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Vanlife has exploded across the travel scene over recent years. The phenomenon has become one of the most sought-after travel experiences for young wanderlusters. Perhaps it’s the endless freedom or the return to a simpler lifestyle that appeals. Or perhaps many have just realised that living in a van can give you a way of travelling long-term on low costs – it sounds pretty appealing right? I hear it all the time, from people who have travelled a lot, to those who have barely seen outside their home town. So many have this beautiful dream of converting a vehicle into a home and of taking off and seeing the world. Whether it’s driving across outback Australia, travelling across Europe or even just driving around the UK. It’s a great way to see a country in a new light and to experience a level of freedom you can’t even imagine.

I’ve always loved road trips, but I never really experienced living in a van until I met my boyfriend. He had previously spent years driving and travelling around in his own van across New Zealand and Australia. I joined him on an epic road trip just a week after we met. We travelled over 4,000km together on that trip and have since had more amazing road trips across Australia and Europe. Our most recent was a few months ago when we spent 3 weeks driving across Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and France in our newly converted Sprinter. You can read all about the plans for that trip here. It was an amazing trip and I’ll be writing more about it over the coming weeks/months. But first I wanted to start off with a post about the 5 things you should focus on when planning a road trip or converting a van. It’s an exciting and daunting task, but one that could pay off hugely if it gives you the freedom to travel.

Vanlife | 5 things you need for an epic first road trip

Comfort and storage

SUCH an important thing to remember when planning your Vanlife travels. By investing in both of these you will make your life so much better once on the road. Consider whether you will need to weather-proof your van and need to make it suitable for winter as well as summer. You may need insulation for the colder months. Make sure you spend time on making your bed and don’t just go for a cheaper/easier option. We had an old slatted bed frame donated by a neighbour which we cut to fit the wooden bed frame we built. This gave extra support and a bit of suspension so it wasn’t just a hard box. We used a big section of foam and cut it to size for the mattress. Then filled our bed with pillows and warm duvets. Don’t forget, no matter how warm it is during the summer, it does get chilly at night and is always better to have too many layers than not enough. We also made our bed frame removable so we could have more floor space in the van if necessary by removing the end section.

When it comes to storage, more is always better. Plan your van design around storage, it’s great to build it into the frame and design so everything remains compact and tidy. There’s nothing worse than living in a tiny van that is just a mess of stuff. At the end of the day you want to be able to crawl into bed without having to move everything. We created so much storage that we actually never had to store things on the bed. We had a massive section under the bed with big boxes where we stored food and cooking equipment, then along the side of the bed we had a big section for camping gear which we could also use as a bedside table. Behind the drivers’ seat, we also used smaller crates stacked on top of each other which we picked up in IKEA and screwed together and into the floor. These we used for clothes, toiletries and other bits and bobs which meant we didn’t have to leave things lying around for security. Plan well and you’ll never find your van crowded or too small, trust me, it will change your whole vanlife experience!Vanlife | 5 things you need for an epic first road trip

Power up

Being a gal who never travels without her phone, camera, iPad/laptop and music, I need access to power to charge items and I never want to worry about running out of juice. On our Europe trip, I loved being able to practice more photography and to edit photos in the evenings. There are lots of ways to make sure vanlife doesn’t mean living with your battery on red. One thing I wish I’d had when we were in Western Australia was a solar-powered battery pack. It was 40 degrees daily and constant sunshine so it would have been a great way to recharge. For our Europe trip, we invested in a power pack for the van which would recharge as we drove using power from the van’s engine. We could choose when to recharge and once fully charged, it would run for days depending on how much power you used. It was expensive at around €500, but an investment for us because we knew we would be using the van long-term.

Looking for a more budget fix – why not invest in some really good portable power packs? I was sent the Juice Extreme, a fast charge power bank which is designed for life on-the-go and works perfect for road trips. It stores 2.5 full charges for an iPhone 8, Samsung S8 or Android phone and is great for a day of exploring a new city. It proved a lifesaver for me when exploring Vienna and Prague this summer, or for long afternoons of driving and needing a quick boost for directions. With a strong rubber coating, it’s dust and waterproof which is great for travellers like me who love the beach, and it even protects against impact damage. Finally, it has a tiny LED torch which is handy when you’re trying to find your camp spot in the dark! Retailing at £24.99, it’s a great investment and I never leave home without it in my handbag.

