7 Things You Need To Know About Travel To The USA

We love visiting the USA but although the culture is very similar in lots of ways to the UK, there are also differences that you need to be prepared for. So here are 7 things you need to know about travel to the USA so you can be best prepared for your trip.

Travel insurance is essential 
The USA is a vast country

Travel insurance is so important and especially so in the USA. Unlike the UK they do not have a free public medical system like the NHS. Medical bills are very high in the USA so getting insurance with medical cover is super important. Don't skimp on this or you could be hit with a bill running into thousands of pounds for something simple. It's recommended that you get a minimum of 10 million dollars worth of medical coverage per person. So buy the best travel insurance you can afford.

You need an ESTA or a VISA

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. You can apply for the ESTA yourself through the official website above, which we have done a number of times, however, if you are unsure about the process and how to do it, you can apply for your ESTA application here. This company e-visa.co.uk will help you complete it for a fee and will double check your application.  If you fill out your ESTA wrongly you could be denied entry and have to get a VISA which is a lengthier process. 

It's expected to tip everywhere


Don't forget to tip your waitress 

Tipping is part of American culture. In the USA a 15 to 20% tip is expected in restaurants. Waiting staff are paid a very low wage, typically under $3 an hour so you should always tip unless the service was bad. If this is the case then make a point of talking to the manager if you are not going to tip. Tipping is worked out on the pre-tax price of the meal. Other people to tip include maids, (2-$5 a night) taxi drivers (15 to 20%) and bartenders (1-2$ a drink).

Taxes are added onto the price you see

The price you see is never the price you pay. Local and state taxes are added on often bumping the price up by another 10% in stores and hotels. Resort fees are also something to consider in bigger hotels and resorts in places such as Las Vegas and Florida. These can be as much as 50 dollars per room per day. There is usually no way of getting out of these fees which the hotels say are for phone calls, Wi-Fi, bottled water and use of the pool, for example.  However if you do have any issues in the hotel, be sure to complain and you may have these fees waived

Gas is super cheap
Vintage Gas Station on Route 66

We like road trips. In fact, we've just completed a Route 66 road trip, driving over 2400 miles from Chicago Illinois to Los Angeles California and one thing we realised is that gas or petrol as we call it in the UK is super cheap. In fact, I would say it's half of the cost. This makes the USA perfect to explore on a road trip. So why not plan a trip on the Pacific Coast Highway or another USA road trip? A tip with getting gas is that most petrol station pumps don't accept UK credit or debit cards, so you may have to go into the gas station, present your credit card and get a prepay amount first, say $30 before you can fill up. If you don't use this amount they will refund the difference.

Public transport isn't always the best

In cities, you will have access to the public transport system such as trains, buses and subways. In fact, public transport in major cities like New York,  Chicago and Washington DC is excellent, however, in the smaller towns and cities, public transport isn't so good. People also do not seem to walk anywhere in the US due to the vast distances involved.  We have found, outside of the major cities there are few sidewalks, and the car is king, so remember that if you are planning a trip to the USA. A hire car is highly recommended if you are going anywhere out of a city.

Drinking and gun laws are weird 
Gun laws are weird

You need to be 21 to drink but in many states, there is no minimum official age to shoot a gun in a gun range. Go figure! Some gun ranges will, however, impose a minimum age such as 13, and will always ask you to supervise your child. Regarding alcohol. if you look under the age of 40, yes 40, you may be asked for ID when buying alcohol. Generally drinking in the street is not allowed by law, with some exceptions, such as in New Orleans and Key West, and there are even counties in certain states that are official 'dry', where alcohol is prohibited or restricted. I always remember going to the Jack Daniels Distillery in Tennesse and not being allowed to drink alcohol, although this has now changed.

So these are 7 things you need to know about travel to the USA. For up to date information on travel to the USA always check out the foreign travel advice from your local government website.

Let me know, have you been to the USA? What do you think about these essential tips?

3 Top Tourist Attractions To See Outside Of London


London is fun and exciting, but it certainly isn’t home to everything that the south of England has to offer. After all, last year visitor numbers dropped at the capital’s top tourist attractions, as people turn their attention elsewhere. With the extortionate cost of parking, the price of the congestion charge and the high cost of accommodation, London can be a pricey place to spend a few days, so why not explore further afield? There are great rail connections throughout the south of England, leading to other interesting towns and cities that have a wealth of exciting tourist attractions. So here’re the top tourist attractions to see outside of London, in the south of England.

Brighton Pier



Brighton Pier is easily accessible, with the impressive Thameslink railway line providing speedy transport from Gatwick airport to Brighton in good time. Sun, sea and a range of fun rides are the order of the day here, as well as plenty of fresh air that’s free of urban pollution. Brighton Pier attracts many visitors simply because there are so many different things to get up to and most are family friendly.

If you are not afraid to be scared, it also has the infamous Horror Hotel. Here visitors can explore eerie hotel rooms and shadowy hallways, all culminating in a series of scares and thrills. Whether you’re looking for laughs or screams, Brighton Pier is more than capable of meeting the challenge head-on. When you are finished with the fun of the pier, go shopping in Brighton's many independent shops, or visit the magnificent Brighton Pavilion. Brighton makes a great day out for all.

University of Cambridge



You don’t need to be super smart and enrol to visit one of Britain’s best and famous universities. Fortunately, Cambridge is also accessible on the Thameslink line, and once you’ve arrived you can tour the institution where the likes of Charles Darwin, Alan Turing, and Stephen Hawking all refined their intellectual brilliance.

