Travel // Your Questions Answered

August 01, 2018


Travel is one of my very favourite subjects. I LOVE discussing holidays. I love sharing my travel photos, being on holiday of course {in fact I feel happiest when away exploring somewhere new} and I love seeing other people's holiday photos. I adore writing travel blogs and reliving all the memories, along with finding others for inspiration of my own. And I guess you guys know how passionate about it I am as you're always messaging or emailing me asking for advice. Which is great. But sometimes I find it hard to keep up with direct messages, only having snatched minutes to quickly write a reply which I feel guilty about. Plus, if there's somebody asking a question, there's bound to be lots of others who would want to hear the answer too. So I decided to put out an Ask me Anything travel related on instagram stories last week and then collate all your questions into this blog post which everyone can read and that doesn't disappear after 24 hours! So here we have it, your questions answered. I feel like I'm no travel expert, but I sure do love to travel and have had a fair bit of experience with booking and taking lots of trips over the past few years so here we go;


Planning

// Do you ever use guide books or has the insta community/blogs replaced the need for books?
Pre-blog time my husband and I used to live by Lonely Planet books, Conde Nast Magazines and the Sunday Times travel section. The latter two I still love for inspiration but 90% of my research these days for trips is done by looking up places on Instagram and searching for the name of our destination + travel blog in google to get a real feel for a place and up to date recommendations {books date so fast}. We also prefer non-tourist places so getting away from guide books is probably for the best.

// How far in advance do you book for holidays?
I'm the world's biggest planner so I'm one of those who books trips wayyy in advance to know where I'm going, to get the best choice of accommodation and to know I have something booked. Flights only ever come out 11 months in advance so with most holidays I book then, almost a year in advance. I love getting excited ahead of time and remember reading a study about how a lot of the enjoyment of a trip actually comes from the anticipation of it {see this article} We tend to come back from one trip and then start deciding where we want to go next and plan the next year out. So I'd say 6 months + in advance. One time we were so bored of winter though and just booked a spontaneous trip a week in advance to Palm Springs! It was still to this date the craziest thing my type A personality has ever done... 

// Any great websites for booking flights, hotels etc?
For long haul flights I only ever use Dial a Flight but will also check Kayak to make sure I can't get a better deal elsewhere. For short haul I compare easyjet/ryanair and book direct with them. It’s worth looking at a monthly view for flights as the prices can vary a lot by day so we usually plan our trip around the cheapest flights as we’re flexible with days of the week to travel on. For hotels it would depend on the trip, if it's a resort that you need transfers with we'd book with a travel agent but if it's a DIY thing we'd use booking.com or use a comparison site then book direct with the hotel. Mostly we use Airbnb these days unless it's a tropical resort holiday.

// If you're going somewhere all inclusive, which websites/companies do you use?
We really like Turquoise Holidays and booked our honeymoon through them. For Mauritius we use Susie Freeman Travel. Travel agents are amazing for suggesting places but I always do my own research too to make sure they're offering a competitive deal and showing me the best options.

// Do you plan a full trip itinerary? Or go with the flow?
It really depends on the length of trip. If it's a short trip we want to make the most and make sure we're seeing everything we want to so I'd want to make a good plan. But equally I always leave room for flexibility as you often find some cool places just wandering. I like to group places by area to make efficient use of transport/days of a trip and make rough plans that can be changed. For longer trips, it's nice to have some time to just decide on what you feel on the day.

// Airbnb tips please. You always find gems
I don't really have any secrets, just put in our dates and preferred location and see what comes up. It helps planning in advance as the good places tend to get booked up fast so won't even show up on listings. Also read the reviews, I only ever book places with really good reviews and lots of them. I also these days try and filter by budget as often I find amazing places and get really excited, only to realise that it's realllly expensive! Also, if you haven't used airbnb before and want £25 for your first trip you can use my sign up code here.

// Do you book flights first or accommodation? Or roughly the same time?
It depends how much accommodation there is available. If it's a tiny, really special place that only has specific dates available then I'd want to be booking flights around those dates. But equally check you can get flights on those days before you press book! But mostly we tend to book flights first and then find accommodation, I try to do it around the same time though as for piece of mind would rather have somewhere booked and there will be more choice.

