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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.

Road Trip Austria/Switzerland

Our three week road trip itinerary

Hamburg – Saxon Switzerland National Park – Dresden – Prague (800km, 3 days)

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.

Prague – Vienna – Attersee – Salzburg – (830km, 4 days)

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.

Munich – Zugspitze – Neuschwanstein Castle (210km, 5 days)

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.

Road trip in Liechtenstein, mountain view

Neuschwanstein Castle – Liechtenstein – Zurich (350km, 3 days)

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.

Zurich – Basel – France – Black Forest – Frankfurt – Hamburg (1070km, 4 days)

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.

Road Trip liechtenstein

How can this road trip itinerary work for you?

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.

Van by lake, Absolutely Lucy

What do you need to know for this route?

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?

Absolutely Lucy sign off

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

Last weekend I was lucky enough to have one of my most exciting collaborations with a brand yet! Combining my love of festivals with my love of fashion, I was invited to join the crowds at Wireless Festival in London, wearing all Debenhams attire as I mingled among the VIPs. I was so excited to be among the girl gang invited along for the day, a mixture of travel, fashion and beauty bloggers, each excited to be a part of such a fab event. Not only did it give me a good reason to fly home for the weekend and to catch up with friends and family, but it also gave the a perfect excuse to hit my first UK festival in years! It was a hectic weekend, filled with train, plane and bus delays and sadly I didn’t even get to see my sister on her birthday thanks to the transport issues, but I’m just glad I didn’t miss the festival and that I got the opportunity to see some of my favourite people.Kicking off festival season with Debenhams at Wireless | FestivalsI arrived at the festival on the Sunday, excited to see what the line-up would hold, all the favourites were on there, Rick Ross, Wretch 32, Giggs and more, but everyone was waiting with bated breath to see who would be replacing DJ Khaled as the headliner for the day. He had pulled out due to “transport issues” and we were all praying Drake would be the one replacing him – I for one had been dying to see him play live since university so we all said our prayers and hoped he’d be the one to hit the stage. READ: You can check out my last Wireless Festival experience here.Kicking off festival season with Debenhams at Wireless | FestivalsDebenhams had kindly allowed me to pick out an outfit and some fab trainers to wear, I naturally picked out my old favourites, Off White Canvas All Star Converse (£50.00), which are without doubt some of my favourite trainers of all time. The comfiest and the best, even for backpacking round the world. I’ve worn them dancing in clubs, on beaches, pacing across cities, hiking in forests and they always last me no matter what. These teamed with a gorgeous sparkly dress (Girls On Film Aion low cut back dress in metallic sequin £40.00) – because if you ask me, festivals mean glitter everythingggg! And if you can’t dress up as a giant disco ball for a festival, when the heck can you? I was gutted though because sadly the pair didn’t arrive in time for the festival, so I had to sub in a vintage playsuit and my old reliable Adidas trainers instead.Kicking off festival season with Debenhams at Wireless | FestivalsBut what lovely items did arrive? Well, everyone on my social media has been talking about the most amazing jacket I wore, blue denim with amazing fringing tassels hanging from the arms – talk about a statement piece! This Tassel Sleeve Denim Jacket (£25.00) was from Miss Selfridge via Debenhams and I absolutely love it, it’s definitely holding pride of place in my wardrobe right now and will be cracked out at every available opportunity. I was just a bit sad that although I rocked it for the pics, it was then checked into the VIP cloakroom until the end of the day because the heat was too much, 31 degrees is definitely not usual UK festival weather but it did mean no jacket needed.Kicking off festival season with Debenhams at Wireless | FestivalsOf course, I’m all about the fab accessories for a festival and what better to choose than a cute little backpack to store your camera and festival make-up? I chose the Parfois Black Tulum Backpack (£24.99) (similar available here) which was the perfect size for festivals – especially with the smaller than A4 size rule for some UK festivals – and held all my stuff safely out of my way for the day. Very budget-friendly and style friendly, I know I’ll be using this one a LOT. This was teamed with more colour from the gorgeous Red Herring Multi Colour Feather Drop Earrings (£3.60) which were a fave item from the day, I loved how vibrant but wearable these are even for a non-festival event if teamed with a more neutral or black outfit, plus very purse-friendly to jazz up your outfit for more festival vibes.Kicking off festival season with Debenhams at Wireless | FestivalsFinally, Quay Australia were seriously repped on the day, with several of us bloggers picking out a gorgeous pair of their sunglasses to wear – and with the insanely hot sun that day, they were necessary! I picked the Black Mod Star Round Sunglasses (£45.00) which are such a fab shape and are my new faves, such simple and elegant shape with lovely dark lenses, they work perfectly with every outfit and will definitely be getting worn a LOT this summer. I loved some of the great reflection pics I managed to get on the day, really showing off these gorgeous glasses and the ones chosen by the other bloggers.Kicking off festival season with Debenhams at Wireless | FestivalsOf course, we’re never complete without talking all about the festival hair and make-up. I arrived with my hair out on the day but quickly realised it was way too hot for hair out, so myself and a few other bloggers headed to the Schwarzkopf tent where they were offering free hair makeovers whether you preferred festival braids or any fab new style – I went for braids into space buns and they quite seriously saved me in the hot sun, I felt like a new woman after having my hair done! For make-up, I was wearing my fave Lancôme Teint Miracle foundation (06), Kat Von D Tattoo Liner, a Soap and Glory palette of eyeshadow, Pick n Glitz in Pink from Barry M and bronzer from Benefit Dallas. My perfume was also Kat Von D Saint, which has a gorgeous floral but crisp scent and comes in a fab travel-size which is perfect for slipping into your handbag!Kicking off festival season with Debenhams at Wireless | FestivalsAll in all, a really fab day spent surrounded by amazing and inspiring women who really reminded me why I love the blogging community so very much. I had the best time at the festival, dancing and drinking with new and old friends, and eventually getting to see Drake perform live! Even if he was only on for 20 minutes, it was still a perfect end to a really great day. I could waffle on for ages about it, but to be honest I think the pics really speak for themselves and I’m really proud of the amazing pics I managed to get to capture the day, they really do give you the best behind-the-scenes view of what we all got up to! Also, if you’re lusting after any of the items I ordered, check out the website as most, if not all of these were seriously reduced in the sales and were great bargains!Kicking off festival season with Debenhams at Wireless | Festivals

