The Dead Sea – Jordan

The Dead Sea – Jordan

Regular readers will know that I go to Jordan every year to visit my family. For the last couple of years, Topher has joined me and for the first time this year his sister Emma came too.

Of course this meant we had to live like tourists for our two and a half week stay (especially since Topher had only done Amman and the Dead Sea once) so we began with a nights stay in the Marriott Dead Sea Resort.

dead sea - group shot

If you ever find yourself in Jordan, The Dead Sea is a must visit. It’s the lowest point on the planet and it’s a sea that’s so salty that no living thing can live in it. Plus it makes you float on the surface which is a great opportunity to do the ultimate tourist pose and float reading a book for the camera.

It’s less than an hour’s drive away from Amman so perfect for a day trip but we decided to begin our quest south there and stay overnight. I’ve stayed in the Marriott once about 12 years ago and I still remembered it as the comfiest bed I ever slept on so it’s a must if you’ve got room in your budget for a bit of luxury. Damn I miss travelling with my parents!

dead sea - lobby

The Dead Sea is ridiculously humid which is a stark contrast to Amman which is more of a dry heat. So I think we only lasted about 10 minutes outside fully clothed before I wanted to either fling myself in a pool or rush inside back to that sweet air conditioning. It was nice to take a tour of the pools but I really wanted to get my swimming costume on and get in the sea.

dead sea - room view

There were three pools to choose from surrounded by stunning grounds. How pretty are all the flowers?

dead sea - signs

dead sea - trellis

dead sea - fountain

The sea itself is located down a massive load of steps where the resort had cordoned off their own section for guests to swim in. If you’re not staying in a resort you can either get a day pass or just use one of the public beaches further along.

dead sea - sea view

So the usual routine (at least at the resort) is to have a float around in the sea itself before walking over to one of the barrels of free Dead Sea mud and covering yourself with it before rinsing it off in the showers on the beach.

One piece of advice I have for you, ladies (and gents if you’re so inclined) DO NOT shave your legs before going in the Dead Sea. Definitely don’t do it the same day and I would avoid doing it the day before because that stings like hell – this may be coming from experience. And same if you have any cuts or blisters. It’s good for them yes but man oh man it hurts.

This was actually the first time I had gone in the sea in years because the last couple of times I had both of the above problems. I had a large scratch on my leg which had just healed and I had shaved my legs two days earlier. Both my legs were tingly in the sea but not painful so phew!

dead sea - floating

I actually took my phone in this time and managed to not drop it in so #winning. It’s a weird sensation floating on top of the water but it’s really fun and an experience you should definitely have once in your life.

dead sea - sea selfie

Now you may not have heard of the Dead Sea before but you surely would have seen Dead Sea mud products in stores all over the world. This is the famous mud that is known for being amazing for your skin as it’s rich in salts and minerals, particularly magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium. There’s a long list of benefits to the mud and it’s a fun experience to slather yourself in it for no extra cost. Who needs a spa?

dead sea - mud

Just one more warning; when putting the mud on your face take care that your face isn’t too wet. Emma found out the hard way and some salt water dribbled into her eye. Major stinging. Luckily the lifeguard was on hand with some water in lightning speed. Stay safe kids.

After that we rinsed off and headed up to the pools to cool off some more. It’s so hot here I just recommend being in a body of water at all times!

dead sea - pool

Night time around the resort is just as pretty and after dinner we had another wander round. I definitely recommend staying over one night as it’s nice to just take some time to relax. We needed it as the next day our adventures continued to Wadi Rum.

dead sea - night

Stay tuned for my next Jordan instalment!

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An Anniversary Trip to Anglesey

An Anniversary Trip to Anglesey

If you read my last post then you’ll know that I recently had a weekend away to Anglesey with Topher for our 1 year wedding anniversary. We stayed in an awesome treehouse which you can read all about here and spent Saturday driving around the island. Here’s what we got up to.

