Revolut, a form of a pre-paid card which is used in the form of digital banking, appealed to me mostly due to the fact that I was able to change the money I put onto this card into a range of different currencies. Since I'm travelling a lot I would hate to lose my regular bank card abroad, with the countless stages to get it back as well as not being able to use if in an emergency, leaving me with only the cash I had brought out with me.
Applying for this bank card was easy and quick, with it only taking me to download the Revolut app and then putting in my details as well as deciding what plan I had wanted. I decided to pick the standard plan, which has its limited features but has the benefit of it being completely free. However, I had to pay for the card itself with it being £4.99 excluding delivery which then took another 9 days to arrive. Luckily I had thought of getting this card weeks before my next holiday so I could try it out and make sure it worked before I ventured abroad.
My favourite feature about the Revolut card is the simplicity of it, I was able to transfer money from my bank account straight into my Revolut account within seconds. This money then appeared immediately in my account with the date and time of the transfer being present. From here I was able to convert this money into any currency I wanted to. When I mentioned before that Revolut have a lot of currencies available, I wasn't exaggerating with there being 130 currencies currently available. This meaning this card can be used globally with a small exception for countries with a currency that is not currently featured with this card. Even without transferring money I was able to purchase dinner in Spain with Revolut doing the conversion for me, with them taking it out of my main account (which has the currency in GBP), by using the exchange rate at that period of time. The only downside to this would be if the exchange rate is extremely poor, you will be the one suffering and losing out, which is why I recommend watching the exchange rate for your preferred currency and then exchanging money through the app when it's at its highest.
Just like a regular bank card Revolut allows money to be withdrawn in ATM's in your home country as well as at destinations you're travelling to when abroad. There is a catch to this, if you're on a standard plan then you're only allowed to withdraw up to £200 a month without being charged 2% for each withdrawal made after this. I barely withdrew money since I made a plan of how much physical money I would spend and how much I would spend on my Revolut card. However, if in need of emergency cash or if you travel a lot monthly then this may be a big downside for this card due to the charge applied after reaching your £200 a month limit.
The app for Revolut is one of my most used and helpful apps since when I purchased something on holiday, such as a meal or a drink at a supermarket, I'd get a notification seconds after. This notification would let me know how much I've spent and how much I've spent that day in total, an easy way to see if you're following your budget. The app also divides your transactions into categories such as groceries, restaurants and transport as well as showing how much you've spent in each category per month. This feature is handy since I was able to see how much I spent on food and transport and whether or not I was under or over my budget. The app also allows you to freeze the card, in which if your bag was stolen with your card in it, you would be able to immediately freeze it, so no one would be able to use it and you'd be able to cancel it. From the app I'm also able to see exactly where I made my purchase, this helped me find a restaurant I used and didn't remember the name of (since I wanted to return there the following day). The only downside to using your phone to keep track of your spending and making sure your card is topped up would be to make sure that your phone is fully charged or to make sure you have a portable charger with you.
Revolut is a form of digital banking, as mentioned before, which unfortunately means there is no physical branches in which people can go to if there is a problem. There's only the online support which is available through the app or by phone, this may make some people feel cautious about using Revolut since there is nowhere to physically go if something went wrong. The company itself is very new with Revolut being launched in 2015 with over 2 million customers in just under 3 years, which indeed did make me suspicious when I first read that on their website. Regardless, the website makes a strong point in saying that they're regulated by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) in which allows your money to be protected.
The Revolut card has made my life so much easier when travelling abroad since I always know that money is in the account regardless of whether or not I have converted it to the chosen currency for the country to. The only real downside was waiting for the card to come and the initial payment for it but regardless once it came I was able to use it straightaway.
As much as some people may believe I was born into a life of luxury to be able to save £7,000 a year for my travels, I work at least 112 hours a month to afford to do this. It’s very easy to save anything if you know how and have a goal to focus on. If you break this down I only save around £600 a month from my paycheck which comes in at around £1,000 after tax and National Insurance contributions have been deducted each month. This money can vary depending on whether or not I do any overtime as well as if I have to take any sick days. Regardless my thrifty ways still allow me to save £600 a month which contribute directly towards flights, accommodation and activities when abroad.
When first starting my job I knew I wanted to save a lot of money to be able to travel around the world, this led me to creating my own budget from scratch as well as keeping track of my payments going into and out of my account. I bought a project book, which I used to write down every single transaction that went through my account and I then categorized them according to what category they would fit into. I made 7 categories in total: savings, bills, travel, meals, clothes, other and food. These categories each had a specific budget attached to them:
In total these seven categories total to £400.45, which deducted from my paycheck equal to around £599.55, in which everything has been deducted and accounted for. This leaves the rest of the money to be saved and put towards future holidays.
