We have a pussy cat, Mia, who at the best of times is the sweetest thing alive. Sadly though, she does still have her natural animalistic tendencies and has been known to bring in the odd mouse or two.
The (early) morning of VE Day 2020, she decided to bring us an unusual and unwanted present – 2 baby birds (when I say baby, I mean they couldn’t have been more than a couple of days old). We were awoken at around 2am by her recognisable ‘meows’ that say “mum.. dad… I brought you a gift..”! We woke up and turned the lights on to see the horrifying sight of two tiny baby birds on the floor at the end of the bed. Before we managed to get out of bed, she grabbed one and ran outside, leaving the other in the middle of the upstairs landing. Still getting to grips with the fact that we were awake at this time, Alex and I wandered into the hallway, grabbed some tissue and picked up the nestling. After a brief conversation about what to do with it, I sneezed; it was at that point that the baby bird lifted its head and threw open its beak, letting us know it was well and truly alive.
After a bit of waking up and adjustment, we realised we needed to look after the nestling so we got an old shoebox, filled it with ripped up paper, a tea towel and hot water bottle, and popped the bird inside. Alex read online that they need constant feeding and they can eat wet cat food, so she grabbed some tweezers and got a small bowl of soggy cat biscuits. For the next 6 hours (whilst I continued to sleep), she stayed awake with the baby bird and fed it small bits of mushy biscuit with the tweezers.
In the morning, we phoned the local animal rescue centre who told us to bring the bird in, so we drove to Amesbury and dropped off our little nestling. As soon as the man working there scooped the little bird up in his hands, he threw his head back and opened his beak. The man said it was a very good sign that he was so hungry and it was great that it made it through the night! He did also say that with birds, the period of 24-48 hours after a cat bite is when they are at their most critical, so we were to phone back the next day to see if he made it.
Sadly, because COVID-19 has meant that people are unable to volunteer, the animal rescue is very understaffed and we never did find out what happened to our nestling. We’re staying optimistic that the little bird made it. Fingers crossed 🤞🏻
I am a HUGE Manchester United fan (and so is Alex now), and so the Old Trafford Stadium Tour was always a part of my bucket list; I’ve been here a few times to see matches, but never to look around! Alex’s sister lives in Manchester, and we went to visit her and her boyfriend for a weekend in 2019, which is when Grievesy decided to treat me to a stadium tour.
When you arrive, you are given your ticket and sent through a museum of United kits, match balls, trophies and photos of the famous and memorable moments in Manchester United’s football history! You’re then taken on a guided tour of the stands, changing rooms, press room and of course the players tunnel, where you can get some photos for the gram and ask all of the burning questions you have about the club! Having been such a big fan for so many years, I found it really interesting to learn about the stadium and all of the history that it has to offer!
We booked through Get Your Guide and paid around £50. One of the slight negatives about it was that you have to pay a huge amount of money to park at the stadium itself. We managed to find a website called JustPark where you can pay a small amount of money to park in someone’s driveway! The house that we found was a 5/10 minute walk from Old Trafford and only cost us around £6 for the time that we needed!
I would recommend the tour to any United fan as it’s an incredible experience to feel like you’re even more a part of the club, and to know that your idols once stood in that exact spot! Me and Alex sat in the dug out seats and the next time we watched a home game on TV, we were excited to see which players were blessed to share a seat with us….
If like me, you’re usually a pretty heavy packer then packing carry on luggage for a long weekend can be a struggle. My brain tells me things like ‘what if you want to wear that top you haven’t worn in 4 years whilst your out there’ and ‘ooh you’d better pack triple the amount of underwear – just in case’. Since we’ve been there ourselves, i’m here to give you some tips for what to pack for a winter weekend in Tallinn (you know, other than the obvious bits like toothbrush and pants) so you can travel feeling happy and confident you have everything you need!
Travel adaptor type: European
Currency: Estonian Kroon
Layers, layers, layers
The first thing to note about Estonia in winter, is that it is so so cold! Pack a couple of vests, T-shirts, long sleeved tops or any kind of thermal clothing that you may have to put on underneath your clothes. For your feet, I would bring some normal socks as well as thick thermal socks and layer those up too, depending on your footwear. Trust us; it’s better to pack more layers than fewer thicker items.
A little tip – wearing a pair of tights underneath your jeans/trousers can be a huge life saver to stop your legs from being chilly!
Remember, if you’re out and get hot then you can always take layers off.
