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 Β£5 plus Β£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!

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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!

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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 Β£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!

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See ya real soon, Aulani

Well it’s that bittersweet time where I’m sat at an airport gate wishing I wasn’t about to board a plane, but here we are.

This morning we woke up with the sunrise through the balcony doors, went for a walk around the lagoon and then sat out eating pop tarts for breakfast in our dressing gowns for the last time. Once we packed up and dropped our bags at bell services, we headed down to the adult only pool to nab good sun loungers, then went for a loop round the lazy river.

After one circle, we took our tube up the mini volcano in the centre of the resort to try out the slide, which was actually really fun but man did we mess up the landing! We somehow managed to flip ourselves out of the double ring as we hit the water and both ended up with so much chlorine up our noses.. We recovered quickly with another loop round the resort, then got out and grabbed some lunch.

The rest of the afternoon was spent poolside, getting as much vitamin D as we could while it lasted, and then we went to the Luana Lounge, which is an area where guests who have had to check out of their rooms earlier in the day but don’t leave until later can go to shower, change etc, then we just went to sit on the big comfy outdoor armchairs situated on the big balcony overlooking the resort from outside the main reception area until it was time to catch our shuttle to the airport.

Aulani, you have been wonderful. It has been a dream of mine to visit here for so long, and I cannot tell you just how perfect it has been, and how much the photos don’t even do justice to this stunning place. There will be lots more Aulani content to come, but now we head back to San Francisco for a 12 hour layover until we fly home, so stay tuned to see what we get up to!

Ocean View

So there wasn’t a blog post yesterday as Matthew and I were both a little unwell, so all we really did all day was hang out and relax, which was pretty nice because it meant I spent most of the day drawing and designing, it just wasn’t really enough to write about!

This morning, we got up and packed up the room in preparation for changing rooms for our last night. There wasn’t a full week available in the standard view studios when we booked, but there was a night in an ocean view room which we wanted to see anyway so it was sorta win-win!

I left Matthew to finish packing and I headed down to the resort’s Laniwai Spa as I had booked myself a massage as a little treat from me to me. I got to the spa an hour before my time as they have a relaxation garden, which is an area of outdoor hot pools, loungers and other wonderful relaxing things which is only accessible to those having spa treatments, so I got to hang out there before I was called for my massage.

Now I have to admit, this was my first ever massage, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but wow has that set the bar.. I was made to feel so at ease by all of the staff, and the massage itself was incredible.

After I was done, Matthew and I took our bags to bell services to hold until our new room was ready, and we went to Ko Olina to get some pizza for lunch. When we got back, our room was ready so we collected our bags again and went up to the room.

Unfortunately, a lot of the afternoon has been spent dealing with a bit of an issue with our room charges, so that’s made things a little stressful this today and they’re not yet resolved, but hopefully we should get them sorted tomorrow, and we’re still here for most of the day tomorrow so we can fit in the things that we didn’t have time for today.

Our evening was spent enjoying the ocean view room and watching the sun set from the balcony. I don’t think I’m going to be ok leaving this place..

Hawaiian Rain

Today was the first day that we actually managed a lie in. Cue hallelujah chorus.

When we did get up, I went straight down to the pool, while Matthew had a bath. I got us two sunloungers by the resort’s infinity pool, and took in as much sunshine as I could until my heat rash started flaring up again, then had to cover it up with a towel – bah humbug – but we stayed there pretty much all day, so I don’t really have too much to report!

What we did experience for the first time, however, was Hawaiian rain. This hit us just after lunch, and much like Florida rain it just bombed it down nice and heavy for a bit, and then cleared up again, and then a few hours later did the same again. Being British, we were totally unfazed by the matter, especially as we were under an umbrella that was keeping all but the end of our loungers nice and dry, but other guests were grabbing all their stuff and running indoors! I mean, it was still pretty warm, so I don’t really get this reaction, but it did make the pool nice and quiet for us.

At about 5pm we went back to the room to shower and change then made a quick visit to the resort’s Laniwai Spa so that I could book myself in for a massage on Saturday, then we went over to Ko Olina Center for some dinner and ice cream. As the sun started setting, we walked back to the resort and took up a spot by the large fire pit to watch it disappear behind the palm trees.

At the fire pit we listened to Uncle Ophi tell a traditional Hawaiian story, then we went for a quick walk down to the now dark beach to look at the stars – there’s no light pollution here which is so nice. And that was pretty much it for our evening!

Feeling Hot Hot Hot

What can I say, it’s been another day in paradise!

This morning was the latest I’ve woken up all week, thank goodness, and I started off my day with a trip to the gym. Call me crazy but I love visiting gyms in Disney resorts, so this was another tick off the bucket list, although surprisingly I wasn’t overly impressed by this one as I thought it lacked some equipment that other gyms have had. The great thing about Aulani, however, is that they have a whole bunch of fitness classes, a lot of which take place on the beach, and while I won’t be able to take part in all the ones I had hoped to thanks to the recovering broken ankle, I plan on doing a few before we leave.

We had breakfast on the terrace again, and then headed down to the beach where we set up camp for the morning. The typical blogger in me spent a good amount of time utilising the beautiful scenery to get photos for some upcoming blog posts, much to the confusion of onlookers who were probably thinking ‘why is that girl arranging makeup in the sand?’ but hey ho.

Our plan for lunch was to eat the leftover pizza from yesterday, but on the way back to the room I had to stop for a Mickey snow cone! I mean, it’s shaved ice with some flavouring so it hardly spoiled my appetite for the pizza and it was so cute!

I accidentally had a little nap after lunch, although I’m starting to realise that this sort of thing is totally acceptable on a beach holiday. For the afternoon, we headed down to the pool, and it was so warm I could practically see my skin tanning by the second. We spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening by the pool, just hanging out, drawing and doing a little planning, then finally headed back inside, via the shop, of course..

As well as my tan, I seem to have developed a kinda nasty heat rash down the side of my left leg, so I’m hoping that subsides by the morning!