Vanlife | 5 things you need for an epic first road trip

Stocking up on Vanlife supplies

One benefit of living in a van is that you can prepare all your meals yourself and don’t have to waste money on eating out. It’s worth stocking up before you travel on basics like pasta, rice, beans, and breakfast items like muesli. Having a good basic store of these things mean no matter where you are. Or even if you break down in the middle of nowhere, you won’t go hungry. The same applies for things like water and toilet roll, it’s worth getting a tank of water with a tap for your van. We never travel without one and it means we have lots of water for cooking/drinking. Going prepared will also mean that you don’t get caught out with expensive shops. In Western Australia, shopping was expensive so we always waited until the bigger towns to pick up essentials at larger supermarkets. Likewise, in Switzerland, we avoided the shops altogether because of the extra expense. Instead we stocked up beforehand in Austria.

Permits and Insurance

Insurance is an obvious one, but be sure that yours is comprehensive, covers all your drivers and third party damage. Also be sure you know what your breakdown cover includes so if the worst happens, you know what to do and who to call for the best support. Always make sure you take the vehicle for a service or do all appropriate checks before a big trip. Read this post for a list of top checks to perform. When it comes to permits, be sure to check if you are driving through several countries, which permits are required. For example, when we were driving through Austria and Switzerland. We had to get special permits from petrol stations along the road but they were tricky to get. Be prepared, it’s always better to do a little vanlife research before you travel, than to get a huge fine when you return home.Vanlife mountains

Decoration

For us, this was a huge part of making the van our own. We were so proud of the building work and the bed frame. But it was the decorating that really got us excited and started to make it a home. I wanted it to be as cosy as possible, our own little cave to escape into. We visited some of the vintage and Indian shops here in the city, where we picked up some great Vanlife decorations. I found a colourful chakra tapestry which we used to cover the roof of the van. With some huge black pashminas to add some great little storage pockets and tassles hanging down by the windows. My boyfriend picked out some Nepalese flags for a little travel inspiration and some more colour, and we picked up lots of fairy lights from IKEA and Primark to make it cosy. And I picked up a few extra pillows with nomad-style prints to make it extra comfy. I still love everything about our van. It’s a colourful mish-mash of our personalities and the places we’ve been, it tells a story. And even better, we had so many compliments on our epic ride as we travelled around Europe. I already can’t wait for the next vanlife experience!

Have you converted a van – how was your vanlife experience? Have you always dreamed of travelling in a van across the country?

Absolutely Lucy

I’m obsessed with outdoor spaces. I don’t know if I was an escape artist in a previous life, but I always have this urge to just throw all the windows wide open and feel the fresh air on my face. Perhaps it’s the traveller in me who just loves the endless possibilities of the world outside. But I’ve found that bringing that outdoor world into my everyday life help keep a little of the magic of travelling alive. Anywhere I go, I love finding special places that combine the beauty of outside with our inside lives. Whether that means exploring beautiful greenhouses filled with exotic plants and getting lost in a butterfly house. Or even just bringing plants into your home – there are so many ways to keep this magic alive.Bring outdoor spaces inside – creating a unique space

Bringing outdoor spaces indoors

On one of my very first visits to Hamburg, I remember going inside the gorgeous greenhouses at Planten Un Blomen and discovering the amazing tropical plants. The cacti and succulents in particular caught my eye. I even remember saying to the boyfriend that when we had our own apartment, we should fill it with plants like these. I loved the idea of bringing lots of plants inside, of them filling our home with oxygen, with life, and their soothing qualities. When we moved into our apartment, sadly we don’t have a garden or balcony, but we made do with our window ledges. We filled these with a mixture of plants, including my favourite Aloe Vera, which has made the place feel so much more homely. It can so easily be forgotten, but the personal touches you add to your home are just as important as the furniture. We couldn’t have outdoor spaces, so we brought the outdoors indoors.

