Thursday, 25 August 2016

TRAVEL: TOP 5 TIPS ON PLANNING FOR A BUSY HOLIDAY

I feel that when it comes to planning things, in particular holidays, I'm not afraid to say that I think I'm pretty good.

I only really got into planning in 2013 when we went on a family holiday to Florida, since then I've planned another trip to Florida, smaller European holidays, city breaks and I'm currently in the process of planning a NY trip and yet another Florida holiday. I'm pleased to say that each holiday I've created itineraries for in the past have all ran smoothly and people have commented that I organised everything perfectly.

Of course, all of this takes time and effort, however I love doing it. My worst nightmare is spending a lot of money to go somewhere, then arriving and wandering around aimlessly, not knowing where to go, wasting time and money in poor restaurants and taking longer routes to places (and suffering in the process!) all because no organisation was put into it.

Of course there are certain holidays that I probably wouldn't plan so meticulously for, such as sun/beach holidays. Although I still wouldn't be able to resist planning for restaurants (I do that in my own hometown, never mind somewhere new!).

Over the years, I've built up a process in my head of how I plan holidays, so I thought I'd share them with you!

1. Buy a pocket travel guide of the place you're visiting. My go-to brand are the DK travel guides, the smaller 'top 10' books include a handy laminated pull out map that you can detach from the book and throw in your handbag so you always have a reference guide. I think our NY map is definitely going to get over-used on our upcoming trip! The larger books from the DK range have more in-depth detail about the country you are visiting, however in my opinion, these would suit people that are travelling for a lengthy amount of time, or going on long road trips. For an average 2 week break, the top 10 guides will be just fine. If you don't want to spend money on books, you could find all of this information out on the internet, but collating all the information together then making note of it would be a little hassle, so personally the book and map is worth the £7.99 fee.



2. TripAdvisor is your friend. For everything I plan or book, I turn to this website. I know there can be a lot of negative comments on there, however I've learnt to read through the first few pages of something, then take an average of what people are saying about a particular place. If its 90% positive, then I'm likely to still visit, however if its 90% negative, I'd probably think again. You have to read the negatives because once you sieve through their 'issues', most times you'll realise that it was just bad luck on their part, and the chances of you experiencing similar are slim. Tripadvisor also offer a 'Top 10' of every area, including restaurants, things to do etc. Always check through tripadvisor's traveller photos too. Official websites for hotels and restaurants can often give a very different 'view' on their business. Photos can be overly edited to make everything look almost perfect. However looking at travellers photos gives you a realistic view of what it really looks like!

3. Be realistic with timing. If you've planned 1 day to be very active, out the hotel by 8am, not back till 11pm, chances are, you'll be tired the next day and want a small lie-in to rest, so booking a breakfast reservation for 8am might not be wise! Its so tempting to squash as much as you possibly can into the days in which you are at your destination, however sometimes this can be a bad move, especially if you don't usually lead an active lifestyle at home. A lot of walking can be torture on your feet and will ruin your holiday if you over-do it (I've been there!). Try and allow for a few chill out days whereby you might have a lay in, then take it easy and not venture too far and do anything overly strenuous. If you can't afford to lose a few days, maybe a morning or afternoon, just to allow your body to recoup.

4. Depending on your destination, booking activities/restaurant tables is often essential, especially if its a Disney holiday. First-timers to Disney don't often realise how important it is to plan before. If you expect to turn up on the day and walk straight into a Disney restaurant for table service, you'll be very lucky! I will be booking for certain landmarks for our upcoming trip to NY too. It's not worth the disappointment otherwise.

5. Checking distances. I am forever referring to google maps if I've found somewhere I'd like to eat or visit. I see how close it is in relation to the hotel or other plans that we have on the same day to see if it is a viable option. It also helps to distinguish if its in walking distance or if we'd need to grab a taxi.
If its quite a distance, try and incorporate it with other plans in that area so you're killing 2 birds with 1 stone as opposed to making a few unnecessary trips.

Have you got any upcoming trips that you're planning for? Let me know in the comments below! I love to talk travel!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Review: July's Degustabox

Another month gone, another Degustabox demolished.


Let's take a closer look...

Drinks (L-R)



Rejuvenation Water - RRP £1.99

I've tried all of their flavours before and honestly? They're not my cup of tea. Because they include natural fruit flavours and amino acids, personally the taste is bland and tickles my taste buds in the wrong way.

