Embracing the Wonderful Disorder of the Festive Season!

Photo by Beth Teutschmann on Unsplash Halloween is almost upon us and as ever I had thought that by the end of October our house would be finished and ready for a lovely relaxing festive season. This of course has not happened, but … Continue reading

Hidden Holidays: Gems of the World

August means holiday time for most and looking online there are plenty of great packages that can help you get that tan without having to worry about where to get dinner. Although there are many inclusive holidays, they all seem to target a group of specific popular destinations repeatedly. Where are the hidden gems of the world? Whilst browsing around for alternative #travellinggoals, I found some beautiful destinations. They may not the seven wonders; but these natural, secret escapes are guaranteed to make your holiday unforgettable.

The Short Hop: Croatia

Photo by Ivan Ivankovic on Unsplash

This beautiful place is located South East Europe and best enjoyed during an off-peak season for the most authentic experience. Croatia is a brilliant option for those wanting to explore heritage and coastal surprises. The coastline boasts breathtaking caves great for avid snorkelers or sea babies. An example of this magnificent seashore is the Blue Grotto based in a small bay called Balun. It is said the best time to go is between 11am and noon when the sun is hitting the cave at just the right angle to reveal the sea of ‘silver’ objects below the gorgeous blue water.

If you are more for land, Croatia is home to some stunning national parks like Palenica and Plitvice. These two walking trails are the most popular, so best enjoyed in the less tourist-y seasons. If you are visiting during the peak times, there are some quieter places for an active holiday. Vis Island was not accessible by tourists before 1989 as it used to be a military base.  All that time away from the crowds has ensured preservation of character. There are wonderful local food and wines to enjoy in the evenings too.

The Long Haul: Bolivia

Photo by Wikimedia

Located in central South America, this place is a stunning destination for those excited to explore some of the world’s most awe-inspiring creations. Bolivia is bursting at the seams with both natural and historical heritage, with spots like the Casa Nacional de la Moneda, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a gorgeous one at that. This destination is also perfect for foodies, with a mix of Spanish cuisine and exotic ingredients that are sure to please your palette.

As if that’s not enough to tempt you, this breath-taking country is also home to the ‘largest mirror on earth’. Salar de Uyuni or the Bolivian Salt Desert is the biggest salt flat in the world and during the rainy season when it floods, the flats create an incredible endless reflection of the skies above it. When planning your Salar de Uyuni tours, keep in mind the season, as winter (August – December) is dry so you won’t see the mirror effect in its full splendour, however it will be drier for the rest of your Bolivian adventure!

City Break: Marseilles

Photo by Wikimedia

Discover a lively scene in Marseille, France and explore boutiques and quaint coffee shops.  Marseille has amazing architecture and historical sites such as the famous Notre-Dame de la Garde or the old port of Marseille, which is great for kayaking adventures. For social butterflies, the Friche la Belle de Mai comes highly recommended as the place to be for the art and social scene. This looks like it would be lovely on a warm summers evening

Much like Bolivia, this place would be a foodie’s dream. There are many gourmet cultural restaurants that cook cuisines from all over the world. Form North African delicacy’s like Le Souk, to Classic French food like Chez Fonfon.

Beach Break: Isola Bella, Italy

Photo by Wikimedia

This is the type of destination that the locals don’t want you knowing about! Going for a beach holiday can be stressful with crowds of people rushing to get the best spot in the mornings. However, you can’t get more quiet or discrete than this stunning little islet. The beach, named Taormina, is a scenic destination full of fun activities like scuba diving and boat trips.

This island originally started out as a small fishing village before becoming a sought-after location featuring the Grand Palace – which looks like something out of a Disney film! This beautiful spot has treasures waiting to be explored like the vibrant garden full of botanical marvels. If you are a music lover, every year this island plays host to the Stresa music festival presenting a variety of classical and jazz musicians.

On my online adventure to find a getaway off the package holiday track, I truly have discovered some real gems! From the biggest mirror in the world, to a man-made island of the utmost beauty – these places have definitely made it onto my bucket list.

Have a dream destination you’d like to share, leave it in the comments!