Example of My Budget Plan
The first image shows my plan in my project book that keeps track of the transactions coming out of my account. Some of these transactions don’t come directly from my wages, such as flights and money put towards booking up hotels but I note them down just to keep a track of what is coming out of my account. The second image shows the spreadsheet I made which gives an overall account of how the month went financially for me. In areas such as clothing I was way under budget with me spending £17.30 less than I had accounted for but then going over budget by £7.73 with food. These payments cancel each other out and even after going over budget technically overall I am still within my budget. The “Other” section of my budget accounts for money going out of my account that is for holidays, which comes directly from my savings as well as items such as “Shoes for Dad” comes out of the money I save up monthly for birthdays.
The Eurostar, a railway service in which transports you to and from different countries such as from France to the United Kingdom and vise versa. Before my recent trip to Paris I saw myself in the middle of so much hype surrounding the Eurostar, with my family and friends as well as people online making it seem as if it was the next best thing to sliced bread. With the Eurostar being the main competitor as a form of transport for travelling to other countries by plane, this article focuses an in-depth analysis regarding different aspects to the Eurostar and whether it lives up to the hype surrounding it.
The most important aspect when booking a holiday is the price of the flights or other methods of transport used to get to another country. The Eurostar cost me around £70, which in my opinion is a fair rate to pay since flights from EasyJet were around £80 (which included choosing your seat) - both being return fares. The prices that are advertised on both websites are fair, with seats on EasyJet starting from around £35 for one person one way as well as the Eurostar starting from £29 one way. As much as these prices seem too good to be true, in most cases they are, since you would need to book months ahead and fly during the cheapest times (not during school holidays). Considering I booked a trip for July in May, it was very last minute as I had to wait for my holiday form to be confirmed from work, I think £70 was very reasonable and cheap. The Eurostar has the edge over flying since trains depart at least every hour, making them very frequent and accessible. This allows you to see the different prices for different times and giving you a wider variety than most airline companies do when picking times to fly.
Getting To & From the Station
My favourite thing about the Eurostar is the central location of it, with it being located at St. Pancras International (opposite King’s Cross Station), making it a lot closer than many other airports in London such as Gatwick or Heathrow. Since my train was at 7am I used an Uber to get to the station, with it only being £11 for a 30 minute journey, a very good price for that early in the morning in London. If using the tube or a bus it would have cost me around £1.50, which I would’ve used if I was travelling later in the morning or the afternoon. When travelling to the airport these journeys are tiresome and stressful, with specific trains going to and from the airport being packed with travelers as well as all of their luggage. When travelling home, which was around 2pm from King’s Cross Station, I had no trouble getting onto the tube since there was no crowds since it wasn’t rush hour.
Speed & Time
The Eurostar prides itself on being a faster mode of transportation between countries, which in some cases is true if you calculate the time getting to and from the airport as well as facing barriers such as security and walking through the airport to your terminal. Flights from London to Paris are approximately just over an hour compared to the Eurostar taking around 2 hours and 20 minutes. As much as people may think flying is a better option, you only need to be at the station from where your Eurostar departs around an hour beforehand whereas at the airport you would need to be there at least two hours before. When I was told I only needed to be at the station an hour before the Eurostar departed I was anxious since I didn’t think this would be enough time to get through security and passport control. It ended up being more than enough since I walked straight through by scanning my ticket and then got through security in less than 5 minutes. The Eurostar is very precise with it’s timing since it left bang on the dot at 7:20am, not a minute more or less. Everyone had enough time to walk down to their designated carriage with their seats and most people were already sitting down in their seats by the time the train had left. When getting off the Eurostar I walked straight from the platform into Gare du Nord and from there walked to my hotel. There was no passport control or border control when I got off, which made life a lot easier for me. When getting off the plane, you would have to wait to get your luggage if it had been stored under the plane as well as then going through luggage claim and passport control. This could take up to an hour depending on how busy the airport is as well as how quickly you got off the plane.
