How to spend time in London without spending all your money

IMG_5962Early in June, Pav and I decided to go to London for our high school reunion. And since London can be fairly expensive, we wanted to be as smart about spending it (and to still be able to shop).

Considering our trip was planned fairly last minute, we managed to get great deal on both flight and hotel. So, how did we do it all?

The flight

Here, we decided to look for the best deal that was available. Two weeks before the trip, this meant Ryan Air. For the same price we could have ticket with other airlines, we had two with Ryan Air. Their flight times were convenient for our itinerary. The downside was their baggage policy (as is with most low cost carriers), so we each had to pack into a carry-on. Which, for us, is a challenge. But we managed! And after a fairly uneventful flight, we arrived and London Stansted airport. (Ror a full Ryanair review, click here)

Public Transportation

Having never been to Stansted, we had to figure out beforehand, how we’d get to London. We decided National Express buses were the best way to go (even though there are a bunch of other options). The bus was comfortable, had Wi-Fi and the journey would have been a pleasant, if there hadn’t been an accident on the highway, causing us to spend two hours in stand-still traffic. Finally, we got off at Liverpool Street station and quickly navigated the tube and bus system to get ourselves to the hotel.


The Hotel

Since we were, trying to stay on budget, we decided to stay in EasyHotel Old Street. You get what you pay for – good location, easy public transportation access and decent sized room are offset by the loudness and lack of space. But, let’s face it, if you’re in London for two and a half days, you really won’t be spending that much time at the hotel anyway.

The Activities

Our first trip was to Oxford Street, with its Marks&Spencer cafe and their jacket potato we just can’t get enough of. As an added benefit, we had lunch under £5.

Since we were already on Oxford Street, we ducked into our favorite stores – New Look, Forever 21, M&S, and then landed in Boots and Superdrugs to buy some makeup, that we recently learned we needed. We peeked into Primark, but the crowds looked too menacing for us to venture inside… thinking “maybe tomorrow”, we backed out as soon as we hit the entrance.

TIP from Alena – if you want to shop on Oxford Street, go in the morning on a weekday, you’ll avoid most of the crowds and save a lot of time by not having to constantly wait in line.

And while we were at the Marble Arch end of Oxford Street, we couldn’t resist and went to see the newest statue, the She Guardian. If its purpose is to frighten people, it definitely succeeds. In real life, it’s even bigger than it seems on pictures and makes even less sense. The tube ride wrapped the day up in a fairly uneventful day and we were excited to get back to the hotel. You might think that that’s a bring way for two girls in their twenties to spend a Friday night in London, but it was just what we needed. And we always knew that there were a few charming looking pubs within a few blocks if we suddenly changed our decision.

On Saturday, we got up bright and early (as far as we could tell in our windowless room) and headed out with no specific destination in mind. After a stop in Starbucks to fulfill our coffee quota for the morning, we knew what we wanted to do – go to Kings Cross and take a picture at platform 9 3/4.

We got there surprisingly quickly and found the famous Harry Potter spot – along with a line of about 50 people waiting to take a picture. You can stand at a cart that is partly “inside” the wall and you even get a Gryffindor scarf to put around your neck. Or, you can be like us and sneak in a picture while people in the official line are switching places. Security is not fond of this though, so we soon got shooed. (Pav’s phone decided to not work, so I had to do the sneaking)


Our next stop was Buckingham Palace and changing of the guards – or so we thought. After I admitted to Pav, that I STILL haven’t seen changing of the guards, we decided it would be a necessary stop – the timing was perfect, we had time, so why not. Only after deciding against it and turning to leave, we noticed the TV cameras. So we doubled back and caught a decent place in front of the palace. And then we found out that it was not changing of the guards, but dress rehearsal for Trooping of the Colour parade. It was definitely worth it – and we even saw Prince Charles. We got lucky – not only were we standing near the front and had a good view, the police officer that was stationed near us was providing a group of tourists with very detailed information about the event, so we even learned something.


From here, we took a walk through St. James’ park towards Westminster Abbey and Big Ben and took the mandatory selfie there. Even though it was colder than expected, it was a bright and sunny day and those are always great in London.IMG_5969

Our last “touristy” stop was St. Paul’s Cathedral and with sunset lighting, it was breathtaking. We spent Saturday night at our high school reunion and flew out via Ryan Air and Stansted Airport at 6am on Saturday, which required a 2:30 am wakeup.

