Since the main airline I travel with is easyJet, I've sat through the numerous speeches on the plane regarding the benefits of getting an easyJet Plus card as well as seeing people take advantage of these perks at the airport and on board the flight. The price of an easyJet Plus membership is currently at £199 per year which had risen from the previous price of £170 per year. To take advantage of the benefits an easyJet Plus card entitles members to, it means that members must carry their cards with them when necessary. Unfortunately if members misplace their card then they will need to pay £15 for a replacement card to be sent to them.
London Gatwick to Amsterdam:
Amsterdam to London Gatwick:
Final Total: £75.98
There are many benefits to becoming an easyJet members, as shown above, which would prove to be more financially beneficial to people that travel with easyJet frequently. As shown above, if you were to take full advantage of the benefits offered by this card then it may only take 3 return journeys (6 flights) to get your moneys worth. If you also want to travel comfortably than the easyJet Plus membership is for you since benefits such as Speedy Boarding and Fast Track Security make your airport experience less stressful. Personally I would have invested in an easyJet card if I had found out about it prior to booking my holidays as I would've taken 18 flights with easyJet by next June. If I paid at least £10 for a seat and £5 for Fast Track Security per flight, I would've saved nearly £100 from just getting a free seat and being able to through security quicker. This doesn't even take into account the Earlier Flight for Free and if a seat was priced at £29.99 per way.
More information about easyJet plus can be found here: https://plus.easyjet.com/benefits.aspx
Finding and booking up accommodation can be one of the most time-consuming and painstaking processes when booking up a holiday. For me, extensive research is done into what facilities the hotel offers, where the hotel is situated and most importantly the price. However, some people may find themselves booking accommodation last minute by booking last minute flights with the realisation that they have nowhere to stay. Either way finding accommodation can be very stressful and take more time than you'd like, in some cases people take weeks to find accommodation they like. With these apps finding accommodation has never been easier, it's essentially stating what factors are important to you and then these apps find results accordingly (based on price, distance from the city centre/airport or rating).
The name of this app couldn't explain its purpose better, it's a website in which lists different types of accommodations across nearly 230 countries. This making it one of the most extensive and useful apps available at the moment. It's main listings regard hotels as there are 1.5 million hotel listings worldwide but there are a range of different property types such as hostels, apartments, holiday homes and guest houses. There are specific factors in which narrow down the search for the perfect accommodation, in which the individual has full control over. These factors include budget, location, score, star rating and traveller rating. The app goes into even more detail by breaking down the specific ratings given to a property by asking individuals who have stayed there to rate the property on service, cleanliness, comfort and facilities. Through the app you have all the specific information of the properties such as check-in and check-out time, something some properties don't clearly state as well as images of the room/place you had booked. Rather than going through other websites or a Google search all of the information is easily accessible all in one place.
For the people that like to live life a little more spontaneously there's a specific app for you. HotelTonight allows the user to book up a hotel at a discounted rate for the same day or after as well as allowing the user to book up to 100 days ahead. In some cases some people may be stranded, such as at an airport, which may mean they need to find a last minute deal (luckily enough through the comfort of their own phone when using HotelTonight). Discounts go as low as up to 70% from the original face rate as well as having different options to choose from: lowest price, top deals and premium. If you're in a rush to find somewhere for the same day then this app is ideal since HotelTonight simply outline why they like it (the main features of the hotel) as well as an overview of the amenities that the hotel offers. The app also outlines what the individual would need to know: the check-in and check-out time as well as if the hotel requires identification upon check-in. The layout of the app is simple: type in the location in which you want to stay in as well as when you want to check in, then review the numerous amount of results with the prices being clearly stated and the face rate of the room originally. I couldn't recommend this app more if visiting to London since the sheer amount of hotels can be overwhelming as well as the hefty price tags which come with it. I've seen hotels as cheap as £150 per night in areas around Central London, which have been previously priced at £250 per night.
With 36,000 hostels in 170 different countries the option of staying in a hostel is becoming an alternative and cheaper form of accommodation for many travellers. Many people may assume that staying in a hostel means that you have to share a room and bathroom facilities with a range of people, that is simply wrong. Looking through the different options on the Hostelworld app, there are a range of different options to pick from: whether you want a private bedroom as well as whether you want to sleep in a mixed dorm. Using the app is the easiest way to book a hostel since you simply type in the location you want to stay in as well as how many guests will be staying. Each hostel has an individual description by Hostelworld themselves as well as an overview of the property itself. My favourite part of the app is the added details such as what the hostel offers as well as events that you can attend which you can book with the hostel. If you're going to somewhere new then this is a way to get out of your comfort zone as well as having a chance to experience new things with new people. The app also features extensive reviews from people who have stayed at that specific hostel, with 10 million reviews in total this makes this app useful when looking for hostels around the world.
