Thrifty living workshop with giffgaff, sounds random right? I know when the invite came through I thought so too. But since my adventures were pretty sparse last year due to changes in our circumstances, I thought a bit of thrifty living could come in handy so Mo and I could put more aside for some serious 2018 travel.

After justifying my reason to attend, the second peculiar thought that crossed my mind was that this thrifty living event was being hosted by giffgaff. All I really knew about the brand was that they do the best phone contracts and if you can afford to buy the phone you want outright, then their mobile contracts are fantastic value compared to other companies. But I wasn’t quite sure what they were doing hosting a thrifty living style event.

Nevertheless I was intrigued, especially as it meant I would finally be able to have a good nosey inside The Principal hotel, although I walk past it every day I have never actually been inside.

With so much happening work wise in Feb, the day soon crept up and unfortunately for me I was suffering from SERIOUS achilles ankle type pain in my left foot which got progressively worse as the morning ticked on. I hobbled on from the car park, up the two small flights of stairs to the post room at The Principal, armed with a few clothing items to participate in the clothes swap (wasn’t quite sure how that would work out but hey ho, I’m always up for trialling new things).

 

 

After greeting some new and some familiar faces, it wasn’t long before we cracked on with our workshops:

 

Cooking on a budget

Ooh it was smelling so good even before we started and it got even better as we went on! Duncan from Herb & Spice took us through a simple, cost effective, vegan friendly meal: Chickpea tagine with cous cous. I’m not going to go through it all but I’ve shared a picture of the recipe and dish below because you really MUST try it, it tasted incredible! I just couldn’t believe how something that sounded so bland (I’m sorry, but it really did) could be packed full of flavour. Duncan was brilliant at telling us the best ways to use up cupboard food, to make the most of scraps and how to incorporate more veg into dinners – something I’ve really struggled with over the last few years.

 

 

As well as showing us the tagine meal, Duncan sent us away with ingredients and recipe for a second dish: Puntalette Pasta in a tomato sauce, which I made the following day with my mum back at hers. Again it was simple, full of goodness and just like the tagine it was filling too.

 

 

Before moving on to the next session, lunch was served and even though I’d just eaten the best tagine ever, I still made room… (it was good)

 

 

Upcycled jewellery making

I didn’t quite know how this was going to work. I saw balls of some sort of wool but no equipment? Turns out you don’t need any and the balls were t-shirt scraps, how brilliant?! I love learning new craft skills such as knitting, crochet so it was nice to learn how to weave a loom style necklace chain with just our hands. Big thanks to Tea and crafting for teaching me something new ūüôā

 

 

Managing your money

This was by far the biggest lesson I learnt that day. I was pretty confident that I knew a fair bit about managing money and how credit systems work. They talked us through a mini quiz/presentation and I was horrified at how little I knew. HORRIFIED. I scored 2 out of 9?!?! I travel quite a bit, I use different cards to earn points and  keep some emergency ones for that you-never-know situation when abroad but I never considered the effects it would have or how vulnerable the data I supplied would actually make me.

 

 

It was really eye-opening to receive an education into something I thought by the age of 32 I should really have known. And thats when everything started to make sense. Giffgaff gameplan is all about helping the younger generation understand financial services, make smarter choices, know exactly what information should and shouldn’t be shared. They gave tips on credit card comparison – I’m not in any way shape or form saying you need a credit card, but as I said above I do like to keep one or two with me when I travel just in case there is ever a serious situation I need to get out of. Their whole aim is to help members change their lives, using the right data to help them achieve their savings goals, giving tips on budgeting, savvy living and ways to check your credit score. In my current area of work, and pretty much everywhere else in the corporate world, data is the thing. The dangers of it, the significance of it, the positive impact of it… it’s hard to avoid at the moment. It’s pretty great that a company like giffgaff are now using it to help young people, who lets be honest don’t have it easy these days, achieve their financial goals. And they’re doing it in a fun interactive way too.

Genius.

I was really impressed and I can’t wait to look into how I can set myself goals to aim for (I’ve got plenty in mind ūüôā )

We ended the afternoon with the clothes swap, which turned out to be so much fun! I loved that this isn’t just a great way to save clothes, but what a fantastic way to be more environmentally conscious! The clothing industry contributes a heck of a lot to environmental impact, how great would it be if we had regular clothes swaps like this to encourage recycling?

