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Visiting Bran Castle this year was one of my absolute travel highlights. It’s a place that has been on my bucket list for years and I couldn’t wait to finally visit. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of finally ticking off a place you’ve been dreaming of for as long as you can remember. Eastern Europe really has a gritty charm that has been lost in other, busier parts of the continent. While yes, Romania does get busy and Bran Castle is one of the most popular tourist spots, there’s something about it that still manages to feel a bit off the beaten track. If you do it well – Bran Castle can be a fairytale experience. Just be sure to eat something garlicky the night before you visit to scare off any vampires!

Read: The ultimate guide to planning a trip to Bucharest

Absolutely Lucy at Bran Castle, Romania

How do I get from Bucharest to Bran Castle?

Romania’s road systems are a bit slow travelling due to the lack of highways but the countryside is absolutely beautiful. Bran is located in the mountains a few hours from Bucharest, so if you’re flying into the city, it’s a lovely little trip out to the castle. There are two main options for travel:

Hire a car

This is something I’ve always wanted to do in Romania. My dream is to road trip across the countryside one day. Not only is it fairly cheap to hire a car over there, but the most magical sights are out in the rural areas. By hiring a car, you gain freedom to pick your route and build in several different stop-offs along the way. Google Maps says the journey is around 3 hours from Bucharest to Bran Castle – but this very much depends on what time of day you travel and the traffic. For us, it took over four hours on the way there, and nearly six hours on the way back. The roads are not great quality, so expect a slow journey but take it slow and enjoy a slow cruise through the mountains with beautiful views.

Take the train & bus

If you don’t want to hire a car, you could also reach the castle by public transport. Taking the train is a great way to skip the traffic and take a relaxing ride. You can get the Brașov train route from North Railway Station (Gara de Nord) in Bucharest, which takes around 3.5 hours. Then, from Brașov, you can take a taxi to Bran Castle, or even the public bus which goes every 30 minutes/hourly from auto-station No. 2 Brașov.

Bran Castle, Romania

When should I visit the castle?

I really recommend thinking carefully about when you choose to visit. This part of the Romanian countryside will be beautiful all year round, no doubt, but you may have a very different experience. Perhaps you love the snow and magical feeling of seeing Bran Castle at Christmas, or maybe you prefer a sun-drenched visit. Remember these times of year may also bring big crowds to the area as it is a popular tourist attraction for both Romanians and tourists from abroad.

I visited at the end of September which was a great time of year to go. Not only was the weather still absolutely lovely, but the first signs of autumn were beginning to appear. It also meant I was there during the “shoulder season” so it was a lot less busy than during peak summer. But there was also still a lot happening – all the shops and markets were open plus there was even a sheep festival held while I visited. Do your research and plan your trip around either the perfect time of year for you, or avoiding the crowds.

Where should I stay?

There are two main options available when you visit Bran Castle. You can either stay in the nearby city of Brașov which offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. This includes hostels, B&Bs and everything up to luxury hotels which are just a 30 minute drive from the castle – perfect for a day trip. It also means you’ll have time to explore Brașov and spend more time there, as I know there is so much more to see in this area.

If you would prefer to stay in Bran – there are a range of accommodations available. While a selection of luxury and mid-range hotels and even glamping close by the castle. Two days would be enough time to visit the castle and also to hike one of the trails, but there isn’t really enough close by to stay for longer.

[Press trip] I stayed in Pensiunea Gentiana which was in a great location – just a 20 minute walk from the castle. Just outside the busiest part of Bran, it was surrounded by mountains and beautiful countryside. The hotel came equipped with a swimming pool, a tennis court and spa. Despite the facilities, I would say that this hotel was rather basic for the price – the rooms were a bit of a disappointment. I think this hotel was a bit over-priced for the level of service and for the slight distance to the castle, compared to other nearby accommodations. I also was rather disappointed that despite advertising itself as 400m from the castle, it was actually nearly a 2km walk alongside a very busy and quite dangerous road. Rooms were around £80 a night for two people.

Exploring Dracula's Castle, Romania

Costs and opening hours

The castle is open every day throughout the year, with longer opening hours during peak season. From April 1 to September 30 – the castle is open from 9am to 6pm daily, with last admission at 6pm. From October 1 to March 31, the castle is open daily from 9am to 4pm, with last admission at 4pm. On Mondays, the castle has shorter opening hours, open from 12pm throughout the year.

Entry to the grounds of the castle is free and there is a coffee shop and a gift shop as well as lovely gardens to walk around. If you wish to go inside the castle, you must pay 40 lei (around €8.5) at the gate. There are reduced entry rates for seniors, students and children.

