Thursday, 24 January 2019

My 2019 travel goals

2019 is here already and it's time to start organising another exciting year of travel. So far we have 5 trips planned for the first half of 2019 and although we haven't sorted out the second half of the year yet, we already have destinations in mind that we'd like to visit in the Autumn and Winter season. With new trips comes new goals and seeing as January is already in full swing again, it's time for me to sit down and discuss my travel aspirations for 2019. We'll be visiting multiple continents this year and travelling to new places, so it's going to be an exciting year ahead.

2019 travel goals - Kat Last

1. Reach 25 countries.

In 2018 I visited 3 new countries and this year I'd like to continue the upward trend and reach 25 countries. Where these will be yet I don't know, but we're likely to visit a couple of new European countries this year. I always find that visiting new countries is a great way to step out of my comfort zone and see the world.

2. Ride a canal boat in Amsterdam. 

Amsterdam map and travel guide

Amsterdam is one of the places that we will be visiting in Spring 2019 and I cannot wait to finally spend some time in the Dutch capital. Amsterdam is known for it's spectacular canals and I'd love to go on a canal boat tour whilst we're in Amsterdam. Boat tours are such a fun way to see a city and I can't think of a better place to go on a canal boat tour than Amsterdam.

3. Visit 3 continents in one year.

I've been to North America and other European countries a lot, but 2019 might be the year that I finally take the plunge and visit either Asia or Africa. Whether it's a weekend in Marrakech or a week in Thailand, I definitely want to explore an entirely different part of the world this year.

4. Spend every mid-year bank holiday abroad.

Travel-themed home decor

As we're going to Florida for 2 weeks, we need to try and optimise annual leave for the year as much as possible. One way we can achieve this is by going abroad on bank holiday weekends, where we get an extra day tagged onto our usual 2 days off. Minus Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year as I like to be at home during the festive season, I'd like us to spend all of 2019 bank holidays abroad. It'll be a little bit more expensive to travel then, but I think the price increase will be worth it as we'll be able to go abroad more next year thanks to the extra days.

5. Visit a Christmas market outside of Germany.

In 2017 and 2018 we visited the Munich and Berlin Christmas Markets respectively, so we've certainly had a taste of German Christmas Markets over the past couple of years. Ideally in December 2019 I'd like to go to a Christmas Market outside of Germany, perhaps Austria, Croatia or the Czech Republic? It'll definitely be exciting to see how Christmas Markets are organised somewhere new this year.

After a very successful year for travel in 2018, I can't wait to see how we get on with these goals in 2019. We're heading back to some of our favourite places and exploring some new countries too so it's bound to be a very busy year!

Have you got any travel goals for 2019? I'd love to hear them.

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Thursday, 17 January 2019

Money saving tips for a Florida trip

We’re heading back to Florida this year and it’ll be my first time heading there as a ‘grown up’ without my parents. Stuart and I have been desperate to get a Florida trip planned for a while and back in May 2018 we put the deposit down on a 2 week Disney trip. Since the end of 2017, we’ve been putting money aside for Walt Disney World and I’ve been prioritising saving for Florida over anything else since then. We’ve been trying to follow different money saving tactics and I thought I’d share them on my blog today. If you’re planning to go on a big trip at some point in the future (Disney or not), these tips should hopefully help you get on the way to your target.

Florida-themed travel items including a 'Pot of Dreams' saving pot

1. Put loose change in a pot that you can’t open.

Collecting 1-20p coins is a small scale but effective way of saving for trips. If you don't have these coins in your purse or wallet you'll hardly notice the difference and you'd be amazed how quickly change pots can grow in the weight, if you're prepared to commit to saving your loose change. I recommend purchasing a 'Pot of Dreams' from Clintons Cards and then giving yourself an entire year to put your pennies away. You won't save a huge amount of money by the end of the 12 months, but you'll at least have a purpose for your loose change.

Greetings from Florida postcard

2. Transfer a manageable amount of your salary each month into a separate holiday savings bank account.

I am a big advocate for saving little and often. Big holidays are expensive and saving money in small chunks makes the whole trip seem a lot more affordable. Each month I transfer a manageable amount of my pay check into a separate holiday savings account. By doing this, I always know that I'll get a little closer to my savings target each month and as the money is out of my current account, there is no temptation to dip into this money throughout the month. Most banks will let you set up online savings accounts instantly, so it doesn't take long to open a separate account and start arranging standing orders between your accounts. 

3. Find discount codes and coupons for your food shopping and everyday spending, so that you have more money free for your holiday.

