Friday, 26 June 2015

How to Find the best beach holiday deal + Holiday Deals

I was joking with my friend the other week saying that we should set up a travel agency because we have both been finding and booking flights and holidays for our friends and family just recently so here we go with a feature that I'm going to make a regular thing on here because let's face it everybody loves a holiday but we don't always have the cash to spend a fortune on one. There's nothing better than lying under an umbrella on a sunny beach with the sound of waves crashing against the sand and the smell of sea air but finding and choosing a holiday which is right for you can be a bit of a minefield so I'm hoping to help you find the best cheap beach holidays available in 2015.


Useful Websites

There's a few websites which I can definitely recommend when it comes to beach holidays; the aptly named www.onthebeach.com offers some great beach holidays at very affordable prices. There's some amazing deals to be had on family hotels at family friendly prices such as resorts in Egypt with water parks within the resort. Prices range from the low £300's to the mid £400's per person. 

www.lastminute.com could be mistaken for being a 'last minute deals only' kind of website but they offer cheap beach holidays all year round to destinations like Turkey, the Algarve and Tenerife which are stunning places for adults only to relax but they also have lots of fun things to do for children. 

Travel Supermarket is an excellent site to use when looking for a holiday, you can select your desired dates, destination and even your budget and it will do all the searching for you to come up with the best deals for your holiday. It even tells you if cheap holidays are available just outside your set dates which is great if you have a little bit of flexibility. Try it yourself at www.travelsupermarket.com

Beach holidays aren't just about the beach

There are beautiful beaches all around the med, so chances are you'll be spoilt for choice when looking for your 2015 holiday; which is why it's important to look at what's around the beach. Some beach holiday locations offer much more to do for adults and children alike, whether that be beach and sea activities such as water sports, or tourist hot spots nearby for example waterparks, historical towns or local excursions. Make sure the beach isn't the only reason you're choosing a location because if it is, a couple of days in you may find yourself without much to do (especially if you have a young family!).

Most popular cheap beach holiday locations

Spain offer some great cheap beach holidays such as Majorca and lots of great locations in the Malaga area. If you're looking to Barcelona for your Spanish getaway, expect to pay a little more, but if you keep your eyes peeled you can find some great deals throughout the year.

*in collaboration with cheapbeachholidays.co.uk

Here are some of the best deals I could find which are departing in July, August or September:

Perfect for lads or lasses holiday: 

7 Nights in Lively Magaluf Hotel (bed & breakfast) 06/07/2015 - 14/07/2015 Flying from Manchester - from £281 per person (found on cheapbeachholidays.co.uk) - Lively Magaluf is exactly as it says on the tin, a party hotel in the heart of all the action in Magaluf, don't expect luxury but expect a bloomin' good time if that's the kind of holiday you're looking for.

Perfect for families who have to travel in school holidays:

10 Nights All Inclusive in Turbo Club (Maspalomas, Gran Canaria) 06/08/2015 - 16/08/2015
Flying from Manchester - from £323.17 per person based on 2 adults 2 children (found on onthebeach.co.uk) - Turbo Club has 3.5/5 on Trip Advisor and is said to be in a great location near the beach with very lovely surroundings. 

What would be your criteria for a perfect cheap summer getaway (ie. price & location)?

NEXT WEEK: How to find the best deal on Disneyland Paris
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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

How I bought a bottle of YSL Black Opium without Money from my own pocket

Ahh 'free money', that elusive thing that just never actually ends up being as it seems. It's true, there isn't such a thing as free money in the sense that you always have to do something for your money whether it's through investment of time or actual money. But cashback is the next best thing.

I think cash back is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts on the internet at the moment the notion of getting money back for shopping is quite weird for lots of people purely because there are so many people who are out there to scam us. However, I can vouch 100% for reputable cashback sites and say that they are totally reliable and not out to scam anybody and I know this because I've just been able to buy this little beauty... 