When we were in Vienna, we visited the most beautiful indoor “outdoor space” and were left in awe of this incredible, tropical space. Schmetterling Haus is right in the heart of Vienna and just metres from the Opera House. This unique attraction is well worth a visit when you head to the city, the palm-filled building alone is the most Instagrammable sight. And don’t get me started on the graceful creatures which fill the air with vivid colours of the rainbow. With over 400 live butterflies to view all year round, it makes a great visit no matter what time of year. As you can see, we took these images while visiting, and had a lot of fun trying to capture the butterflies on camera. (I will clarify that we didn’t seek to touch any of the butterflies, they landed on us curiously and we stayed as still as possible so not to disturb them)Bring outdoor spaces inside – creating a unique space

Unique ways to bring outdoor spaces into your home

If you’re someone who loves to add a personal touch to your home, creating your own unique planters is the perfect project for you. Replace those basic terracotta pots with some beautiful planters that will enhance and brighten up your garden. Put your own personal stamp on your garden and create something that no-one else will have. This is a great way to make the interiors of your home special to you, and to create exactly the look YOU want.

Plain Pots 

The easiest and cheapest DIY planter to create is one from the plain pots that you can get from the local garden centre. Pick up a few of these pots for the garden, the herbs growing in the kitchen or plants in the conservatory. Using some paint, you can get to work on transforming your plain plant pots into colourful planters that will stand out on any window ledge or outdoor step. Cover the pot itself in a durable base coat, then you can get to work on transforming your pots and making them your own. You can find a great selection of plant pots here, providing you with plenty to get your project started!  

Mason Jars 

Over the last year or so, there has been a huge demand for Mason jars – quirky glass jars that add character and style to any space. I have a friend who makes these for weddings, designing them individually with candles, flowers and beautiful decorations. From storing the spices in your kitchen, to planting your favourite flowers, you can use the Mason jars for any kind of storage. By gathering half a dozen Mason jars and positioning them in a line, you can fill them with your favourite seeds and some soil. You can either display your mason jars side by side on the ground, or in amongst your flower bed. Or you could hang them with some durable string to add a little extra character to your garden and add solar fairy lights to make your garden extra magical.Bring outdoor spaces inside – creating a unique space

Recycled Tins 

Do something wonderful for the environment and start recycling your used tins and cans, by turning them into planters for your outdoor spaces. Once you’ve finished with your baked beans can or your tomato soup tin, remove the label from the outside and ensure there are no sharp edges that could cause any harm. Once you’ve got your clean metal can or tin, you can get really creative. Whether you choose to glue some string around the tops of the cans to add a little extra detail, or paint some pretty patterns on the sides, you can create a cute little planter that will hold your plants beautifully, whilst recycling used items at the same time.

Wellington Boots 

One way that seems so beautifully British, is to make use of your old wellies to create a unique planter for your garden. This may sound like a crazy idea, but there’s something adorable about having a pair of wellies stuffed to the brim with a bold flower display. Fill your wellington boots with soil and plant your favourite flowers in the top. This will look great positioned on your doorstep, by the pond or even just in the corner of your garden. The quirkier the pattern the better! Bring outdoor spaces inside – creating a unique space

Hopefully this post has left you feeling inspired to create your perfect outdoor space, whether you have a garden or simply make do with a window ledge. Get creative and use what space you have to create a home and garden you love to come home to. Are you a traveller stuck in one place for a while? Nothing will make it easier like creating a place you love to spend time in – capture the magic of your travels in your outdoor spaces.

Have you found a way to bring outdoor spaces into your home? Would you prefer a balcony or a garden? What other ways can you think of creating planters for your home?

Bring outdoor spaces inside – creating a unique space

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.

Where are we going?

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.

Follow our road trip

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!

Heading on a 3 week European road trip adventure | Travel

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.

What to do?

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.

Why you shouldn't miss a trip to Rügen Island & planning your stay | Germany

Beaches

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.

Steam Train

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.

Villages & Parks

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.Why you shouldn't miss a trip to Rügen Island & planning your stay | Germany

Jasmund National Park & Königsstuhl

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.

Walk/Bike

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.

