I completed the Uber Frugal Month Challenge (UFM) in 2020 with some really positive behaviours which have slipped during this crazy year, and due to deciding to have bariatric surgery, I will be entering February 2021 with personal debt of nearly £10k which I have never had before in my life! Though mine and hubby’s personal debt is now only the mortgage- we have paid off the car loan, bought a new second car outright (for a bargain) and paid off our credit card this year. Hubby has changed jobs and this one is much less money than his previous job, though he is so much happier which is the most important thing, meaning we have a little less money to play with than previous years. We have adapted to the reduction- we lowered the mortgage OP to £50 from £250 and paid off the car loan ‘saving’ £200, meaning we haven’t had to miss the larger wage too much!
One problem I have is that I do love things, hence the title of the blog being aiming for the good life, as I am not quite sure what that actually looks like, but I am trying to head in the right direction. Also, holidays, man I love holidays! I am working on creating a frugal lifestyle which incorporates holidays! Right, homework!
Step 1: Establish your goals
Why are you participating in this challenge? This is quite simple, I am entering this year with the largest personal debt I have ever personally had and it is scary! We made some great headway this year in reducing our joint debt and starting to rebuild our savings, the mortgage OP’s have taken a hit, but for hubby’s sanity that is worth it. Anyway, back to this challenge, I want to set myself up to start to repay this loan- £5k loan and credit card on 0%- £3.7k plus some tooth work at £720 (freaking ouch in more ways than one). I do have about £2.5k in savings but want to keep this until I am healthy and back at work as I am unsure how long I will need off and will be on sick pay for. I am using just under 3 weeks of annual leave so that is very helpful. I did some great work last challenge, and want to get back into it!
What do you hope to achieve? I want to feel back in control of my money, and I don’t want to use spending as a replacement to eating after my operation which could easily happen! At the end of Jan I would like to be able to save extra money, to feel reasured that I can smash my personal debt as quick as possible! To add all this together into making a Jodie who is more focused on looking ater herself in a variety of ways.
What are your longterm life goals? I won’t lie, I am not great at long term planning as such, I am not good at future thinking and planning apart from holidays! I mean my goals could be broken down, professionally- get my NVQ level 5 in management, my manager has requested this for me and hopefully it will be agreed. I would like to do a Masters in Dementia but this is quite costly and wouldn’t really benefit work, but it is a personal interest. I would like to consider perhaps looking at becoming a Deputy Manager, maybe, but also am not sure I want to go into management either! Personally- To have my bariatric op and use this tool to become more comfortable in my own skin and to be able to enjoy the adventurous things I want to do but am too heavy for. To fit comfortably in my car without the steering wheel touching my tummy, to be able to bend and touch my feet without difficulty, to be able to walk distances- which I can already do- with ease comparatively. To aim to walk a few half marathons, I have done one previously and it was so hard, would like to manage this with much less difficulty. To carry on loving my hubby and pups and having great friends and family. Mostly vague!haha.
Where do you want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? This is like the above goals again! Ummmm, debt free would be good, in 10years getting close to mortgage free would be great, a healthy weight, active and doing lots of fun stuff, hiking, paddleboarding and zip lining to start! Maybe be in management in nursing, maybe having a small business on the side, still rescuing animals and travelling. Building up great savings, living a frugal life.
What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from happening and what can you do about it? My weight will get in the way, but hopefully with bariatric surgery this will help this goal. Debt free boils down to me being more money savvy and frugal, so that boils down to me again! So really me and my lifestyle could all get in the way, plus my uncertainty about what I actually want and in what kind of timeline I want to achieve it.
And on that note Mrs Frugalwoods has written an article about the very areas I struggle with so off I go for a read!
Last night we paid off our credit card! £3800.88 of debt, poof, gone!
We decided to use the money we had saved for New York to do this, as we have no idea when we will be going, but also, I don’t think we will be doing a big road trip if we do go next year. We have no idea if the Wedding we were due to attend out there will be squeezed in next year or not, but I know the bride to be doesn’t like the cold so it would likely be in/after June 21 if it were to happen. We should be able to save £2k by then and we have a voucher for the previous flights so will only need a hotel and spends.
