There's nothing like planning your next big road trip and the last few years have given me a real taste for the open road. Last summer saw me working to convert a van into an awesome camper for an epic three week road trip around Europe and while I've shared a few posts on where we visited, I wanted to explain the route we chose. It can be so intimidating to plan a big trip, especially when you have to think about camping spots, food, fuel and lots of other factors. But honestly, taking a road trip is one of my favourite ways to travel and it's super cost effective if you're traveling on a budget. I've taken road trips all over the world and I've found it to be one of the most fun, and affordable, ways to travel.
When it comes to traveling Europe, it's a perfect way to explore when so many countries are so easily accessible. At the time of my trip, I was living in Germany, so it seemed a perfect opportunity to take our van on an epic trip to lots of new countries and cities we had never visited before. We wanted to choose a blend of city and countryside, of lakes and mountains, to ensure we had the best possible experience. It still remains one of the best road trips I've ever done and I can't recommend the route we took enough. We ended up traveling just under 3,600km in a loop through Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, even spending a night in France along the way.
This stretch was one of my favourites but also included a lot of driving. We drove seven hours overnight from Hamburg to Saxon Switzerland National Park and arrived there for sunrise, after a kip in the van, we headed out exploring and spent a day in the park. We found a place to park up for the night and slept at the park, before spending some time hiking and exploring. Once we had seen everything, we headed to Dresden. An afternoon was a perfect amount of time to see all the sights in Dresden and to catch some afternoon sunshine before driving to Prague.
We spent a full and busy day exploring Prague and while we could have easily spent longer there, it was enough time to see the sights and enjoy the city. We spent another night at a campsite just south of the city, but enjoyed cocktails with friends who were also visiting there. The next day, we took a lazy drive to Vienna, stopping off to see some sights in the Czech countryside. Then we spent the next day walking around beautiful Vienna in the sunshine and gorging ourselves on Viennese desserts and pastries. After a lazy afternoon by the river, we hit the road and arrived late at night in Attersee where we camped out by a lake and spent much of the next day sunbathing and picnicking by the water. A slow afternoon drive to Salzburg to check out the city before heading on to Munich.
It was a packed itinerary until now, but our goal was to get to Munich where we were visiting family and had a place to stay for a few days. Cue parking up the van and heading out on bikes exploring the city of Munich from the gardens and the architecture, to the breweries and food markets. After that, we headed on our way towards the border of Germany, Austria and Switzerland where the mountain ranges stood, and we visited Zugspitze. Taking cable cars up into the mountains where there was snow at the top, but it was 30 degrees down at the base. We spent an afternoon there before camping for the night and heading the next morning to Neuschwanstein Castle – best to get here early to beat the crowds.
Leaving behind the beautiful castle, it was time to take an unplanned detour through Liechtenstein which turned out to be the best part of our trip! A tiny country and easy to road trip in a day, it's perfect to add to your itinerary. We drove to Vaduz and then through the winding mountain roads (read about our day in Liechtenstein here). Then we headed on to Zurich where we spent an afternoon walking the lakes and city, trying delicious hot chocolate and cheese fondue.
From Zurich, it was a few hours to Basel and well worth planning this charming city into your trip. Plus you can easily head over the border and into France from here, we actually spent a night in France on our trip. Just a few hours is plenty to see Basel and indulge in a few treats from the various chocolate shops around. We camped for the night at a beautiful lakeside campsite – definitely look out for these and try to book in advance as they get very booked up during the summer months. The next day, after a few hours by the lake, we drove to the Black Forest where we headed to Triberg for the waterfalls and some Black Forest Gateaux. We spent the night camping at another lovely campsite before starting our drive to Frankfurt the next day, taking a slow drive and stopping off at lakes to swim along the way. Our final day was spent driving the long stretch back up to Hamburg – this could easily be broken up by stopping along the Fairytale Road to see castles along the way.
The beauty of this road trip itinerary is that it can so easily be changed and modified to suit you. In our case, we had a fast paced journey at the beginning with lots of driving so we could spend more time relaxing in southern Germany. But you could easily spend more time in Prague and Vienna, and spend just a day or two in Munich before heading to Switzerland. You could even skip one of the countries to spend more time in the ones that you're most excited to explore.
The beauty of a road trip is that the world is your oyster, you can chop and change your route, you can plan it out completely, you can make it up as you go along. It's up to you! We planned out a lot of our route before we went, we had names saved for campsites just in case, but we also changed a lot of our route along the way. We ended up staying at totally different campsites, we even sneakily free camped in a few spots, and we added in a few extra places along the way.
If you fancy combining the open road with a boat holiday or yacht charter, you could extend your trip and book Zizoo boat rental across several European destinations, including Croatia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy and many more. It could be the perfect way to take a break from driving, while still enjoying a relaxing holiday.
For those who work while traveling and require safe browsing whether they're on the road, or staying in hotels, I'd suggest using a virtual private network (VPN). Nobody wants their banking info or credit card numbers to get stolen by hackers when they're on holiday, so protect yourself against risk. For more information about how VPNs work and which one is the best one for you, check out this beginner's guide: https://proprivacy.com/
Have you been on a road trip around Europe? Which countries would you like to visit? What are your best road trip tips?
I've been desperately trying to hold myself back from posting this one until now, but now it's finally time to share our exciting travel plans with you all! I've hinted on social media but held back the final itinerary while we finalised our plans, but now it's official, I have left Hamburg on a three week road trip across Europe and I couldn't be more excited to share this with you all. Those of you who follow this blog will have seen the renovation of our Sprinter van into a camper van for road tripping. Now I can tell you the reason we worked on it so quickly was because we were already planning this amazing trip!
The plan is to drive around 3,000km during the three weeks and to see as many new places as possible and we really wanted to make sure to really take in the amazing German countryside along the way. It will be the first time I have ever visited any of these places, and I'm excited to be taking in a real mixture of stunning European countryside and beautiful old cities. I love culture, heritage and history and it's something I've really missed after spending so long in Australia. While Oz has it's own kind of history and heritage, it doesn't compare to the beauty of Europe's old charm, winding streets and beautiful architecture. By having Hamburg as a home base, it really has opened opportunities to travel while keeping things budget and time-friendly.
First I'll be driving from Hamburg to Saxon-Switzerland National Park on the border of the Czech Republic where I plan to spend two days exploring the stunning park. I will then drive on to visit Prague, a city I have always wanted to visit especially since my trip to Budapest. Then from Prague to Vienna, we'll spend a few days in each city before heading into the countryside. Driving through Austria, I'm also hoping to stop off in some beautiful places outside of the cities, taking in some of the gorgeous Austrian countryside. After this, we will drive to Munich where I'll be based for around a week. Time will be spent taking day trips to nearby Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria and the Austrian lakes.
Around this time I also plan to travel to Switzerland for two days to hopefully see Zurich and some of the countryside – I've always wanted to see Switzerland so I'm really excited for this – and possibly to Liechtenstein as well. The final week of the trip will see me driving back up towards Hamburg via The Black Forest and the legendary Fairytale Road which I can't wait to see after a magical trip to the forests on Rügen Island in May. I even studied fairytales as part of my literature course at university, so seeing the places that inspired such stories will be amazing. I'll be stopping in Frankfurt on the way back up to Hamburg before I start work.
