10 Things to do before you go on holiday

Going on holiday is always exciting, but if you’re like me and leave things to the last minute, panic can set in during those final hours before getting on the plane. Here are my go to things to do before going on holiday:

1. Make sure your passport is in date – actually probably best you check this before you even book your holiday. Some countries require 6 months from your return date, so best check beforehand, especially as passport offices can be particularly busy during certain times of the year. One year my daughter’s passport turned up 2 days before I flew, not something I ever want to repeat!

2. Consider hand luggage only – do you really need 8 pairs of shoes? If you’re trying to save money, taking hand luggage only is a great way to save. The only set back is getting liquids on board, but if you decant your favourite shampoo/moisturiser into smaller pots (100ml or less) you can squeeze quite a few items into the small clear bags. You can also share the allowance with friends. Each person is allowed 1 clear bag, so fill up as many as possible. If you aren’t allowed to take a handbag (EasyJet can be strict on this), grab a duty free bag (they might charge 5p) and put your handbag in that before boarding the plane.

3. Check in online – this might sound obvious, but if you don’t, you could end up with unexpected charges at the airport. In addition, if you have your boarding pass on your phone, make sure you have enough battery to get you through to the plane.

4. Write a list – ok, so I know this is a list, but often there are other bits that need to be done in the lead up to going on holiday (getting money, packing toothbrush, put the bins out etc.). It’s best to write a list and put it somewhere you’re likely to see it, cross off as you have done things, that way it’ll be clearer to see what’s left to do.

5. Empty the fridge – this is from personal experience…green stinky cheese, soggy veg and lumpy milk is not something you want to come back to after a week or 2 away.

6. Pack, unpack then pack again – most people pack way too much, me included! I like to grab all the clothes out on the bed that I WANT to take, sort outfits with shoes, pack, realise I don’t have 14 suitcases, empty the bag and start again. This time working out how many outfits I can wear with each pair of shoes, ditching ones which don’t have multiple wears. I still manage to have a different evening outfit for every night.

7. Turn off unnecessary electrics (air fresheners etc.) – it won’t just save money, but will reduce the risk of fire.

8. Close the windows – most insurance companies won’t pay out if you have left the house unsecured, you are also more at risk of burglary if the windows are open and there hasn’t been any movement in the house for a few days.

9. Ask a friend/family to keep an eye on the house – 99% of the time, there won’t be a problem, but if you did forget to close the window, it’s best to get someone to check the house is safe.

10. Clean the house – the last thing you want to do when you come back from holiday is to clean, but with the holiday washing to do, there will be an inevitable amount, why make it worse by leaving the house in a mess.

Now you should be relaxed enough to enjoy a glass of wine at the airport (yes it is acceptable at 7am!), but keep an eye on the screens, DON’T MISS YOUR FLIGHT!

5 Reasons I Won’t Do All Inclusive

  • Don’t get me wrong, I have done all inclusive before and there is something of a luxury feel about it, but it just isn’t for me. Here are some reasons why I am not likely to do it again.

1. I do not want to fight over sun beds. If you haven’t seen the videos of tourists queuing up at some silly hour in the morning, just to make sure they get a sun lounger, then look it up on YouTube, it’s quite depressing.

2. I like real food. I appreciate that some all inclusive resorts do provide more than the standard buffets, but I want to try the local food, how they cook it, not just mass prepared.

3. Being all inclusive often means you want to get your money’s worth, which often means you don’t tend to leave the resort as much as you would if you had to go and find somewhere to eat/drink. I love walking around the local towns and getting “lost” where I can.


4. You aren’t helping the local economy; you might think you are just by being there, but the small independent shops, restaurants and bars are losing money because people aren’t eating/drinking out as much. Towns are becoming more sun spots than points of interest.

5. You can often get better deals by booking the flights and hotels separately. By shopping around and being more flexible, you can tailor the price to suit your needs.

How often do you stay all inclusive? Would you consider switching?

6 things you might want to know

I’m writing this whilst sat on a plane, flying to Kos. I have had the standard questions asked, so I thought I would share the answers to some of those questions with you:

You’re looking brown, do you live in (insert destination)?

No, I have been to Italy and Portugal recently, plus I am half Maltese, so tan easily.