For all the up-to-date information on Bran Castle – check the official website.

Do you need a tour guide for Bran Castle?

Tours are readily available for the castle. Whether you book with a company before arriving, or pay on the gate for a tour. These tours are great if you want to learn more about the history of the castle and its inhabitants. Normally I love learning about these things. However I found the tours I encountered there rather brash, loud and rather ruined the experience. I arrived at opening time and was the first through the gate as I wanted a chance to capture photos before the groups arrived. Later I wandered back through the rooms of the castle alongside the tours and it was a horrible experience. The rooms are small and if you get trapped with a tour guide booming at the top of his lungs, it’s not much fun.

I would really recommend visiting the castle mid-week to avoid the crowds of the weekends. And, if you prefer a quieter experience to take in the rooms and the views, definitely consider arriving at opening or towards the end of the day. By the time I was finished at the castle – at around 11am – there were so many people everywhere as this is when most of the tour groups arrive. I would also recommend doing the castle first and the grounds after – as the grounds are more spread out, they’re much more enjoyable and you can still get great views.

Castle, Romania

Camera equipment at the castle

A note for anyone who likes photography – you are not allowed to fly drones within the grounds of the castle. However, there doesn’t seem to be any problem with flying them from nearby. There is a small park behind the castle – keep following the road through the village to find it.

For those who wish to take photos within the castle, there are a few rules for photography equipment. The website states: “The amateur photo / video pass are both included in the basic ticket.
Professional filming / photography requires a signed contract.” When I visited the castle, I took my tripod and camera. I had no knowledge of the restrictions and no-one commented when I entered.

I was fine shooting photos all the way around the grounds. When I was nearly finished, a security guard came over to tell me I wasn’t allowed to take photos with a tripod. Obviously I don’t advise you to break the rules, but this is something I was not aware of. So if you have a friend who can take pics for you – perhaps this is a better option.

Hiking near Bran Castle

If you like getting active when you travel, this part of Romania is surrounded by beautiful countryside which is perfect for hiking. Why not check out the popular and challenging Bran Castle to Magura village walk? It takes around 3-4 hours and covers 8km, starting with a steep climb. The climb starts opposite the castle and soon levels out to offer panoramic views across the village and surrounding mountains. Find the beginning of the trail in front of Vama Medievala Bran Museum and follow the red bars. You can also continue the trail to explore the isolated villages of Magura and Pestera.

Romania, castle

What else is nearby the castle?

As it doesn’t take long to see the castle, you may also wish to explore the local area. There is a little market at the entrance to the castle which sells lots of lovely gifts. You can find handmade pottery, art, food and drink, woodwork, clothing and much more here. Plus there is also a local life museum which is found just to the left of the entrance where you can find preserved traditional Romania housing. There is also a horror house in the market for the tourists – more aimed at children.

Have you been to Bran Castle – would you like to visit? Is Romania a country you would like to visit?

Absolutely Lucy sign off

I was invited by Angloville to attend their Romania teaching programme and cultural exchange to promote my experience, however, what I experience left me with nothing but cause for concern. The company’s response to my formal complaint was to ignore me and then block me on social media. For over two months I was promised a response and received nothing, so I decided to share my honest experience here on the blog in the hopes that other young travellers who wish to join this teaching abroad programme can ensure their own safety. I’m very sad to share my experiences of the Angloville Romania programme. I was really excited to take part in the trip and to experience the programme. Not only was it in a country I have always wanted to visit, but I have always loved teaching English abroad.

Unfortunately the programme let both myself and several others down in many different ways. Worse than that, when I raised my concerns to my contacts at the company, my emails went unanswered. This is why I have decided to share my experiences. Because this high level of unprofessionalism in response to a complaint of inappropriate behaviour by a programme leader is unacceptable. I know that if I were signing on to a programme like this, I would expect to feel safe and supported in my work. But sadly that was not the experience for many of the volunteers who took part.

Read: The ultimate guide to planning a trip to Bucharest

Absolutely Lucy, Bucharest, park, Romania

My experiences of Angloville Romania

I want to stress that I think as a whole, the concept of the programme is valuable. Speaking to the other volunteers and to the participants, I could see the value in confidence building and language development. The amazing people who took part in the programme really bonded and became a little family. The volunteers provided huge amounts of support. We saw real progress by the time the participants delivered a presentation at the end of the week. For some I even had tears in my eyes because I was so proud of what they had accomplished. Everyone worked so hard during the week and it really showed.