// I need help planning a trip where you move around? Doing 2 weeks in Italy and can't start planning.
It's so hard to know how long you're going to want in a place. In an ideal world you would just move on once you're ready but I'm one of those that has to know we have places booked so we tend to just make educated guesses about how long we'll need in each place. Also know that you can't see everything, so just do your best and you can always go back there again. Italy is really well connected with trains for moving around. 

// How do you decide what area and accommodation to stay in when you travel?
A lot of research. Both on blogs, Conde Nast website and other people's recommendations. Also looking at google maps and working out where you'll want to be/distances from places. 

// I'm a little cautious about Airbnb, how do you weed out the good from the bad?
Touch wood, we've never had a bad experience with using airbnb. I think it's the safest platform in terms of money transfer and payment protection. The best advice I'd give is to make sure a place has lots of photos and lots of good reviews. You can search by superhost too which means a host goes the extra mile. The only worrying thing is if a host cancels your booking before you arrive meaning you'd have to scramble for accommodation last minute. I don't know what you could do to protect against that.

// Any money saving tips and tricks?
The biggest thing we find is to travel outside of school holidays. But I know for teachers/those with children in school it's not really possible. Self-catering is often the cheapest way to travel by cooking some meals in and it's fun to visit local supermarkets/markets. We stay in a lot of Airbnbs as they're cheaper than hotels. We don't eat out all the time when on holiday, unless it's a resort type trip. Book flights in advance and use airmiles. We don't really spend on tourist attractions either, preferring to just wander and see the real side of a destination.

// Any tips for cheap flights?
Sign up to Jack's Flight Club emails, go out of school holiday time and try and book as early as you can {not always the case though}. A lot of airlines have economy packages now where bags aren't included but they're cheaper fares. Depends if you're talking long haul or short haul too, I always think easyjet are amazing for cheap flights. 

// My husband is self-employed. Any tips for still enjoying a holiday as well as keeping an eye on the business?
The beauty of being self-employed is being able to take as much holiday as you like. Of course the flip side is never being able to switch off properly and always feeling like you should be working. I think you should decide what kind of trip it is. Is it a no work zone, this is my holiday kind of trip? Which everyone should take, if you were employed in a company you'd be allowed at least 20 days to do just that and NOT think about work. But if, like us, you want more holiday than that then you turn it into a working trip. You're still away but you dedicate a couple of hours each day to being on your laptop/phone to check in with work, get stuff done. Depending on the time zones you might have a few uninterrupted hours to just relax off grid too!

// Where do you get your inspiration from when deciding where to go on holiday?
Conde Nast Travel, Instagram and blogs.

// I know you don't have kids yet but are there any places you've been that you thought would be particularly child friendly?
Beaches Turks and Caicos 100% for a resort, also Mallorca was v child friendly. I hope that when we have children we'll still travel a lot and take them everywhere and anywhere!


England

// Long weekend destination in UK during the summer holidays that won't be crazy busy?
Norfolk/Suffolk tends to always be quieter than Cornwall

// Can you recommend anywhere special in the UK/Europe for a short break in December?
Do you want something Christmassy? Maybe a Christmas market across Europe? 


Food

//You always find good eating places, what research do you do, do you book tables e..g in NY/Boston?
For a city like New York which has alll of the latest food trends along with so much choice for the best pizzas/burgers/ice cream etc I'll search on google for 'best pizza in NYC' and then make a list of those which keep getting recommended. Or I'll search for 'must eats NYC'. I don't tend to book places unless it's a really special restaurant but to be honest we prefer to eat out fairly cheaply when away so most places don't need reservations. Also look up restaurants on Instagram using the search by location tab. And I wrote this guide on our favourite places to eat in NYC, travel blogs are great too for that kind of research.


// How do you find the best local restaurants and things to do when you go to a new place?
See above! Also Tripadvisor can still be good for places where there haven't been a lot of travel blogs written on an area. 

// Can you please do a London blog post for restaurants?
This guide to London that I wrote earlier in the year might help with that.


Flying

// How do you look after your skin on long haul flights?
I always take my make up off and put on a thick layer of moisturiser before take-off, especially if it's a night flight. And drink lots and lots of water. Flying is very dehydrating. 