As you read this, I will already be on the road and hopefully somewhere near Prague or Vienna! Naturally I'll be capturing every moment on camera and will be sharing it all with you later on, but you can keep up to date with our adventures by following me on social media – Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – where I will still be posting updates from every step of the journey. I will still be posting twice-weekly on this blog while we are away – thanks to being super organised and managing to put together lots of lovely posts for you all – so be sure to keep checking on here for all the latest from my travels. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a few weeks on the road with no laptop – sometimes it's so necessary to just switch off for a while and to enjoy the world around you. So that's exactly what I'm going to do. Out of office on. Engage holiday mode. See you in three weeks!
As soon as I arrived in Germany I was excited to start planning trips, to start living again in my new home. Last month for my birthday – Rügen Island. It was somewhere I had never heard of before moving to Germany, but shortly after arriving here, a very kind travelling friend offered me her family's beautiful holiday home for a weekend and I thought what better timing than to go for my birthday! So the final weekend in May, we packed up the van and hit the road for a lovely long weekend at the seaside.
We had the most amazing weekend filled with ice cream on the beach, walking in the national park, exploring tiny towns and beautiful parks, and of course, stuffing ourselves with yummy food! I really wish I could go back and do that whole weekend all over again, I really wouldn't change a thing, it was a perfect way to spend my birthday. In this post I'm going to share all of the things we did and what I would recommend if you happen to be visiting, hopefully it will help you have a special trip and to make the most of your time there.
There is so much to do on Rügen Island, you'll be spoilt for choice! The best thing is that there is something for everyone, so whether you're away for a romantic weekend for two, or a big group holiday, everyone is sure to enjoy themselves. From the chilled beach bars and viewpoints, to the more active hikes and bike rides, you can design the holiday you want and do everything at your own pace.
There are so many lovely beaches to check out – hopefully you have good weather like we did – although I will warn you it is the Baltic Sea so don't start getting excited about swimming! We were staying in Sassnitz so we spent the most time on the east side of the island where we found some gorgeous beaches waiting for us. We had a day of beach-hopping starting from Binz and working our way through to Sellin, Baabe, Göhren and all the way south to Theissow. If you have the time on your trip, I really recommend visiting a few different beaches to get away from the crowds and see a different side to the island. Binz and Sellin are gorgeous beaches with all the cute charm of an old-fashioned seaside town, comparable to Brighton in the UK. Expect pricier accommodation and lots of bars and restaurants, as well as lots of people – these were the busiest places we visited – but they are very pretty and great for the evenings when you want to go out for dinner. The other beaches further round, especially Baabe and Göhren, are much quieter and its lovely to sit on the beach and enjoy a picnic and the uninterrupted views of the bay. Check out this article for a more detailed guide to the individual beaches.
For a really unique way to see the island, why not hop aboard the old fashioned steam train and power along the Rügensche Kelinbahn, a nostalgic nod to days gone by, from Putbus to Göhren on a 24km ride. Taking in everything from lush green forests to huge beach resorts, you'll get an eyeful when you take a ride on the fondly known, Racing Roland.
It's definitely worth taking some time to explore all the little villages and parks spread around the island during your stay. In Bergen, you'll find some pretty spectacular panoramas across the ocean, plus colourful old buildings including Benedix-Haus in the market place. Gary is close by and as the tiniest and oldest town on the island, you'll visit just to se the amazing views from the Ernst Moritz Arndt Tower. Putbus was our favourite village – originally we went there to see the beautiful palace I had read about online only to find that it had been torn down years ago – but we were pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous Insel Vilm eco-park that was waiting for us there and spent hours wandering around. If you get time to drive all the way north, I really recommend visiting Kap Arkona which is the northernmost tip of the island and boasts amazing views, a gorgeous beach and lighthouses you can climb to the top for even better panoramas.
One of my favourite parts of visiting the island was Jasmund National Park which completely took my breath away and was easily one of the most memorable places I have spent my birthday. Read all about our visit and my top tips for visiting, here.
If you love getting outside and being active, you'll be in your element at Rügen, hit the trails and go walking in Jasmund National Park or from beach to beach, or hire bikes and feel the wind in your hair as you cycle the island. There are also walking and bike tours available if you would prefer to join a group when you explore the island, or if you travel with a group and would prefer a guide to lead you around.
Everyone loves a sunset and on Rügen Island there are two places I found that will provide you with the best views in the evening. Sellin Pier is one sight you don't want to miss, so make sure you get there before the sun dips over the horizon to see it all light up. Imagine an old-fashioned, Brighton-esque pier bathed in the sun's last rays of the day and gently sparkling as its lights start to twinkle. It was a beautiful sight and a perfect place for a sunset walk before dinner. I also found out about another place called Panorama Hotel Lohme, which was up in the very north above Jasmund National Park, and boasts gorgeous panoramic views over the ocean. We didn't go to this one sadly as the weather was very cloudy and foggy on our second night on the island, but I've read great reviews and seen some beaut pics.
We came prepared and filled up the van with food for the whole weekend so we could have more of a self-catering experience and save a bit of money – we didn't know if it might be more expensive on the island. We ate our own food for breakfasts and lunches, but actually ended up eating out on both the Saturday and Sunday nights we were there. On the Saturday night, we decided to go and see Sellin Pier at sunset and realised we were both starving after a busy day, after checking out the menu for Seebrücke Sellin, we couldn't resist going in for a bite to eat. I was very impressed to find that it was actually very reasonably priced, I had expected it to be a lot more expensive, and that the food was absolutely delicious. We went for a goats cheese starter, then had the burger and a mushroom pasta, all of which were absolutely amazing and the service was great considering we walked in five minutes before they were due to shut the kitchen!
On my birthday night, we went on the recommendation of our friend who told us we had to go and eat at Rialto, an Italian restaurant in Binz which has the best pizza and ice cream. After thoroughly taste-testing, I can tell you that the pizza and ice cream are amazing!
We stayed at our friend's place in Sassnitz which was perfect – this side of the island has all the best beaches and sights, plus we were right at the entrance to Jasmund National Park. There are lots of hotels and holiday homes all over this side of the island for varying levels of luxury and price tags. I personally would recommend renting a holiday home or somewhere self-catering where you can cook your own meals or can even have barbecues in the long summer evenings. We loved having a bit more space and a place to prepare breakfast and lunches. Sassnitz is also a great way to stay close to all the action without actually having to be in busy Binz, it's still a cute little seaside town but with more of a cosy feel.
We went to visit at the end of May and the weather was gorgeous, but being close to the Baltic Sea, it is understandably harder to predict the weather. I would recommend visiting May to September for the best weather, but keep an eye on weather reports because if the weather is bad, there isn't much to do that doesn't rely on you being outside all day. Also, avoid school holidays as it is clearly a big holiday destination for families/elderly and can get busy.