Of course, I’m not a great clothes shopper, so I probably didn’t make smart clothing choices – but this wasn’t the clothes swap’s fault – this was purely down to me not being able to choose clothes that suit me, which is why I am normally chaperoned on clothing shopping trips. But hey I do love what I took and will definitely be giving them a whirl once it gets a bit warmer.

All in all, apart from the excruciating pain I was experiencing in my foot, it was a really enjoyable day. I got to catch up with some fantastic bloggers – Donna, Laura, Jess, Leanne¬†(and others) and came away with some great lessons and food for thought (mean that both figuratively and literally ūüėČ )

I haven’t put everything I’ve learnt into practice just yet, but with a couple of travel goals lined up for the last half of the year, I’m certainly about to…

 

 

How do you save money for travelling? 

 

 

*** Thank you to giffgaff & search laboratory for organising such a fabulous event and bringing us altogether ***

 

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must have travel apps

 

Some time ago I shared a selection of my favourite must have¬†apps. As new ones come and go, I’m always looking out for the latest tools to help organise and capture my life. The best thing about travelling as a group is not only do you always have company when you want it, but you can learn so much from said company! And I definitely picked up some great app tips.

I want to share my latest downloads, hopefully you’ll love them as much as I do. And this time I’ve made it super easy for you to get them, clicking the links will take you to a separate page where you can download them straight away – should you wish to of course¬†ūüôā

 

 

1 second everyday app

1 second everyday

Click here to download

This is by far the best thing I have seen app wise for a traveller. If you’ve always wanted to make your own video, you will LOVE THIS. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get it till late on in my trip, but the lovely Libby who told me about it had been creating hers from the start of her travels¬†and it was fantastic (it helps that Libby is extremely talented and has a great eye for film and photography).

There is no skill or filming experience needed… you simply film one second of your day and add it to the app and it will do the rest. Creating a fluid montage of your moments, each date stamped at the bottom.

The only real downside, is you can only add just the one video clip for that specific date, it pulls video based on the day you filmed It. You can have several videos on the go if you really wanted to, but I actually think the restriction makes it all the more exciting Рensuring you have to choose just that one moment you want to remember.

Download it, have a play with it and please do show me what you make! I love watching them ūüôā

 

xe currency converter appXE Currency Converter

Click here to download

I always said to myself I do not need one of these apps. Turns out I do. When you have to convert pounds, to US dollars, to Hong Kong Dollars, to Burmese Kyat… boy does it get confusing. I had no idea what I was doing sometimes. And my maths was all over the place.

I needed this app to keep me check until I got my head around the figures. I found the XE app was super fast and also super simple. I haven’t really explored any others, but I didn’t feel the need to when this one worked just fine.

 

waterlogue appWaterlogue

Click here to download – only available on apple

Another creative type addition. Taken a picture that just doesn’t look all that great? Well waterlogue is ready to help you turn those not so clear photos into a work of art. Not¬†for everyones taste, but if you’re travelling and can’t afford to invest in a handmade piece of art, this is a fabulous way to use one of your own photo’s to create¬†an impressive¬†masterpiece.

It reminded me of the watercolour filters I used to completely ignore on photoshop, but this app does a much better job and after playing around with some of your pics, I’m confident you’ll create one that’s wall worthy.

 

skyscanner appSkyscanner

Click here to download

Now, I do know I mentioned this must have app the last time around. BUT I am emphasising how important it is after the drama I had flying back to Manchester. When I was in a position where I needed to book a new flight asap to catch my Hong Kong transfer, the skyscanner app was definitely the quickest and cheapest way for me to get what I needed. When time and money is of the essence, this app will seriously be your lifesaver!

Last minute flight dramas aside, it’s a great one to have when you’re feeling wanderlust-y. There’s that fabulous everywhere feature, but also I love to just sit and have a play, look for what flights are cheap from my local airport, sometimes that’s all it takes to inspire an impromptu affordable trip.

