-term trip? Which items have been your most worn when travelling?

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How UNiDAYS can give you the best training for backpacker life

imageThere’s no denying that for many, their student days conjure up memories of wayyyy too many cheap baked bean cans, far too many hungover lectures and amazing memories that will last a lifetime. My university life was no different – it was something I had been looking forward to for years: a chance to get away from all I knew, to study something I was passionate about and to live as wild and freely as my bank balance would allow. That first taste of freedom is the make-or-break moment for many and while some will flounder in the face of independence, spending every penny of their student loan in the first few weeks and scraping by for the next three years. Others thrive, finally given the space and time to live the way they deem fit, growing as an individual into the person they always had the potential to become. It’s a fantastic opportunity for teenagers to learn some serious life skills because so many at that age have been molly-coddled with no real work experience or life skills.

Now I would never say that university is right for everyone, especially when there are so many different paths these days that can help get you into the career of your choice. But there is one lifestyle that I think student life could really help prepare you for – backpacking. Travelling has been my life for almost 18 months and the whole experience has really opened my eyes to the different types of young travellers out there – from the very youngest at barely 18-years-old, to the mid-twenties and beyond. It’s amazing how difficult it becomes to read people as they are travelling – but once you remove many travellers from the “real world” their life experience and confidence just soars. I’ve been astonished to find how much I have in common with students who are barely out of university, and it has made me respect their maturity in new ways. Seeing their bravery in boarding that plane to the other side of the world, I wonder if I could have done it at their age and whether I would have had the same experiences.imageLooking back, I was always an independent person, someone who was always looking for opportunities to strike out on her own. But it was when I went away to study that I finally came into my own, being wholly independent was amazing and gave me the space I needed to grow as an individual, to really take control of my life. Student life gave me an amazing basis for becoming a traveller – it taught me to be independent and strong, yet flexible around others. It taught me the standard at which I want to live my life and a respect for how that measures up to the standards of others. It taught me basic skills like money management and the value of money, it taught me how to organise EVERYTHING for myself and others. It taught me time management and ways of having it all – of balancing my studies and personal life. It taught me to be creative – with everything. It taught me to be brave and to put myself out there in terms of my career and life opportunities. It taught me that life waits for no-one and you have to make the most of every second. UNiDAYS are life-changing in so many ways and I wouldn’t trade mine for the world. Not when it was those student days that prepared me for the world.

Talking to friends who are just beginning their studies, I can’t help but reminisce about the amazing memories I hold of my university days. Of those incredible friendships you build along the way, of the opportunities that await on every corner, the chances to excel both in your studies and extracurriculars. I remember the impassioned lectures, the fiesty discussions in seminars and the keen eye of the lecturers as they watched your ideas develop in front of them. The sporting events, the gigs, the events, the groups and all the rest. Those days where you had to get creative with baked beans because it was all you had left to eat, the nights you can’t remember and the times you’ll never forget. It all hopes your experience and changes your world without you even realising – but it’s these changes that set you on the right course to success in every aspect of your life. But it wouldn’t be student life without all the perks that come with it – I’ll never forget those student discounts! From £5 pizzas at Dominoes to free cheeseburgers at McDonalds, to that cheeky 10% off at all my favourite clothes shops – it was the dream!

If you’re just starting your studies then you should join the 7.2million students who are already signed up and saving with UNiDAYS – free to sign up it gives you access to the best range of student discounts online and in-store with all the leading brands. UNiDAYS is partnered with the biggest brands including the likes of THE ICONIC, Glue Store, ASOS, City Beach and Beginning Boutique. The free UNiDAYS App gives you instant access to student discount at home and on the move. When shopping in participating stores, just flash your UNiDAYS iD at the till point to redeem your discount. Save money on everything from the essentials to life’s little treats. Enter exclusive competitions and be the first to hear about exclusive student-only events, new store launch parties and much more. To find out more and sign up to start saving straight away – click here! Or find UNiDAYS on Facebook, Twitter (@UNiDAYS_AU) or Instagram (@UNiDAYS_AU).