There are buses and trains on the island which connect each of the little towns to each other, these are great if you don't have access to a car plus there are lots of bike paths and hiking trails if you like to keep fit. You also can access the island by bus or train from Hamburg. We drove to the island (around 3.5 hours) and throughout the weekend we used the van to get everywhere which was really helpful to make the most of our weekend. I would recommend hiring a car or driving to the island because it gives you so much more freedom to stay in more budget-friendly places and to be independent and spontaneous about your day. We would decide at a moment's notice our plans and easily went off to a new beach or town. If you rely on public transport you would be much more restricted on how much you get to see and how quickly.
Have you been to Rügen Island – what are your recommendations? Are you more of a beach or forests-lover? What summer travels have you got planned?
I'm lucky enough to travel to some truly amazing places and I'll be honest that sometimes that can mean that you become a little more immune to the wow-factor, but every once in a while, you go somewhere that restores your sense of awe to factory settings. Somewhere that really just takes your breath away and leaves you chomping at the bit to explore more of this incredible world around us. When we planned a weekend away at Rügen Island for my birthday, it was the result of a kind travelling friend who offered us a holiday home to stay in rather than a whole lot of planning. The spontaneous break was everything we both needed and much more, especially when we discovered how utterly beautiful both the island, and the national park, really were. It's not often a place leaves me speechless, but when it does, it usually comes down to the spectacle of nature because it takes something vast and powerful to really remind you what a tiny place you occupy in the world.
It may be Germany's smallest national park but Jasmund boasts some seriously spectacular views such as the famous chalk cliffs which won the heart of Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich around 200 years ago. With lush forests and endless walking trails, plus the stunning coastline and beautiful beaches, Jasmund National Park has a lot to offer to anyone who ventures up to the north-east of the country in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. A UNESCO Natural Heritage site and perfect for walkers, visitors will wander through ancient beech forests dating back over 700 years – if you're wondering what all those classic fairy tales were inspired by, it had to be mystical forests like this one.Perfect for exploring by foot or bike, there are lots of different trails that will take you through the forest, or along the 8.5km routes along the cliffs which can reach up to 117m tall. At the very highest point of the national park, you will find the entrance to UNESCO Natural Heritage site Könuigsstuhl, which is German for "King's Chair" and has long played an important role in local mythology. Overlooking the Baltic Sea, on a very clear day visitors can see right across the bay to the coast of Sweden as the sun warms the famous white chalk cliffs. According to legend, the name Könuigsstuhl actually comes from ancient times when the custom was that the first to climb the cliffs from the sea and sit in the chair on the top would be elected king. You can see why – with a history like that and the natural beauty of the area – it would capture the imagination of Romantic painters.
Jasmund National Park was honestly one of the most magical and mystical places I have ever visited, I felt as though I had truly stepped into a fairytale. The ancient beech forest was filled with swirling mist and dark shadows on the day we went and as we walked through the trees, I half-expected Robin Hood and his Merry Men to come running out brandishing bows and arrows. At every turn we marvelled at the spookiness of the fog as it engulfed us and yet the vibrancy of the green of the leaves and the colours in the bark. The walk only takes around 30 minutes to the top of Könuigsstuhl, but for us it took over an hour each way because we had to keep stopping for photos and just to enjoy our surroundings. At one point we went a little off-course and started exploring part of the forest around a lake which we were drawn to by the sound of the frogs chirping in the mist, it was simply too magical to turn away from.Eventually we reached the top and had to pay the €9.50 entrance fee but of course, with the mist, we were faced with a pretty much non-existent view! We didn't let it deter us and had a good laugh about it, exclaiming loudly how wonderful the view was in front of a group of confused tourists. We decided to make the most of our visit and check out the visitor's centre which is actually great with a really interactive audio tour which is available in English and will keep the family entertained. Then we also watched the short film they offer which was really interesting and tells you more about the forest and how they protect it. But obviously we were disappointed not to see the view, so we decided the next morning we would run the same route we had just walked to see the view and not waste time repeating the day.Thankfully our last day on the island dawned sunny and bright, with clear blue skies and we couldn't wait to see the view properly. We ran the same route again and arrived out of breath but were soon rewarded by the view, which was definitely epic enough to make our running worthwhile. We had to chat our way past the gate so that we wouldn't have to pay again just for the view but a lovely woman let us through for five minutes. It was spectacular and my words won't do it justice but hopefully the pictures will. On a side note: walking through the forest on the second day was definitely not as exciting as the first time with all the mist, although still beautiful it was a lot less atmospheric. If you get the opportunity, I would really recommend checking it out on a misty or duller day, it is one of the few places I have been that is actually worth visiting more than once for a totally different experience.
Have you visited Jasmund National Park – what did you think? Have you been to any other national parks in Germany? What summer trips are you planning?
Sensory travel is such a wonderful way to treasure our traveling memories long after our tan has faded. There are some travel moments that stay with us months, even years, after a trip and the slightest smell or taste can bring back those previous memories back in a flash. I don't think I had ever experienced this quite as strongly until I started solo traveling, but this lifestyle really pushed me to travel more mindfully and to always remain present.
Every sight, sound, smell and taste would make my senses explode and now, even four years after those first moments on the beach in Thailand, those same smells, tastes or sounds still evoke all the memories and feelings I felt back then. The taste of fresh coconut water, the smell of the ocean breeze rustling through the palm leaves, mango sticky rice and the chaos and noise of the Thai markets. All of these are things I associate with travel, with freedom and the serenity I felt when I was first traveling and had escaped from a life where I was no longer happy. I've teamed up with TUI Sensatori to talk all about my most vivid sensory travel memories.
I'm a foodie at heart and I'm always chasing the next delicious experience, from those Thai spices, to the fish curries of Sri Lanka, my favourite brunch dishes and barbecues in Australia, to the comforting roast dinners of home. Feeling nostalgic for those traveling times, last night I made Thai green curry and mango smoothies, because for me, taste is a big part of remembering those traveling and holiday times. As I was cooking and smelt the mixture of coconut milk, the fragrant lemongrass, ginger and chilli combined in the pan and the sizzle reached my ears, I was transported back to those first days in Thailand, fresh off the plane when everything is almost an attack on the senses. I remember how overwhelming and exciting it all was – the colours, the sounds and smells, the tastes as a stopped off for a bite to eat and felt the flavours wash over my tongue.
Oxford University experts have said that over-reliance on smart phones and taking pictures on holiday has led to "digital holiday amnesia" causing far too many holiday makers to forget much of their trips after two weeks. By putting down our phones and cameras, and taking the time to awaken all of our senses, we are much more likely to create sensory travel memories that will let and be treasured for life. Experimental psychologist and renowned Oxford University sensory expert Professor Charles Spence led the research, he said:
“When we watch something unfold from behind a lens, we’re not truly living and sensing the experience. Smartphones can prevent us from creating fully-fledged memories as capturing a picture only really engages one of the senses – sight. It’s only by really engaging with our experiences on holiday through all of our senses that we can hope to process all the stimulating information to lay down the sorts of memories that will last, and that will be easier to retrieve.”
