holiday two | is dubai worth the money?

I was very aware that getting some cheap flights and accommodation for Dubai wasn’t going to be the end of it. In fact, it’s been the only holiday since I was about 19 that I have actively saved for (my normal holidays mostly involve just eating and drinking which isn’t too dissimilar from my everyday life).

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By the time Dubai rolled around, I’d saved £500 (HUGE FEAT FOR ME, FELT LIKE A REAL LIVE ADULT) so that I wouldn’t have to worry about costs. After all, we were going away for a friends’ 30th birthday and so I knew it was going to be a one off expense that I wasn’t likely to do again.

So, what did we get up to? And most importantly, was it worth it?

The Apartment
The Princess Tower
£184 for 4 nights
(this apartment is no longer available so here’s something similar in a nearby towerblock)

Having seen our friends’ flash suites at the Marriott before checking in, we were a little apprehensive of what we’d find but overall, it was clean, spacious and had everything we needed. Sure, we wouldn’t want to hang out and spend our evenings there, but that wasn’t really the point.

Plus, the 97th floor residents lounge had amazing views and the outdoor jacuzzi on hangover number one really helped us out.

Worth it? Definitely.

The Pool
Zero Gravity
£35 for entry + free drink

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After dropping our things off, we headed to Zero Gravity, a beach, bar and restaurant located by Dubai Marina. Costing £35 to get in (or slightly less for a couple – though note that this doesn’t include friends or same sex couples), the price included a free drink and access to all the facilities.

It was very much a place to be seen. The bathrooms were INCROYABLE. Showers, mirrors, hairdryers, straighteners – I almost felt a bit bad for having not put any make up on that day (almost). On my first visit, two girls were doing a mini-photoshoot in there and on my second, they were just finishing up (realised that this could be interpreted that I have a very weak bladder but I was only 2 beers in by this point, fellas).

There’s plenty of sunbeds on the beach and around the pool but if you want a big sunbed, it comes at a price. £200 minimum spend to be exact (YOWZERS). Fortunately, it was a quiet day so we managed to get a couple towards the back without promising away all our dirhams though, between 10 of us and at Dubai prices, we may just have reached the minimum spend… Twice.

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So, was it worth it?

It’s a toughie and it all depends what you want out of your day. If you want a whole day of sunbathing but you want the ease of having everything on hand, then it kind of makes sense. If you’re just going for a couple of hours, maybe not.

As for drinking, it’s definitely pricey – we’re talking about £8 for a bottle of beer and £11 for a cocktail so if you’re wanting to get merry, get ready to spend a lot. But at the same time, you can’t drink on free public beaches.

For me, I had a great time but given that we were only there three hours, I’d say it wasn’t worth the cost. But I can totally see why people go.

The Brunch
Bubbalicious at The Westin Dubai
£125 for 4 hours of unlimited food, drink and prosecco 

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It seemed that when anyone went to Dubai, the one thing they’d bang on about on their return was the brunch. No, not Eggs Benedict but a full scale Red Hot World Buffet on steroids with free flowing fizz.

According to our friends, Bubbalicious is the best, but it’s also the most expensive. There’s plenty of cheaper brunches that take place each Friday (the start of Dubai’s weekend), but we’ve been assured that you get what you pay for.

But £125 is a hell of a lot of money…

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Having been regaled with tales of ‘this one time at brunch…’, I was prepared for the sheer extravagance of it all. The food hall was impressive. Every single kind of food that you could want was there, and whilst I compared it to Red Hot World Buffet, the food is of a much higher quality. Yet, if I’m honest, I’m not really a buffet girl. I like a plate of food that’s been thought about and several drinks in, it was an effort to even remember to eat, let alone find foods that complimented one another.

What I was really impressed with was the drink. There were no knock offs here. Premium beers, spirits and cocktail creations were widely available almost instantly (queues only appeared in the last 30 minutes) and our prosecco glasses were kept topped up at the table. It was incredibly easy to see how people get so trollied at these things…

As I was vlogging (or attempting to at least) during this, I kept a log of evrything I had during those 4 hours.

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Sweet baby jesus.

I actually thought I wasn’t drunk when 4pm rolled in!

After ‘stockpiling’ the drinks in the last 30 minutes, we drank at our table until 4:30pm before taking a couple of drinks each up to the DJ in the hotel club.