So in a couple of months, we have managed to pay off our car- approx £2700 and our credit card! I still have the 5k loan (untouched) and hubby has a long lasting 0% credit card for his truck. So those two and the house are now the only debt we have. Probably equating to £8.5k.
It feels good to know that what we have saved so far this year enabled us to have paid off two debts. Due to hubby’s job change we aren’t able to roll the saved payments into any other debts, the £100 I spent on the card can go over to the house, but the car is part of the loss if income from the new lower wage. I am interested to see what his first wage will look like and how it will affect our savings/outgoings. We have money set aside for the cars MOT and Service in Oct, I have paid the house insurance in full and we are doing ok.
We have our holiday booked in Jan to Florida- everything crossed that this will go ahead, we have fully refundable car hire paid, hotel paid, transferable flights and disney tickets so worst case we should be able to rearrange. Would be sad though! No holidays planned this year, just some pottering out as we are still being very careful with Covid.
You may or may not have noticed my absence just recently. Even before covid19 shut the entire world down, I have been struggling a little with my mood being up and down affecting my eating massively, which in turn effects my mood!
I am avoidant in my personality, if I feel a certain way, I will shut off and avoid things that may or may not, make me feel worse, or in fact may make me feel better, as feeling shut off feels safe! I have not been struggling with depression or anything more than mild/moderate anxiety around specific situations, and have continued working etc. So it is nothing dramatic, just my brain and I disagreeing and arguing a lot!
Anyway, part of kicking my own brain/butt, is to carry on writing, as it can be really cathartic! So here I am, not in work until Thursday, wondering what I will do today to make me feel like I am making achievements, whilst maintaining social distancing, whilst also feeling very sad about our world, fears about our economy, my husbands future work and quite gutted that we are probably not going to New York at the end of May as we have been planning for 18months, which included a wedding in Central Park. A tiny part of me is hoping Covid19 will f*** off as quick as it seemed to come, but predicitions are that the UK will be hitting the peak in May/June.
I work in a Dementia Nursing Home, all my residents are unwell, both mentally and physically, which puts them in a very high risk group. We are following guidelines and working hard to keep everyone safe. Hubby may have to go and work abroad for a week on and off in another area of his work, as they have closed his local office- if people don’t go, they will have to look at redundancies, which is a frightening concept in this climate. This will put a lot of pressure on both of us, especially with the dogs, though my sister is not in Uni now and both part time jobs have closed, so I could engage her for dog sitting if Aran’s dad is unable to make it in. In good news, her Uni have adapted the end of the degree, so that it can all be done at home and fingers crossed, she will complete her degree and do her PGCE in September!
I have been more spendy these last couple of months, totally linked with my brain and I fighting. I do need new trainers so will be purchasing them and I have had to pay £120 today to carry on Nursing. Though I may be able to claim this back via work, might as well try!
We have decided to carry on overpaying the mortgage at this time, as we both are working and can change this any time if needed. We will wait and see if we need to ask for a mortgage holiday, we don’t yet, so may as well wait and see.
I paid another £200 off the credit card- if New York is cancelled, will probably end up with very little owed on the credit card once we have claimed pay back! It is about £4550 at the moment, still 0% until Dec 2020.
We have almost paid hubby back, so in May, we would be looking at that £150 being moved to the car loan- set interest so paying back doesn’t save money- so that will be paid back quicker- snowballing! Then in theory, we would combine both of these, £150 and £186 with my £200 and smash the credit card. Obviously, this is a little unsure now and credit card debt may change on its own. Hubby may end up losing his job anyways, or we could end up sick and not able to work so every penny will need to be saved, extra payments stopped etc. Also, if we don’t go to New York the £3k saved for that can be utilised in other necessary ways.
Trying to limit time on social media, I find myself getting very agitated by people sharing false news, angry statements, stupid statments, judgy statements. I also think that most people have no understanding of what is happening. We are not social distancing to stop covid19, but to slow its spread, in the UK they are certainly wanting the peak once seasonal flu has buggered off, so that they have more resources to treat it. People seem to think if we isolate a bit, it will disappear. And heck, it might! I am still trying to be a little hopeful that April will see some other awful thing happen and covid19 will ‘poof’ disappear! Every month of this year so far has been unpleasant in some way or another globally.