One memory that has really stayed with me was from when I was first traveling solo in Laos over three years ago. I was on a slow boat traveling down the Mekong River from Pai in Northern Thailand, to Vang Vieng, and it would take us two days to arrive at our destination. Our boat was rowdy, with a group of young travelers including myself and a couple of other English girls, some Aussies, Kiwis and even Canadians. I'll always remember two guys on the boat, an Aussie and an English guy, who were just so annoying. They never stopped talking and singing, and drove me crazy. Ironically they are some of my greatest traveling friends now!
But on that same boat, among the chaos and noise, there was an older woman who was quietly sat there just taking it all in and sketching on a pad in front of her. When I got up to take a look, she was beautifully capturing the scene in front of her, chaos and all. She had taken the time to breathe in the noise of the chatter and singing, the smell of the river and the cigarette smoke, and the feel of the hot, humid air packed tightly around us all. Seeing it through her eyes, I really saw the scene for the first time, without the annoyances, I breathed it all in, the people, the moment, all of it. Taking that moment to be mindful and appreciate changed the way I remember it, instead of just seeing it, I felt that moment. And even now, years on, I feel it. I felt it when I was reunited with the two guys and despite not seeing each other for a year we instantly felt like we were back on that boat.
Since that moment, I feel like I really have made a conscious effort to really appreciate every moment and not just to see it through a screen. I never want to be one of those travelers who just runs in, gets the pic and just leaves without feeling a place. As a writer, I love to soak up every part of an experience, so that later I can translate how it felt, smelt, tasted and sounded on to the page. I love curating beautiful content and imagery as you can see from the pics in this post – but I also feel that it is so important for there to be a story behind it.
For instance, the day I took the images for this post, we found a beautiful field full of rape seed and went for a walk. I remember so clearly the hot sun on my shoulders, the smell of the seed and the vibrancy of the yellow. I also remember when we found a local aviation club who were flying gliders over the fields and the muffled sounds of the aircraft coming in to land. Meeting my partner was a big push for me to put down the camera at times and just live in the moment because he, like me, loves to travel slow and really experience every moment. So we find ways of capturing the moment as I love to, but also getting to appreciate the experience just the two of us. Sensory travel at it's finest.
This blog post was a collaboration with TUI Sensatori who understand that in using all of our senses, we truly come alive and aim to help holidaymakers make the most of their holiday by stimulating their senses like never before. To find our how connected your senses are, take the TUI Sensatori quiz here.
Have you got a sensory travel memory to share? Leave a comment telling me about your sensory travel experiences and how you try to capture the memories without technology.
There are endless stunning beaches just waiting to be explored in Sri Lanka, but unlike many other parts of Asia they remain untouched and uncrowded with a certain charm I have yet to find elsewhere. From the blissful south east where Mirissa and Unawatuna can be found strewn with palm trees, cute fairy lights and perfect sunrises, to the north and west where you'll find the more rugged shores of Arugam Bay and Trincomalee. There is something to suit every beach bum whether you're craving lazy days spent sunbathing, diving and discovering the incredible wildlife or chasing the surf at sunset. Sadly while travelling there for a month in November, we were tiptoeing around the rainy season and ended up spending less time on the beaches and more deep in the jungles. But we couldn't resist a trip to Trincomalee after having it recommended to us by so many locals and friends. Despite having to spend hours making our way across the country by bus, we decided to spend our last few days exploring the western shores and spoiler alert we definitely didn't regret it! In fact, when a friend was visiting Sri Lanka the following month, one of the first places I recommended she visit was Trincomalee - why? Read on to find out:
Yes you read that correctly. Trinco is the most magical place for water babies to have a completely unique experience. Locals run trips where you can actually snorkel with blue whales while they remain protected, they actually guide documentary makers on where and how best to film them. It's pretty cheap and something you certainly won't regret. Not keen on getting up close and personal with the whales? There are also countless whale watching trips where you can view the creatures, and passing sperm whales, from the safety of a boat.
Sri Lanka's waters are the perfect place to spot these joyful creatures jumping through the waves and the west coast is known for it's rougher waters which they love. It's the perfect place to hit the water and see dolphins being wild and free.
A must-see for your trip – have the ultimate desert island experience with powdery white sand, volcanic rocks and pristine reef. Pigeon Island is idyllic but it does get busy during peak season - book your trips through your hotel and enjoy a day of snorkelling and exploring. Travellers have even reported getting to swim with octopus thanks to expert guides.
At nearby Kanniya you'll find the seven geothermal wells which are very popular with both tourists and holidaying Sri Lankans.
There are some spectacular temples to visit while in the area, but one you simply must see while you are there is the the colourful Koneswaram temple. High up in the hills, the Hindu temple is found near the dramatic Swami Rock and spectacular Gokarna Bay. Take a walk up to the top, then as you're strolling back down stop for a fresh juice overlooking the ocean.
Fancy catching some sun? Look for the beaches of Uppuveli and Nilaveli to fulfil your need for beachy bliss and some well-deserved peace and quiet. Uppuveli is good for swimming due to the calmer waters, and is slightly more developed with more options for guesthouses and hotels – we stayed here and loved it. Nilaveli boasts a longer beach and a much quieter area but the waters are rougher and less suited for swimming.
If you love a bit of history and checking out the sights, your visit wouldn't be complete without a trip to the British War Cemetery which the locals are keen to share with you. A walk around Fort Frederick is lovely around sunset, make sure you go all the way to the top for a really beautiful view of the bay.
Strangely, the main part of Trinco is absolutely filled with the tamest deer I have ever seen, they live right in the centre of town and sadly eat rubbish. It was a bit of a sad sight to see them making their home on the grass in-between the busy road by the bus station, but we were simply amazed at how they would let you go right up to them and even pet them.
Travelling on a budget? Trinco has accommodation to suit all needs from the luxury hotels to the budget apartments and rooms at guest houses. We stayed at the lovely Lobster Inn which was fantastic and I highly recommend it – the owners were really lovely and it was very cheap, actually cheaper than advertised on the website because it was off season. But if you're on even more of a budget, or just run out of money, try the Aqua Inn where you can stay in an actual backpacker cave – they're awesome!
Have you been to Trincomalee? Is Sri Lanka on your bucket list? What unique accommodation have you found on your travels?
*First pic credit.
Finding the perfect travel companion is no easy task, as someone who has spent much of her travelling life going it solo, I can tell you it isn't easy to change your ways and pair up with someone. No doubt, solo travel has a huge impact on the individual and their experience, but there's something special about sharing every step of your adventures with someone special. Whether that someone is a friend, family or even a partner, there is something magical about being able to reminisce over that time you got lost in Sri Lanka or the car broke down in Australia. Those normally stressful moments become a hilarious story, they gain an almost romantic aspect when remembered together. But, no matter how rose-tinted those spectacles are, there is no denying that finding the perfect travel companion is tricky, it takes a lot of struggles along the way before you finally pin down the one.
