Thursday, 29 May 2014

HOW TO: Book a Thrifty Holiday!



I like to think I've built a bit of a reputation as someone who can plan a very thrifty holiday. Subsequently, as a result of my talents, I get roped into the role of 'travel agent' for my friends on a regular basis. But I don't mind, because I weirdly love the thrill of finding a good holiday bargain.  My personal bests so far have have included finding a flight from London to Poland for £4 (tax included) or some return flights from London to Morocco for just £40. Last summer, myself and Trig took off on a month long tour of the East Coast of America, starting in Oslo, moving through New York and Miami and the Bahamas, ending up in Mexico (and unexpectedly, Frankfurt, Germany) which we did, accommodation, flights and all, for under £1300 each. You can read more about that here, which in fact was my first ever blog post.

At the beginning of this year, I resolved to try and go somewhere exciting every month, which has been a hard task to live up to, but I am just about managing it. May was a bit lack lustre on the old adventure front, aside from a few work related trips to the capital, but June will more than make up for it with not just one, but two thrifty holidays. Next weekend, I'm going on a girly trip to Romania with three of my favourite girls, which we've done for a bargain £60 each, which is exciting as we haven't had an adventure since we all explored the beautiful city of Venice several years ago. The week after I'll also be jetting off for 5 days to Portugal with my friend Penny for around £100 for the week. Bring on the cocktails!

Like everyone, money is an issue for me, but my desire to travel and somehow balance all my responsibilities outweighs any need to hoard my cash. However, given the choice, I'd rather find a way to do both, so I've over time I've devised clever ways to stretch my pennies and still have some thrifty adventures.

Here are the best tips that I've picked up over the years;

FLIGHTS:

1. Gone are the days when 'all inclusive' meant 'exclusive' for those with loads of dosh. If you don't want to do all the searching for flights and accomodation yourself, there are a few sites that offer amazing deals. I found an all inclusive in Portugal during the winter months for £100, in a four star hotel for a week, including flights, on the Holiday Discount Centre, whose deals are ATOL protected (don't get stuck in Mexico like we did!) Most of the time though, it is cheaper to book things individually, and though its time consuming, its kind of fun when you get into it and start uncovering the bargains! Discount sites are gold dust for holidays too. Groupon, who are worldwide, regularly list lots of package deals with huge discounts, as well as sites like KGBdeals and Wowcher.

2. Use price comparison sites. This is obvious but there is no one trick to finding a cheap flight, it involves your time and lots of searching. Skyscanner is great because it allows you to type the general country you are leaving from rather than specify an airport, which is worth doing, because sometimes the difference is worth the extra train fare. It also allows you to type 'everywhere' as a destination, and choose an entire month to travel in, so if you're not picky about your exact destination or exact dates this can instantly identify the cheapest places to travel to.

You should also check out;

- Edreams (UK)
- TravelSupermarket
- Easyjet (for europe)


Another tip, if you are flying more than once, is to check for airline sites in the Country you'll be traveling from and try to use their websites. It's worth remembering that flight comparison sites charge you extra to make a commission, plus, there are often airlines that aren't featured on price comparison sites. I once searched on a Spanish airline site to fly from Barcelona to Portugal and found a flight for £14, even though the english price comparison sites were quoting hundreds. Just make sure it is ATOL protected!

2. Be aware that flights fluctuate depending on the time of year. It's much cheaper to fly between Oct - March compared to the summer months, because demand is higher for holidaymakers at that point in the year. So you can grab a bargain if you're willing to fly in winter, which lets face it, is when you're desperate to get away from the bad weather anyway!

3. Round the World trips with STA Travel - This summer, in late Sept, myself and Trig are flying from London to Istanbul, then onto Singapore, and up to Bangkok and then back to London, for £500 each. This is an absolute bargain and the only way we could do it was through booking through a round the world giant like STA, who get such great deals on these kind of flights. Round the world trips are amazing, as you get to see more and save on your flying, but be aware that you need to usually spend a minimum of 3 weeks away.

Accommodation:

1. My top tip of all time is most definitely Airbnb. We stayed in New York for five nights for around £100 for both of us in Upper Manhattan, in the most amazing apartment with amazing company, when hotels were quoting us 6 times that amount. There are other sites similar to this but I believe Airbnb is the most prolific. You essentially get the privacy of a hotel and a lock on your door, but in a real persons house or apartment (or sometimes you can opt to take the place for yourself). I always liked the idea of couch surfing without actually having to stay on someones couch, and this is it. You get to meet local people, and honestly, I don't think I would have stumbled on half the locally best kept secrets without this trick up my sleeve.

2. Price comparison sites are good for accommodation too, Alpharooms has proven to be one of the best for me, but also check out Travelsupermarket, and Booking.com.