Wow! So how do you afford to go on so many holidays?

I have a strict budget; I shop at Lidl, I stick to a shopping list and I book in advance, after looking at the best deals. At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post about how I would save so I could travel, these tips worked for me, so give them a go.

What about work, how do you get so much time off?

I get 28 days plus bank holidays. It’s a reasonable amount, I book as many as possible at the beginning of the year. This means that I know the dates I am planning on going away, it also means I can search the best flight prices, so even if I can’t afford to book the flights straight away, I know that the prices will be the cheapest for that time. I can always change the holiday dates at work. Also by booking early, I can plan as many holidays as possible around the bank holidays, so I use less days.

You have a daughter and a dog though, where do they go?

I’m very lucky! This I will admit is not the easiest thing to arrange. My family don’t live close by, so I can’t ask them to look after my girls. I do, however, have some fantastic friends, who have been so kind in looking after them both. I am always happy to have their daughter/dog in return, as I understand people need a break from their loved ones…even if they are closer to them than I am mine!

Where are you going next?

My next holiday is a family holiday. I’m making my annual trip to Malta to spend time with the family. This is the one trip I wish I could take the dog with me, but until Ryanair allow dogs on the planes, I will have to keep hoping my friends stay as generous as they are.

Do you ever travel alone?

Yes! I flew to Orlando a few years back on my own and drove around. I got lost a fair bit and didn’t plan my stays very well (who knew you needed a credit card for most hotels!), but I got out of my comfort zone, I did something I always wanted to do, and I met some nice people along the way.

I would do it again, but I would definitely plan it a bit better. I would also get sat nav in the car!

I don’t know where to start!

Ask yourself what you want from your holiday; is it a quick break, a city trip, anywhere with sun, time out from family. By knowing what you want, you can plan, save and book. Ultimately, the only thing stopping you, is you!

Sunrise after a long night

Inspiring Me Lately

I’ve been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster this month, but a few people have inspired me to remain positive along the way.

I managed my first proper solo gym sessions without my personal trainer. I’m always a bit nervous when I go to the gym on my own, as I think I’m doing things wrong, but the trainers and users of 180 Strength are really supportive and help me through my workouts. (Special thanks to Lucy, who I’d never met before, for lending me her water bottle after I smashed mine).

Squeezing all the muscles haha

On Tuesday I had a bit of a mental breakdown followed by a breakthrough. Rob Stewart, my PT, got me doing box step ups, which I had avoided since tearing my ACL. There were tears, but only after I had got out of my head and achieved what I needed to, so tears of success. Rob always pushes me enough to get me through the task, without making me want to throw weights at him!

I went to see Wonder Woman last weekend, walked out of the cinema feeling like I could take on the world. I’ve never considered myself as a feminist, but I really felt a strong female role model was needed, and she does that. I liked it so much, I went to see it again on Wednesday.

(Side note) I’ve not been having a great time at work lately, but received a PRIDE award following a nomination from my colleague. Sometimes, a small bit of gratitude makes the biggest difference. So remember, if someone has helped you, make sure you acknowledge it. Biscuiteers do a great thank you biscuit selection, if you are stuck for ideas, but if you didn’t want to spend money, just a quick message to let them know how much they’re appreciated.

I hope I inspire you to do something positive, but if not me, then who has inspired you lately?

This time next year – May 2018

Well thanks for this Louise Bodle, I’m so useless at setting to goals, I normally blame it on not knowing where I want to be, but really it’s fear for the increased risk of failure.

This is the second time this subject has come up this week, so here goes:

THE RULES
-Thank the person who tagged you – check out Louise’s goals here
-Set yourself some goals for the next year
-Explain how you’re going to achieve these goals
-Tag at least five of your blogger friends
-And finally in a years time, 365 days write a post reflecting on your goals and what you managed to achieve. 

1. I start back at the gym tomorrow after a long period off following an injury. My first goal is to keep it up. My size fluctuates greatly and for once I’d like to look back over the year and see progress, not failure in maintaining.

2. Start saving for travelling. I previously wrote about how I would start to save here, I have managed to book a few holidays, but I really want to think about the long term and taking a year out to see more of the world.

3. Increase my social media following, this is probably the hardest, as I can’t control what other people like to read, but if I can be more social physically, I hope it will increase naturally.