Have had unexpected pet related costs this year:
Jan 2020- Lady catches Red’s side when playing, he has a skin tear that requires emergency vets and two staples, £96. Healed very well and he is still crazy!
Feb 2020- Red chases a pheasant through brambles…comes out covered in cuts and a thorn in his eye!!! Another emergency vet app, £56. He has healed really well, getting his eye drops in 3/4 times a day was a nightmare! And yes, both dog related issues were on Red, he is a clumsy and crazy boy
So far in March, and there is still time! We have had to take a chicken- Blue- to the vets, as she had become very poorly. We got antibiotics, and she has perked up, but another chicken is now poorly so living in the spare room continuing antibiotics! This was £50. Bloody animals!
I am going to get back into sharing my brain farts, it does help, better out than in! Not been able to logon to mortgage so not been able to see where I am at which is frustrating, still waiting to swap over to Halifax too. Not going to ring as can imagine they are snowed under at the moment, and it will be a year in June so you can expect a big old update then!
So, hubby is not a keen flier, I have to admit I don’t enjoy flying either, so as we are having to go on a long flight to New York, we decided we may as well adventure whilst we are there! So, after our five days in New York City, exhausted beyond belief and all full of joys from attending what will be a wonderful Wedding, we will be off to explore more of New York State. I have booked our rental car- via Holiday Autos- it was cheaper to go through this third party than directly with Avis. We have booked a Chevy Impala, hubby is a massive fan of American Cars so this felt like a good compromise so he can enjoy a bit of americana! His favourite is the Dodge Challenger/Charger, I can’t remember which one was the number one from those two… but they are very very expensive to rent! We have paid extra for breakdown cover and we already own an american Sat Nav (£40 from Amazon) so cheaper than hiring. The plan is to get the subway back to JFK and collect the car, hubby will then be driving us out of the city, I am way too much of a baby!! I have recently come into the knowledge that Sleepy Hollow is a real town in New York. I know, how did I not already know this? So the first stop is Sleepy Hollow for a quick nosy and photos. In theory, this 35mile trip will take just over an hour.
That first night we are staying in a little smallholding out in Massachusetts via airbnb, it looks delightful and will be the perfect antidote to a busy experience in the city. The plan is to head from Sleepy Hollow to the smallholding, no particular rush and enjoy travelling in a very new area. I would like to cut through Conneticut, just because! The days drive will take around 3hours and cover approx 136miles. We really cannot wait to see some of the local wildlife and other parts of America away from the big cities. I am hoping to arrive by 7pm that evening. We may pick something up to eat in that night so we can just relax. We have paid £108 for this night, I am happy with this, it seems a delighful and quirky home! Plenty of possibilities to see wildlife. They also leave equipment and ingredients to make waffles with the free range duck eggs! Yes please, I am sure we will be missing our chickens by then! It does mention that bears are sometimes roaming around at dusk and dawn, we might see dusk but I am not sure about dawn!
The next day we are heading back into New York State, we will be travelling to Fayetteville to stay in another airbnb. This airbnb is going to be our relaxation place, we can use the pool with the owners and they have a dog, yay! We will be spending three nights here. It is around a three hour drive, 181miles away. So far, I am interested in visiting Howes and/or Secret Caverns if they will be open on the way. We will be passing through Albany, I would also like to pass by the Teepee! This should be a leisurely day, pottering and stopping whenever we want. This airbnb has places to walk and eat, so I think that once we get there, we will unpack and wander around the area exploring. The next couple of days will see us recharging our batteries and exploring all the nature this area has to offer! The fingerlakes are in this area, as is Watkins Glen which we may make an effort to travel too.
We will then be going to Niagara Falls! I really cannot wait for this, I am so excited! I have booked the Seneca Falls Hotel and we do want to go over to the Canadian side as well as go on the boat tours, I think we will plan this in more detail either just before we go, or once we are there. This part of the itenary is fluid, we can either head straight there from Fayetteville in the morning, or do other things in the morning and spend the next day exploring Niagara. This journey will take just under three hours, 173miles, and we will pass through Syracuse. I am thinking it makes sense to just get up and go, meander that way then head to the falls in the afternoon and do as much as possible leaving the next day open.