Whether you're wanting to earn extra money while you're away on holiday or searching for a holiday home or house, Airbnb is the perfect app. With over 4 million vacation homes in 191 countries you'll be spoilt for choice with the different range of options within each country. It's a cheaper form of accommodation if you're travelling as a group and in a sense it makes a holiday memorable since you can all eat together and spend time together rather than having to go your separate ways to your hotel rooms at the end of the day. When I travelled to Australia me and my family done this and it made life a lot easier and it ended up being a lot cheaper than any hotel in the area we stayed in. The app gives you a choice to "Tour the home" by giving pictures of the interior and exterior which allows the user to see exactly what the home offers. The app also gives ideas for experiences around that specific location, ranging from concerts to photo shoots. Through the app you'd be able to speak directly to the owner, whether it would be enquiring about facilities of the home or asking where they'd leave their keys upon arrival, this is a convenient and reliable feature.
As much as I wished the name of this app meant you could literally surf using couches, it's not too far from the reality. This free app allows users to search couches to sleep on couches in over 230,000 cities as well as offer their couch to travellers around the world. Just like the price of the app, the whole idea behind this scheme is that people offer their hospitality and couch for free since hosts aren't allowed to charge their guests. Even though the idea of this may come across as unsafe, there are references from genuine people who have stayed at their hosts home. These reviews give praise on their friendliness, flexibility and whether their hosts were fun and reliable. Through the app different hosts state the rules of their household and what they can offer. Other information also includes what the hosts can teach the guests as well as the countries they've stayed in with other hosts. With over 160,000 hosts in London, this app is guarenteed to find you the best accommodation with no price attached - something handy if you're trying to travel on a budget as well as learn about the area you're staying in with your host essentially being a free tour guide.
Even though these safety tips are mainly used when staying in hotels, they can also be used when staying in different types of accommodation such as hostels and rental homes. Most of these points seem obvious but some people forget to do even the simplest of things whilst on holiday, something in which could even put your life at risk.
Showing ID When Checking In
One of the most standard procedures when checking into a hotel is showing photographic identification (Photo ID) to prove that you're the person as to whom the booking is under. When handing over your ID make sure you pass it to the receptionist rather than leaving it on top of the desk where everyone around can take a look at it. When the receptionist hands whatever forms of ID you've given back to you make sure every form of ID was handed back to you.
Some people may forget that some hotels may need to see the bank card that the room was booked with, which may be left at the desk after being checked. Then make sure that you put these forms of ID away in your bag, I've seen countless numbers of people leave their passport at reception and had gone to walk away before a receptionist had reminded them of what they had left.
Using a Safe
Before going away make sure you research whether your hotel or accommodation includes a safe, it's more likely that these will be found in hotels and full lockers will be found in hostels to hold your belongings. This can easily be done by searching the name of the place you're staying at and then going directly to their website or on websites such as Booking.com or Trip Advisor. Through these websites you can see what facilities your specific accommodation offers and from this you can then plan where to leave your valuables while there. If your hotel doesn't include a safe then get a lock for your suitcase if in worry, even if you do have a safe I still keep a lock on my suitcase, since everyone that works for the hotel isn't always as honest as they seem. Most hotels don't accept liability if a guests valuables are stolen through no fault of the establishment, hotels may only take responsibility if valuables are damaged due to an act of nature (natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods).
Don't Open The Door To Anyone!
If staying at a hotel, especially if you're alone, don't open the door before first checking through the peephole. If someone claims that they're the hotel staff then open the door with the security chain still on, so even if you found out they were lying they still wouldn't be able to gain access to your room. If someone knocks on your door and claims to be staff from the hotel and you're ever in doubt, call down to reception and ask if there's any reason for their staff to be knocking at your door. Anyone could claim that they're staff working at the hotel or even try to claim that they're housekeeping, once they get into your room you have no idea what could happen and what their intentions are.
Knowing The Fire Escape Route and Plan
Upon arriving at your hotel room you will clearly notice that there's a detailed plan of the floor you're staying on, with your room being highlighted and the map telling you your nearest fire exit. Even though many people may look at this and have a clear indication as to where the fire exit is because there are big green signs saying "FIRE EXIT" pointing to what direction you should be going towards to escape. What about if there was smoke in the corridor? How would you be able to see where you are if you have to end up crawling towards the fire exit? Make sure you locate where the stairs of the hotel are since lifts are to be avoided when in a fire as well as knowing how long it would roughly take to get there from your room. If you're staying in a hotel that has a lot of floors, try and get a floor that's situated near the bottom of the hotel. Even though you might miss out on the spectacular view it does mean you're a lot more likely to be safer in the event of a fire. If you were on the 4th floor of a hotel and couldn't use the corridor of the floor you're staying on to escape, what other route could you take? If the fire and rescue services came then they'd be able to rescue you through using a fire ladder. If you were situated on the 31st floor then this would make it near impossible to help you get evacuated from the building.
Never Say Your Full Name or Room Number
When checking in to a hotel many people may say their full name to allow the reception staff to find their booking. I would never do this since you never know who is listening, I would usually say "Hi, I have a room booked for Miss McLaughlin" and then the reception staff would then look for my reservation accordingly. I have never been in the situation where someone has had the exact same surname as me and they're checking in on the exact same day as me. If they did ask me for further clarification I'd announce the number of nights I'd be staying for rather than my first name. Another thing that hotels commonly do is openly announce your room number, if someone has your room number as well as your name they could easily impersonate you and say that "I'm Miss McLaughlin in Room 98 and I've lost my key for the room". If the hotel did announce openly what your room number is ask for another room. Hotels have never announced my room number openly, they usually write it on a small bit of paper used to hold my key card.
