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[GIFTED items featured] There’s no denying 2018 was a rough year for my wellbeing and happiness. I threw myself in at the deep end and gave 150% for months on end, completely forgetting to look after myself. It’s not surprising after such an emotional roller-coaster that I crawled into 2019 feeling more than a little burnt out. In a society that seems to pride itself on how busy, how dedicated and how motivated it is, it can be easy to feel like you’re under-performing, or like you just need to try a bit harder. But honestly, I’m so over this idea that we need to be constantly doing and achieving in order to be our best selves.

We all want to be the best version of ourselves, but when we’re always trying to be great at everything, we often feel like we’re falling short at every hurdle. That’s why I’m declaring 2019 as the year for focusing on wellness, self-care and happiness. It seems the team at Whittard agree and they’ve sent me this lovely [GIFTED] wellbeing hamper filled with all sorts of goodies to help me start looking after myself. From special teas to help you sleep and tasty snacks, to gorgeous peppermint soap and even a mindfulness colouring book to help de-clutter my mind. It’s made me slow down and take a breath to think about what is really important to me – what will make me happy this year.

Wellbeing hamper from Whittards

6 ways to focus on your wellbeing

Invest in yourself

We’ve all got dreams, but sometimes life gets in the way and you’re forced to push them aside. Well I think it’s time we stop waiting for tomorrow and we get focused on those crazy goals! Always wanted to start a new career, learn a language, move abroad, write a book, travel, buy a new car, go self-employed? Who says 2019 can’t be the year you make this come true? The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to make this become a reality.

I saw this great line the other day about how there are countless people out there who are less qualified than you to do what you want to do, and yet they’ve done it through positive thinking and confidence. There’s a lot of power in having a  great mindset and just trying. Taking that first step is the hardest part, and you have nothing to lose by giving it a shot. If you don’t you’ll spend your life wondering what could have happened. Every goal is attainable if you make a plan, take one step at a time, and work hard.

Absolutely Lucy & hamper

Leave behind toxic relationships

This is such an important one and I know I’m not alone in needing to put certain friendships and relationships in the past. 2018 was a year when i was exposed to some toxic people. I’m glad to have said goodbye to a few friendships that were bringing nothing but negativity into my life, and I don’t feel bad for cutting them out. After all, your vibe attracts your tribe. So if someone is bringing bad vibes into my life, it’s only going to attract more negativity, and that’s something I’m leaving in 2018.

Most importantly, we do not exist to fix other people’s problems. We do not exist to heal others. we are all responsible for ourselves. If someone has their own issues that are impacting our happiness and wellbeing, then I’m afraid it’s time to say goodbye to that person. If they’re not making effort or pulling their weight as a friend, there’s no shame in holding your hands up and saying that someone is simply not good for you anymore.

Opie the dog

Boost your brain power

For those feeling a little run-down or overworked and exhaustion has become your middle name. What has really helped me is changing my priorities. For me, a big issue was my long commute and working hours which left me no time for anything else. I hated the wasted time traveling, so I filled it with books and podcasts to make the most of every second. It’s so easy to learn with so much information at our fingertips, so why not use travel time or your evenings to boost your brain power?

It gives you such a confidence boost to know you’re learning a new skill or language, or you’re listening to podcasts on major issues. Since leaving Hamburg, I’ve rediscovered my love of books, art, music, podcasts, documentaries – I’m using every second to learn and grow. It’s amazing the effect reading books and listening to podcasts has on your mental health compared to scrolling through social media. Use your “wasted time” wisely and you can make a huge difference to your well-being.

Crazy Opie dog

Be your best friend

This one is so important. There’s a whole world out there waiting to question and criticize you, so why do it to yourself? It’s so easy to forget about that inner monologue you have with yourself, but it’s one of the most powerful voices you’ll ever hear. If all you do is judge yourself, of course you’re going to feel crappy! I’m a strong believer that you need to be your own cheerleader.

I always say you should speak to yourself how your best friend does. Always be supportive, always been a cheerleader and celebrate even the smallest successes. Importantly, just like your true bestie would always do, don’t be afraid to straight talk yourself, to put yourself back in your place when you need it. Just watch how your mindset changes when you start turning every negative into a positive.