Sunset spots

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.Why you shouldn't miss a trip to Rügen Island & planning your stay | Germany

Eating Out

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!

Where to stay?

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.Why you shouldn't miss a trip to Rügen Island & planning your stay | Germany

When to go?

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.

Transport

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?

Why you shouldn't miss a trip to Rügen Island & planning your stay | Germany

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.Rügen Island – Visiting Jasmund National Park & UNESCO site Königsstuhl | Germany

Jasmund National Park

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.Rügen Island – Visiting Jasmund National Park & UNESCO site Königsstuhl | GermanyPerfect 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.Rügen Island – Visiting Jasmund National Park & UNESCO site Königsstuhl | Germany

What was it really like?

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.Rügen Island – Visiting Jasmund National Park & UNESCO site Königsstuhl | GermanyEventually 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.Rügen Island – Visiting Jasmund National Park & UNESCO site Königsstuhl | GermanyThankfully 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.

For more information, or to place your visit, click here to go to the official website.

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?

Rügen Island – Visiting Jasmund National Park & UNESCO site Königsstuhl | Germany

It can be so difficult to get the right information about applying for French visas, so this guide is for my US readers who are planning their next escape. With all of this Brexit nonsense looming over us UK travelers, I can’t help but feel intense gratitude for having been born with a UK passport and having been able to spend my life traveling visa-free within Europe. We really do take the ease of our travel between France and Amsterdam, or Italy and Greece for granted whether we’re backpacking or enjoying a summer holiday.

Now I don’t know whether Brexit will affect travel within Europe, but as someone who has just moved to Germany, it’s definitely opened my eyes to the struggles my US friends go through in order to travel the world. How much time must been spent applying for visas and stressing over their arrival for each trip. So when I heard about Favisbook, I thought it was about time I wrote a post aimed at my US readers who want to expand their horizons and apply for French visas. This post is a collaboration with Favisbook but as usual, all views are my own.


Who are Favisbook?

Favisbook was set up by travelers after they were forced to wait months to pick up the necessary French visas and travel documents needed to travel to France. Facing the struggle together, the team decided to create a way for travelers to get the documents they needed faster, so that you guys won’t face the same problems. Now you can skip the line and get into the embassy as early as possible to apply for your French visa.

Planning a trip to France, or always dreamed of seeing the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night? Then this is the post for you, because trust me, nothing compares to your first time in Paris. Now thanks to Favisbook, residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to book early French visa appointments with the Consulate General of France in New York, instead of waiting months for an appointment. Simply choose your day, fill in your information, and Favisbook will expedite your visa appointment to French Consulate with a simple click.


How does it work?

One of the most popular destinations in the world, many visitors to France have to obtain  a Schengen Visa before entry. Booking an interview to get a Schengen visa is a time-consuming process for many applicants due to the complicated French consulate’s website which often doesn’t have available appointments and applicants are required to wait for months on end just for an appointment to become available. Now thanks to the system Favisbook have set up, you can book appointments for all kinds of visas, from the working visas, long and short-stay visas and even Schengen visas.

Favisbook simplifies the whole procedure by just showing available appointments and making it much easier to apply for the French visa slots. Using their system, appointments for multiple people can be booked and you don’t even need to create an account with Favisbook, all information remains safe and confidential using their secure network. Within 24 hours of submitting the booking and payment, you will receive your appointment details by email, and your appointment could be as soon as the next day. After booking your French visa appointment with Favisbook, your next step is to prepare for your interview with the consulate.

If the appointments available don’t suit your schedule, you can even contact Favisbook by emailing info@favisbook.com with your availability and they will do their best to find you an appointment that will be suitable. Find out more about Favisbook online here.


We all know I’m an advocate for anything that makes life, and travel, a lot easier and this sounds like a great way to actually add in a middle man but to make your travel planning run a lot smoother. If it leaves me more time for trying on bikinis and planning all the amazing food I’m going to eat on a trip, then it’s got my vote!

Have you struggled with applications for French visas? What’s been the hardest visa application you’ve had to put in? Would you find a service like this helpful?

US Travellers: Applying for French visas

*pic credit

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.