Comfort & Other Features of the Eurostar
The Eurostar, unlike airplanes, feature a plug socket as well as extra legroom. For tall people like me, this made me feel a lot more comfortable since my legs weren’t pressed up against the chair in front of me as they would have been on a plane. The Eurostar was very clean with toilets being located in every carriage as well as there being lots of places to store your luggage. Sadly this meant I didn’t get to see any arguments over who had the overhead bin first, sad times. The best part of the Eurostar was the free WiFi, unlike airplanes I was also able to receive some reception for my phone since we were overhead until we went through the Channel Crossing, which left me in the dark for about 20 minutes and to use the WiFi until we made it into France. The seats were comfortable with a padded headrest, which allowed me to comfortable sleep until the journey was over. There was also an option when booking to have a table seat which allowed for extra room but the standard seats came with a small fold down table which were fine to use. These trains were just like any standard train with there being a carriage that included a bar where food and beverages could be bought. I preferred travelling by Eurostar since it felt as if it were a normal train ride whereas with a flight you can feel the turbulence and the constant vibration. The one thing I detest about flying is the feeling in your stomach when the plane goes up in the air, which I didn’t feel when travelling on the Eurostar even though it reaches speeds of up to nearly 190 mph.
The only real downside to using the Eurostar is that the locations it travels to are very limited. At the moment it only travels to 8 locations which include Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels. With the option of flying airlines will fly to most European countries and will fly to multiple cities within them. Since I live in London there is a wide variety of choices to fly from such as Gatwick, Heathrow and London City Airport. The only place in London that the Eurostar departs from is St. Pancras International, which if you live outside of London might make getting into London and then getting to the station a hassle.
Unlike airplanes there is no weight limit for each item of luggage you bring but it would be sensible to make sure you don’t make these bags too heavy since you would have to lift them over your head. Even though there is no weight limit there is a width restriction with each item being no more than 85cm long. Since I bought a standard ticket I was allowed to bring two suitcases with me as well as an item of hand luggage, way more than needed for me but it was nice to have the option of bringing more luggage on if I had wanted to. When going through security I didn’t need to get out my liquids which made life a lot easier and made getting through security quicker. Since there was no liquid restriction I was able to bring a normal size bottle of shower gel through rather than buying it when past security or putting it into a tiny sized travel bottle. Eurostar are strict regarding people bringing alcohol on board, so if you are going to take some alcohol with you, check online for your allowances to make sure it won’t be confiscated at security. Regardless, when I travelled I brought a litre bottle of vodka with me, which I had no troubles getting through with.
One of the most important aspects of a holiday is finding accommodation, somewhere you’ll end up sleeping for the next few nights and somewhere that will be a base point in the middle of a new city or town. The most important aspect of finding accommodation is deciding what type of accommodation you’re actually going to use, whether it be a hostel, B&B (Bed & Breakfast), hotels or apartments. These each have their own advantages and disadvantages as well as their own unique features which individually tailor to each person.
B&B’s (Bed & Breakfasts)
B&B’s are simply places that include a room to sleep in overnight as well as including breakfast at the start of each morning. These lodgings tend to be quite small businesses and they are usually family run, with members of the family catering to different aspects of the business: greeting guests, cleaning, cooking breakfast or doing other small jobs around the house.
One advantage of staying at these establishments are that, unlike most hotels, there is a freshly cooked breakfast (usually with ingredients bought from a local farmer’s market or grown on site). These breakfasts are not only delicious but can be tailored to the individual since you can ask for specific items from the menu as well as asking for your food to be cooked in a certain way (if you like your boiled eggs hard or soft). However, a small minority of these establishments have a limited menu which fail to consider people with different diets such as people that are vegetarian or vegan, as they may offer a cooked breakfast that features meat with no substitutes for items such as sausages or bacon. It may be even harder to cater to people with gluten-free diets since B&B’s may not know the specific ingredients that go into every item that they serve at breakfast.
As mentioned before B&B’s are usually run by family members in their own home, which has been renovated to make their home into their business. This creating an exceptional level of customer service since these independent businesses need returning customers to make a profit, which means it’s more likely that they will take a hands-on approach to what the customer wants. Staying at a B&B provides the sense of it being a home since there are usually very few guests staying there as B&B’s generally only hold around 3 to 6 rooms. This may not be to everyone’s taste as some people staying there may find that they are forced to socialise with one another at breakfast. If you like meeting new people and sharing your experiences then this would be perfect for you. However, if you’re an introvert like me then this would be an absolute nightmare for me. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy talking to new people, but just at my own pace as well as not when I’m scoffing down breakfast and look like a hamster with its cheeks full.