Friday

Since Topher finished work at 3 and myself at 5, Topher would meet me at my work and we would drive over. It usually takes about 2 hours from Manchester but with the Friday rush hour traffic, it took us just under three. We arrived at 8pm and were greeted by our Airbnb hosts.

Anglesey - chinese

After getting a tour and dropping off our stuff, we headed to the Tesco Extra we’d seen back on the mainland to get supplies. We had planned to get fish and chips from the local but unfortunately discovered that they close early. No harm done as the local Chinese was still open. Beef chow mein please. We enjoyed our meal in the grounds that surround the treehouse, watching out for the local wildlife.

Saturday

Starting the day with pastries we’d got from Tesco, along with a big mug of coffee we set off to explore Anglesey.

South Stack was our first port of call as it was the furthest away from the treehouse. Only half an hour though! Everything is easily drivable on the island. South Stack is a lighthouse which is the furthest west you can go on Anglesey. If it was a clearer day maybe we could have even seen Ireland.

Anglesey - south stack

You can actually pay to go inside the lighthouse but we had plenty of other places to go. So we took a few selfies before hopping back in the car.

Anglesey - selfie

The next place we tried to visit was Borth Wen beach. Word of warning – not a place to just randomly show up to late in the morning on a sunny Saturday in the summer. It was rammed. There was nowhere to park and the single lane windy road to get to it almost left us trapped in the car park. If you’ve got your heart set on it, definitely get there early!

By this point we were hungry for some lunch. Fancying some afternoon tea, I’d read about Giddy Aunt Tea Room which is south east on the island.

Anglesey - giddy aunt's tearoom

A pretty cottage in the middle of nowhere which had another cat (yay!), Topher and I wandered inside to be greeted by the owners who were lovely. The afternoon tea was delicious but I had my usual problem of being finished off by the scone and unable to eat the cakes. Of course I’m not one to waste cake so the owners were kind enough to box them up for me. Treehouse snack!

Anglesey - afternoon tea

How cute is this tea cozy?

Anglesey - tea cosy

Our next stop was the point that I realised I had in fact been to Anglesey before. Around the time I started this blog actually! It was a flying visit but I remembered it well. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch definitely has the longest name I’ve ever seen. Just typing that was a challenge let alone trying to say it.

Anglesey - train station

We also managed to find a scenic spot to pull the car over and get some photos of the Menai bridge. How lucky were we with this weather?!

Anglesey - Menai Bridge

Finally we arrived at Beaumaris, a pretty village full of pastel houses and cute shops as well as a castle.

Anglesey - beaumaris

Anglesey - colourful houses

Though neither of us are beach people, Topher and I really enjoyed walking along the boardwalk and the pier. The weather definitely helped.

Anglesey - more beach

Anglesey - sea

Anglesey - pier

After our walk, we had a wander around the shops before heading back to the car and setting off to find dinner. We tried a place called Dylan’s but it’s definitely not a just show up kind of place. At least not on a Saturday. We ended up at the Anglesey Arms where Topher had fish and chips and I had a delicious haddock chowder. Nom.

Anglesey - beach

We finished the day playing Scrabble that we’d brought from home in the treehouse. Guess who won?

Anglesey - scrabble

Sunday

As this was our actual anniversary, we exchanged gifts and cards as well as watching our wedding video. After breakfast we packed up our stuff and headed home.

I had a great time in Anglesey and would definitely go again.

Have you ever been to Anglesey?

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Tales of a Treehouse

Tales of a Treehouse

I think sleeping in a treehouse must feature on a lot of people’s bucket lists, mine included. Last month I finally got to tick it off mine. Wanting to do something interesting for Topher and I’s first wedding anniversary, finding a treehouse to stay in popped into my head. I had just found out that I got my office job so thought why not; lets see what I can find.

After a browse on Airbnb, I found the majority of treehouses were in mainland Europe; at least the real ones. I consider a real treehouse to be somewhat off the ground. Luckily there were a handful in the UK and one was only a stones throw from Manchester. And the reviews were good so I booked it.