In terms of outerwear, a lot of people who we saw were just walking around in just their regular coats and jackets (as did I for the first day) so don’t spend any unnecessary money if you don’t have a waterproof coat. We however, decided to invest in our future Scandinavian travels by buying some warm clothes (which I am grateful for) but it’s not the be all and end all if you don’t. All I’d say is just remember that snow is wet. I know that sounds obvious and although the snowfall looks beautiful and creates the perfect Instagram photo backdrop, after falling on you for a little while it will begin to soak through and you’ll be left soggy and freezing! Don’t ruin your weekend getting frostbite – just be sensible!
When we went, we both had a short sleeved T-shirt, long sleeved T-shirt, thin fleece jumper and then our coats over the top, and I think this was the perfect amount!
Hats, scarves and gloves
This might seem a little overkill, but please believe us when we say you will be grateful. Tallinn is the most beautiful and magical place to go at Christmas, but you won’t be able to enjoy that if you’re freezing cold and spending all of your time inside because you weren’t prepared. All of the Christmas markets are outside and it’s so lovely to walk around with some mulled wine (glogg) and explore the hidden alleyways of the Old Town, so making sure your hands and face stay warm is a must! You could always pick these up at the Christmas markets here if you wanted to take back a little bit of Estonia with you.
On our trip to Tallinn, we decided to go to do a Husky hike (it was meant to be a husky ride but because the snowfall was late that year, we took the huskies out for a nice long walk instead) which is why we were so grateful we’d brought our walking boots! You could wear some warm and comfy trainers or regular boots, but we chose to do a lot of walking around whilst we were there and our walking boots not only kept our feet comfy but also added an extra layer of warmth for our toes!
In Estonia, the months of December – February usually sees a lot of snowfall and the roads and paths can get pretty slippery. If you are choosing to wear other footwear, just make sure they give you some support and grip, as the cobbled streets can be quite steep.
Tallinn is a pretty laid back city, so comfy clothes are fine for every day. There are however a few ‘fine dining’ restaurants here which you might feel better slightly more dressed up. I’d recommend bringing one smarter outfit with you as well to chuck your warm coat on top of – take a look at some of the places we ate on our trip to Estonia.
The other bits to bring:
Tissues – your nose tends to get very runny going from cold outdoors to warm cafes and shops. Bring a little pack of soft tissues with you (toilet roll from the cafe toilets will make your nose so so sore, trust me).
Hand cream and lip balm – a little hand cream and lip balm to fit in your pocket or handbag wouldn’t go amiss. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s freezing cold and so the air can dry your skin out pretty quickly.
Camera – Tallinn old town is one of the most beautiful medieval cities we’ve ever seen, so whether you’re a budding photographer or just looking for an excuse to dust off your lenses then I can’t think of a better time.
If you need any tips (other than what to pack for a weekend Tallinn) such as where to eat or what to do, check out our travels and take a look at our experience in the magical fairy-tale city!
When me and Alex first got together, we were both still living at home with our parents. I had bought a property a couple of years before, but ended up renting it out instead of moving into it, which is a bit of a shame as I’d done it all up nicely as if I was to move in, but financially it was better for me this way. After about 6 months of us being together, I started looking at other properties, as I wanted to buy one to do up and move into myself, so we started looking at some of the more ‘run down’ properties around. The original plan was that I would buy a property and Alex would buy her first property around the same time, but after having separate meetings with a financial adviser, and speaking to my parents, we realised that it didn’t make sense to buy two places separately, and instead we should be looking to buy together.
I admit, when the idea first came up, I thought it was crazy as we’d not even been together a year by that point. I soon realised that as long as we split everything 50/50 and wrote some sort of agreement for if things were to go wrong, it did make more sense as we could buy bigger and better together… let’s face it, we were already basically living together at my parent’s house anyway so it really didn’t make too much of a difference!
My goal is to be a property developer, and I knew I wanted to kick start that with our own property, and Alex has always loved the idea of doing up a house and making it her own. It was an easy decision that we would buy somewhere that we could completely renovate, but we needed to figure out what we each wanted from the property. I wanted something that had potential for an extension, at least three bedrooms and in a nice area of town. Alex wanted somewhere that had the potential to be quite airy and open plan, not overlooked, and with a lovely garden. We looked at a couple of places, and made a few offers which all got rejected, but this turned out to be a good thing. Looking back, all of the other properties that we looked at had some level of compromise, whereas our home now is perfect and meets all of our needs and requirements! We actually saw this property come onto Rightmove two days before we were due to fly to Cuba for a two week holiday, and we fell in love! It had three bedrooms, loads of potential for conversions/extensions, in a really lovely part of town on a quiet little crescent and we could both see exactly how we would make it our own! The thing that really won us over was the garden; it was a good size and was just full of luscious grass, bordered by tall shapely hedges which blocked out any possible views people would have into the garden – it was secluded and quiet and it’s just what we were looking for!