But what makes the perfect travel companion? Well after three years of travelling solo, as part of a group, with a close friend and even a boyfriend, I've really learnt the type of person I can be around. Because travelling isn't always just an easy breezy holiday, sometimes it can be hard, exhausting, confusing and downright dramatic. Finding the perfect travel companion means finding someone who can handle you at your worst, not just at your best, someone who can help you plan and solve problems, someone who can laugh when things don't turn out right and someone who can make even the worst situations seem manageable. These souls are hard to find and when you manage to pin one down, you should do all you can to keep hold of them.
Start by thinking about your travel style - are you a backpacker or a luxury lover? Do you prefer hotels or hostels? Are you more likely to be found buying easy-to-prepare food in a supermarket or making reservations for a Michelin-starred restaurant? All of these things can really affect the sort of people you will consider travelling with - for instance you can't combine a 5* luxury lover with a budget backpacker - while they may learn a thing or two from each other it is more likely that one person will be miserable. Even combining a flashpacker with a backpacker on a serious budget may be tricky - so it's important to discuss budget with the person you are travelling with and to really understand each other's chosen travelling lifestyle. If your styles are different, are you willing to compromise?
I love learning about culture and heritage when I visit new places, my boyfriend loves to surf. The one thing we really have in common is that we love to escape into nature through hiking and camping, and we love to eat out. It's more than okay for you to have different interests to the people you travel with, but it also really helps if you have some interests in common. By having some middle ground, it makes it easier to plan activities and travelling routes, but you can also still make time to indulge your individual pastimes. You don't have to spend every waking second together, but you do need to be willing to let each other enjoy your own passions and interests.
The way you pack can be very telling of the type of trip you are hoping to have. I always pack for long-term trips and usually into a backpack rather than a suitcase, I go for comfort with a hint of style and usually pack for summer. I would be a pretty bad combination if put together with someone who always packed for colder countries and preferred to pack his suits neatly into a case. It's important to be clear with each other before you leave what kind of trip you are both hoping for - you don't want to arrive with one suitcase full of cocktail dresses and a backpack full of hiking gear!
You may choose a different travel companion depending on where you choose to go, for a shorter weekend away you may team up with a family member or a friend for some fun in a new city. But when planning a longer holiday you may choose to go with older friends who you have known for years. When it comes to a much longer trip, say backpacking around the world, it is vital that you choose to go with someone you know, trust and can rely on. Travelling with someone is pretty full on and you need to know that you can cope being around that person 24/7 if need be.
It's taken me three years of solo travel, but I've finally found someone who I can travel with long-term, we've already traveled half of Australia while living in a car together, we've backpacked across Sri Lanka and Thailand and now have plans to take on Europe. I never imagined that I might find someone I could travel with full-time but now I can't imagine travelling life without him by my side. Travelling alongside someone you love is such a different experience to travelling with friends or family, but each can be just incredible if you have the right people and the right destination. For those who might be searching for an elite travel companion, Bank Models offer an exclusive and international model introduction service aimed at successful professionals who enjoy the best things in life. This service could help line you up with your perfect VIP travel companion for your next trip.
Have you found the perfect travel companion? Where did you meet? What was your last trip together?
Finding the budget hair care routine to keep your mane tamed when you're constantly traveling can be difficult. We all lust over long luscious locks or those super cute elfin bobs, but staying stylish when you're living out of your suitcase and don't have the time, or money, to spare on keeping your locks under control, is tricky. After three years of traveling, I've gone from a super-short bob to a crazy, out-of-control 'fro and now to a sleek long 'do with a fringe. I've tried it all and I've even gone from brown to black, to bright red and hints of purple along the way. Over the three years, I've dealt with the humidity of the jungles of Thailand and Sri Lanka, I've coped with the unpredictable nature of Melbourne and Tasmanian winters and I've even put my hair through being fully styled and heat-treated every day for a job. Plus there's the constantly changing countries and climates from the hot to cold and even the water can have an effect, as I noticed going between the softer water of Australia to the hard water of the UK. Traveling hasn't just been exhausting for my body, it's taken it's toll on my hair too and I've had to find ways of looking after it while sticking to budget hair care solutions.
The hardest one of all – trying to make sure you have regular trims. If you're backpacking or traveling for work this is a nightmare and often gets forgotten but it can really make a huge difference. By keeping your hair in good condition, you can save a lot of money trying to restore it once it is damaged – preparation is key for budget hair care. Before my last haircut, I went six months before having a trim and my god my hair needed it. You see, my hair does this thing where it grows out as well as long – it just gets bigger and bigger with a heck of a lot more attitude. Combine that with the heat and split ends, and it becomes a mess of knots and tangles that I struggle to get a brush through. Getting regular trims can help protect the healthy hair by stopping split ends, keeping it under control and making it less prone to knots.
But where am I going to find a regular hairdresser when I'm backpacking? Have you thought about looking in your hostel? Hairdressers go backpacking too and often if you look on the noticeboard of Facebook groups for the area, you'll see posts advertising cheap haircuts by traveling hairdressers. Don't worry, I've done this many times and it can be great. One of my best traveling friends is actually a trained hairdresser and she picked up work wherever she went offering haircuts for men and women in the hostel. Not backpacking and want something a bit more upmarket? It's worth seeing if your hotel can recommend a hairdresser's nearby, or looking online/social media, or even take a walk through the local mall to find a chain you feel comfortable going to. If you go home between trips, always go back to the same hairdresser – I've been going to the same one since I was 12 and she's amazing, she always knows exactly what will suit me and what the best style is to help my hair get back to normal.
Can't afford a professional cut or simply don't have the time to spend getting it dyed? Well, why not look at doing it yourself? If you have a low-maintenance hairdo, perhaps it's long or you just have a fringe that needs trimming every now and again. Don't attempt this unless you feel confident with a pair of scissors, but I used to cut my own fringe when I was away at university and couldn't get to a hairdressers. I even started cutting in my own layers for a while. Dying your hair can cost a fortune, but let's be honest, we love the feel of freshly dyed hair. I'm always playing around with my colour and definitely couldn't afford to do it if I went to the salon, but by dying it myself at home, or getting a friend/my mum to do it for me, I can have the best of both worlds. Choosing your dye wisely can actually be great for your hair – my locks always feel 10x healthier and glossier after I've used L'Oreal Casting Creme Gloss Semi Permanent hair dye and the conditioner is amazing. It has no ammonia in it so it's not as harsh as other dyes and it instantly makes my hair feel so much better.
Coconut oil is incredible – it doesn't matter whether you use it on your hair, your skin, in your food or anywhere else you can think of – it has such a great impact on your body. It's a great budget hair care tip because it's so multi-purpose and I never leave on my travels without it. When traveling to tropical countries, I always rub coconut oil all over my skin and in the damp ends of my hair after every shower. It really helps to keep my hair in good condition and to keep your skin soft and moisturised. Even when I'm in colder places, I rub coconut oil into my hair once a week and even rub it into my nails – it really does help to strengthen them. When I'm in the UK, I always buy it from Aldi - it's the cheapest I've found and you get a HUGE pot that will last you ages.