 

google trips appGoogle trips

Click here to download

As a massive fan of google-related products, my opinion might be a tad bit biased on this one. I love google and when I saw google trips, I couldn’t help but get it. But I actually really like it! I love how it tracks all my previous holiday itineraries as well as future ones. Whenever I am creating a schedule or making a plan on what to do on holiday google is generally my number one go to, so it makes sense to be able to search and save directly onto my planner.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t fully explored the app to it’s full capacity just yet, but from what I’ve seen so far, I have a feeling it’s going to be a keeper!

 

 

*** Big thanks to dear friends for sharing their photography skills and app knowledge with me – If you want to see some AMAZING photos, check out their websites:

www.libbywoodard.com

www.kwoodardphotography.blogspot.co.uk

Libby is still travelling, so it’s worth following her blog, her words and photos are fabulous ***

 

 

What do you think of my suggestions? Have you got any of these must have apps? Can you recommend any others???

 

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alhambra-spain-travel-tips

 

When we decided that we were going to visit the South of Spain this year, Mo insisted that one thing we could NOT miss out under any circumstances, was the Nasrid Palaces of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

He had been on a day trip whilst he was on retreat 2 summers ago and all he could tell me was how stunning and awe inspiring this place was. One thing neither of us (naively) anticipated however, was how popular a tourist destination would be.

During our drive down from Madrid to La Herradura, we got a message from the lady whose house we would be staying at, to say she was running later than scheduled. As we were only 30 mins away from Granada, we thought, why not pop into the Alhambra and kill some time. It would mean we wouldn’t have to come back up this way later in the week and we could spend that time elsewhere.

Off we went, only to discover it was sold out! No more tickets left for the day and as we weren’t sure what our day to day itinerary was we weren’t in a position to pre-buy tickets for another time just yet.¬†After following advice from locals, the second¬†time we went, we¬†made sure to arrive at lease an hour before the ticket office opened. We arrived to find there was already a queue, and within minutes of the desks and machines opening,¬† it was sold out again! Unbelievable.

 

alhambra-travel-tips-spain-54

 

We never made it into the Palace itself unfortunately, but we made it into the fort, the Alcazaba, and into the gardens, known as the Generalife. So here are my top tips to anyone visiting the Alhambra:

 

1) Book in advance

WAAAAY in advance. When Mo went in late June / early July 2015, he didn’t even have to queue. But as we have discovered, September is a very busy holiday period and Spain seems to be swarming with tourists trying to get the last rays of sunshine. So book your dates AS EARLY AS YOU CAN to avoid disappointment. The officials on site recommend booking a month before to ensure you get a space. If you want to get a better idea of the Alhambra opening times etc (depending on the time of year you are going), then more information can be found here: Alhambra opening times.

If you aren’t fussed about seeing the palaces (although if you can, you really should!), but would rather just visit the Alcazaba and Generalife, then you can buy separate tickets for this.

I’m not the biggest fan of pre-booking tickets all the time as I love to have flexibility when we’re on holiday and not feel pressured into timings. However sometimes because of pricing or availability, it is definitely worth doing.

If you are going to risk buying tickets on the door like we did, then during peak season, you will want to be there first people there. We arrived at around 7:30am one morning only for them to release 60 tickets which were sold out in less than 10 minutes. We would suggest you arrive at least a few hours beforehand – yes, it is THAT popular.

Luckily there is a teeny coffee shop¬†hidden¬†by the side of the entrance gates for you¬†to pick up a quick¬†breakfast¬†to enjoy whilst¬†you queue. (It’s what we did and the doughnut was YUM).

 

2) Dress appropriately

Wear a good pair of walking shoes / sandals. The Alhambra and it’s gardens are set out over a fairly sizeable area – there is a lot to see and you don’t want to be uncomfortable.

 

3) Take a camera

If you’re on holiday, the likelihood is you will already have one with you. Mo says the beauty of this palace is unlike anything he has ever seen before, and from what I have seen of the gardens alone, you will want to capture every moment.

Some of the viewing points from parts of the Alhambra are breathtakingly beautiful, so do not miss out on some potentially great pics.

 

 

4) Parking can be a bit of a nightmare!

If you are driving, then the official car park gets full very quickly and gets quite pricey. You may want to park elsewhere in Granada and make your way to the Alhambra by cab.

 

 

5) Ticket prices vary

Depending on who is going and when you want to go and unless you are going as an organised group, then you can only book a maximum of 10 tickets at any one time.