What To Do Whilst Inside Your Room
Aside from the obvious which is to enjoy your stay as well as making sure you have a comfortable place to sleep and shower for your stay, it's important to make sure your room is secure and safe. While in your room make sure the door is able to lock properly as well as making sure that when you're ready to call it a day the extra security feature such as a deadbolt or a security chain is in use. They aren't just there to look pretty, they are an added form of security to make sure the room you're in is secure. Electronic cards are most commonly used in hotels these days as they're deemed to be the safest option compared to keys. This is because each time a guest leaves their room and returns this specific key card back then this key card is completely wiped and replaced with a different code which allows the next guests to use it. If you're staying on one of the floors towards the bottom of the hotel then make sure your windows can be locked and they're locked at night, if they're near the street then thieves may see the perfect opportunity to get inside of your hotel room. The only time I would leave my windows open is when I'm in the room and usually I'd leave them open up to the moment before I go to bed to allow fresh air to get into the room.
Be Prepared For Anything
When staying in a hotel room the most important thing to do is make sure you have all your valuables in one place so if you needed to leave the room then you would have everything. I usually keep my handbag next to my bed with everything inside that I'd need for the next day, which can also be used if I needed to make a quick escape. In my handbag I keep my wallet, keys, passport and any other small items of importance. Keeping a pair of shoes next to your bed is advisable, like you would do with slippers while at home, so if you did need to leave then you wouldn't be running out of your accommodation bare foot. As much as some people would say the chance of something happening to them while abroad is one in a million, it's common to find people waking up in the middle of an earthquake or being awoken by the fire alarm blaring through the hotel.
Leaving A Note On The Nightstand
As mentioned in a previous blog post, Making an Itinerary, I explained that I keep important information regarding my whereabouts for the next few days: what activities I'll be doing as well as the times in which these activities take place within my hotel room. If an itinerary is not your cup of tea then most hotels provide a notepad and pen in which you can write down your whereabouts for the day so if you didn't return for some apparent reason then the hotel would have a rough idea of your location. This gives the police a helping hand and a map as to where I was during different times of the day, making it a lot more likely that I would be found. Even if you don't want to use the notepad and pen for this reason, it's a good idea to note down emergency numbers you may need such as for the police and ambulance since the area codes and numbers are different for each country.
Research The Hotel & Area Beforehand
Before booking a hotel or any sort of accommodation you first have to narrow down what part of the city you want to stay in. There are a number of different factors that deter people from certain places such as noise, crime as well as the prices in which certain areas charge due to their popularity (such as a city centre). If you google a specific area within a city it'd be easy to find whether that area is safe and whether the crime levels are high. It's important to find out if there's good transport links such as a metro station or a bus stop nearby, especially if you're travelling back to your hotel after dark. For example, in Barcelona our hotel was located within a minutes walk of a metro station as well as being in a well lit location as there was a lot of street lamps down these roads. It's important to look at the situation within that country: whether there is a terrorism threat and whether the area is a good place to visit for tourists. On websites such as gov.uk they advise tourists as to whether or not to travel to specific areas within a country. For example, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise people from travelling within the West of Egypt unless travel is essential (a holiday is not recommended here).
Before travelling the most important thing to do is photocopy any important documents you’ll be taking with you on your trip. The most important documents you’ll carry is your passport and in some cases a visa. Countries such as Spain, Turkey and France have strict laws which states that everybody in the country, tourist or citizen, needs to have identification on them at all times (which for a citizen would be a citizen card or driving license whereas for a tourist it would be a passport). Some people carry their passport with them but others take a photocopy with them, either way a photocopy left at your accommodation is the safest way to make sure your have your passport information if you do lose it. Instead of photocopying my bank card, which would indeed be a golden ticket for anyone that may find it if misplaced, I note down some important information such as my full name and the expiry date on the card. If this got into the wrong hands then it would be fine since my full card number isn’t on there as well as my CVV number. However, I’d still be able to give my bank some information regarding the name on the card and when it expires, so I’d be able to cancel it if I misplaced it or it had got stolen. Even though I don’t photocopy documents such as tickets for certain attractions, I make sure I have a printed version as well as a digital version on my phone to prevent losing them. If I lost the physical copy then I could cancel it through my phone and if my phone had died with the ticket on it then I have the physical copy to hand. Another document I photocopy is my driver’s license, since it’s another form of identification to prove who I am. Before travelling make sure you have valid health insurance and be sure to have the documents supporting the fact that you have it. I photocopy important information from the fifty pages I was sent, which was a great way to spend an hour of my life I’ll never get back, nevertheless I was able to photocopy my policy number and the key details of what my insurance covered. A holiday can be ruined with a hefty medical bill placed on you for what can be the smallest of injuries or a small dosage of medication.