My 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.Keep the magic and memories alive with sensory travel

What is sensory travel?

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.”

 

As a travel blogger, I often feel that capturing my experience can sometimes take away from the experience itself. It’s tough to find a balance between getting the perfect shot and also just taking the time to breathe it all in and really feel it. It’s one thing that I’ve really pushed myself to find more of a balance in over the last six months, to just focus on the moment. When I was traveling Western Australia, outback life meant no phone signal and no 3G and despite this some of my fondest and clearest traveling memories come from that time. When we took the time to watch every colour appear in the sky as the sun set and our ears were filled with the crackling sounds of the campfire. It was sensory travel at its finest and I miss it every day.Sensory travel with TUI Sensatori

My most vivid sensory travel memory

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.Keep the magic and memories alive with sensory travel

Incorporating sensory travel into my life

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.

 Keep the magic and memories alive with sensory travel

After spending so long out of the UK, one thing I’ve really missed is getting to hang out with other bloggers and writers. Travel and food are two of my favourite things, so getting to spend a day combining the two and getting to blog all about it – pretty much my dream day! So I was over the moon when I was invited along to a Middle Eastern cookery class with Visit Qatar and found out I would be spending the day cooking up a storm with a group of bloggers, journalists, food stylists and more. Watching the sunrise from the train as we powered through the misty and frosty fields towards London, I was on my third coffee of the day and couldn’t wait to get started. The event was being held at The Cookery School, just off Oxford Circus, and it was such a perfect venue with everything we needed to create our feast, plus a great team of chefs on hand to help guide us through the process. After brief introductions, it was full speed ahead to create an amazing feast of middle eastern delights for lunch.Cooking up a Middle-Eastern feast with #VisitQatar | Food

Let’s get to the food…

The aim of the day was for us to all work together on various recipes to create a feast for the whole group to enjoy over lunch. Whipping up everything from flatbreads, tabbouleh and a mezzo of dips including hummus, to a choice between lamb or vegetarian tagine with Persian rice, and rounding off with semolina cake served with yoghurt and fresh oranges, and homemade baklava. I couldn’t think of a more perfect menu and I was so excited to get stuck in and learn some new recipes, I was especially looking forward to learning how to make hummus and to see how their tagine recipe differed from the one I make at home. We were all set to work on different tasks from chopping and slicing, to buttering and mixing. I love cooking and I love how social it is, we all had plenty of time to have a good chat over the mixing bowls.Cooking up a Middle-Eastern feast with #VisitQatar | FoodThe first dish I helped out with was the baklava which I was very intrigued by, I personally have never been too keen on the sweet treat, often finding it a bit sickly. But after realising this one wasn’t soaked in sugar syrup I was keen to find out if I would like it. Working with Amanda Bernstein of Glass Magazine, we teamed up to butter the many layers of filo pastry before adding chopped walnuts and cinnamon prepped by some of the other gals. I can tell you, after tasting the finished product, I am a total convert on baklava – the one we made was absolutely delicious and definitely wasn’t too sweet.Cooking up a Middle-Eastern feast with #VisitQatar | FoodAfterwards, I was assigned to helping to prep the tabbouleh which ended up being the most colourful dish on the table! With all the bright colours of the herbs, tomatoes and lemons, it certainly brought a dash of the exotic to the table. This one was a nice easy dish, it just took a lot of chopping and preparing. I took the herbs to one side as I worked my way through chopping them for tabbouleh-duty.Cooking up a Middle-Eastern feast with #VisitQatar | FoodFinally, it was on to the dips and one of the dishes I was most excited to make – hummus. I’ve always wanted to make hummus myself at home but it’s just one of those things I never get round to. Now, after seeing how ridiculously easy it is to make, I really have no excuse. We spent time perfecting the flavours and seasoning, adding a dash more lemon juice here, or a pinch of salt there, until we were happy with it.Cooking up a Middle-Eastern feast with #VisitQatar | FoodAnd finally, after hours of prepping and cooking, lunch was served! Everyone really enjoyed their food and we loved finally getting a chance to sit and enjoy all the unique flavours as a group.Cooking up a Middle-Eastern feast with #VisitQatar | Food

But why were we there?