So, we’d both fallen in love with the house but the only problem was, we couldn’t go back for another viewing for over two weeks, by that time it was SURE to have sold as there were already loads of viewings lined up for it. Once we landed in Cuba, on the second day, we decided to make an offer there and then. Because of the time difference, there was lots of toing and froing between us and the estate agent, and it took a couple of days of nervously waking up to see if our offer was accepted. I remember it now – we were lying on the beach with my parents, cocktail in hand, connecting to the WiFi from Alex’s phone when we got the news.
They’d accepted the offer!!
We tried to barter them down a bit but in the end, we made the decision to offer the asking price (we possibly could’ve got it for less, but this was the first house we’d both loved equally and we didn’t want to risk someone else out-bidding us).
We completed on the house on Friday 1st March 2019. We picked up the keys after work that evening, got the whole family round and ate fish and chips on the floor in the living room. This was our house. The next day was a Saturday, and we got straight to work ripping out carpets and beginning the treacherous ordeal of scraping 10 layers of paint and wood-chip wallpaper (which took Alex about 6 weeks to finish!). The house was built in the 1950’s and the decor hadn’t been updated much since the 70’s maybe, so there was a lot of work for us to do to modernise it. We got all of the messy bits out of the way, and did up the main rooms that we needed to (living room and bedrooms), and we officially moved in on 10th May 2019.
Since then, we have applied for planning permission to do an extension which got approved, but for now we are putting that on hold until we know for sure if we want to stay in the house for the long run, or move somewhere bigger and better. We’re going to properly re-do the kitchen/diner and bathroom so that the whole house is modernised, and then re-assess in future!
I hope to buy another property within the next year which I can flip and start my property development portfolio with, so finger’s crossed things get back to normal soon!
Doing a skydive has been on my bucket list from the very beginning (before I even met Alex) but as soon as we planned Cairns into our trip to Australia, she had decided we were skydiving here. She had seen friends on Instagram who had done Skydive’s here and knew it would be an amazing place to jump out of a plane – experiencing views of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest at the same time!
A few days before booking the skydive, I was nervous! We’d gotten brochures and looked online but hadn’t yet confirmed a date or booked it; when it comes to ‘thrill seeking’, Alex definitely gets the most enjoyment and leads the way to making sure they’re ticked off my bucket list for me. We lay in bed one evening in Cairns and decided to book it for a couple of days ahead. We booked it for about 9am to make sure we got it out of the way and could spend the rest of the day drinking. It was wet season in Cairns at the time (we visited in March), and so we were unsure if it would go ahead because of the monsoons, but that morning was bright and sunny, and there was no backing out.
We got picked up from our Airbnb and driven to the skydive centre about 10 minutes away. When we got there, we had to fill out some forms, watch a safety video, get kitted up and meet our tandem partner. For some reason, this was the absolute worst part for me. The wait made me so nervous and I hated it! Alex had a really lovely man called Brant who had done over 18,000 Skydives, whereas I had a guy called Gareth who told me that not only was it was his first tandem skydive, but he was a chef until 2 weeks before, and his boss was jumping with us to make sure he pulls the chord at the right time. What a way to calm my nerves!
Once we were kitted up, we got back into the minibus to a small part of the airport where we found our plane (which was a tiny little thing). Other than Alex and I, there were 6 other divers and their tandem partners who were jumping at that time. The plane ride was pretty ropey in itself, really setting us on edge even more because you feel every little bump and shake on the way up. I was second in line to jump out of the plane, so as soon as the doors opened, I was pretty much already hanging out of the plane – it all went so quickly! The 60 second free fall was literally the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done in my life, and you can literally see the curve of the earth!
It’s a complete myth that you can’t breathe very well in a skydive, you don’t really notice much of a difference (you know, other than you plummeting towards the ground….)