ALO Drink - RRP £2.45

This aloe vera juice drink was lovely. I discovered the exact same drink (but a different brand) in Tesco's about a year ago, I got addicted to them for several weeks, then they vanished and I could no longer find them, so this was a lovely surprise. They're not everyone's cup of tea but I love them.

Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Drink, by Cracket - RRP £1.50

For me, these flavours didn't work very well. You could taste each flavour equally as much as the next, and because of this, I found it quite overpowering.

Berrywhite organic drink/Cucumber drink

I wasn't a fan of these drinks either (Sorry DB!). I poured the cucumber drink into a bottle one day and took it to work... bad mistake. 3 weeks later and every time I drink water from it, all I can taste is cucumber. It's tinged the plastic and the smell/taste wont budge. Arghh!

Condiments



Sarson's Balsamic Vinegar - RRP £1.99

This was yet another DB repeat... I think I've got about 3 balsamic's sat in my cupboard now, growing old. Yes its nice to add taste to salads extra, but the repetitiveness of the products get tiring..

Felix Gerkhins - RRP £2.15

Sweet pickled crunchy gerkhins. I take the gerkhins out of my McDonalds burgers.. what more do I need to tell you?

Cereal



Jordans Swiss Style Muesli - RRP £2.79

I remember my dad giving me muesli one morning before an early morning trip to the airport. I wasn't overly keen then, however years later, my taste buds seem to have grown an even bigger barrier against the stuff. Definitely not for me.

Snacks (L-R)



Brookside Chocolates - £3.40

I was apprehensive about these when I saw it said 'dark chocolate' on the packaging, however these became surprisingly moreish the more I ate, to the point where I was disappointed when I had hit the bottom of the packet! There appeared to be 2 different berry flavours going on, they were different but so good! I'm not sure I'd pay the full RRP price though!

Seabrooks Lattice Crisps - RRP £1.99

Yum! These were gooood!

Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles Infusions - RRP £1.29

Who doesn't love a good fruit pastille? Even better now they've released 3 new flavours, and this packet was full of them. Definitely too good to put down!

Bahlsen Choco Leibniz - 40p each (I was sent 4 but I ate 2 before the photo was taken!)

This is the perfect combination of chocolate and biscuit. They're great to shove in your bag and take to work. Great little sweet fix to see you through the day.

Itsu Crispy Seaweed Thins - RRP £1 (x 2)

I've tried crispy seaweed from the Chinese before, but never tried it like this. I can honestly say I wont be trying to again. The taste from the sea (salt & fish) was overwhelming and definitely not up my street.

All in all, a very mixed bag. I loved most of the snacks, but give me sweet things and you really can't go wrong. A lot of the drinks I wasn't keen on, but again, this is down to personal preference (although I will say I wouldn't class myself as a fussy eater in the slightest).

Degustabox is a great little monthly treat if you're a foodie like me. It sends approx. 12 items that has a retail value of over £20 but with my code (BLDEG15), on your first box you can get a massive £7 discount, meaning the total of your first box will be just £6! (inc P&P!)
 

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

July Round-Up - New Arrivals, Donut Burgers and Family Days

A little late doing July's update but I didn't want to break my cycle!

July saw seen some absolutely glorious weather, which I tried to make use of on my days off. When we have hot sunny days I long to be a kid again, knowing I have a full 6 weeks worth of freedom ahead of me. Unfortunately though we have to move with the times...

Although its been perfect weather, I unfortunately haven't had the opportunity to venture very far. Our holiday payment deadline is looming so we're having to be careful with the pennies as it draws closer. Instead we've been appreciating things in our home town a little more, and creating 'free' afternoon outs by packing up a picnic and venturing to the nearby woods for a few hours (which we've already been to a handful of times this summer!)

There's been a lot that's been happening at work, and we've waved a few of my colleagues off  as funding cuts struck. Its been sad times as we're down to only a bare minimum now. With this happening I have joined in with the leaving celebrations over meals and drinks for one last farewell.




Mike's family had a gathering to celebrate his uncle's birthday. There was a lot of his family that I'd never met before (I don't often come into contact with his dad's side of the family). After that, Mike and I went and grabbed some tea.. I had a burger were the bun was a Krispy Crème Donut (I know, I know, but trust me, it worked!).

I've also had the pleasure of becoming an auntie for the second time and welcoming a new niece into the world. We've also took my other niece on a lovely afternoon out as she broke up for the summer holidays. I'm hoping to do more things with her in August and have already got a few things in the pipeline. It's also Mike's birthday, and although we're watching the pennies, there are a few places I have up my sleeve, nothing too grand though with the holiday coming up. Its summer after all, and it doesn't take a lot for me to get jealous over all these swimming pool and beach shots!