There’re numerous opportunities to appreciate the history and architecture of the place too and be mesmerised by all the things that have transpired at the university. Additionally, you can even tour around with current graduates, who’ll give some insight into what it’s like to study there. It’s not an obvious choice, but still, it’s not every day that you can snoop around one of the world’s most prestigious universities! Don't forget to explore this university town too. Perhaps go punting on one of the canals, visit the first rate Fitzwilliam Museum or stroll around the botanic gardens.

Windsor Castle



London is admittedly great for the tourist who wants to see all the royal-related landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London, but go further afield and you will find another place full of Royal history.

Windsor Castle is located a short train ride outside of London, and it’s the largest occupied castle in the world. Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century, it's worth going on a guided tour of the luxury state apartments here as well as visiting St. George’s Chapel, which is located inside its walls. Check out the extravagant art collections, see the moat room and experience the Changing Of The Guard, all without visiting London. Windsor Castle is a world-class attraction and one of the south of England's best.


So here are three top tourist attractions to see outside of London. Let me know have you been to any of these?

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10 Eco-Friendly Cleaning Hacks

I think we are all becoming more environmentally conscious, I know I am as I get older. So if you want to get away from the beach and embrace a cleaning regime that is better for the environment then check out these eco-friendly cleaning hacks brought to you in conjunction with Pattersons, a company that offers household and commercial eco-cleaning products.




1. In a microwave put a cupful of cold water and half a lemon. Microwave for two minutes until the water heats up. Leave in the microwave for five minutes, remove the cup and then wipe the inside with a damp cloth. The steam will loosen any grime and the lemon will make it smell nice.

2. Lemon can also work wonders on your cutting board too. To remove stains cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the surface. Leave to stand for 20 minutes and then rinse. The result is a stain free board that smells fresh and should eradicate any garlic or onion smells.

3. To remove coffee stains in china cups, make up a mixture of half salt and half vinegar. Use this with a soft cloth to scrub the inside of the cups to remove all the stains in no time.

4. To clean your oven, firstly wipe over when cool with a cloth to get rid of any loose particles, then sprinkle with bicarbonate of soda all over the burnt on grime. Next, get some white vinegar and sprinkle all over the baking soda. The vinegar will react with a baking soda like magic, and fizz up to clean off the burnt on food. Wipe off with a clean cloth.

5. To freshen up a carpet, sprinkle liberally with bicarbonate of soda and leave overnight. The next morning vacuum up and your carpet should smell fresher and look much cleaner.

6. To clean blinds, make a mixture of half vinegar and half water. Wrap a clean sock around your hand and dip in the mixture, then wipe over the blinds to clean.

7. To clean a showerhead, fill a plastic bag with white vinegar. Then immerse the shower head in the bag so it is covered. Leave overnight, then rinse. Any hard water marks and mould should be removed.

8. Clean drains by pouring vinegar down them, leaving for 30 minutes then rinse with water.

9. To remove crayon marks from white walls, make a mixture of bicarbonate of soda paste with equals parts of baking soda and water then apply to the walls with a soft cloth gently. The marks should come off easily, just be careful if your walls are not painted white as this is gently abrasive.

10. To clean your metal taps, work in a small amount of toothpaste, then get a soft cloth and buff dry. The taps should sparkle.

So these are my top 10 natural cleaning tips. With a handful of natural substances like lemons, bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and toothpaste you can have a cleaner and healthier home.

Check out this infographic below for more eco-friendly cleaning hacks.



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How To Use Tech Positively

Today, whether you walk down the streets, get on a train or glance around a restaurant you see people engrossed in their screens. It's true to say, we are using mobile phones and tablets on the go more than ever and they are getting a pretty bad reputation. Nearly all of us have a smartphone and we automatically pay our mobile phone bill every month, but do we value what it does for us? Is technology really that bad? In truth, we need to cut tech some slack, because technology is more amazing than people make out. Here are a few reasons why we should embrace not hate modern technology.

Music And Technology Soothes Your Soul

Poor mental health is such a huge talking point at the moment and technology is often said to be hindering not helping people. However, technology can provide you with a number of mood-lifting benefits that aren’t often acknowledged. For example, you should never underestimate the power of turning on your laptop and blasting out some feel-good music.  
You can learn meditation online or via an app, learn relaxation techniques or simple yoga via YouTube, listen to relaxation rainfall or waves to help you sleep or find out the best ways to deal with anxiety from mental health sites. If you find using social media and comparing yourself to others is not helping your mental health, however, be sure to have a break from it, go out for a walk and take yourself away from the situation.

Solving Your Problems

The power of the internet is that it can also solve your problems too.  If you search for Mac sound not working you can find an easy fix and if your iPhone is being glitchy, a quick Google will usually solve the problem. If you want to know how to change the oil in your car, make the best birthday cake at the fraction of the price of a bought one or find the cheapest city break from your local airport flying next week, the internet is your friend.

Dear Diary

You can use technology to start a blog and use this as a platform to express your emotions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a public blog either. Many people invest in a private domain name and use this platform to store memories, perhaps travel diaries, and note down their feelings on a regular basis as this can be cathartic.