The next day we are popping over to Pensylvania, we will be staying in Pocono Palace in East Strousberg. This place is super tacky and I cannot wait! I read about the hotel in a book, and knew I had to visit here. This is the most expensive night, we have all inclusive, a room with a 7ft champagne glass bath and a pool in the room. Wow! I absolutely cannot wait for this! It would be good to make the most of this place, mostly due to cost.haha. This will take 5hours 40minutes, and cover 332miles. I would like to stop at Letchworth State Park for a wander on the way.
Then, we will make our way back to JFK, probably very tired and needing another holiday! This is a 3hour journey covering 107miles.
If anyone has any other must sees or try to sees in these areas, please let me know. I will continue planning and reading up until we are already there so always time to add in. I am currently trying to work out if it is better to book a tour at Niagara or DIY the day.
Oh my goodness, I cannot believe that I get to go to New York this year, I am so freaking excited about this! All the thanks go to my brother in law and his future misses, who are getting wed in central park- how delightful! Hubby had agreed to go to Florida (we went in Sept last year) then he found out we would need to go to New York next year and he did regret his previous agreement. Not because he is mean spirited, but he doesnt like flying and worried about the cost of things like this- very understandable! But my wanderlust side just wants to go and adventure, and another trip to the USA is just too tantalising!
Firstly, I spent a lot of time- mostly via Pinterest- reading all about New York, things to do, must sees, unusual things etc etc and pinned them all to my places to go board! I still do this and am always pleased to find out about new places or ideas, or possible itenaries to follow so we can smash the trip! As with Florida, I have discussed with Hubby, what would our must sees be, he struggles with future planning so this is quite difficult for him!
Our list currently looks like this (subject to changes and wiggling):
Empire State Building
Top Of The Rock- yes I want to do both!
Statue of Liberty- thinking Ellis Island, could do staten island ferry
9/11 Memorial and Museum
Grand Central Terminal
Coney Island, Luna Park and the Wonder Wheel, mostly inspired by Lana Del Ray!
Pop to Hard Rock Cafe for a glass!
Would like to do:
Natural History Museum- mostly to see the T-Rex skeleton
The Met- mostly to go up to the roof terrace
Museum of Sex- because they have a bouncy castle made of boobs :0
Hop on Hop off bus tour
Find the waterfall between the streets you can walk under
I bought flights with Thomas Cook for £945, including picking our seats and 23kg of luggage. They then went bust- I jumped online at 4 am as I was still on Orlando time and got the same day, different time flights for £950 including seats and luggage weight. Yay! I always make sure to buy items like this on my credit card as you are protected by Section 75, this meant I made my claim via the credit card company and have been reimbursed the original costs, basically covering the new flight costs. I love the Virgin website too…though it makes me want to bid for better seating- hubby helps me to stay reasonable there!
I researched for a super long time about hotels, so many hotels, so many pros and cons. Personal desires:
Air con- we are going in June, this is a warm time, I melt in hot weather
Soundproofed rooms- I hate noise. If I hear noises at night I can’t sleep and get twitchier, angrier and more irritable, even if the noise then stops. Ask hubby about living with me with our awful noisy neighbours in the last house!
Central and close to transport- yes, the whole of New York is transportable, yes, it has great transport links, I get that. But I am not a city girl, cities scare me and I don’t like being out at night, therefore a central location which will be light, full of people and safe is just what I need!
Great reviews- obviously tricky as very subjective
Pretty and trendy- I love a modern and sleek hotel! I wouldn’t turn down the perfect hotel if it wasnt these things, but they would sway me to pick one!
A rooftop bar!!! Because, New York!
