Nifty Travel Hacks

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Whether you are backpacking through Thailand, spending a romantic weekend in Tuscany or going wild on a girly hol in Turkey these nifty (I had forgotten how much I loved that word) travel hacks will help you make the most of your trip. From the bizarre to the palm-face-slapping ‘why didn’t I think of that earlier’ these tips will save you time and effort or at least make you look at straws in a different way…..

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  • When flying in a pair book an aisle seat and a window seat as it’s unlikely that anyone will book a seat in the middle meaning you get to hog the whole row! If a solo traveller does pick the middle seat I’m sure they would be happy to swap places rather than sit in between two gossiping pals or star crossed lovers.
  • Stop an explosion of lotions and potions in your case by unscrewing the bottle tops of your toiletries, especially ones prone to leaking such as sun cream, and insert a small strip of cling fling then replace the lid tightly. Looks a bit odd but works a treat as long as you have reapplied the lid tight enough!
  • How frustrating is it when you find your fave necklaces have been playing twister with the rest of your jewellery, leaving one big knotted cryptic puzzle of a mess to untangle? Well no longer fear massaging knots out of chains when you can simply thread them through a straw to keep them perfect.
  • Still on the jewellery area why not pick up cheap pill holders (£1 shops usually stock them) which are fab for storing earrings, rings or chains in each compartment. Keeping your bling in brilliant order.
  • You thought contact lenses holders were just for your lenses, oh no my friend! Instead the small caps are perfect to squirt enough foundation/eye cream into for a short trip meaning your expensive glass bottle won’t run the risk of shattering all over your clothes. Just don’t forget and place your actual lenses in the beige goo overnight.
  • We all know that rolling clothes up is a real safe saver but you could go one further and bag your rolled up clothes into compartments or even looks to save you time rummaging through your case.
  • I’m still not sure why some hotels still give out free showers caps. Do people wear these at home…ever? But it’s a good idea to nab them so you can protect or cover the soles of your shoes when repacking your bag, great if you have mud splattered trekking boots.
  • Hair grips, bobby pins, kirby grips – whatever you call them they are like some mystical force in my life. I either have loads lying around the place or am scrambling at the bottom of my bag for a dusty-stuck-to-a-sweet-wrapper one to clip my hair back. But to save time, and space in your bag, how about using an empty tic tac box to keep them together. Handy!
  • Watching your pennies and don’t want to spend loads on drinks at the airport? Well nearly every airport should provide free drinking water so to take an empty bottle in your bag and fill up when you have passed security.
  • No space in your bag for your speakers? Fear not my friend just use the music on your smartphone and find a mug or pint glass (empty of course) and pop it in. Magical DIY speakers! I was left awestruck when my friend Rach showed me this technique in Nepal – genius.
  • Always have a pen in your hand luggage. For passing time writing your travel journal, jotting down ideas or just to save time going through customs when pens are either dried up or non-existent – you will be a hero amongst the other passengers if you let them use it too!

Have you got any travel tips that you use to help make your trip a breeze? If so share the love in the comments, tweet me or facebook me!

All The Small Things

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Sometimes it is the littlest things that make us happy that can often get overlooked. From waking up to warm sunshine to treating your taste buds to hanging out with a special someone, all of these simple pleasures should be noted and appreciated rather than just taken for granted. I thought I would share with you what has put a smile on my face the past week or so.

Arty: Seeing this random but cool mural painted on the wall in the car park of the local radiology clinic

Bouffant: Embracing the extra volume this humid spell has given my hurr

Treat: I am so bad with looking after my nails so I was a very willing guinea pig for when my friend Floraine offered to test out her new nail kit giving me shiny plum talons for free.

BBQ, BBQ, BBQ! Loving this heatwave and firing up the barbie at any occasion allowing my inner carnivore to run wild with ALL of the sausages and special BBQ wine! I think I was Australian in a past life. Including cooking Camembert on the hot coals for the first time and then dipping huge hunks of baguette into the gooey oozy gorgeous cheese.

