travel

Aeroplane essentials

We’ve all been there – an overnight plane journey involving very little sleep, boredom, dry skin and chapped lips. There’s often no avoiding spending long, continuous hours in the air, especially if you’re heading somewhere exotic and far-flung. But there are plenty of tips, tricks and travel essentials that can make the journey just that bit easier…


To help your skin:

We all want to land looking like the radiant celebrities we see photographed in the arrivals hall, and it may not be as difficult as you think. The humidity is the cabin on aeroplanes is much lower than we are used to in daily life, which means the moisture is zapped from our skin pretty quickly, but a few key products and tips can have you landing with fresh, glowing skin.

  • Remove your makeup: As soon as you’ve boarded, remove your makeup. It will allow your skin to breathe and will make the application of hydrating products a lot more effective.
  • Apply a moisturiser/sheet mask: Once you’re into your journey, treat your skin to a boost of moisture by applying a hydrating serum and/or moisturiser. My personal go-to’s are from the Elemis Marine range, but any moisturiser will help your skin out! Patchology also do an excellent ‘On The Fly‘ kit which contains two sheet masks, a lip mask and two eye patches.
  • Drink lots of water: As mentioned above, alcohol (and caffeine) will dehydrate you even quicker on an aeroplane than they would on the ground, so steer clear of these and instead drink plenty of water to keep you and your skin hydrated.

To help you sleep:

Everyone’s ideal scenario is to board your night flight, have dinner served with a G&T and then drift off into a peaceful sleep and wake up in time for landing, right? The reality however, tends to involve a lot of uncomfortable shifting around, pins and needles and hours of boredom while every single other passenger seems to be asleep. I’ve found the following really useful in ensuring I get as much sleep on board as possible:

  • Invest in a good travel pillow: I found that the Travelrest pillow (available on Amazon here) was excellent as it was adjustable, offered full support and could be used in multiple positions, meaning you can make yourself comfortable in almost any seat. I slept continuously for 3 hours on a long haul flight using this!
  • Clear your footwell: It may sound obvious, but giving yourself maximum room to stretch out will make a huge difference when you’re trying to get some rest, so if you have a bag/jacket under the seat in front of you, pop it into the overhead lockers and give your legs some extra room.
  • Steer clear of alcohol: The frequent line I hear from travellers is ‘I’ll have a couple of glasses of wine and it will help me sleep’. The alcohol may make you drowsy, but it will also dehydrate you and end up making you need the toilet quicker, meaning a more disturbed sleep. Sip a beverage with your dinner if you wish, but then switch to soft drinks and visit the bathroom before settling down in your seat.
Travelrest travel pillow

To keep you entertained:

The inflight entertainment systems on planes have come a long way in recent years, but if you’re wanting something to do other than watch back to back films, these are my recommendations of books that will keep you entertained long after you step off the plane:

  • Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce – A new thriller for 2019 and guaranteed page turner.
  • You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane – A light hearted and fun beach read you’ll want to read again.
  • Hot Mess by Lucy Vine – Dubbed ‘Bridget Jones’ for the new generation. Hilarious!
  • Hello, My Name Is May by Rosalind Stopps – A gripping read with a twist you won’t see coming
  • The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary – A laugh out loud, feel-good love story
  • You by Caroline-Kepnes – For anyone who has been gripped by the series on Netflix
travel

Bratislava

I visited Bratislava with my sister as part of a weekend break combined with Vienna. We spent a day and a half exploring the city, taking in the sights and trying the local food, and it turned out to be one of the prettiest cities I’ve been to!

Sample itinerary


  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT +1
  • Language: Slovak, German

Stay: Old Town

Bratislava is a very small city; you really can walk everywhere in the centre of town, and so technically it doesn’t matter where you stay – everywhere will still be accessible!

We chose to stay in Old Town Bratislava, which was covered in cobbled streets lined with cafes and restaurants, all seeming to lead to Hlavné námestie (Main Square).

