Paris, I’m coming back!

Happy Thursday y’all! (I had to check that it’s actually Thursday because working from home means I have no sense of what day of the week it is!)

I’m in a pretty great mood today because last night Matthew and I booked ourselves a little trip to.. Disneyland Paris! Eeek!

Believe it or not, I actually haven’t stepped foot into a Disney park at all this year, and I honestly have found it much harder than I thought I would – especially after spoiling myself with so many trips over the last few years! Anyway, with Matthew officially starting with easyJet on September 17th, we had wanted to get away on a little trip in the week before then, and had played around with the idea of a couple of places in Europe, then last night he called me up and said he’d found a pretty good deal on 4 nights in Paris, and next thing I knew it was booked!

We’re staying offsite, which I’m actually quite excited about because I haven’t actually stayed offsite before, and as I’m getting an annual pass (yay!), I plan on squeezing in a whole bunch of trips in the next year and doing them as cheaply as possible, I know that offsite is gonna be the way to do it. I’m so psyched to be becoming an AP holder again, especially now I’ll be able to take advantage of Matthew’s staff travel to fly super cheap and go more often than I have done before!

It’ll also be our first trip to Paris together, and believe it or not, only actually our second time in a Disney park together! I haven’t been to Paris in almost a year, and as that was for a RunDisney weekend it wasn’t really a proper park trip, so I can’t wait to just be in the parks with my favourite person and not have to worry about running a half marathon the next morning!

Oh, and did I mention it’s only 25 days away?! I’m so excited!

Things to do on Disney Cruise Sea Days

I’m in shock with the realisation that it’s been almost a whole year since I went on my first Disney Cruise. Where has that time gone?! Disney Cruise Line opened my eyes to a world of holidays that I’d previously considered boring, and now I’m just buzzing to get back on the next ship in January!

One thing that I’ve been asked quite a few times is ‘what do you even do on a cruise when you can’t get off?’, and to be honest I always used to think the same before I actually experienced DCL, and now I live for sea days and all the fun that comes with them. Disney ships are a Dream, full of Magic, Fantasy and Wonder (see what I did there), and there are so many things that you can do on board, aside from lounging at the pool, to fill your days from waking up to passing out.

Character meets

Sea days are the best days for character meets, as they’re the days that they put the most characters out during the day. As well as the standard meets that you’ll be able to find the times for on your navigator, there are often special meets put on which you can book in advance of the cruise, such as Frozen and princess meets.

Kids club openings

While normally I wouldn’t want to go anywhere near a room full of kids, the kids clubs are without a doubt the coolest places on the ships, with themed areas like Andy’s Room, Pixie Hollow and Mickey Mouse Club. These clubs are strictly kids only, but during scheduled ‘open houses’, anyone can go inside to see what’s going on and admire the adorableness!

Catch a movie

If you’re in the mood for a movie, you can either hang out by the pool and watch what’s on the big screen at Funnelvision, or if an outdoor screening doesn’t take your fancy, you can go to the onboard cinema! It’s bigger than most of the screens at my local cinema, and it even plays some of the newest film releases.

Fill your boots!

Sea days are the best days for food. Well, you’ve got more opportunities to take advantage of all that free food that’s included in your booking. You could snack on nuggets and pizza between buffet meals, and don’t forget the self-serve ice cream machines..

Try out the gym

After all that food, you might not want to move, but if you haven’t lived on ice cream all day and fancy it, the onboard gym is fully kitted out for your workout needs.

Pub? Pub.

Pub quizzes, bingo, talks and so much more goes on in the pubs and clubs on the ships, so there’s always something going on for you to do.

Exploring the ship

Sea days are the perfect time to just explore these amazing ships, so have fun!

A Look Around Aulani’s Deluxe Studios

Staying at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii has been an absolute dream of mine for years now, and part of me still can’t believe that I’ve actually ticked it off the great Disney bucket list now.