Here we have £38 worth of YSL Black Opium, and I didn't have to worry about it coming out of my monthly wage at all. Since March this year I've been shopping online as I usually would, buying all different things from garden furniture to car hire abroad and travel insurance and I got paid the grand old sum of £41 just last week just for going through Quidco before I actually went to the website where I wanted to buy something from.

How and why do Quidco actually offer a service like that? Well it's called affiliate linking; every time someone clicks through that link they also earn money from it as well as you so it's a win-win situation for them.

Why should you sign up? Well it just makes sense if you shop online (or in store because they have provision for that too!), because the majority of online shopping sites offer cashback through Quidco all at varying rates but if you remember to go through Quidco every time your cashback mounts up pretty quickly and it really does feel like you're getting free money because you'd be buying the product regardless of the cashback so why not get some money back where you can?

How do you sign up? You just go to the Quidco website and type in your details, you don't even need to put any bank account details in if you don't want, you can do it through PayPal (although there are a few retailers who ask that you do it through your bank but this is usually for insurance products). Then you just have to remember to buy everything through Quidco for your cashback to track and be paid, you can download an add on for your browser which comes up with a reminder at the top of the page when you visit a retailer who works with Quidco. 

I've said the word Quidco far too many times in the space of one post so I'm going to shut up now but the top and bottom is that this is your opportunity to earn some money back just by shopping so if you haven't already, go and sign up!

Are you already using Quidco, if not why not?!

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Monday, 22 June 2015

Quarter-Life Crisis and realisations

The title of this is so cliche it makes me feel a bit sick and I don't even know if a 'quarter life crisis' is even a thing, is it? 

Anyway, I just wanted to talk to you about the fact that I'm a bit fed up with adulting at the moment, I'm not right keen on this responsibilities lark and I sure as hell don't like missing out on so much sleep. I used to be able to get up at 12pm with absolutely no consequence, I used to have a Thursday cleaning lady (my nana) who used to tidy up my bedroom to stop it getting in such a state that you couldn't see the floor and my mum did everything for me (she even used to bring me a bowl of Weetabix every morning to try and coax me out of bed). I was spoiled as a child, not so much in the sense of money (although I always had nice things), but in the sense that I was never forced to really do anything for myself. Then I moved out and BAM! I had to get up in the morning with only the aid of a very loud, obnoxious alarm clock and I don't bloody like it anymore. I've had enough.


I expected my 20's to be completely and utterly different to how they actually are, I expected to be totally carefree, without ties, without really any worry for anyone but myself. The harsh reality is that I have a full time job (not one that I expect to have, but we'll get on to that), I have bills to pay and I have a husband to please. Just recently I went through a stage where I felt hard done to, I felt like I was the only one not having fun all the time, I was the only one with responsibilities... I felt like the only proper adult out of all the people my age. The reality is that all my friends are adults with very real responsibilities (some with responsibilities that actually eat and breathe and make nice little parcels inside nappies), I just haven't cared to look outside my own little bubble and realise that I am a grown up.

I had a little breakdown moment last week where I panicked a bit. I worried that I wasn't doing what I wanted in my life and that it was just passing me by without me stopping to actually enjoy it. Then I realised that there was one common denominator in why I feel like this: me. My own conscience is what holds me back. Fair enough I could technically walk away from my job and tell Jason that I wasn't doing it and I was going to go and do xyz and I could tell him that I wasn't going to be there to help co-ordinate a function because I wanted to go out with the lasses. But I am an adult with responsibilities, I can't be selfish. I know that I also need a life outside of my marriage and job but with a bit of careful juggling, the three should go hand in hand quite nicely without me having to feel guilty for neglecting anyone or anything. 