IMG_5461  Overall, we didn’t spend a lot of money, and if we hadn’t shopped as much as we did, the whole weekend would’ve been a bargain. So London is definitely possible on a budget, you just have to know where to look and not insist on amazing locations for your hotel.


How we flew with Ryan Air

Festival survival tips

Festival survival tips

Festivals are cool. Who doesn’t love seeing three days’ worth of music for the price of less than one concert? This year, I felt like I might be a bit too old for a three day festival that opens up the season in the Czech Republic (and is mostly attended by teenagers), but Pav convinced me. And I didn’t regret it.

Pav and I started going last year. So, if you’re not fifteen and no longer think the lack of plumbing romantic, and you want to survive these things with a little sanity, follow our tips.

  1. If you’re staying in a tent, pay extra for the VIP area. Its cleaner (no trash waiting for you as you crawl out of your tent in the morning) and chances of survival are much higher – less people means smaller chance of your skull being bashed in by a random passerby who loses his balance and falls on your tent.
  2. Be nice to your tent neighbors. You don’t want to come back at 3am to find your tent in a pile on the grass. Offer them a shot right off the bat to cultivate good relationships. When the time comes for one of them to throw up, they will be more inclined to lean the other way.
  3. Whether you’re sleeping there or not – antibacterial gel. Toilets, grass, railings…who knows what you’re going to touch. And let’s face it – best festival food is eaten by hand. This leads me to…
  4. Don’t forget to eat. It might be fried and it’s definitely far from your normal healthy food lifestyle, but let’s face it – if you’re drinking there, you want to eat.
  5. Water, water, water….do I really need to elaborate?
  6. Go to bands you don’t know or aren’t really interested in. Worst case scenario, you’ll walk away. You might also find new music you like OR you might catch the interprets attention since you will causally be standing there fairly indifferent to what’s going on onstage which will make him try to catch your attention (true story).
  7. Have fun. Dance. Because when else can you let go than in an open field in the middle of the summer with some of your favorite bands playing?
  8. Packing list: antibacterial gel, hairbrush, water, warm socks and enough hair ties. What duct tape is to some, hair ties are to others. I recommend bringing a bunch. And tissues, there can never be enough tissues. Don’t forget to check out the weather forecast to see if you need a bikini top or rain boots. Or both :)

So, send this article to your friends and check out what festivals are coming up. You might even have unexpected fun :)


9 tips for train travel in the summer

How to become na International student at a college in the United States of ‘Murica in 15 steps

9 Tips for Train Travel in the Summer


train 1Everyone loves travelling by train. It’s easy, cheap and you don’t need a designated driver. Here are a couple of tips to make your travels even better, whether you travel alone or with your friends.

  1. DRINKS! – Always have enough drinks with you! You never know when the train will stop in the middle of nowhere, s o you have to hydrate the whole time.
  1. Entertainment – Whether your side is short or several hours long, make sure you bring magazines, a book or anything else that will make your journey more fun and distract you from the blistering heat.
  1. Get a seat! – Some train companies charge extra for a designated seat. Pay the extra money! Its more relaxing and at least you won’t have to keep moving out of people’s way when they walk down the aisle. Standing for the duration of a five hour journey isn’t fun either.
  1. Book early – If you will buy a seat, book early! Especially when travelling in groups, you don’t want to get separated.
  1. Try to sit far from families with little kids – The kids WILL have energy and WILL make it obvious to the whole train, so if you can, stay away from them and their inevitable sticky fingers.
  1. Noise Canceling Headphones – If you fear the families, bring noise canceling headphones. They won’t change the sticky fingers, but your music will drone out their high-pitched screams.
  1. Plan well, but be flexible – Know what time you will arrive, but know that thatrain3t could easily change. So be flexible with your plans and try not to get too frustrated when they change.
  1. Sit in the right direction – If you get motion sickness, don’t ravel backwards. If your bought seat is in the wrong direction, ask someone to change, it will save you a very uncomfortable ride.
  1. Air conditioning – Seems obvious, but pick a train company that has the AC.

Do you travel by train a lot? Do you use any of these tricks or are you planning to try them out? Let us know in the comments!


Festival survival tips

How to become na International student at a college in the United States of ‘Murica in 15 steps