However, I think that there are a lot of aspects that massively let the programme down. During my week there, I took the time to chat to the volunteers and the participants, and to get their feedback on the programme. This post is based on my own experiences and my findings from the other people taking part in the programme. Some felt able to share this on feedback forms but felt their feedback was ignored. Others said to me that because of the way feedback was collected, they felt unable to share their true opinions because they were still reliant on a reference. This is why I have chosen to share a collective of experiences from the week. Because honest feedback of the programme should be readily available for those looking to take part in future programmes.

Bucharest, Romania, teaching programme near Bran

Volunteer left feeling “worthless”

During the week we were paired up as mentors/mentees and one pairing wasn’t quite working. The volunteer reported this to the programme leader straight away, asking for advice. She asked whether it would be better to pair the participant with someone else. There was no disagreement, merely different learning/teaching styles. Naturally she just wanted the participant to get the most out of the experience.

But the volunteer told me she was instantly shut down by the Angloville programme co-ordinator. She tried again the next day and was spoken to rudely in front of the whole room and was told she would no longer be a mentor. The volunteer later told me she was left feeling “absolutely worthless” and spent the next hour crying in her room. She also received notably cold treatment from the co-ordinator throughout the week. When I asked the programme co-ordinator about it, he said: “I had my own issues with… I couldn’t be bothered to talk about it with her.”

What could have been a really great experience was spoilt through a lack of support or any sort of understanding from the programme coordinator. Instead of feeling valued and appreciated, he handled the situation with indifference and a complete lack of professionalism. This upset me so much that I felt like leaving the programme after just one day. Luckily I had support from the other volunteers and I loved being with the local participants. Based on my own experience, and feedback from other volunteers, I feel that the programme co-ordinator is not the right person for this position. – volunteer

Bucharest, Romania, before Angloville

Inappropriate behaviour by Angloville programme leader

Sexist comments and inappropriate behaviour

My biggest concern of the week was the behaviour of the person in charge. Throughout the programme I noticed many occasions where he made inappropriate comments to volunteers, including myself. His comments included: “I prefer teaching women because they’ll just do whatever you tell them to and they won’t complain.” One evening after I started the group playing a game when our evening entertainment was cancelled. He joined the game and made the same comment repeatedly about how he would “put me to bed after I’ve had too much wine.

His behaviour after drinking left many of the volunteers feeling uncomfortable. Myself included, after his inappropriate comments and sexist remarks. What concerned me the most was that there were several much younger women taking part in the programme. I have no doubt it attracts those fresh from school/university. As a man in a position of power, he should take far more responsibility and care over his behaviour towards women, and particularly young women.

Rude and unprofessional comments about volunteers and participants

During the week, I was also shocked at the programme co-ordinator repeatedly making rude and unprofessional comments. These were made to myself, and various volunteers about other volunteers and even the participants. Ranging from comments about people being “too stuck up to take part”, to commenting on peoples’ personal hygiene. His comments created a bad atmosphere and made several of us feel uncomfortable.

Having experienced several Angloville programs in multiple countries. I can safely say Romania was a world of its own. Unprofessional, rude, lacking in the educational supplies found on the other programs. Most of all a co-ordinator who from day one made it clear how little he cared to be there. The passion displayed so easily by every other coordinator I met, did not exist in him. He spoke badly of both volunteers and participants, making for an uncomfortable and overall negative experience. And that’s without considering the rest of his inappropriate behaviour. The amazing people of Romania, who worked so hard, deserve better. – volunteer

Bucharest park, Romania

Complete lack of organisation

No communication and lack of organisation

One thing that caused continual issues throughout the week was the sheer lack of organisation. Despite being given an initial schedule on arrival – we weren’t told who would actually be taking part in which sessions. We had been told before arrival that we would have a balance of time teaching and time to explore the area. Actually the reality was we were told right before each session whether we were taking part or free. This meant we never really had much time to leave the hotel except for those of us who were not mentors.

There were several times when myself or others were told off for missing a meeting. But we had been told we were free so had no idea we were supposed to be in a meeting. The lack of communication filtered down and meant the volunteers never really knew what they were doing, and it showed. It was extremely frustrating for those who had been looking forward to exploring the local area. Sadly many people on the trip never had the chance and felt trapped at the hotel, where many of the facilities were not as advertised.