3. You can sign up to be a house sitter and take on assignments across the world and get free accomodation in the process, in return for taking care of beloved pets, or just minding the property. This is equally great if you have pets yourself, we might be trying this if we ever need a sitter for our kitten, Jives! Check out TrustedHouseSitters where you can research assignments without signing up with the site.

4. Voucher and deals sites like Groupon often have cheap accomodation and hotel deals listed. Search for the relevant Groupon site in your area. If you're in the UK, Dealzippy is great because it lists most of the deals on other voucher sites (there are now so many!) in one place.

Another tip is to check out the Groupon site of the country you are traveling to, for tour or restaurant deals. We've eaten out in style by planning in advance and buying a few Groupons!

So there is a handful of my thrifty travelling tips! Enjoy - and happy travelling :)

Do you have any travelling tips? I'd love to hear them!

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Happy kids inc Bloglovin Blog hop May


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Tuesday, 27 May 2014

My Top 5 Current Trends!

I've realised recently that I have a tendency to opt for certain styles whilst shopping, and totally ignore entire trends just because I'm not sure whether they'd be right for me. I've always stuck with safe clothes that I know will work, because I know if I let myself, I have the potential to make strange fashion choices. Not that it matters what everyone else thinks, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable in your own skin but, come on lets face it, it matters a bit.

I first learnt that I had a bit of an imaginative fashion streak when I got all excited at about the age of 10 by a bright blue blazer that my auntie was throwing away, and wore it to an own clothes day at school. Now, there were some definite fashion faux pas in the form of 80's hand me downs before the age of 10, but this one was clearly my doing. It was very much noticed by my classmates, not least because it had gigantic shoulder pads that swallowed me up almost whole.  Continuing further down this train of thought, and whilst we're in the spirit of sharing, there was also  the mild attempt at a Cyberdog phase (where I tied a load of coloured ribbons in my hair and actually left the house) and my brief flirtation with being a goth. Not a good look for a pale ginger like me.

However I can trust in my own sense of knowledge in my shape and what works and what doesn't. With this in mind, and with the intention of not getting stuck too much in old habits, I decided to put together a list of items of clothing inspired by summer 2014 trends that I'm currently considering adding to my repertoire.



1. Cigarette Trousers  & Metallic Trousers

I've been seeing these around and I've decided its time to break my no patterned trousers rule (I tend to try and tone down my lower half).  On that note, I'm also loving patterned, loose trousers in general. These ones are from ASOS, but I'll be searching for a bargain on Ebay with my ever thrifty head on!



2. Open toed shoes


OK, this is not a fashion revelation at all. You may be wondering why this is even on the list as it's pretty much an essential for most people EVERY summer. This might sound really sad, and I'm desperately hoping someone empathises with me here, but I hate my feet. I generally wear closed toe heels which is really quite sad as there are so many pretty peep toe shoes that I want to welcome into the fold of my shoe cabinet. (and by that I mean my bedroom floor).  So this summer I'm going to get a pedicure and go for it. They're only feet, right?

I'm really liking these open toed heel sandals from Lulu, which would look great with a nice pair of jeans.







3. Crop tops

The crop top usually conjures up scary 90's images for me.  But I've been seeing some great crop tops around lately and, if done correctly, I think the crop top can actually look really cool. They're back in fashion so we may as well embrace them! I'm particularly loving high waisted skirts so that you are in actual fact only showing a small section of midriff, rather than the whole thing (I have somewhat of a way to go before I'm quite toned enough to do that).





 4. 60's Flower Power I actually love a good 60's inspired outfit, and I do venture to this from time to time. But I generally avoid floral, as people already think I'm floaty enough as it is without going down the frumpy route. But this kind of floral is cool, as is the fitted floral skirt above.




 
 5. Blazers

In a complete 180, and back where I started, I'm going to face my cringey memories and consider the blazer as a good fashion choice. I was clearly wise beyond my years back then, as there are lots of them on the high street now, reigniting the 80's vibe, like this one from Misguided. Blazers ARE great because they smarten up casual outfits and are the right kind of jacket attire for UK summer weather, too. Perfect!





So I guess my message is, BE BRAVE this season, and try something new that you wouldn't normally consider!

What are your summer must haves?

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Glossybox vs Birchbox - May haul!

I think its clear that over the course of the last few months I have become a bit obsessed with beauty boxes. Birchbox and Glossybox are quite similar in their approaches, both cost the same (about £12.95 with postage and packaging) and both send out a similar number of samples. I'm a subscriber to both boxes, and I receive them both at the same time each month, so I'm sampling a good number of products quite regularly!

This month, Birchbox went on quite a classic route, with samples from Liz Earle, which I loved, and brands such as Benefit, which is always good. Glossybox dedicated their box to Superdrug brands to celebrate their anniversary, with a few extra samples to boot.