For day-to-day budget hair care, it's important to find a shampoo and conditioner that will actually care for and protect your hair. I'm making sure I choose paraben and sulphate-free brands which help your hair to remain undamaged, but I also try to look for brands that protect against sun-damage. Traveling in places like Australia and Asia, it's important to realise the impact of being exposed to strong sunshine and UVA/UVB rays on a daily basis, and just as we buy moisturiser with sunscreen in it, to find protection for our hair. Most important, don't spend the earth – you don't need to buy the most expensive just because it's a big brand. I love the Aussie range and L'Oreal.
Sometimes a basic shampoo and conditioner isn't enough to revive your hair after a lot of time spent in the sunshine. I swear by deep conditioning treatments, especially when I can't get it cut. During the six months where I didn't get a chance to have it cut, I swore by deep conditioners – it was the only way I could get a comb through my hair! I try to use them at least once a week but often I'll use them more – this depends on your hair type. Again, it doesn't have to be expensive, my favourites are the L'Oreal Extraordinary Oil and Aussie Three Minute Miracle and both are great budget hair care options.
One of the best things you can do for your hair when traveling a lot is to cut back on washing it. Use the time to train your hair to require washing less, embrace the dry shampoo and start getting more creative with styles. Growing it out when traveling can be a great way to do this, after traveling with both short hair and long hair, I would choose long hair every single time. Short hair is a pain and needs styling every day, but long hair barely needs to be brushed! Plus, it doesn't get dirty as quickly and, if you train it up, you can easily get down to washing it just once a week with a touch of dry shampoo and some clever styling. The less you wash it, the less product you use and the less often you have to buy replacements – perfect for budget hair care!
I love braids. They are so easy and effortlessly stylish, so comfortable for traveling and so good at hiding what state your hair is really in. Plus, even better for budget hair care – it's free! Traveling in Asia with long hair made me a lot more creative at styling my hair and saving myself from both the humidity and having to wash my hair. It kept my hair off my face and they were fantastic for long journeys – I could easily not wash my hair for days and still arrive not looking like I'd been dragged through a hedge backwards. The more you practice, the easier it gets and soon you'll be able to braid your entire head of hair in less than 30 seconds, and if you leave them in overnight with damp hair, or fresh from the ocean, you'll be left with those soft, gorgeous waves.
Traveling can be the perfect opportunity to really take a break from using heat on your hair – hairdryers and straighteners can really damage your locks over time and it's a good idea to take a break. If you're moving around a lot, going natural can help save your hair from further damage and it can also save room in your suitcase. I'm quite lucky and my hair really suits the heat and humidity, it brings out my natural curls, so I always leave my hairdryer and straighteners/curlers at home when I travel and just go natural. Even when I travel in cooler countries, I try to just give a quick blast with the hairdryer and always use heat protection spray.
You know how we're supposed to make sure we get our five-a-day? Well just as it's important to eat loads of vitamin C so you don't get sick, your hair needs certain vitamins to avoid getting brittle and weak. Incorporating certain foods into your diet can naturally help boost your hair's health, avoiding the need to take supplements. Think things like eggs and avocados, lots of leafy greens such as spinach, and plenty of nuts and seeds. Its easy to build these into your diet and luckily they're pretty tasty foods. I love to make sure I have vitamin-rich breakfast or brunch – poached eggs with spinach and avocado – or I sprinkle nuts and seeds into my granola or on salads. Little things like this can have a huge impact on how thick and healthy your hair looks.
What are your best budget haircare tips for regular travelers? How do you deal with the changing climates? What are your favourite haircare products?
After spending a month exploring the wild landscape of Sri Lanka, we were keen to relax and spend the next two weeks on the beach soaking up every last bit of sun before heading back to a European winter. It had been a month of constant movement and amazing adventures, but after a while you really start to need some time to just chill and we were long overdue for an actual holiday. Originally we had planned to spend two weeks exploring the Maldives but sadly bad weather put paid to those plans. So when the team at Ammatara Pura Pool Villas invited us along to stay with them in Thailand where we were promised a lovely 30 degrees, we quickly snapped up their offer. Now if you guys remember correctly, I was actually in Thailand three years ago so it felt amazing to be returning to the country that started off my three years of travelling and to be doing it with my boyfriend who was visiting for the first time. I couldn't wait to share my experiences with him and to relive some of my favourite moments with him by my side.The last time I was in Thailand - despite spending three months exploring the country - I never made it to Koh Samui and always wondered if I had missed out. Arriving on the island, we were glad to see the sun shining after a particularly stormy few days on Koh Tao where the roads had been flooded more thank ankle-deep with rainwater. I couldn't believe the sheer size of the island, compared to Koh Tao and Koh Phanang it seemed huge and a lot more commercialised, but we quickly moved out of the busiest areas as our minibus made it's way to the resort. The island is very much made up of resorts from the budget-friendly to the utmost in 5* luxury, but there is a trip to suit all. We were excited for our next adventure to be taking us to quieter area of Lamai Beach, where the extreme luxury of the Ammatara Pura Pool Villas awaited us. Arriving at the gates, we were instantly bowled over by the incredible palatial buildings and knew we were in for a real treat. As you can see from the photos, it really was an absolutely beautiful place, a real oasis in the midst of busy Koh Samui.Imagine waking up in the morning in your enormous princess-worthy bed then wandering out of your own private garden villa to find your own private pool with jacuzzi waiting just outside. Just metres away you can glimpse white sandy beaches, palm trees and fresh coconuts, and the sounds of the ocean wash over you. Styled after a 1,200 year old Thai palace, the villas and restaurant are set around a stunning temple, swimming pool and gardens for the exclusive use of the guests. With just 18 of these incredibly luxurious private villas on the property, the boutique resort offers complete privacy and a chance to really unwind on the holiday of your dreams. After so long spent on the road, we were very much in need of a real treat and a chance to just relax and we couldn't have found a better place to do it. This amazing getaway gives visitors the chance to live like royalty during their stay, designing their perfect holiday with an attentive staff who are always on hand to make it a reality.I won't lie, I felt like an absolute princess during our visit. The enormous villas are the epitome of luxury and have everything you need and everything you never dreamed you might have. From the beautiful outdoor rain shower and the huge jacuzzi bath, to the walk-in wardrobe and the gorgeous bed draped in the softest sheets which overlooks the swimming pool. With a choice of the sea view villas or the garden view, each had it's own private area complete with a patio, balcony, swimming pool with jacuzzi. We spent our days basking in the sunshine, splashing around in our own private pool overlooking the ocean or dining in the resort's beachfront restaurant on the most delicious Thai cuisine. Can we just talk about the food for a second? We're talking not just some of the most delicious Thai food I have eaten, but amazing Western options, plenty for vegetarians and even halal. We were greeted with fresh juices and breakfast each morning was an international feast of delectable delights from all over the world.The Thai owners pride themselves in the resort remaining a truly independent hotel and ensure the friendly staff are there for your every need during your stay. For guests who are looking to be pampered, the resort boasts a stunning open air yoga centre, complete with a panoramic ocean view, a fitness room equipped with state of the art machines and a spa with a huge range of treatments. The resort lies just a short and complimentary tuk-tuk ride away from the centre of Lamai, which is filled with restaurants, bars and entertainment. We had a great night when we went to watch Thai boxing at a bar in town for free, and there are plenty of opportunities to book tours or trips from the travel agents. For those who wish to explore further afield, the island lies just a couple of hours by ferry to nearby Koh Phanang and Koh Tao.It really was a perfect way to round off our time spent travelling around Asia and I can't imagine a more luxurious place to treat yourself, and your partner, to a romantic few days by the ocean. Fancy a taste of luxury? You can book a villa for your next visit to Thailand here.