The main plus for this particular treehouse is that not only was it off the ground but it had indoor plumbing. Perfect for someone like me who prefers to avoid camping. Of course I forgot to get a photo of the bathroom but you can see it in the listing itself.

treehouse - outside

The Treehouse

Described as a children’s treehouse that got out of hand, this structure has three rooms. The kitchen is at the bottom; the bathroom up the second staircase and the bedroom/living room is at the top. You may have a bit of fun getting up the stairs if you’re on the larger side but it’s all part of the experience!

Outside the kitchen is a yard that is perfect for having your breakfast if the weather is on your side, which it was for us!

treehouse - yard

treehouse - kitchen entrance

The kitchen is small but perfectly functional with everything you need to keep yourself fed. We ate out mostly but the small fridge was ideal to keep some tasty treats for later.

treehouse - kitchen

The bathroom has a toilet and shower but no wash basin. Not the end of the world but I’d recommend either bringing some anti bacterial gel or just washing your hands in the kitchen. The shower was surprisingly good considering I’ve lived in apartments that had showers with barely any pressure at all.

treehouse - entrance

 

treehouse - window

The top floor has a balcony and a barn door that leads you into the living quarters of the treehouse. There’s plenty of seating, a dining table, coffee table as well as a pull out sofa bed. The large trunk contains all the bedding you’ll need for your stay. And if you’re staying in winter there’s a wood burning stove to keep you warm.

treehouse - barn doors

treehouse - sofa bed

treehouse - sitting area

treehouse - tree

The grounds

I was pleasantly surprised at how big the grounds were around the treehouse. As well as the treehouse, you can also stay in a static caravan and a small cottage if you have a bigger party with you. The hosts themselves live in a large house next to the treehouse and were very helpful our whole stay.

We were lucky enough to be the only guests on the Friday night and have the whole place to ourselves. And even though there were other guests on the Saturday night, it wasn’t an inconvenience at all. Though Topher may have given the ladies in the cottage celebrating a birthday a bit of a fright when he climbed down to the bathroom late at night. I don’t think they realised anyone was staying in the treehouse! Pretty funny.

treehouse - grounds

treehouse - toadstool garden

The Experience

We stayed in the treehouse two nights and had a great time. When we were alone on the Friday night, we saw the local wildlife; rabbits, the neighbor’s chickens, cows in the next field and the chatty house cat. It was lovely having a takeaway on the vast lawn and watching the world go by.

Coming in July was great as the weather was on our side and it really added to the atmosphere. Plus it really helped that it wasn’t cold when you had to nip out to the bathroom in the middle of the night! The treehouse had motion sensor lights outside so you could find your way, but I still managed to spook myself a little! I had to laugh when Topher asked why I practically ran up the stairs. No reason, just me convincing myself that there could be anything out there in the dark – when there was nothing but the cat.

treehouse - me in toadstool garden

My wimpyness aside, we had a perfect anniversary trip. I would definitely recommend this for someone who likes their basic creature comforts but still wants to have a bit of an adventure. It’s a thumbs up from both Topher and I. Now, how to top this next year?

Have you ever stayed in a treehouse?

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Big Apple, Small Budget: Planning An Affordable Trip To New York

New York, New York. Who hasn’t dreamed of exploring the streets of Manhattan and soaking up one of the greatest cities in the world? While you might think that dream will stay a dream because of the cost involved, the truth is that it’s now cheaper than ever to visit New York for a short break.

New York

Source

Interested in discovering the dazzling lights of the Big Apple? Take a look at this useful guide for planning a trip to New York on a budget.

Get clever with flights

If you play your cards right, you could fly to New York for less than £300 return – that’s crazy compared to what a transatlantic flight would have cost you years ago! Using Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights, you could plan your trip around the cheapest flight times and have a blast.