What are your favourite student memories? Where did you study? What are your best tips for new students?

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Travel | My top 5 gadgets for backpackers

10488281_10152577516412617_3157113265465079401_nWhen packing for an extended trip, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the serious lack of space in your rucksack. Whether you’re someone who wants to squeeze in their entire wardrobe, or someone who just can’t stand to leave behind those chunky books, it’s never easy to decide what makes the final cut. I remember when I was first packing to come away and had no idea what to bring – luckily I ended up vetoing a lot of things because when I reached Asia I started to wish I had left it all behind and bought it cheap out there! I have met so many people on the road who have told me all their travelling secrets for packing light and keeping things simple – so many of these pieces of wisdom have had a huge impact on my journey. From rolling your clothes and stuffing your socks in your shoes, to finding multi-purpose gadgets that will cut back on the weight of your bag – there’s so many ways to slim-line your life when cutting it down to a 65l bag. Trust me, any shortcuts you find at the beginning will change your life further down the road.

Gadgets are a great way to make your life easier when on the road and a whole range of fantastic products are now available from travel and outdoor shops. I’ve tried out a few since travelling and felt conflicted over others, but I can’t deny that some of them have been a godsend when it comes to last minute packing, overnight bus journeys and any little crisis along the way. Here are some of my favourites, and a few that I’ll be investing in next time I’m on the move:

International Adapter

The most valuable item you will ever pack – not only will it work in every country so you won’t have to pack several different plugs, but they are usually very streamlined to fit neatly in your bag. It’s a good idea to get one that offers surge protection as quite often the power is unreliable or can overpower items plugged in, this will stop any of your electrical from being damaged if there is a storm or surge. Check out this one from Gap Year Travel Store for just $5.99.

Travel Towel

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I bought a travel towel when I first left home and absolutely loved it – it was lightweight, dried me twice as quickly as a regular towel and never felt damp. It made it all the way round Asia with me and was a fantastic space saver in my bag, friends who were carrying bath towels always felt a bit foolish when comparing the size of it to mine. They always come in cute colours – my first one was purple and I’m loving this new pink Solotrekk Microfibre Travel Towel that was sent to me by The Gap Year Travel Store. It’s going to make a huge difference to my packing when I get rid of the beach towel I’ve been using since Sydney, despite it being the same size, and I love that it comes in this neat little travel pouch. At just $8.99 it’s one of the cheapest and best additions to your travelling gadget collection.

Weighing Scales

I’ve never owned a set of these but have luckily always run into someone who did when I needed them most. It’s the sort of item that only one person has but the whole hostel borrows when they leave for the airport. Particularly in Australia, I’ve found certain airlines are a bit tight when it comes to hand luggage allowance and stick to the 7kg rule, even weighing to check. I’ve had o move a few things into my big bag before – and we all know how embarrassing it is to dig through your bag in the airport queue. The good thing about these is it’s just a hook so it can pack away nice and tiny when you’re ready to move on. Here are scales for just $6.99.

Waterproof Camera

My waterproof camera has been one of my favourite and most treasured possessions since coming travelling. From snorkelling and swimming with sea turtles, to splashing around in waterfalls and tubing down rivers, it has been everywhere with me capturing every moment. On so many occasions I have been the only one with a waterproof camera and afterwards all of my friends have been over the moon to see photos of all our hilarious and beautiful memories. My particular camera is a Nikon Coolpix which I would really recommend if you don’t fancy a GoPro. I actually had a GoPro as well and sold it because I found this camera a lot more quick and effective to use, plus I much preferred the picture quality.