Prices range from ‚ā¨7 to ‚ā¨14 depending on what you want to see and when you are going.

You can buy night tickets more easily than day time slots. But a couple of words of caution – they don’t open the whole palace by night and you may have to go as late at 10:30pm. We would suggest book in advance, online, to avoid any disappointment.

 

 

I’m sure a number of these travel tips stick out as quite obvious, but sometimes stating the obvious is necessary!¬†Although as I mentioned above I missed out on seeing the actual palaces, just being within the grounds was a wonderful, peaceful experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. My disappointment faded very quickly when I was still able to explore the¬†Alcazaba and Generalife gardens.

And it also gives us a reason to return to the South of Spain again in the future!

 

Have you visited the Alhambra? Have you any extra tips?

 

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Travel Apps I can't live without

You can’t do anything these days without there being an app that can help you. And unlike when they first became popular, most of them¬†are now¬†free. In the past¬†I used to hoard as many apps as my storage could fit on my phone, but this year I scrapped them all and started over, keeping only the ones I use on a regular basis.

I thought it would be nice to share a few of my all-time favourite travel related apps:

 

tripcase-app-free-download

 

 

Tripcase

free download available on Apple & Android

 

A trip management tool to keep all your itineraries in one place. Simply forward any hotel/flight confirmations to the Tripcase email address and they automatically upload all the details into the app for you. There is an option to manually input information as well, I use this option for any road trips or local days out.

One of my favourite features is the ability to share trips with other users. I have my dad registered as receiving alerts for all trips – again tripcase updates his app automatically when I upload anything into mine.¬†This way I know that there is someone other than me that has access to where I am in the world – if anything was to happen I know I can just get in touch with him and¬†he’ll have all the details to hand.

 

citymapper-app-free-download

 

 

Citymapper

free download available on Apple & Android

 

When I was in London for the WTM last year I was all over the place in the City, luckily when I arrived one of my best friends made me download Citymapper to help me find the best routes – using any mode of transport available. I found this award winning app much easier to use than any other map product.

The information is real time, the app design is simple and you can even request it to notify you when you need to change stops. Only thing with this one, is you need to have your location services switched on for it to work.

 

skyscanner-app-free-download

 

 

Skyscanner

free download available on Apple, Android & Windows phones

 

Maybe not one that’s as useful, but as a wanderluster it’s one I use all the time. (I can’t help it). The minute I’m thinking of going somewhere I can tap it straight in and find the cheapest flight options.¬†Hotels and car hire are a new part they’ve introduced (not available on Windows yet).¬†We’ve used the car hire a fair bit recently, saved us loads of money on¬†rentals in Abu Dhabi and again in Stockholm.

Their ‘everywhere’ feature is also pretty cool. If you’re on a budget but in the mood for a getaway, this search finds the cheapest flights from your nearest airport, perfect for that last minute getaway.

 

touchnote-app-free-download

 

 

Touchnote

free download available on Apple & Android РPostcards from £2.99
(can go as low as 99p if you pre-order credit)

 

My favourite app discovery. I saw a TV advert on Touchnote many moons ago and thought it’d be nice to send my mum and dad a photo-postcard the next time we went away. I knew they’d love receiving¬†a card with one of our own holiday snaps on it, and this one wouldn’t¬†cost me an arm and leg in postage – as all cards are printed and sent locally.

 

touchnote-postcard-collage-jet-set-chick

 

Parents loved it so much, I now send them one from every place we go to, whether we’re away for a day or a week, locally or internationally.¬†I pre-load my credits onto the app¬†so when I’m away all I have to¬†do is upload the photos, add in text, choose¬†an address from my address book and click send. ¬†It’s quick, easy and for the smile it puts on my mum and dads face, worth every single penny.

 

wunderlist-app-free-download

 

 

Wunderlist

free download available on Apple & Android

 

I love lists. I’ve found most bloggers do. I can’t do without writing one¬†and this app is my go to for them. But the main reason I fell in love with Wunderlist over all the other¬†apps out there, is because you can invite fellow wunderlist-ers to share your lists with you.