Weak resources and no preparation time

Another issue that bothered several of the volunteers was the terrible quality of the programme materials. Worksheets were provided before each session with various questions and activities. However, these sheets were riddled with spelling mistakes. They featured idioms and phrasings that are not used in day-to-day English and were irrelevant for our participants. I found sheets that were referring to Poland instead of Romania. It was as though the worksheets were created by someone with English as a second language, or they were created decades ago.

Even worse, we were provided with these materials at each session, so the volunteers wouldn’t lose them. Not only were we treated like children incapable of keeping hold of a piece of paper. But we also had no time to prepare, so when the sheets were riddled with mistakes, we looked unprofessional. The participants were left confused by mistakes on the sheets and the volunteers left frustrated. It could have all been solved with a little trust and respect for the volunteers. If we had just 10 minutes prep time with the sheets to check for mistakes. Or, even better – if there weren’t mistakes in the first place!

Cultural exchange programmes in Romania, pic in Bucharest park

Angloville – is it worth doing?

I’m a big believer in giving a balanced view. While yes, I was very disappointed in the Romania programme and I know I wasn’t alone in this. I want to stress that several friends who have completed other programmes in different countries have offered much better feedback. They have spoken of how organised the Polish and Czech programmes are. They’ve said what a lovely environment they provide for language learning. So while I have it on good authority that some of the programmes are worth doing if you have a passion for teaching English abroad. I would advise you to do your research and read the reviews. But also take into account that many volunteers said to me they didn’t dare share their real feelings because they needed a reference.

The behaviour and treatment I experienced and witnessed during my week on the teaching programme is unacceptable. But what is even worse is that despite my writing this nearly two months after taking part in the programme. I still have yet to receive a proper response regarding the formal complaint I submitted. This suggests to me that the programme isn’t concerned with the welfare of its’ volunteers. When you are trusting a company to provide a safe and supportive environment for you to teach English abroad, this is what you expect. But several of the volunteers on my programme were left feeling frustrated, upset and disappointed by the lack of either.

Read: Honest Review: Teaching English at Angloville

Cultural exchange programmes in Romania, pic in Bucharest park

What about the participants?

Another issue I found was that some of the local participants came to the programme expecting a more formal language teaching programme. They had expected more of a grammar and business English speaking experience. But this isn’t what they received – the actual programme is more of a conversational style and confidence-boosting. I’m not certain exactly how it is advertised to the local participants. But I think if I had paid that amount of money for the course, I would be very disappointed.

While it does help with confidence boosting, of the promised 70 hours of instruction. Actually only around 30 hours are formal classes with a native English speaker. The rest of the hours include mealtimes (our co-ordinator spent most of these on his phone), free time, entertainment (several of these sessions were cancelled). I’ve heard that the participants pay around €1000-1500 for the week-long programme. This is a huge amount of money considering that most of the volunteers have little teaching experience. I just don’t feel that the participants gain enough from the programme over the course of the week to justify the price-tag.

Read: A review of Angloville: one-on-one volunteer English teaching, anyone?

Bucharest park, Romania

The much wider issue with cultural exchanges

If you’re planning to do a cultural exchange or teaching English programme, I want to stress that my research has shown a huge gap in the protection of volunteers. Whether you’re doing this in the UK or abroad, there is not currently any regulation for this part of the tourism industry. While programmes aimed at children will require the standard CRB checks – there is a big gap when it comes to young adults. I’ve spent the last few weeks researching the industry and have been shocked at the sheer lack of regulation and reporting.

While programmes aimed at those under 18 would be covered by child protection laws. There is nothing to ensure the safety of the next age group. Those volunteers aged 18-25 who are away from home for the first time. Perhaps they’re abroad and feel safe travelling as part of a programme, which gives their parents some comfort. But these volunteers might also be those most at risk. As a nearly 30-year-old woman, I felt comfortable to speak out on the behalf of others when I saw things that concerned me at Angloville. But what worries me is that an 18-year-old away from home for the first time might not feel as secure or confident to do the same.

Read: Volunteer travel – experts raise concerns over unregulated industry

Bucharest park, Romania

A final note

If you’re planning on joining a teaching English (TEFL) programme abroad, please do not let this put you off. Let this blog post serve as a warning to do your research and only go into a situation where you feel safe. There are many great programmes which can help you get valuable teaching experience. Choose wisely and you could have an amazing time. I recommend checking out Year Out Group, an association of approved gap year providing organisations most of which are registered in the UK. These are actually moderated and follow a code of practice, plus they provide proper support and handling for complaints.