This amazing event had been organised by the wonderful Jess and Katie, of Visit Qatar, as a way to celebrate everything about this beautiful and exciting country. Why? Well it’s just become visa free for travellers from no fewer than 80 nationalities, so not only is it the most open country in the whole region, but there has never been a better time to visit!Cooking up a Middle-Eastern feast with #VisitQatar | FoodAfter reading this blog post by The Travelista after her visit to capital city Doha, I was already rather interested in what the city had to offer. Having spent very little time in the middle east so far, it’s an area of the world that becoming ever more accessible with countless new and more direct flights being introduced across the UK. Apparently there are over 37million travellers passing through Doha International Airport each year, but very few are actually taking the time to enjoy the city while passing through. Perhaps, like me, they were simply unaware of the incredibly diverse travel experiences that await them there! But ever since the event, I’ve been dreaming of getting my heart racing by ‘dune bashing’ across the desert in a 4×4, or exploring the alleys of the Souq Waqif and taking in the stunning architecture. Whether enjoying a holiday, or just a few days stopover in the city, you can squeeze in a taste of authentic street food across the country or discover the breath-taking exhibitions at the Museum of Islamic Art.  Cooking up a Middle-Eastern feast with #VisitQatar | FoodMore than 150 countries spread across six continents are now connected with Doha thanks to Qatar Airways, which means you could easily build in a visit to your next trip. When flying back and forth between Asia or Australia and the UK, my layovers have always taken me to the likes of Dubai or Kuala Lumpur, so I’m eager to take the opportunity to discover somewhere new on my next big trip. There are even new direct flights available from Cardiff to Doha as of May 1, flying on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, these will be available seven days a week. Find more information on the Visit Qatar website.

Have you been to Qatar – how was your experience? Do you love middle eastern food – what’s your favourite dish?

Cooking up a Middle-Eastern feast with #VisitQatar | Food

 

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.Sri Lanka | The dream safari experience - Luxury Safari Camping at Yala National ParkYala 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”.Sri Lanka | The dream safari experience - Luxury Safari Camping at Yala National ParkWe 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
Sri Lanka | The dream safari experience - Luxury Safari Camping at Yala National ParkSet 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.Sri Lanka | The dream safari experience - Luxury Safari Camping at Yala National ParkLooking 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.

Sri Lanka | The dream safari experience - Luxury Safari Camping at Yala National Park

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.

Find out more and click here to book via the website.

Have you stayed in any unique accommodation? What’s the most unusual? Are you more of a camper or a glamper?

Sri Lanka | The dream safari experience - Luxury Safari Camping at Yala National Park

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.

Read these road trip posts:

Sunset over lake, road trip Western Australia

My worst road trip experiences:

That time the wheel fell off

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.

When the engine went up in smoke

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.

The trip that stopped before it started

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

Breaking down on the M25

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.

Western Australia road trip cars

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.

Top car checks to perform before a road trip:

Get it checked

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.

Basic maintenance

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.

Make sure your insurance is valid

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.

Switch it off

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.

Give your tyres the once over

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.

Don’t forget your emergency box

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.

Choose reliable navigation

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.

Don’t overpack the car

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.

Plan your journey before you go

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.

Important car checks to make before road trips

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?