Where is the most luxurious place you have stayed? Where was your favourite place in Thailand? Did you like Koh Samui?
There's nothing better than spending an afternoon with your favourite people indulging in tea, cake and a lot of laughs. Since being back in the UK I'm doing my best to organise as many fun reunions with friends and family as possible, to make the most of every second I have here before I continue with my travels. When I was invited along to try K West Hotel and Spa's Glamrock Afternoon Tea, there was only one person I wanted to invite along - my mum. We always try to organise regular mummy-daughter days to treat ourselves with a day at the spa, cocktails or shopping, but afternoon tea would be a new one for us. Surprising, considering how much we both like cake! When I'm away on my travels we always have to postpone our special days so we try our best to catch up when I'm back and to really treat ourselves.As you walk in the doors of the hotel, you're instantly bathed in the cosmopolitan vibe from the bold colours and luxurious decorations to the busy and well-stocked bar. Set just down the road from Shepherd's Bush tube station, the hotel is the perfect place to indulge in a really girly day with a spa on the premises and West 12 Shopping Centre just round the corner. Guided upstairs to the restaurant, you still retain the atmosphere of the bar downstairs but gain a little privacy to enjoy your dining experience. Given a warm welcome by our server, we were instantly in the glam rock mood as we heard the sounds of Steve Harley, Cockney Rebel, Blondie, Slade and even a bit of T.Rex. Having a mother who loved a bit of glam rock back in her day meant we were both singing and dancing along.The Glamrock Afternoon Tea has lots of different options available from the classic afternoon tea, to the Glamrock Prosecco or Champagne Afternoon Tea, or even the Rock'n'Cocktails Tea. We couldn't resist trying out the Rock'n'Cocktails Tea after seeing the amazing cocktail menu and the huge range of teas available to try. After glancing over the menu, we started on our first round of tea - the Tea Rex! This bespoke K West tea offers a more daring cup of tea with a bold, smokey flavour and a soothing floral aftertaste - it's really delicious and left us excited to try some more of their exciting blends. Later on I tried the Very Berry tea which is actually made from dried fruit and was heavenly, while mum tried the Cherry Blossom which was beautifully delicate on the taste-buds. There were several other fascinating ones to try including the Bobby Marley Blend and the Rooibos Orange and Cactus Fig.Differing from the classic afternoon tea, this one has a rather more glamorous twist with plenty of flavours to tantalise your taste-buds. If you've got a bit of a sweet tooth but don't fancy the traditional cakes of an afternoon tea, this one if perfect for you with lots of delicate sweet treats on offer. Starting on the savoury items we had a range of mini-sandwiches with fillings such as hummus and rocket or avocado, my favourite smoked salmon and cream cheese and some absolutely delicious halloumi, guacamole and tomato rainbow rolls. Then, we moved on to the delicious scones - my highlight of the afternoon tea - they were so tasty and served with strawberry jam, clotted cream and fresh berries. Before indulging our sweet tooth with no end of goodies from sugar confetti mini eclairs to cocktail macaroons and marshmallow, chocolate and nut sprinkles cones. We were in foodie heaven and were delighted when the staff brought us some more of the savoury snacks.Of course, we couldn't resist trying one of the amazing cocktails on offer for the Rock'n'Cocktails Tea - after taking a look at the menu, we both went for the Yo Snow which is gin infused with Campari, Martini Rosso and Prosecco Vaporetto with lemonade. It was the perfect accompaniment to all the sweet treats and the crisp, tangy flavours were really refreshing - it was exactly the kind of cocktail I would want to make for my girls at home. They really embraced the seasonal flavours for the winter-themed Glamrock Afternoon Tea and I'd be intrigued to see how these change throughout the year. At the end of the afternoon, we were sad to leave after having such a fabulous treat and such wonderful service. Our waitress was fantastic and was keen to recommend teas or cocktails she thought we might like to try, she really made sure to give us the best afternoon tea experience. A huge thank you to K West Hotel and Spa for having us along, and if you want to book in for afternoon tea - click here.
What are your favourite afternoon tea treats? Who would you like to take along for a Glam Rock Afternoon Tea? Can you recommend any other afternoon teas?
Imagine sitting at the edge of Sri Lanka's wildest jungle surrounded by fireflies, and with elephants and wild leopards just beyond the fence, as you tantalise your tastebuds with a five-course feast by candlelight.
It sounds magical doesn't it? Basically the ultimate date night, and that was our reality when we were lucky enough to stay at Yala Safari Camping during our month-long trip to Sri Lanka. The three days we spent living in the jungle were beyond anything we could have dreamed, it really was a true taste of paradise and gave us a whole other experience to just going on a day safari, this way we were as close as you could get to jungle life. It's not every day you get to live an experience worthy of honeymoon standard with your boyfriend, and it's one that will stay with us forever.Yala Safari Camping is the creation of Mahesh Kumara, who along with a team of friends, has grown up in the area alongside nature and has spent the last few years turning a plot of his family's land into a truly unique safari camp experience. Starting out several years ago by offering luxury camping trips into Yala National Park, his team offered an experience like no other, but Mahesh had a vision for ultimate in luxury safaris which has now been realised on the very borderline of the national park. After designing and building the luxury safari tents himself, Mahesh has now finally seen his dream become a reality with the formation of a beautiful luxury camp just metres away from the park entrance. Think huge tents with private bathrooms and four poster beds, sunken bath tubs in the floor of the tent and fantastic room service – as Mahesh describes it, a real "heaven in the wilderness".We were expecting great things after everything we had seen on the website, but when we arrived at the camp we were genuinely bowled over by the sheer luxury and beauty of the site. Our tent, which you'll see from the gorgeous pictures, was huge and had everything and more we could have ever hoped for. The sunken bath in the floor was absolute bath goals to the extreme and trust me, one of the first things we did was to have a lovely long bubble bath – a real treat for long term travellers. Our tent was set alongside a watering hole which we were told was often used by wild leopards and other jungle creatures during the dry season – I couldn't help but wake up early each morning to see if I could spot any wildlife. This was a really magical few days of going to sleep to the sound of tree frogs and crickets chirping, and waking to the sounds of deer rustling in the bushes. The fact that you are just so close to the national park really does set Yala Safari Camping apart from other safari experiences in Sri Lanka, this is the closest you can get to staying in the jungle while still being treated to every luxury and more.