So.

Was. It. Worth. It?

Now, let’s not be silly here – £125 is a lot of money. But given the sheer expense of drinks in a bar out there, it’s actually quite easy to get your money’s worth if you’re on a blow out. I actually didn’t spend another penny that day so all in all, I would say it was worth it.

The boat
Cozmo Yachts
£30 each for 18 people for 3 hours – bring your own booze

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When our friend had said ‘I’m thinking of hiring a yacht the day after brunch’, I was a little apprehensive given the fact it was the day following our £125 brunch. Yet, when the price came back as £30 each for 3 hours and that we could take our own drink on board, I thought it was pretty damn reasonable.

The boat was bigger than expected and sat up top deck with the wind whipping around us was the perfect way to shake off our brunch hangovers.

If you fancy doing something similar, just keep in mind that buying drink in Dubai can be difficult – you need a licence to buy some from a store. We’d picked up a couple bottles of gin in duty free (£11 for a litre!) and the boat supplied mixers and ice.

Our boat trip included speeding past the Palm, taking in the sights and having a bit of a dip in the calm (but cold!) waters.

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Absolutely and most definitely worth it.

The tallest building in the world
The Burj Khalifa
£44 for level 124 – £109 (!!!) for level 148

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For our last day, we had really wanted to do a desert safari to inject a little ‘culture’ into the trip, but the weather was god awful and we’d been warned that it was only really worth doing in the sunshine.

With that in mind, we instead decided to check out the mall (which I didn’t actually find that impressive – HUGE but same old shops as you get anywhere) and with it, the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.

The queues were pretty mega given that we’d already booked a timeslot. It took us an hour to reach the lifts which just so happened to be the exact amount of time it took for a clump of clouds to settle around the viewing deck.

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Lousy views aside, I did feel a little let down about the experience as a whole. Yes, the lift that shot us up in 60 seconds was impressive but it really was just a viewing platform and not a lot more.

For £44, I would have to say that it wasn’t worth it. However the housemate, who is very fond of any feat of architecture or engineering, was really impressed so take from that what you will.

Overall

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So that’s what we got up to, but overall, was it worth it?

It’s tough because it’s not that straight forward. I had a really good time with my friends and after editing the vlog, I was reminded again of what a laugh I’d had but… My lord, it was expensive.

What with the activities plus my food and drink, the £500 I’d saved was decimated and whilst it may not look or sound like it, there were even a couple of evenings where I didn’t drink at all (honest!).

But I had fun, right? Yes, yes, yes.

And I’m glad I went? Absolutely.

So that means it was worth it, surely? Hmmm. Not quite.

I’m happy that I can say I’ve been but I’m not in any rush to go back. The thing is, because Dubai is so new, they’ve borrowed elements from much loved places around the world to create this ‘best of’ metropolitan smorgasbord, yet I didn’t really buy it. I left feeling like I hadn’t really discovered anything new and whilst I had lots of fun, I was very aware that I could have done a lot of it elsewhere for a cheaper price…

Let’s just hope I can find a stonker of a deal for holiday number three, eh?!

You can also watch what we got up to here:

can you visit dubai for cheap?

Now that’s a cracking good question, and one I sought to find out after a friend announced that he’d like to celebrate turning the big 3-0 with a trip to Dubai.

I’m not gonna lie, the place has never been on my wishlist (I mean, I have a degree in Ancient History. I like OLD SHIT, y’know?) but I couldn’t bear the thought of being sat at home and seeing pictures of my mates driving around in gold lambos and getting diamonds encrusted in their incisors (okay, okay so I wasn’t 100% on what went down in Doobz at this point).

“Surely you’re not counting it in your holiday challenge?” many have asked but crikey, if I’ve got to squeeze in 10 trips this year I can hardly take a sly trip to Dubai ‘just for the lols’.

Yet the cost. Good lord and gracious heavens above, that place is expensive.

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They have a gold ATM, FGS.

When it came to accommodation, I quickly realised that the housemate and I weren’t going to be able to afford an apartment at the Marriott Hotel and Suites where our mates were staying, so I set out to find somewhere as close as I could.

Fortunately, Dubai is overrun with apartments (I swear twelve blocks went up whilst I was there) so actually, there was a lot of choice and we found a one bedroom place just two buildings down from the Marriott.