Stay on the outskirts

Like most major cities, it’s cheaper to stay in hotels outside of Manhattan than within it. You could stay at the Melville Marriott Long Island and take the short trip into the city to explore. New York is the city that never sleeps after all, so if you like your rest – a stay on the outskirts might be just what you need to recover after a day of sightseeing.

Enjoy top attractions for less

You’re sure to have a long list of things that you want to see in New York, although they can cost a lot of money when you add everything up. Fortunately, there are some great ways to save money on top New York attractions, which will make it easier to fit everything in on your budget. Keep an eye out for theatre deals and last-minute ticket options for sports events – there are some amazing deals to be found if you can be flexible with your time.

Eat out for less

Just as you would at home, you can find some incredible eating out bargains for top restaurants in New York City. Websites such as Groupon have some fantastic promotions if you know what you’re looking for, while it doesn’t hurt to search online for the best deals. Meanwhile, if you want to enjoy some of New York’s most upmarket restaurants, why not book a table for brunch or breakfast? As two of the cheapest meals of the day, you can enjoy some of New York’s finest dining for much less than an evening meal.

 

New York is an incredible city to visit, with so many exciting things to take in. It’s easy to plan a trip on a budget, and with the money leftover, you could consider planning a multi-destination trip to another city like Washington DC or Las Vegas. Domestic flights are affordable in America, and with a selection of airports, New York is the perfect destination to begin your trip. A trip to New York will be a memorable experience, so plan your trip wisely to ensure you get to take it all in.

*This is a collaborative post

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How I Plan a Multi-Destination Holiday

Topher & I’s honeymoon was a whirlwind of a two-week adventure that we spent in three American cities. There were four flights, six hotels and a two-day road trip in the middle. We travelled with hand luggage only and we were on a budget. That holiday was planned right down to the last detail.

I have a bit of anxiety with trips like this where I don’t like to be unsure. I don’t want to be wandering round for hours trying to find somewhere decent to eat, I don’t want to be getting lost and I certainly don’t want to miss out on really seeing a city.

Topher said this was the best trip he’d ever been on and I agree. We saw so much in so little time, we didn’t have a single bad meal, and we kept to our budget; even going home with money in our pockets and extra souvenirs.

We had a plan in place and adjusted it whenever we needed to.

 

This blog post is how I planned it and tips on how you can plan your own multi-destination holiday.

Put the kettle on because this is going to be a long one!

So a quick disclaimer when I say multi-destination; I mean multi city (usually in the same country) where there is so much to do and very little time. Not one of those relaxing beach holidays. Because with those, it’s super easy to go with the flow and relaxing is in the title for a reason.

Also, this is just what I do. This isn’t for everyone. It can seem quite restricting to some people but I think it can be quite useful. Particularly for fellow anxious people who want to go on a holiday like this but are put off by all the uncertainty of being in a completely different country and not knowing what to do.

Hell, I got freaked out by having to use the New York subway for the first time so I looked on Youtube beforehand to see how it was done. It definitely saved me from holding up all the locals when I went through the barriers for the first time. Research is my friend. It gives me confidence.

Anyway, enough rambling, let’s dive in.

 

Set the dates

bullet journal setup - calendar & japan savings

Back in the days where my husband didn’t work in a school – I’d just pick these randomly. Decide on a month and then go with what’s the cheapest. Tuesdays are usually good days to fly but not everyone has that option. We certainly don’t anymore! You do you. Fit your dates into your schedule.

Remember to consider things like time of year and weather depending on the country you’re going to. Because who wants to mess that up? I certainly did when I booked Disneyland Paris in February on a whim. And then forgot my hat and gloves. So fricken cold! Will definitely be picking a milder time of year next time.

Also remember that weather is not always the same between the different cities you’ll be visiting too. I picked September for our honeymoon as I discovered that San Francisco is actually pretty cold in the summer months.