// What advice can you offer for anxious flyers? It doesn't seem to stop you travelling.
I used to be petrified to the point that my husband once said 'we're going to have to stop flying from now on'. But then I watched a BA nervous flyer program which really helped me to understand turbulence and I rationalised it by realising just how many flights take off and land safely every day and how flying is safer than driving a car! Terrorism makes me anxious but you just have to trust the airports and the high levels of security and focus on the destination. I now on the whole enjoy flying {I can't say the same about trains yet though...}

// What do you take on a long haul flight?
In the past my carry on bag has always been SO heavy and so now I actually try to minimise what I take on. Generally it will be a big bottle of water {that you drink/empty pre security and then refill straight after to save buying one}, my kindle, my iPad with the Times downloaded in advance and often I try to save the weekend's sections to read, at least one portable anker charger for my phone, a clear pouch with my make-up in, make up wipes and moisturiser, a small toothbrush and toothpaste, PASSPORTS {!} and some snacks. Plus these amazing natural anti-jet lag tablets that make you sleepy if it's a night flight. That's pretty much it. I then use the airline's entertainment system if it's a day flight or try and sleep if it's a night flight. I'll often skip the in flight meal if it's late and buy something at the airport before we board so we can get on and just sleep straight away. 

// Have you ever been upgraded at flight check in? Any tips?
Only once and that was coming back from the Maldives after our honeymoon. It was ramadan and the whole flight was full of Maldivians travelling for their pilgrimage, we were the only tourists on the flight to Doha so they upgraded us, possibly for cultural reasons? We had the whole of business class to ourselves! In reality, unfortunately it doesn't happen much very more but for the best chances you should be a frequent flyer with that airline, dress fairly smart and being a single traveller helps. We would never pay for business class as you could buy about 3 more holidays for that price but once a year we fly business/first class using our airmiles. We collect them with BA American Express/Avios and get the companion voucher. It's incredible and we look forward to it every year. You do have to be pretty clever at playing the system with it a bit to collect enough points and book your seats as soon as they come out, a whole year in advance. 

Destination specific

// Where is your most favourite place you've travelled to?
Gosh such a hard question. I'm terribly fickle and every holiday we come back from I tend to say 'that was the best trip ever'. Can I maybe pick 3 instead? The Maldives, Palm Springs and Italy.

// Top European city breaks?
Lisbon! Venice. Or Rome would be my suggestions.

// The best place for a classy hen do abroad? Sun, beach, cool bars, nothing tacky?
Barcelona? Or Lisbon is fab.
Blog posts here and here.

// Things to do at Celebration, Florida?
I adore Celebration! Cycle around, take in the neighbourhoods, walk around the lakes and watch out for alligators. See more in this blog post.

// Any must see places to go in Mykonos?
Kiki's for lunch! Mykonos town and Ornos beach were some of our favourites. Full blog post here.

// Best beach/city break you've visited in Europe?
Lisbon I think.

// What's your favourite city break?
Lisbon! Or New York. Both so different for different reasons.

// Perth Australia recommendations pleaseeee.
See this blog post for everything we did around Perth, we weren't in the city itself but on the coast nearby. Also this post on Rottnest Island which is a must visit.

// Favourite ever beach holiday?
The Maldives. - blog posts here. {also adore Mauritius and the Bahamas!}

// Did you hire a car when you went to the Ile de Re and where did you stay?
We didn't hire a car, just used bikes instead! It's mainly a car free island. See this blog post for all the details.

// Have you ever been to Vietnam?
Yes, on a 3 week adventure around South East Asia in 2011. I wasn't blogging back then but think I shared some photos and thoughts on it here.

// Any tips for Alvor area of the Algarve?
I've only been there once, a longgg time ago but I'd love to go back to that area. The tiles and beaches! And custard tarts.. maybe next summer?

// Where would you recommend to travel just after Christmas?
For a hot holiday or snow? I'm no skiing expert but for hot I'd say Australia or the Caribbean!

// Best Europe location for a mini moon?
Santorini or Italy are two of my ultimate favourites.

// Recommendations for Rome/Sorrento?
Rome is such a magical place, like walking through a museum. You can see this blog post for all of our favourite parts here. And I haven't ever been to Sorrento but we went around the Amalfi coast which you can see in these blog posts here here and here.