I've gone through some pretty big personal changes over the past 2 years and most of those changes are down to me losing weight, I was adamant it wouldn't change me and I'm certain that it hasn't changed me in a negative way but it has changed me. I'm a more confident person now, I want to live my life and I aren't embarrassed anymore so the whole juggling thing is quite a new thing because before I was quite happy to plod along as I was but now I want more. I've said yes to more things over the past 6-8 months or so than I have in the last 5 years and I absolutely love having a social life back. 

My job was the next thing to come under scrutiny; doing what I do now isn't what I expected to be doing at all. If you asked me at 16 what I was going to be doing aged 25 I would have said living in London working for a big retail company or being a teacher, two different paths I know but one of those is honestly where I thought I'd be now. There are times when I love what I do, honestly love it but there's also times when I feel like I'm banging my head against a brick wall but then I realised that probably 80% of people, if not more, feel like that about their job because it's work. If we all got paid to do something that we absolutely loved 100% of the time, well wouldn't that be a wonderful world to live in!

The bottom line is that I have realised that although I come across as being quite grown up and mature, there are times when I'm actually not and I'm actually quite immature when it comes to manning up to my adult responsibilities. However, I'm hoping that I'm not alone in these feelings I've had about being an adult, is it normal to not want to do it, or am I just being a bit stupid?!

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Thursday, 18 June 2015

A Girls Holiday with a Difference - without spending a fortune?

My best friend got engaged at the beginning of the month so obviously talk of a hen party (or two) has begun and a girls holiday is always an option but none of us would have a big budget to spend on going abroad because we have boring commitments like mortgages etc. The budget destination which spring to mind when I think about a girls holiday are probably either Magaluf or Benidorm; both are well known Spanish party resorts which thousands of Brits flock to every year. But as we all know the world is a big place and there are places out there which are just as fun and lively but are just a little bit different and they still don't break the bank.

Laganas is on the Greek island of Zante (posh name: Zakynthos), it's a popular 18-30's destination and it's the perfect place to enjoy sun and sea mixed with lively nightlife and some more 'alternative' activities that you might want to try. Laganas has lots to offer to keep you occupied and it doesn't just involved getting drunk every night! Along with the white sandy beaches here are some of the things which you could also partake in while you're there:

Turtle Spotting -  Zante is famous for Loggerhead Sea Turtles and you can take a boat trip to see them in their natural environment; something I've always wanted to do!

Day Trip to a Neighbouring Island - Kefalonia and Olympia are both quite close to Zante so they're ideal destinations for a boat trip. I can vouch for Kefalonia and say that it's a beautiful island; we went a couple of years ago, it's very quiet and very Greek!

Greek Night - There are obviously hundreds of different bars in Laganas but I definitely recommend finding somewhere which does a proper authentic Greek night because they are so much fun! There's food, drinking, dancing and plate smashing - what's not to love?!


Hire a car - The perfect way to explore the whole island of Zante, we always hire cars no matter where we go and I always imagined driving on the other side of the road to be really hard but after the initial ten minutes or so it's an absolute breeze and the roads in Greece are generally a lot quieter which makes it easier. (Age restrictions might apply, most hire companies usually have a lower age limit and don't forget your driving licence if you plan to do this!).

Exploring the caves - Usually visited via boat, the Blue Caves are a natural beauty, some boat trips take you right inside the caves where you can get out and have a dip in the crystal clear blue water.

A place like Laganas would be brilliant if you're looking to do other things rather than party every single night (although you'd be forgiven if you set aside a couple of nights to do that, I know I would!). Aside from bars and clubs there's so much to do no matter what you're into and the good news is that it doesn't cost a fortune for you to visit. Flights from Manchester in July plus a weeks self catering accommodation comes out at less than £250 per person which in my opinion is a great price especially for July when the weather is pretty much guaranteed to be good.

Side note: I'm thinking of making holiday deals a regular feature on Girl Up North, maybe a round up of some cheap holiday deals leaving from northern airports, I would really enjoy writing posts like that and I hope you'll enjoy them too!

Where would you recommend for a girls holiday?

*in collaboration with Holiday Gems*

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