Wellbeing hamper Whittards

Find the self-care that works for you

For some people self-care is long hot baths, candles and a good book. It’s taking time for yourself and allowing yourself to relax. For others, it’s facing up to home truths, cutting toxic people out of your life and allowing yourself to feel pain so you can move on. Whether your self-care is face masks or starting a difficult healing process, find the one that works for your wellbeing. Find a new set of values and take control of your life.

My self-care process has been allowing myself to take a time out from writing and social media to heal. It has meant investing in myself and my true passions, working towards new goals and dreams. Most importantly, it has meant cutting out all negativity and toxicity. By taking these steps – not all of them easy ones – I’m setting myself up for a year of healing and getting back to happiness.

Happiness with Absolutely Lucy and Opie

Get active and boost your mental health

Staying fit and healthy is always a good goal to have, but so many people do it for aesthetic reasons. Instead of trying to lose weight, why not shift the focus to boosting your mental health and wellbeing? I love to workout but I do it mostly for my mind. I love the rush of endorphins, group classes put smile on my face and yoga is great for soothing my soul.

There are so many different ways to workout and stay fit – make 2019 the year you find the one that suits you. Don’t just go to the gym if you’re bored of it, why not sign up for classes for the social side, or head out on beach walks with the dog for some fresh air? Why not workout with your bestie and combine catch-ups with a session? There’s so much more to fitness than fitting in those Lululemon leggings.

For the goodies from the lovely wellness hamper:

How are you improving your wellbeing this year? What are you doing to invest in yourself?