We stopped off at a lovely wine bar in the square, aptly named ‘Wine Not?’, which had lots of outdoor seating complete with patio heaters and blankets, meaning that just because the temperature drops, the people watching doesn’t have to end! As night falls, the fountain in the middle of the square comes to life, lit up in an array of colours and makes for a great instagram shot, if thats your thing!

There were a wide selection of Airbnbs available all over the city, and all at extremely reasonable prices. Ours was on Panksá, a pedestrianized street one road behind the main square, and we loved that we could throw open the windows and look down into the streets below, watching the hustle and bustle of the city.


Do: Bratislava castle, Michaels Gate, Old Town

Bratislava castle is like something out of a fairytale, and is visible from most points in the city. It’s well worth taking some time to wander around this historic building – A gentle but definite uphill climb from the city centre will get you to the edge of the walls, and from there you can explore at your leisure.

In the middle of Old Town stands one of the oldest town buildings – Michaels Gate, or Michalska Brana as its known locally. For a small fee, you can enter via a discreet door from the street and find yourself inside a small museum, housing the Exhibition of Weapons. Wander around the museum inside the tower, climbing small flights or stairs as you go, and you will find yourself at the top of the tower, offering an observation deck with excellent views all across the city. A must do on a sunny day!

Human sized sculptures are dotted all over Old Town, and prove quite the tourist attraction. Often queues of people waiting to be photographed with these, it’s a must-have picture for the collection from your trip to Bratislava! Cumil ‘The Watcher’ was our favourite, although we got a few strange looks when we decided to lay down next to him when it was our turn for a photo!


Eat: No1. Slovak Pub, Modra Hviezda, Urban House

No trip to Bratislava is complete without a trip to No1. Slovak Pub. A tourist hotspot maybe, but its a chance to throw yourself into the culture and experience local Slovakian food in a (very warm) quirky pub in the centre of town. It was our first stop after dropping our bags off, and although on reflection we paid quite a lot for the food, I would 100% recommend it as an easy introduction to the cuisine.

We only had one evening in Bratislava, so we wanted to make sure we chose well for dinner. We had been recommended a particular restaurant by our lovely Airbnb host, and so we set out on foot (you really can walk everywhere!) to hunt the place down. Tucked away underneath the castle is the amazing Modra Hviezda – A real gem in the city! Slightly tricky to find, but more than worth it when you do, the food was outstanding and of very high quality; very reasonable too. Apparently it is always extremely popular (mainly with locals who book tables weeks in advance) so its worth giving a call to see if they have space!

If you’re after a spot of brunch in the city, head to Urban House, A fun and lively coffee house serving an excellent brunch menu. We went for avocado on toast with a poached egg and were not disappointed!

travel

Vienna

My sister and I went to Vienna straight from Bratislava (€5 on the bus – 1hr!) and spent two nights exploring the city. The extravagant coffee shops were a particular highlight, as was the sachertorte!

Sample itinerary


  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT +1
  • Language: German

Stay: Austria Trend Hotel Rathauspark

The centrally located Austria Trend Hotel Rathauspark was the perfect base for us to explore Vienna from. It’s located a 20 minute walk from Stephansplatz (the large square in the very centre of Vienna thats home to the cathedral and many shops) and while a Metro would have gotten us there even quicker, we found many coffee shops, pretty parks and historical buildings on our walk.


Do: Spanish Riding School, coffee shops, museum quarter

A trip to the Spanish Riding School is a unique chance to watch the live practice of equitation. Morning exercise sessions are always popular, so arrive around 9am to beat the crowds. However if you want to see a full performance, tickets will need to be purchased well in advance.

The museum quarter (museumsquartier) is home to many of Vienna’s finest museums, and it is well worth setting aside an afternoon to explore the area. If you’re thinking of visiting multiple museums, the Vienna Card may be of interest to you, as it gives discount of many of the cities museum entry costs.