4. Improve my self-esteem and trust issues. This is the most important to me, as it has impacted on my life negatively for so long. I can only improve this by letting people in, so say “hi”, let’s meet for dinner and enjoy being friends.

Well they’re some pretty tough goals for me, let’s see how I go next year (setting myself a reminder in case I forget). I will tag some people on twitter, can’t wait to read your goals.

Yo! Eat Me

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I love my food, if you don’t, WHY NOT?! I was invited* to Yo! (Formally known as Yo! Sushi ) to try the new Japanese street style menu. People immediately declined the invite because they “don’t do sushi” which is frustrating as sushi is just the style of rice and not just raw fish. They missed out as there were loads of tasty dishes to try.

I stupidly gave up meat for lent and decided not to eat it afterwards (except once by choice, and possibly another time when drunk and unable to work out if it had meat in or not). I’ve continued to eat seafood, it’s just too nice!

Going to Yo! I thought I would be fed plenty of fish and veggie dishes, but there were lots of meaty dishes too. I nearly caved at the Chicken Bullet Train Katsu Sando (chicken sandwich), which was the first dish to come out. It smelt so good! The head chef gave me some of the sauce to try, which was good, but pretty sure not as amazing as it would have been smothered on the chicken.

Bullet Train Katsu Sando


The night got more difficult for me as the the Fruity Beef Katsu came out, basically a Japanese beef burger patty, but I powered through and drank green cocktails instead!

Fruity Beef Katsu


One of the waiting staff, Dee, saw I was struggling with not eating (my hangry face was coming out), so got me some Harusame Aubergine, I didn’t expect to like it as aubergine can be quite dull, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Harusame Aubergine


As the night went on, I tried lots of new dishes, the Sweet & Sour Cod Nanbanzuke was my favourite and from around the benches seemed to be most people’s favourite. I was most disappointed by the Osaka-Style Squid, I love squid, but this was just too salty for me.

Sweet & Sour Cod Nanbanzuke

I was full after 3 dishes (I was concerned I wouldn’t get full from the small tapas style dishes), which would have cost me around £15.00, which I think is reasonable for a meal out. The dishes are colour coded by price ranging from £2.20 to £6.00 per dish (or £9.00 if you want to “Sumo” size it). See the full menu here

Will I go back?! YES! I love sushi anyway, so I want to try more, but I also want to try more of the hot street-style food.

Blossom – prawn with avocado and tuna sushi


Seared Beef & Pickle Roll


Natalie from Yo! – matching outfit to menu, good work

*I didn’t pay, nor did I get paid, nobody asked me to write this post, it’s my own opinion blah blah blah.

Malta Travel Tips

I can’t believe having visited my family in Malta so many times over the years, I have never written a blog post with tips. Following a twitter HolidayChat with Ice Lolly Holiday I was asked for suggestions, so here goes:

1. Avoid driving! Whilst the Maltese drive on the same side of the road as the UK, the drivers haven’t got the same attitude to the Highway Code. The public transport isn’t great, but you can pretty much get a bus over the island if you’re prepared to wait. I previously wrote about the best way to travel, this still stands.

2. Eat Maltese food, but if you want the tastiest choices, go before 12pm.
These are my favourites:

Imqaret – best ones from the gates of Valetta – date filled sweet pastry

Pastizzi – best ones from outside Mosta Rotunda – ricotta or pea stuffed flaky pastry

Tuna Ftira – I’ve never had a bad one, although they are slightly different in Gozo – a massive tuna sandwich, but that does not do it justice

3. Visit during a feast. Ok well Malta has festas pretty much all year round, but it is worth checking to see what’s on when you go, Festas often have lots of fireworks that would make you think they’ll never end! Malta is a catholic country and still pride themselves on celebrating traditions.

4. The Maltese learn English from an early age, and whilst I would always suggest learning basic words when travelling abroad, the Maltese will not hold it against you for not trying. That being said, my grandparents would be disappointed if I didn’t offer help (as with my Faro tips, complete with dodgy pronunciation):

Please – jekk jogħġbok (yeck yorsh bock)
Thank you – grazzi (grat see)
I don’t understand – jien ma nifhimx (yen mah nif him sshh)

5. There are plenty of places to visit and this post would go on forever if I listed all the places I love, but here are a few must see places

Valetta (get a 5 minute ferry from St Julian’s) – be sure to visit Upper Barrakka Gardens at 12pm or 4pm to see The Saluting Battery (cannon goes kaboom).