The main reason people stay at B&B’s is for the locality of it since it is generally located in the heart of a town or city. This making it easy for tourists and travelers to go and explore during the day without having the hassle of taking public transport or having to take a long journey to get there. This also adds as a bonus for when you’re tired and just want your bed, which most days I do, after a long day of sightseeing and walking around. Even though B&B’s do pride themselves in a general location they can lack the amenities that hotels may offer such as a gym, spa and a swimming pool. Nonetheless, would you really expect a small family run business to be priding itself on a swimming pool and luxury amenities when its purpose is to give you a place to stay and a breakfast the morning after. Another downside to B&B’s being independent is that there isn’t usually a formal complaints policy and procedure that most hotels and hostels provide. If you had a complaint the furthest you could take it would be to the business/people you had stayed at, which in a worst case scenario may mean they ignore the matter which leaves you helpless.
Hotels are establishments that serve for a range of purposes, the main one being a place to stay for a couple of days, as well as providing meals and in some cases transport for guests. Hotels can either be part of a chain or independent, with hotels that are part of a chain being widely known as well as being very professional in the level of service that they aim to provide. In most hotels there are dedicated staff members for each section for the hotel: reception staff, chefs and waiters as well as cleaners with these people customarily wear uniform to show that they’re representing the hotel and being easy to spot for any queries or problems from guests.
I personally love the simplicity of hotels. When I travelled to Barcelona all I wanted to do was check in and get back into bed, since I had been up since 4am and had been travelling all day. The usual check in process begins by saying the name the booking is under, signing a few documents or providing photocopies of your passport and in some cases discussing the city tax. Nevertheless, not everything can be as simple as checking in and checking out hassle free. Most hotels have a policy where guests need to check out between 10am and 11am (some hotels make guests check out even earlier) and they can only check in from a certain time such as 2pm since cleaners need to make sure the room is tidy and presentable for the next guests.
Another thing I like about hotels is that they include a range of amenities, in which most come included in the price, such as WiFi, room service (in which your towels and bedding is changed daily) and if you’re lucky enough you might find a fridge or microwave in your room - the dream. These make staying away from home much easier since through these you’re able to do what you could do at home: speak to family and friends as well as keeping snacks in your room (maybe it’s just me). The only downside to this are that hotels can range in price, which also affects the quality of these amenities, since lower-budget hotels may provide slower WiFi as well as the comfort of your beds (this is not applicable to all hotels, but a majority). If hotels do include breakfast in the price, or even charge extra on top of the room rate, this breakfast has a likely chance of being cooked with cheaper and low quality ingredients. This is because they are being used to fed hundreds of people in some cases, so they will not be the freshest, with food being a buffet style (you can go up as much as you want and get whatever you want). Unlike B&B’s there is more of a chance that hotels will cater to vegetarians and vegans since there is a higher likelihood that guests will have different food diets.
Not only do most hotels have a dedicated complaints procedure for customers, which can either be through social media accounts or websites, some hotels have 24/7 receptions. This allowing guests to sort out problems immediately or making arrangements for them to be fixed, from the smallest of problems like asking for more towels (which are typically delivered to the room by staff members) or asking to be moved to another room (if there is a noise problem or in extreme cases bug infestations). With most chain hotels they will include generic hotel rooms, in this sense rooms don’t have a life of their own and most rooms will be exactly the same. In each room you’ll find a single or a double bed, a painting on the wall, a chair in the corner in the room and the generic ‘Welcome to the X Hotel! Have a wonderful stay’ book or pamphlet. This experience is tolerable for people just wanting a place to stay, but does not give the personalized experience that a B&B or an apartment may give. It would be highly unlikely that the staff there would remember your name or give you a personalized and memorable experience.
Holiday Rentals are rentals of different types of accommodation such as apartments, houses, cottages or home stays, in which people usually rent out properties that they own or have bought. The most common site people associate with holiday rentals is Airbnb since people can either rent out their property on there or people can find a place to stay either in their home country or the place they are travelling to.
The hassle of travelling with a lot of people is a nightmare since the thought of someone misplacing their passport or being late to the airport would ruin a holiday before it had even begun. The even bigger nightmare is finding accommodation that everyone likes, whether it be the price tag that comes along with it or the decor of bedroom they’ll be staying in. Apartments these days are usually modern and suited to everyone's tastes so that people will want to rent it while abroad. When I was in Australia me and my family stayed in a home that belonged to a family that rented it to us while they were out of the country. This home had that warm feeling surrounding it since around the house some of the rooms were decorated for children but others were more modern and grown up for the adults. Regardless, the home may look like a home from the pictures but in depth information is needed before agreeing to renting a home from somebody you don’t know in a place you haven’t been to. In this situation it’s best to book through a website as well as researching the neighborhood: Is it safe? Is there good transport links? Is this property located in the centre of a town or on the quiet outskirts? Another handy tip would be to look at the property or ask the owner what security measures they have in place.
