22 March 2017

Forgotten Costs of Cheap Holidays

If there's one thing better than a holiday, it's a cheap holiday and I've often been impressed with the prices I've managed to book a quick European break for. I don't really like to let myself believe that some of these trips aren't quite the bargain I tell myself!

So my 'less than £200' trip to Prague, or my 'bargain' trip to Paris end up actually costing a lot more than I expect, because of the hidden costs I 'forget' about in order to justify booking!

Here are some of the holiday costs I never take into consideration:

Airport Parking - sorting out my airport parking is always one of the last things I do. I don't mean to leave it to the last minute, but once I have something booked I want to concentrate on the 'fun' planning and sorta forget the 'boring but necessary' bits that need planning too! But, of course, any money saved on not booking the expensive last minute parking is money that can be put towards the fun stuff, so it all relates - I'll be making sure to follow these tips on how to save money on airport parking next time!

Passports - Mine is good for a few years yet, but both the kids passports need renewing this year. At £46 each for a child passport, that roughly an extra £100 on top of the next family holiday away!

Plug Adapter - OK, so this isn't something that I should need to buy every trip, but it's the thing I always forget until I get to the airport, where they cost about four times as much as buying one anywhere else! I have literally about 8 European adapters at home.... maybe one day I'll remember to take one with me!

Insurance - This is with airport parking in the 'boring but necessary' category. I might save money overall by getting one of those annual policies but I really need to make the time to look into it properly, instead of quickly clicking 'yes' to something on the way out of the door!

New clothes/shoes/sunglasses/whatever - Now I understand there is a big difference between needing new holiday things, and needing new holiday things, and this can vary depending on what type of holiday it is. I didn't really need a couple of new dresses bought for Paris, but I did definitely need a thick waterproof coat for Iceland!

Airport spending money - I have my holiday spending money carefully budgeted and stashed away, but I always invariably end up spending a small fortune at the airport before we go. Drinks for the plane, sucky sweets, a brew and slice of cake to kill the couple of hours waiting around time... it all adds up!

And that's before we even go anywhere! Once I arrive at my destination its a whole other mess of spending as my carefully planned budget goes out the window and the 'whatever, I'm on holiday! attitude comes in!

Still, it's not going to stop me telling myself that I can definitely afford that weekend away I've been looking at!

* In collaboration with Cheapflights but no less true for it

20 March 2017

A Charming Mother's Day Giveaway

As a special, gift-giving occasion is coming up I'm going to rely on my usual suggestion for the best gift to give to the important ladies in your life - one of the gorgeous handbags from Vendula London!

My love for these stunning bags is old news to anyone who's read this blog for a while, and only grown as they release new ranges. Today I get to share my love for this innovative company by giving away fantastic Vendula prizes to two lucky winners this Mother's Day!
Up for offer are their unique charm bags. There is a choice of a couple of styles of bag complete in a range of colours. The bags can then be accessorised with the detachable charm sets in a range of designs to really dress them up!

I love how one quite simple bag can be personalised to suit a range of preferences and occasions. The charms really add something different and fun, and are bound to be a talking point! I know my cat-lady mum would love the Cat's World charm set, but my favourite is the Beside The Seaside set - so reminiscent of those classic British beach holidays, making me long for ice cream in the sunshine that is hopefully not too far away now!

The lucky winners can choose from any one bag and any one charm set from those shown here (apart from the Alice or London charm sets), just enter below!

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(And remember, even if you don't win a bag, you can give thanks/win points with your mum by treating her to a Vendula London gift anyway - they're making it even easier for you at the minute with 20% off full priced items before Sunday if you enter the code 'MUM2017' at the checkout!)

17 March 2017

The True Tea Club

It's been a shamefully long time since I've posted here, I know. I've been a busy bee with work and life and my new blog project. If there was one thing that would drag me back into action, it's my love of tea!

The lovely chaps over at The True Tea Club asked if I'd like to try out their tea subscription box, and I've rarely been more certain in my 'yes'!