Important car checks to make before road trips

Since I was a little girl I was always captivated by the idea of riding in a hot air balloon high above some beautiful country – gazing down across animals grazing on the Serengeti, or the strange buildings of Cappadocia. It always seemed such a magical way to experience a country, to feel the hush that breathes over the land at sunset or sunrise as you cruise across the sky. It was a bucket list item and one I planned to tick off one day, but never did I dream I would be doing it when I booked my trip to Sri Lanka. Planning the trip, I was keen to get a little surprise in there for the boyfriend to celebrate his birthday which had been the month before. So busy working all the time, we hadn’t had the opportunity for a big celebration so I wanted to really spoil him by sharing an experience we wouldn’t forget in a hurry. I’ve never been the kind of person who cares that much for physical presents, what I really love is sharing an amazing experience with someone I love and seeing their face light up with excitement.Sri Lanka | A sunrise hot air balloon ride over the misty mountains | DambullaSri Lanka Ballooning invited us along to try out their epic sunrise ballooning experiences and we jumped at the opportunity to see both Sri Lanka’s incredible landscape and the Cultural Triangle from a unique viewpoint. Central Sri Lanka is made up on a beautiful combination of wild jungle, misty mountains and huge lakes that stretch as far as the eye can see. It’s a spectacular sight from the ground but an almost ethereal sight from the air and one that is sure to take your breath away as you gaze down on elephants roaming freely, birds soaring over the jungle and monkeys swinging from the trees. Despite the early hour, the locals come running out of their homes when they hear the rush of the gas to cheer and wave as you glide effortlessly over the trees waiting for the sun to creep over the horizon.Sri Lanka | A sunrise hot air balloon ride over the misty mountains | DambullaWe were picked up before the dawn chorus had even begun and made our way by minibus to a nearby field where a group of shadowy figures were already hard at work preparing the balloon for take-off. Excitedly, the group of around 16 people were abuzz as they waited to board the craft. Found in Dambulla, the company are based in the middle of the Cultural Triangle and are surrounded by some of Sri Lanka’s oldest and most treasured sights including ancient towns and several UNESCO World Heritage Sights. This cultural centre is a real highlight of any trip to Sri Lanka – I’ll be posting in full about the best ways to experience the area – and how better to experience it than from a completely different perspective?Sri Lanka | A sunrise hot air balloon ride over the misty mountains | Dambulla Operating for over a decade, Sri Lanka Ballooning is owned by chief pilot Justin Patrick Moore, an Englishman who I was keen to meet after reading about his amazing experience of flying hot air balloons around the world for over 30 years – think everywhere from the North Pole to Australia. He has led an amazing life and after falling in love with Sri Lanka, he made it his second home and set up the company which allows him to live his dream life and fly daily over the incredible landscape. With each day starting by witnessing the sunrise over the mountains and champagne at the end of each flight – who can blame him? Interestingly, the company has been a real trailblazer for Sri Lanka – being the first hot air balloon company to host a wedding and a skydive mid-flight, featuring on TV several times and offering some very memorable surprises for birthdays and engagements.Sri Lanka | A sunrise hot air balloon ride over the misty mountains | DambullaI can’t recommend the experience enough, it was without a doubt the most memorable part of our already incredible month in Sri Lanka. We were both completely taken aback by the beauty of the country that had already inspired us daily, but this was a moment I really fell in love with Sri Lanka. As a couple, we’re already lucky to have had some truly amazing experiences together, but this is one that will remain the most romantic and special yet. We both touched down on the ground and instantly wanted to be back up in the air again, it may have been our first hot air balloon ride, but it certainly won’t be our last. A huge thank you to Sri Lanka Ballooning and their amazing team for giving us such an unforgettable morning.

Visit Sri Lanka Ballooning’s website for more information or to book your flight.

Have you been in a hot air balloon – what was your experience like? Have you always dreamed of going in a hot air balloon – where would you like to experience this?

Sri Lanka | A sunrise hot air balloon ride over the misty mountains | Dambulla

I don’t know about you guys, but I like travelling at any time of year and I’m not one to let the winter stand in my way. If you’re anything like me, January always gets me thinking about hopping on a plane and jetting off on an adventure. This year I’m spending my first January in the UK in three years, using the time to reminisce about my favourite trips and to plan my next exciting move. Over the years I’ve spent my summers and winters travelling all over the world, regardless of seasons and unworried by the weather. Some of my favourite trips have been Christmas spent in New York or on the beach in Mauritius, or those winter jaunts around Europe exploring a new city, and road tripping around Australia. My motto has always been “travel smart” because by doing so, you can avoid some of the most common problems associated with winter travel. By preparing and spending some time on your planning, it really can make all the difference to your trip and ensuring you have the best possible time. I’ve teamed up with Slater & Gordon to talk all about some of the most common issues travellers face during the winter months, and how best to avoid them.

What winter safety threats should you avoid this winter?