A previous blog post I wrote, Making an Itinerary, outlines the reasons as to why I make an itinerary as well as how I make my own form of one. In my itinerary I outline key information I’ll need such as what I’m doing each day as well as my plans for transportation - whether I’m using private transportation or directions as how I’ll get to my accommodation using public transport. The main reason for making an itinerary is so if there was anything to happen such as a natural disaster or I went missing then by leaving a photocopy of my itinerary in my hotel room then I would’ve left a literal map to where I would be.
Directions From The Airport To Your Accommodation
As much as I praise technology for making my life a lot easier, it can be very unreliable during the times when you most need it. Before travelling I decide whether it’ll be more quicker and cheaper to either get private transportation to my accommodation or whether to use public transport. If I get a private transfer I’ll make sure I have documents to hand regarding my pick up time as well as the driver who will be picking me up (which usually includes their registration plate for safety reasons). I’ll also take a picture of this on my phone so that if my hands are full and I can’t be bothered to fumble through my luggage then I can look at this while walking off the plane when I land. If I decide to use public transportation to get to my accommodation I write out directions from where to go as well as what lines to take. For example, if I got off at Heathrow Airport I would write down that I need to take the Piccadilly line to Green Park, where I would then get off and get the Jubilee line to my designated stop. When travelling anywhere I always take the full address of my accommodation with me, to help get directions if lost or to give to a taxi driver rather than trying to remember where I’m staying. By doing this there’s no way you can get overcharged by taxi firms, since you’re giving them the exact name and address which also means there’s no way you can get lost.
Emergency Phone Numbers
Something I carry even when leaving my house even for a few hours, let alone travelling to another country, is emergency phone numbers in which I carry a physical copy in my diary as well as on a digital page on my phone. If I’m travelling with friends or family I’ll make them my emergency contacts for the time while away since it’ll be more likely I’ll need to call them if we get separated or to see where they are. When travelling abroad I research the phone numbers for emergency services, which include police, ambulance and fire brigade since they’re different from the phone numbers where I live. Phone numbers that are also important are for my bank since I may need to notify them immediately if my card gets stolen so they can cancel it as well as notify them that I’m travelling abroad (so they know the transactions are mine, not fraudulent).
Personally I feel more prepared knowing the area I’m staying in before even booking my hotel, by making sure it’s a safe neighbourhood and to make sure that it’s located near a metro station or bus stop. This making me feel at ease since from previous experience abroad I haven’t got back to my accommodation any earlier than 8pm as I’ve been out all day sightseeing. An extra step I take to prepare myself before travelling to a country is to research the etiquette and customs of a country so I can try my best to follow these respectfully. For example, if I planned to travel to India then I would find that their customs differ to British ones since in some places it is considered proper to eat with your hands rather than cutlery as well as making sure to use your right hand rather than your left. Even though this differs from what I do, I must make an effort to respect the customs and etiquette of the country I’m visiting. Another important feature of research which is a must for everyone is to find out whether you need a visa to enter the country as well as making sure you’ve declared everything correctly such as your full name when booking flights to declaring if you have convictions or a criminal record (if applying for a visa). It’s also helpful to make sure you research the climate of the country you’re travelling to so you can pack accordingly. This information is easily available by simply typing into a search engine “What’s the weather like in (city) during (month)?”.
The language barrier is one of the most difficult things to be faced when abroad, from trying to ask for directions to ordering food, it can be confusing and time consuming. I download a range of language apps before travelling, most importantly Google Translate, in which I note down important phrases such as “I’ve lost my passport” and “How much is that” to other phrases such as “Thank you”. Some people may assume that everybody understands your home language but this is simply not the case abroad, especially in smaller towns and markets.
In my hand luggage I carry around a medical card which lists what medication I’m currently on as well stating if I’m allergic to anything. This is because if I need to be taken to hospital and have fainted or am unresponsive then there is a record for doctors and nurses to help me get treatment as quick as they can. Before travelling I make sure I have enough medication to last me for my holiday as well as a little extra in the extreme case that my flight ends up being delayed or cancelled and it takes a day or two extra to get home. When travelling I make a cheap first aid kit for travelling, which can be bought, which includes plasters and bandages as well as alcohol free wound cleansing wipes. This is carried in my hand luggage and in my handbag when I’m out throughout the day. It has been used a numerous amount of times, for example when I went out for an excursion in Greece I lost my footing and ended up grazing my knee when climbing up to see The Temple of Poseidon (it’s rock ground that’s very uneven).
An itinerary is a form of travel document in which records what you plan to do during a journey in detail. It may include the time of scheduled events and possible places and landmarks that you may want to visit. I make my own form of an itinerary for each holiday that I go on, which is made months in advance, which lists all of the places I want to visit as well as information regarding my accommodation, flights, plan for each day, information regarding the transfers to and from the airport while abroad as well as information on how I’ll get to the airport from my house. This is essential in making sure that I see everything I’ve planned and making sure that I’ve gotten the most out of my holiday. A lot of time and research goes into making an itinerary such as researching a place, looking at the cost of it as well as the time it would take for me to get there from my accommodation and the time it would take to explore it. These itineraries are printed out and given to each member of the party travelling with me. Additional copies are made which are left inside of my accommodation as well as a copy given to my parents. An itinerary may also help if I went missing since I would’ve left information regarding my whereabouts and a rough time as to when I should be returning.