You jump out of the plane at 15,000 feet, where you free fall for around 60 seconds until the parachute comes out, and then you drift towards the ground for about another 4 minutes. I really didn’t enjoy this part, because it’s essentially paragliding, which made me feel really nauseous, going from side to side – luckily it’s over pretty quickly. Whilst hanging in the air, Gareth let go of the handles, said ‘Mate, hold these for me for a second’ and continued to make me steer us for a little bit. That made me feel even more sick!
I deliberately waited until I was on the ground before I asked my instructor if this really was his first tandem dive. He laughed and said it wasn’t, but he is one of the newest instructors after being a chef for a long time. His boss, who jumped with us, was doing a routine assessment, he just wanted to scare me!
We were dropped back at our Airbnb no more than 2 hours after we were picked up, and we did as promised – drank the rest of the day away!
On our trip to Australia in March 2020, we got engaged. It was relatively spontaneous as, although we had talked about marriage quite a bit (and I already had the ring), I wasn’t actually planning to propose for another few months. Just before we went away, I specifically told Alex (quite harshly, so she tells me) that I absolutely wasn’t going to propose out there as we were going over for my cousin’s wedding and it’s just not the right time… which was true at that point. My mum had been looking after the ring for me and so knew it was on the cards, and had been trying to convince me to pop the question since Christmas. She pointed out to me that Australia would be the perfect place to ask now because Alex wouldn’t be expecting it at all, however if I waited then she would definitely know it was coming when we next went away. She had a point so I took the ring, packed it in my suitcase and we left for Australia.
Alex told me afterwards that she KNEW I was going to propose, because I’m not the most subtle of people, but as soon as I bluntly told her it wasn’t going to happen, she believed me and was completely thrown off the scent!
I knew straight away that I would do it in Sydney because I wanted to enjoy Danny and Talia’s wedding in Adelaide, but wanted to do it as soon as possible so that it was out of the way and it wasn’t on my mind the whole holiday! I messaged a friend who lives in Sydney and asked what the best options were to romantically pop the question, and I settled on Sydney Harbour! Before we left for Australia, I booked a private boat for 2 hours, which takes you out into Sydney harbour at sunset and includes a seafood platter and Champagne…
I did tell all of this to Alex expecting her to be suspicious, but she’s so caught up in her own thoughts 100% of the time, she didn’t pay too much attention to it all.
We spent that whole day making the most of the bad weather and visited Sydney opera house cafe for lunch, and then went to Sydney aquarium to get out of the rain. We went back to the Airbnb we were staying in, got ready to go for the boat trip, then went to Darling Harbour for a drink before boarding the catamaran. The whole time I was sat there, I thought ‘surely she can see the bulge in my pocket’, but other than cover it with my hoodie, there wasn’t much I could do about it!
When we got to the wharf to wait for the boat, Alex saw another couple dressed nicely and said ‘we must be in the right place, I reckon they’re on our boat as well’. I then had to explain to her that ‘private’ meant ‘no other people on board other than the captain’. She since told me that at this point she suddenly thought ‘if I didn’t know he wasn’t going to propose on this holiday, I’d think he was about to propose’. Her naivety baffles me.
We got on the boat (which sadly had the cover on as it was drizzling) and set off out into the harbour. I had previously emailed the company asking where the best position is to propose, so I knew the captain was aware of what was to happen! Not long after we set off, I went down to the toilet to make sure I was prepared and get the ring ready. After about 20 minutes into our trip out onto the water, the captain said he was going to turn the boat around so we can go out onto the front to take pictures, as it’s ‘the best spot for them’ – I knew this was my cue. Alex went out with her camera and stood taking pictures, whilst I stood next to her, half holding her up and half getting into position.
“Grievesy”, I said on one knee next to her.
“What?!” She turned around, half annoyed that I was no longer holding her up on the swaying boat, half in shock at what she’d turned around to.
“You said you weren’t going to propose in Australia?!”
“Yes well clearly I lied, will you marry me?” I asked… she said yes.
We spent the rest of the journey drinking Champagne, taking pictures and eating our seafood platter. I was so excited to tell our family and friends all about our Sydney engagement, so as soon as we got off the boat we went to the nearest bar, ordered a bottle (or three) of Champagne, and posted all over social media. We had our priorities sorted…
Although the weather was a bit of a shame and I’d planned for it to be sunny so that we could sit out on the front of the boat to admire the sunset, it was such a special day for us, and a beautiful thing to look back on and remember! Another thing ticked off the bucket list, and here’s to the rest of our lives together travelling the world (one shot glass at a time).