From Valetta you can get a bus to most places on the island.

Marsaxlokk is a fishing village at the south of the island, filled with colourful boats, fresh fish and on a Sunday morning markets full of things to see and buy.

Mosta Rotunda, famous for its unexploded WWII bomb, which came through the roof and miraculously killed no one. The bomb is still there today.

Gozo is an island which is north of Malta, and whilst it is Maltese, it has its differences. Gozo used to be famous for the Azure Window rock formation, which sadly fell into the sea earlier this year, but there are still plenty of places to wander around.

Mdina is actually my favourite place in Malta. The walled city, often called silent city, as not many cars can drive inside it, has small walkways and shops as well as museums squeezed into its protective shell. I can’t explain the feeling I get when I drive past on the way to my parents, but I suppose the best description would be beautifully safe.

Part of me wanted to send this off to my family to cross check, but I have visited so much, I’m starting to consider it a second home…much to my Dad’s despair! Have you been? Where was your favourite place?

10 Tips to Faro

I am writing this after a rude awakening this morning, from my stomach (I’ll leave it there, but you can probably guess what I mean).

I am lying awake in a hotel bed on the Portuguese coast of Praia de Faro. When I first arrived in the hotel Aeromar, I laughed at how dated it was, with its woollen blankets, dark wood furniture and the bathroom with its 50’s style hairdryer and dodgy shower. I broke the shower head as it fell from the wall within seconds and didn’t really hold out much hope for the rest of the stay. In my best Portuguese (thanks Google translate), I went down to reception to explain what had happened, half expecting a “meh” response, the guy didn’t bat an eyelid though, said he couldn’t promise it would be fixed straight away, but would be done that day. When I got back to the room a few hours later, it was all sorted, I then started to feel the charm about this small hotel by the beach.

The location is perfect, only a few minutes by bus from the airport, beach on one side, nature reserve (great for spotting long beaked birds (I know nothing about birds!)) on the other side, 20 minutes by bus to Faro city, where you can catch a train or boat to various locations and sunrises/sets to boast about. The loud Portuguese music that plays on a Tuesday night till midnight adds to the charm. Being so close to the airport I considered the noise, but in fact the planes are more of a rumble, in Faro city however, they can be quite loud as they fly overhead.

Here are some of my tips if you visit:

1. Learn some basic phrases, a little bit of effort to speak the language goes a long way. The Portuguese are very friendly and seem proud of their language, so will happily help you pick up more. Here is some key ones to help along with my weird pronunciation guide:

Thank you – Obrigado (male), Obrigada (female) – Ob-ree-guard-oh

Please – Por favor – Pour-fah-vore

I don’t understand – Eu nao intentendo – Ooh-no-intend-oh

Do you speak English? – Voce fala Ingles? – Voss-fal-ah-ing-lays

2. Visit the cathedral in Faro city and climb the bell tower and take in the views. Be sure to take some binoculars (I admit I’m a geek).

3. Wear comfortable shoes. A lot of places along the Algarve have slippery cobbled stones, flip flops and heels won’t cut it.

4. Walk down the side streets. Some of the tiled walls and architecture of the buildings are fantastic to look at, I wish the UK had more colourful houses.

5. Take a boat trip. I was told by a local to take the train to Lagos, as the best caves are over there. Sadly, it is just under 2 hours by train and we didn’t get up early enough, so instead we got the hotel to book a trip from Vilamoura marina which included the taxi there and back. It was convenient, but I felt I cheated a bit. I was still able to swim in the freezing sea and go into the caves.

6. April is not normally as warm as it has been for us, so take a long sleeved top. The coast is renowned for being windy and in the evenings it can get quite cold, especially if you’re eating outside.

7. Take a train along the coast. We visited Tavira, it was very pretty along the river and the views from the castle are fantastic. There is a walled garden which smelt so sweet, and sounded like a film as a busker played softly in the background.