I can't recommend voucher code apps enough as a way to save money on your everyday spending. Whenever I'm ordering anything online, I always try and save 10% here and there which probably doesn't sound like much in one go, but the savings add up if you regularly use discount codes.

Saving for a trip is a really exciting and rewarding experience. Best of luck if you're going to start saving for a big trip soon. Just think of all the good times you'll be able to have after your hard work saving.

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Thursday, 10 January 2019

How we went to Budapest on a shoestring budget

Lately I've been really enjoying 'Travel Man' on Channel 4: Richard Ayoade's documentary series where he adventures to some of the world's most exciting cities. The first episode I watched was his trip to Slovenia with Eddie Izzard and given that we're visiting Ljubljana next month, I found it inspiring and pretty fascinating too. I decided to watch the Budapest episode afterwards as we were there only recently and I was amazed by how much their 2 day trip cost - especially seeing as we spent under £150 on food, drink and activities whilst we were there in early October. Hence the theme for today's post: a run down of our trip spending and budget for our time in Budapest.

Pretty side streets on the Buda side of the city, Budapest

1. Hotel: £48 (£24 a night for a double room).

We stayed at the easyHotel Budapest Oktogon which was a 15 minute walk from the centre of Pest. It was very basic (with a wet room for a bathroom) and the room was box sized, but for £24 a night we couldn't complain. Hotels in Budapest seemed to either be incredibly cheap and basic or 4-5* expensive luxury and given that we were going to be out all day exploring, there was no question about which option was right for us.

2. Flights: approx £80pp (London Stansted to Budapest with Ryanair).

Waiting for our flight to Budapest at London Stansted Airport

2018 has been an expensive year for Budapest flights, but I managed to find a good deal for a Saturday - Monday in early October. We were on the 8:30am flight out of Stansted on the Saturday morning and the 9:45am flight home on the Monday morning, which were ideal flight times for a long weekend. I can't recommend Ryanair's annual flight comparison tool enough as it allows you to see the cheapest times of year to fly via a specific route and plan your weekend away accordingly.

3. Public transport: £20.

Budapest Airport is 20km from the city centre and the airport bus transfer costs 900 Ft (under £3) each way. Single Metro journeys in the city are 350 Ft which is approximately £1 and when you compare this to London (£2-3 per journey), the Budapest underground service is extremely affordable.

3. Food: £60.

Our first dinner in Budapest, Hungary

When it comes to meals we will always happily budget and save on breakfast and lunch, but we like to make sure that we keep enough money aside for nice sit-down dinners. Budapest was no exception to this rule and we actually took snacks and breakfast from home, so that we could save our precious pennies for fun sweet treats and fancier dinners whilst we were away. Our meals came to £20-30 each so by the time we'd bought rose-shaped ice cream and some goodies to take home for family and work colleagues, we'd spent approximately £60.

4. Drink: £10.

Our drinks budget went on water and tea whilst we were away, as it was over 20 degrees whilst we were in Hungary and there were no hot drinks facilities in our hotel room. Fortunately there were tonnes of Starbucks throughout central Budapest, so we were never far from a good cup of tea though.

5. Activities: £60.

City Sightseeing bus outside the St Stephen's Basilica in Budapest, Hungary.

We paid for 3 activities in Budapest: the St Stephen's Basilica observation deck, a Danube river cruise and the hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus. The Basilica worked out at just over a £1pp, the river cruise was Stuart's birthday present from my sister and £15 each and the sightseeing bus was £14pp. Each of the experiences were incredibly affordable and booking the sightseeing bus and river cruise in advance meant that we saved on these prices in comparison to on the day booking fees. As a tip, always look for discount codes when you're booking hop-on hop-off tickets. We managed to find a 10% off code when we booked ours.

6. Souvenirs: £5.

My souvenir purchases included a couple of postcards and a heart-shaped hanging decoration that had Budapest embroidered on the front. £5 for these items was a very fair price, given that we were shopping in one of Budapest's most touristy areas!

Views from the St Stephen's Basilica observation deck in Budapest, Hungary

We went to Hungary with just under £100's worth of Forint between us and although this budget was tight, we still had a lovely time and got to do and see everything that we wanted. Choosing an affordable hotel and picking flights wisely meant that we didn't have expensive upfront costs either, which is helpful seeing as we go away for city breaks quite frequently. Budapest can definitely be visited on a shoestring budget, I'd just recommend bringing snacks away with you and booking attraction tickets in advance so that you don't end up paying more for things than you need to whilst you're there. Regardless, it is a very affordable city to visit.