I found it on booking.com by using the map search and it came in at a sweet £184 each for 4 nights. (Edit: this apartment is no longer available so I’ve linked something similar!)

It was by no means luxury but it was clean, spacious and in a great location. Though if you like a soft bed, this is not the place for you… GOOD FOR THE BACK THO, INNIT.

It also had a nice pool area and as it was in The Princess Tower, the 2nd tallest building in Dubai, the views from its 102nd floor residents lounge are pretty special (and a hell of a lot cheaper than going up the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa).

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Plus, as Dubai grows, there are more and more budget friendly hotels popping up.

As for the flights, they were cheaper than what I was expecting considering we didn’t have any flexibility on our dates.

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The flight was… Well, I won’t lie, the flight out was AWFUL but that may have something to do with the 5 gins and 2 proseccos I’d necked before the flight (our mate has a MAGIC BANK CARD that got us into one of the lounges for ZERO PENNIES).

It also didn’t help that Qantas really crammed us in there – we’re talking a Ryanair amount of space here, lads – and I had a classic Chelsea I’m-dehydrated-in-a-small-space meltdown.

However, the flight back (after 0 gins, may I add) was much better. Emirates = more space, better food and better service in general.

I managed to book our flights for £279.83 using BudgetAir via Skyscanner but, as these were booked before I decided to be a holiday-going-heretic, we definitely could have flown for cheaper – I remember seeing one stop flights with Turkish Airlines for a sweet £200.

Here’s a quick example of the kind of prices you can get at the moment, using Thursday 21st Sep – Monday 25th Sep as an example:

London Gatwick – £224

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Manchester – £252

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London Heathrow – £255

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But enough about your potential shenanigans, how are the numbers looking for me?

The total cost of my trip to Dubai was £463.83.

Yes, it’s a lot, but don’t you think it makes this whole thing more interesting/ohmygodwhathaveidoneeahhhhhhhh

*slaps self in face with a wet haddock*

It leaves me with £1,075.45 for the remaining 8 holidays which when you break it down, is £134.43 a pop.

Doable. Right?

Well, until I remember that it needs to include a business class flight…

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GODDAMN IT, CHELSEA.

Ibiza, Valencia, Madrid, Porto, Berlin, Athens & Mykonos for £192.50

Have you heard about the trick you can do to get 18 days off straight this April?

Due to a load of bank holidays being either around or on the weekend this spring, you only need to take 9 days off to be free from Friday 14th April 2017 to Tuesday 2nd May 2017.

HolidayPirates found an incredible 7 European city trek for £145 last week, but, whilst I can’t have that huge stint off (WAIL), I wanted to see what could be done if we threw in a couple of beach destinations as well. Mostly because the thought of doing 7 major cities has me reaching for the compeeds… (WHAT A SEXY VISUAL).

Right, let’s kick this bad boy off.

IBIZA, SPAIN

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Saturday 15th April – 3 nights – 16°C

First up is Ibiza.

Whilst the party season hasn’t quite kicked off yet, the beautiful scenery and great food more than make up for it and are a perfect way to ease yourself into 2 and half weeks of jaunting around Europe.

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1725 – 2105
Ryanair
£20

VALENCIA, SPAIN

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Tuesday 18th April – 1 night – 20°C

It’s only a quick 45-minute flight over to Valencia to enjoy a one night stay and time to take in some of the city’s best bits.

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1240 – 1325
Ryanair
£26

MADRID, SPAIN

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Wednesday 19th April – 2 nights – 17°C

It can be easy to focus on flights but with all the faffing of getting to the airport and checking in, it’s always worth taking a look at where you can go by train as well.

In just 1 hour and 38 minutes, you can reach Madrid for 2 days of exploring the Spanish capital.
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Valencia – Madrid
1410 – 1548
Renfe (via trainline eu)
£18.50

 

 

The tickets for the 19th haven’t been released yet (they will be very soon!) so I’ve used the prices for the week before.

PORTO, PORTUGAL

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Friday 21st April – 3 nights – 20°C

After the winter rains, Porto is looking LUSH, making it the perfect destination for spring.

3 nights means you can explore the city, take a boat trip and also visit Foz beach.