Never Lose Touch

It would be much more difficult to stay in touch with your distant friends and family if you didn’t have social media and technology. Admittedly, most of us take it for granted that you can pick up a phone and FaceTime a friend in another country, or connect with them on Facebook or Skype. Without technology, this kind of connectivity would be impossible.

Keep Learning

The internet is home to a whole wealth of knowledge that almost anybody can access. If you have a question, Google will always be there to enhance your knowledge and give you an additional learning platform. Of course, it is important to filter out the nonsense that is put out on the internet, but it is still a valuable tool that many of us take for granted. The rise of online courses can also mean that the internet can open a whole new area of education for some, with a qualification at the end of it too, all completed from the comfort of your home.

Capture Memories

Technology gives us the ability to remember those special events in our lives. There are so many amazing apps out there that can help you take your photography skills to the next level. Without our iPhones and digital cameras, it wouldn’t be as easy to snap those cute and candid moments with our friends and family.

The possibilities of technology are truly endless, from uplifting your mood to keeping in touch with distant friends. Although the scope of technology is pretty overwhelming, we need to remember the amazing things it can do for us in our everyday lives. Just be sure to take a break from it on a regular basis, and don't let it rule you. Technology is amazing, use it positively and it can really enhance your life


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Ways The Groom Can Help Out With The Wedding Planning

Planning a wedding can be very stressful and although there are many would be grooms that help out, often the majority of planning is done by the bride. This, however, need not be the case. Maybe your partner doesn't know what you want him to do. Maybe he is overwhelmed too. So sit down, make a plan and discuss how you can both take responsibility for the best wedding ever. If you can coordinate from the word go, support each other and be each other’s strength then the stress will be halved and you will have a more relaxed and fun wedding.

1. Let him deal with the ushers


You have enough on your plate dealing with the bridesmaids and your family so let him deal with the best man and the ushers or groomsmen. Talk to your partner about colour schemes and suit designs and let him organise the suit fitting for the groomsmen. He also needs to speak to the ushers and organise them so they know what their role is. Another thing a groom has to do is pick the best man.  A best man traditionally organises the stag do, so pick someone who means a lot but is also a good organiser. 

2. Allow him to coordinate his family

Let him deal with his side of the family. He should be in a position to advise you on what his mother’s style and tastes are and give you an insight into the style and colour of the mother of the groom dresses that she is choosing from. Gone are the days where both mothers had to wear matching clothes, however, there are some simple guidelines that should be followed like not wearing white. Sites such as JJ’s House have a range of wedding fashions for both the mother of the groom and the bride's mother. Encourage both mothers to speak to each other so they don't pick the same design and that the colours of their outfits do not clash with the bridesmaids.

3. Get him involved with the budget


If you are splitting the cost of the wedding then it's only fair that he should be involved with the budget too. You can both keep an eye on the costs then. Weddings are expensive and small things can add up. If he realises the cost of things then he (hopefully) won't go mad on the stag do! Maybe there are some areas that he feels strongly about, like having a classic car so if it's in your budget make sure he has a say too. After all, marriages are all about compromise and planning a wedding is all about compromise too.

4. Let him plan the honeymoon

If you want a surprise why not let him plan the honeymoon. It will take the pressure off you trying to plan another aspect of the wedding. Traditionally, the honeymoon destination was entirely the choice of the groom, but things have changed. Tell him your honeymoon destination desires as well as your wishes; you can even tell him of the exact destination you intend to visit. After that, you can pass the mantle to him where he will deal with the logistics and all the payments for your honeymoon. It will be one less thing to worry about in the wedding planning.

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What To Consider When Fitting Out Your First Shop

If you are thinking of opening your first shop as a small business then you may be feeling overwhelmed.  There is so much to think about and so much to organise. I know as I used to have my own jewellery shop in a small town. So here are some things to consider when fitting out your first shop.



Counter

A counter is an important area to meet and greet your customers. To get behind your brand you may want to consider a bespoke reception desk that is built to your design requirements. You can then have control over the size, colour and design which will help your branding. Alternatively, if you are on a tight budget there are second-hand counters you can pick up from shop closures.

Cash register and card machine

Although technology is always improving with the likes of Apple Pay and contactless cards, many people still pay in cash so it's important to have a cash register as well as a card machine.  Cash registers can be picked up brand new or second hand on auction sites such as eBay. With a card machine, you have to rent it from a company like WorldPay.

Seating

From counter seating for employees to sofas for your customers, you need to consider seating for your shop and the type of retail environment it is. Do you want your customers to stop and chat? Then a sofa would be a good choice. The longer people hang around and feel comfortable in your store the more chance they have of buying from you. If it's a more fast-paced shopping environment like a grocery store then you may not want or need seating for your customers.

Cabinets



If your items are valuable, such as if you are fitting out a jewellery shop, then cabinets are essential. Choose cabinets with lighting to show the products off in the best possible way. If you stock clothing you may want to display the items on rails or flat on units. Shelving is another option to display your items. Pick the most appropriate display items for your stock.

Fitting rooms

If you have a clothing store then a fitting room is pretty much essential. By trying on the item the customer can see how it looks and is more likely to buy it. If you do not a suitable space then a partition can be used or a curtain for privacy. Don't forget a large mirror, hooks for clothes, a chair for the customer and suitable lighting.

Pricing

You need to consider whether you will use a tag for each item, tied on or with a sticky label or old style pricing cubes in front of the item. This depends on the product you are selling. A point of sale system linked to a database can be used and is good for stock control but can be pricey to buy.