Have you ever been to Budapest? Did you budget whilst you were visiting the city?

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Thursday, 3 January 2019

2018 travel goals revisited

I'm writing this on New Year's Day morning and I can hardly believe that another year is over. 12 more months of living in our lovely flat, 3 first visits to new countries and a complete year of working full time. This time last year (wow, I'm saying this already?) I set myself some travel goals for the year. I wanted them to be achievable so I didn't set the bar too high and I thought today's post should be dedicated to my progress with these goals over the past year.

Kat Last and Stuart in Ljubljana, Slovenia

1. Make the most of the Eurostar and Eurotunnel - ✓

Taking the Eurostar to Disneyland Paris from Ashford International

We managed to travel with both Eurostar and Eurotunnel in 2018. In late February we drove to Bruges with my family via the Eurotunnel and after such a pleasant experience, I wrote a post about why driving to Bruges is a really convenient option. We were able to bring food and drink back from the hypermarkets, which we wouldn't have been able to do if we'd flown and finding parking in the city centre was very easy. The Eurotunnel terminal was very quiet in February so if you fancy a Belgian road trip at some point, definitely book a crossing outside of peak times.

Ashford International station is 30 minutes down the road from us, so in April we travelled by Eurostar to Disneyland Paris. The train dropped us off at the gates of Disneyland and we were able to walk straight to our hotel in Serris: the idyllic town next to Disneyland. Canterbury to Ashford is a direct train route so travelling to Disney was no hassle at all.

I think we definitely made the most of the Eurostar and Eurotunnel in 2018 and we're going to be using them again in the not-so-distant future as we have Brussels and Paris (not Disney this time) trips on the cards. When we find a Eurostar or Eurotunnel bargain, there really is no more convenient travel option for us!

2. Visit more places in the UK - ✓

Piglet's Tearoom, Ashdown Forest

We've definitely covered new areas of the UK this year through weekend day trips and our big UK adventure with our friend Kirsten. We've spent a lot of time in East and West Sussex visiting Stuart's family and 2018 was the year that I first discovered Ashdown Forest. As a huge Winnie the Pooh fan, it is such a dream to be able to roam around the real life Hundred Acre Wood and we actually squeezed in 4 trips to the forest this year: April, May, June and September. Other new places I visited in Sussex were Worthing and Rye.

At home in Kent I managed to visit a couple of new places too: Faversham and Ashford. I get the train to Ashford all of the time but I'd never actually gone out of the station until October of this year when we went to the Sevington Pumpkin Patch.

3. Visit multiple countries in one day - ✓

Our Bratislava and Vienna trip in February 2018

In February we managed to tick this goal off our list as we stayed at a hotel in Bratislava, Slovakia and got the train to Vienna, Austria for the day. Bratislava and Vienna are only an hour apart by train and if you book your tickets far enough in advance it can work out at less than £20 return per person. Doing day trips like this are tiring but if you're staying near an international border, it makes sense to visit the country next door whilst you're away. It was Stuart's first time in Austria and I had a lot of fun showing him Vienna's Old Town (Inner Stadt).

4. Put some money aside for a Florida trip with Stuart in the future - ✓

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World, Florida

Florida is actually becoming a reality very soon as we'll be heading back to Walt Disney World in 2019. We saved our pennies in our change pot for 365 days and regularly put money away in instalments throughout 2018 so we'd be able to go back to the USA this year. We're staying in Orlando for 2 weeks and visiting Walt Disney World and Universal, so stay tuned for lots of new Florida content in 2019.

5. Grow my travel book collection - ✓

The Slovenia edition of Lonely Planet magazine

My travel book collection did get larger in 2018, but mostly thanks to travel guides that I picked up for £1-2 in charity shops. I would have liked to have collected more abstract travel books in 2018, but that's something I can look out for in 2019.

For my birthday I received a Lonely Planet magazine subscription and I've kept all of the copies, so I guess my magazines count too? Lonely Planet is full of travel inspiration and the magazines have definitely left me wanting to visit even more places.

Looking back on these travel goals a year on has made me so happy, as we did achieve everything I'd hoped for in 2018. I'll write a new list for 2019 over the next few weeks, so that we can have some new travel aspirations for this year. Travel is such a huge interest of mine and it's nice to think that we're ticking off these annual bucket lists!

Happy New Year! Did you get to travel much in 2018?

Thanks for reading my blog today.