Kindle

I’ve been conflicted over Kindles ever since they came out, I’ve been an iPad girl for quite a while so that I didn’t have to take a laptop while travelling. But I’ve always hated reading off a screen, I’m more of a traditional girl who likes the feel of a book in her hand. I’ve spent much of my time in Asia relying on book swaps, but I have to admit the books I like to read are often pretty chunk and weigh a lot. Even my Australia travel guide is huge, it would be great to cut back on the weight and space by having a Kindle to read on.

It’s amazing how such small items that seem so insignificant at home can have such a huge impact on your travelling life, but going prepared with items such as these can really help you from the second you step off the place. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to buy a cheap adapter in Bangkok as your phone battery is dying then getting one back to the hostel to find it doesn’t even work! Gadgets are one time when it is good to go prepared or make sure you buy them from a reputable company – leaving them to the markets in Asia can often mean the quality is less. Packing just a couple of these items could save you a lot of backpack space, plus a lot of time and stress later on, and who doesn’t want that? Looking for something that could make your backpacking life run more smoothly – look no further than Gap Year Travel Store for all the essentials.

What gadgets have helped you on your travels? Which items would you suggest leaving at home, and which ones should you definitely not forget?

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*This post was a collaboration with The Gap Year Travel Store, but all views remain my own.

Travel | Go starry-eyed over the sights of New York

imageIf you read last week’s post on my top city break destinations, you’ll already know that New York is a city I’ve fallen in love with over and over again. I’m a child of the Sex and the City generation and a lover of classic movies set in the Big Apple, both have given me such a romanticised view of the city that I never thought it would live up to my expectations. But after travelling there four times I can assure you that on every single trip it has surpassed my dreams, and my expectations to bring me a whole new experience. My most recent trip there, in April 2014 was by far the best trip yet and was actually a big decider in me going travelling solo. I had just gone through the roughest few months of my life and out of this came the push to book a family holiday to NYC, getting away gave me perspective and space, and seeing the bright lights of a whole new country gave me the excitement of something new.imageI suddenly realised that this holiday had made me happier than I had been in months, in every aspect of my life, and while I had already had ideas about going travelling, this was the moment I realised that I had to make it happen. I needed that feeling of excitement and boarding a plane to last, but this time I needed to get away and not know when I was coming back. There’s something about the feeling of getting totally lost in a place that is awesomely inspiring and even now, I just love the idea of escaping from the norm and discovering a new place and way of life. It may sound cheesy, but getting excited about a holiday to New York gave me hope that I would get past this horrible time in my life, it helped me remember a time when I could be happy and gave me a determination to reach that once again.imageEach time we’ve been there, we’ve crammed as much as possible into our five days or a week, the perfect amount of time for an NYC city break or holiday. Staying close to Times Square has really helped that as so much is within walking distance and you can tick a lot of the great sights, and great eats, off very quickly. Going there for the first time? It’s difficult and often overwhelming when trying to plan what to squeeze in and what to leave out – so here is my list of the top 10 things you have to do/see when in New York:

