how to stay in a €1,000,000 holiday apartment | barcelona wedding vlog

What’s even better than going on holiday and living like a local? Going on holiday and living like a LUXURY LOCAL!

Our apartment in Barcelona was stunning – and here’s exactly how you could stay here yourself for a whole lot less money than your average hotel.

ENTER STAGE LEFT: Love Home Swap!

This is the second time we’ve used Love Home Swap (remember that insane New York apartment with the Emmy Award? Yeah, that one was one of them too) so to say we’re impressed is a total understatement. I really love how not only the quality of homes on the site are proper BANGIN’, but also that there’s nice ‘community vibes’ – because no one’s there to make money out of you. Everyone’s just after the same thing – somewhere nice to stay.

In this video, I’ll break down how we found this particular apartment and how we used Love Home Swap’s clever ‘points swap’ feature to stay. We also go to our friends’ incredible Barcelona wedding, get a chronic hangover (standard) and properly explore the neighbourhood of Eixample.

the millennials kyoto | full review with pictures

There’s nothing more quintessentially Japanese than a capsule hotel. Yet, shuffling your body into a pod the size of a portaloo is not for everybody.

And that’s where The Millennials comes in.

With a room measuring in at 3 square metres, it may not be enough room to swing a cat, yet its floor to ceiling height does mean that you’ll be able to get through a full rendition of the YMCA before bedtime (you mean you don’t do that before a night’s kip??!?).

Your Key

53E39E9E-E861-4FAA-A03E-36CB398641A5.JPG

Before we get stuck in, it’s worth explaining that you’ll operate most things at the hotel with your very own iPod touch (how very 2007). Not only is it your key, but it’s also your light switch, bed shuffler and alarm clock.

The Pods

After you’ve checked in, you’ll use your key to scan your way onto your designated floor – you can choose to stay with just men, just women or a mix (you don’t always get that last option in Japanese capsule hotels).

The vibes when you enter are very Malmaison meets Big Yellow Self Storage. It’s also dark. The exterior windows are blacked out, but the warm glow from each of the pods stop it from feeling like you’re about to take part in a sordid, x-rated version of Storage Hunters.

The Bed

DDD9599E-E57B-4840-9152-94347212FA84.JPG

Next, you’ll arrive at your pod (it will have your ‘number’ on top) and find the bed in ‘sofa mode’. Squeezed in between each wall is a queen sized mattress but steady on fellas – THIS IS A NO SHARING ZONE. That bad boy is all yours. But to enjoy it to its fullest, you’d best straighten that bad boy out.

Oh yes. IT’S TIME TO USE THE IPOD!

F3046897-DB38-41BA-9E8D-FCF6B0B9608E.JPG

Following a couple of prods, you’ll not only be able to turn the lights on and off, but watch in awe as the mattress slowly pans out to fill the entire size of the pod. I’d recommend doing it whilst you’re sat on it to give yourself that whole ‘going in for an MRI scan’ vibe without having to, you know, go in for an MRI scan.

3A8C4511-2A45-4AB7-B9F5-3BD820A1DA97.JPG

Your key also gives you the option to set an alarm that not only dims up the light for you, but can also lift the bed too. For snoozers, there’s even a setting that rises in increments meaning that in 10 whole minutes, you’ll finally be upright. Absolute genius.

3BFC1CA4-393B-41B8-A5E6-3DDA59D36AB8.JPG

Other things worth noting about the pod are that it’s got a slide out storage rack (big enough for a large suitcase), mirror and a helpful shelf with 2 plug points above the bed.

Your iPod touch will plug into a charger provided for you next to your bed.

On your bed when you arrive will be:

  • towel
  • slippers
  • toiletries bag (earplugs, cotton wool, toothbrush and hairbrush)

93D86E17-D9E9-4F50-BBB5-1BD34F578BC6.JPG

You can also hire pyjamas for 300 yen a pop (that’s about £2.20).

The Bathrooms

F9BB6817-F693-4E5B-83D3-34FF130E1BDE.JPG

You may get one whole pod to yourself but don’t get excited about a personal bidet. Instead, you’ll have a shared bathroom which is… Well, okay fine. It’s pretty damn nice actually. There’s hairdryers, a washer and dryer, hand soaps, hand creams, extra towels… The showers are also really decent with rainfall heads, shampoo and body wash. There’s also space to dress and undress behind your own locked door so you can make sure you don’t go flashing your bits to Kazimo from pod A19.

50FDD2F2-0338-48D7-91E2-29CFFEB69833.JPG

The toilets, too, are kitted out really nicely and yes, the loos are electronic. Bum spritz, anyone?