Making an Itinerary
On my itinerary the departing time and date of the flights I’ll be taking is noted down and the terminal and airport it’ll be departing from. Extra information I add onto my itinerary is the time that we’ll be landing, so I can plan my transfers to my hotel around it as well as seeing what I can do that day as it all depends on when I’m able to get to my hotel to drop my bags off so I can then go out. This information can all be found on the booking confirmation sent to your email when you book your flights, with the time check in closes and your seat numbers (if you have pre-booked them). I also include the flight number on my itinerary so if needed I could easily state what flight I’m on as well as easily recognizing where my flight is on the departure board. Through my chosen airlines website I’m able to put in my flight number and be sent an email when the gate number is released, leaving me time to relax and wander around the airport.
An important feature of an itinerary, which many people forget to list, is the hotel they’re staying at. I firstly list the full name of the hotel since many hotels go under the same name but in different locations such as Aparthotel in Spain. Then I list the address since I may need to show to a taxi driver if they cannot understand what I’m trying to say as well as making sure that we don’t get lost (thus saving me from being heavily overcharged). The phone number of the hotel is included on my itinerary since it’s useful to have if I need to notify them that I may be checking in late or if there is any problems. When writing down the phone number make sure to include the country code, for Spain it’s +34 whereas for Portugal it’s +351. Additional information I include is the check in and check out time of the hotel I’m staying at, which can be found on sites such as Booking.com as well as the website of the hotel. In some instances some hotels are very particular about the times guests can check out of the hotel, with a late check out being chargeable, something every traveler wants to avoid just before they leave to come back home. This information allows me to plan any activities around these times, for instance my check out time for my hotel in Amsterdam is 11am which allows me a few hours to do any activities beforehand. I researched museums and landmarks close to my hotel and booked up the Van Gogh Museum for 9am. I’ve planned out that I’ll be able to get breakfast, walk to the museum and then at 9am have two hours to walk around and explore it. Then I’ve allowed myself an hour to walk back to my hotel to then get everything together and check out, with time to spare.
The plan for a holiday is essential: what you’ll be doing and what you’ll be seeing. For each day I listed the landmarks, museums I wanted to visit and anything else that I had wanted to do for that day. I would then write down the time I wanted to visit, either an estimate or a definitive time through booking an allocated time slot (such as visiting the Van Gogh Museum at 9am on the dot). I will then go even further to list if this attraction is free, if it’s been booked and fully paid or whether I need to book it in person. This gives me an idea of how much money I would need to take with me since if all my attractions have been booked then I would only need spending money whereas if nothing has been booked then I would need money for entrance fees plus spending money on top of that. My itinerary includes printed out versions of confirmations for both the attractions I’ve booked, most of which include my ticket. As much as I praise technology, knowing my luck my phone would probably end up dying the moment I need to show my ticket at the entrance, so it’s better to be safe than sorry by having a digital and a physical version of your ticket. Another bonus to printing out the tickets is that most of them feature a map which guides you towards the attraction, so if your phone does die and you can’t use a digital form of maps then you always have the good old fashioned way of navigating around.
If I do decide to get a private transfer from my airport to the hotel, then I’ll list the information regarding the time I’ll be picked up as well as the place I’m being picked up from. This being easy to read when I get to my destination rather than searching frantically through my emails to try and find the confirmation. Then I’ll do the same for my return journey by marking down the time that I’m being picked up from my hotel. When booking I already have a rough idea of the time I wanted to fly, by taking into consideration what time my flight would land, the time it would take to get from the airport to my hotel and the hotel check in time. For example if my flight landed at 12:45pm and it took me around 30 minutes to get through customs and immigration as well as then taking me another 30-45 minutes to transfer then I’ll be just in time for 2pm (most times that hotels allow you to check in).
The main form of transport in which I use to get to and from the airport is a train that runs through London Bridge to Brighton, which stops at Gatwick Airport (where most of the flights I’ve booked are departing). The journey takes around 30 minutes, making it a convenient way to get to and from the airport cheaply (a return ticket which is anytime of the day costs me around £15-20 as I get additional discount from my 16-25 Railcard). By listing what form of transport I’m going to use, it reminds me to bring my tickets with me as before my holiday I usually look at my itinerary. By doing this I’m able to check that I have any tickets for any attractions that I’ve booked up with me as well as making sure I have supporting documents for my train tickets and transfers.
My Itinerary from Barcelona.
Learning a new language is a skill many people try to master for various reasons: they're moving to the country in which this language is spoken, providing an edge when applying for a job as well as improving memory and communication skills. I've been recently trying to learn Spanish, a language that is deemed one of the quickest and easiest to learn, since it's the second most common language spoke after English. I've been trying to learn Spanish for years but lost interest as well as not having any time while studying for exams when in secondary school and college. Since I'm now working I have some days free during the week which I now dedicate a few hours from to learn Spanish. Learning Spanish is so much easier when using apps, textbooks don't appeal to me since they're limited in the sense that they usually only focus on certain words such as verbs, nouns, adjectives, phrases or objects. The apps I downloaded alongside with a note pad allow me to learn the word verbally and then learn them by memory by writing them down. By writing down what words I learn this allows me to go back and improve on certain words and phrases I don't understand. I've only been learning Spanish for around a month but I can confidently say that I've mastered the basics.
