3. Have you thought about packing?

When it comes to packing I am playing a total guessing game. I have never been on a long trip like this before and I think that it is all going to be trial and error. For that reason I am trying to keep everything limited and cheap so that if I do end up with too much I wont be heart broken leaving anything behind. I have read lots of packing blog posts off Pinterest from people who have already been traveling and this is what I have concluded to be the best list of what to bring.

Packing Basics

Choosing to go away at the start of January has many perks. For example, new year, new me, it is a great way to escape the harsh winter of England and I can use Christmas as a chance to get a few of the things I need for my trip. I haven’t actually got around to packing yet, but I did add some key items to my list to Santa this year:

  1. Backpack
  2. Packing Cubes
  3. First Aid Kit
  4. Towel
  5. Travel Adapter
  6. Luggage Locks
  7. Travel Sewing Kit
  8. Drinking Straws
  9. Filter Bottle
  10. Hot/Cold food container
  11. Scruba Wash Bag
  12. Portable Charger
  13. Eye mask
  14. Travel pillow
  15. Deck of cards
  16. Notebook/diary
  17. Torch

I am not by any means be expecting all of this to be gifted to me so after christmas I will purchase anything, that I am missing, myself.

Clothes/Shoes

There are obviously lots of other basics I will need such as clothes and shoes but I am just going to reuse everything I have in the back of my cupboard instead on investing in new things. If you want a basic plan however I am planning on bringing:

  1. 4 x t-shirts/vest tops
  2. 2 x shorts
  3. 1x maxi skirt
  4. 2 x summer dresses
  5. 7 x underwear
  6. 2 x swim wear
  7. 1 x light jumper
  8. 1 x light raincoat
  9. Flip flops
  10. Trainers

Toiletries

The next thing to think about is toiletries. I am trying to keep this minimal and as eco friendly as I can so I don’t cause more damage to the beautiful places I am going to see. I hardly ever way make up at home so i am limiting myself to absolute basics just incase of the odd night out.

  1. Shampoo bar
  2. Body soap
  3. Deodorant
  4. Bug repellent
  5. Sun cream
  6. Face wash
  7. Mascara
  8. Pencil eye liner
  9. Eyebrow Powder
  10. Concealer stick
  11. Super glue (you never know when this will come in handy!) 

Electronics

I don’t want to be lugged down by heavy electronics so I am going to limit myself to the absolute basics that I know I will use daily:

  1. Phone
  2. Camera
  3. Kindle
  4. Earphones
  5. Charging cables

As I said this is a total guessing game for me now so I will be sure to do an updated list of what I actually used when I get back.

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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My Hostel survival guide

HOW TO PICK A HOSTEL

Every morning, as my 6:20 alarm blasted in my ear, I had the same thought. I need a holiday. It was hard to lock down anyone else to go with me so I made the decision to simply go alone. I hopped straight onto Air BnB, found a whole apartment with a stunning view over Dubrovnik old town and booked in 3 nights in May. I couldn’t have been more excited and pictured myself, glass of wine in hand, watching the sun set over the sea. What more could I possibly want?

As the day went on however the doubts started to creep in. Is it safe to stay on my own? Is it a long walk away from the centre of town? Will this mean that I literally don’t communicate at all with another human being for 4 whole days? Is this really the smartest decision?

I have stayed in loads of Air BnBs before, so it felt familiar to me and I didn’t want to splash out on a hotel but whenever the word ‘hostel’ popped up I just pictured sharing dirty bunk beds with drunken strangers and going home with athletes’ foot from the showers (slightly dramatic I know!). It is sad to say but I knew it wouldn’t be that safe for me to stay alone in a whole apartment in a place I wasn’t familiar with, so I cancelled my Air BnB, got over my fear of foot bunions, and started browsing Hostel World instead.

Just like I would when picking any accommodation for a trip, I evaluated the following factors and then ordered them from 1 (absolute necessity) to 8 (not fussed about compromising on). This way I could filter down the endless list of hostels easier:

  1. Location
  2. Cleanliness
  3. Safety
  4. Price
  5. Common area (space to socialise)
  6. Amenities (kitchen/ washing machine/ bathrooms)
  7. Amount of people in room
  8. Single gender/Mixed

The things I was most concerned about were location, cleanliness and safety so I browsed the map to find hostels inside the city walls and then compared the ratings of cleanliness and safety for each hostel. I wasn’t actually fussed about staying in a mixed room, but it was nice to know that some places do provide the option of single sex rooms if that would make you feel more comfortable. I spent a good day and half reading reviews, looking at pictures and comparing prices until I decided on the best hostel for me. I know that everyone says the excitement of traveling is  being able to ‘live in the moment’ but if it is your first time in a hostel and you’re a bit nervous then there is no harm in taking time to find one that you’re going to feel comfortable in.

TOP TIP: if you are traveling alone then look for rooms with an odd number of beds (3,5,7) as that often means they will have one single bed amongst the double beds, this way you may not have to bunk with a total stranger.

 

HOW TO GET COMFORTABLE AND SOCIALISE

I remember walking into my 5 bed room for the first time and being genuinely surprised with how clean, airy and pretty it was! It was empty when I got there but there were 4 open suitcases on the floor. I have to admit that was the most nerve-wracking time of the whole holiday for me, I felt like I couldn’t really relax until I knew who was going to be sleeping within 5 feet of me. Naturally my mind jumped to images of serial killers and smelly, drunk lunatics but I was quickly brought back to reality when 3 English boys on a break from University and an American girl discovering Europe bounded in to say hello. It is easy to forget that 95% of people in hostels are welcoming, friendly travellers in exactly the same shoes as you and not Ted Bundy enthusiasts with a rope under their pillow!

Naturally social situations have never been a problem for me but being in a foreign country with a room full of strangers did throw me a bit! If you feel anxious about just how to socialise with your new roomies (or anyone you come across in the hostel for that matter) then here are a few ice breaking conversation starters that really helped me to settle in…

  1. Where are you from?
  2. How long have you been here for?
  3. What have been your highlights of the city/location you’re in?
  4. Are you traveling anywhere else after this?
  5. I am starving, any recommendations on where to eat?
  6. Do you know where the bathroom/kitchen is?
  7. I am glad to be away from the rain in England, what’s the weather been like here?
  8. I’m really excited to see/visit the ____, have you been there yet?

It can be incredibly daunting starting conversations and if you really struggle with social situations then look for hostels with smaller or even private rooms and try and avoid any with ‘party’ in the name. I think I must’ve walked up and down the stairs from my room to the common area at least 4 times before I got the courage to actually go in and talk to people. There was quite a big crowd gathered in the lounge, so I initially headed to the kitchen and asked a girl cooking if the teabags were free to use. I made a quick joke about how typical it was that the first thing I do in a new country is make a cup of tea and that you can take the girl out of England but not the English out the girl. Luckily, she laughed and we then started a conversation about how much she wanted to visit London. She introduced me to the group and before I knew it 4 hours of discussing everything from travel to cows had passed and I felt right at home.

 

WHAT TO PACK

I know there are hundreds of lists online of essentials to pack when staying in a hostel but I thought I would give my top selection of game changers that I was very glad I had in my case…

  1. Padlock, everyone in my room was totally chilled but you can never be too sure so just bring a padlock so you can lock your valuables away in the lockers. I came to learn that padlocks with codes are better as a few people in my hostel had lost or muddled up their padlock keys and had to pay a fine to break the lockers open and retrieve their stuff.
  2. Money Belt, if lockers aren’t provided then get a comfy money belt that you can always keep your passport and money in, even when sleeping. Quick disclaimer: if you’re reading this before staying in a hostel and are now thinking “oh crap I don’t feel comfortable staying somewhere where I physically have to strap my valuables to my body” then please don’t fret! For my whole holiday I didn’t lock anything away and kept my passport and money in a bag under my bed with absolutely no fear of it getting taken as everyone in my room was so lovely. I am just putting this on my list because you never know, and it is better to be prepared and not use it rather than risk it and wish you had it.
  3. Flip Flops, great for avoiding the dreaded athletes’ foot and also for walking around the hostel in the evening in when you want to be a bit more relaxed.
  4. Small Towel, most hostels don’t provide towels and also don’t have loads of room to hang things up to dry so just bring a small one that you can drape over your bed when it is wet and won’t take up much room.
  5. Extension lead, plugs can be hard to come by and you are normally limited to 1 per person so bring an extension lead. Then all you need is 1 wall plug and 1 adapter but you will have up to 4 sockets to charge your own things from.
  6. Comfy clothes, I found during the day everyone was out and about exploring but in the evenings we would all meet downstairs in the common room whilst some people cooked dinner and others just sat and socialised. It was such a game changer having some comfy shorts and a jumper to throw on!
  7. Sleeping mask, curtains aren’t always an option!
  8. Ear plugs, people snore!
  9. A book, although there was normally someone around to talk to, when the 4 o’clock “I need a break” time arrived for me I really enjoyed going back to the hostel and just relaxing in my bed with a book.
  10. Chocolate, food is a great way to make friends and snacks are just essential no matter what let’s be honest!

 

If you’re debating whether to stay in a hostel or not then my suggestion would be do some good research into finding one that is going to suit you, bring some snacks to share with your new roommates, pack your bag and just do it! They’re cheap and frequent enough in the big cities that if you’re not happy then simply move on to the next one or if worse comes to worse then you can just book an Air BnB for the night. I am so glad that I chose to stay in a hostel and I think I got really lucky that all of my roommates were lovely. I even ended up going on a day trip with one of the girls from the common room and I now consider her to be a good friend! I may have gone away on my own, but I was never alone and before long a room full of strangers felt like family.

If you have any more questions or any tips for me then please leave them below!

For anyone wondering I stayed in the Old Town Hostel in Dubrovnik and absolutely loved it! If you;re heading on a trip there then I couldn’t recommend it more as a place to stay and if you would like to know more about what to do in Dubrovnik then be sure to read my travel guide here!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Holiday without your parents?

Growing up means that a lot of things in your life change. You have to put yourself to bed and cook yourself dinner and, at some point, you may have to go on holiday without your parents. From my experiences, holidays with your family are easy as all you have to do is turn up on time and magically your parents have set everything else to fall into place, so when they’re no longer vacationing with you there are a few more things you need to think about.

  1. CHECK IN ONLINE – On some airlines, more specifically the budget ones, you have to check in and print your boarding passes off at home before you’ve even thought about leaving for the airport. When you book your tickets it is a good idea to check the boarding pass policies of the airline you are flying with and check in when they tell you to so you’re not left stuck in the airport
  2. KEEP ALL IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS IN ONE PLACE – As well as those boarding passes you’ve just printed, it is a good idea to print out any confirmation emails or information on the accommodation you will be staying in abroad as well as any activities you may have booked. Once you’ve done that put all of that in one safe, secure folder to keep on you at all times during your travel. (LITTLE TIP take a photo of all of the information as well so if worse comes to worse and you lose the folder at least you will still have all the information)
  3. EXCHANGE YOUR CURRENCY BEFORE YOU GO – Even though it is possible to change your money up at the airport, and in the country you are visiting, they normally have the worse exchange rates. Therefore it is better to look online for the best exchange rates (the post office, your bank, travel agencies) and get it done before you go. (LITTLE TIP when you change your money up some places offer a buy back guarantee which means if you come back with some spare euros, for example, they will exchange them for pounds at the same exchange rate you bought them for)
  4. MEDICINE – Remember those times you’ve got a headache on holiday and you’re parents have been there with some paracetamol? Well now it is your turn to be your own medicine cabinet. I’m not saying you need to bring a whole pharmacy but pack some pain relief tablets, some plasters, some aftersun and some antihistamine to put on any bug bites (as well as enough of any other medicine that you may have to take)
  5.  SUITCASE WEIGHT LIMITS – Whilst you are checking if you need to check in early (see what I did there) you should also check what weight limit you have on your luggage so you don’t arrive and end up having to wear 5 of your dresses onto the plane because your suitcase was too heavy. (LITTLE TIP if you don’t feel like paying the extra £40 to have a suitcase checked in remember you can bring smaller suitcases on as hand luggage which, most of the time, don’t have weight limits they just have to be a certain size or less)
  6.  AIRPORT TRANSPORTATION AT BOTH ENDS – Not only is it important to have a plan to get to the airport on your home side, be that by bus, train or the taxi service that is your parents) you should also have a plan as to how you’re going to get from the airport you land in to your accommodation. Some hotels offer shuttle services whereas others can be reached by public transport. If you want to get a taxi make sure you budget that into your holiday plans.
  7. INFORM YOUR BANK ABOUT YOUR TRIP – Now that your money is all changed up you shouldn’t really need to use your card abroad but nevertheless it is a good idea to tell your bank when and where you are going so if you do use your card abroad they won’t cancel it due to fear its been stolen.
  8. ADAPTORS – There is nothing worse than finally arriving on holiday and realising you can’t charge your camera you were going to use to take all those insta-worthy photos because the plug sockets are different. Before you go away google what type of socket they have in the country you are going to and make sure you have a suitable adaptor. These can be bought at the airport but normally for a rather high price. (LITTLE TIP if you’re planning on traveling around countries then invest in a universal adaptor that has lots of different socket options)
  9. PACK A TOWEL – This is one I never really think of then get really annoyed when I forget. If you’re planning on heading to the beach on holiday or going hiking to some waterfalls you will need a towel to dry off. Some accommodation may offer them but most are only to be used on site so bring your own to avoid any soggy taxi rides home.
  10. BRING YOUR PASSPORT – This one is rather self explanatory but also probably the most important of them all. Before you leave the house ( and the hotel at the other end) triple check that your passport is in your bag so no matter what you will be getting on that plane.

Now that you’re all prepared and feeling like a proper adult there’s just enough time to give your parents a kiss goodbye then you are ready to head off on your next (grown up) adventure.

Where are you guys off to this summer? Do you prefer family holidays or trips away without your parents?

Go and grab another cuppa (or maybe an iced tea) on me, Em x

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