I researched for a really long time, I read about so many hotels, I made lists, got pee’d off, stopped searching for a while, bugged hubby with harrassments and questions. My heart knew what hotel I wanted, but logic was struggling due to the cost. In the end, hubby said, just book the one you love, its location is amazing (rated 9.8 by couples on booking.com), there is a subway 0.2miles from the front door, it is a super funky and modern hotel, like amazingly so! Booking.com states it is a top pick in New York, it gets an overall 9.2 out of 10, on trip advisor it scored 4.5 out of 5. Negatives: Rooms are tiny- usual in New York and the bathroom doesn’t have a proper door- we will poop when out/have been together for a very long time. Extra pros- it has its own rooftop bar purely for guests :0 :0 yes!!!!!! So I excitedly/horrifiedly booked a room in the CitizenM Hotel on Times Square- I requested higher up for better views, the rooms all have giant windows, gadgets to control the blackout blinds, soundproofed rooms with movies and fun lighting all controlled by an ipad, amazing reviews, its own rooftop bar that only the guests can use. I got a discount for an early bird booking directly with them and booked for five nights, since then, we found out the lucky bride and groom are heading on their honeymoon the day after the wedding, so we cut it down a night. Cities are great and all, but exhausting!
We had our list of things we want to do, and we looked at many different options for savings, in the end, we decided to get the New York Pass. It cost £329 for both of us- on sale- and lasts three consecutive days. Some of the things we want to do are free, so they will be worked around this pass and must dos. Coney Island is only open on weekends, so we will go there on Sat or Sun, we aren’t big ride goers, so will happily pop along for a nosy, I do want to go on the Wonder Wheel- This is included with the pass, we can go into Luna Park and ride the wheel for no extra cost. The pass includes Empire State, Ellis Island, Top of the Rock, 9/11 Museum, Hop On and Off bus ride for a day, Intrepid Museum, Natural History Museum, the Met, Museum of Sex, Circle Line Sightseeing tour and lots of other tours and things to do in the five boroughs. I have worked out that we will definately get our monies worth. It also means that some our would like toos, but probably won’t due to cost etc, can be done as cost is then irrelevent and the more we do the better the savings!
I have been playing around with possible itenaries, grouping activities in areas/neighbourhoods. I am still reading up and trying to better understand the layout and connections. For example, Chelsea Market is found at the end/start of the highline, it opens early and closes late, the highline is free, therefore these two go together and can be done around the New York Pass with no money consequence.
I have been researching all about the subway in New York, at this time it would be $32 dollars for a metro card and week of unlimited trips, I feel this would be well worth the money and would do us well as it is the fastest way around the city. My friend recently went and used the train/subway to get from JFK to her hotel and found it pretty painless, we are planning to do the same. Its about an hours travel, at the time we arrive, it will be very busy and I believe we may get charged extra on taxis as they do a peak time tax. It would be nice to save money here to use somewhere else. Plus, getting on with it straight away, will help us get over the fear of using the subway! I have even been watching videos about this- anal, I know!
My one struggle in Orlando, was lack of vege food, or at least lack of awareness of it near us. So I have been researching this for New York. I need to go to Champs diner in Brooklyn, I follow them on instagram, and my goodness, I salivate looking at the food! Bareburger is on the list, it does organic and grass fed meat for hubby, and lots of vegan options for me, including hot dogs! Shake Shack does a fit looking mushroom burger and milkshakes! Alcohol related, I want to get a cocktail at the Sugar Factory! I also have a few bagel stores jotted down, my dream was for a rainbow bagel, but the Bagel Store is shut at the moment, I so hope it reopens before we go! I can’t wait to try a traditional lox bagel (I eat fish on occasion, so pescetarian rather than vegetarian if I am honest!).
I think this is all the research on the first part of the trip, I will write up about the second half soon!
We like to try and make Christmas magical by doing different things on the countdown, this can be really difficult with our clashing shifts and work hours. Some of these things will be free, some are not at all free, some things are a one off for this year, some things we do every year, some are indoors and some are outdoors! We put the tree and decorations up before we went away, to make sure the house felt Christmassy when we came back!
We went to Glasgow and headed to the Christmas Markets! A nice Christmassy way to welcome December! We were travelling here specifically for NBC live with an Orchestra, we have never travelled this far for Christmas Markets before! Ended up being cheap as we bought nothing!
We had booked to see Nightmare Before Christmas, live with an Orchestra and original cast at the Hydro for its 25th anniversary. Super Christmassy, very wonderful and I dont think it is something we will see happening again! I bought middle range seats!
We watched a program about the making of Home Alone on Netflix, can just pass as Christmassy but had driven back from Glasgow, been shopping for food and also bought some new decorations from the Range! Technically Christmassy to buy decorations?!