I love subscription boxes but my dabblings with them in the past have led to me having a houseful of random stuff I don't really know what to do with. But never with tea. Tea is always useful, tea is always wonderful.

The True Tea Club (Yorkshire based, like all the best folk) want to share their 'exper-teas' (yes, I know that's terrible) by introducing their subscribers to a variety of exciting tea blends. These are perfect for the tea beginner as well as those who know their way around loose leafs already, as they come with simple instructions, plenty of info, and even a couple of empty tea bags for those more comfortable with that tea-making method (or lacking the equipment for otherwise).

There's a couple of subscription options, starting at £10 a month (UK postage included) for around 40 cups worth of tea. There's options for tailor-making your box too, if there's a particular tea-type you aren't fond of. I personally like the surprise!

Here's what a typical box might look like...

The first one I tried was the 'Mighty Mango' tea, which smells INCREDIBLE when you open the packet. I'm quite partial to a mango tea and so was really looking forward to this, and the official description really helped sell it: 'Mellow like a Californian beach, the sencha basis is surrounded by bright sunflower blossoms which relaxes in harmony with the fruity mango flavour.' Sounds dreamy, right? I was surprised by the brewing instructions, which suggested a mere 10-20 seconds brewing time. In fact I was half convinced it was a mistake so it was with a certain degree of cynicism that I brewed mine for a (generous) 20 seconds but was pleasantly surprised with how much flavour came out in this brief window, which also didn't give enough time from any green tea bitterness to seep into the final brew. This was just lovely, and would make a particularly cracking drink come those warmer summer days!

Next up was the Vanilla Cupcake - a sweet smooth rooibos with an extra fruity touch in the way of orange peel, papaya strips and banana chips. Plus, isn't it pretty? That's the addition of cornflower, marigold and rose petals which add to the flavour as well as being a treat for the eye! I love the creamy vanilla rooibos base, and though I'm not convinced of its cupcakey-ness, it was a delicious brew nonetheless!

Earl Grey never struck me as particularly rebellious. A little too dainty and flowery for that, so I was interested in what earned the Earl Grey Rebel it's name. Oh, this is punchy! Its Earl Grey, but fresh and zesty, and just properly good. Love it!

I know I've already mentioned how pretty the teas are, and 'prettiness' is a funny desired trait in a tea in a way as the lovely colours and textures found in a tea blend aren't really reflected in the look of the finished drink... but still, look at this beauty! (I could get into why a pretty tea actually is a better tea, but that's a whole other blog post..! Do have a look at The True Tea Club's explanation of the differences between loose tea and tea bags here if you are interested though!) Despite loving the colours of the Rainbow Chaser, made up of apple pieces, blackberry leaves, peppermint and orange peel, this was my least favourite of the bunch. It's just not my cup of tea, as it were. It might be partially because I lack the patience for the longer brewing time of 5-10 minutes, it might be that it tastes like it's really good for you, but I'm just not that into the more herbal/fruity teas. My brother loves this one though, so it's all personal preference - and of course, if there's something you don't like, tea-wise, you can always mention it in your subscription to avoid getting them in future boxes!

I think a service like this is a great way to try new teas - especially if you aren't really sure of what you like yet and want to try different kinds. If you come across a favourite you can even stock up on it from the True Tea Club online shop! You can also follow The True Tea Club on twitter, facebook and instagram for sneaky peaks at what's coming up in future boxes

11 January 2017

On Adulting

Last week was my 36th birthday. Which means I've officially been an adult for over half of my life. I also had chocolate biscuits for breakfast this morning while watching cartoons in my harry potter pj's. Being an adult is not what people think it is.

In a recent poll by Tangerine Confectionary, it has been revealed that most people wouldn't consider themselves an adult until the grand old age of 33. I suspect this poll may have ben made up largely of 28 year olds hoping that they might have themselves together in five years.