  1. Tick off the main sights – climb the Empire State Building to admire the view, go to the Top of the Rock, stand in Times Square, watch the ice skaters in Rockefeller Centre. If you have time, head to Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library too! And be sure to take cheesy photos at every single one – you may hate being a tourist but you’ll regret it if you don’t have the perfect cheesy photo to Instagram after!
  2. Pick a nice day – hopefully better than the one we had – and head down to Battery Park to see Lady Liberty, even better, take one of the boat trips over to the island to see her in her full splendour.
  3. Try your hardest to get tickets to a game or concert at Madison Square Gardens – it looks like an amazing venue and sadly I haven’t managed to get tickets yet but it’s definitely on the list for next time!
  4. Spend an afternoon wandering around Central Park in the sunshine, it’s beautiful there and gives you a bit of peace from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. Take a picnic, watch the musicians and performers, check out the ice skating rink, take a horse and carriage ride or walk through the zoo.
  5. Shop until you drop. I always spend a fortune when I go shopping in NYC but it’s just fabulous – take a leaf out of Carrie Bradshaw’s book and head for the malls, often a lot of stuff works out cheaper than it would at home.
  6. Spend a day wandering through Chinatown and getting lost in Little Italy – these beautiful little neighbourhoods give you a chance to experience a different side of the city and we always make sure to have a meal in one of the cute, family-run restaurants in Little Italy.
  7. Get yourself to a Broadway show! Whether you love musicals or hate them, there’s a show for everyone, why not try a play or a cabaret? The best thing is that there always cheap tickets on sale – skip the scalpers and queue up at door before a performance is due to start, often you can get great tickets for cheap because no theatre wants empty seats!
  8. Eat your way around the city – there are amazing breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner stops on every corner. Dive into the fluffiest pancakes with bacon, snaffle down a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese, snack on cheesecake, wolf down burgers and steaks. Trust me, New York does food really, really well. And look out for unique dining experiences like the Jekyll and Hyde Restaurant.
  9. One of the best things I’ve done in New York was completely free! It can get expensive visiting every sight in the city, but don’t forget what is right above you. Up on the Highline, every Tuesday, a group of volunteers take their telescopes so that visitors and travellers can take a look at the night sky. Take the opportunity to get starry-eyed by stargazing in one of the brightest cities in the world.
  10. And no visit to New York would be complete without a visit to one of the most devastating and most poignant memorials in the world – most will remember clearly where they were when they heard the news of the 9/11 attacks, I remember being 11 at high school when the news broke. The city have done an amazing job with the memorial and the museum, it was interesting to see the site go from a pile of rubble on my first visit, to the incredible buildings that stand there today. Whatever your feelings about the attack, you can’t help but be incredibly moved by the experience of visiting the 9/11 memorial.

imageThere are a million and one things you can do in New York City and there are always new parts to discover, I can think of countless other things I could recommend for you to check out. But on a first time visit you are always working against the clock to fit everything in and still have fun without rushing. All of these trips, activities and experiences are well worth the time spent on them, no matter how touristic they may seem. You’ll always be hard-pressed to squeeze everything in so make sure you choose the things you want to see and do the most – if you just fancy a shopping trip then why not head to Tiffany’s before shopping your way down Fifth Avenue? Or go vintage and check out the amazing range of markets scattered across the city. There are no end of museums and art galleries from the most prominent to the quirky and unusual, and, if your budget allows it, why not splash out on a helicopter ride across the city? There are so many ways to experience and fall in love with New York City and even after four trips there I know I’m not done – bring on the next trip!image

What’s your favourite thing to do in New York? Are there any attractions you wouldn’t recommend?

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Top tips for staying in control of your finances this Christmas

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John Henderson

Since it’s December 1, so why don’t we celebrate the start of advent calendars with a Christmas-themed post? After spending the last 12 months flitting between living frugally and saving every penny for travelling, and having a cheeky blow-out here and there – I seem to have struck a good balance between splashing out and holding on to my cash. It’s amazing actually to note the differences between my whole attitude towards spending now compared to a year ago – before I would just pop out on my lunch-break most days and “treat myself” to something for the sake of buying something simply because I worked in town. Now, I still like to buy myself nice things, but I seem to have gained a lot of perspective on how I want to spend my money – in short, I’ve really realised the value of my hard work and the limited funds I earn. How did I do it? Well after booking my travels, I started thinking about every penny I spent in terms of what I would get for it in Thailand or Australia. I realised that paying £50 for a new dress for one night out was ridiculous if that could pay for five night’s accommodation in Asia.

It’s amazing when you start thinking like that how it can affect what you spend – and it doesn’t just work for the travellers among us. If you’re saving for a house deposit you could easily think of what you are spending in terms of the freedom and space you will get. For example, one weekend away with the girls can get you away from from living with your parents for two nights, but it could also put away between £2-300 towards a deposit. Or for those saving up to buy a new car, you could think in terms of buying lunch for work every day costs around £25 a week, maybe more, and over a month that small cutback could save you over £100. Over 12 months that runs up to £1,200 and before you know it you’ve saved a huge wedge of money towards it by just making packed lunches. Wow.