Make sure you leave some time in your schedule to stop off in one of Vienna’s many coffee houses. Renowned not just for their coffee, but as places to while away an afternoon, it is perfectly acceptable to spend a couple of hours in a coffee house in Vienna, sipping your drinks and reading a newspaper at your leisure. A favourite on the trip was Cafe Eiles, which not only did great coffee but also had a very reasonable breakfast menu.


Eat: Demel, Huth Gastwirtschaft

There are several things people want to tick off on a trip to Vienna, and trying Sachertorte usually makes the list. Stop by for a slice of this world famous chocolate cake at Demel, but be warned, combine it with one of their wickedly indulgent hot chocolates and you won’t be needing another chocolate fix for quite a while!

Another must-eat is a schnitzel, and whilst veal is the traditional choice, we opted for chicken and were not disappointed in the slightest! For classic Viennese cuisine, and an ever-changing monthly menu head to Huth Gastwirtschaft. Located centrally in the city, its easy to get to and has a relaxed and cozy feel.

As for street food, the ‘Wurstelstand’ kiosks (usually found outside U-Bahn stations) are a popular and cheap choice for lunch on the go. Pork and veal sausages usually top the list, but most kiosks offer a huge variety, all tucked into a fresh roll and served with the usual condiments.

travel

Copenhagen

Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, is the perfect place for a weekend city break, and even if you’re visiting for just a couple of days, theres plenty you can pack in to get a real taste of Danish life.


  • Currency: Danish Krone
  • Local time: GMT +1
  • Language: Danish

Stay: Inner City

Copenhagen is pretty compact, so most places are accessible by foot. Staying in the inner city area (we were near Nørreport station) made it super easy to get around, and there are lots of reasonably priced Airbnbs in the area to let you experience a true Scandinavian way of life.


Do: Nyhavn, Freetown Christiania, Canal tour

A trip to Copenhagen isn’t complete without a visit to Nyhavn (New Harbour) with its brightly coloured houses lining the canal. Visit early in the day to avoid the crowds, and don’t get sucked into the tourist trap restaurants along the water – It’s much cheaper to walk a few minutes beyond and find somewhere to eat there. (Theres a great street food area just over the bridge into Christiania, more on this below).

Based largely around the water, a canal tour is a must do to see the city from boat level. There are several tour companies that offer 60 minute cruises departing from Nyhavn – The cheapest is Canal Tours Copenhagen at 50DKK (around £6) per person, but expect to queue!

Freetown Christiania is a self-proclaimed autonomous district in Copenhagen, and is a must see! Incredible street art and a laid back vibe takes you into a different world from the busy tourist area of Nyhavn, and its the perfect place to visit to pick up a cheap beer and sit with the locals in the sunshine. Please note that once you enter Freetown, the taking of photos is prohibited.


Eat: Neighbourhood, Mad & Kaffe, Broens Gadekøkken

If you’re looking for a cool spot for dinner that won’t break the bank, head to Neighbourhood and enjoy their selection of low-carb pizzas and an excellent cocktail menu. There are two locations in the city, and its worth noting the one in Nørreport takes bookings.

Brunch is a particular favourite weekend hobby for the Danish, and if you’re looking for a great meal and to eat where the locals do, make your way to Mad & Kaffe – But be prepared to queue! You can design your own brunch here, selecting 3, 5 or 7 items from a list of options they give you. Highly recommend adding an iced coffee to your order – they’re amazing!

For great street food head over the bridge from Nyhavn to Broens Gadekøkken (The Bridge Street Market). There is a wide selection of stalls and a couple of bars – A perfect place to stop on a sunny day, and conveniently located as a pit stop on your way to Christiania.

travel

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of my favourite European cities, and I head back whenever I can. I’ve done the bars/clubs/Red Light District all before, so now when I go its all about relaxing by the canals and enjoying the slower pace of life.