We’ve all been there – busy life sweeps you away, and just as you wind down into your holiday, the dreaded lurgy hits you like a train! If you’re lucky and catch it early enough, Vicks First Defence spray is a miracle worker and can usually sort you out in a day or so. If not – uh oh!
Now, the considerate thing to do would be cancel/postpone your trip and think about your fellow plane passengers who will be in a confined space with you for a few hours….
…..but let’s be honest, that’s the last thing you want to do!
So – if you’ve decided to battle through and get on the plane, here are some tips that will help ease your pain, make the journey a little more comfortable as well as be as respectful as you can to your fellow travellers.
1. Decongestant. This is absolute KEY to making your journey more comfortable. If you’ve ever experienced painful ‘popping’ ears on a plane before then buckle up, as you haven’t felt the half of it. When you’re riddled with cold, your head and ears get even more bunged up and it becomes a real challenge to release the pressure – even after you’ve landed you’ll likely have hearing problems for a couple of days. Taking decongestant on the day of your flight (with one dose being around 30-60 minutes from the descent), allows your bodily fluids to ‘flow’ easier and that horrible ear pain should ease up!
2. Tissues, tissues and more tissues (and some hand sanitiser). Personal hygiene is a must, and there’s nothing more irritating than sitting next to a snotty human with a drippy nose who’s clearly not giving a second thought to containing their bug. The old ‘catch it, kill it, bin it’ comes into play here, and if your fellow passengers can see you’re doing everything to stop the spread, I’m sure they’ll be understanding! Keep your hands clean with hand sanitiser as well to not only help the rest of the plane, but also to stop you picking up anything else nasty to further ruin your holiday!
3. Why not have a cheeky pint or two? Okay so this isn’t TECHNICALLY medicinal, but it might take the edge off for a little bit. (Don’t overdo it though, or you’ll prolong your illness by a couple of days.)
5. Hydrate. All joking aside, water is your friend here; water and orange juice. The air conditioning on the plane will dry your nose and throat out, making it hurt quite quickly. Staying hydrated is so important for a more relaxed journey… a pack of throat sweets wouldn’t go amiss either.
6. Paracetamol. Don’t be a hero, get some pain relievers in you. If you can, alternate between paracetamol and ibuprofen for maximum efficiency, to keep the aches and pains at bay.
7. Sleep. As with everything, sleep is the fixer. If you can nod off for a couple of hours, then do. Every bit of sleep helps to repair your body, so get your comfies on, lay back (once you’ve checked with the person behind you of course… don’t be one of those people who just flings your chair back into someone else’s space without checking 😑) and get a nap in!
8. Comfort food. Now isn’t the time for sticking to your diet and being miserable. Get your favourite snacks and treats ready and perk yourself up. You’re bound to feel pretty crappy so you might as well try and enjoy the little things?
So there you go. Both myself and Scott have been in this situation quite a few times in the past (most recently me on our trip to Estonia), so speaking from experience it’s not going to magically cure you, but it just makes it a LOT more manageable! Obviously, if it’s something like the flu or a serious epidemic such as Coronavirus, please postpone your flight!! In that situation it’s not fair on your fellow passengers to be trapped in a plane with you where you’ll be knowingly spreading your germs and ruining their holidays too.
*Scott told me I needed to write a disclaimer, reminding people to check doses and medications with a doctor if you’re unsure, and always read the instructions.
Even as we walked up to the little building with the words ‘Solent Forts’ written on the front, I still had no idea where Scott was taking me for a surprise night away; I’d genuinely never heard of The Solent and had forgotten what a fort was! ‘No Man’s fort’ was a complete mystery to me.
We’d arrived in Portsmouth the day before and spent the night in a cheap Ibis hotel right near to Fratton Park stadium so that we could spend the evening here and not have to worry about leaving early to drive down on the Monday morning. We caught the train into Portsmouth harbour, and took a stroll around to a pub called The Bridge Tavern which was right on the waterfront, where we had some delicious fish and chips!
The next morning, I followed Scott aimlessly as he refused to give away any clues to our exciting night away; although I had guessed a boat so you can imagine the smugness on my face when we were walked down the jetty towards them all. We got onto a little ferry boat with a load of other people and our bags, and set out into the Solent.
There are two forts that you can visit – Spitbank Fort and No Man’s Fort (where we stayed), and the third is apparently in the process of being converted into a museum.