Hubby had been working some ridiculous hours today, so the dogs and I watched Christmas films on Netflix! Some of the homemade ones are so good, really give you the Christmas feels!
We watched The Holiday, technically a Christmas film, very good film!
Another Christmas film tonight, with the dark nights and wet weather, this is a good way to welcome Christmas! We havent decided which one yet
We are going for a Christmas meal with friends at their house, this should be a nice cheap evening, with board games and festive things!
We haven’t planned out any other specifics yet, but the other things that we like to do are:
Get Christmas Hot Chocolates- home made or shop bought, maybe both
Go out for a Christmas meal
Watch many of the Christmas films we love, Polar Express is saved for Christmas Eve and Elf is always on Christmas day! Other films: Christmas Chronicles, Home Alone 1&2, Santa Claus 1&2, Get Santa, Jingle all the way, Die hard (!?) and I am sure there are others!
Go light hunting, this is sometimes done more than once, we pick a direction and head off looking for the best light displays in our area, the dogs come too!
This year we will be decorating a second tree, which my mum is giving to us
Adventure to local shops, garden centres and local markets to get that buzz and find local gifts
Hubby has a December birthday, on that day we ignore Christmas and make it about him!
Do the gift delivery to family
Go to Santa night if not in work!
Wear Christmas clothes, this can be just around the house, to work or when we go out!
Please share any ideas that you do, or traditions that you have, I am always looking to expand my horizons!
On Sunday 1st December, we said goodbye to the doggies, leaving them with their lovely sitter and drove 4hours and 15minutes to Glasgow! The drive down was great, very little congestion, hubby did all the driving (I did offer to share) and we stopped for a hot drink, krispy kreme donut and burger king on the way!
We arrived at the hotel- Radisson Red- parked up and were just in time to check in. We unloaded our bags, checked out the very lovely room, with perfect views of the Hydro stadium and the Clyde River. Then off we went, using google maps. We wandered into the heart of the city, along the riverside which was beautiful, it was very, very cold! Our main aim was to get to George Square for the Christmas Markets. We had a really good wander around, looked through the Market and all the other lovely shops before getting a bit lost and confused, then headed back to the hotel. We found the local Hard Rock Cafe- this has become an accidental thing, we have glasses from Vegas, London, Edinburgh, Paris and Orlando, we will collect more in New York! We had tea at the hotel, a cocktail and got a bottle of wine- which I have brought home as we didn’t finish it!haha. Food was ok, quite pricey for what it was. I was worried about noise levels in the hotel, but actually, it was all quiet!
We got up at 8am the following day, got dressed, wrapped up warm and walked to TriBeCa cafe on Dumbarton Road, took about 33minutes. I chose this place for breakfast after googling for the best pancakes in Glasgow! I am a bit obsessed with american style pancakes, I admit, I have issues! We had a thoroughly enjoyable breakfast there, the pancakes were so yum as was the french toast. Hubby had candied bacon on his, he said it was delishious! Once we were filled, we wandered about 15minutes to the Riverside Museum.
Wow, what a museum! We loved it, its up there for me, with the Mob museum in Vegas! The building itself was fascinating, and the inside was just great, really interesting, well designed and interesting space! We spent a couple of hours wandering around and enjoying it all. I am sure it would be easy to spend more time there if you were so inclined. The museum was free, they survive on donations, we donated a tenner for both of us. We then went to the Tall Ship, which is behind the museum on the river. This was fascinating and interesting too, again free, so a small donation was made. We then got the hop on hop off bus, hubby enjoyed lisitening to the audio, I enjoyed looking out of the window. We got off at George Square then wandered down towards Enoch Shopping Centre. I found Yours, plus size shop and got some great clothes all on offer, yay! We didn’t end up going into the shopping centre, we were all shopped out just from the high street, there are so many shops! We then got back on the hop on hop off bus and got back to the hotel. We booked into the Rotunda Italian restaurant for an early tea, as that night was the main reason we travelled to Glasgow. We had the pre-theatre menu, which was super yummy, it was very busy so the service was a bit hit and miss understandably. Good food, would definately go back!
