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Pre-Flight Relaxation at No.1 Airport Lounge, Gatwick

Travel blogger in airport lounge

Being a frequent flier, I don't find airports as stressful as I used to. Flying alone means I have my routine nailed: I know what clothes set off alarms, I know what I have to take out of my carry-on luggage before I go through security, I know that getting a full English breakfast at a Wetherspoons will be a rip off so I'm likely to get a coffee and croissant from Pret instead. And I take that coffee and I plonk myself on a chair as far away from the general public as I can, put my earphones in and wait for my gate to open.

My Long Haul Flight Routine

Aerial view over South Africa

In just over two years I have done a lot of long haul flights. From going to the other side of world to explore New Zealand and Australia, to visiting China (twice), and visited Africa for the first time during my trip to Cape Town over Christmas. 95% of these flights have been done solo, so I've only had myself to rely on to make sure I have as seamless a flight as possible. As a result, I have my long haul flight routine down to a fine art.

What to Pack For Going on Safari

Rain coat / Sunscreen / Leggings / Cotton shirt
Sunglasses / Power bank / Water bottle
Mosquito repellent / Scarf / Binoculars / Trainers

Five Things to Know Before Flying With A Budget Airline

Looking through guide books

If it wasn't for the array of cut-price airlines we all have access to these days, there is no way I would've seen as much of the world as I have so far. I've flown to Europe for as little as £20, with most of my flights coming in cheaper than a return train ticket from London to York, but there are compromises to be made.

This is not luxury travel. The airlines themselves identify as 'no frills' which essentially means you get the pleasure of being safely transported from A to B, but not necessarily in a great deal of comfort. I've only ever flown short haul with these sorts of airlines, although many of them are starting to offer trips further afield. So before you book, here's what you need to know:

What to Pack For a Hand Luggage Only City Break

What to pack for a hand luggage only city break
Eye mask - Liberty / Sunglasses - Topshop / Neck pillow - Muji
Backpack - Radley / Setting spray - Urban Decay / Transparent pouch - Wolf & Badger / Jewellery storage - Oliver Bonas
Korres gift set - Feel Unique / Travel wallet - Aspinal of London
Travel bags - Kate Spade @ Amara* / Fan - Accessorize / Luggage tag - John Lewis

How I Manage to Take So Many City Breaks

Bucharest river view

When I was in Bucharest recently I received a WhatsApp message from a friend of mine who lives in America saying, 'Of COURSE you're in Romania.' This is a woman who I met in New Zealand and loves to travel as much as I do, but being from a bloody huge country that's pretty damn far from everywhere else, a short jump overseas isn't always feasible.

Getting Used to Not Travelling Alone

Fashion blogger wearing black dress, black cardigan, black boots
I'm wearing: Cardigan - vintage / Dress - Debenhams / Leggings - Uniqlo / Boots - Ugg at All Sole* (similar here)

When somebody travels alone it conjures certain thoughts and assumptions from other people: independent, brave, organised. It's always seen as a positive thing, and don't get me wrong, it absolutely is a great experience, every.single.time. But after going on my first group holiday since I was about 21 recently (and with more in the pipeline), I've realised that I definitely travel in a certain (i.e. selfish) way, totally based on my lone adventures.

Seven Things to Expect From a Trip to Bucharest, Romania

Tram running through Bucharest

For someone who travels a lot, my geography is pretty damn bad. It is a pretty frequent occurrence for me to get on a plane and not really know where in the world I'm going. Don't get me wrong, I'll know what I want to eat and what I want to see when I'm there, I just don't really know which part of the globe I'm jetting off to.

How to Make Friends When Travelling Alone

Group of travellers at Hobbiton, New Zealand

When I set off travelling for three months, my biggest fear was that I would spend the next 90+ days only having face-to-face communication with hostel receptionists and Starbucks employees. There is no rule book on how to make friends as an adult, and I had assumptions that everyone I'd meet would be of your bog-standard rucksack-with-flags-sewn-on, harem-pants-wearing, 'I'm spending six months in Thailand' variety that I basically have nothing at all in common with.

A Beginner's Guide to China - Everything You Need to Know For Your First Visit

Forbidden City, Beijing

When I tell people that China is my favourite country to explore, nobody seems to understand why. Even when I've met people when travelling, the general consensus always seems to be, 'It's just never been on my list.' To which my response is, 'WHY?!' It's one of the biggest countries in the world, with an unbelievable and fascinating history, incredible food, and a unique and varied culture.

Collecting Air Miles: Mythbusting and Top Tips

Airplane view over snowy New Zealand

A few days ago I tweeted that I have enough air miles to get me a one way ticket to Japan (which is my big long haul trip for 2017). A few people replied asking me how I collect them and actually I have a few little sneaky tips and tricks that make sure building my air miles is actually part of my everyday life.