 

Get a spreadsheet

Or a notebook or bullet journal but trust me spreadsheets are awesome for this kind of planning as they are so easy to edit and they will be edited a lot!

I usually start with a spreadsheet early on where I dump all the information I find during my research so that everything is in one place.

 

Do a lot of research 

Activities

San Francisco - segway

I start by looking up what kind of things we want to do in each location. What are the major sites and do not miss experiences? Use travel guides, books, blogs, Google, Pinterest and also ask people who have been.

Make a list and then you’ll be able to see approximately how much time you need in each location. Decide on what your priorities are. What do you want to see on your holiday?

Do you love shopping? Museums? Sight-seeing? Food? Do your research and find cannot miss locations. I personally can’t recommend blogs enough for this. I spent some time making a list of activities that kept popping up on people’s recommendations along with stuff that Topher and I would be interested in. This led me to amazing things like The Color Factory in San Francisco. Thanks Instagram!

 

Food

This is the same technique I used for activities. Good food on a budget is very important to Topher and I did all the research for this too. I used Pinterest and blogs and took note of the same places that kept coming up.

It’s especially handy to get recommendations from locals (I bloody love the internet). Though Trip Advisor is great for reviews of hotels and activities, I’ve heard that using them for restaurants tend to lead you to places that are just full of fellow tourists. Not always bad, but it’s nice to get a mix of famous places and stuff the locals love.

 

Google Maps are a saviour

Google Maps allow you to save locations on your smart phone and it’s a great tool for holiday planning. So all the activities and food locations I’ve dumped into a spreadsheet, I save in Google Maps. It allows me to see where everything is and if we’ll be able to get there.

There was plenty of food places that I wouldn’t have minded visiting on our honeymoon but there were just too far out of the way. And I wouldn’t have realised if I hadn’t have used this tool.

Plus it saves so much time when you’re actually there. If you’re in a country where you have access to wifi or you’re on a “feel at home” type plan like I am then use it. It’s ideal for getting to places quickly and reducing your chances of getting lost.

 

Hotels

Los Angeles - hotel room
I tend to save hotels until after I know vaguely where we’re going to be going. Using Google maps, take a look at everything you’ve saved and where would be the best place for you to stay. Because as nice as that hotel you’ve found is, who wants to be schlepping back and forth to something that’s no where near anything you want to do?

Don’t forget to look into what kind of areas are good for staying in too otherwise you could end up somewhere that’s good logistically, but not so much in terms of atmosphere!

And of course, check the reviews. I actually forgot to do this for the last hotel of our honeymoon and it wasn’t the nicest. It’s something that we laugh about now but I’ve certainly learned my lesson. Trip Advisor is your destination for this, though take some reviews with a pinch of salt as some people just can’t be pleased.

 

Allow for travel time

It’s highly unlikely that the cities you’ll be visiting will be right next door to each other so allow for travel time. And how will you be traveling? For our USA adventure, Topher and I mainly had to rely on planes (NYC to California) but we also hired a car and drove between San Francisco and LA. That drive can be done in a day but we decided to stretch it out over two in order to pace ourselves and get an extra morning in at San Francisco.

Figure out what the best transportation option is for you. Next year when we visit Japan, we’ll be using trains. But people on a tighter budget may consider buses and people who have a much bigger budget can just fly between cities. It all depends on you.

And then make sure to factor in how long your chosen transport will take. Will this eat into some of the activities you planned on doing? This is where the spreadsheet can really come in handy because you can lay it all out.

Madonna Inn - rental car

Flights

I leave this until last to plan as you might have dates set in stone or you might just see what kind of deal you get when you book. But it’s usually one of the first things I book. Since I plan big holidays more than a year in advance, it’s too early for flights. Plus you can’t know what flights you need until you know how long you’re staying in each place.

So once it’s less than a year, I tend to use Skyscanner to search for flights. Use an incognito window to search each time as not doing so can affect prices. Damn cookies. Anyway, I also set up an email alert, check back often and when the price is right – jump!