Teaching English abroad is something I’ve loved for years. It’s a really rewarding experience and a great way of combining teaching with travel. If you do have a bad experience – please voice it. If everyone gives fake “good” reviews it means others could end up in a bad situation. Don’t be afraid to use your voice, speak out and make a complaint.

Have you ever taken part in a teaching English abroad programme? Which companies would you recommend?

Absolutely Lucy sign off

A visit to Germany’s Black Forest wouldn’t be complete without exploring Triberg Waterfalls – one of the country’s finest natural sights. It’s famously known as Germany’s highest waterfall. This isn’t actually true, it is just the most accessible while Röthbach Waterfall is highest. But that doesn’t take away from the charm of Triberg Wasserfall. A place of myths and legends that inspired fairy tales and folklore. The Black Forest is like the place time stood still. Expect thatched roofs, quaint little cottages, cuckoo clock shops and best of all, stunning waterfalls. Because let’s be honest, who ever actually listened to advice by TLC?

I first remember seeing pics of Triberg Waterfalls on this post by the Travelista and knew I just had to find a way to squeeze it into my Europe road trip. We may have only had a day to drive through the Black Forest and stop at Triberg Waterfalls – but we made it count! Because no matter how much time you have, this magical part of Germany is well worth a visit. Just have a look at the photos in this post if you don’t believe me!

Triberg, Black Forest

How to get there and where to stay?

I had spent the previous afternoon in nearby Basel, Switzerland, and that night over the border near Mulhouse in France, where we stayed at a campsite. This worked perfectly for us as it was around a 90 minute drive to Triberg through some of the most beautiful countryside. If you’re flying in to Germany, it’s easiest to arrive at Stuttgart and hire a car for the 90 minute drive. Or those traveling from Munich face a 3.5 hour journey. It’s also easily accessed from Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The best way to travel to the Black Forest is to hire a car and explore independently, or there are also tours available. You can also access the area by train, with most journeys from Frankfurt or Stuttgart ranging from 3.5-5 hours.

Depending on what time of year you are visiting – it may affect where you stay. During summer, it’s peak season for visitors and accommodation may become very expensive and booked up, so best to book in advance. You could also consider camping or hiring a motor-home to give you more flexibility. You can check out this Culture Trip article for tips on the best spots to visit, it’s worth looking for accommodation in these areas, or nearby.

Triber Waterfalls and Absolutely Lucy

Tickets and planning your visit

Admission prices for Triberg Waterfalls varies depending on whether you visit in summer or winter. You can check the most up-to-date pricing on this website. When we visited in the €5 per adult and was worth the cost. You can buy the tickets when you arrive and despite it being busy when we arrived, there was no wait to get in.

It’s worth planning the time you will arrive so that you are at the falls early or for the last hour before they close. There will be less tourists at these times if you like to avoid the crowds. However, the crowds here – even in peak season – were nothing compared to those at Neuschwanstein Castle – watch out for my upcoming blog post.

Absolutely Lucy at waterfalls

Exploring Triberg Waterfalls

Water cascading down the 163m high waterfalls creates an almighty roar as visitors are faced with a true natural beauty. The seven-level waterfall originates with the river Gutach and creates a dramatic sight. Even more so after heavy rainfall, or during the winter. Starting with a winding path, visitors make their way into the first section of the falls to find a beautiful sight. Lush green forest surrounding them at every turn. Crystal clear waters gushing down the falls and birdsong among the trees.

I do have to stress, this is one of the most touristy parts of Germany outside the cities. So do be prepared – especially if you visit in summer – there will be a lots of visitors. While it was busy and the town of Triberg was overrun by tourists – it wasn’t as bad as I expected. It was still lovely to walk around and explore. Particularly as everyone was there to appreciate the stunning nature. I do recommend getting there early in the morning to avoid the busloads of tourists who come later in the day.

Fairytale forest

Hiking at Triberg Waterfalls

What I loved the most when visiting the falls was the hiking available there. Despite it being 30 degrees when we visited, it was cool and shady as we hiked up to the top of the falls and explored the woodlands barefoot. It was stunning and a fairly easy hike that anyone could manage unless seriously unfit. This hike also joins another path at the top which takes walkers on an easy 2.3km hike around the town, past the church and towards the lake. It’s suitable for all ages and you can find full directions here, plus there are lots of other great hikes available for all abilities.

Absolutely Lucy at the waterfalls

Visiting the town of Triberg

The town of Triberg looks like something out of Disney – Gepetto could have lived in one of the cottages. It’s magical and, while touristy, it has a certain charm about it. Don’t miss a look around the famous cuckoo clock shop for more cuckoo clocks than you can imagine, of all shapes and sizes. And of course, it wouldn’t be a visit to the Black Forest without stopping for some Black Forest cake!

