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?

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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!

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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!

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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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My Beach Makeup and What Stayed Put

Its the classic dilemma for girls. Summer poses a whole new problem when it comes to makeup, because gone are the days of winter drying out everyone’s skin like there’s no tomorrow, and instead its the challenge of finding products that won’t melt off your face during the warmer summer days, but can also stand up to a bit of water, whether that’s from swimming in the sea on a beach day, or just the Great British summer showers (read: heavy rain that shows up right when we think its finally getting good).

This year, I was faced with this issue a little earlier as going to Hawaii in April meant I had a little less time to perfect my product choices, but it also meant that I could test run some products before the little summer that hits the UK – which seems to be happening right now – actually kicked in. Some of what I took with me were items that are regulars from my makeup stash, and others I took on recommendation from the Twittersphere, and they all went through a somewhat rigorous test in the 27C heat of Hawaii. But would they all make the cut for future wear?

Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray

I bought this on recommendation from a number of people – I actually bought the travel sized one, y’know in case it wasn’t any good and I didn’t get stuck with a big bottle that I’d spent a lot of money on, but actually the travel sized one is still pretty sizeable which made it seem like pretty good value for money! This product is an absolute trooper. I sprayed it over products that I know aren’t waterproof and knew would probably wash off within minutes and amazingly they held up so well, leaving me bronzed and highlighted even after a whole day on the beach.

NYX Proof It! Waterproof Eyeshadow Primer

I took this with me because I know how well it works. This is the eyeshadow primer that I use every day and I actually believe it to be a miracle product – it turns any eyeshadow waterproof and I’ve even tried running swatches under a tap before and saw absolutely no shadow movement with this badboy, plus at £6 a tube its a steal.

Makeup Forever Aqua XL Waterproof Eyeliner

Call me crazy, but blue eyeliner is my jam, and I’ve always been a Barry M girl but have never been able to find a suitable replacement for my now discontinued favourite shade of pencil, but I stumbled across this one in Sephora last year, and when it claimed to be waterproof as well it was like killing two birds with one stone. The pencil itself is surprisingly soft, so very little pressure is needed on application, and it also blends well which can be fab, but I worried seeing how soft it was that it wouldn’t survive in the water, but was thankfully proven very wrong – in fact, when I swatched it in Sephora before buying, it was several days before that blue line faded from the back of my hand even with daily showering and handwashing.

Too Faced Better Than Sex Waterproof Mascara

So this was another recommendation, and having never tried the cult favourite in its non-waterproof form either, I thought now was a great chance to see what all the fuss was about. Again, I bought this in the travel size tube to save a bit of money until I decided whether or not I liked it. The mascara itself surprised me as I’ve religiously stuck to Eyeko Black Magic for a number of years now and had never found another mascara that gave my lashes the same natural but wow look that Black Magic does for me, but despite being a very different shaped brush, I really liked how this product made my lashes look, so I was buzzed to test it out in the water. Unfortunately, that’s were it fell flat on its face. I felt like just looking at water had it running, and although I wasn’t crying black or anything like that, on more than one occasion I left the poolside looking a bit panda-ish. I’d probably buy the mascara again in its normal formula, but I felt a little let down by this one..

Benefit Gimme Brow

Gimme Brow is not my every day eyebrow product, but I do use it from time to time, and as I feared a little that my usual dipbrow wouldn’t hold up, I took this out with me as well. Now my Gimme Brow was pre product recall, so I don’t know how it differs from the new formula that was re-released recently, and I don’t think either claim any sort of waterproof capabilities, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well this did. I still used my regular dipbrow, but then went over it with this, and I still had decent looking eyebrows at the end of each day, even after being in the sea and the pool, and what more could I ask for?

Other shoutouts go to my current favourite foundation, The Ordinary Serum Foundation, for being SPF 15 so keeping my face a little more protected, and Benefit’s Dandelion Shy Beam and Sun Beam liquid highlighters for giving me a subtle shimmer and glow which held up well thanks to the UD setting spray!

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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 £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!