The truth, I think, is that the line between adult and non-adult is a lot less defined than we've been led to believe.

I have two children and a mortgage. I'm a company director. I know about corporation tax and complete VAT returns. I have a pension. And there are a lot of people like me - people who an OK job of pretending to know what they're doing. But when no one is looking, when all the important 'adult' jobs are done, we all love nothing more than reverting to the happy comforts of childhood.

My hope of immaturity have been vastly aided recently by the good folks at Sweet Champions, who have sent me a grand little 'Kidulting Pack'. The sweeties sent me straight back to my childhood - I didn't even know some of these still existed (I haven't seen a 'mojo' in about 25 years!)

Christmas time gave me a great opportunity to step away from adulting.  Not only is it more acceptable to live on sweets than any other time of the year, its also totally ok to get excited about presents and cover everything in glitter. Most importantly though, is the amount of time 'off' I have from the usual adulting duties!

We shut down at work between Christmas and New Year, so I had a whole week and a bit away from worrying about receipts and timesheets and other boring bits of paper. The kids were off school, so I didn't even have to think about clean uniforms or making sure homework is done.

I had such a wonderful week of hanging out with my favourite people, gorging on sugary goodies and not worrying about bills.

Sadly though, all good things come to an end and I've been back at work so long it doesn't even feel like I was ever away! Thankfully if it all gets too much, I can dip into my 'done adulting' kit, eat sweets and colour in 'til I feel better!

Had enough of being a grown up? You can win yourself a full kidulting kit too - help and encouragement for when you need to adult, sugar and distractions for when you've finished! Just enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

28 December 2016

2017's Travel Plans - A whole news years worth of holiday allowance!

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! Mine was just lovely, and I'm currently loving the fact that I don't have to be back at work 'til the New Year. I have nothing to do for days and days but watch Cartoon Network and eat my way through all the Christmas chocolates - bliss!

It's rare I have time off at home, as I usually spend my bookable work holiday days away from home if possible - and now I have a whole new years worth of holiday allowance to use up in 2017!

Sadly, I seem to have allocated a lot of it already, but I do have a few fun things lined up next year:

Just a month into 2017, we're off to Iceland for a few days. It'll be my third visit and I'm so excited, it's one of my favourite places! We are going to forgo some of the biggest attractions this time round - so no Blue Lagoon and no Golden Circle, as we've done them already, and instead try to find some new fun things to do!

For our family Summer holiday, we are heading back off to Scotland. Despite my initial misgivings about Scotland as a holiday destination, we had a wonderful time in 2016 and it was everyone's top choice for 2017. We'll be staying in one of the lovely Sykes Cottages again, but are heading to a different area (an even longer drive!). We promised the little miss that we would definitely visit Loch Ness on this trip so she can go monster hunting! I'm tempted to take a couple of days either side of the booked week to work our way up the country slowly, building in time for a few extra stop offs and break up the driving a little!

I've visited, and loved, a number of big bustling capital cities across Europe - but for some reason London has never really appealed to me. However, I did manage to book a couple of precious tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child later in the year, so will be heading down to the big bad city to get my nerd on. I figured since I have to be in London anyway, I should give it a fair chance to win me over, so I'll stay a couple of days and play tourist!

At some point I'll definitely try to squeeze in a little visit to Bruges. The P&O Ferries Minicruises, if booked at the right time, can be too cheap to say no to - especially when there's all that great chocolate and beer to be had!

Does it see like there's something missing here to you? I've got action and adventure, the great outdoors, cultural city breaks and the best hot chocolate in the world - what I don't have is relaxing in the sun. I think I have just enough allowance left to squeeze in a nice warm sunshine holiday! (Greedy, aren't I?!) I'll admit that until the last couple of years this sort of lying-in-the-sun-not-doing-much sort of holiday didn't appeal much, and maybe it's my age, maybe its because its winter, but not much sounds more appealing at the minute! But where to? I'd love to hear your top holiday destination recommendations!