Hope you're all having a great summer!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

My Disney Bucket List

So in a few months time I will be heading to Disney once again, the third time in 3 years. This upcoming trip I've researched and planned like there really is no tomorrow, and I've got everything down to a tee. Doing this has helped me realise what stuff we've yet to experience in Disney, so I thought I'd share some of my plans with you!

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Disney's Water Pageant Parade - For those that don't know, Disney do nightly entertainment in most of their theme parks, however the electric water pageant is displayed on the Seven Seas Lagoon, and we've never had chance to see it. It only lasts between 5-7 minutes, so it's not going to take much time out of our schedule but it'll be nice to see. We have dinner planned at Ohana's one evening, so after that I'm hoping to go onto the viewing deck area and watch the Disney fireworks, then go down on their beach to watch the water pageant across the lagoon.

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Ride more attractions in Fantasyland. In all honesty, we avoided most of these rides, purely because 1) We thought they were for children, and yes, they kinda are, but in Disney, anything goes. And 2) The queue times were always crazy long, and without fast passes, I didn't fancy waiting 50+ minutes in a queue. However! Thanks to a vlogger that I've been watching, I've learnt a tip on how to avoid queue times for these rides which I'll definitely be implementing into my itinerary!

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Experience some night entertainment beyond the theme parks. As the sun sets, the theme parks are still alive, and both Magic Kingdom and Epcot display their famous fireworks. Hollywood Studios has Fantasmic, and Animal Kingdom has it's new evening entertainment (that I'm still yet to sample!). Disney Springs have obviously got their live music, bowling, cinema, and Universal's City Walk has got a handful of bars and clubs, however that's one t
hing I missed when in Orlando - Just sitting somewhere having a drink, a sing-a-long (hopefully to some cheesy pop music) and possibly a boogie if I'm feeling brave. I know Orlando do offer these types of places, but its a case of fishing them out. I might sample Jelly Rolls on Disney's Boardwalks.. I hear they have a live piano playing with lots of modern songs and a huge dance floor, so we shall see!


Visit all the Disney Deluxe Resorts and view Christmas Decorations. Up until our last visit, we didn't really visit any other hotels, simply because I didn't realise you could. However since doing more research, they remind me a little of Vegas, and how the hotels are an attraction in themselves. They're so pretty with their huge grand receptions, lagoons, waterfalls, man-made beaches, hammocks etc, all this along with their unique theming and subtle Disney hints makes this a great (and free!) way to spend a few hours. With the added bonus of it being Christmas when we visit, I've only heard good things about their decorations, so I've already pencilled in a full afternoon to jump on and off the monorail and boats and tour all the Deluxe Resorts! I'm really looking forward to this day!


Meet a character. Yep, that's right, I've had 2 trips in the last 2-3 years and I never met one character. Ok, I technically met Bart Simpson in Universal, but it was a very quick 'lets take a photo' moment. This time I've booked 2 separate breakfasts to meet different characters. I'm not the most confident of people when it comes to talking, so I'm hoping its not going to be too awkward, but its something I want to tick off my list! Yes, I'm an adult with no kids, but yes, this goes in Disney!


Hire a boat on the Seven Seas Lagoon. I didn't know this was even possible till a few months ago when I was researching. You can hire a boat for 30 minutes and it's really cheap too! I'm hoping we can fit that in somewhere! Lots of people take music and food/drink - its a great way to chill out one afternoon! It kinda freaks me out knowing that Alligators will be lurking in the lagoon, but these hire boats are pretty big and sturdy so I think we'll be safe!



Face my fears and ride Rip Ride RockIt (Yes, I know technically this shouldn't be on a 'Disney' bucket list, but for me, Universal & Disney go hand-in-hand because I do both whilst visiting Florida!) In 2013 Mike had to ride it with my sister-in-law, then last year he rode it alone. I'm fairly 'brave' when it comes to rides, but this is the only attraction I refuse to do. The beginning of the coaster reminds me of Smiler at Alton Towers. Vertical. I hate anything that involves a vertical track, whether it be a drop or going up! However I'm trying to psyche myself up ready to do this! The only thing that appeals to me about this ride is that you get to choose your own soundtrack to blast in your ears as you go round!