Sample itinerary


  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT +1
  • Language: Dutch

Stay: Kimpton De Witt

The gorgeous Kimpton De Witt hotel is an excellent choice for luxury accommodation in Amsterdam. This 5* hotel offers exceptional service, luxury rooms and a great on site restaurant and house bar. They also have a wine hour at 5pm every day in the lobby for guests to meet up and swap tips on the city, along with free bicycles that can be hired from the concierge. What’s not to love?!

The location is perfect for exploring the nearby canals and Jordaan district, and is located only a few minutes walk from Centraal Station, meaning whether you arrive by aeroplane and jump on the quick intercity train or by Eurostar direct into Centraal Station, you can be checked into your hotel within 10 minutes of stepping off the train.


Do: Hire bikes, Red Light Secrets museum, canal cruise, A’dam Lookout, Albert Cuyp Markt, ice skating

When you ask most people what they associate with Amsterdam, the answer is usually one of two things; canals and bicycles. (Okay, there is a third – we all know about the ‘coffee shops’ in the city, but I’ll leave that up to you to explore if it’s your thing!)

There are plenty of places all over the city that offer bicycle hire, and most for a very reasonable price too! Pick one up and set aside a good couple of hours to go exploring – The numerous bike lanes make cycling around a joy, and its a great way to cover large amounts of the city in a small time frame. The iamsterdam website advertises a variety of cycling tours for those who wish to be guided through the city, and you can choose whether you want the focus to be on historical monuments or hotspots for Dutch cuisine.

The Red Light Secrets museum is a fascinating look into life in Amsterdams sex industry. The audio guides offer unique stories from women who have worked as prostitute in the city, and with the museum housed in an old brothel, it’s a great way to learn many of the secrets of this famous aspect of the city.

The A’DAM Lookout is located in Amsterdam North, just a short (free) ferry ride from Centraal Station. Aside from offering panoramic views across the city, there is a also bar and a restaurant at the top, and for those feeling brave, Over The Edge – Europes highest swing! Entry to the lookout is €12, and a swing ticket is €5. Pre-book to avoid the queues, then simply take the lift to the top, buckle up and enjoy an exhilarating ride that literally takes you over the edge of the building. The best bit? You get a free digital memento to keep as proof of your bravery!

Head down to the Albert Cuyp Markt in Amsterdam South to experience Europe’s largest daytime market. Selling everything from clothing and jewellery to fresh fruit and baked goods, there is plenty to see and you’re guaranteed not to go hungry! Particular mention goes to the freshly baked bitterballen and the Stroopwafels that are made in front of you and filled wiht either caramel or chocolate sauce!

If you’re heading in the winter time, make sure to check out the Ice* Amsterdam rink by the Rijks museum. Open November – February, it’s a great activity for children and adults alike, and each ticket includes skate hire and gives you a two hour slot to enjoy the ice. Wrap up warm and take some gloves – They’re mandatory!


Eat: Daalder, La Perla, The Butcher, Locanda, Senses, Pancakes Amsterdam. Jottum

Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities to eat in, and for good reason. The dining options are endless and cover all budgets.

Offering a unique dining option in the canal belt, Daalder serves up a ‘chefs surprise menu’, meaning you simply choose between 3, 4 or 5 courses at lunch or a 5 or 7 course dinner, and the chef will get to work on cooking for you! They always check for allergies or specific dislikes, and after that, its all a surprise! I particularly recommend opting for the wine pairings to accompany each course – They were expertly chosen and really added to the meal. Expect to spend around €130 for a 3 course lunch for two including wine pairings.

La Perla pizzeria, located in the heart of the Jordaan district is always packed, and rightly so. Fresh pizzas are the focus here, and the menu offers plenty of choice (Prosciutto San Daniele is a personal favourite). Turn up early and put you name down, then head to a canal side bar for a drink or two until your table is ready.

Also in the Jordaan area is Locanda, a cute Italian with a small but excellent menu of homemade Italian food. Tables line the streets outside in the warmer weather, but the inside of the restaurant is the star here – Think cozy interiors with small candlelit tables. Reservations are recommended here as it fills up quickly!