Sunlight through the trees at waterfall

Have you been to the Black Forest? What did you think of Triberg Waterfalls?

Absolutely Lucy sign off

*This millennial travel post is a collaboration with Shepherds Friendly

Before we start, let me just say how much I hate the term “Millennial”. But I love talking about both finance and travel – so saving for millennial travel is something I’m really passionate about. These have been hot topics for me lately and I was pretty excited when Shepherds Friendly contacted me with the results of their survey on the topic. It’s well-timed and if you’ve been following me on social media – you’ll already know why! This week I made two very exciting announcements. The first is that I’m going backpacking again! As of December, I will be flying to Mexico and starting an epic 6+ months of travel across Central and South America solo. It’s the trip I’ve been wanting to do for the last five years but have never had the chance until now and I can’t wait to share it with you.

My other bit of very exciting new is that I have launched a brand new FREE GUIDE to SAVING UP TO £10k FOR TRAVEL. It’s designed to help you guys find realistic ways to save large amounts of money without becoming a hermit. It’s focused on small lifestyle changes that can help you save for anything your heart desires. It doesn’t have to be travel, it could be a wedding, a baby, a house, or even a new handbag. The point is – this will help you easily put away a potentially huge chunk of savings each year by making tiny changes. I have been using all of these tips to help me save enough to long-term travel and backpack all over the globe for five years. To download, click the banner above and subscribe, then check your emails.

Absolutely Lucy, Street art, Bucharest, Romania

Are we prioritising millennial travel? Why?

I remember when I first started travelling, how crazy and wild it seemed. My blog was providing inspiration to those who believed they could never do this for themselves. But over the last few years, there’s been a real shift from those living vicariously through me, to those wanting to know how they can make this their reality. Whether it’s long-term backpacking or just a short trip – millennials are clearly passionate about seeing the world. But it’s not just holidays, there has been a real shift towards authentic travel experiences and adventure travel. It’s a clear contrast to the package deals the previous generation favoured.

I was fascinated by the results of the survey by Shepherds Friendly, who spoke to 2,097 UK adults to find out more about millennial saving habits. It turns out 33% of millennials are currently saving for a holiday, with 30% of Generation X having the same short-term goal. Linking well with my previous blog post – perhaps we are a generation of people choosing experiences over things. In the UK, where most are struggling to save for their own home and wonder how they could ever afford to get married. It looks like our short-term savings are more travel-focused than ever. Is it possible that our values are shifting and we are starting to treasure making memories over material possessions?

Live within your means and travel becomes easily accessible:

Travel has been my raison d’être since I was a teenager. My entire life has been built around travel for many years. When I was younger I would work several jobs just to save up to get to the next destination. I barely owned anything much to the bemusement of my peers. They racked up possessions and I kept racking up the miles.

I am now 35, married and own a house and travel is still the most important thing to me. In order to make travel a priority we had a super budget wedding, we live in a very affordable house with a low mortgage and I have an old car that I own outright. Not chasing a luxury lifestyle or piling up debt trying to attain it, means that my husband and I can afford to travel. We are always saving for more travel. Unlike a lot of people our age, we aren’t looking to endlessly upgrade our house/car/furniture. We just want to go on as many adventures together as possible.

The problem I sometimes see is that people say they want to travel but are already living far above their means. Cut back, budget and stop endlessly consuming unnecessary things. If you really want to chase those travel dreams, choose experiences and adventure over things.

Pip, 35, of Pip and the City, saving for a camping trip in Canada

Absolutely Lucy, Street art, Bucharest, Romania

What are we really like at saving for millennial travel?

The good thing for us is that apparently millennials are among the best savers in the UK with 59% saving at least once a month. The biggest difference is that millennials are more likely to be saving for a home. While generation X are more focused on saving for retirement in the longer term. But given the state of the world at the moment – is it any wonder that we’re seeking stability? Sorry, that was a bit bleak. For generation X, housing was significantly cheaper and more attainable meaning they were able to focus on saving for retirement earlier. The housing market has changed drastically in the last few years and for those who want to own their own homes, it’s now a real struggle.

Saving isn’t as easy as it sounds:

I’ve been trying to save to move abroad with my partner for a couple of years, but we still haven’t got anywhere with it! Both of us having periods of unemployment a few years back led to us getting quite behind on our bills. Now we’re earning more between us but are still paying off bills from a couple of houses ago, and it still doesn’t feel like the end is in sight.