I also want to say a huge shout-out to my fellow festival blogger babes who all made the day so much fun! Check out their blogs by following these links and tell them I sent you – Noelle, Luisa, Martha, Jessi, Richeal and Giulia.

Did you go to Wireless Festival? Tell me about your summer festival plans? What big events have you got coming up?

Kicking off festival season with Debenhams at Wireless | Festivals

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

You all know by now how much I love epic festivals but sadly it’s been a while since my last one. So I’ve teamed up with Holidays by Destination2 to talk about some of the amazing festivals around the world which could give you a travel experience to remember. Whether it’s a food festival, a religious celebration or even a huge music festival. There’s nothing like combining travel with epic festivals to really turn an average trip into a one you won’t forget. I remember a few years back when I was invited to cover Hideout Festival in Croatia for the website I worked for, cue turning it into an epic 10 day holiday with a huge group of mates and it’s definitely a trip I will always remember.

Throughout my travels I’ve stumbled upon all kinds of amazing local celebrations from Chinese New Year and comedy festivals, to Tamil parades and even street parties across Germany, the UK, Australia and Asia. There’s something special about joining in the local celebrations, you don’t just look at a new culture, you become a part of it and for me, that’s what travel is all about. I’ve picked out six festivals from all corners of the globe that offer completely different and unique experiences. Whether you’re traveling in Europe or as far as Asia, there is always a way to get involved and join the festival atmosphere. Next time you’re planning a trip, why not check out what events are going on in the local area? It’s a great way to meet people when you travel and to have an extra-special travel experience. Here are just some of the epic festivals that are waiting for you:

Six epic festivals to squeeze into your travels

Pic by IZATRINI.com

Trinidad & Tobago Carnival, Caribbean

When? March 4-5

What could possibly make your trip even better than celebrating life itself? Filled with energy, vitality, the brightest costumes and colours and the intoxicating, hip-shaking sounds of Calypso and Soca music, Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is the biggest of all epic festivals in the Caribbean. I’ve not been lucky enough to travel to this part of the world yet but it’s definitely high on my bucket list, and when I go there, I know I want to party, so how better to plan a trip than to coincide with such an epic and well-known event? The festival was originally created in the 18th century to imitate and mock the pre-Lent celebrations of the plantation owners, but took on a life of it’s own following the abolishment of slavery. Head to this festival to join the greatest street parade in the world, join the revelry by dancing all day and all night, drinking in the sights and sounds of Caribbean life. Read more about the history of this event here.

