Travel tips Part One

1. For those living in London, the best foreign currency rates are Thomas Exchange Global Ltd followed by Covent Garden FX.

2. Backpacking and short on space? Instead of taking a beach towel, take a shammy leather – it’ll dry you off immediately after a swim in the ocean, dries out quickly in the sun, can be rinsed out immediately and takes up minimal space.

3. Those with older style GHD hair straighteners, unscrew the plug to reveal a pin plug ready for use in Europe without the need for an adaptor.

4. Need somewhere to put your keys/phone/wallet while on the beach? Get an old tub, possibly a tub that your shammy leather came in that has a lid and put your belongings in this when going for a swim. Not only does it protect them from sand but makes them less obvious to thieves (unless they are reading this).

5. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS leave enough time for your stopovers at US airports, a slight delay to your first leg flight plus the long queues at US immigration mean you could be pushing it to make your connecting flight. Remember, you have to collect your bags, re-check in your bags and go through security again before you make your next flight.

6. Always check airbnb for accommodation. Often it can be much cheaper than staying in hotels and gives you the opportunity to pick the brains of your hosts who are likely to be locals.

7. Use Quidco for booking travel – you can save so much money and this is absolutely one of my favourite websites.

8. Sign up to hotel chain loyalty schemes such as Hilton Honours or Marriott Rewards. This can often lead to free wifi at their hotels which you would otherwise have to pay for.

9. Look out for loyalty schemes such as hotels.com which offer one night stay free after paying for 10 nights.

10. Always take advantage of airmiles. This can save you lots of money and get you trips worldwide if you build up enough airmiles.

More hints and tips coming soon!

Cultural Differences

I have grown up in the UK and seen how society has changed drastically over the last 20 or so years. It used to be common for people to hold doors open for those walking behind them, to say please and thank you and to let others off public transport before getting on. It was also rare for people to have their music so loud it can be heard down the street and prevent neighbours from getting sleep. Unfortunately now this seems to be how a lot of people act, showing no respect for other people or even their belongings.

Travel has opened my eyes to how different cultures can be. Of course not everyone in the UK acts like the above but it is becoming more common place and my experiences around the world reflect my experiences and as in people and as in everything there are good and bad.

When I visited the US, I was amazed at the level of service in New York. Every member of staff whether it was on the subway, in a restaurant or in a shop, they all had impeccable customer service skills. I guess a lot can be said for commission but even so, this makes your day that little bit brighter and makes society that little bit nicer.

In Central America, some parts of the countries I have visited have been reasonably wealthy and reflect a lifestyle similar to that of the UK (but with more sunshine). However, other parts of the countries I visited have few belongings, no internet, no hot water and live three or four children to a room. This made them value everything they have and even the smallest gift seemed like you were giving them the world. In the mountains of Boquete in Panama, I saw a building of breeze blocks and holes for windows with a teddy bear and a small toy car out on the makeshift porch.IMG_9184

This was in contrast to the skyscrapers and Hard Rock Cafe of Panama City but it made me wonder, who is happier? I like to believe that it is the child with very few belongings but a close knit community working in the coffee plantations of Boquete who cherish everything they have and live so remotely that they are unaware of how the other half live.

In Spain, family is cherished more so than in the UK and maybe other parts of the world. Life revolves around family and the closest of friends are considered family. This is a nice way of living and appreciating those closest to you who have probably given you the most in life and provided you with the best start in life that they could.

Travel really does broaden the mind and although, like many, I am guilty of being too materialistic, I have learnt to appreciate those things and my family and friends more than I did before. I appreciate that I can turn on the shower and warm water comes out. Independent travel especially makes you realise the things that matter to you. When you leave your family and/or friends to travel for any period of time, you look forward to that moment at home or at the airport when you will see them there waiting for you. Certain countries have stolen little pieces of my heart and I am sure that some of the new countries I visit in the future will also steal my heart but home really is where the heart is and the majority of my heart lies where my family are.

UK travel

IMG_0123(Photo taken by me in London June 2015 during a tour with photography tours at night London)

Often the UK is overlooked as somewhere to travel. London of course is the exception to this. In the past few years I have begun to explore the UK more with trips in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. I very much love the sun and Scotland and Ireland were a little too rainy and cloudy for my liking but have beautiful views and landscapes with much more to be discovered.

York has recently been a great surprise and delight for me. I went with no specific expectations and left feeling like I discovered a lovely city steeped in history and boutique shops and restaurants. York was busy yet I never really felt rushed or claustrophobic, the people there but almost unnoticed. The charm for me was the boutique restaurants and shops each offering something slightly different. The York Roast company was a welcome sight to get my roast dinner fix and very much reminded me of Oink in Edinburgh – I can’t believe London and other cities haven’t caught onto this type of restaurant yet!! My highlight of the trip was seeing the beauty that is York Minster and the York Chocolate Story which was a couple of hours extremely well spent. I can’t recommend the Chocolate story enough for all ages.IMG_0282¬†(Snapshot from York Chocolate Story museum – I don’t want to give away too much of the tour!)

It just shows that although it is great to travel the world, it is equally as important to discover the (not so hidden) treasures a few hours train ride away.

Air Miles

Isla ZapatillaNo travel blog for savvy travellers could be complete without a section on AirMiles.

I’m constantly looking online for ways to earn more air miles and the credit card or loyalty schemes which will reward me for my membership and spending with the most air miles. Afterall, who doesn’t want to travel the world for less?

This past year, i have had the American Express Preferred Gold Reward card with me at all times, constantly asking ‘Do you take Amex?’ at every shop or restaurant I have frequented. With 20,000 air miles for spending 3000GBP in the first few months and two miles per pound spent on petrol and in supermarkets and thanks to the 9000 miles reward for referring a friend (thank you to my friends for listening to my constant sales pitch), I have flown to Europe a few times thanks to my Amex.

The Amex Gold card has enabled me to put miles into both my British Airways Executive Club and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club accounts. When only paying taxes for trips to Europe and the US, it definitely makes being Credit Card savvy worthwhile.

I am now looking at which card to move to next when my Amex Gold expires and am weighing up my options between the British Airways Amex Premium credit card or the Virgin Atlantic Black credit card. Regardless of which credit card I choose (a post will appear on here nearer to the time I am sure), it is always worth investing in a credit card which gives you travel rewards for money which you would already be spending in the first place!

Hello fellow travellers!

costa rica beachHello fellow travellers and welcome to my Savvy Travel Blog.

This post is (hopefully) the first of many to provide you with my travel experiences, travel hints and tips, financial related travel advice including the latest deals and loyalty schemes to help make travel that little bit cheaper and some travel photography from my travels.

I love to travel and it is a passion of mine. There are many more places in the world that I am yet to discover but am working towards ticking more countries off my list but have many experiences to share with you to date.

Thank you for reading and hopefully you will find my blog interesting and it will give you some inspiration for your travels!

SavvyTravelBlogger