Perfect Staycation Locations UK

The sun is shining and the UK cannot get enough of it! The time for holidaying is upon us and I am super excited to take some time out from working life and really relax. Oh, and spend some time with my other half – of course! We are currently having debating whether to go abroad or not. Mike is wanting to escape to the sun however, why run to the sun when you have it right here? There seems to be so much negativity in the news now with regards to travelling and strength of the pound, that I have been searching a little closer to home for the perfect staycation. But first, I need to work on my persuasiveness, so here is a quick summary of staycations are better than vacations!

  • Smaller travel costs – No catching planes or taxis to hotels when we can simply drive there!
  • Easy planning – We know the language and currency
  • Inexpensive – We can easily find the best deals and take things like food from home

Beach Break: Cornwall

Credit: Pixabay

It seems to be that in Cornwall, everything is in walking distance! Falmouth is a tourist hotspot, with cute cafes, pubs and independent shops. I also found that you can catch a boat from Falmouth to St.Mawes, where you can visit St Mawes Castle and take part in water sports if you fancy it. They have lovely sandy beaches, which there is a lack of here in Brighton, and lots of caves to explore!

City Break: London

Credit: Pixabay

Brighton to London isn’t very far, the only thing we have to worry about here is if there is a strike on. London has tons of attractions, from visiting the queen in Buckingham palace to visiting Harry Styles at Madame Tussauds! There are so many places to stay however, with it being the capital and everything – prices will vary. To solve this, you could stay slightly out of London to cut costs, then travel into the city easily with the tube. However, if you are looking for a relaxing holiday, it may not be ideal, as during the summer there are lots of tourists making it busy and crowded.

Relaxing Break: Cotswolds

Credit: Pixabay

No not the shop, but the 800 square mile area of rolling hills which has loads of lively market towns and historic landmarks buried within them! I can picture a long day of exploring, then retreating to one of the traditional Cotswolds cottages in one of the historic villages! It is such a good excuse to get my bike out the shed as this place has so many walking and cycling routes that I would love to explore with my other half.

Active Break: Lake District

Credit: Pixabay

Did you know there are six National Nature Reserves in these 885 miles of land? What I love about this place, is that there are so many types of accommodation, from glamping to hotels! As with the Cotswolds, there are loads of walking routes for all levels. I especially like the look of Helvellyn, a mountain famous for its twin ridges. However, it seems a little steep but I bet it will be worth it for views! For a more organized adventure activity, you partake in a treetop trek and tree top nets – imagine flying and climbing through the trees. You would have to have some guts to do that!

Spa Break: Snowdonia

Credit: Pixabay

I know what you’re thinking – that there are spas closer to home. However, when you go on holiday you want to feel like you’re away! Snowdonia has a range of spa hotels and with breathtaking views – it definitely makes for a romantic holiday for two. The area is also home to a multitude of heritage sites and outdoor activities – bit of a contrast between the two, but I can see how there would be something for everyone. This one could be on the cards depending on how adventurous we are feeling!

All of these locations look incredible and I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that some of them are in the UK. Armed with this comprehensive list and my persuasive skills – I’m pretty sure I have the upper hand in deciding where we will be going this year!

5 Top Tips For A Super Organised Christmas

Beautiful Christmas Tree

As I was enjoying a local firework display this weekend, I felt a sudden surge of excitement despite the freezing temperatures. As much as I love fireworks and sparklers, the end of Bonfire Night means that I can FINALLY get excited about Christmas!

Anyone who knows me will know I am a huge fan of the festive period, so keeping my enthusiasm at bay for this long is usually a challenge to say the least! As soon as I start seeing those Christmas ads on TV and chocolate advent calendars in the shops, I know it’s time to start preparing!

Whilst it might be a bit too early to buy the turkey, there are still lots of things I do to prepare myself ahead of time. I usually go over the top on food, decorations and presents, so I’m always glad to have started planning in early November. Then when it gets to mid-December and my social calendar is jam-packed with fun festive activities, I don’t feel stressed about my Christmas To Do list!

I thought it might be useful to share my top Christmas prep tips for the super-organised amongst you. These are all the things you can do in advance to free up more time later, because really, it’s never too early to start planning for Christmas – is it?!
Decide on Your Plans for The Day

One very basic thing you can do now is to decide on your plans for Christmas Day & Boxing Day. If you’re going to be hosting then make sure you have enough dining space, chairs, crockery, and anything else you might need, so that you can buy or borrow any extras ahead of time. And if you’re not going to be at home this year, then you can make the appropriate travel arrangements ahead of time, particularly if you need to book flights or trains.