Security

Unfortunately, theft can be common in certain areas. Security is essential whatever type of shop you have. Shop shutters are worth considering to prevent smash and grab robberies and CCTV and shop alarms are virtually essential these days. If you do not have these security measures in place your insurance may not pay out if you have a robbery. 

Lighting

Spotlights, general lights and mood lighting may all be used in a retail environment. It's something that is easy to forget to budget for but it so important to illuminate your products.

Storage

If you have a lot of stock you may need to
 store the extra somewhere secure. Check if the shop you are renting has a suitable space for this extra storage, or you may need to rent somewhere to store the stock. If your suppliers are quick at delivering you may only need a small area for storage and this can help with cash flow too, so your money isn't tied up in stock for a long time.

Insurances

Don't forget insurances. Business insurance should cover the building, the contents, the stock, public liability and employers liability amongst other things. Check if your landlord is covering the building or any other insurances.

So here are some things to consider when fitting out your first shop.

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Health Checks Every Woman Should Have After 40

It's so important, as we get older to have regular health checks. Have you had a health check yet? You really should be having regular health checks between the ages of 40 and 74 even if you haven’t had a stroke or do not have heart disease, diabetes or kidney disease.

The NHS even tell you about an NHS Health Check that they recommend every 5 years after the age of 40 and what you can expect so there is no need to worry. They do this to try to gain an idea of your chances of getting ill and give advice on how to minimise your chances of getting serious illnesses such as heart disease, stroke or diabetes. There are also private health checks that you can have done, such as those by hearing clinics such as Auris Ear Care. The main advantage of private clinics is that you should be seen sooner for a charge.  If you have the money to pay for a private clinic then this is a way of taking the pressure off the NHS and alleviating any anxiety about waiting for treatment on the NHS.

So what health checks should you be having after the age of 40?




High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can be very serious, putting a strain on your arteries which increases your risk of serious problems such as stroke and heart disease. You can only find out your blood pressure by asking for a blood pressure test so it may be worth asking for one next time you have a checkup. After the age of 40, you should have your blood pressure tested at least every 5 years so any potential problems can be detected early. If you are on the contraceptive pill your blood pressure is also tested every time you have a contraceptive pill prescription and will be flagged up if it's high. 

Cervical Screening

With news that cervical screening attendance is super low once again, I’d just like to remind you how important it is to have regular smear tests. These test the health of your cervix. It isn’t a test for cancer but a test to help prevent cancer - although a lot of people don’t realise this. Don’t worry about feeling anxious or worried about your smear, many women do - but the nurses will certainly put you at ease. Some women can find it uncomfortable but it's worth doing if it saves your life! Check out the NHS advice on what age you should get cervical screening.


Mammogram Screening

When you are over the age of 50, you should certainly be going for regular breast cancer screenings - these are called a mammogram. With 1 in 8 women in the UK diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, it is paramount you keep on top of your screenings. Your results are usually sent to you and your GP no later than 2 weeks after your appointment.

Hearing Tests

Hearing can deteriorate so quickly so it is important to make sure you are getting checked out regularly as you get older. Maybe a simple removal of wax could help your hearing or a hearing aid may be prescribed if you have age-related hearing loss. Hearing tests are simple to do and pain-free so I recommend having one especially if you feel your hearing has deteriorated.

Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the main illnesses and conditions they test for in a NHS Health Check, so it's important that you are checked regularly for the disease as you get older. It doesn’t discriminate - people can develop Type 2 diabetes late in life so make sure you are tested especially if you have any of the symptoms of diabetes such as feeling thirsty all the time, extreme fatigue and unexplained weight loss.

High Cholesterol

Did you know that high cholesterol causes few symptoms? It can only be diagnosed with a blood test. Age, weight, diet and other conditions can contribute to having high cholesterol. It may also be hereditary. If you do have high cholesterol, a doctor or nurse will talk to you about how you can lower it with dietary choices and medication.

So these are just a few health checks that women over the age of 40 should be ensuring they have. Women are great at looking after others, but often bad at looking after themselves. Be sure to get regular health checks as you get older as it could save your life. 


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Buying A Property Abroad : Essential Things To Consider

There are a few reasons you might decide to buy property in another country. You might be looking for a vacation home that you can use whenever you visit. Many people have a favourite destination, especially if they have family ties or a cultural or historical connection to a particular country. A vacation or holiday home doesn't have to be for your use only, either. It could also be a property that you rent out while you're not there, whether it's for only days or weeks at a time, or for more long-term tenancies. Buying property abroad can be a great investment, especially as property in some countries is much cheaper than in others.

But if you want to own property in another country, what do you need to know before you make that commitment?

Check the Rules



Firstly, you have to be sure that you're even allowed to buy property in the area that you're interested in. Perhaps this sounds strange, but various countries have rules concerning foreigners purchasing property, especially if they're not residents. Even if there is no country-wide rule, sometimes certain regions might have regulations that will make it difficult for you to buy a property.

There may be rules concerning the value of the property you're allowed to buy or requirements such as carrying out renovations or contributing to the local community in some way. There might be regulations that say how you can use the property too. These rules are usually in place so that foreigners buying property doesn't make it more difficult for local people to do so.