During our stay in paradise, we actually stayed in two different rooms, both of which were Deluxe Studios, which is the second level of room at Aulani after a standard hotel room. There are several options in terms of the view you can have – standard view, garden view, pool view and ocean view – and we spent 6 nights in a standard view and our last night in an ocean view. Put simply, the better the view, the more you pay, whether that’s in cash or DVC points.

Each deluxe studio sleeps up to 4 people, with a regular double bed and a sofa that converts into a double bed, and there’s a large bathroom and a little kitchenette which is equipped with a fridge, microwave, coffee maker and toaster. They also all have a balcony/terrace area with chairs and a little table so you can sit out and enjoy the sunshine.

Of course this is still Disney, so the decor of the rooms perfect, including the amazing Mickey table lamp and hidden Mickey bedspread..

But also just look at the view that we had from our ocean view room on the last night:

Can I go back now please?

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

Scooting Around San Francisco

When we were in San Francisco back in April, we made an incredible discovery that changed our trip. Scattered all around the city streets are electric scooters, and although we dismissed them as something rather odd at first, on the second day of our trip I decided to Google what was going on.

These scooters are available to rent by the general public, and its sorta like a cross between Uber and Pokemon Go. There are three companies – Bird, Lime and Spin – who have scooters in the city, and all you need to do is download their apps to get started (some will require your driving licence number). Each scooter has a GPS tracker, so you can use the app to locate nearby scooters, and then when you find one, you simply scan the QR code on the scooter to unlock it, and you’re good to go!

It costs $1 to unlock your scooter, and then its 15c a minute to ride, and you’ll be told when you unlock your scooter how much battery it has left so you know how far you can get before you unlock it. Their super simple to operate – you just give it a few manual pushes with your foot, then hold down the little accelerator button on the handlebars to activate the electric motor, and there’s a brake fitted to the handlebar too.

Riding around the city on these scooters is the most fun! Technically, they’re only supposed to be ridden on the road in designated cycle lanes as they’re actually road legal vehicles, but most people use them on the pavements. They don’t handle the infamous San Francisco hills all too well, but if you’re journey is fairly flat then you won’t have any problems! And when you’re done, you just leave your scooter wherever you are, lock it through the app and you’ll be charged for your time.

If you’re a local, you can also use these scooters to make a bit of cash by becoming a ‘charger’ – the companies use normal people to collect up scooters when the batteries are running low, and pay about $10 per scooter that they charge up!

I honestly really wish we had more things like this in the UK – I guess they’re the scooter equivalent of a Boris bike, but its way more fun being on a scooter! These companies operate in quite a few cities in the US, so if you’ve got a trip coming up, definitely hit their websites and find out where you might be able to get a scooter!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

Travelling with Revolut

When you’re a regular, or even a non-regular traveller, there’s nothing more annoying than either having to get all your travel money exchanged into cash, or risking foreign transaction charges on most of your cards if you have to use them while you’re away, and even if you have a card that doesn’t charge, there’s that nagging worry about losing or having cards stolen while abroad, and if this sounds familiar to you, you need a Revolut card.

Revolut is, in fact, a mobile app, and the only way you can get a card is through the app itself. Essentially, its a pre-paid credit card: you simply link a debit or credit card to the app and use that to top it up by whatever amount you need, and if the card doesn’t have enough on it, the transaction will simply fail, so you’ve always got the added security of knowing that if there’s nothing there, nothing can be spent.

But what makes Revolut different to any other pre-paid card is what makes it ideal for travelling – you can exchange money right there on the app, and get the best rates as it uses the central bank exchange rates, rather than those that retailers use to make money out of your holiday money needs. For example, as I’m writing this, Post Office are currently offering 1.2961 on USD, whereas Revolut has 1.3401! Once you’ve topped up your card with cash, you can hit the exchange button, select your desired currency and watch what the exchange rate is doing as it updates every few seconds, so you can wait until it goes up a few 0.01s to get a little bit more for your money, and once your money has been converted to whatever currency you want, that means you’re using the correct currency for the country you’re in, so no foreign transaction charges! Plus, any leftover currency can be converted back just as easily as you switched it in the first place, so you don’t have to worry about selling your money back to a bureau de change or hiding it away until your next trip.