When we arrived at No Man’s fort, we got off the boat and stepped onto the external steps which took you up and into the large round building in the middle of the sea. The rooms were all around the edges in a sort of mezzanine floor, which were large, beautifully decorated and had the most stunning sea views! There was a restaurant, a bar and a half-lighthouse – but the main attraction was the rooftop terrace! The very top of the fort was completely covered in artificial grass, and had a selection of seating areas as well as a fire pit (ready for roasting marshmallows), a little sauna hut, a bar and 2 hot tubs which look out over the Solent!
When we got there, they took our bags to our room whilst we went on a tour of the entire fort (with welcome drinks, of course). The tour took us from the rooftop, all the way around the outside of the fort, to the top of the two-floored lighthouse and also to the old ‘basement’.
The fort still had a lot of the original elements from back when they were used as defence and so it’s really interesting to see for yourself!
When we were settled in, we went to get some lunch – a sharing cheese and meat board – to tide us over until our included three course set meal that evening. We spent the afternoon taking in the views from the roof and soaking up the sun (we went in July 2018 when Britain had its heatwave, so we were blessed with some beautiful hot weather). For the evening meal, we got dressed up for a ‘fine dining’ style meal with everyone sat in one large part of the fort, where Scott was able to tick off another thing from his bucket list – buy a very expensive bottle of wine… there were no complaints from me!
One thing to bear in mind is that, me being 20 and Scott being 26, meant that we were easily the youngest couple on No Man’s Fort by far. We preferred it that way however, as we were going for a more sophisticated and calm night away, as opposed to some kind of party island!
After dinner, we got into our swimming costumes and headed up onto the roof to get into the hot tub and spend the majority of our night there. We began chatting to the one other couple that was up there, who lived on the Isle of White, who were telling us some really interesting stories about their life so far. Once they went to bed, we stayed in there watching the stars and listening to the sea until the very early hours of the morning. As far as romance goes, it was probably up there!
If you’re into unusual stays, I’d definitely recommend staying a night here to experience it all, however it’s not cheap! We managed to take a couple of days off work so that we could go on a Monday, so it did reduce the price to around £400 for the night, but if you’re looking to stay there on a weekend – start saving!! We found it on Secret Escapes but it’s worth having a look around to find the best deal – you can even hire the fort out for events as well as business meetings.
Scott took me away for this surprise night on No Man’s Fort in July 2018, where we said we’d do this regularly, taking it in turns to surprise the other with a really cool UK stay. I’m writing this in January 2020 and I’m yet to return the favour, so maybe I should start looking soon. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know!!!
For my birthday, Alex took me to London for a meal and drinks at The Shard, and a visit to the ice bar. When we arrived, we were sent up in a lift to level 33 where we stepped out into an authentic Chinese restaurant, complete with lanterns, trees, wooden wall accents and the most amazing smells! The view was incredible, and we were lucky enough to be seated right next to the glass walls, overlooking the city of London; creating the perfect back-drop to our evening.
Our waiter was really nice and friendly, and he made us feel really relaxed in a place that we clearly weren’t regulars in! He gave us portable phone chargers for the evening, recommended some amazing food for us, and even had an in-depth discussion with us about corked wine – you had to be there…
We started off with some dumplings, and then I had my first taste of Pigeon – which was very very good! We then moved onto our main course, which was without a doubt THE best duck pancakes we’ve ever had (we still talk about them regularly!!). They were so tender, yet so crispy – we’ve actually spoken to other people who have been to Hutong, and it turns out we aren’t the only people who rave about the duck! Because it was my birthday present, which Alex must’ve mentioned at the time of booking (three months prior), they then brought us over a little chocolate pudding with a candle in.
I expected the restaurants in The Shard to feel quite impersonal, but we were actually pleasantly surprised with how much of a great experience we were given along side the fine dining and beautiful views. You do have to pay quite a bit more, but it’s definitely worth a visit at least once in your life.
We love Airbnb, but I found out recently that not everyone else does; some people have concerns that they’re going to be conned or that the property won’t be safe.
Let me just say, we have never had a bad experience with Airbnb… This isn’t to say that every place we’ve stayed has been 5* (some have been pretty close though), but you get what you pay for and we were fully aware what we were booking for all of our trips!
We use it for most our holiday stays and we usually find that it’s quite a bit cheaper than hotel rooms or holiday apartments, so I thought I would share some handy tips and advice for booking with Airbnb – you may soon love it as much as we do!