This month I received:

Birchbox:



Soigne Nail Lacquer in Pomegranate: I LOVE this colour, and the packaging looks great. But unfortunately, nail varnishes never last for me, and within 10 minutes I had chipped nails. I'm heavy handed though, so this may well work for a less clumsy person.  See this post for my take on actually getting chip free nails!
Beauty Protector Protect & Shampoo and Protect & Condition sample bottles (£14 each full size): Beauty protector has released a range of products to guard against future damage, whilst healing damaged hair. Mine does undertake a regular battering, so I was very pleased with these samples! It has some super nourishing treatments, like honey pearl powder, and my hair has been really soft since I started using it.
Aromatherapy Revive Morning Bath & Shower Oil sample (£39 full size): This is very luxurious smelling and is relaxing, thumbs up!
Benefit They're Real! Sample bottle (£19.50 full size): This has been heralded as the alternative to false lashes, and although for me nothing really compares to the real thing (check out my post on false lashes here) they do seperate the lashes effectively, and lengthens well. This is my go to mascara of choice anyway, and I had just run out when this box arrived, so this was in the nick of time!
Liz Earle Beauty Co Cleanse & Polish (£13.25 full size): This is a somewhat cheaper version of Eve Lom Cleanse & Polish, and comes with a muslin cloth. It's got a rich texture to it and smells lovely, and the process of removing it with the cloth does leave the skin feeling very clean. It removes eye makeup too, which is a bonus. I can't compare it to the Eve Lom version, but its on my checklist of things to try!

Verdict: I LOVED this box - it was like birchbox was reading my mind and knew exactly what I needed this month! Even though I don't really like receiving nail polishes, this has been one of my favourite polishes that I have received in a box (colour wise) so even the worst for me was a good shout this month.

Glossybox - what I received:






GHOST Fragrances Eclipse sample (£33 full size): I do like Ghost scents, and this is fruity and summery!


John Frieda Frizz-Ease Original & Effects Serum (full size £3.99): My hair is pretty curly naturally, and when left alone its a bit of a roulette. It either curls up nicely or forms a frizzy, untamed mess. Luckily with this in place I've felt much safer relying on it to do the former.

Collection Bronze Glow Mosaic (one size £2.99): I was initially a bit skeptic about this, as I'm not much of a mosaic bronzer fan. It does leave a sunkissed look, though.

Maybelline New York Colorshow Crystallize Nail Polish - Nearly Black: I can't comment on this one, as I'm not feeling the black nails now that summer is finally here and plus, my views on regular nail polish have been made clear! I've not yet attempted this one.

Garnier Oil Beauty Lotion sample (£4.99 for 250ml): This looks fab, but I've got to confess I've not yet tried this yet as it seems to have vanished (I don't ever remember seeing it?!) However my box states that I recieved it so perhaps it disappeared in my flurry of excitement opening the box. It's got argan, macademia, almond and rose oil which re-invigorates the skin, so if it turns up I'll certainly be trying it.


B. Sheer Conditioning Lipstick (One size £6.99): The vitamin E, shea butter and aloe vera leave your lips feeling soft with a touch of colour. Perfect as a lip balm/colour all in one!


Scholl Velvet Smooth Overnight Mask (full size £7.99): I don't look after my feet nearly enough, and after being treated to this they felt pampered and great.


Verdict: I loved all of the products in Birchbox, its possibly one of my favourite boxes from them to date, so that is pretty hard to beat. I was initially disappointed that the Glossybox was only full of  budget products (don't get me wrong, I love a good budget product, but I like a range of samples from budget to high end). However, the fact that so many of them are full sized and they added a few bonus products does go a way to balancing this out. For me, Birchbox was way more exciting this month, and I got to try products I was really curious about, whereas most of the Superdrug products I had tried already as they are so easily available. Birchbox is the winner for me!

Are you a beauty box subscriber? Have you tried any of the products listed?

x

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Happy kids inc Bloglovin Blog hop May


Your Devoted Host:

Meg Hodson Happy Kids Inc Bloglovin' Blog Hop Blogging

Your Lovely Co-Hosts:

Nummy For My Tummy Bloglovin' Blog Hop Blogging    The Thrifty Firecracker Bloglovin' Blog Hop Blogging    I am the makeup junkie Bloglovin' Blog Hop Blogging


Life Between the Books Bloglovin' Blog Hop Blogging     Downsizing Ashley Blog Bloglovin' Blog Hop Blogging    A Moment in My World Bloglovin' Blog Hop Blogging


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3.  Visit a few other bloggers in the linky, say "hello", and give them a follow.
4.  Tweet and share this hop!


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