It’s not just us, either – my day job is to help young people into employment and it’s scary just how many of them are barely scraping by. Often getting themselves into debt just to retain their rental property or feed themselves. Generally the issue seems to be around employment . A sudden lack of jobs, being made redundant, or jobs requiring qualifications and/or experience that is difficult to get.

Hannah, of Pages, Places and Plates, 26, saving to move abroad.

Absolutely Lucy, Street art, Bucharest, Romania

Despite this, it turns out the majority of you guys are budgeting bunnies and actively focus on your finances which is great. However, there are still a whopping 35% who are not doing this and are probably scrabbling towards payday each month. Another big difference between millennials and generation X is where we choose to save our money – with 58% of millennials choosing to use an ordinary savings account. While the older generation were also likely to choose the same, they were also a whopping 75% more likely to use an investment ISA which is better suited to long-term saving goals. Is it harder for millennials to commit to long-term savings having grown up through the recession and housing market shifts? Or are we just not properly educated about what options are available?

Lack of financial education could be causing problems:

I honestly think that millennials aren’t taught about what kinds of savings we can have. Although we have the internet now to research, there is so much info out there that it can make making the right decision so tough! Often, I wonder if it was easier for Generation X to walk into a high street bank. They could get proper information rather than wading through all the info online.

I put my first £1,000 into premium bonds but recently withdrew because I could earn more interest with it in my savings as I’d only won £50 over about 20 years! I do think that if more information was out there, or types of savings were taught at school far more millennials would have ISAs.

Haydy, of SquibbVicious, 29, saving for a house and has just saved for a new car

Absolutely Lucy, Street art, Bucharest, Romania

But how do these results apply to real people?

It was really interesting to hear from you guys about your own saving habits. It seems that even within the millennial bracket, there are vast chasms between the 22-28’s and the 29-37’s. Perhaps even within these results there are differing priorities depending on what stage we are at in our lives. I know that I have several friends who are just starting to get engaged and talk about weddings. While others are settled with children. Some others are entirely focused on their careers or buying a house.

All these people are the same “generation”, and yet we’ve all chosen different paths and priorities. It doesn’t mean that anyone has made the wrong choice – it just means that we’re all different. Just as I know my life of millennial travel wouldn’t work for my friends who love their lives as parents and homeowners – their lives wouldn’t work for me.

I’m 28 now and think I would have given very different answers 5 years ago. I still travel, but much slower and more focused. I’ve always been saving, but now I am trying to save towards somewhere to live (or at least keep a few books).

Katie Featherstone, of Feathery Travels, 28, saving for a house

Check out my blog posts on saving money & budgeting:

Absolutely Lucy, Street art, Bucharest, Romania

But what does it all mean?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. When it comes to finance and choosing your priorities – it’s something only you can do. But it’s something we all have to take responsibility for. If you don’t make any effort to get your finances in order – you can’t expect your bank balance to increase. While I’ve always been good at saving money, I’ll be honest and say it was only this year that I really started to educate myself and make the most of my money. But in just a few months I’ve managed to save a small fortune, have completely reorganised my finances and feel confident making banking decisions. If you set your mind to it, you could easily do the same.

The most important thing I want to stress – is that no-one has it all figured out. We’re all doing the best we can and we need to stop being intimidated by financial conversations. If you want to stop being scared of money – start making an effort to learn. It’s amazing how much less scary things are when you have a tiny bit of knowledge and know what questions to ask. Start talking among your friends – talk about savings accounts, credit cards, ISAs and tax – discuss your working rates openly. I don’t know where this British thing of “do not discuss money” came from but it’s ridiculous! Talk about money, ask questions, read articles, listen to podcasts. Take charge and don’t feel bad if you’re not yet saving, or don’t have it all figured out. Instead, see it as an opportunity to learn.

Want to learn more about finance? Check out these great resources:

What do you think about Millennial travel and saving? Do you find it hard to save money? What are your long and short-term savings goals?

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*This experience gifts blog post is a collaboration with Tinggly

There’s no denying 2019 has been a tough year for all. But I’ve decided, 2020 is going to be the year for all of us. No more sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves. It’s time to start living! After all – it’s just a few months until I turn 30 and while I’m pretty excited for the next decade of my life. (I’ve got a new passport with extra pages ready!) I’m also very aware that there are some bucket list items that I’m keen to tick off before my birthday rolls around. I’ve always been a big advocate for sharing experiences with the people you love, rather than just giving things. Whenever I’m back in the UK, I value quality time with people over missed presents for birthdays and Christmas.