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One thing the last few years of travel has really taught me, is the importance of well being. The truth is, when you’re travelling solo, there is no-one else to look after you and if you don’t learn to take good care of yourself, you’re not going to get the most out of every experience. I’ve really taught myself to slow down a bit over the last year, I’ve accepted that I don’t have to do and achieve everything, that sometimes it’s okay to sit back and just appreciate life instead of giving 110% and exhausting myself. I’m still learning, every single day, but I definitely have a better appreciation for what makes me happy both mentally and physically than I did when I was first travelling. What helps me be my best self? Lots of exercise, tasty, healthy food, a wide open horizon and lots of time spent outdoors. I’ve realised that being online is my job and to a certain extent, is a hobby, but that I can’t let it dominate in any way because it really does impact on my mental health.Finding a little inner peace at a gorgeous retreat in the North Norfolk countryside | UK TravelOne thing that has really helped me to stay balanced over the years is gifting myself time. We’re always so busy rushing around trying to do everything in our careers, relationships and in our free time, but sometimes we just need to give ourselves time to breathe. I was so guilty of never giving myself time to just be still, and I still am, but I’m trying my best to improve. And so, when an opportunity came up to review an Inner Peace Retreat with Psychologies Magazine, I jumped at the chance to spend a day deep in the countryside and really getting to know myself. Taking place at West Lexham Manor, near Norwich, the retreat offered a weekend spent focusing on psychology, mindfulness, creativity, meditation and movement set against the backdrop of the stunning grounds. What more could a girl want?Finding a little inner peace at a gorgeous retreat in the North Norfolk countryside | UK TravelDriving up to West Lexham Manor through frozen fields and breathing in the crisp morning air, I instantly felt refreshed and ready for restoration of my mind, body and soul. The stunning grounds were the perfect place for that and I couldn’t wait to explore more later on. On arrival, the organisers gave a warm welcome and ushered us into morning tai chi in the beautifully restored barn which has been purposefully created for group events and weddings. With sunshine beaming through the windows and birdsong in the background, we started the day by warming up our aching bodies and minds led by neuroscientist Dr Tamara Russell, who was definitely one of the most memorable characters from the weekend. After the session, we went for breakfast in the sun-drenched hall, and it was clear to see the emphasis on well being from the delicious, healthy meal of locally sourced ingredients that awaited us.Finding a little inner peace at a gorgeous retreat in the North Norfolk countryside | UK TravelWe were back in with Dr Tamara for our first session of the day, Practical Models for Exploring Body and Mind, which was a fascinating insight into neuroscience and psychology, but with a real life context that made it easily accessible for anyone new to the topic. Tamara used various exercises to look at the way we relate to ourselves and how that affects us in our daily life when we make decisions or react to situations. After studying a bit of neuroscience and psychology at university, I’ve always been fascinated by models like these and how they can be used to understand why we are the way we are. We all found this workshop so interesting and helpful that it actually ran over into the break and later I could hear many of those attending the retreat continuing the discussion over lunch.Finding a little inner peace at a gorgeous retreat in the North Norfolk countryside | UK TravelLater on we had another workshop, this time with Suzy Greaves, editor of Psychologies Magazine, which was one I was really excited for. Being a journalist, I’m always looking to develop my skills in any way I can, so a journaling/writing workshop with Suzy seemed perfect for me. This time we had an opportunity to get outside and breathe in the fresh air and to take in the sights, sounds and smells as we wandered around the grounds. Nature is so soothing, and despite being based in North Norfolk, I find that lately I haven’t had a chance to just get outside and appreciate it, something that I’m sure has caused me to feel a bit stressed out. We were told to just write freely, uninterrupted by others and uninterrupted by thoughts of how we should write. I let my hand glide across the page and all of us taking part felt our innermost thoughts and feelings pour out on to the page. I was amazed at what came out, what I’d been holding in and finally just had to explode across the page, pure stream of consciousness.Finding a little inner peace at a gorgeous retreat in the North Norfolk countryside | UK TravelWe enjoyed a leisurely lunch – let me tell you the food was just incredible – followed by a chance to explore the grounds with owner Edmund Colville, as he discussed the retreat and the lay-lines around his family home. Later that afternoon, we had our final workshop of the day, which was easily my favourite and really left an incredible impression on me. The 5 Rhythms Movement workshop with meditation teacher Chris Connors forced the group to throw away all inhibitions, stresses and worries, and to really let loose. We’re talking 90 minutes of dancing freely as a mass and an individual to various pieces of music, and by the end of the session, everyone was exhausted but liberated, making their way out of the barn with smiles on faces and a new sense of peace. I thought I was pretty relaxed before I walked into that workshop, but I can tell you I felt like a completely different person by the time I walked out of it and I know every single person in that room felt exactly the same. Sadly I had to leave after this workshop and didn’t get a chance to chat to the others over dinner, but the whole experience was beyond anything I could have hoped.Finding a little inner peace at a gorgeous retreat in the North Norfolk countryside | UK TravelWhether you need stillness, a chance to slow down or if you are searching for inner peace, these workshops give you a chance to take a time-out in the unspoilt beauty of West Norfolk. If this sounds like something that would be right up your street, there will be many other retreats taking place this year which focus on yoga, mindfulness and body confidence, and another Psychologies Inner Peace Retreat is in the pipeline. Both men and women attended and while some were more interested in the psychology, others were going through some huge life changes, but all felt just as welcome and came away with a genuine sense of inner peace. Find out more and book at www.westlexham.org

*Images provided by West Lexham Manor

Have you been to a retreat? Would you like to attend one? How do you find peace in your daily life?

Finding a little inner peace at a gorgeous retreat in the North Norfolk countryside | UK Travel

Last year was a busy one – a lot of travel, a lot of living and a lot of changes. It was an amazing year full of highs and lows, but in the midst of that it was hard to feel settled and to live my best life. I finished the year pretty exhausted from the constant movement, ill as all my adventures caught up with me, and eager to make some big changes for the year ahead. Now don’t worry, it may be January but this isn’t one of those “New Year, New Me” posts – instead of some health kick, I’m focusing on making some big lifestyle changes that will hopefully bring me happiness in 2018. I’m looking at the long-term rather than some quick fix. What’s prompted all this? Well I’ve been travelling for over three years now and in that time I’ve done and seen a lot, but now I’m craving some stability and a different way of travelling, and of living my life. So what changes am I making this year?