With Christmas coming up quick, everyone is making lists for Santa and proclaiming they’ve been good all year. But what happens if you’re saving hard for something special like me? If you’re planning to start your new year with a bang by travelling the world, buying a house or a new car, or getting married – Christmas can seem like a bit of a scary prospect if you have a lot of people to buy for. And let’s be honest, not many of us manage to put a bit aside each month in preparation, or to spread the cost over a few months of shopping. I’m normally a lot better organised, but I’ve had so much going on lately that all my Christmas shopping is happening in December this year. This year however, that doesn’t phase me one bit and you know why? It’s because I’ve firmly decided that this year, unlike last year, I am not spending the earth on gifts. My friends and family all understand that I will be cutting back a lot this year because of my travels, and many of them have used it as an excuse to do the same.

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PT Money

How am I cutting back this Christmas – and how can you do the same?

  1. Prioritising who you buy for is important. I’ve been known to buy everyone I’ve ever met a gift, whether I am actually friends with a person or not. What’s the point? I’ve cut it back to close family and friends this year.
  2. Spend time with people. Christmas can be a great time to catch up with lots of different circles of friends while you’re all off work and people would much rather spend time with you than have a faceless gift.
  3. Don’t be afraid to say no. Slightly contradicting number two – it’s okay if you don’t have the money to pay for all the meals, drinks and nights out, and it’s okay if you fancy a night in front of the television.
  4. Don’t buy useless crap. I have one rule about Christmas – that I never buy rubbish for the sake of giving a present. I refuse to give half-hearted gifts – you know the bath sets etc, when I can give something special and individual.
  5. Be thoughtful. A thoughtful gift you have spent ages creating means far more than a rubbish gift set – think photo albums, scrapbooks, something personalised and special. They’re often not even that expensive but mean so much more.
  6. Make an agreement. If you and all your girls are hard up for cash – why not agree to do Secret Santa as a group, or decide that no-one does gifts and instead spend some money on a meal out or a night in together?
  7. Buy people things to do. Some of the nicest gifts I’ve had have been gig tickets from my boyfriend, a spa day with my mum, or afternoon tea with the “mother-in-law” because they were an opportunity to spend time with people, and can cost as much or little as you want.
  8. Get crafty. It’s so easy to make decorations, Christmas cards or even gifts, plus it can save you a lot of money. My mum and I cut up Christmas cards each year and use them as labels for wrapping. It also makes your offerings that much more unique.
  9. Get in the kitchen. I love being off at Christmas and having time to bake mince pies and other Christmas goodies. They make amazing presents and are so fun to make. Try out gingerbread men, jams and chutneys.
  10. Remember your Christmas spirit. Most importantly, remember what the spirit of Christmas is all about – not money and things, but being around the people you love, full tummies and smiling faces – that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

Any tips for cutting back this Christmas?

Ab Lucy sign off

Workout: Stronger, harder, leaner

Just got home after another epic workout. Treating myself to new gym clothes has really been an amazing motivation and I am killing it again at the gym – I have totally revitalised my workout and am loving it again. My body feels amazing now that it is really being challenged again. I love how good a really powerful workout makes you feel. I’m totally hooked on endorphins and I’m not ashamed to say it – there’s nothing like the buzz you get post-workout.

None of my friends are gym bunnies like me and none of them really understand why I enjoy going to the gym so much (I don’t think three workouts a week is excessive!) because they have never given it a real shot, but if they prefer to feel tired rushing around at work and sad when their clothes don’t fit like they would like them then fair enough! Personally, I like my body to be soft and yet strong, I like being able to run and lift weights without a problem. I like that my clothes fit the way I like. And I LOVE that I can pretty much eat what I want because my metabolism is so high and I rarely put on weight now, even if the majority of the time I prefer to eat healthily.