The reason we went to Glasgow: The Nightmare Before Christmas, live with an Orchestra, featuring Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara and Ken Page!!!!!!!!
OMG, could I be anymore excited?! Probably not, I am a massive NBC fan, watch it every year, got married on Halloween and got the DJ to play some of the songs during the night! We booked the tickets a year ago, when I saw that it was coming over for the 25th anniversary. Hubby decided he would like to see it in Glasgow, as we have been to London a few times and the distance is similar. So, thats how we came to be in Glasgow. He has been to Glasgow before and I hadn’t, and as a massive Scotland fan, I was more than happy to go! We walked the two minutes from the hotel to the Hydro, wasted some time before going to sit to watch the show.
It was incredible, the Orchestra were incredible, Danny Elfman was out of this world, the back up singers were perfection, Catherine O’Hara knocked my socks off and Ken Page was spot on! Best production I have ever been too, I didn’t think I could love NBC anymore than I do, but I do love it even more now! We did queue up and get a program- £15, ouch. But you gotta do it sometimes! After the brilliant show, we went up to the Red Sky Bar at the hotel and had a couple of very expensive cocktails before going to sleep.
We then travelled home- the car needs a very expensive part replacing so that made the drive a bit tense, but we got home in one piece!
Radisson Red- £158 for 2nights
Parking at hotel- £10 for 2 nights
Tickets for NBC- £124 for 2 tickets including booking fee etc
Food, drink, fuel and miscellaneus- £311
Hop On Hop Off bus- £32 for 2 of us for one day
What a great short break, Glasgow is a great industrial city, lots of shops etc and plenty to do! If you are thinking of going, stop thinking and go!
We got off to a good start, our hotel, the Radisson was very close to the terminals, with a covered walk way. After a good nights sleep- well, excited wakey nights sleep- we wandered off to find the correct terminal. No problems at all, except the flat escalators weren’t all working and I am a grump in the mornings! Just as we arrived at the terminal, we looked up to see my family and the others coming with us stepping off the taxi! Perfect timing! We checked our luggage in with minimal queuing and went off to the lounge. We drank fizzy wine and ate some yummy food, did some duty free shopping- I just bought toblerone! Then headed onto the plane with plenty of time to spare. The pilot announed we might even set off early! Ultimately, we ended up leaving nearly an hour late. Talk about frustrating and numb bummy when the flight was already over 9 hours long!
Flight was pleasantly uneventful, we paid £12 to get the enhanced entertainment and enjoyed lots of films, food and drinks. I also love watching the planes progress on the sky map, would love it if you could zoom in and have a good nosy though!haha.
Once in Orlando, it took an absolute age to get through customs, then the bags were delayed, must have taken two hours to finally head to pick up the car. It was a bit of a faff, it was a 12 seater which was great, except we all had huge suitcases, cue me getting very frustrated and feeling fat when I was trying to squish in the chairs!! After all that, we headed out of the airport and headed on our way! There was more fuss when trying to get the room keys, the car was hot, full of people and luggage and we were all getting quite cranky by this point! When we finally got to our apartment, it was so worth the wait, the master bedroom was amazing- we bagsied as paid extra and we’re super old compared to my sister and her boyf! The balcony was fab, the ensuite amazing, the whole place was great. And the air con was so appreciated after the heat outside! That night we wandered over to the clubhouse for food, which was ok, not a lot of choice anywhere we went for non-meat eaters though if I am honest!
Day 2- We went to the local Walmart, which was huge and as crazy as I hoped, no guns here though! We bought unicorn cake ice cream- this had purple glitter in it- and my favourite wine was less than 10$ for a litre! We left the family all relaxing by the pool after this and headed over to International Drive, Icon Park. Hubby was amazing driving in the USA for the first time in a small tank! It was a super hot day, we went to the Orlando Eye and Sea Quarium, this is something we like to do when there is a local one! The 365degree glass tunnel was very impressive! We drank frozen slushies and tried not melt as we wandered around. After that, we headed back to the apartment and went out for a late tea with everyone!