Even though holiday rentals are not everybody’s cup of tea, it can save a lot of money in the long run especially if you’re travelling with a lot of people. If you are travelling with 10 people and are dividing the price equally then you would be paying only 10% of the price for the whole property (including a bed, shower facilities and the amenities of a home). It may be a hassle checking in since communication between the renter and guests may be limited and you’d have to contact them to resolve the problem. For example, the renter may hide a key in a padlocked box with a number for a code to unlock it, if the code did not work you’d be stuck in the middle of someone’s front garden with a bunch of suitcases waiting for them to contact you and fix it.
A home away from home is exactly what the title says: you have to do everything you’d do at home at this holiday rental. Some people may be lucky enough to get a BBQ thrown in with their accommodation since it was already part of the property which means fresh delicious food as well as spending some quality time with family or friends. With a kitchen provided many people enjoy to make home cooked meals, which would save time and money of going out and finding something to eat (with a lot of people this can take ages). Nevertheless, the subject of cleaning will eventually come up since there are no waiters or people to clean up after yourself and other guests staying. Cleaning up after yourself must be one of the most apprehended tasks for each party involved as being on holiday means you just want to relax, it makes it even worse if you’re the one left in charge of cleaning. One of the only downsides to leaving a holiday rental isn’t the fond memories of the place but in some cases being charged extra for someone to clean up after you when you depart. Some renters may charge up to £100 for a property to be cleaned since this includes washing duvets and towels as well as cleaning places such as the kitchen and the bathroom.
Hostels are a type of establishment in which categorize themselves in providing inexpensive accommodation with the catch being you may have to share this accommodation with other people as well as sharing bathroom facilities. Hostels appeal to mostly students and young people not only for the inexpensive price but the chance to meet other travelers and to make friends (especially if travelling alone).
When I mentioned that hostels were inexpensive, I really meant it. Hostels can be as cheap as £10 per night, if you’re travelling to a place where you’re going to spend most of your time out, what’s the point in spending hundreds of pounds on a hotel room just because it has a bit more privacy and luxury. The only downside to getting this inexpensive accommodation may be sharing facilities such as showers and toilets with people, no not literally, this isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey. The shower or sink may not be in the best condition since some people don’t understand the basic concept of tidying up after themselves. People, including myself, may be put off by this and this putting me off the whole idea of sharing facilities, yet I’m still up to the idea of staying at a hostel at least one time in my life for the experience.
Hostels usually include a safe and locker which can be used to put valuables in during the day and at night. As much as I love checking my Twitter feed in the morning since it’s like an electronic morning newspaper, this may be difficult since the effort put into getting up from my bed and getting it from my locker would prove too much for someone as lazy as me. This also stops you charging your phone overnight since you might wake up and find you’ve been charging thin air, oh how technology has progressed. My friends have told me horror stories that in some hostels they have had some lockers however these have not been padlocked leaving them open for anyone to go into. As much as I would like to trust that people, who are in the same situation as me and staying under the same roof as me, wouldn’t go through my bags, I had to come to reality about the world we live in.
Hostels allow countless opportunities for people from around the globe to interact and share their different experiences of not just the country you’re travelling to, but anywhere they’ve been to. If you’re a person who enjoys meeting new people and possibly taking tours with these people, since some people may prefer to travel with someone else, especially in a country they’re not familiar with. Even though people may enjoy talking about their experiences during the day, some just love expressing their own at night and making sure everyone knows about it. In a hostel you may have to put up with people coming in from a night out (if there’s not a curfew), which if you’re light sleeper is the most annoying thing in the world. Yes I know you enjoyed your night out, but you’ve just woken everyone up and you’ll probably not remember this or sheepishly apologize in the morning. The best thing to do while researching a hostel would be to read reviews regarding the atmosphere and character of it.
To summarize, the accommodation you want to stay at depends on the person as well as the company you’re travelling with and more importantly your budget. For solo travel hostels would be the best option for a budget friendly trip where as holiday rentals would be your best bet for travelling as a large group without trying to break the bank. If you want a holiday where everything is taken care of as well as staying for a longer visit a hotel would be the best option but a B&B would be a better option if you’re only staying in the area for the night or a few days.
Tips and tricks for all aspects of travelling, most of which include saving money.