Diet

Vegetarian/Vegan

Now I don’t believe in diets, but I do believe in lifestyle changes and improving diet. I am focusing more on what I put in my body and some of the ways I can really feel my best. I remember when I felt healthiest and happiest during the year and it was when I was road tripping Western Australia and was eating purely vegan/vegetarian for months on end. I had endless energy and as soon as I stopped that diet I was exhausted all the time. I’m already eating vegetarian most of the time, but I’ve been incorporating more vegan food into my diet and it’s making me feel great. I’m excited to move into my own place into a few months and then there will be nothing but vegetarian food in my cupboards. I don’t do this because I don’t like meat – my choice is based on the fact that I feel better when I don’t eat meat, and the fact that I just don’t think a meat-heavy diet is sustainable without damaging the environment. Likewise, I haven’t forbidden myself from eating meat if I do want to, I don’t think diet should be about restriction – more about introducing more things that are better for you like my mostly vegetarian diet.

My favourite products

I’ve already cut out as much dairy as possible from my diet – choosing soy, rice or coconut products instead which has helped my eczema-prone skin no end. I absolutely love the Alpro with Coconut instead of yoghurt, and always switch regular milk for Rice Milk as it’s far more sustainable than Almond Milk. My favourite post-gym breakfast at the moment is Lizi’s Granola mixed with Alpro and lots of fresh blueberries and raspberries, the granola is absolutely delicious and packed full of protein, fibre and all the goodness you need post-workout, plus its low sugar. Fancy a snack? I’m the worst for picking up the wrong things to snack on, so Soul Food Collective sent me some of what they think I should be filling up on and I’m more than impressed. This entirely fair trade, delicious, natural and organic range is just what you need to keep you going during the day, and oh my goodness they are the perfect snack. My favourites are the Amarena cherries and raspberries coated in dark chocolate and I always make sure I have a packet in my bag to stop me from snacking on the wrong foods. When it comes to dinners, I actually prefer using tofu and Quorn as meat replacements, the more I have eaten them the more my tastebuds have changed and I enjoy the texture of meat less.Wellbeing | Five ways I'm looking after myself more this year

Exercise

I’m so happy to be back in a gym. I signed up as soon as I arrived back in the UK and I’m there most days now to attend classes or hit the gym. After travelling constantly for three months and indulging over Christmas, it feels really nice to be back in a routine and to challenge my body, to feel the aches that means you’ve pushed yourself further. I have always been a bit of a gym bunny when I get going but travelling makes it hard to keep up a routine when you’re never in one place long enough. I love yoga, pilates and running, but I miss the weights, the machines and the challenges of classes when I’m on the road. I don’t consider myself out of shape at the moment – my focus is more on getting stronger and building my energy levels. Also, adapting to British weather, I need all the help I can get in staying warm!

My routine

I’m focusing on trying to be active every day but in different ways. A couple of days a week I’m attending classes such as body combat (my fave!), yoga, or zumba depending on what my body is craving. On the other days, I’ll either head to the gym and do my own HIIT workout or have a weights session. One thing I can tell from this is that I love variety and I get bored if I do the same thing every day, so on the days where I just don’t fancy the gym, I like to get outside and either run or do huge walks on the beach or in the woods – perfect for when you need to blow away the cobwebs. Looking for new workout ideas? Why not try your hand at winter sports such as indoor skiing?

My gear

Encouraging yourself to get active in January is a lot of work, so it’s important to invest in yourself and to get some nice workout clothes that you are excited to put on even when it’s cold outside and you want to stay in bed. I have the comfiest workout leggings and sports bra from Australian brand Cotton On Body and they are genuinely the best workout clothes I have ever had plus very budget friendly. I’m lucky to have a sister who works as a personal trainer so I’m always getting her cast-offs when it comes to exercise gear and she recently sent me two (almost new) sets of trainers! It’s definitely helped me to get in the right mindset for working out and working hard! This gorgeous sports bag from Hunkemoller Doutzen Sports range has helped the most, I was in need of a new gym bag and this one is fantastic – it’s huge and has plenty of space to fit all my workout clothes, shoes and even swimming gear in. Plus the cute floral design helps make it feel really feminine and pretty, just what I need after a sweaty gym session. I’ll also be using it as a weekend bag from time to time as it’s the perfect size for taking away with me.Wellbeing | Five ways I'm looking after myself more this year