Epic festivals in Vietnam

Pic by Carla Cometto

Hoi An Lantern Festival, Vietnam

When? Every month! Full list of dates here

Hoi An was one of my absolute favourite parts of Vietnam, such a beautiful little town with such a rich history and heritage. You can read all about my trip there in this post. I’m so sad that during my week there I didn’t manage to see the lantern festival when the colourful little town comes alight and you can really appreciate it in all it’s splendour. Each day once the sun sets, the villagers light lanterns as part of a centuries-old tradition for the locals to give offerings and worship their ancestors by setting the lanterns into the river. At 8pm, all the town’s lights are turned off so you can really see the town aglow. The best time to go is the first full moon of the lunar new year when the most people will gather, but the event does happen every month so its an easy one to fit in with your travels.

Six epic festivals to squeeze into your travels

Pic by Carrotmadman6

Maha Shivaratri, Mauritius

When? February 13

Some of you might not know but my dad’s side of the family come from Mauritius, and although I have been to visit twice, I haven’t been for around 10 years. I would love to go back and see how the country has changed since I last visited, and what better time to go than when the biggest Hindu festival outside of India is taking place? When we’re talking epic festivals, Maha Shivaratri lasts a whopping five days and see nearly 500,000 people (almost half the population of the Indian Ocean island) dressing in white and joining a procession towards the lake of Grand Bassin. Celebrating the victory of Shiva and Vishnu on Brahma, the pilgrims consider the lake to be an extension of the Ganges, making offerings and bathing in the water. Visitors will be treated to quite a sight and will also have the opportunity to admire one of the tallest statues in the Indian Ocean

Six epic festivals to squeeze into your travels

Pic by Leocadio Sebastian

Thaipusam, Kuala Lumpur

When? January/February

Another Hindu festival but this time in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I was back in November. We had just one day in the city but made sure to visit the Batu Caves which were astounding. During Thaipusam the celebrations attract over a million people who gather in the city and join a procession which walks the 15km to the caves, taking around 8 hours. Quite a sight, and the festival normally attracts around 10,000 tourists. Looking for epic festivals in Asia? This one is all about putting your body through torture to appease the Lord, so we’re talking incredible body piercings using hooks, sewers and small lances – when it comes to crazy festivals I think this one is definitely up there and I can’t imagine what it must be like to actually be there and see all of these amazing sights. If you’re traveling in Asia, Kuala Lumpur is such an easy stopover and a great place to spend 24 hours, we were there for just 10 hours and had loads of time to get out of the airport and to explore lots of different sights – read my post here.

Epic festivals in Abu Dhabi

Pic by Ryan Hurril

Abu Dhabi Film Festival

When? October

The Middle East always looks like such a fascinating and beautiful place to travel, I know that it has had a bad rep for the political strife in some countries, but I know so many people who have traveled to this part of the world and have raved about their experiences. Israel, Jordan, Iran and Oman have been on my travel list for a while, and when you have great places to stopover such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, why not build a festival into the trip? One of the most anticipated cultural events in the city, visitors can learn more about the vibrant film culture in the Middle East by seeing the talents of Arab directors pitted against some of the world’s most respected filmmakers. If you love creative talent and want to experience more Arab cinema, this is the festival for you, it’s about time Western travelers spent more time in this beautiful part of the world.

Epic festivals in SpainPic by Łukasz Lech

La Tomatina, Spain

When? Last Wednesday of August

Who doesn’t love a food fight? Here’s the perfect combination of epic festivals and a crazy food fight experience! If you’re planning any European travels this summer, why not time your trip with a stop in sunny Spain for the world’s biggest food fight? La Tomatina is held in Bunol, near Valencia, and each year it attracts thousands from all over the world to join in the crazy, messy fun as more than 100 tonnes of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets. Since 2013 the event has been officially ticketed which has limited numbers to just 20,000 so be sure to grab tickets so you don’t miss out. I’m allergic to tomatoes and extremely resentful of having to try and avoid eating them, so this just sounds like so much fun to get even by throwing tomatoes in the streets!

Have you been to any festival celebrations abroad – how was your experience? Would you plan a trip around a festival? Which of these festivals would you love to attend?

Six epic festivals to squeeze into your travels

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

I caught up with a fellow traveler at the weekend, she has just come back from travelling the world for a year with her young family – total family travel goals! She was thanking me for a travel tip I gave her about visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary in Thailand because she had realised once there the sheer number of places out there clinging on the surge in popularity for ethical care of elephants by claiming to be good. Spending so much time in Thailand, I took care to research thoroughly and to ensure I was only supporting causes I was certain were benefiting the environment and animals. Talking about her step-daughter’s experience in India where she signed up to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary and found it to be mistreating the creatures, we realised how easy it is to do the wrong thing when all you are trying to do is the right thing. And isn’t that the problem we are all facing in trying to be ethical these days?The trouble with trying to be an ethical traveler | Wanderlust

What’s the struggle with being ethical?