The Lounge and Kitchen

2BC5B3E4-27AD-4194-867E-FE0C853E1237.JPG

You know when you see a picture on a booking website and you’re like ‘yeah, yeah, someone’s had photoshop out here’ well DAMN. The lounge looks proper legit in real life as well. We’re talking serious boutique hotel vibes.

The kitchen has a whole host of contraptions (rice cooker, blender, mincer…) for you to use. There’s also a hob for cooking and a fridge to keep food fresh (when I say food, I obviously mean prosecco).

CCC3D3CD-A801-4B2D-B008-277D48977D7D.JPG

Now, with shared kitchen spaces I’m always a bit worried that there will be one Lazy Lorraine who doesn’t pull her weight and ruins it for EVERYONE yet the place was immaculate during our 2 night stay. It almost felt like everyone couldn’t quite believe their luck with the place and therefore were refusing to defy the hotel gods by leaving an empty mug out.

Extras

5C12C084-0FC7-4274-8275-60C0FB56BC14.JPG

Theres free decent Wifi, irons for lending and bikes for renting. There’s even a ‘roof terrace’ (don’t get excited, there’s no view) if you need a bit of fresh air without having to leave.

However, the best extra has got to be the daily free beer hour.

YES YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT.

E43EA7B8-D47E-4F68-8BE0-742274E14BD7.JPG

Between 5:30pm – 6:30pm every single day, the staff wheel out a ‘do it yourself’ beer pump and it’s a help yourself affair.

If you’re thinking, ‘I’ll just rock up with some empty bottles and make the most of this thang’ then you’re probably going to get kneecapped. (I managed three glasses each night which I feel is getting to the limits of taking the piss).

Everyone was pretty respectful and it was a great chance to meet other people staying at The Millennials. In fact, that’s probably the reason they do it. That and the fact that they probably don’t have a licence which means that bringing a couple of beers or a bottle of wine back of an evening to enjoy is totally fine to do as well. WINNER.

Breakfast

A8E21F68-76CA-4FB6-A666-DF7F6AFBD0F0.JPG

When booking, you may also notice that breakfast is included but don’t get too excited. It’s a fairly basic offering of a few breads and pastries. To the extent that we didn’t take it up on the second morning (more time for sleep) but if you’re on a budget, hell, it is free!

Cost

We stayed at The Millennials in Kyoto bang smack in the middle of Easter and Cherry Blossom Season. I may also have left booking quite late (what a plonker) and so the pods ended up costing us £65 a night each – including all taxes and fees. However, I have found the pods for as a little as £18 a night each and have done so on several occasions. Therefore, my tip would definitely be to BOOK EARLY!

£18 is unreal value and you could probably make that back in beer alone! Even at £65 a night each, I’d say it was definitely worth it as in comparison to other hotels at that time it was 1) cheaper and 2) so much nicer!

Booking

468C3B02-4AD3-4992-A38A-F8C0550BB01C.JPG

As there were two of us, I booked the ‘adjoining smart capsule – mixed’ via Booking.com. This means that they’ll place you either next door or opposite one another (contrary to the photo above, we were actually opposite one another).

We were on the fourth floor and in pods A14 and A13. They felt really private however you are next to the showers and therefore if you’re a light sleeper, the sound of the door rolling back and forth may wake you in the morning.

The most private (and quiet!) would definitely be A08, A09 and A10 as you’re by the fire exit there meaning no through fare and off the main corridor. So why  not email master@themillennials.jp and request them!

DA35C261-1003-47BE-B5AC-147E67DD88A7.JPG

There’s also the option of having a pod with a projection screen (FANCY) for a couple of quid more.

Would I stay again?

Abso-bloody-lutely. I feel like I’m going a little overkill here but I’d genuinely say it’s one of the best places I’ve ever stayed in. I really expected it to be a bit gimmicky and was blown away with the high standard of features and service.

Since our stay in Kyoto, they’ve also opened a branch in Shibuya, Tokyo and are planning to open even more. So here’s hoping there will be even more to choose from in the near future. Hurrah!

You can also watch the video of my stay here.

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’.

826EB428-DB42-4D49-8AFA-E8998AD6BDA7.JPG

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).

203B6164-CEBD-436E-993D-2D0C34D0BC94.JPG

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.

7C61F8D0-67F2-4DEC-9F6B-EB3876764DEE.JPG

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.
055E03C2-8491-40C7-9A1B-BB503126D4A2.JPG
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

IMG_1535

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

strand.jpg

  • 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

trent-erwin-335937-unsplash.jpg

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

san remo.jpg

  • 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.

screen-shot-2018-03-16-at-22-43-12-e1521240373232.png

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).

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 22.44.18.png

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).

ross-joyner-568729-unsplash.jpg

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!

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 17.08.03.png

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.

eva-darron-214170-unsplash

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