Set Your Gift Budgets
I have a history of getting a little overexcited when it comes to buying presents for my nearest and dearest, which has cost me substantial sums of money and many sleepless nights come January. These days I have to set myself a budget to make sure I don’t overspend. There are tonnes of ways you can do this, and in the past, I have used the Christmas Money Planner from the Monday Advice Service to help me figure out my budget breakdown!

Update Your Christmas Card List and Shop for Cards

I like to try and keep on top of my address book all year around, but inevitably it often falls low down my list of priorities. I keep a Christmas card list document on my laptop, so I’ll usually spend an hour or so checking through all the names and addresses to make sure it’s all up to date, as well as adding any new ones.

I also buy my Christmas cards early on so I have more options to choose from. Personally, I like to take this opportunity to support a charity close to my heart, so this year I’ll be buying these cancer charity Christmas cards to send to my loved ones!

Start Shopping
I like to get my shopping done as early as possible. Not only does this mean you can spread the cost over 2 or even 3 months, but it means you can make the most of any early flash sales. I will definitely be checking out the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals this year to make my money go further!

Check your Christmas Decorations
There’s nothing worse than buying your tree and bringing it home ready to decorate, only to find your box of baubles has smashed, or even worse – you’ve spent ages untangling all those fairy lights and half of them don’t work. If you’re like me, then decorating your tree is serious business, and the earlier you shop for decorations, the more choice you’ll have! I like to spend a lot of time researching Christmas tree ideas to visualise how my tree will look.

I hope these tips will help you kick off your super organised Christmas, so you can have a stress-free festive season!

Halloween Style Guide

image-1-for-rmv

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/halloween-pumpkin-carving-face-1001677/

It’s official – Halloween fever has gripped me. I LOVE dressing up for Halloween (and I’m not talking about those ‘sexy’ Halloween outfits that involve hot pants and cat ears). I still feel a sense of childish glee when I put on a wig or fake blood and walk out the door. I’m sure this year will be no different, even though I haven’t quite figured out my costume yet. After all, 2016 has been one of the scariest on record – the numerous high profile celebrity deaths, Brexit and the US election will no doubt be the inspiration behind the more topical choices this year. As tempting as it is to follow suit, I like to lean towards costumes that are stylishly scary, rather than just plain terrifying. So I decided to put together my very own Halloween Style Guide for anyone still looking for inspiration!

  1. Wednesday Addams   

A classic Halloween look, but this one will never go out of style. All you need is a black dress with a collar, 2 plaits and you’re done. I’m personally a huge fan of Wednesday as a character. She’s doesn’t try to fit in, and she’s nobody’s fool. If you want to go the extra mile then try and convince your partner or friend to go as her brother Pugsley.

  1. Eleven from Stranger Things

This costume has the benefit of being topical and trendy. If, like me and millions of others, you are also obsessed with the 2016 American sci-fi horror web TV series Stranger Things, then this could be the costume for you. If you haven’t seen it yet, then you must watch it immediately! As someone who can just about remember the tail end of the 80s, it’s a great throwback show, and Eleven’s retro style will be instantly recognisable for those in the know. Essentially, all you will need is a pale pink dress, a blue jacket, trainers, sports socks and a blonde wig. You can also add a bit of blood to make it spookier!

  1. Resurrected 1920s Flapper Girl

Let’s face it, the roaring 20s didn’t get that name for being dull. They had a lot of fun back then, and Halloween is a great way to pay homage to the era with a spooky twist. To become a ghost from the 1920s all it takes is feathers, fringe and a flapper dress. You can afford to spend some time on the face paint on this one to make sure you capture that ghostly look.

  1. Cruella De Ville              

Any outfit that requires faux fur is a winner in my eyes. And if like me, you’ve always wanted to pretend to smoke a cigarette through one of those cigarette holders then look no further. Cruella is super glam, so red lipstick and heels are a must. And of course, let’s not forget her trademark two tone black and white hair!

  1. Spider’s Web

This might sound like a slightly odd choice, but spider webs make successful Halloween outfits. A black dress and some shredded thin black tights form the basis of this costume. Then all you need to do is fix some spider props in to your hair, and draw a web pattern over one eye (I’ve used liquid eyeliner to do this in the past). And there you have it – a Halloween spider’s web. To go that extra mile then you could even spray some cobwebs in a can for extra decoration.