I’ve got some exciting news coming up soon about where I’ll be spending my 30th birthday. But for now, let’s talk about why experience gifts are the way to go in 2020. Why bother with those crappy Lynx bath sets this Christmas? Instead save the money and put it towards creating beautiful memories with the people who mean the most to you. I’m so over stocking fillers and bath products, for me, that’s not the true spirit of Christmas. Instead of focusing on the giving and receiving, why not take a step back and just appreciate the people we are lucky to have. I’ve never been more appreciative of my people, and I’ve loved spending this summer making memories with all of them. These memories I will hold close to my heart the next time I’m far from home.

Tinggly experience gifts pumpkins

Leave fast fashion & frivolous gifts behind

Give stories, not stuff. That’s the motto of Tinggly and I have to say, I agree. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with advertising, fast fashion and disposable products. Perhaps it’s time we all stopped placing so much importance on the clothes in your wardrobe, or the latest gadgets. After all, when I’m old and grey, I can’t imagine sitting there reminiscing about the time I wore the red dress with the black boots. I’ll be thinking about the day I went pumpkin picking and how much I loved exploring my home in Norfolk. 

With Black Friday and the festive season approaching, why not think about what you really value in life? For me, it’s travel, home, friends and family. So those are the things I prioritise. When it comes to buying gifts for people, I don’t see the point in giving stuff that will live in the back of the cupboard. What’s the point in another pair of shoes, or yet another bubble bath set? When you’ve lived out of a backpack for years – you realise what’s really important to you. It’s not frivolous gifts, but rather the memories you make with people. They’re what we truly treasure as the years go by.

Pumpkin picking, Norfolk

The travel experiences I’ll never forget

We’ve all got those standout experiences from our lives that will stay with us forever. I count myself very lucky to have so many amazing travel memories that it makes it hard to choose. But here I want to share five travel experiences that I will never forget:

Tinggly pumpkin picking for gift experiences

Experience gifts from Tinggly

There’s nothing like finding a brand that aligns with your values and I was super excited to work with Tinggly. They’re a global gift solution company who offer the world’s best experiences in one collection. Most importantly, Tinggly is on a mission to change the culture of gifting from material things to experiences. After studying the science behind happiness, they see the long-term value of gifting experiences for memories that last a lifetime. Their range of inspiring and meaningful Tinggly gifts mean that long after the excitement of the experience has been lived, the memory, and the stories, live on. If you’re anything like me, and you have a passion for storytelling, reliving these memories time and time again, is priceless.

Best of all – these gift experiences are tailored to suit all tastes. For the adrenaline junkies, there’s opportunities to go diving with sharks or risk a stomach churning bungee jump. And for those who prefer something a bit more relaxing, why not indulge in a trip to the spa? While you purchase the collection or pack, it is up to the recipient to choose which experience they would like, so there’s no chance of getting it wrong! Each recipient also has a full five years in which to book their experience which makes it a much more sustainable option. Instead of booking a trip especially for your experience, why not make the experience fit with your trip? There’s so many to choose from all over the world, that it’s easy to find the perfect experience gifts.

Why is Tinggly so special?

  • Freedom to choose from hundreds of experiences in countries around the world.
  • Simple – just choose a collection and let the recipient choose the experience for them.
  • Global – the brand has sold gift vouchers to 72 countries with experiences in 114 different countries.

Absolutely Lucy pumpkin patch, Norfolk

Five bucket list experiences for 2020

With my 30th (yes that’s right!) swiftly approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about what experiences I really want to tick off my bucket list before the big day. I’ve never been one for worrying about getting older, but what really strikes me is how fast the time goes. It seems like yesterday I turned 18 and had university and my whole life ahead of me. Barely a moment later I was going on my first big solo trip and now here we are, five years on and still going strong.

What I love about travelling is that it gives you the opportunity to live multiple lives at once. I don’t mind so much if the time goes quickly, if I really feel that I’ve lived every second to the max. While life felt like it was put on hold a bit in 2019 for a focus on healing and recuperating. In 2020, I’m back to travelling with a bang and ticking some of the biggest items yet off my bucket list. Here are my top 5 bucket list experiences for 2020:

  1. A skydive in New Zealand
  2. Travelling New Zealand by van
  3. A festival in Costa Rica
  4. Hitting 40 countries before I turn 30
  5. Sailing the San Blas Islands in Panama

What are your bucket list experiences for 2020?

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