I consider myself a pretty good human, I like to keep my carbon footprint low, to support and build up my friends, to smile at strangers and help out at a homeless shelter. Everywhere I travel I try my best to be ethically-minded and research every location, every day trip I go on and all the companies along the way, only supporting causes I know are genuinely helping local people. But somehow I still feel like I’m fucking it all up.

Much like trying to be vegan or only eating ethically-sourced food, using only beauty products that haven’t been tested on animals or wearing clothing that hasn’t encouraged slavery or mistreatment of those in third world countries. What is boils down to is we’re all just trying our best to be damned good people and to try and help everyone, to support all the causes. We get to a point when we think, hell yeah, I’m doing pretty darn good at this! We’re able to help educate others and feel like we’re actually making waves, like we’re making a change.

And it all comes out that we were doing it wrong all along.

Like the time I switched to almond milk after learning about the harmful impacts of the dairy farming industry, but then found the problems caused due to water sourcing and insecticides were just as bad. Or when I signed a petition over the closure of a factory that had been mistreating workers in a third world country for cheap clothes, but then heard so many were unable to feed their families because they were out of work. And the time I switched make-up brands to avoid animal testing then found the company uses the services of another company that does employ animal testing!

It’s a constant battle and for anyone who tries to be ethically-minded, it can be a bit of a roller coaster  – one minute you’re up and feeling great for all the good you are doing for the world around you. Then next, you hit rock bottom when you realise actually by trying to help you may be doing more harm than good.The trouble with trying to be an ethical traveler | Wanderlust

Why is it so hard?

One of the problems – there are too many opinions out there and too many facts, but so often thanks to Twitter and various other social media outlets – the two become almost indistinguishable. It’s so easy to read one thing and to make a change in your life, then a week later to see an news article damning the opinion you just read elsewhere. I don’t know about you but I’m overwhelmed with information and I’m finding it hard to know which advice to take. To feel certain that I am actually making informed decisions that really are doing the best for everyone and the world around us. We’ve gone full circle from struggling to get the truth from companies over their ethical policies, to now being swamped with information and unsure of the facts.

Another aspect of this is the bloggers, social media stars and the celebrities who so often pick a cause to back and legions of fans follow in their wake. The fact is these influencers have a huge impact on the decisions of people across the world and the ethical nature of the decisions they make can cause huge waves. Just look at how many more people seem to care and know about global warming effects since Leonardo DiCaprio started talking about it, and Emma Watson must be one of the best-known faces for using her platform to really highlight key issues from women’s rights and climate change to sustainable fashion. But likewise, this can be used in a negative way, such as when some figures make questionable decisions such as wearing real fur, encouraging their fans to follow suit. The constant fight for change and for attention means it’s hard to know who is really trying to make a difference, and who is just jumping on the bandwagon for likes.The trouble with trying to be an ethical traveler | Wanderlust

What does this mean for travelers?

As someone who has been travelling for over three years and has no plans to stop anytime soon, being ethical in my travel will always remain at the forefront of my mind. After all, what was that quote?

Take only pictures, leave only footprints, kill nothing but time. – Aliyyah Eniath

I’ve always felt the one thing that really touches my heart and stays with me a long time after my travels, it’s not the places. It’s not sunrise at Angkor Wat or exploring waterfalls of Laos, it’s not doing yoga in Thailand or learning to work on a farm in outback Australia, or even getting lost in the ruin pubs of Budapest. It’s the people you met along the way. The amazing souls who helped you when you were struggling, the ones who showed you a world you never dared dream of, the ones who gave you enough laughs to last a lifetime. Those people are the ones I hold close in my heart, they’re the stories I tell about my travels, they are the memories.

So if that is the case, then it’s so important to make sure your travel is benefiting the people who have given you the experience of a lifetime and the environment you’ve been lucky enough to explore:

These are just examples and there are so many other ways to be ethical in your travel, to make informed decisions. And that is the most important thing, like me, you may be struggling with knowing if you are truly being ethical. But when it comes down to it, just the fact that you care enough to inform yourself is the first step to really doing something good in the world. Don’t listen to all the judgement over social media, it’s too easy to get swept away in throwaway comments instead of investing your time in making a change.The trouble with trying to be an ethical traveler | Wanderlust

My five top tips for traveling ethically:

