When Friends Visit

I have a love-hate relationship with having friends come visit London. I love pretty much everything about it: reuniting my friends, showing them my favorite places in London, traveling, etc. But it really stresses me out. I think it’s all part of the wanting everyone to be having a good time always thing. Working from home, I can be around my friends, but can’t really go and do anything with them, so I kind of have to send them off on their own during the day and then meet up with them in the evening.

We also have a very, very small flat. This means that air mattress is a way to go, and I must say…it isn’t a comfy air mattress.

However, despite all of this, I am always inviting friends to come stay. We’ve developed a bit of a routine for when friends/family visit that guarantees they see more than just the touristy stuff. As I mentioned, I ship my friends off into London during the day with decent directions on how to get places and my personal recommendations. Then, when everyone is free, we go for the following:

  • Fish & Chips – We used to pick up fish and chips from Moxie’s in Clapham South and bring it home to our friends. Now that we’ve moved, our go to is Kerbisher & Malt on Abbeville Road. Craft beers + delicious fish (& scampi!) + an overload of chips = heaven on earth.IMG_0001.JPG

 

  • Our Local Pub – Sunday roast, Wednesday burger night, any day drinks – it’s the perfect opportunity to show our friends a *real* London pub.  

 

  • A Swanky Bar – There are so many that I want to try! Rooftops, sky high bars, pop ups. I usually drag my friends to something I’ve never even been to, but sometimes I go for a repeat.  

 

  • Cook at Home – Save money. Eat in pajamas. Show off our new cooking skills. Drink wine. Play Cards Against Humanity. Everyone wins on the nights when we just can’t be bothered to do anything.IMG_5193

 

  • Afternoon Tea – If we have a free weekend day, this is probably my favorite thing to do with visiting friends. It’s extremely British and so good for a girls day out!IMG_4001.JPG

 

  • Ticketed Event – There is ALWAYS something going on in London. From Cocktail Week (Marisa’s visit) to pop up experiences to musicals and plays, there are endless things to do that provide a great London experience without all of the tourist queues.IMG_0020

 

  • Weekend Away – I try to travel with every friend who visits. After all, they’re coming all the way across the ocean, so it’s worth seeing more than just London! This started when Sara visited last year after I first moved here and we went to Nice. Then, Marisa visited and we hit Marseille. We choose a cheap and relatively quick place so we can make the most of it and just go!IMG_1568

This list has changed a bit, but after Sara’s (second) visit this past week, I think this is the best of the combinations. It’s nice to have a little routine that we can tailor to each friend who visits. Next I need to figure out the perfect three day itinerary for sending my friends off to explore London on their own.

Who wants to be my next visitor?

Favorite Travel Websites: Transport & Accommodation

I promised Sean I wouldn’t start planning a bunch of trips for 2016. Yeah…I lied. The thing is, I love to travel. And everybody knows that. So I’m pretty much always planning some trip or another. With the year winding down, I cannot help but look forward to what trips I can take next year, so the past couple of days have been spent looking up itineraries and flights and AirBnbs.

I’ve been so fortunate to travel so much over the past couple of years that my friends often come to me for advice on planning trips – where to go, where to get cheap deals, etc. So, since I’m doing a bit of planning on my own right now, I’ve decided to put together a list of my favorite places to go to find accommodation and transport for the many trips I plan in my head.

Flights & Trains

Direct Websites – BA, EasyJet

For loyalty purposes, I go straight to British Airways. It’s always my first stop for flight checking. BA is easiest for me since I’m flying out of London, but when I was Boston-based it was JetBlue. I recommend picking an airline that serves your local airport and covers nearly any destination you could need to get to! I also use EasyJet when they’re having a sale. Honestly, you can get European flights for so cheap…usually about £60 RT even if booked last minute. It’s not the most comfortable airline, but I really don’t mind it that much, especially for the price.

1926926_10153225106489254_7570582851476058576_n

[A quick (and cheap) EasyJet flight to Nice and bam…this view!]

Skyscanner

When I’m not getting my way on the BA website (aka prices are extortianate), I pretty much always use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flight options. It pulls together different airlines and even mix and matches to find the cheapest combination. My favorite part is that I can filter the departure times to get the most out of my stay!

Seat61

Sean and I do so many weekend trips that trains are not usually an option. However, for longer trips (often when I’m doing many cities at a time), I find it to be a cheaper and more scenic alternative to planes, especially when traveling within the same country. Seat61 is great because it tells you the best and cheapest way to get from place to place.

10300671_10152400436154254_5432901018672405473_n

[My friend Jamie and I did a lot of train travel on our Salzburg – Vienna – Budapest – Bucharest trip. I used Seat61 throughout the entire planning process to figure out our options]

Accommodation

AirBnb

As I’ve stated before, and will continue to state, AirBnb is my first choice when it comes to planning trips. For a cheaper price, you get clean and modern accommodation (if you look carefully) in a great location with a host that will give local advice. I’ve had some amazing experiences and some questionable ones, but I still consider it to be the best source for accommodation. I recommend researching neighborhoods and reading reviews before picking a place to stay – pictures may lie but reviewers rarely do!

IMG_3807

[The AirBnb Marisa and I stayed at in Marseille is probably the nicest one I’ve stayed in yet – I honestly wanted to copy and paste the furnishings into my own home!]

IMG_2410

[Sean and I stayed in a gorgeous and perfectly located AirBnb in Florence with THIS view. It was right on the water, so I’m not even kidding that this was the exact view. I was in heaven for four straight days.]

Booking.com

I found the B&B my dad and I stayed at in Bruge on Booking.com and it is probably my favorite B&B…ever! This website brings out unique options, not all of the main brand named hotels. It has a mix of expensive and inexpensive, so is good for anyone. The only downside is that there aren’t many listings in some cities.

10251905_10152399288164254_3552812369215261988_n

[Our breakfast at Maison Bousson in Bruges, complete with a flight of juices/smoothies/yogurts]

Expedia

For everything else, there is Expedia. It’s great for last minute deals or special packages, but I don’t think the prices vary much when booking in advance, which is why the above two booking methods always come first!

Bonus: Groupon

I like to keep an eye on Groupon deals because they can sometimes cover both flights and accommodation! Sean and I booked our trip to Milan for about £220 for both flights and two nights accommodation in a 4* hotel. Of course, they try to get you to buy add ons and try to rip you off with flight times and hotel location, but it was a nice to not have to worry about finding stuff for ourselves. I love planning, but for those who don’t (or for a last minute getaway), packaged deals are great!