If decent burgers are your thing, then look no further than The Butcher. With a metal interior, it may not look like the most welcoming of burger bars, but the food more than makes up for it. (‘The Daddy’ is my personal favourite, but ‘The Butchers Wife’, with a grilled chicken breast instead of beef, is also an excellent choice).

For an incredible dining experience, head to Senses, headed up by chef Lars Bertelsen. With an emphasis on food art, every dish is exquisitely presented and the flavours are expertly paired. Choose the wine pairing option to accompany your meal to make it extra special! A 5 course dinner with wine pairings will cost around €110.

Jottum is the place to go for great tapas. A warm and buzzing restaurant with an extensive menu and delicious sangria to really give you that feeling of Spain! Particularly recommend the chorizo croquettas and the manchego and salami board.

You can’t visit Amsterdam without having pancakes, and while there are many, many options, there are our picks… For amazing fluffy pancakes and a warm welcome, head to Pancakes Amsterdam on Prinsengracht. They offer a set menu for around €14 including pancakes, orange juice and a hot drink. For a more traditional dutch crepe, head to The Pancake Bakery, also on Prinsengracht. Their cheese, bacon and mushroom pancake was excellent, and there is unlimited syrup on every table for guests. Perfect!


Drink: Cafe T’Smalle, P96, Super Lyan, Cafe Roenie’s

For a calming canal-side drink, I recommend heading to either Cafe T’smalle or P96 (a few minutes walk apart, both on Prinsengracht). Cafe T’smalle is a traditional wooden panelled pub, and is as lovely in summer when you can sit on the outdoor terrace with a cold beer as it is in winter when you can enjoy the candlelit interior with a glass of red wine. P96 is perfect for summer afternoons, as they have a stationary boat on the canal that you can enjoy your drinks on in the sunshine, watching the boats cruise along the canal, but it’s equally as great in winter, with cozy interiors and a great list of bar snacks to enjoy.

Attached to Kimpton De Witt hotel is the newly opened Super Lyan – the first international venture from Mr Lyan. With a gorgeous neon bar, plenty of seating and an extensive cocktail list (with two on draught!), make time for a drink here during your stay in the city. We particularly recommend the cucumber champagne!

Down near Vondelpark you’ll find Cafe Roenie’s – a laid back locals bar serving cold beer and a small selection of wines. A lovely ‘off the beaten track’ place to stop for a drink if you’ve spent the afternoon working up a thirst cycling around the park!

Uncategorized

Finding cheap flights

We all know the struggle – Desperate to travel as often as possible, but limited by our constantly empty bank accounts. The good news is, its much easier to travel on a budget than a lot of people think, as long as you aren’t too precious about exactly when or where you go. And before you worry, I’m not talking going to Greece in the middle of November when it’s freezing – It’s often just a case of altering your departure date by a day either way and suddenly your flight prices have plummeted. Read on to see my best tips on finding cheap flights…


Be flexible with travel dates:

Skyscanner is excellent for searching multiple airline prices at once, and they have the option of searching for prices over the whole month, meaning you can instantly see which days are cheapest (shown in green) through to most expensive (in red) to fly on. I’ve put an example of a flight search for London > Budapest below for the whole month of October. It’s an amazing tool to use if you aren’t tied to a specific date to travel on!

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Be flexible with your destination:

Not decided on where you want to go? Time to check out the fare finder on the Ryanair website. You simply enter your preferred departure airport and a rough budget and they list, in ascending order, the cheapest places to travel! Prices may alter slightly depending on dates you select, but it’s the easiest way to find the cheapest places to visit. Who knows, you might even discover your new favourite city!

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Browse in private windows:

It may be that you’re set on your travel days and your destination, and thats fine! If this is the case and you’re looking to book flights but notice they keep going up in price the more you search different websites, consider searching for them in a private web browser. This stops cookies being stored, meaning the flight companies won’t know you are repeatedly searching for the same routes, and you will always be shown the cheapest price available.

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