  1. Research everything! Read newspaper articles, read medical journals, read books, watch documentaries and talk to people. By educating yourself and seeking as much information as possible, you put yourself in the best position for making a genuinely good decision.
  2. Read the reviews – planning a trip? Always take some time to read the comments on social media and review sites because these can be the best way to find up-to-date and brutally honest information. Just like you would if you were booking flights or a trip – look at the reviews to see what others have said about their experiences. (Follow the link for reviews on Etihad Airways)
  3. Talk to other travelers, ask for feedback on trips, tell them what you know and ask them to educate you. Since learning all about the mistreatment of elephants in Asia, I have made it my business to educate as many fellow travelers as possible and have since managed to to stop countless people from riding elephants. Small changes make big changes.
  4. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find out you slipped up. I went to Seaworld with my family when I was a kid, I was too young to decide to go there myself but ever since seeing the Blackfish documentary, I have been beating myself up over it a little bit. You can’t be so hard on yourself if you make a mistake, the whole world makes mistakes. What matters is how you learn from them and prevent them in future.
  5. Remember, it’s not just when you travel to far-flung destinations, you can make every journey ethical by being mindful and conscientious. By supporting independent and local businesses, by not littering, but using public transport to reduce carbon emissions. There are lots of ways to be ethical when you travel, open your eyes and make a change.

The trouble with trying to be an ethical traveler | WanderlustThis has turned into a pretty mega blog post considering I had writer’s block just a few days ago, but I think this is such an important issue to be raised. Can you identify with feeling confused over traveling and living ethically? It’s okay if you do, we’re in it together. As long as we’re all doing our darnedest to make a difference, that’s all we can do.

How do you ensure your travel is ethical? Do you ever worry your ‘ethical’ decisions are less ethical than you would hope? What ethical changes have you made in your life?

The trouble with trying to be an ethical traveler | Wanderlust

 

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:

Sri Lanka | 9 reasons you HAVE to visit Trincomalee

Pic by Vilmos Vincze

Snorkel with blue whales

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 | 9 reasons you HAVE to visit Trincomalee

Pic by Vilmos Vincze

Go dolphin watching

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.

Visit Pigeon Island National Park

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.

Sri Lanka | 9 reasons you HAVE to visit Trincomalee

Pic by Pierre Andre Leclercq

Bathe in the hot springs

At nearby Kanniya you’ll find the seven geothermal wells which are very popular with both tourists and holidaying Sri Lankans.

Explore colourful Hindu temples

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.

Sri Lanka | 9 reasons you HAVE to visit Trincomalee

Pic by Eleleleven

Hit the beaches

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.

Take a wander around local landmarks

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.

Sri Lanka | 9 reasons you HAVE to visit Trincomalee

Pic by Adam Jones

Make friends with Bambi

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.

Stay in a backpacker cave

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!

Sri Lanka | 9 reasons you HAVE to visit Trincomalee

Pic from TripAdvisor

Have you been to Trincomalee? Is Sri Lanka on your bucket list? What unique accommodation have you found on your travels?

Sri Lanka | 9 reasons you HAVE to visit Trincomalee

 

*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.How to find the perfect travel companion for every type of trip | Travel

How to find the perfect travel companion:

What’s your travel style?

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?

What are your interests?

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.

How to find the perfect travel companion for every type of trip | Travel

What’s in your suitcase?

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!

Where do you want to go?

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?

How to find the perfect travel companion for every type of trip | Travel

 

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.

My top 10 budget hair care tips for travelers | Travel

My top budget hair care tips:

Stay regular

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.

Backpacker hairdressers

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.

DIY

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.My top 10 budget hair care tips for travelers | Travel

Coconut oil

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.

Choose wisely

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.

Go deeper

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.My top 10 budget hair care tips for travelers | Travel

Cut back

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!

Embrace the braid

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.

Chill out

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.

My top 10 budget hair care tips for travelers | Travel

Eat your hair healthy

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?

 My top 10 budget hair care tips for travelers | Travel

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.Finding a little piece of paradise on Koh Samui | ThailandFinding a little piece of paradise on Koh Samui | ThailandThe 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.Finding a little piece of paradise on Koh Samui | ThailandFinding a little piece of paradise on Koh Samui | ThailandImagine 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.Finding a little piece of paradise on Koh Samui | ThailandFinding a little piece of paradise on Koh Samui | ThailandI 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.Finding a little piece of paradise on Koh Samui | ThailandFinding a little piece of paradise on Koh Samui | ThailandThe 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.Finding a little piece of paradise on Koh Samui | ThailandIt 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?

Finding a little piece of paradise on Koh Samui | Thailand

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