Another great thing about the app is that it notifies you as soon as you’ve made a payment, so you can see what you’ve spent straight away, with a clear description of where you spent it and don’t have to guess from ‘pending transactions’ where your money has gone. Its also got nifty features like being able to split your bill with another Revolut user, and also a selection of other things on offer, so its a really handy thing to have!

Apart from the cost of the card, which is £5 plus £3 delivery, Revolut is completely free (unless you choose to go Premium), so compared to so many other credit cards that have annual fees etc, its a steal, but don’t just take my word for it, download the app for free for all the information!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

48 Hours in San Francisco

San Francisco is one of my favourite cities in the world, and has been since the first time I set eyes on it 8 years ago. Its the sort of city where even the graffiti is beautiful and despite swearing the whole time you trek up those super steep hills, you still can’t quite hate them because there’s always something pretty to see along the way.

On our trip to Hawaii, we had a two day stopover in San Francisco, and as it was Matthew’s first time in the Golden Gate City, I wanted to make sure he got to see and do everything that you should do when in San Fran, and although we didn’t quite manage everything we thought we would (thanks jet lag), I thought I’d share my sorta ‘ultimate guide’ for doing San Francisco in 48 hours!

Before you visit

There are a few things that you should definitely book in advance in order to not only make your trip smoother while you’re there, but also save yourself a bit of money. Firstly, you should book Alcatraz in advance, and I’d really recommend trying to get on the earliest sailing of the day to beat the crowds and get a jump start on the day. The other thing I would recommend purchasing in advance is the San Francisco Explorer Pass, which gives you access to a number of SF’s biggest tourist attractions. You can choose either a 3, 4 or 5 attraction pass, which of course you can decide on for yourself, but don’t worry, if you need to do more attractions than you have a pass for, the pass also gives you discounted entry to most of the attractions as well.

Be sure to wear some comfortable shoes, because this plan will keep you busy busy busy!

Day one

Utilise the inevitable jet lag and start the day off with your early morning trip to Alcatraz – trust me, the view is worth the early morning. There’s no set time limit that you have on the island, but if you follow the provided audioguide then you’ll probably spent a good 2 hours or thereabouts, and boats depart every 30 mins so you never have to wait too long for the next ride back. From Alcatraz Landing, walk along the Embarcadero to Pier 39 where you can visit the Aquarium of the Bay (an Explorer Pass option), explore the shops and pier activities and watch the sea-lions in the bay – they can keep you entertained for hours, trust me!

Continuing along the Embarcadero, walk down past Fisherman’s Wharf to the main Boudin Sourdough factory, where you can do a free factory tour (it only takes about 10 mins but there’s free bread so y’know) and then get lunch from the cafe downstairs, preferably something that comes in a bread bowl because that’s so San Francisco, but all of the food there is amazing. While you’re at the waterfront, you’ve got some other tourist attractions at your doorstep, including Madame Tussauds, the San Francisco Dungeons and Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which are also included on the SF Explorer Pass. If you’re into chocolate, I would definitely recommend you walk along to Ghirardelli Square, and then head back to the Powell/Mason Cable Car Turnaround for a true San Francisco experience.

The Powell/Mason car runs all the way to Union Square, and its $7 one way (you’ll need this in cash), or you can buy a day pass, but once you’ve only really gotta do it one time. You can ride this cable car all the way up to Union Square, putting you right in the hustle and bustle of the main shopping district. In the square you’ve got Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, and the streets surrounding have everything from the high fashion of Chanel and Hermes, as well as Westfield Shopping Centre, Sephora, Disney Store and a whole tonne of other stores, so you can shop until you drop.