Consider How You Will Use the Property

If you're thinking about buying a property abroad, you probably already have some idea of how you want to use it. Perhaps you make frequent trips to the same place and want a more permanent base. Some people buy property in two places so that they can spend half of the year in each place. Maybe you're thinking of retiring somewhere new, and you want to make sure you have a home and a strong investment before your retirement years arrive. You could be looking to make some extra money by renting out your property, or maybe you're even looking for a property that will help you to set up a business.  Insurances will be different if you are buying a property to rent out too.

Consider Taxes and Paperwork

Another important regulatory aspect of buying property abroad is the taxes that you might have to pay. You need to check what taxes might apply both at home and in the country where you're buying the property. This could mean paying two lots of tax in some cases, but it's essential to make sure that you're prepared to pay anything that you owe. There's also important paperwork to consider. It's often useful to have a lawyer or another legal or property professional to help you out. It will help you to avoid making any costly mistakes.

Getting a Mortgage



Some people might be able to buy a property with cash, but most will need to have a mortgage to buy one. You will need to think about your chances of getting a mortgage for a foreign property before you decide whether making a purchase is the right choice for you. If you need a mortgage for a property abroad, you might look for one at home, or you might find an international lender. Arranging for your mortgage in the country where you purchase your property is common, but you need to consider whether you will be making mortgage payments in a foreign currency.

Finding the Perfect Property

Of course, you will actually need to find a property that you want to purchase if you want to buy a property abroad. Knowing where to look and how to find the best property for your needs can depend on which country you choose. In many countries, searching online is now the norm when you're buying or renting. When you're searching online, you might even use specific websites or search filters to find what you're looking for. If you want an executive condo, you can find an EC in Singapore by easily filtering an online search. However, there are times when it's best to speak to a real estate agent or equivalent professionals. Help from someone who knows the local market can be invaluable.

Understand the Purchasing Process



As well as understanding how to look for the perfect property, you need to know the process of buying a property in your chosen country. How everything works can change from country to country. Some places use a bidding system, while in other countries auctions are very popular. Sometimes it might be required to have a lawyer or a notary involved, while in some countries you can complete the process independently. Before buying a property abroad, make sure you research and understand how the process works and how long it might take.

Consider How to Manage Your Property

Unless you're moving to your new property permanently, you will need to think about what to do with it while it's empty. Leaving it empty could mean it's vulnerable to break-ins, vandalism and squatters, and in some places, it might even be illegal to leave it empty. You should think about whether you might rent out your property, and how you will take care of anything like maintenance or cleaning. If you're not around, you might need someone in the country to help.

Find Professional Services to Help

There are a few types of professional service that you might use to help you purchase a property abroad. From realtors (real estate agents) to lawyers and property managers, they can help you to find and purchase the right property, as well as take care of it once the purchase process is complete. The right services can help you to overcome language barriers and deal with complicated legal and financial issues.

If you want to buy a property abroad, there are lots of things to think about and to straighten out to make sure that you can get everything right.

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Visiting London On A Budget - Can It Be Done?

Today we have a guest post from Yaya. Yaya runs My Dreamality - a lifestyle blog that encourages you to start living your best life now! From sharing travel tips to advice on simple living you can find a variety of articles to simplify your life and live joyfully.



My first London moment was one of the best experiences of my life. I had only just landed in the city when I started to fall head over heels in love. The sights, the atmosphere, the big, American city vibe in a European setting; I just couldn’t get enough. But what hit me pretty much as soon as I got to London was the prices. Oh my gosh, it is expensive! Anyone who has been to London will have a story about how much money they spent and how it is majorly overpriced, just like I have!

Today, I don’t want to focus on the inevitable spending spree. Today, I want to focus on London on a budget. That’s right, a lot of people say it can’t be done and are calling me a fool! But I think that the tips below can slash the cost of visiting London by a big margin. Check them out and see for yourself.

Plan Your Trip in Advance 




London is huge and there is a lot to visit. By winging your journey, you run the risk of additional expenses and from experience, I definitely don't recommend that. I know they only seem small and insignificant, but over the space of a weekend, for example, unforeseen expenses can add up to a lot of money. So do your research beforehand, decide on what is too expensive and cross it off your list. Accommodation is probably the big one when it comes to this. My advice is to book as far in advance as possible and don't book breakfast as it's usually very pricey for what you get.

I like to use Free Tours By Foot as a guide because it has information on everything you need, including places to stay and eat, discount tickets, and free things to do.

Buy An Oyster Card 




Oyster Cards are London’s travel pass. You top them up at a machine and use them electronically to ride the Tube and catch buses. What makes an Oyster card cheaper than the alternatives is the spending limit. If you don’t go out of zones one to three, you will only spend seven pounds and can ride the Tube all day. Or, I have just found out you can use contactless bank cards, which is pretty much the same.

Walk! 




For me, there is no better way to see London than to get your walk on. Okay, it might take a lot longer than normal and isn't possible for everyone. But you see a lot more of the city than you do on public transport. I mean honestly, how much of the city can you see from the underground? Plus, walking is, and always will be, free!

I once walked from London Bridge to Waterloo, for example, and had a wonderful afternoon. The route, you might be surprised to hear, includes all of the following:


* Traditional riverside pubs

* Great views of St Paul's Cathedral

* The Shard

* Tower Bridge

* HMS Belfast

* The Globe Theatre

* The Golden Hinde

* Royal Festival Hall

* The London Eye

Free Attractions 




Not all the attractions in London cost money. The best tip I came across when I first visited was the free attractions. And often they are just as good as some of the ones you have to pay for. The Changing of the Guard is amazing. Because I am somewhat of a foreigner, old, British traditions are a love of mine. Plus, among many others, there is the Tate Modern Gallery, the very impressive Natural History Museum as well as Hyde Park, which is a wonderful place to visit when the weather is nice.