Health

As someone who spent much of Christmas/New Year feeling very poorly with the flu, and who spent much of their month in Sri Lanka with food poisoning, it’s been a rough time for my body. I’ve spent a lot of the year working too hard, working long hours, partying too much and not giving myself time to heal. I’ve been the sickest I’ve been in a long time and yet I haven’t stopped or taken time out, it’s a problem when you live a lifestyle like mine. I’m not very good at stepping back and looking after myself, but since being home I am focusing on my health so much more. I’m making sure I exercise daily, that I eat as healthy as possible, that I’m sleeping for long enough and deeply enough. And I feel so much better for it. When I had the flu recently, instead of pushing myself to get out of bed and make myself worse, I wallowed and I allowed myself time to get better. It was frustrating and went against all of my instincts but it worked and I feel so much better now. I’m also making decisions to adjust my diet and lifestyle based on information that has surfaced during a long course of treatment for an ongoing skin condition that is finally being taken seriously. After it being brushed aside all my life by doctors and myself, 2018 is the year of healing.


Self-Care

This can come in so many forms and all of the above can also be included. But in this case I want to focus on how I am putting less pressure on myself, how I am changing my habits and giving myself space to breathe. I’m taking more time for myself lately, more time to do the things that make me feel good like reading a good book, or spending a day in bed watching Disney movies when I’m having a rubbish time. I’m giving myself the time to pamper and treat my body well, to indulge and invest in myself by actually taking the time to appreciate myself. Lately I’ve really been trying to focus on appreciating the people around me, telling them what they mean to me and making the effort to get in contact with friends I haven’t spoken to for a while. Caring for my support network is in turn caring for myself – you get out of it what you put in. Most importantly, I’m making plans for the future, that for the first time in a long time actually revolve around staying put and settling for a while. Last year was one for moving constantly and pushing myself, this year I want to focus on what makes me really happy and that is being closer to friends and family, having more of a base that can become my home, exploring different ways of fulfilling my travel needs and letting my relationship grow.


Work

I’m a self-confessed workaholic. When I have a job, it tends to take over everything and even during the times when I don’t and I’m travelling, I end up giving all my time to this blog like when I spent ages redesigning the whole thing from scratch while I was in Australia. For so long I’ve been taking jobs for convenience and money due to travelling, rather than focusing on my skills, interest and qualifications. Now my brain hurts from lack of use and I’m craving the chance of having job where I finally get to use all three – I’m in the process of applying for jobs and for the first time in a long time I’m focusing on quality. This year is the year where I develop my skills and really use my brain instead of running myself into the ground for a job I don’t believe in.

What changes are you making this year? Are you focusing more on your health, your relationships or your career?

Wellbeing | Five ways I'm looking after myself more this year

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

 

*First pic credit

13510960_10153587157897617_7263956946886594826_nI’m pretty good at living on a backpacker’s budget now, but sometimes you just fancy a bit of luxury. I’ll never be the kind of girl who wants to spend thousands on an expensive getaway when I could make my money spread a bit further and still treat myself. For me, the real luxury is being able to escape and live well for longer instead of enjoying a short blast of freedom, but not everyone has the option of taking a year out to go backpacking, nor does everyone like the idea of budget travel. Now I’m back in the UK, I don’t plan to stop travelling and until my return to Australia, I’m breaking up my time with trips away. Before I went away, my mum and I used to have regular spa days together, every few months we would head away for a day of complete rest, relaxation and a heavy dose of pampering. Both working stressful jobs, it was lovely to just have a day where we didn’t have to think about work, or anything else other than where our next massage was coming from. I really believe in the importance of looking after your own health and well-being by keeping fit, eating well and allowing time to really relax and recuperate. Visiting a spa is a great way of really giving you a day off from life, a chance to turn your phone off and really get some space.