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Madrid – Porto
0920 – 0935
Ryanair
£21

BERLIN, GERMANY

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Mon 24th April – 2 nights – 14°C

After a beach day in Porto, it’s time to head back to a big city to check out the museums and galleries in Berlin. Oh, and to test out all those cracking beers as well.

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Porto – Berlin
1635 – 2050
Ryanair
£28

ATHENS, GREECE

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Weds 26th April – 1 night – 20°C

Next, we’re heading back south for an evening in the Greek capital of Athens.

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1300 – 1655
Ryanair
£26

MYKONOS, GREECE

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Thurs 27th April – 3 nights – 20°C

And in the spirit of not doing too much on holiday, it’s only right that we finish this whole thing off with one last beach stop in Mykonos.

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Athens – Mykonos
1400 – 1450
Ryanair
£15

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

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Sunday 30th April – 8943894379 nights – 15°C

It can often be pretty sad when it’s time to come home but DON’T WORRY, you’ve still got May Day Monday off to wind down/do all your washing/start planning your next holiday.

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Mykonos – London Gatwick
1305 – 1500
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£38


So, how have we done?

Well, in just 16 days we’ll have visited 7 different destinations for the total cost of £192.50.

Aye, that’s not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

holiday one: winter sun weekend break for less than £170

As I sat down to get my booking on, I had three things in mind.

  • I wanted to go somewhere new
  • I wanted to go some warm(ish)
  • I wanted to go somewhere for 2 nights

I was also planning on going with the housemate, James, so everything I’d be searching for would be for two.

So with a quick stretch of my most prominent key-tapping fingers, I set forth, loose in the wily heaths of the world wide web.

Here’s how I got on:

 

1. Flights first

I bloody love Skyscanner because its nifty search tool allows you to search ‘everywhere’ when you’re not sure where to go, and ‘cheapest month’, when you just want a good deal.

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This time, I knew my dates so just used ‘everywhere’.

After sifting through many a cold (but cheap) destination, I settled on Valencia.

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Total cost – £61.98 each (yes, I really am counting that 2p!)

Tip – Whilst there certainly are last minute deals to be had, deals were pretty thin on the ground 10 days before. I saw some incredibly cheap flights (£38) to Cyprus at the same time just 2 weeks ago!

Booked with easyJet (via Skyscanner)

Cashback – No monies for easyJet, but we’ll let it slide… This time…

2. Getting to Gatwick

Since our flight is leaving Gatwick at 7:10AM, I’d rather put my head into a bag of wet prawns that leave the house at half three on a Saturday morning. Therefore, I had a quick look for a cheap hotel at the airport itself et voilà!

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The BLOC hotel is actually IN THE TERMINAL. As in, roll out of bed, brush teeth, do 12 lunges (how else do you think I maintain my physique?) and walk through security.

What’s more, some of the rooms look out onto the runway which excited James so much, he asked if we could just stay there for the weekend.

I found a ‘no window’ room for £71 on hotels.com, but after hitting up trivago which is a great tool for comparing prices, I found one with a window for £67 on a site called Amoma. What’s more, when I checked if it did cashback, I saw that there was a 5% off code as well. Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 16.45.46.png

Total cost – £32.78 each

Tip – Always use a comparative site such as trivago to check you’ve got the cheapest price on your hotel.

Booked with Amoma (via TopCashback)

Cashback – 9.2% cashback = £5.95 PLUS a cheeky 5% off code to boot (HOTEL5OFF – expires 31st March 2017).

3. A Valencia hotel worth of an Instagram (or six)

There were a bevvy of beautiful hotels for under £75 a night to choose from, including the highly rated Hotel Vincii Mercat and Vincii Palace.

However, it was two others that caught my eye.

First, One Shot Colon because – well, yes, because of the absolute lolathon the name gave me (and its minimalist but cool decor, great reviews and a bargain price of £50 a night).

But we ended up going for the slightly more expensive Hotel Balandret which has a 4.5 rating on TripAdvisor, and also comes second in The Telegraph’s expert ‘best hotels in Valencia’ list.

It’s also on the sea front (we paid an extra £15 in total to have a sea view) and comes with free breakfast each morning.

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Total cost – £75 each

Tip – Sure, we could have done this bit for cheaper but a few extra pounds has got us a better room and we’ll save money on spends by eating in for breakfast.