Price: Free (There's a subscription service for £8.99 per month which allows the user to have no adverts featured as well as receiving a premium service by downloading lessons for offline use)
Duolingo, being one of the most popular apps to learn a new language, is currently used by 200 million users who have access to 30 languages. This app focuses on basic vocabulary then moving towards sentences as well as improving on grammar. This style of language learning is simple but effective as it uses a colourful style of visual learning by using pictures and colours to help the user remember certain words and phrases from this. Duolingo also expands into different sections within the app which focus on reading, writing and speaking which is done through listening and then having conversations back with the Duolingo bot. These conversations will help in real life situations as they include learning how to hail a taxi as well as learning how to order different meals in a restaurant. This saving the hassle and embarrassment of not feeling confident when actually speaking to someone in the language you're learning. My favourite feature of the app is that it focuses on weak words (words you might have got wrong or not have translated properly) so you can improve singularly on areas that you're not confident in. There are a range of different goal settings which go from 'casual' (which I'm currently using) to 'insane' for people who want to learn a range of different words and phrases in a short amount of time by dedicating more time using Duolingo.
Price: Free (There's a subscription service which is £9.99 per month which gives the user full and unlimited access to all courses for that specific language)
Babbel, which is currently used by just over 1 million people, features 14 languages to learn in the app. Babbel features a simplistic format with it translating a sense of calm to the user since it's not overcrowded with images and too much distraction for the user. There are daily lessons featured which focus on building basic conversational skills by allowing the user to quickly memorize key phrases such as how to greet someone as well as learning how to say thank you. The app goes into further detail by explaining grammar concepts and language rules to the user, for me this is interesting since I'm planning to learn in depth about the language and the rules surrounding it. Rather than using this app as a main form of learning Spanish I prefer to use Babbel as a supplement. Babbel uses a form of repetitive learning by first allowing the user to select the word out of a choice of two and then four. This repetitive style of learning is useful but can get a bit tedious, especially for the smaller and easier phrases.
Price: Free (There's a subscription service for £6.99 per month which allows the user to access videos from native speakers as well as featuring an in depth analysis of your learning - which words you're confident in and what words and could use a little more practice)
Memrise, which is used by 30 million users, offers 25 languages within a more engaging and colourful presentation. This app features a range of games which are used to learn and practice different phrases - meaning this app may be suitable for younger users who want to learn the basics of a language. Memrise features a pronunciation guide which allows the user to record themselves and compare it with a local, a feature most apps ignore but is vital for learning a new language. You may learn words and phrases of a language but if you can't pronounce them then you might not be understood or even make yourself more confused. Memrise features a repetition software in which lets users learn and review the different words that might need a little more practice. The best part about this app is that it can be used offline, which allowed me to spend a few hours when travelling to Barcelona learning different key words and phrases (some of which I was able to use). Memrise is very dedicated and tailored to the user, it's not a generic app that has one daily lesson for everyone, the user can learn as little or as much as they want since the app allows the user to carry on.
Price: Free (There's a subscription service which is £9.99 a month which allows the user to unlock 1000 lessons and conversations, 14 conversational modules and includes 365 daily lessons per year)
Mondly, which is used by 25 million users, features 33 languages within the app. The app features basic lessons that focuses on conversational language and practical knowledge (such as asking how someone is as well as learning verbs - past, present and future). Mondly also features MondlyKids which can be used to teach a child the basics to a different language while they're still young. The layout for the children's version is very engaging through the use of child friendly illustrations and topics such as food, family and sports (something they use and see everyday which will help them learn and remember certain words). The fun and interactive style of Mondly suits a range of ages while following a classroom style of watching, learning and then repeating. My favourite part about Mondly is that it's repetitive in different forms, which goes from individual words to complete phrases and pronouns. Another great feature about Mondly is that after each lesson there's a review of the different words and phrases learnt, which can be reviewed at any time regardless of when the lesson was completed.
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.
As much as we don't realise it we're all guilty of the small purchases such as being a sweet treat or a new item of clothing. These purchases soon add up and you're left sitting there going through your statement wondering how all of these small purchases amounted to so much. In our minds we justify these purchases as being "small" but in reality they're just a constant cycle of spending in which leaves us with less money then we'd like.
I went through my statement one day and realised that I needed to cut down my expenses in order to afford all of the holidays I wanted to go on. A month later I had already saved around £200 by cutting back and limiting the amount of items I bought as well as making my money last longer by cancelling subscriptions I never used. In 15 easy steps you could easily cut down your expenses, if not saving more than I did, leaving you with more money to put away for your travels.
1. Travelling - Saving £50 a month
I love the transport in London since it's cheap, quick and efficient but it comes at a price. With a single tube and bus journey starting from £1.50, these purchases can soon add up with a minimum of £3 being spent daily to commute to and from work. This doesn't even include transport for going out on weekends or any other activities during the week. Taxis are also money consuming, even though they are useful in helping me get from one place to another in comfort and with added privacy, these journeys can start from around £5 and cost upwards of £20. I started to walk to work, which saved me £3 a day on travel, as well as helping me get fitter and allowing me to enjoy the wonderful weather London has at the moment. Rather than getting a taxi I use the bus or tube, even though it costs £1.50, it's much better than it costing nearly quadruple the price in a taxi.
