Wednesday

Places I Don't Want to Visit

I'm forever posting about all the places I still want to visit. I even have a whole blog label dedicated to my bucket lists! What I never talk about though, is the places I don't want to visit. I thought it would be fun to share some of the destinations on my anti-bucket list and if you have any blog posts to convince me that I'm wrong then please do share! 

Downtown Los Angeles Los Angeles, USA
There are lots of places in California that I'd like to see - Yosemite, San Diego, Big Sur to name but a few - but for some reason LA isn't one of them. I like my cities a bit rough around the edges and Los Angeles just seems like the epitome of clean, modern and polished. I'm just not into it. I'm also pretty ugly as well, so there's that.

City Center - Las Vegas Panoramic Las Vegas, USA
Sorry USA! I want to come and visit you again so badly, it just won't be Las Vegas either. I'm terrible at gambling, I don't really like partying and I kind of just imagine it to be full of gross men. I suppose there's a reason so many people go and keep going back, but I'm struggling to see it.

atlantis-the-palm-2 Dubai, UAE
I'm probably going to cause offence here so do correct me if I'm wrong, but Dubai just seems so...soulless. Same as with LA, I'm not into modern and polished cities and the huge wealth/poverty disparity there really bothers me.

Giza Pyramids Giza, Egypt
I'm cheating a bit with Giza because I really would like to go and like many people I have done since I was a child. I've heard that the pyramids are a bit of a tourist trap now though and I can't imagine getting ripped off in the heat with thousands of other tourists is that much fun. Maybe some day though, just to say I've been.

Shanghai Evening Shanghai, China 
China is one of those places I never thought I'd want to visit (I have a blog post on those coming soon) but it turns out there are so many things there that I want to see. A city of more than 24 million people though? Not so much. I hate crowds and noise so that's probably never going to work out, and the pollution there sounds absolutely horrific. I'd just spend the entire time there an exhausted, nervous wreck.

Have you been to any of the places on my anti-bucket list? What would you include on yours?

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Monday

When to Spend More on a Flight

There's a lot of information online about how to find cheap flights but just because you can get the cheapest fare it doesn't necessarily mean you should. If you’re flying with baggage, want to upgrade with air miles, need a flexible ticket or want to fly long haul in luxury it might be worth spending more money on your flight.

There's a lot of information online about how to find cheap flights, and finding dirt cheap flights is the main reason I'm able to travel as much as I do. But just because you can get the cheapest fare it doesn't necessarily mean you should. Sometimes it pays to spend more on your air travel so if any of the below apply to you, I'd always advise you to think twice before jumping head first into the cheapest deal you find.

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If you have baggage - low-cost carriers, BA and a lot of the Joint Venture carriers such as Lufthansa and SN Brussels offer no-baggage fares which are great if you're jetting off on a weekend break, but not so cost effective if you're planning on staying longer or, like me, are terrible at packing light. Carriers like Ryanair and Easyjet aren't as bad as they used to be now that they have to include taxes in the advertised fare, but it's really easy to fall into the trap of booking a flight because the base fare is lower than elsewhere and then get stung by the cost of adding baggage on. When we spent a week in Lisbon recently it actually worked out cheaper to fly with TAP Portugal than add bags on to a Ryanair flight. We got a small meal included, it was much less chaotic than flying with a budget airline and the flight times were much more convenient for us. 

If you're flying long haul - I am perfectly fine with being cooped up with no legroom if I'm flying within Europe, but long haul is a different story. Our flights to South America were with Avianca and much as I'd love to find something good to say about them, I just can't. However they were almost £300 cheaper than any of the other airlines flying on the dates we wanted. In hindsight I really wish we'd spent the extra money as both overnight flights were really bad in terms of food, service and comfort. 

If you want to upgrade with air miles - Air miles seem really alien in the beginning but once you get your head round them it's so easy! Just be willing to pay a little bit more for your flight if you want to use them to upgrade. Some booking classes (not to be confused with cabin classes) don't allow you to upgrade with air miles and these are often the booking classes that offer the cheapest fare. The airline website will tell you which booking classes are upgradeable but give the airline a call if you're struggling. 

If you need a flexible ticket - Tempting as it is to just book a one way ticket to the destination at the top of your bucket list, it's not always that simple. You're probably going to need to come back at some point or at least have proof of onward travel for visa purposes* and unless you're travelling with a low-cost carrier it's usually cheaper to buy a return ticket than two one-way tickets. Even if you don't know your return date yet, you can always book a dummy return and change it at a later date. Just keep in mind that most of the time you'll need to pay the airline fee as well as any fare difference to change your ticket, and usually the cheaper your ticket the less flexible it is so you're going to incur higher change/refund penalties if it's even flexible at all. If you're likely to have to change or cancel your ticket always read the rules and contact the airline before booking if you're unsure, especially if your return date is likely to be more than twelve months away. 