// Have you been to Santorini?
Yes! Just before we got married. See this blog post and this

// Where is the best place to stay for a week in Santorini?
Oia definitely but for a week it will add up, accommodation isn't cheap. I think we had 4 nights. There are some dreamy hotels but also look at airbnb? You'll want a caldera view.

// Have you been to New York and if so, any hidden gems to recommend?
Yes! My favourite city in the world. I've been lucky enough to visit 5 times now and you can see my city guide here and here along with a food guide here.

// Which company do you use for car hire in California? You inspired us and have 8 weeks until we go!
We've always had cars through Dial a Flight as a package when booking our flights there but they're all very similar. Go on a comparison website and make sure it's airport based, has unlimited mileage and is a full-to-full fuel package. California is so cool to drive around. Also we've taken out an excess insurance which is so worth doing.

// Best place to stay for first trip to New York?
If it's your first trip you're going to want to be in Midtown I'd say to be in the heart of everything. We've always liked The Benjamin hotel or The Roger but check on booking.com or somewhere for the best prices. And be aware that most NYC hotels don't include taxes in the rates anymore so that will be extra and some now charge 'resort tax' which seems a little steep.

// Which part of Australia would you move to if you could?
Western I think. As much as I adore Byron Bay, there are dangerous snakes there and it's a lot more tropical. I prefer a dry heat. But in reality I don't think I would ever move away from England, maybe just escape our winters for a couple of months each year instead!

// Where's the best place to honeymoon in your opinion in the UK for autumn?
The Cotswolds would be dreamy in the Autumn and has some really gorgeous romantic hotels. These blog posts might help with your planning. For a really special stay I think Foxhill Manor can't be beaten.

// Can you tell me the name of where you had that great paella near Soller?
We had three amazing paellas! I've listed the restaurants in this blog post.

// I'm going to Australia in January, Sydney/Byron Bay/Melbourne, any places that are must see?
I'm so jealous! We didn't go to Melbourne but see this post on Sydney and this on Byron Bay which should help.

// Best area to stay in Sorrento/Amalfi Coast?
We adore Positano! See these posts on the amalfi coast, here , here and here. I haven't been to Sorrento though.

// Heading to NYC and Boston in September, any must dos?
Ah so many! See this series on New York here and here. And this post on our time in Boston - although we only did a little bit in Boston, have just booked to go back there in December.

// Ever been to South America?
No but I'd love to! My husband went to Peru once and wants to take me there, I'd love to visit Mexico and Brazil too.

// Have you ever been to Bali? If so, any recommendations?
Yes I loved Bali but feel like I went before it was super popular {and insta famous!}. If i went back now I'm sure I'd love it even more. See these posts detailing our trip here and here.

// Best honeymoon destinations for September {beautiful beaches/total bliss with sunshine?}
The Maldives! Heart eyes.

// Florida villa tips, who do you book through, I'm nervous of using airbnb?
My mum has always found our florida villas, we've only ever been with my parents and she uses homeaway.com/vrbo. I'm actually the opposite to you and trust airbnb over any of the others just because I know it protects your payment and you can see proper photos and read honest reviews from real users. I'm not saying the other websites are dodgy but I'm of the airbnb generation.

// Paris. Any recommendations?
Such a romantic city although I haven't been since 2014. You can see this post on our short trip there.

// How long did you stay in Soller and Pollenca?
We had 5 nights. But I wish we'd have had longer! See this post for all the details.

// Would you stay in the hotel you stayed at in NY again? I'm thinking of booking next June
We've stayed in 4 over the past few years. The Roger in Midtown, The Benjamin in Midtown, The SoHo hotel in Soho and the Standard in Meatpacking District. I wouldn't recommend the SoHo hotel but the others were all amazing. It really just depends which location you want to be in. I think I'd stay in Brooklyn next time. Also all NYC hotels are SO expensive!! 

// California, pre booked hotels v rocking up on the day?
I'm a pre-book person, it would stress me out too much not having somewhere!

// Where have you been in America? Which was your favourite place out of them all?
NYC - blog posts here. New England - blog posts here. Florida - blog posts here. California - blog posts here. I honestly couldn't choose between them all because I adore America and they're all so different for different reasons! Sorry! Also I'm very fickle so I change my mind after each trip.

// Have you ever been to Sicily or Japan? Going to both and want your advice
No unfortunately not I'm afraid. Would love to visit Taormina in Sicily though. 