Cakes!: Not bothering with counting calories and instead just enjoying freshly made cakes from the patisserie with mugs of tea and sticky fingers.

Nifty: Watching an unusual cutting the grass method of some men opposite my house where they used an old rope to manouver the lawn mower over the tricky bits!

Adventure: Booking flights to South America and getting giddy at the thought of our new adventure in the next few months.

Spoilt: Being taken for dinner and having fun trying to read the huge wall menu in handwritten French.

Proud: I managed to hold back the tears when picking my little sister up from the airport in Paris after her first solo flight. It is so lovely having her staying for a few weeks even if she did kick my ass at bowling!

So tell me what small things have made you happy recently?

P.S If photos are your thang then why not follow me on Instagram here?

{Books} What To Pop In Your Beach Bag

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Personally I believe books are as essential to a holiday as your passport! I remember using my two week summer holiday as an excuse to take part in some unorganised readathon where I seemed to compete against myself to clock up the most books I could devour in one holiday. My selection of beach reads would add some serious weight to my bursting suitcase (long before I got my sweaty mitts on a kindle) and I would sit by the pool or on the warm sand devouring book after book forgetting about the daily stresses of life back home.

For me a beach holiday or a lazy day spent in the park  or back garden is perfect for some R&R and to unleash your inner bookworm. I am going away for a week to the south of France on a family holiday soon and thought I would share with you what is on my Summer reading list and what I recommend for you to grab a copy of.

If you like : To dip in and out of short stories

Sunlounger 2 – Belinda Jones

I loved the first Sunlounger anthology enjoying the feeling of being taken to far flung exotic destinations as I sat in my bedroom. Jam-packed with the cream of the crop of womens fictions writers including my amazing mentor Rosie Blake, whose short tales will inspire you to grab your passport even if you had no plans to leave the country. The hotly anticipated second anthology has just been released and it is currently in the Amazon Summer sale for a tiny 99p  – a blooming bargain if you ask me!

If you like: Beautifully descriptive scenes

The Sea Sisters – Lucy Clarke

I read this when I was under the weather the other week as Clarke’s beautifully written words easily pulled me into the worlds of sisters Mia and Katie, definitely aiding my recovery process! The mixture of family ties, exploring why we travel plus some hidden secrets and lies makes for a compelling page turner.

If you like: The latest chick lit

What A Girl Wants – Lindsey Kelk

I have been a fan of the way Lindsey Kelk writes honest, real and hilarious books for years now and I think she is getting better with each new release. What A Girl wants is a follow up to About A Girl where Kelk teasingly left us on the edge determined to find out if the lead character Tess would pick perfect on paper Charlie or cocky love God Nick.

If you like: The celeb author

You’re The One That I Want – Giovanna Fletcher

You know you could easily dislike someone who is married to a celebrity, lives in a gorgeous house, has just had a baby and looks freaking beautiful and can actually write. Yep the green eyed monster came out in me but as I read Giovanna Fletcher’s (married to Tom from McFly btw) first novel Billy and Me I realised this girl has talent and didn’t get the book deal based on her connections alone. From the interviews I have seen with her and the rave reviews her latest book has received she seems like a genuinely talented writer and lovely lady.

If you like: The follow up

The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden – Jonas Jonasson

From the author who loves lengthy titles such as his previous hit novel: ‘The 100-year-old man who jumped out of the window and disappeared’ comes this latest release. The 100 year old man is currently being turned into a film which I cannot wait to see as I fell in love with the lead character, Allan Karlsson, when I read this book last year. Jonasson’s latest book has received mixed reviews with some saying the translation from his native tongue to English loses some of the natural prose but I am looking forward to making my own mind up.

If you like: Young Adult Fiction

Paper Towns –  John Green

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last year you will have heard about/read the book/seen the film ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. I told you about my love for this book here and also how I may have trekked round Amsterdam trying to recreate certain chapters. It is by far the best selling young adult fiction book Green has written but I want to get lost in his wonderful way with words once more so will be trying Paper Towns, which is also being made into a film apparently.