8. Try some local fish. Even if you aren’t keen on seafood, ask for a taster. Some of the restaurants will do a tapas style dish you can have alongside your main if you are unsure about your choice, just ask.

9. Wear sunscreen! This should be a given, but my friend didn’t listen to my warnings, assuring me she doesn’t burn *cue eye roll*, yes she burnt on day one, when it didn’t even feel that warm, but the breeze here can definitely make it feel cooler. She learnt her lesson and used my P20, which is ideal for me as I only need to apply it once a day (you may need it more depending on your skin type).

10. Have fun! This may seem obvious, but the amount of people I hear moaning when on holiday, makes you wonder if they are encouraging sadness. So your hotel may not be perfect, laugh about it, you aren’t really going to spend that much time in it. The plane might be delayed, play a game, talk to strangers (don’t go off alone with them though). Your friend is snoring, put a pillow over her head and hold it there until she shuts up, she won’t snore again! (I’m joking, I promise she’s still alive…for now!).

 

For more photos go to my Facebook page here

 

March Update

I’ve been a bit quiet on here recently, partly because I haven’t had the motivation to write, partly because I finally had my knee surgery, so fun hasn’t been my top priority. Here’s a quick summary of what’s happened:

* ACL and meniscus reconstruction – surgery went well, nobody told me I would need to inject myself with blood thinners for a week afterwards!

* Holiday booked – I’m off to Faro with a friend, it was kind of a last minute decision, as my daughter is off on a ski trip and I felt it was unfair, as it will be over my birthday week.

* I’ve travelled to all corners of the UK and not seen more than motorways and Premier Inns. Work travel can be dull, so I am making it my mission to see more of the places I visit. Glasgow on Monday, so feel free to give me ideas.

* I got back on the dating scene (well sort of) – I met a guy online (I know eye roll, but where else am I going to meet someone?). We had such a fun date, it was actually like being on First Dates, the staff were hilarious and we kept looking out for cameras, all of a sudden the shots started appearing…I knew I was drunk after pronouncing “that was really nice” to a shot of gin…I hate gin! It ended very messily with me falling through the door and hitting my head (I now have a scar), followed by quite a bit of reverse shots. Whilst I thought we had a great first and second date (yes he did return after that), I felt it starting to fizzle by the third and there was no more. I did get a lovely message saying how fun I was and that he would love to spend more time with me, even if it’s just as FRIENDS! I have not heard from him again, but it has made me open up to the possibility of getting back out there.

* I’ve successfully given up meat for lent and am happy to continue for now. There is so much choice available now, which I was worried about, but even my favourite burger joint has vegetarian options.

I’m looking forward to discovering new places this spring, follow me on Instagram to keep an eye on where I end up.

No Money, More Food

Well who wants to throw January in the “What’s the point of this” bin?! I definitely do!

January has been the hardest month for me in a long time and for possibly the most pathetic reason, no money! Me and everyone else I speak to seems to have this issue, so I shouldn’t moan too much.

The reason I’m annoyed about it, is because it’s purely been my own fault. I fluttered money away on this and that and living in the moment, that I am now in a position where it’s all I seem to think about. On the plus side, it has taught me how little I can actually live off. I spent £90 on food instead of my usual £300+, I’ve had to prepare my own lunches and think about what I’m going to eat during the week, which in turn has me eating healthier food.

As I sit in Coffee#1 I am feeling like I have an impulsive streak, and just like to waste money. The reality of it is that I’m using the leftover money from my food shop. I was shocked at the savings in Lidl. I had to buy the usual expensive items, dishwasher products, Persil, toothpaste, so when I started scanning it, I was dreading the cost. It actually all came to just £35.04.

I will make a veggie cottage pie, meat-free chicken fajitas (loving Quorn right now), veggie spaghetti bolognaise and a number of other delicious dishes. I was hoping to go vegan for February, but as I am due to have my knee operation on the 9 February, I figured I’m going to need to make it as easy as possible. I am aiming to stick to the pescatarian/vegetarian diet though, with a few days of vegan mixed in.

A positive to the knee op, is that I can’t go out and spend money aimlessly, but I will have to block my internet if I can’t stay away from the online shops.

As hard as it is now, if I stick to my strict budget, by next month I will have enough money to book a holiday…and that’s all I ever want to “waste” my money on in future.

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