// Best non touristy place to visit whilst in NY?
Wander through the residential bits like Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, Williamsburg, the Upper East/West Side, Greenwich village, basically any of the villages. Also Governor's island.

// Best things to do around NY at Halloween? Any day trips you recommend?
PUMPKINS! You'll see so many pumpkins everywhere it's incredible. I particularly love the spooky houses around the upper east side and around Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. See this post for a halloween visit and also this.

// Things to do in Florida aside from the parks?
I wrote this whole blog post on Orlando in Florida beyond from the parks. And then for the rest of Florida there's the gorgeous gulf coast without a theme park in sight, see this post on our stay there. Such beautiful beaches.

// Have you ever been to the Seychelles? Any tips would be great?
Yes! But on a press trip so we were in 3 different resorts and didn't plan it ourselves. I've heard that BA offer direct flights there now which is great and as for resorts, it depends on your budget. It is pricey but incredible. We loved Seychelles Labriz the most. See this post.

// Top Europe destination for a week?
Mallorca I think. Or Italy and do a two centre.

// Sri Lanka - one activity that's a must?
A safari! See this post on our trip there.


Packing

// How do you keep from packing too much?
It's SUCH a struggle. I'm my Mother's Daughter and she's known for being the world's biggest overpacker. But my husband has really made me cut down over the years, especially if it's hand luggage only for a european trip. Shoes are the biggest thing, just pick a couple that will allow you to walk for miles but will go with all of your outfits. Also turkish towels are great space savers if you need to take towels with you. Lay everything out before you go and check the weather forecast. If it's really hot you won't need much but cooler/rainier trips need a bit more thinking. And if it's a flip and flop beach holiday with a suitcase included then just chuck everything in as you won't need to worry then! It's only for moving around on trips/hand luggage only that being minimal matters. Or if you want to do lots of shopping whilst you're out there! Just remember that you almost never wish you'd brought more with you and often you'll come back with outfits unworn. 

// Hand luggage essentials for long haul?
See above in the flying section.

// Do you ever travel with just hand luggage? I find it difficult only having 1 bag for liquids?
Yes often these days now that airlines charge so much for bags. And really for 5 day european trips you don't need an extra case. To avoid the liquid issue we often buy suncream at the airport after security and also use refillable 100ml bottles to take toiletries away with us rather than buying expensive miniatures. You can always buy shampoo/conditioner/deodrant at your destination too.
- I've also heard great things about packing cubes!

// Best Mozzie Repellant
Jungle formula with over 50% deet. We haven't been anywhere for a while that we've needed to use it though. Also in America, Deep Woods Off spray is v good.

// Do you use your camera whilst you're away or just your phone?
I used to always take my camera and would then end up having to collaborate a whole set of phone and camera photos when home. Nowadays I'm ashamed to say I just take my iPhone X unless it's a trip where I really want a big zoom for a safari or something where I'd take a camera too. 

// Do you overpack or have you mastered the art of taking just the right amount of stuff?
I always overpack slightly! But that's kind of part of the fun of travelling isn't it.

// Where do you dream about visiting but haven't yet been?
South Africa, New Zealand, Mexico, parts of Portugal, Canada, Ibiza. And I'd also like to go back to some places too like more of the Greek Islands.

// Where are you going to be holidaying next?
We're going to Italy in September and travelling around Puglia and the Amalfi Coast which I'm crazy excited for. Then we have a weekend in Amsterdam in October and have just booked a family pre-Christmas trip to Boston instead of doing Christmas presents. In January we'll be going to California for just under a month to escape winter!

// Where's next on your travel wish list?
See above. I think next year I'd like to plan a trip back to Morocco, definitely visit Portugal and maybe Seville?

// Not a question but I always love your travel blogs and am looking forward to your LA one!
Thank you so much, I really appreciate any feedback and love writing them. And always worry that I put way too many photos into each travelogue but I love to look back on them all!


I really hope that you found some of this useful. Let me know your thoughts and if you'd like more of these question and answer type blog posts. As always, I love getting feedback and hearing from you.

R <3 xx 


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1 comments

  1. Loved this post! Thanks for taking the time to answer so many questions. One more...you mentioned travel blogs, which ones do you read? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

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