If you have read any of the books I am recommending or taking away on holiday with me then I would love to know what you thought! Or share with me what’s made your summer reading list.

Remember you can send me an email: katynotwedordead@gmail.com, find me on twitter, facebook or bloglovin as I’m always ready to talk books!

A Guide To French Etiquette

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Since living in France for just over a year (where the hell has that time gone?!) I have picked up on a few etiquette do’s and don’ts along the way. So if you are planning a trip to France this Summer then check this list out to ensure you don’t make any social faux pas or blunders. Learn from my mistakes my friends!

Queue – If you thought the British were well known for starting a queue and waiting patiently then you have never seen a popular boulangerie where locals will snake out of the door and down the street for the best baguette in town. No digging in elbows or slanging matches to get the last stick of freshly baked pain this is polite bread buying at its finest.

Kissing – French kissing is a mindfield that I touched upon in this post here. No not that kind of tongue sandwich French kissing but the one where you offer your cheek for an air kiss with a lip-smacking sound. Depending on the region you may start from the left or the right side and it can be up to two kisses on each cheek. To avoid embarrassment let the person you are meeting take the lead and only go in for the kiss or faire la bise if you feel comfortable.

Dinner Time Rules OK – What I love about living here is the importance of meal times, not just because I am a big fat pig well ok maybe that has a small part to do with it, but because the French have impeccable table manners and really like to make a meal out of a… er… meal. So you must wait for everyone to have a drink in hand before you take a sip, don’t even think about touching that tempting bowl of olives or apero crisps until others have started and unless the house catches on fire you stay at the table until everyone has finished (this may take hours depending on the amount of course you will be ploughing through).

Greetings – When you enter a shop no matter how big or small you are guaranteed to have a smiling (ok sometimes they may have a face like they are sucking a lemon) shop assistant greet you with a friendly bonjour which you are expected to return out of politeness.

Top Tip – It is not a country of big tippers for services or in bars or restaurants. Most bills will come with a service charge already included but sometime you may have to check how you can donner un pourboire (leave a tip) as it is not always expected.

On the 7th Day – As many villages and cities become practically deserted ghost towns on Sundays, it is the perfect time to join other French families having walks by the beach, a lazy long lunch or a siesta. Definitely easy like a Sunday morning over here.

Gossiping – The French are very social and love a good chinwag no matter the time or the place, if two friends spot each other in the street and want to have a little catch up then the world can move on around them even if they are stood in the middle of a zebra crossing for 5 minutes or so. True story.

Patience Is A Virtue– The motorways (autoroutes) usually make for an enjoyable and calm driving experience as they are empty compared to the ones back in England. I think this leisurely driving style also equates to rather zen drivers as, in my French town, it is very rare to hear a car horn blaring out in annoyance at some petty road rage.

Have you ever been to France or made a complete idiot of yourself in another country as you didn’t understand the social etiquette rules?

You can now email me: katynotwedordead@gmail.com or tweet me or facebook me. Get involved peeps!

The ‘Must Do’ List: Thailand

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When I decided to follow my heart and make one of the biggest decisions of my life by leaving a job I loved, friends and family who had helped me through the craziest time in my life and luxuries such as my own (albeit prone to crashing) little car and fine collection of shoes and makeup, this decision to cut loose and travel alone was made easier by focusing my mind on the things I would be seeing, doing and experiencing rather than focusing on the things I would be leaving behind.

Surrounded by piles of travel brochures I would daydream over glossy pictures of pure white shores, ridiculously pretty bright flowers, mouth-watering exotic food and smiling local faces. I knew Thailand was on top of my list of places to go. Ok so I guess it is kinda cliché that you don a backpack and find your feet in Bangkok before going island hopping and raving at beach parties but even if it is a well-worn travellers route that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth adding your footsteps to it. For a first time traveller I took courage in the fact so many before me, in a similar confused state of mind, had paved the way and I am sure for many years to come others will follow.