If you're using a travel agent - Ever wondered how travel agents make their money? Hint: It's not by offering the cheapest fares. Sites like Skyscanner and Google Flights can find those for you and they're free to use, so why would you bother? Well you'd be surprised how many people think that a travel agent can find you a direct flight in peak season for the same price of a thirty hour flight with three transfers in mid-November that they found on Skyscanner. Travel agents can find you the most cost-effective way to travel though so if you think you might need to change or upgrade your ticket then maybe give a travel agent a try. They will charge a commission, but generally it's pretty small considering the service you get. 

What's your policy for spending money on flights? Cheap and cheerful all the way or something you should splurge on?
*please be careful when booking flights some airlines can deny you boarding if you don't have proof of onward travel. I would usually apply the principle that if you're travelling somewhere that you need a visa for then you're probably going to need an onward ticket, but it's always worth checking with the airline for any flights travelling outside of the EU. 

Friday

My First Airbnb Experience

We stayed in our first Airbnb apartment in Lisbon, Portugal. The studio apartment was very clean, well-equipped and close to the metro and supermarkets and we had a really positive experience. The apartment was just a few minutes’ walk away from the beautiful Alfama district close to many of Lisbon’s major attractions.

Maybe it’s because we’d recently returned from lands where paying more than £10 a night for a room seemed like a frivolous luxury or maybe it’s because we chose to visit in the height of summer, but accommodation in Lisbon is not cheap. With shared rooms on the very outskirts of the city costing more per night than our daily combined budget in South America, it was finally time to turn our attention to Airbnb.

As a travel blogger in 2016 it seems ludicrous that I'd never stayed in an Airbnb before and I have to admit that I think I somewhat misunderstood the concept. As an introvert, the very idea staying in a stranger's house, encroaching on someone else's territory and having to make small talk over breakfast is enough to make me want to lie down in a dark room. And what on Earth would our hosts think when we stumbled back from the NOS Alive festival at 4am, our brains swimming in pints of Heineken*?! What I didn't realise is that instead of staying in somebody's spare room, you can actually rent out an entire apartment to have the whole place to yourselves. Which is exactly what we did with Cristina and Horacio's beautiful studio in Mouraria.

We arrived in Lisbon at a bit of an awkward time, but Horacio kindly picked us up at the airport and gave us so much useful information about where to visit, places to eat and how to travel around the city. The studio was very clean, had all the amenities we needed and the Wi-Fi was great (the novelty of finding this whilst travelling still hasn't worn off). The apartment was also in a really ideal location down a quiet street just a short stroll from the centre of the beautiful Alfama district. There were plenty of supermarkets nearby so we cooked for ourselves almost every night and the nearest metro stop was only a two minute walk away.

Lisbon is such a beautiful city anyway, but with such a nice place to stay it just made our time away even better. I wouldn't hesitate to book another Airbnb for future trips and I'm really excited to explore some more apartments in different parts of the world.

*It was actually more like hobbling home at 1am with bad backs - a tell-tale sign that we might just be getting too old for this festival business. 

We stayed in our first Airbnb apartment in Lisbon, Portugal. The studio apartment was very clean, well-equipped and close to the metro and supermarkets and we had a really positive experience. The apartment was just a few minutes’ walk away from the beautiful Alfama district close to many of Lisbon’s major attractions.




We stayed in our first Airbnb apartment in Lisbon, Portugal. The studio apartment was very clean, well-equipped and close to the metro and supermarkets and we had a really positive experience. The apartment was just a few minutes’ walk away from the beautiful Alfama district close to many of Lisbon’s major attractions.


We stayed in our first Airbnb apartment in Lisbon, Portugal. The studio apartment was very clean, well-equipped and close to the metro and supermarkets and we had a really positive experience. The apartment was just a few minutes’ walk away from the beautiful Alfama district close to many of Lisbon’s major attractions.


We stayed in our first Airbnb apartment in Lisbon, Portugal. The studio apartment was very clean, well-equipped and close to the metro and supermarkets and we had a really positive experience. The apartment was just a few minutes’ walk away from the beautiful Alfama district close to many of Lisbon’s major attractions.

We stayed in our first Airbnb apartment in Lisbon, Portugal. The studio apartment was very clean, well-equipped and close to the metro and supermarkets and we had a really positive experience. The apartment was just a few minutes’ walk away from the beautiful Alfama district close to many of Lisbon’s major attractions.

We stayed in our first Airbnb apartment in Lisbon, Portugal. The studio apartment was very clean, well-equipped and close to the metro and supermarkets and we had a really positive experience. The apartment was just a few minutes’ walk away from the beautiful Alfama district close to many of Lisbon’s major attractions.



Have you ever stayed in an Airbnb? If not, you can follow this link to get £20 credit towards your next stay. Not bad, eh? 


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We stayed in our first Airbnb apartment in Lisbon, Portugal. The studio apartment was very clean, well-equipped and close to the metro and supermarkets and we had a really positive experience. The apartment was just a few minutes’ walk away from the beautiful Alfama district close to many of Lisbon’s major attractions.