Coronado Springs - This is the resort we will be staying at.
Stay in a Disney resort and experience the Disney Dining Plan, and own a magic band. This one has technically already been ticked off my list, because although I haven't experienced any of the above, I know I'm going to because everything is booked. There's so many different ways to 'do' Disney in terms of accommodation. We've experienced a villa, and also a hotel on Int Drive, so now hopefully we've saved the best till last!

Is there anything you think I may have missed off?!

Monday, 11 July 2016

Review: June's Degustabox

Another mixed bunch of food products from Degustabox, most of which I've already eaten! No shame...


Lets take a closer look...

Drinks

Zeo is a firm favourite of DB, I've had the pleasure of sampling them a few times now. This glass bottle of cloudy lemon drink is the perfect size to take to a picnic. Lovely and refreshing, and it certainly went down a treat with me (yes, just me..). RRP: £2.75

King Star Crafted Lager
Being someone who rarely drinks alcohol, and especially not beer, this was swiftly passed onto my boyfriend who had it with an evening meal. Positive words were initially said, however the more he drank, the more those positive words changed into a squirming face. Sorry King Star!



Snacks

Favourite section of this blog post! Who doesn't love a good snack?
The waffle crisps (RRP £1.10) I thought was going to be similar to Stroopwafels, however I was wrong (kind of.) These were like thin buttery biscuits, and really tasty too! They melt in your mouth and the buttery texture is lovely! Mmmm... pass me more!

The Chocolate Mug Brownie Mix I was all over (I remember craving chocolate and we didn't have any in apart from this!). I'm glad to say that I've tried a certain other brand of cake mug mix before and really wasn't impressed, however this was so much better! So convenient too! RRP: £1.50

The butterkist yogurt coated popcorn (RRP £1.49) I was a little sceptical about, I'm not a fan of yogurt coated things, however these just worked... the coating did weigh the popcorn down a little, and take away the crunch, but they were so moreish it didn't matter!

The Smooze fruit ice lollies (RRP £2.50) I'm still in 2 minds about - Imagine a frozen fruit smoothie, its pretty much that, but in a lolly form! Although I love both coconut and mango, I wasn't sold on this flavour.



Condiments

Haywards silverskin onions (RRP £1.89) Pickled onions are something I don't have in my cupboard, and I associate them more with buffets or Christmas, weirdly. Needless to say I haven't felt the right opportunity crop up to eat these.

Branston Spicy Tomato Relish (RR £1.65) If you saw our sauce/condiment cupboard, you'd think we were feeding the 5000. Certain relishes I really struggle to be imaginative and think what to use them with, apart from the typical cheese sandwich, which I very rarely eat. Hmm.



Meal Additions

Sacla Basil Pesto Pots (RRP £2.79) I used one of these in a pasta dish. Nice, simple and convenient. Perfect for lazy cookers!

Schwartz American Smokehouse burger mix (RRP £1.49)
We made some burgers a few nights ago and used this. Unfortunately I wasn't blown away. I don't have good experiences with homemade burgers at the best of times but I was expecting this to add lots of flavour to the burger, but it didn't. Thumbs down from me.

Shirataki Miracle Noodle Angel Hair (RRP £2.49)
Can I just say, 'hair' and food should not come in the same sentence. I know it technically doesn't, but the image evokes something gross in my mind. This squishy little pack is yet to be used, I'm not too sure what I'm going to make with it yet but I've had something very similar before and wasn't blown away, however lets not tar everything with the same brush!





If you would like lots of food products sent to your door every month as a treat, why not sign up to Degustabox? I have a great saving where your first box will cost a mere £6! What are you waiting for?! Pop the code SIGIDN in at the check-out and you're away!

Friday, 1 July 2016

June Round Up - Lincoln, Lush & Lilies

In order to remind myself what I have done over the previous month, I tend to turn to Instagram, because it's here that I always capture the highlights. However browsing over the few measly photos I took last month, I soon realised that June had been very quiet, with a few trips to restaurants (which food I surprisingly didn't take a snap!), a day out in Lincoln and not a jolly lot else. However I was glad to see a few Lush photos in there! I feel I've been really struggling for opportunities to use my Lush products because of the humid nights.. the last thing I want is a bath! However lately we've been having a few rainy nights which has made me want to light candles and run a bath like it's winter again.

Clockwise L- R Poppy Wave in Lincoln. Bath goodies. Bagpipes at Royal Armed Forces Day. 'Just because' lilies from Mike.

Did you get up to anything exciting in June? Here's to a more appealing July!