For example – Mo and I will share shopping lists, so if he’s out and he can pick up a few things, he’ll tick them off and it automatically updates on mine. Genius. Comes in handy with things like packing, stuff to do before we go away,¬†etc. The reminders come in handy too, you can set date and time popups not just for individual items but also for full lists. What more do you need??

 

 

Those are just a few of my favourites, there are a few more apps recommended to me¬†which I’m having a play with at the moment – But I’ll have to get back to you when I’ve figured out whether they’re any good or not!

 

What travel apps do you use? Can you recommend any others??

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20160409_135728

Kingston did a great job of hosting the Traverse blogger conference last year. For 2016, we all flocked to Cardiff, which I was super excited about for a couple of reasons:

1. I get to discover a new place

I have never been to¬†South Wales¬†before, but I’d heard lots of good things about it¬†(did you know there is a castle smack bang in the middle of the city?!).

2. Learn, learn, learn

Last time, I was pretty new to blogging and not quite sure what I was wanting to accomplish from visiting the conference. This year I was in a position to know exactly what elements of my blog needed improvement, what I needed help with and I was much better prepared in general to make the most of my weekend.

 

Getting there:

A few years ago, I used to take a train to where I worked in Wilmslow, and every day I would get on and wish I could stay on all the way to Cardiff.

I no longer have that feeling. Whilst the Transpennine express service is great, there are¬†far too many stops between Manchester and Cardiff central! I love train travel, I really do, but the Friday night service after work was busy, it was noisy and I had to continuously keep waking myself up to check I hadn’t missed my stop. I ended up dabbling in some poetry writing for a Cathay competition, which I unfortunately didn’t win, but at least it helped pass the time.

I was lucky enough to get a discounted ticket through work this time round, but when you’ve booked your Traverse ticket, keep an eye on their website as they’re usually able to negotiate train¬†rates for attendees.

 

Where I stayed:

If you are taking the train to Cardiff and fancy a no fuss place to stay, then I would definitely recommend the Sleeperz hotel. It’s literally round the corner from Cardiff Central station (literally!). Its clean,¬†a decent size and the staff were great from start to finish.

It was a really well equipped room too, didn’t have to ask for anything it was all there. Hairdryer, ironing board, tea tray, a great desk and like every hotel should have these days, free wifi.

 

What I learned:

Wow, I learned so much!?!? So I’ll just share some of my highlights:

  1. Tika gave a great talk on the value of being a blogger, how we are different and what bloggers need to be aware of when trying to work with brands Рstats, stats, stats! use them to your advantage.
  2. The YouTube panel Q&A session was a great intro to the world of video, I learnt the vlogging community is just as strong, if not stronger, then the blogging one, so reaching out is important.
  3. Judith’s talk on sexy SEO was a chocolate throwing fact-based session. Probably the most useful one of the day, Judith flew through a whole load of statistics that we should and shouldn’t use as bloggers, a lot of which I had never heard of. I booked a quick one to one with her after to go through a few specifics on the blog.
  4. The final talk I went to was about creating food content with Niamh. Her talk was hilarious, her advice was simple (but genius) and I now find myself stalking her blog on a regular basis. Her tips on food photography were brilliant, and have really helped me evaluate setting the food scene.

 

Who I met:

Some great brands and amazing bloggers! Check them out:

 

Some¬†tips if you’re thinking of going next year:

1. Book early! – It’s cheaper, you’ll have peace of mind and it’s something to look forward too.

2. Same goes for the Sunday experiences, book them early too – the good ones fill up quick.

Here’s a few sneaky pics from my day with See Wales:

3. Follow @Traverseevents so you can be first to know about tips 1. and 2. above.

4. Try and make it for the Friday social, I haven’t managed to get down both years due to work commitments, but they always look mega fun.

5. Do not forget to take a notebook and pen – you’re going to need it!

6. Meet as many people as you can – I’m still working on this one, I’m not the best at networking but the more I put myself into these situation the more I¬†improve.

7. Talk to the brands, they’re all there because they either work with or are wanting to work with bloggers.

8. Have fun! cheesy I know, but sometimes you can get carried away with all the work stuff it’s easy to forget.

 

That’s it for now, well until I finish writing about my Sunday experience (which was fabulous!)

Already looking forward to #Traverse17 ūüôā

 

Were you in Cardiff this year? what did you think?

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