2. Generic vs Named Brands - Saving £10-30 a month
This is something that can save money very quickly since it can be used in all aspects of life: food, clothing, medicines, toiletries as well as cleaning products. Even though I wouldn't go as far to make ever single food item an supermarket brand, there are some food items such as pasta that are a lot cheaper than branded as I've seen 500g of penne pasta for just 30p. Many clothing brands boast about their reputation and their name being recognisable yet these items are overpriced and can be bought in other clothing retailers for better than half the price (just without the logo). My favourite way of saving is buying own branded medicine, this has easily saved me money since I constantly suffer with headaches I buy a pack of paracetamol being 30p for 16 capsules rather than branded names being around £3/4. They both do the same job in my opinion and there is no point spending more money than necessary on something only you will see.
3. Food & Drink - Saving £50 a month
As much as it seems unrealistic to save £50 solely on food and drink, it is very easy once you start to cut out the obvious yet unimportant things. I used to buy a bottle of water when I was at work since it would be cold and it would save me the effort of doing this at home. When I counted up how much I had spent on water alone, it came to just over £25. I nearly cried when I had seen that I had spent that much on water and then decided I would reuse a bottle from work and fill the water from a jug (that filters the water) from my fridge. Since I currently work in a supermarket, it has it perks, since I finish work the same time second reductions have begun. This meaning I'm able to get at least 75% from the retail price from items such as fruits and vegetables to a whole leg of lamb. As much as people argue that this food is "bad" since it's expiring that day, there is no harm in freezing it and then defrosting it when it's needed. Some of my friends have even got £80 worth of shopping for less than £15 since they shopped just before closing when supermarkets are desperate to get rid of food expiring that day.
4. Do you really need those ______ ? - Saving £20-40 a month
Do you really need those shoes? Do you? Do you really need them when you have dozens of pairs at home? These are the questions I ask myself now when shopping since I'm one of those people who impulse buys since they "need" that certain item. Unless my clothes have ripped or my shoes have holes in them, I don't need to buy anymore than I need to - when something rips or breaks then replace it, don't buy something you don't need and might not wear. When going through my wardrobe I had found tons of tops and dresses that I didn't even know I had, which led me to have a massive clear out of the clothes I wore and the ones I didn't, with the clothes I didn't wear either going to charity or being sold.
5. Doing your own beauty treatments - Saving £30 a month
I love feeling pampered by going to get a manicure and a pedicure done, yet I don't feel pampered when I see the hefty price tag that comes along with it. The salon I have been going to for years charges around £15 for a manicure and pedicure, which I admit is cheap, yet soon adds up when this is done once or twice a month. To save money I bought a nail varnish colour and a nail hardener, which was as cheap as £3 for both items, which allowed me to do my nails whenever I wanted to since I could do it from the comfort of my own home and without paying out each time. Another way I learnt to save money was to do my own waxing, admittedly the lady I go to is a professional, when I go on holiday I could spend up to £50 on waxing (I'm very ashamed to admit that). To change this I bought waxing strips from a health and beauty retailer and braved the pain, which first time left me with a waxing strip stuck to my leg and me in tears trying to rip it off without bringing my skin with it. Regardless over time I began to get better and the results were similar to those of a salon.
6. Gym Membership - Saving £30 a month
When joining the gym I was surprised to find out I had to pay £20 upfront as well as paying £27.99 a month for the membership. The gym was about a 20 minute walk from my house, that alone being a task in itself, put me off going when it was raining or if the weather forecast said it would rain later on. The equipment itself in the gym is worth the money but when walking through a park nearby my house one day I found similar equipment in a section dedicated to being an outdoor gym. I then cancelled my gym membership and started going to this gym, not only was it completely free but I was able to go there whenever I wanted to since it was so close to my house. Another great thing is that you're not cooped up inside with the smell of sweat filling the air but unfortunately this means you're stuck indoors if it begins to rain.
7. Going Out (Or Should I Say Staying In) - Saving £20 a month
Living in London is very expensive. I mean very very expensive. With restaurants costing around £15-20 per person for a main course and either a starter or dessert as well as a drink, these outings can come at a price if done frequently. Why go out for a meal when you can cook for your friends from your home, you could even make it so that each week or each fortnight you take turns to cook for each other. Not only is this an easy way to save money but it means you get to spend time with your friends in an intimate place where you can watch a film or even just talk privately without being surrounded by music and other guests. With this meal you could also bring a bottle of wine, if you and your friends drink, since pubs charge ridiculous amounts for a single glass (so much that you could buy the bottle of wine for that price). I remember the first time I bought a drink from the pub became my last, when ordering a single vodka and coke I was charged £4.50, I could hear my debit card crying when I had finished paying for it. Let me tell you it was my only drink that night, preferably since I wasn't about to spend £4.50 on another one.