Flight cancellations

The bane of every traveller’s life, but sometimes unavoidable if the weather is just too bad as it was recently with snow storms in New York for some people to make it home. Now if the weather is unsafe, it is totally understandable to cancel flights – but the best thing as a traveller is to be prepared. My best advice, always try and book an early morning flight as your aircraft will usually have arrived the night before and won’t be delayed, also, the weather is normally much clearer in the morning and gets worse throughout the day. You may well just miss the worst of any storms and still make it home for dinner. It’s always a good idea to have a good travel insurance that will cover any weather-related cancellations in extreme circumstances, and I would recommend just having a little money set aside in case there are any problems. I understand there were a lot of problems with people who couldn’t afford to stay longer in New York being stuck there in the airport for a few days – sometimes the airlines will put you up in a hotel or provide some support but it’s always helpful to have a bit of cash for emergencies. Remember it is not the fault of the airline, they are trying to keep you safe. Be flexible and work with them, communication is key. Be open to different travel options if your route is just not available.

Avoiding the winter blues and staying safe this season | #SeasonalTravels

Pic by Roman Boed

Injuries from snow sports

I have always wanted to go on a skiing or snowboarding holiday, winter sports always look amazing, and while I’m sad I haven’t yet had the opportunity they are definitely staying on my bucket list. I have friends who have always been sworn beach bums until they die, until they went on a skiing holiday and now they head for snow over sea every single year and love every second. But what if things don’t go to plan? Winter sports are physically very challenging and when you introduce ice and snow to the equation, accidents can happen. It’s awful if you are hurt while travelling, after spending so long planning your trip it is the ultimate disappointment to be struck down. I had a similar thing happen to me when I was in a bus crash in Cambodia just days before a long-awaited yoga retreat – I was devastated. The most important thing to do is to ensure you have a good travel insurance that is comprehensive and covers you for all your activities. There is no point getting insurance for a skiing holiday if it doesn’t actually cover you for winter sports! Plan ahead and make sure you are covered for all medical treatment – you never realise how important it is until you don’t have it.

Dangerous driving conditions

I love road trips. They are one of my favourite ways to travel – check out my guide to planning the ultimate road trip here. I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to indulge in a road trip at any time of year. Canada is fantastic to road trip, or if you want something closer to home why not head to Europe to drive from city to city, or head up to Scandinavia. Absolutely gorgeous, but don’t forget to take into account the weather beforehand – all of these come with their own harsh conditions, from icy roads to heavy snowfall and it’s best to be prepared to prevent your trip from being ruined. Make sure your vehicle is weatherproof – whether you are taking your own van to camp in, or you’re hiring a car – you need to make sure the tyres are appropriate for the conditions. Pack a box with warm clothing, a torch, gloves, jumper cables, a windscreen scraper and lots of de-icer – just in case. Take the roads slow and plan your route according to weather warnings so you can avoid the worst of it. If the weather is too bad, find a hotel or somewhere to sleep for the night and start afresh in the morning when it is safer.

Avoiding the winter blues and staying safe this season | #SeasonalTravels

Pic by Giuseppe Milo

Weather warnings

Recently there were huge snow storms in New York and weather warnings to stay inside and to avoid getting caught out in it – when you travel during winter there is always a chance you may face weather like this. The best way to deal with it? Accept it and plan ahead as best you can. You can’t fight Mother Nature, so don’t let it ruin your trip, just adapt. Plan ahead by keeping an eye on weather alerts for the area, if the weather starts getting worse then make a decision on whether to rearrange your trip (if you have this option) or to go ahead. If you’re already there, you need to make sure you restrict your activities to ensure your own safety. If it’s snowstorms you face then you need to be sensible and to stay warm, sudden floods can be dangerous – stay inside and follow advice. Icy conditions can be slippery and unpredictable – make sure you have shoes with good grip and that you only go as far as you feel safe – a fall on the ice can leave you in hospital and that’s the last thing you want on holiday. Overall message? Be smart, be safe and don’t be too stubborn to admit defeat.

How else can you avoid winter travel dangers this season? Have you faced any winter travel nightmares?

 Avoiding the winter blues and staying safe this season | #SeasonalTravels

 

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