Another tip, if you’re ok flying indirect do it, as it’s usually cheaper.

 

Set the itinerary

Once you know everywhere you want to go, eat and where you’re staying. It’s time to slot everything into place.

Remember to be realistic. Set one activity for each portion of the day – figure out how long things will take including travel time. Don’t book yourselves a lunch reservation across town when you’re doing something that takes all day.

Also find out things like opening times. Sometimes tourist attractions are closed on random days of the week and it’s so disappointing to find out when you arrive. And some things you need to book in advance. For example, if you want to go up the Statue of Liberty you need to book at least a month in advance. Sometimes more depending on the season. Otherwise you can only go to the island and look at it from the outside.

But then I’ve also messed this up as we tried to visit a specific food market and I got the day wrong. Oops! It would have been funny if we hadn’t walked miles to get there. Don’t do this.

Once again, this is where your saved locations in Google maps is super useful. Link up things that are close to each other to do and eat on the same day so that you’re not zigzagging across the city. A waste of time, money on travel and on your energy.

 

Budget Baby

Budgets are sexy!….but they really aren’t. Still, I always set the budget after I’ve done my research. Definitely before I book anything though. As our household doesn’t have a lot of disposable income, I like to make sure we can book the holiday far enough in advance that we’re able to save up for it.

This is where the spreadsheet gets edited a lot. Hotels are switched out for cheaper alternatives and I keep a note of everything that will cost money including travel and activities.

To make a food budget I had a quick look at my chosen restaurant’s menus online for prices so I could gage how much we would spend. In every instance I would over budget so we would never be short on cash. And it definitely worked! This was the main reason why we ended up coming home with spare money. Also you find out things like portion sizes. But remember that you can’t know everything before you go. If I’d known how big these pancakes in LA were going to be then Topher and I would definitely saved money and shared a stack.Spoiler alert – I didn’t finish mine. Neither did Topher.

Los Angeles Food - diane vs pancakes

Know what you can afford and plan your holiday accordingly. Because who wants to be stuck with a load of credit card debt, right? And please don’t try the YOLO argument with me because my credit score is flawless baby.

 

Adjust the plan

Plans are there to be adjusted on the fly. I’m not saying that you must stick rigidly to your plan. It’s just there so you can have an understanding of what you’re doing and not waste your time on getting lost. Shit happens and that’s ok.

For example, when Topher and I were exhausted in San Francisco (and kinda sunburnt), we changed our plan. We’d hiked to this amazing pie shop to find that they didn’t have any air-conditioning and it was hotter than hell inside. We skipped it. I love pie, but not that much.

In fact, we were so tired that we skipped our stroll through the Mission District afterwards and headed back to our hotel. We bought snacks along the way and stayed in bed the rest of the afternoon watching Family Fortunes and Princess and the Frog. Perfect!

If you’re tired and want a break, you just have to ask yourself – will I be sorry I missed this? We’d already been on a bus through Mission District earlier that day so we kinda saw it anyway. It was definitely worth the break for us.

So if you need to adjust the plan, just adjust it. The world won’t end.

 

Extra crazy planning steps

For our honeymoon I looked up directions to everywhere ahead of time and wrote them in a little notebook. Right down to bus numbers and walking paths. Very weird but in my defense we never got lost and I didn’t have to think about anything because it was already sorted out. This may be a step too far for some people but it really helped me out and made me feel calm.

I actually see myself doing this for Japan too as we don’t speak the language and apparently not all the streets have names. Can someone confirm this for me?

I also kept track of what we spent each day while we were there. Some days we went over, some under. This helped a lot as we knew that we had extra money we could spend. Hello Yoda backpack for Topher.

disneyland californai - yoda bag

 

How do you plan a multi-destination holiday? Let me know your tips in the comments.

And please tell me if you’re as much of a planning freak as I am. Let me know I’m not alone! But it’s ok if I am – I’m happy in my weird planning bubble. 

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