So if you are in search of jaw dropping temples, doing a Leo hunting for a paradise beach or wanting to get lost in the debauchery of Bangkok then here is a list of things you shouldn’t miss during your first time in this wonderful country:

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Bridge on the River Kwai – Kanchanaburi – Also known as ‘Death Railway’ for the thousands of prisoners of war who lost their lives building the tracks in the Second World War, a section of the railway still stands crossing the River Kwai and has become something of a tourist hotspot. You can take a daytrip from Bangkok to visit the site, wander round the nearby museum and experience the rugged terrain surrounding the River Kwai.

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Full Moon Party – Ko Phangan – A must for any party animal to spend your night under the bright spell of the moon dancing on a packed beach with strangers from across the whole world, truly an experience you won’t forget any time soon.

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Thai Massage - Chiang Mai – Ah the spine stretching vigorous rub of a Thai massage. Why not experience this at the hands of a con? In Chiang Mai the local women prisoners have opened a massage parlour as part of a job-training rehabilitation service. As well as getting pampered you can also pick up handmade gifts and munch on freshly baked treats in the cafe.

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Street food – Bangkok – Don’t be put off by the people who tell you that street food equals instant sickness. If you chose the stall that has the largest queue of locals then you know the food is fresh, authentic and most of all extremely cheap. Get challenging those taste buds I promise you it will be worth it!

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Fire Show – Koh Toa – Sat on comfy cushions in the sand with a cold Tiger beer in your hand admiring the athleticism of Thai men swirling sticks of fire, in a combination of acrobatic and dancing skill, is a great way to spend an evening. Then with your new found dutch courage (thanks to the buckets of cheap spirits) have a go limboing under a flaming rope –  just make sure to get down low and tie your hair back as the smell of burning flesh or cindered locks is a real party atmosphere mood killer.

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Night Market – Chiang Mai - The Sunday evening market is chocka block full of locals spread out over the floor nabbing any free space to lay down rugs displaying their handicrafts. Go early to avoid the crowds, soak up the atmosphere and practice your bartering skills for some beautiful handcrafted wares at this lively bazaar.

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Chilled Bliss – Koh Lanta Leo may have found paradise beach set on Koh Phi Phi but that is now a tourist hotspot so for a real feeling ‘of you’ time head to Koh Lanta where they are the masters of chillaxing. Embrace your inner sloth where your biggest decisions will be when you next stuff your face, take a dip in the clear warm waters or find a spot on the practically deserted beaches. Tough choices.

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The Beach -Koh Phi Phi – Maya Beach was thrust into the limelight after the 2000 hit film ‘The Beach’ was shot here. 14 years later and thousands of tourists still flock en masse to see the azure warm waters, limestone cliffs and multi-coloured long boats gently bobbing on the surf, unfortunately hunky Leo isn’t included in the trip.

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Jungle Trek – Chiang Mai – Spend the night deep in the lush green jungle with the darkest night sky you have ever seen and the call of tropical birds and bright sunlight to wake you. There are various trekking companies that cater for every level of fitness that also allow you to cool off in natural inviting waterfalls, get up close to elephants in a locally run sanctuary or sample the hill tribe villagers way of life during your trip.

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Khao San Road – Bangkok – The street where anything goes. Want to drink snake blood, eat a fried cockroach, see a woman shoot objects out of her private parts, drunk travellers murder an Oasis song on Karaoke or just be dazzled by the neon lights and noise of this world famous street? You can have it all and more down on this must see strip.

Have you visited Thailand before? What have I missed out of this list that you would urge other backpackers to see/do/experience? I would love to hear from you!

(Remember you can also find me by dropping me an email: katynotwedordead@gmail.com, on Twitter here, Facebook here or Bloglovin’ by clicking here – Lets be friends!)