Call it cliche, but if you’re in Union Square around dinner time, you’ve got to have dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Yes, there’s probably one of these in every city in America, but this one is located on the top floor of Macy’s, and there’s a roof terrace where you can sit out and eat dinner while watching the world go by in Union Square below! Psst! If you can make a reservation in advance, do it!

Day two

Save yourself one attraction on your Explorer Pass, and spend the day getting around the city and seeing the big sights on the hop on/hop off bus. Depending on where you’re staying, there are a whole bunch of stops you can start your journey, but some major places are Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf.

The bus will take you around the whole city, with stops including Pier 39, Coit Tower, Chinatown and most importantly, it will take you over the Golden Gate Bridge to Vista Point, where you can get off and take as many photos of the incredible landmark as you like while you wait for the next bus, and believe me, the views are stunning. You can obviously get off wherever you like, but I highly recommend exploring Chinatown, and if you’re not too allergic to stairs, the views from Coit Tower are also amazing. There are also stops near the Asian Art Museum, California Academy of Sciences and the SF Museum of Modern Art, so this is the best way to get to all the attractions you might want to visit. The buses run all the way up until 5pm, so you can spend all day seeing the beauty of the city, and the live tour guides give you so much information and fun facts.

So obviously you don’t have to follow my advice one bit, but hopefully this has given you a little bit of inspiration, and if you do visit I hope you love the place as much as I do!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

Flying Long Haul with Norwegian Airlines

Its no secret that I travel a lot, and one of the reasons that I’m able to do this is because I’m always looking for ways to cut the cost of my trips so that I can see the world without seeing negative figures in my bank account, so when we started to look at our flights to San Francisco for our recent visit, we were all about finding the bargain.

I’d been hearing a lot about Norwegian Airlines, so when they came out top on our searches in terms of the best price, they were the obvious choice for us, and both Matthew and I were pretty excited to fly with an airline neither of us had travelled with before. So what was it like?

Well, the reason that Norwegian can offer such amazing prices is because pretty much everything is an add-on if you go for the basic fare – checked baggage, inflight meals, choosing your seat in advance of check-in, even earphones or a blanket for the flight costs you a little bit more! Now if these options don’t really bother you all that much, this is a great way to save. I, for example, cannot stand plane food, and I never eat the hot meals that I’m given on long haul flights, so not paying for a hot meal during our flight was no issue at all for me, and saved the awkwardness of turning down the chicken or beef options and having to explain to the cabin crew that seriously I’m fine without any food.

That said, however, if you do not book a meal in advance, you have to be prepared for the fact that there is no trolley service on the flights. That’s right, even the drinks trolley is privy only to those receiving hot meals, and there’s none of those little bags of teeny tiny pretzels. What is on offer, however, is the Snack Bar. The Snack Bar is accessed through your in-flight entertainment screen, and you choose what you want, swipe your card through a little slot in the screen, and in a short amount of time, a member of the cabin crew appears with your purchases! Through this system, you can also order drinks, duty free and those earphones and blankets I mentioned earlier. Sure, this takes away face to face time with the staff, but like with everything else, if you’re not fussed with all the bells and whistles, its not particularly detrimental to your flight experience.

The in-flight entertainment didn’t have a huge number of options, but they did have a good selection of recent movies as well as those movies that you’re always happy to watch over and over, plus tv shows and kids options, so something for everyone.

Something Norwegian really has on its side is being the new kid on the block. According to my plane-geek father, the aircraft that we flew to San Francisco on had only been in service for a month, and you could really tell – it felt so much fresher than planes I’ve flown on with Virgin Atlantic or British Airways. Their long-haul fleet is made up of Boeing 787 aka Dreamliners, which are packed with fancy tech like windows that dim rather than having blinds, amongst many other things, but are also better for the environment.

Honestly, I had no real complaints at all about these flights, in fact, I found the concept refreshing; simple, efficient and cost effective. We paid £325 each for return flights to San Francisco which was a steal, and although we did pay on top of that for baggage, it still worked out so much cheaper than flying with anyone else. I would absolutely fly Norwegian again!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram