my 5* stay at the sofitel st james and how you can stay luxe for less

I often get asked what I prefer when I go away – a hotel stay or a short term rental.

And whilst I love having a a full size fridge to store my 2 euro wine (what, that’s not the first thing you buy when you’re on holiday?!!), I’ve really started to appreciate a night or two at a super lush hotel.

That’s why when Booking.com asked if I fancied staying a night at the Sofitel London St James I had to enforce the ’10 min text back rule’ as to not scare them off by going ‘OF COURSE I BLOODY DO I’M OUTSIDE ALREADY CAN YOU LET ME IN PLZ BBZ’.

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Being a mere 35 minutes from my usual place of residence, this was definitely more of a ‘staycation’ but a quick google summarised the hotel’s 5 star credentials (restaurant and bar – tick, spa – tick, Hermès toiletries – TICK) meaning that this mere jaunt across town warranted a full face of makeup, a coiffed bouffant and an IRONED TOP (huge feat).

On arrival, the doorman took our bags and I had around 3.7 seconds to come up with my new ‘I always frequent 5* hotels’ alias (Tamara, interior designer, wears jodhpurs on the weekend).

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We were given a Luxury Room (the hierarchy of rooms goes Classic – Superior – Luxury – Premium Luxury) and all you need to know is that the bed was HEAVEN ON EARTH. James had to do a bit of a high jump backwards spring to get on and I thought I’d nearly lost him in the marshmallow folds at one point.

The next morning, we swanned down to breakfast and I was made up over the Veggie Fry Up (£14 – not too bad for a central London hotel) which someone had actually given some thought to. The sweet potato hash brown and overloaded avocado on toast were veggie brekkie EXCLUSIVE. Other breakfastaries (real word) take note.

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Being INCREDIBLY CENTRAL (basically the Queen’s neighbours) and pretty plush, this hotel ain’t the cheapest. In fact, when I rang up reservations to ask what price their rooms start at, I unwittingly entered a volley of dead end questions and was told “unless you know the date, I can’t tell you a price”. Thanks love.

Booking.com, however, were a little more forthcoming and online it states that ‘prices for upcoming dates start at £331 per night’.

Sofitel St James Booking.com

For someone who loves a good deal, that’s a lot of money (hell, I think I did three holidays for that last year) but more and more I’ve found myself planning getaways where I’m happy to stay somewhere less flash if it means that I can go all out for the last night or two.

So, what are my tips for staying somewhere glam AF without breaking the bank?

  1. Stay on a Sunday – with the weekend tourists packing back off home and the business breaks yet to begin, Sundays can often be the cheapest night of the week.
  2. Off peak – stay in a quiet period. For example, my Ma and Pa, always go away on the 1st January (it’s their anniversary the day after) and they always bag a great deal. Talk about starting the new year right.
  3. Book cheap and blag an upgrade – heading to a nice hotel but got the cheapest room? Story of my life. If blagging an upgrade doesn’t work (I speak about how to do this here), then try asking at the desk if there’s anything available. I tried this on a recent work trip to Mexico and managed to get a suite with late checkout for just £30 extra.
  4. Get a discount – if you haven’t used it already, you can still get £25 off your next stay at booking.com by using my referral link – I don’t get anything by you using the link, it’s just an actual, real life legit way for you to save money. As long as it’s over £50 and you haven’t used a referral code before (mine or anyone else’s), it’s an easy way to make your next luxuuurrrioussss stay that bit more affordable.
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The suite life

As always, let me know where you end up booking (or if you score any amazing 5* hotel deals) as I shall always endeavour to holiday vicariously through you all!


Booking.com gave me the room (THANX GUYZ!) and, having not written anything more than a YouTube bio in a while, I decided to blog about it. Therefore, here lie my honest thoughts, feelings and advice for you to enjoy your own luxury stay! 😄

last minute easter holidays for less

Easter is not just about chocolate. It’s also about having TWO bank holidays, making getting away all that much sweeter.

Of course, everyone else has had the same idea and so if you’re looking for a last minute holiday, things are looking a liiiiiittle bit pricey. Therefore, I’ve had a quick peruse (okay fine I spent the whole of last night doing this) and rustled up some options for you. Please note that prices may go up by the time you click through but my advice is to buy sooner rather than later!

For all of these, do remember it’s EASTER! And therefore you may well find that attractions and transport services don’t run as usual so do check all of this before you book.

THE CITY BREAK

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Where?

Copenhagen

When?

3 nights: Fri 30th March – Mon 2nd April – From £84

2 nights: Saturday 31st March – Mon 2nd April – From £84

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 23.40.00.png(Flights above show Fri – Mon option from London Stansted)

What about from the rest of the UK?

Edinburgh – From £146 for Fri 30th March – Sun 1st April

Manchester – From £200 for Fri 30th March – Sun 1st April

Where should I stay?

I’m surprised to find so many decent options still available so get on trivago and have a browse.

To whet your appetite, here’s what I’d go for:

Copenhagen Strand Hotel

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  • 4 star
  • Super central – right next to Nyhavn
  • Great ratings
  • £99 a night via Hotels.com (plus you’ll earn two nights in loyalty points – reach 10 and you’ll get a free night stay somewhere!)

Total cost

From £184 per person (based on 2 sharing for 2 nights)

Why Copenhagen?

Great food, great architecture and bloody lovely people. I recommend checking out Torvehallerne food market, Kanal Cafeen for smørrebrød and Tivoli for the world’s most aesthetically pleasing amusement park!

THE EPIC TRIP

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Where?

San Francisco, baby!

When?

7 nights: Weds 28th March – Weds 4th April

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 23.36.08.pngLondon Gatwick to Oakland

Thinking ‘jeez that’s cheap, what’s the catch’ – well, that would be the luggage and your meals. Or lack of it I should say. £315 gets you 1 x 10kg hand luggage but hear me out – THIS IS DOABLE! In fact, I did a 6 day trip to San Francisco last year with just a small holdall and it was also full of recording kit (I was there for work).

As for food, pack a Pret for your first snack and then just buy what you fancy on board.

To add in a checked bag and meals, it will cost you an extra £100 which you may decide is worth it.

What about from the rest of the UK?

No bueno – unless you fancy shelling out £650! You can definitely get better deals at other points in the year.

Where should I stay?

So, here’s the touchy bit. San Francisco ain’t cheap. It’s not even close. But here’s an option I found.

Please note that you can often get caught out by taxes and fees in the US so DOUBLE CHECK before you book anything!

San Remo Hotel

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  • 2 star – old skool style with a shared bathroom but it’s always featured in lists compiled of the best but good value rooms in the city
  • Short walk to Fisherman’s Wharf but not too far from the centre either!
  • Great ratings
  • £102.86 a night (avg) including city tax via Hotels.com (plus you’ll earn seven nights in loyalty points – reach 10 and you’ll get a free night stay somewhere!)
  • £360 each based on 2 people sharing

Also…

When I visited San Francisco last year, the prices of hotels were through the roof. So, instead I booked using a website called hotwire where all you know is the star rating, the hotel facilities and a vague idea of what the rating is.

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One year on, I see that they’ve actually added in a button that reveals which four hotels it will be between – HELPFUL (though I personally think that’s less fun – HA).

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This option works out at $162.75 a night (once you add in taxes) = £117 a night WHICH means if you got any of the above you would:

Inn at Union Square – save £747.46

Villa Florence Hotel – save £233

Hotel Rex San Francisco – save £548

Handlery Union Square Hotel – £215.70

(Based on the best rates I found using trivago).

My advice if you do this is to stick to rooms that have a good recommendation rating. Priceline also offers this option – and for future knowledge, so does lastminute!

Total cost

From £667 per person (based on 2 sharing for 7 nights)

Why San Francisco?

Great food, loads to see and do, though don’t be thinking it will be hot, hot, hot just because it’s California. San Francisco’s average temp around this time is 17 degrees and it also has its own microclimates all over the city – you’ll be basking in the sunshine and then 10 minute down the road need to pull on a jumper. It’s bizarre!

It’s worth noting that there is a massive homeless problem in the city – I visited last March and I didn’t let it put me off though I was wary of travelling (on my own) of an evening. I’d also avoid the area of Tenderloin – it’s very close to Union Square (and many hotels are on the cusp).

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But I can’t end on a downer – I LOVED IT when I visited. Especially the Mission District (incredibly cool shops, cafes and bars) and Haight Ashbury for the hippie love and interesting characters.

As always, let me know if you book – or why not tell me where you’d love to visit, and I’ll keep my eyes open for you…


All prices accurate as of 17/03/2018

how many holidays in save the student

I’ve had a fair bit of press of recent (brag, brag, brag) but I bloody loved this piece that Tom from Save The Student did with me – he even managed to eke out a few extra tips that haven’t made their way into any video yet!

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You can see the full article here.

chatting travel with matt and tom

Matt and Tom, off of the YouTubez, invited me onto their Park Bench series to talk all things travel for which I was MORE THAN WILLING.

Due to their well deserved popularity, I also smashed through 1,000 subscribers on my own channel (WHOOP WHOOP) so it’s official, it’s not just my Mum watching (hi Mum, I know you’ll be reading this and yes, I am very grateful for your loyal, unwavering support and no, I can’t make it home for Mother’s Day sorry).

The video features loads of travel tips (with a load I’d never heard of before – WHODATHUNKIT?) so give it a watch and make sure you subscribe to the wonders that are Matt and Tom as well.

Lovely.

the holiday breakdown – how much did it all cost?

So yes, yes, I went on loads of holidays last year however, I realised today that I’ve actually yet to post all of them, along with their costs, in one easy-to-find place.

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Remember the rules?

I had £1709 (half the price the average Brit spends in a year) to go on:

  1. At least 10 holidays
  2. Trips must be 2 nights or more and two must be 5 nights or more
  3. Only use 28 days of annual leave
  4. At least 3 continents
  5. At least one flight must be business class

The holidays

1) Valencia, Spain

easyJet flights – £62pp
1 night – Bloc Hotel Gatwick – £32.72pp
2 nights – Hotel Balandret – £75pp
Total – £169.72pp

2) Dubai, UAE

Qantas/Emirates flights – £279.83pp
4 nights – Princess Tower Apartments (similar) – £184pp
Total – £463.83pp

3) Aarhus, Denmark

Ryanair flights – £43.33pp
2 nights – friend’s apartment – free!
Total – £43.33pp

4) Dublin, Ireland

Stena Line ferry & petrol – £14pp
2 nights – Mec Hostel, Dublin – £65pp
Total – £79pp

5) Benidorm, Spain

British Airways Business Class – £216pp
3 nights – Pierre & Vacances Benidorm Levante – £72pp
Total – £288pp

6) Margate, UK

Southeastern train – £13.30pp
2 nights – Airbnb – £25pp
Total – £38.30pp

7) Paris, France

Eurostar snap – £50pp
14 nights – Nomador catsit – free!
Total = £50pp

8) Gdańsk, Poland

Ryanair flight – £16pp
2 nights – Little Home – Prestige – £33pp
Total = £49pp

9) Timisoara, Romania

Ryanair flight – £20pp
2 nights – NH Timisoara – £35pp
Total = £55pp

10) New York & Miami, USA

British Airways return flights – £358pp
2 nights – New York apartment – £45pp
Frontier flights to Miami – £32pp
3 nights – Miami Homestay – £40pp
2 nights – Miami Airbnb – £40pp
1 night – Shelborne South Beach – £66pp
Total = £581pp

Overall total = £1817.18
Cashback = £112.73

Final total = £1704.45

need help booking a holiday?

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As I can’t quite get away with booking another 10 holidays this year I’ve decided to flex my booking skills for others instead – give his girl the Nobel Peace prize or summit riiiiight?

I’ll then post my findings on here each week so that we can all be tempted to book the shit out of some cheap (but lushhhhh) getaways.

So, how to get in touch? Send me a message to chelsea@howmanyholidays.com and answer the following:

  • What dates are you looking to go and is there any flexibility?
  • Where are leaving from?
  • Where would you like to go?
  • Where would you not like to go? (already visited, etc.)
  • Who are you going with?
  • What’s your budget per person?
  • What temperature are you after?
  • What do you like to do on holiday? Sightseeing, food & drink, hiking, etc.
  • What has been your favourite holiday of the last couple of years?

In general, I’ll only find you well rated and nice looking accommodation so also point out if you’re willing to slum it a little if it means you get the best price out there.

Right, let’s see what comes of this, eh?!!

Cheap weekend flights from London to Reykjavik – May

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Whilst the Northern Lights may be tucked away until early September (tours stop running at the end of April), there’s still plenty more to do in Reykjavik in May, including a trip to the gorgeous Blue Lagoon thermal spa.

And with these cheap deals that land over the weekend, what’s not to love?

Wed 16th May – Sun 20th May £41

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Fri 18th May – Sun 20th May £55
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I AM TEMPTED, ARE YOU?!!