Also, the hotel is part of Hotels.com’s loyalty scheme so we’ve banked 2 nights out of the 10 needed to get a free night stay at a hotel in the future.

Booked with Hotels.com (via TopCashback)

Cashback – 9.2% = £8.15


Total cost = £169.72

Total potential cashback = £14.10

As the cashback is only a bonus once it comes through, there’s no deducting it from the final total (just yet) so for now, here’s what we’re left with:

Total left = £1543.29

Holiday one: BOOKED.

5 quick tips for booking cheaper holidays

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I am ITCHING to get booking my first wild escapade but you know what they say, “don’t run a marathon before you do a few lunges”.

Okay FINE. No one says that.

But basically, I’m just trying to point out that there’s a few little ‘warm up’ tricks one can do before going batshit cray-cray on the credit card.

1. Sign up to holiday deal websites and newsletters

To get the best deals, you need to know what’s out there and a good way to stay in the know is to sign up to some travel newsletters.

A few personal faves are:

Now, I know what you’re about to say.

NO ONE NEEDS MORE EMAILS IN THEIR ALREADY CLUTTERED INBOX, CHELSEA.

And I’m with you. So I use Unroll.Me which not only unsubscribes you from pesky emails (found out I was signed up to 133 of those bad boys t’other day – bleak) but also allows you to add newsletters into one daily ‘rollup’.

2. Set travel alerts

We all have a dream location in mind. Like, imagine being able to say “here’s me in St. Barts with my friend Edna”.

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If you’ve also got an idea of when you’d like to go, travel alerts let you know when the flight’s price changes – be that up or down.

I use Skyscanner for this (like I said, obsessed) but you could also use other flight comparison sites, such as Kayak.

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3. Be ready

You’re sat in work one day and an email pops into your inbox. You rub your eyes. You can’t quite believe it. GOOD GOD they’re offering direct flights to BOGNOR REGIS for only £2500! It’s the bargain of the century!

Between sharp breaths, your shaking hand clicks on the link and just as you’re about to checkout you remember – you don’t have the money, you don’t have your details and you don’t know who you’re going with.

Incredible deals, including online glitches, go quick or get fixed so don’t hang about. Whilst money is a no-brainer, it can be easy to forget that you need personal details when you’re booking.

Quite often airlines don’t require a passport number at checkout, but they do need to know everyone’s date of birth and name as it appears on their official documentation.

4. Sign up for cashback

Who the hell doesn’t like free money?

Whilst cashback sites are no new trick, I often speed through an online checkout and only remember later than I could have claimed money back on it.

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Quidco and Top Cashback both offer a downloadable extension that notifies you when you’re on a site with cashback. I personally found this a little too invasive so I just try my best to remember.

If you join Quidco via this link, we’ll both get a tenner (WHEYYY) but I’ve actually just swapped to Top Cashback as Quidco’s success rate on paying out was about 40%, so I’m giving something new a go.

In fact, that’s important to remember. Don’t book something because of a promise of cashback – you may never get it. Just think of it as a bonus if it does come.

5. Get a railcard

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A 13 hours and 23 minute train from Aberdeen to Penzance not your idea of a holiday? (Yes, that’s a real train route). No worries. Railcards can still come in use.

10 airports in the UK have their own railway station so you can cut down on a third of your travel costs before you even fly.

Woah – what’s that? Not 16-25? (I feel your pain, bro).

There are a few more options but my favourite is the Two Together railcard. You don’t need to be romantically involved (can you IMAGINE having to send in EVIDENCE to PROVE IT – HA) and so you can get one with your best mate, your colleague or even your Nan.

All railcards are £30 but there’s ALWAYS a 10% discount if you search the web.

Is it worth it? Well, it depends on how much you travel. If you’re having to take the train to a different city to fly, it usually pays for itself but even if you just need a return ticket between London Victoria and Gatwick, a railcard makes the journey £10.65 cheaper each.

Two holidays a year and you’ve saved yourself £15.60. That’s enough for a pint each and a sudoku book at the airport.

ALSO – if you do have a 16-25 railcard, did you know that you can add it to your Oyster card?

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IKR. GAME CHANGER.

(Mine expires in Feb. I am so sad).


So there you have it – 5 quick tips to help you cement your way to a top holiday deal.

Now, it’s about time I start my own booking otherwise I’m gonna have to take up that Bognor Regis deal…

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