I’ve posted about this spa experience before but I still can’t believe how many people don’t seem to know about the amazing deals available. Even when you need a day of pure indulgence, there is always a great offer that can help you get the most out of your money. So, what am I on about? I’m talking about Aqua Sana Spa at Centreparcs, now it may not be the first place you think of when you start planning a spa retreat but perhaps it should be. I’m not usually one for chains but in this case I’m happy to make an exception for such an amazing experience, I have yet to find a spa that rivals the quality I’ve found there, and trust me, I’ve done the research. We always go to the Elveden retreat, which is our closest, and I convinced it’s the best one after experiencing the Sherwood spa and finding it a bit lacking. Surrounded by woodland and beautiful countryside, even the drive there is relaxing, and from the second you walk in the door you are being endlessly pampered by the amazing staff there. We always say it must be a wonderful place to work, so relaxing. We always check out the deals available at the time on the website, but usually end up paying around £100 each for a full day in the spa, with breakfast and lunch included, and a luxury treatment.IMG_6553This time, we went for the Brighten and Glow spa day for two, which gave us the chance to try out the Elemis skin brightening facial and luxurious Frangipani hot stones massage – and yes, it is every bit as fabulous as it sounds. I love that the treatment pampers every bit of your body and uses only products not tested on animals and using minimal parabens – it’s much better for the environment and it’s much better for your health. Before our treatment, we were treated to a delicious breakfast in the Vitale cafe where we indulged in pastries and coffees before hitting the spa. We had a few hours before our treatments so we decided to start with a swim in the outdoor heated pool, this is always such a treat when the weather outside is rubbish. We stood with the high pressure jets massaging our necks and floated around the empty pool before heading into the steam rooms. Now this is the bit that sets Aqua Sana apart from all other spas I have experienced, it offers 15 different spa experiences including a range of steam rooms with essential oils and herbs from all over the world and saunas. My favourite rooms are the Japanese Salt Steam room, the Balinese and the Indian steam rooms – I just love the gentle floral aromas and they really feel like they’re doing your skin good. You can rinse off afterwards with one of the multi-sensory showers to rejuvenate your skin and refresh before checking out the meditation room or zen garden.

When you’re taken through to your spa treatment, the ladies give you a completely relaxing experience tailored to your skin type and preferences. They’re extremely attentive and some of the best beauty treatments I’ve had have been at the Aqua Sana, with sensitive skin like mine it’s important to have a therapist who listens. The whole experience is utterly luxurious and you come away feeling like a new woman, my skin felt like a newborn baby’s and my muscles were finally relaxed after two years of hostel beds. After a tasty lunch, it was time for a waterbed nap – always a highlight of the day – especially if you can score one of the bigger outdoor beds which are especially nice when you’re wrapped up in your complimentary robe. Throughout the spa, there are several stations where you ca reapply products throughout the day and test others, sometimes the therapists will also bring round products for you to try which is lovely. Everything is thought of when you are at the spa, you don’t spend a single second thinking because everything is already as special as it could be. There are limited numbers allowed in the spa, which really helps to keep the exclusive feeling as some just come for a morning or afternoon session.IMG_6625One top tip not to miss out on during your visit, the Discovery Sessions are something I had never attended until my most recent visit but are something I wouldn’t miss in future. These short sessions take place periodically throughout the day and led by a beauty therapist, they teach you about the Elemis and Decleor products and how to apply them. As a big beauty product lover, this was a good excuse to try out some of the other amazing products they have to offer. But it also meant we found out about an amazing deal on a Decleor multipack of products – normally selling at over £50, it was reduced down to £19 with further discounts for attending the session. It was an amazing deal, so I treated me and my mum to a pack each – we would never have known about the dramatic price reduction had we not been in the session, so they’re definitely worth attending for discounts on the ranges. All in all, it was a fabulous day, and long overdue as a birthday present to the both of us. If you ask me, you can’t beat a mummy-daughter day spent eating delicious food, being pampered and relaxing on waterbeds. Click here to book your spa experience at Aqua Sana, or to read more about what treatments are available.

Can you recommend any other luxury spa experiences for those on a budget? What’s your favourite spa treatment?

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