Read: Sri Lanka 2 week itinerary from Colombo
Set away from the nearby town, you stay in total isolation with nothing but wildlife for up to 10 km. The eco-friendly campsite uses solar power for their entire power supply and has cleverly used building techniques and special leaves for roofing to keep the tents cool and ventilated. The campsite also features a lovely lounge and dining area for the meals which are cooked by the incredible chef onsite, think mouth-watering traditional Sri Lankan cuisine with plenty of international options cooked to a 5* quality. Trust me, we couldn't get enough of the food, it was some of the best we had while travelling in Sri Lanka and introduced us to a whole selection of local dishes we hadn't yet tried. The chef even grows a lot of his own vegetables and herbs on site, so everything is freshly prepared for every meal, cocktail and snack.Looking to fill your time while staying at Yala Safari Camping? There's endless options for trips and safaris to keep you entertained and the team are eager to show you the area. While there, we spent a whole day on safari exploring Yala National Park which was really magical and we even spotted wild leopards deep in the jungle! The team have a Land Rover Defender Puma on hand to handle all the rough roads and to take you to parts of the jungle you might not otherwise see. You have a choice of which area you would prefer to pinpoint and what sights you want to see – from the coastal parks of the park, to the deepest jungle where the elephants and leopards hide. We had the best day spotting monkeys swinging through the trees and elephants gorging themselves on plants, then enjoying our lunch out by the beaches and visiting a nearby fishing village before heading leopard spotting in the afternoon. Our guides were fantastic and obviously knew the area much better than the other safari guides we saw who continually asked ours for help to find the leopards. There were also opportunities for bush walks, mountain hikes, bird watching, visiting nearby sights and temples and much more. Check out some suggested itineraries here.
I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to visit somewhere as incredible as Yala Safari Camping, and I'm even happier I had the chance to experience it with someone as special as my boyfriend. It's the perfect place to visit with a loved one, or even take the whole family and fill up all the safari tents for a totally unique Sri Lankan experience.
Have you stayed in any unique accommodation? What's the most unusual? Are you more of a camper or a glamper?
For road trippers, car checks are a vital part of ensuring your vehicle survives the trip. And yet they can often be the one bit of preparation that is forgotten. Eager to get on the road, many are quick to head out without looking under the hood. But if there's one thing I've learned from over five years of solo travel and vanlife, it's to always be prepared. Travel is a learning curve and the best way to become a good traveller is to learn quickly from your mistakes. That means wising up when things go wrong and seeing what you could have done to prevent it.
We've all had our fair share of travel calamities and I've definitely had quite a few when it comes to road trips. But the most important thing is to keep your sense of humour when these things happen. Accept that things can always go wrong and you can only be so prepared. The more you can adapt and pick up skills you can use the next time you travel – the better. So because I know I'm just as guilty of doing this. I wanted to share this post on the simple car checks you can do before a road trip.
Driving Australia's West Coast with a group of travellers, from Perth to Darwin. It was no small road trip with over 4,000km to cover. My friend had taken her car for a service and check-up before the trip to ensure it was safe. But the garage must have forgotten to screw on one of the bolts for the wheel. We were driving along the highway when she noticed something was wrong. Then suddenly the wheel fell off and the whole car was lop-sided. Thankfully they had been pulling over to park at the time so no-one was hurt. But it could have been very dangerous, and it was expensive to get towed and fixed.
An ex-boyfriend was driving up the West Coast to meet me in his van so we could drive the rest of the way together. But spookily, around the same area where the wheel fell off for my friend, his van suddenly broke down. He was stuck on the highway with the engine billowing black smoke. Now only did he have to get towed back to the town. But he ended up having to trade his van for a car! We still finished the road trip and loved that car.
I planned a road trip across Bulgaria with some friends and we had just picked up the hire car, parking it on the street. We went to get a bite to eat and returned five minutes later to see our vehicle was clamped. Luckily the fine wasn't too bad but we did end up wasting a lot of time.
Read: 15 reasons you should road trip across Bulgaria
This one was hilarious but a total pain in the arse. I had just spent a weekend in Brighton with an ex-boyfriend and we were on our way home. It was a hot day, and we had the top down in his convertible as we cruised down the M25. We couldn't hear the noise at first but after a while we noticed the grinding, scraping sound of metal and we had to pull over. When I looked under the car, the entire exhaust had fallen down and was dragging under the car. It was a mess, a long wait for recovery, very expensive and still three hours from home on a bank holiday. Not ideal.
So how can you prevent this from happening on your next road trip? Be smart, be organised and follow this checklist I've created. It features all the things you should check on your vehicle before any long journey. Spend a bit of time doing this before each trip. It could save you hours of standing by a windy motorway waiting for the AA man to show up after his Sunday roast.
Car checks don't all have to be done by you. Get a second opinion if you don't know enough about cars. Schedule regular check-ups for your car or van. Make sure you get any concerns looked at. Don't like the sound of that noise? Have it checked before you go.
Top up the fuel, the oil and even things like brake fluid and window washing liquid. Make sure your brake pads are still okay. Check the tyres have enough tread and if they need topping up.
You'd be amazed how many people are driving on the roads without insurance. So make sure you have a comprehensive insurance that covers you for all situations. This includes third party damage, and if you're doing any off-roading or parking in unusual spots.
Don't leave your lights on! This can run the battery down very quickly so be careful to check the inside lights when loading or unloading the car. If you leave the doors or windows open because of the heat then turn all lights off. Always make sure the engine is fully off and don't let your battery run down.
Check the rubber for any bulges or tears, drive carefully and avoid broken glass. Also, make sure the tread is still within the legal requirement. If you're planning on off-roading, be sure your tyres can handle it! Pack chains if you're driving in the snow.
Always pack for emergencies. On long trips it is smart to pack a torch, first-aid kit, blanket and some basic tools. Plus water and extra snacks in case you get stuck somewhere. Whether you break down, crash or simply get stuck in a mega traffic jam, it's always good to have supplies.
If you're planning a long trip, it can be helpful to have a navigation system. Don't just rely on your phone unless you're sure you'll have coverage everywhere. Garmin are good if you're looking at getting a Sat-Nav. But it does help to keep a back-up map in the car in case of emergencies.
Extra weight of overpacking places extra strain on the vehicle and can use a lot more fuel. Pack smart and find ways to reduce the amount you take. If you're road tripping long-term and have a roof rack full of stuff - arrange it carefully to be as streamlined as possible. Trust me, it makes a HUGE difference to how much fuel you consume.
Be smart about your travel times. Avoid hitting traffic or rush hour and you could save a lot of fuel and wasted time. Travelling late at night or early in the morning is great, open roads and not a soul in sight.
Here’s the deal if your car isn’t up to par then you’re either going to have to get it fixed up (which can potentially cost a lot of money) or you should sell it and upgrade to something better. IF you happen to take the route of selling your car one option to consider is Junk That Car, they state that they typically pay $500 or more in cash for junk cars. So, if you are thinking of selling it could be a smart choice.
Most importantly, once all the checks are done. Relax and really enjoy every second of your trip! Make it the trip of a lifetime. Even if things do go wrong, it isn't the end of the world. It just means another funny story to tell afterwards. The most important thing you can pack when things do go wrong is perspective. Take a deep breath, take care of it and then sit back until you're on your way again.
What was your worst road trip experience? Can you think of any other important car checks before a road trip? What was the best road trip you ever did?