Save Your Tokens Or Points For London 


If you've got supermarket points, tokens or any discount codes to hand, save them for your next trip to the capital. Last time I was in London I used Tesco Clubcard points I had accumulated on two yummy dinners - one of them at Prezzo, which I love. This meant that I saved a considerable amount on what would have otherwise been either an expensive dinner at some fancy restaurant or at an overpriced pub.

Personally, I think London on a budget can be done. What is your London on a budget tip?

How To Grab A Jewellery Bargain

If you are reading my blog and especially if you are into fashion then you probably like jewellery. Jewellery can really finish a look, and whether your style is classic gold, cool silver or high street fashion then there is a way to save on jewellery and grab yourself a bargain.

Check out independent jewellers


Independent jewellers can be great for a bargain. Many are family owned and have great customer service. I used to own a jewellery shop myself so I know how amazing they can be. If you see that perfect item there why not ask if they can offer a discount. Often you will have more bargaining power if the item is of high value and you are paying in cash as debit or credit cards will charge the store a transaction fee.  Always make sure you have a receipt and buy from a store that is a member of an organisation such as the National Association of Goldsmiths that adhere to a quality and customer service code. Independent jewellers will often have a great second-hand jewellery section too, where you can buy preowned jewellery at a bargain price. 

Buy online

Buying online can mean that you can shop around for a bargain. Take note of seasonal sales, for example, Black Friday, and New Year sales and you may get that piece of jewellery you have been looking at for ages at a knockdown price.

Sites such as Latest Deals are worth a look too for jewellery bargains. They will show you a range of jewellery bargains and direct you to the company's website at no cost to you. 

Go to an auction house

An auction house where people put their items into an auction sale will often have a decent range of jewellery. Check out a site such as Biddle and Webb, based in Birmingham who have specialist jewellery and watch auction every few months. If you can't make it in person to an auction house you can often bid online for that special item you want. Auction houses charge a commission if you are selling or buying from them so check out the charges beforehand, which can vary from 10 to 20 per cent.

Car boot sales

You can occasionally get a jewellery bargain at a car boot sale. Check out local magazines and newspapers for dates of the car boot sales in your area. They often run every weekend in the summer. Get there even as it opens to check out the bargains before the hoards ascend on the stalls. It's a great place to pick up some fashion jewellery, and if you are lucky, even silver and gold. If you are serious about a bargain, bring along a magnifying glass to check for jewellery hallmarks.

Antique and vintage stores


Antique and vintage stores are amazing places to find unusual and unique jewellery items.  Antique and vintage store owners can be pretty knowledgeable about what they sell so it's always a good idea to bring your smartphone and Google the makers mark to find out about an item of jewellery so you are better informed to see if you have a bargain or not. These stores are definitely a place to get that unique jewellery item very few people will have.

Charity shops

Charity shops are a place to find a jewellery bargain. They will often have a cabinet with jewellery near the counter. To find a real bargain you will have to hope that the staff don't know how valuable the items are! Again bring a magnifying glass (or a jeweller's loupe) to check for a jewellery hallmark. If you know your collectable jewellery brands such as Tiffany, then you will be better equipped to find that special piece. You can pick up some great new and vintage items at charity shops.

As you can see there are a number of places you can grab a jewellery bargain. Let me know, have you ever bought an item of jewellery as a knockdown price?

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5 Orlando Twin Centre Breaks

We love Orlando Florida for a holiday destination, the weather is almost always warm, and there is so much to do in Florida, the 'Sunshine State', that we have visited numerous times as a family in the last few years. 

From the theme parks of Disneyworld Florida and Universal Studios to the water parks of Typhoon Lagoon and Volcano Bay, and the shopping at Millenia Mall and the numerous bargain outlets, Orlando is a destination that appeals to both families and couples that are young and young at heart.

If you want to explore further afield then Florida itself has much to offer, such as the beauty of the Everglades, stunning beaches at Daytona Beach or Clearwater Beach and for a beautiful city with Spanish architecture St Augustine, the oldest city in the US is worth a visit. 

Sometimes though you want a change of scene and want to combine Orlando with a twin centre break further afield,  so here are my 5 USA multi centre holidays you can twin with an Orlando break. Let me know if you have been to any!

New York


New York, New York, so good they named it twice, is an amazing city that never sleeps. If you like your city breaks then there is nowhere better than New York. From the fantastic high-end shopping on Fifth Avenue to unmissable attractions like the Empire State Building, The Statue Of Liberty, Broadway and Times Square, you will never be bored in New York.



The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is worth a visit. It's a moving tribute to the people killed in the 9/11 attack but it is sensitively done. For a different type of activity and perfect for kids why not visit the American Museum Of Natural History? This world-class museum was the setting for the film Night At The Museum, and on their website, there is a self-guided tour of the attractions from the film. Definitely worth doing.

San Francisco



San Francisco is one of those places on everyone's bucket list, and why not make your stay with Florida a twin centre with San Francisco. With well-known communities such as Nob Hill, Chinatown and Haight Ashbury, and attractions such as The Golden Gate Bridge, and Fisherman's Wharf with eating, shopping and watching the seals, there is an abundance of areas to see and activities to do in San Francisco.