Check the sleeping arrangements
One of the first things that I check when booking with AirBnB are the sleeping arrangements. Just because you put in a certain amount of guests, doesn’t mean there are always that same number of actual beds available. Sometimes, they have sofa beds and futons, often meaning someone’s ‘bedroom’ will in fact be a communal space – and someone has to draw the short straw! On the main overview, underneath amenities, you will be able to see the sleeping arrangements where it tells you how many bedrooms, and what type of beds are in each.
Let’s face it, if you’re on a romantic getaway then twin beds in separate rooms isn’t exactly what you would want to see when you walk into your stay….
Read the reviews!
Okay so in all honesty, I think the reason we have never had a bad stay is because I won’t book anywhere that hasn’t been reviewed yet. If it’s a brand new property that’s only just been listed, I won’t stay in it – let’s face it – nobody wants to be the guinea pig! The more reviews the better, as you get a clearer idea of the place, but even just a couple of reviews to confirm that it’s trust-worthy is enough!
The actual reviews themselves are important, as they give you honest feedback from previous guests about what works and what doesn’t with the accommodation. If you’re a light sleeper for example, the reviews will usually tell you if there are issues with the street noise, how effective the blinds/shutters are and any other information that you need to know! There’s also a search bar above the reviews where you can search for specific terms that people have used which are important to you i.e. pool, mattress, location etc..
Airbnb doesn’t just have people’s houses and flats available to stay in – oh no! You can find yurts, camper vans, lighthouses and castles! At the top of the page, under ‘more filters’, you can scroll down to ‘property type’ and ‘unique stays’ which have a huge range of different properties for you to whittle it down to.
If sleeping in a windmill is on your bucket list, Airbnb is a great place to go!
If you’re like me (you pack half of the house when you go away for a weekend) then I’d glance a look over the amenities! Most stays will offer the basics – sheets, soap and toilet roll – but things like hairdryer, shampoo and towels can save a load of packing space, and can help you travel a lot more efficiently! It could be the difference between a cabin bag and hold luggage.
View the check-in info
This is especially important if you have a timeline that you need to stick to. Some places have very specific check-in/check-out times, which can sometimes be an issue when you have a particularly early or late flight somewhere. It’s always worth checking this before you book to be able to see whether there is any flexibility and if it fits around your schedule! Usually, the properties that offer self check in (normally the key is kept in a lock box) are best for unsociable times!
Take note of the cancellation policy
Some places on Airbnb let you cancel up to a few days before you’re due to arrive in order to get a full refund, and others only let you cancel within 48 hours of booking. If your fights and plans are all set in stone, then it shouldn’t really matter, but if you’re just going for a weekend break in your own country where plans can change, it might be an idea to choose a stay with more flexibility! It’s also worth noting this when you book anyway, just so you are aware of your rights and are prepared if the worst was to happen!
Entire place, or just a room?
To some people, the thought of staying in a room in someone’s home sounds exciting as you get to meet new people and feel safe if travelling to a new country. For us however, we prefer to stay in a place on our own so that we can feel free to come and go as we wish, and don’t have to worry about staggering in at 3am if we chose to spend the night bar-hopping and gallivanting around. At the top of the page with the filters, you have the choice to pick your ‘type of place’, where you can choose from either entire place, private room, shared room or hotel room. Private rooms are generally cheaper than the entire place, so it all depends on your preferences and your budget.
Check the map
A great perk of booking with Airbnb is that it has a great feature on the website (and the app) where you can look at an overview of all available properties which match your requirements, on a map! This is really handy if you know there’s a rough area of a city that you’re hoping to stay in, but in my experience, the prices that are shown on the map aren’t always accurate and will quite often end up reducing when you click into the property. Winner!
If you don’t use this feature to actually search for your property, it’s always useful to double check where your desired stay is on the map, in case it’s in a rough area or miles away from the centre of where you want to be!
So that’s just about it! It’s really not that complicated, it’s just about getting to know how it works and what to look for to ensure you have the very best stay! You can find some truly amazing properties on Airbnb, you just need to have a little look around and don’t always be fooled by the first image that’s displayed. Take your time to look into the details of the properties and you can find some great homes to make your holidays wonderful!
Airbnb have also got an area for ‘experiences‘ as well, which we’re yet to try. If you’ve used this then please let us know how you got on!!!