You Don't Always Have to Go Off the Beaten Track

Travel blogger at The Bund, Shanghai

It's very strange but there seems to be a lot of stigma around visiting a country's most well-known sights when abroad. For some reason it's perceived that flocking to where everyone else goes and being a 'tourist' isn't how you should spend your money, but I totally disagree. I'm as guilty as the next travel obsessive for seeking out local haunts and secret gems as they do often show a side of a country that isn't as frequently seen, but there are so many reasons why I love to go to the 'main show'.

Top 10 Tips for Staying in Hostels

Passport, padlock, travel guide

Hostels get a bad rap and sometimes it's completely justified. They are cheap and often for a reason but I have experienced places at both ends of the scale. From gorgeous, clean and polite to grotty, smelly and damn right rude, reviews online often mean nothing so you just have to hope for the best.

Six Tips for Finding the Best Cheap Eats Abroad

Food blogger with a pavlova at Salamanca Market, Tasmania

I travel to eat. I mean, I travel to experience new cultures and environments, but I don't think there is any better way to do that then to try local food. I would love to eat at Michelin star restaurants when I'm abroad, but more often than not that's out of my budget, and to be honest, there is so often amazing food to be found for a lot less money.

My Must-Have Cosmetics for Travelling

Variety of cosmetics and medication for travelling

I thought whittling down what clothes to pack for a three month trip was hard enough, but then I turned my attention to cosmetics. I wanted to be prepared for all eventualities because there is nothing worse than being sick abroad. I had a whole other bag for make-up, but these bits addressed cosmetics and medications that I felt were totally essential and well worth lugging about in my backpack

Eight Travel Apps I Would (Literally) Be Lost Without

best iphone travel apps

I don't know how people did this whole travelling thing without the internet. How did they find anywhere good to eat? How did they not get hopelessly lost? I can't read a map to save my life and I have a genuine fear that I'll end up in a foreign equivalent of an Angus Steakhouse.

Nine Things to Know When Visiting Barcelona

barcelona travel blog

One thing to remember if you're attending a hen party abroad: it's not a holiday. When you get a group of women together who don't all know each other, you will never please everyone. That's why I didn't plan much for my recent trip to the Catalan capital - I was ready to go with flow, especially as I've been there before. We stayed in a fantastic apartment on Passeig de Gracia. It slept eight of us easily, was a short walk to Sagrada Familia and La Rambla, and had buses connecting the whole city right outside, plus the owner, Miguel, was so lovely and extremely helpful. Here's a few tips for those of you planning a trip soon

How to Arrange a Hen Do

As you will have seen from some recent posts, I've recently been part of a crack duo of organisers tasked with our first ever hen do. Now, considering I have known the bride-to-be for 24 years, and the other organiser has known her for all of her life, we assumed that this would be easy. But the pressure to arrange something that the hen will love, the other attendees will enjoy, and getting eight people to one location at one time is quite a headache, regardless of how long you've known the betrothed. So, here are my top tips on how to go about the whole process, hopefully with minimal headaches:

1) Don't do it alone. 
Sharing the organising and overall thinking with another person means that if you're seriously considering buying those neon pink L-plates with feather trim for £50, there is someone to talk you down off that particular ledge.

Go Team CharlieJenHen!
2) Pick a core activity and centre your weekend around that. 
Once we'd decided on Bounce Below and ZipWorld, we could then start looking for accommodation, sorting travel arrangements, and decide on what we'd do in the evenings.

3) Ask the hen who she wants to attend. 
Don't invite everyone she's ever met, it's best to keep it to a minimum so that no-one feels left out and the bride-to-be gets to spend quality time with each person. For us this was especially important, as she lives in Australia and we hardly get to see her, let alone spend an entire weekend with her!

4) Have fun but spend quality time together too. 
We're not stags. Girls like spending time together that doesn't just involve getting hammered (or at least my friends do). We arranged for our last evening before driving five hours home would be much more chilled out with face masks, nail art and a karaoke machine. It was still as much fun, and there was still gin involved, but we weren't cleaning up puke or wrestling with policemen as that's not really our thing!

5) Make memories! 
Remember to take old photos to stick up, supply her with stupid things to wear, and keep lots of funny memories in store for sharing. Our hen brought along her 'friendship book' which she wrote when she was 14 and kept us hysterically laughing for the majority of our first evening there!

6) Where possible, keep everything a surprise! 
All our hen knew was that she was going somewhere in the UK for the Bank Holiday weekend. This meant that throughout the hen do she was delighted by the cottage we'd rented, the activities we had planned, and our rendition of 'Happy Hen Do to You' when she finally arrived on the Friday evening!

Cocktails in hand, prosecco ready to pop, all set for the arrival of the hen!
Luckily, our hen loved the whole weekend, and all of us had a great time (except for my bloody awful hangover on the first day - gin is no longer my friend). I've written before about how I'm now at the age where engagements are going to be coming thick and fast, so now I've done one hen do, I'm prepared for many more! The next one is in Barcelona which will certainly be very different, but equally I cannot wait to see more friends off to marriagedom in style!
As of 20th November 2014, any products marked with an asterisk (*) have been provided as a sample for unbiased review