 

Too many people think the key to losing weight or toning up is actually just eating less when in fact, I actually eat more now than ever and yet weigh less because I am eating less junk and because I am working out to burn it off. My body is lean and toned and yet I enjoyed a huge Italian feast of tagliatelle with a sauce made of double cream, brandy, prawns and vegetables with two different types of garlic bread, wine and cheesecake for afters last night. It’s all about moderation.

My current workout is cardio heavy with plenty of weights and a strong core section. I do either a 20 or 30 minute interval run (depending on how much time I have) and usually run for either three or four minutes followed by a minute of sprint walking. This interval running is great for boosting my cardiovascular fitness and building up stamina – plus its also the most effective for weight-loss. I then move on to 20 minutes of interval training on the cross trainer at a high resistance level before finishing with ten minutes of fast-paced cycling.

I then move on to weights working the inner and outer thighs to strengthen my muscles for running and to help stop my hips from clicking so much. Reps of 12 and I try to move up a weight every few weeks. This is followed by the leg press (which I can stack) and I do various exercises on there including one-legged, pyramids and general lifting to mix it up a little. Doing these weights have really helped strengthen my legs for running without building any excess muscle, my legs are slimmer than ever!

I then move on to arms and use all the weight machines working my biceps, triceps, shoulders and core as I try to build up my strength in my arms. I stick to lower weights because I tend to build muscle in my arms (especially biceps) quite easily and although I don’t mind this, it makes the sleeves of my cardigan a bit tight!

Finally, I finish with an intense ab workout. Starting on the ball, I will do 25 oblique crunches on each side followed by 20 long arm crunches with a 7kg weight, finishing with 40 Russian Twists with the same weight.

After these, I hit the floor where I start with another 20 long arm crunches with the weight, 20 basic crunches followed by 20 reaching to my knees and another 20 reaching through my legs. Then I do 40 oblique twists followed by 20 crunches where I fully extend my legs and arms. Finally I do 40 more Russian Twists on the floor and then sit on a weights bench to do 20 leg extension crunches.

After this I’m usually a jelly mess and have to head home for a snack, today’s was a bit of brown, seeded toast with peanut butter.

What’s your favourite workout? Any tips to further my workout?

Memories of Boomtown Fair 2013

While having a bit of a wardrobe clear out on Sunday morning, I came across a backpack we used to carry stuff round the festival at Boomtown Fair, in Winchester, back in August. Inside the backpack was still a few bits and pieces, including the card of a photographer who snapped myself and Mark while dancing in the Lion’s Den stage over the weekend. The photograph was snapped by a photographer who was working for Wuwo Magazine and brings back a lot of memories on what was a particularly fun day! On this day, I was wearing a Topshop dress and glasses.

Continuing the makeover – Dolphins

On Sunday, I went back to my stunner of a beach hut, up at Old Hunstanton, to finish some of the painting. After working on the doors last weekend (see post), and much of the larger sections outside the hut, it was time to work on some of the smaller and more fiddly inside sections.

One of these sections was the sign for the beach hut, which we named ‘Dolphins’. Originally stencilled, we were unsure of how to repaint it without still having the original stencils – my parents suggested painting over the design and starting from scratch. However, I really liked the old sign and just felt it needed freshening up – so I decided to attempt to repaint in keeping with the original stencils, but freehand.

This was the result, and I am pretty proud of it! I unfortunately do not have a picture of the original so I cannot let you compare – but I would say that the outlines are actually more precise now that they were in the first place. The sign has now taken pride of place back up on the front of the hut. We also painted several other smaller items such as coffee, tea and sugar wooden pots, the mug tree, the mirror frame and curtain rail among other bits. And the deck had had a coat of black paint, as have the steps. I also used the black varnish to draw a letterbox on the door with the word ‘post’ written on it – just for extra cuteness factor! I don’t have any pics of this but will try to remember next time.