Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Packed Lunches and the Importance of Sticking to a Budget (And why I'm really bad at it)

I have extremely extravagant tastes. I recognize this about myself. It's a running joke in my family that my father raised me that way in order to ensure that I wouldn't end up with just any old guy... and that it came back to bite him in the butt.

I know I am extremely lucky to have never gone without. But it's left me with a rather difficult time when it comes to budgeting. I get my heart set on certain things and never really pay attention to the price.

Matt is the exact opposite when it comes to a budget. Regardless of sharing my same luck, he's always very conscious of money, especially when we travel. Which was/is incredibly important when we're essentially running on whatever two college students can save up.

This also has to be the time that I inform you... I get really difficult to deal with when I get too hungry. This poses a bit of a problem because a lot of the places we visit don't have places to eat out. Even when they do it's hard to find a place that is both affordable and fits my specifications and Matt's (mostly mine).

This is where packed lunches come super in handy.

For places like Stonehenge and Kew (that post is coming soon!) we brought packed lunches and it saved us tons! It also allows you to eat whenever and wherever you want. It saves you the time you would spend trying to find, and agree, on a place to eat. It also saves you cash. This is very important, it also saves you cash.

Also, for those of us traveling out of the country and staying in a hotel, that hotel most likely will have a mini-fridge! Just find a local market and buy whatever you'll need for lunches there. It's still a lot cheaper than restaurants and cafe's. Even if the hotel doesn't have a fridge, buying lunch and dinner from markets and grocery stores still saves you money.

When it came to the end of my stay, I had found something online that I wanted to do for a special night out (I really can't remember what it was and it's not entirely important). I asked Matt if we could do it and he simply said, "We can't afford it." When I asked why we couldn't, he told me we'd spent too much on our other trips. I realized then that every time he'd asked me if we could find a different, cheaper place to eat, and I had (very spoiled- brat like) stamped my foot and said no, I was depriving both of us of another experience. And I felt (and still feel) horrible.

So, this is really more of a life lesson than it is a travel lesson but, it still applies. Always be aware of your financial situation and realize that if you continually opt for instant gratification you're going to miss out on bigger things in the long run. That's not cynical thinking, that's the long and short of it.

And while packed lunches won't solve all our money woes, they are a great first step :)

(plus you guarantee chocolate!)

T x

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Westminster Abbey (Also, Preparing Yourself for Crowds)

Firstly, let me offer my sincerest apologies for leaving the blog without love and updates for so long. This is the time of year when Matt and I have to go back to living separate lives together. He's gone back to school and I have returned home to... figure my life out? I think that's what I'm doing... at least I'm applying to grad school, which is something. 

Second, one huge apology to Matt. I know, darling, that my neglect of the blog has made you sad BUT IT'S BACK NOW xxx

Now that we've taken care of that lets get down to business (to defeat the huns). 

I may have mentioned before that this is my absolute favorite landmark in all of London...
This picture was taken by me. Clearly I am bad at this.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Oyster Card because... Pearls... and Something about the World

When Matt and I were on our way home from Westminster (post coming soon :D) we ran into a couple of American tourists trying to figure out the travel card system. And it wasn't until we were through on the other side of the gates that we realized that one of them already had a day long travel card but didn't realize it and was going to buy another, completely unnecessary, ticket.

I realize that I am also an American tourist but I'm extremely lucky to have Matt there with me at every turn as I explore not just the world but specifically his home. So when I first arrived in London two summers ago and he handed me something called an Oyster Card, it never occurred to me that other tourists (American or not) wouldn't know about it.
This is an Oyster Card 
According to Matt an Oyster Card is named after oysters because when you have it the world is your oyster or something like that. But the concept is pretty much that, Oyster Cards are not as easily lost as tickets, can be topped up whenever, and used as long as you want and you can go anywhere in London.You can also register this card so that if it gets lost or stolen you can get your money back.

 If you buy an Oyster Card in London (at any tube station, some London travel info centers or oyster ticket shops) you can purchase a standard pay as you go card for a small deposit. Whenever you are running low on funds for traveling you can top it up at any tube station and be on your way.

You could also order a Visitors Card online for a certain set amount (with a card fee). The best part about buying a standard pay as you go card is that when you leave, you can turn it in and get your deposit back. For full (and probably clearer) details you can visit their website.

Oyster Cards all come with holders similar to this:
They can have different designs though
I really, very highly recommend getting an Oyster Card. It's not hard to fit (or find) in your purse, clutch, wallet, or pocket. To pass through the gates to the tube you simply have to touch the card (you don't even have to take it out of it's holder!)to a yellow touch pad and it automatically pays the fare. This provides the added bonus of not having to worry about off-peak vs. peak times etc.

It's so difficult to learn the tube for the first time let alone try to figure out the (rather complicated) ticket system as well. I really hope that this helps make getting around to the amazing sites of London much easier.