Top of our list was Alcatraz, the former prison set on an island is famous for housing the Birdman of Alcatraz, Robert Stroud, as well as many other prisoners. Take a tour but be sure to book in advance as it can sell out at peak times. For kids, Madame Tussauds is worth a visit, and the one in San Francisco is superbly interactive. You can play the bongos with Bob Marley or ride a bike with E.T., its a family attraction that is certainly fun.

Los Angeles


Los Angeles is a city with many attractions linked to the movie world, after all, it's where Hollywood is, as well as many famous movie studios such as Warner Brothers and Paramount Studios. We have visited both studios mentioned and can highly recommend the tours where you can see recording studios and movie memorabilia. Warner Bros has an excellent exhibition of famous movie cars for example.


Other activities include visiting the stars on the floor of the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, and people watching in the famously eccentric Venice Beach. For theme parks, you have all the fun of Universal Studios and Disneyland so it's an excellent choice if you want to visit with kids. Santa Monica is a great choice to stay if you want to do some shopping, and have access to many great restaurants. Los Angeles is certainly worth considering as a twin centre break with Florida.

Las Vegas



Las Vegas is like no other place on earth. Often described as Disneyland for adults, there is a huge range of activities to do in Las Vegas. Of course, Las Vegas is known for its casinos, and whether you are an expert or novice, there are table games or slot machines with steaks from as low as 5 cents. If you are a complete beginner, check out the free lessons run by casinos such as Ceasars Palace or the MGM Grand.


However, Las Vegas has plenty of activities if you do not want to gamble too and a surprising amount of activities for kids in Vegas. We like walking from hotel to hotel to see the amazing attractions each hotel has to offer. The Venetian Hotel even has a version of St Marks Square in Venice built inside with a pretend twilight sky! Small kids can enjoy the circus at the hotel Circus Circus, the flamingo habitat at the Flamingo Hotel, and the Discovery Children's Museum whilst big kids will like the rollercoaster at New York New York and the rides atop the Stratosphere. Of course, Vegas is famous for its shows too from Cirque Du Solei to big artists like Celine Dion, Barry Manilow and Britney Spears, you can see all the music stars in Vegas too.

Iceland



For a complete change of scene, why not twin Orlando with Iceland? Iceland is a great stopover on the way to the US and we adore the natural attractions for which Iceland is known, such as the waterfalls, geysers and geothermal spas like the Blue Lagoon



When we visited Iceland last we hiked a glacier and it was a brilliant experience. I highly recommend doing this through the company The Guide To Iceland.  It was expensive but so worth it. You should also drive or tour the area known as the Golden Circle. This is an area of breathtaking waterfalls and many geysers - the hot spring water that can shoot up in the air. If you have time take a trip to Jokularslon known for its giant icebergs. If you are more a city person Reykjavik is an interesting city and has excellent restaurants serving all types of food including local fish. 

So here are my 5 twin centre breaks with Orlando. Let me know, do any of destinations appeal? Have you ever visited Orlando or Florida on a twin centre break?

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7 Tips And Tricks To Get A Luxury Bathroom On The Cheap

Some people think that creating a luxurious bathroom requires a considerable budget. However, if you know how to use some key tricks you have the power to transform your bathroom into a space that oozes grandeur and elegance, without emptying your pockets.

1. Invest in a neutral colour scheme


Nothing speaks of everlasting elegance than a neutral colour scheme and choosing to go with neutral colour tones will undoubtedly give your bathroom a more expensive look. A white wall will make the room look bigger, and fresh and is a timeless choice. Accessorize with quality soft towels in shades of white, grey or black. Silver coloured cabinets can be a good choice for this colour scheme.

Soft creams and browns also complement anything wooden in your bathroom. Go for gold coloured fixtures and fittings. Combine with the lighting options mentioned above, and you have just created a stylish and well-appointed bathroom for you and your loved ones to enjoy for very little money.

2. Change the lighting


This is, perhaps, one of the fastest ways to give your bathroom a high-end look. Go beyond the standard light-above-the-mirror scheme and try out pendants, especially if you have available space to accommodate a couple of them. Alternatively, try an ornate sconce - a candle holder that is attached to the wall with an ornamental bracket, for a luxurious look, or candles, just be careful with safety. Battery operated tealights or traditional tealights dotted around the bath will give a softer look in the bathroom and will make for a relaxing ambience. 

3. Upgrade outdated bathroom basics


No, this is not a major renovation project that costs thousands of pounds. The point is to make your bathroom exude a luxurious ambience on a limited budget. Luckily, you can find plenty of discounted branded bathroom suites and bathrooms without having to settle with second-rated options.

From fabulous bathtubs to lavish wash-hand basins and stylish shower enclosures, you can now combine affordability with splendour. You can also be eco-friendly and pick your favourite bathroom essentials with embedded features that contribute to minimising your daily running costs by saving on electricity and water. Just choose the style you want your bathroom to have and make your choices accordingly.

4. Create a spa-like vibe


Spa-inspired bathrooms are usually the most expensive ones. To cut corners and bring the same effect to your own space, create a spa-like ambience by putting a cluster of houseplants, such as orchids, together to give the room an instant inviting feel. If you want more of a Zen look, use reed diffusers to fragrance the air, or a hanging plant like eucalyptus will deliver wonders. Add some candles and relaxing music and your elite personal retreat will be waiting for you every single day from then after. 

