holiday hotline #7 – stylish Tuscany, the cheapest Four Seasons hotel, UK cabins with hot tubs & a 7 night Greek island stay for under £350

Welcome to this week’s holiday hotline which – totally unintentionally – has become a bit of an ‘October Special’.

If you haven’t heard of the holiday hotline before, it’s something I do over on my Instagram stories where I ask you for what chap getaway I can help find for you.

If you’re not following already, then come say hiya and get involved!

Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Feel free to skip straight to the holiday you’re interested in by clicking below:

THE REQUEST: Cheap but stylish Tuscany getaway

Extra Details:

  • From Manchester
  • In September or October

A LOAD of you asked about Tuscany this week and so I hope this helps a few of you tick the Italian countryside off your bucket list.

FLIGHTS

There are two airport options if you fancy visiting Tuscany – Florence or Pisa. And whilst the former may be the region’s capital, you’re going to be hard pressed to find cheap and direct flights outside of London.

FGS FLORENCE, YOU BOUJIE MADAME.

Therefore, we’re going to be taking a look at Pisa which is much more satisfactory on the ol’ pocket.

Manchester to Pisa
Thurs 17th Oct – Tues 22nd Oct
easyJet
£69 each

If you often fly Ryanair, you’ll be pleased to hear that easyJet still allow you to wheel on a cabin case which I think is more than big enough for this 5 night getaway! You can find out more about their luggage allowance here.

CAR RENTAL

Before we crack on with accommodation, we’ll need to find something to get us around once we land in Pisa.

The great news is that car hire is CHEAP AF!

From £26 for 5 days rental – YEP, just £5.20 a day!

ACCOMMODATION

If you’re wanting to go cheap, I’d definitely recommend looking into Agriturismo, which is the Italian for ‘farm stay’.

Now, before you tell me I’m barking up the wrong tree, BEAR WITH ME.

Once Italy’s best kept secret, agriturismo have really come a long way and you can expect well-appointed rooms, outdoor pools and stunning views across the owner’s land.

However, those on the cheaper end of the spectrum are more traditional in the decor department than the ‘stylish’ Tuscan break that’s been requested, so onwards we go!

Airbnb Plus – it’s verified for its “quality and comfort”
La Spezia – 56 mins drive from Pisa Airport
£76.20 a night – £190.50 each
(you can get £25 off here if you haven’t used Airbnb before!)

Airbnb Plus – it’s been verified for its “quality and comfort”
Pistoia – 53 mins drive from Pisa Airport
£79.20 a night – £198 each
(you can get £25 off here if you haven’t used Airbnb before!)

TOTAL

Flights – £69 each
Car hire – £13 each
Airbnb Plus – £190.50 each

Total = £272.50 each for 5 nights in Tuscany


THE REQUEST: Premium 5 star holiday for a 3 star price

Extra Details:

  • From London
  • For 2 people

Okay, so when I saw this request come through I got a bit giddy because I saw a deal in passing last week which I think will fit this request perfectly.

It’s important to say that last week, this was a good £80 cheaper so if you’re into it, I’d book it fast!

But here’s the reason I’m so excited…

This isn’t just any old hotel.

This is a FOUR SEASONS HOTEL.

Four Seasons, if you didn’t know, is one of the top luxury hotel brands in the world. We’re talking proper, 5 star service here, lads.

✨TOTAL HONEYMOON VIBEZ ✨

And usually, this would cost you around £400 a night for the room on its own. Minimum.

However, one of the cheapest Four Seasons hotels to stay at is in Marrakech.

What’s more, you can book the Four Seasons Marrakech through British Airways’ Holiday Finder – basically, their package holiday website – which in this case, saves us even more money.

As I said, this was just £536 when I saw it last week so it’s definitely worth getting on this deal soon before the cost rises even more!

The perks you get by booking both the hotel and the flight with BA is that:

  • You get 23kg checked luggage for free
  • There’s an option to just pay £150 deposit each
  • Booked separately, the hotel would cost £927 and the flights would cost £197 each (without any luggage) or £237 (with luggage) meaning you could save up to £84.50 each by booking through BA

Though, it is worth saying that you could fly with Ryanair for the same dates for just £119 each, but the flight times and lack of hand luggage aren’t so fun (they only allow a small backpack!)

LOOK. I know it’s not quite a 3 star price, but it is unreal value for a true, premium travel experience. SO I HAD TO SHARE!


THE REQUEST: UK mini-moon lodge with hot tub

Extra Details:

  • For 2 people
  • Leaving 28th October
  • 4 nights
  • £700 budget
  • Within 3.5 hours drive of Bedfordshire

A site that is amazing for lodges both in the UK and abroad is Canopy & Stars. In fact, they even have a page dedicated to places that have hot tubs!

Here’s my favourite that I found!

Holly Cabin
Powys – 3 hours drive from Bedfordshire
£660 for 4 nights


THE REQUEST: Budget Greek holiday for two

Extra Details:

  • From London Gatwick or Heathrow
  • For 2 people
  • Late Sep/early Oct
  • Southern Greece – maybe Rhodes or Crete?
  • Budget – but not too rustic!

Flights from Gatwick and Heathrow to Rhodes and Crete were coming in a little pricey (okay A LOT PRICEY) and so I’m gonna throw a curveball in here.

KEFALONIA.

Kefalonia is an island just west of mainland Greece, so sure, not quite the Southern Greece that was requested, but just have a quick peruse of #Kefalonia on Instagram and I’m sure you’ll be satisfied!

The great thing about Kefalonia is that not only are there some great flight options, but the accommodation is so, damn cheap too.

FLIGHT

London Gatwick – Argostoli Kefalonia
Sat 5th Oct – Sat 12th Oct
Norwegian – 1 cabin bag plus 1 personal item
£101 each
(pssst you can fly for just £54 return later in the month!)

ACCOMMODATION

There are loads of great options but I personally loved not only the price, but the view from the terrace here. What a dream!

Airbnb
Sat 5th Oct – Sat 12th Oct
£63.29 a night / £221.50 each for 7 nights
(you can get £25 off here if you haven’t used Airbnb before!)

If you’re looking for a bigger group, I also recommend taking a look at Unique Kefalonia who have got some outrageous villas for amazing prices. I kept seeing the same properties on Airbnb but for so much more!

TOTAL

Since you’ll also need a car, I’ve chucked that price in here too.

Flights – £101 each
Car hire – £25 each
Accommodation – £221.50 each

Total = £347.50 each for 7 nights in Kefalonia


That’s it for this week’s holiday hotline!

Again, I was totally overwhelmed by the amount of requests and so please do accept my most sincere apologies for not getting to you. I will do my best to work through all the responses this week so that if I can steer you in the right direction, I will!

Remember, you can get involved in the next holiday hotline by simply following me over on Instagram and looking out for it on my stories.

SEE YOU NEXT TIME!


I have used some affiliate links throughout this article. They don’t charge you more, but if you book through them you’ll be helping me to continue my cheap travel booking hobbies. For full transparency, I earn about 10p if you book a flight through a link so… Yeah, I’m rolling in it 😂

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

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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)

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

The Bathrooms

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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.

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

The Lounge and Kitchen

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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).

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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!

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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’.

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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! 😄