Happy Halloween!

Best Family Destinations In 2016

The best family destinations shouldn’t mean something that’s specifically for the kids; it should also be something just as fun for the adults. Parents don’t want to be spending all weekend in a ball-pit, just as much as kids don’t want to be stuck in a vineyard for hours on end. The only solutions is to seek balance!

Finding the balance can be hard, but with careful planning you can achieve this parent-child Zen for yourself. There’s plenty of places across the UK which offer fun, cultural and cool activities for parents and children alike.

Planning your next family trip away? Keep in mind these famous UK destinations which guarantee something for everyone.

Lake District

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/30913371@N07

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/30913371@N07

For families who like keeping active, the UK’s largest national park is a must see destination. Beyond the stunning natural beauty of the Lake District, there’s a wealth of active pursuits with which you can truly take in the sights and enjoy a wide range of special events. You could take a gentle cruise down the Ullswater, one of the UK’s biggest natural lakes, follow the famous mountain biking trails, or simply grab a map and explore.

The Lake District offers plenty of family friendly hotels and accommodation to ensure you have a comfortable stay in the wilderness. I would recommend the Lodore Falls, a stunning family hotel nestled at the foot of the Lake District’s forests, with brilliant views of the Ullswater itself.

Brighton

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hadock/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hadock/

The UK’s vice capital also serves as a place with countless kid friendly activities. One can get lost on Brighton Pier for hours feeding chips to seagulls, getting henna tattoos or getting lucky on the 2p machines. The rest of the city boasts hundreds of restaurants for all kinds of fussy eaters, as well as plenty of bars and pubs for the adults.

Brighton is within easy reach of London, with a direct train service between the two, and has links from almost every major city in the UK. Remember Brighton during in the summer is where you’ll get those holiday vibes, so avoid the drizzle of the winter seasons for a true holiday at home.

The Cotswolds

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/robbibaba/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/robbibaba/

Perhaps your family enjoys the more rural aspects of England? If so, there’s no better place to explore the wilderness than The Cotswolds, which itself covers 6 counties (most notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire). Cotswolds holiday cottages have always welcomed families and young children, as well as pets such as dogs and cats, so don’t be afraid to bring the entire family!

If you’re looking to blow your children’s minds, there are several nearby shooting locations from the Harry Potter series. This includes scenes shot for both the inside and grounds of Hogwarts School, created from the corridors of Gloucester Cathedral and Lacock Abbey located less than 13 miles away. There are also a range of guided tours available, ensuring you don’t miss any of the highlights.

Alton Towers

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jennyellenbrown/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jennyellenbrown/

Can’t go to Disneyland? No need to be upset, because Staffordshire’s Alton Towers is just as bold as its Paris-based counterpart. Alton Towers is widely considered to be one of the best theme parks in the world, with some of the biggest rides in Europe set in a hugely imaginative park across a whopping 500 acres of British countryside. Alongside the park’s huge selection of hair-raising rollercoasters is an ‘extraordinary’ golf course, a water park, an aquarium and an outstanding historical spa.

Turning an Alton Towers trip into a holiday is easy with access to the park’s 2 unique hotels. Each hotel has plenty of entertainment for adults and kids to enjoy, as well as a variety of fun, themed rooms ranging from the Coca-Cola room to the Cadburys room. Either way, you’ll be dealing with a sugar rush.

Longleat Safari Park

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/markhillary/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/markhillary/

Longleat was the first safari park to be opened outside of Africa. Since 1966, it has grown into one of the UK’s best wildlife attractions, providing access to a range of exotic animals living in natural habitats. Based in Wiltshire, the safari is home to range of fantastic beasts including tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos, and monkeys (who will steal your windshield wipers without hesitations).

Wiltshire itself is an attractive county with various other points of interest, including Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. If you’re going to visit Longleat, keep yourself in Wiltshire and enjoy exploring the various sleepy villages that border the likes of Dorset, Oxfordshire, and Berkshire.

Why You Should Support Your Children Travelling

Source: Steve Wilson I’ve known many parents who are terrified at the thought of their children travelling. Whether it’s international terrorism, Ebola, or EU instability, there’s always something that will be a cause for concern out in the wide-open world. … Continue reading