5. Go for tiles


Tiles can change the look of a bathroom without the cost of replacing the whole bathroom suite. Featuring a tiled tub or shower is a common characteristic of expensive bathrooms. Along with replacing any outdated bathroom essentials and fixtures, tile is indeed a timeless update you should definitely keep in mind. 

White tiles always look clean and fresh but if you want to give your bathroom even more personality, think about using tiles in a creative way. One option is a beautiful tile ribbon that goes all the way through your tiled shower or what about installing a colourful glass tile backsplash for an artsy bathroom? 

6. Add natural style with luxurious wood accents


A wood-accented bathroom will probably never go out of fashion. From using an accent of wood in the accessories such as cabinets to tiling an entire area so it has the flair of a posh ski chalet, it's up to you and how much you like this effect. Why not use reclaimed wood to bring some of the outdoors into your bathroom. Make sure the wood you use is treated to resist moisture to protect the wood in a humid environment.

7. Sign your name with wallpaper

Wallpaper is a way of adding personality to a bathroom, and a feature wall of decorative wallpaper works well, just be sure that it is used away from the splash area of the bath or shower. However, do make sure your bathroom has sufficient ventilation and check with the manufacturer that it can be used in a humid environment.

Enjoy your new, refreshed, stylish, and luxurious bathroom, completed on a budget. Let me know, do you have any tips for creating a bathroom on a budget?


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5 Whisky Cocktails For Summer

With summer heating up, we’re finally at one of the best times of the year – the season of sipping cocktails on the patio! While whisky is known for its ability to warm you up after a few sips, when mixed into a refreshing cocktail, it can actually be the perfect option during the sunnier months of the year.


So, trade in your Old Fashioned for one of these summertime sips and pour yourself a perfect accompaniment for barbeques and alfresco dining!


Bourbon Sweet Tea


It’s sometimes a little too warm to enjoy a hot beverage in the summer months, so this American twist on our beloved hot brew can act as the perfect way to sate your tea cravings – made all the better with a big splash of whiskey, of course!

You Will Need:

750ml of water
250ml of Bourbon
100g of sugar
2 black tea bags
1 lemon, sliced or in small wedges
½ orange, sliced or in small wedges


To Make: 


  1. Add the water and sugar to a small saucepan and boil, stirring to ensure the sugar dissolves.
  2. Pop the tea bags into a jug and pour the hot sugar water in, leaving the tea to steep for around five minutes.
  3. Remove the tea bags and add in the slices of lemon and orange to impart some extra flavour into the mix!
  4. Pour the Bourbon in and give the drink a good stir.
  5. Cover the jug and leave to chill until the liquid has cooled down.
  6. Serve over ice, garnished with a slice of lemon, for a refreshing drink.

 Honey Whisky Lemonade


Add a sweet twist to your favourite whisky with this summery special. Perfect for entertaining, this recipe will give you enough syrup to make around ten drinks – if you’re up for a bartending feat!

You Will Need: 

125ml of water
6tbsp of honey
2 sprigs of fresh herbs (basil or mint are best!)
125ml of lemonade per drink
1 shot of whisky per drink
Ice and lemon slices to serve 

To Make:

  1. Add the water and honey to a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce the heat and pop in a sprig of herbs, leaving the mixture to simmer for around 15 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool for 15 minutes.
  4. In each glass, pour a shot of whisky over ice and top off with lemonade.
  5. Stir one teaspoon worth of the honey syrup into the drink and garnish with a slice of lemon, or a couple of herb leaves before serving.

Green Tea Highball




Bringing the tastes of Japan to your glass, this delicious cocktail combines two of the most popular Japanese beverages into one fantastic drink. In Japan, the Highball has become an iconic drink, so adding this traditional flavour to the mix is certainly something worth a try!

You Will Need:

60ml of Japanese whisky
60ml of green tea
30ml of soda water

To Make: 


  1. Brew the green tea and then leave it to cool.
  2. In a tall glass, mix the whisky with 60ml of green tea.
  3. Top the drink off with soda water and serve.


Raspberry Whisky



Add a fresh and fruity twist to your drink with this simple summer whisky recipe! Raspberries are a great summer berry, coming into season in July and August, so you should have your pick of fresh, local fruit!

You Will Need:

45ml of whisky
15ml of raspberry liqueur
120ml of ginger ale
A squeeze of lime juice
Fresh raspberries to garnish

To Make: 


  1. Fill a tall glass with ice and pour over the whisky and raspberry liqueur.
  2. Squeeze in a good dash of lime juice.
  3. Top the drink up with ginger ale.
Serve with a couple of raspberries as garnish.

Cranberry and Orange Cocktail




A fairly simple recipe for a fruity and refreshing sip perfect for a summer’s day!

You Will Need:

90ml of orange juice
30ml of cranberry juice
60ml of whisky
15ml of Cointreau
15ml of simple syrup
60ml ginger beer

To Make: 

  1. Add the whisky, Cointreau, syrup and juices to a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake it up for a minute before straining into your glass
  3. Top off the drink with ginger beer to give it a refreshing fizz.
The drink can be served as is, or with a garnish of orange peel, cranberries or a thyme sprig for added flavour!



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Do you have any whisky cocktail recipes you love to sip on in the summer? Why not leave me a comment below with your drink recommendations!

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