8. Smoking, Energy Drinks, Fast Food & Coffee - Saving £10-50 a month (depending on if you smoke, eat fast food or drink coffee or energy drinks)
Smoking is a very expensive habit, I'm not going to suggest giving up smoking straight away since I know it's a very difficult habit to give up as many of my friends and family members smoke. However, smoking is detrimental to your health as well as your wallet since a pack of 20 cigarettes can cost up to £12, even the cheaper packets are around £8.50. If you started to reduce the amount you smoke even by a packet a week, that can save nearly £10 a week which then leads to you to saving £40 a month. The same goes for energy drinks and fast food, as much as they're a purchase of habit, I find they're not the best for your body. I gave up fast food around a year ago as well as cutting down my energy drink intake and it has made my health much better as well as my bank balance.
9. Only Use Cash When Going Out - Saving £25 a month
As mentioned before I'm an impulse buyer, I won't worry about the price until I read it on my statement and then regret it. Since technology has evolved people are now able to pay for items with just a tap of a card - no hassle of putting in your card and entering your pin. This makes it even easier to buy items since in the time it takes for the payment to be verified, your brain still hasn't thought of the actual money being spent. If you bring £20 out with you and see something for £25, that's tough. You'll just have to put it back and come back when you have enough money (don't steal it). This limiting what you can buy with just physical cash and preventing you from spending tons of money on a day out, in which you could do if you had your debit card on you.
10. Sharing a House/Living at Home - Saving upwards of £200 a month
Some people are afraid to admit they live at home, not me, I'm proud to say I live at home since being single and at the time of writing this blog post I'm 18 - I don't have enough to even think of moving out and no reason to. I pay for all my own bills and pay my parents housekeeping each month which contributes towards food and household bills but this is a lot cheaper than the rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in London. Another cheaper alternative would be living with friends since it would mean bills get split between more people which then makes it a lot cheaper.
11. Phone Plan - Saving £5-10 a month
When looking for phones and tariffs that go along with them, it's important to think about whether it's cheaper to buy the phone and the tariff separately or buying it as part of a contract. With my phone tariff, which is £26 a month for an iPhone SE with unlimited calls and texts as well as 4GB of data each month, which I consider good value for money as I make a lot of phone calls and text a lot of people. My contract lasts 12 months so in these months it would have cost me £312 for the phone and the tariff through my contract. If I had bought the phone by itself it would have cost me around £270 and the tariff being around £10 each month which altogether would have cost me £390 - saving me around £80 altogether.
12. Second Hand Items - Saving £5-10 a month
There is absolutely nothing wrong with second hand items, whether they're from a charity shop or a library, they still are fit for their purpose but just might not look in the best condition. One of my favourite things to do on a hot day in London is sit in the park and read but books that are brand new can cost between £5 and £10, which would be costly in the long run. For this price I could buy around 5 books from a charity shop and then pass them on to a friend or donate them back to a charity shop. Another alternative which is completely free is borrowing books from a library however these have a limited time frame in which they need to be read in and returned by.
13. Cinema Pass - Saving £60 a month
I love going to the cinema, whether it be to watch a horror movie or a comedy, it's something I do more than once a week. Nevertheless, going to the cinema has become very expensive with a ticket for an adult costing around £12, a ridiculous amount to see a film that on average lasts around an hour and a half. I purchased a Odeon Limitless Pass which costs me £17.99 a month and I can see an unlimited amount of movies, with restrictions of course, but still it's very good value for money. When I purchased this I went to the cinema twice in one day, so in one day I had already gotten my money back for the month plus more towards next month. In September 2017 I watched 11 films, which should have cost me around £132 but only cost me £17.99 since I had used my Limitless Pass.
14. Bringing Your Own Lunch To Work - Saving £60 a month
Meal deals, which usually consist of a sandwich, a drink and a bag of crisps, usually cost about £3. As much as these tend to be good value for money, they can be an unsurprising weight on your bank account. If you spent £3 each day for 5 days during the week, it would cost around £15 (not much so far considering what you get) but if you done this every week for a month it would then cost around £60 (that is a lot for sandwiches, crisps and a drink). Instead of paying £3 for a meal deal I bring my own lunch to work, this consists of a sandwich, a drink (which was bought as a multi pack) and a bag of crisps (which was also bought as a multi pack) which brings my total cost of lunch each day to less than 50p. This saves me the time and effort in work of going back onto the shop floor and figuring out what I wanted to buy, which has wasted nearly a third of my break in the past.
15. The best things in life are free! - Saving £20 a month
I enjoy going out at the weekend since it gives me a chance to do something other than work. In London activities tend to be on the more expensive side but there are hundreds of interesting and enjoyable activities to do in London that cost absolutely nothing. Museums that are free include the National Gallery and The Science Museum as well as talking a walk along South Bank. There are hundreds of parks around London that not only are free but host some of the best views of London.
Some of these tips may seem completely obvious but some of us are so unaware of how much we're spending due to habit of doing it. Even cutting back on the smallest of things can save at least £50 a month towards a holiday or your travels, this equates to £600 a year in which I could get two and a half holidays out of (including flights, hotels and activities).
Tips and tricks for all aspects of travelling, most of which include saving money.