Day3- After some drama the night before trying to organise everyone, we all went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. We were the only ones in the group to have pre bought tickets, they all bought one dayers and met us inside, at a much higher rate than we had gotten. We had a great time, hubby isnt a massive fan of rides so we went on whatever he felt he could manage. Very much enjoyed the fabulousness of the themed areas, Springfield and New York were great! We rode the Hogwarts express over to Islands of Adventure, queued a ridiculous amount of time for Hagrids Motorbike Adventure, which was great and enjoyed Hogsmeade before carrying on! I did purchase the Elder Wand and we had fun trying out the magic, though I am not a natural! It was a super busy day for us. The first couple of weeks in September seemed like a perfect time, apart from Hagrid, there were 10minute queues for pretty much all the other rides! Was a lovely way to spend the day with everyone before heading back, and having another late tea out!
Day 4- Hubby, myself, sister and her boyf all headed off in the morning for Volcano Bay, it was amazing! Loved the whole theme and they way it is all put together. We shared a locker and could all open it separately with our Tapu Tapus which was really useful when we went our separate ways! I enjoyed some cocktails and a wonderful vegan burger here, so much appreciated that I could enjoy no fish for once! We came for opening and stayed until closing. Hubby was brave and did one of the drop slides, he was still shaking when he came to find me after! The wave pool and both the lazy and fast rivers were brilliant. We did have to evacuate a couple of times due to possible lightening strikes, but everything was fine! Felt rejuvinating after such a busy day the day before!
Day 5- Pretty calm day, spending time at the pool before heading over to Old Town for the American muscle Car show. What a fab town, so much fun, nice shops and a lovely pub for a drink. Live music was playing, and best of all, loads of amazing cars! We enjoyed our evening here, then popped to IHOP for a late tea and a couple of giant gift stores for a mooch!
Day 6- We got the shuttle over to Universal and Islands, we popped to the Chocolate Emporium, such an incredible steampunk based cafe/restaurant. I got a birthday cake freakshake which was delicious! We took a much slower route around both parks, taking lots of pictures and noticing a lot more than the first time round! We got the Hogwarts express back to Universal so got to enjoy it both ways and I played with my wand again, very fun! It was very hot and we were getting tired after spending the day mooching and nosing so headed back to the complex, not realising how far it was, so the taxi cost $50, ouch! Lovely driver though.
Day 7- I accidently enjoyed too many buckets of cocktails at the pool, got room service, had a 15minute nap before my little sister came to wake me as I needed to get ready for Halloween Horror Nights! Quick shower, sister braided my hair, lots of water and we headed out! Everyone had some food when we arrived, but I couldnt face it! Honestly, I think this was my favourite thing about the whole trip! My stepbrother, his girlfriend, Auntie Netty, hubby and I were the only ones brave enough to go, perfect group to go with! We headed straight for Ghostbusters, it had one of the longest queue times and I couldn’t see it getting any shorter! It was great, the scare zones were fabulous. We went into Ghostbusters, Stranger things 2&3, The Yeti, Monsters, US and Killer Klowns from Outer Space- my goodness how amazing, so much effort and perfect timing! Think US and Yeti were my favourites, found Stranger Things too stroby with the lights and they were rushing us through! We left at 1am in the morning, I was still hungover and tired but wished we could have done more houses! We didn’t get time to use our free night which was such a shame, I think House of a 1000 Corpses would have been amazing. Lots of queueing, which was to be expected.
Day 8- So very late to bed, very early to rise! Hubby, sister, her boyf, stepbrothers gf and I had all decided that we wanted to go to Animal Kingdom as well as Hollywood Studios! So the day before, we bought Disney Park Hopper for the day, this was not cheap, but totally worth it! We headed straight to Pandora, this was so beautiful! We didn’t go on Flights of passage though my sister said it was the best ride ever! We did go on the river which was just so pretty and fascinating! We pottered around, went on Safari walked through exhibits and had lunch in the park before getting the bus over to Magic Kingdom. We literally had time to take some pictures, rush over to the castle to get the iconic picture before we had to get over to Hollywood Studios as we had lightsabers to build! Did I mention that it was the hottest day of the entire holiday so far? I was very moany and tired by this point in the day, and the bus to transfer us seemed to take forever to come. We made it to Hollywood Studios and met up with the rest of the crew. We spent quite a lot of time in Galaxys Edge, hubby built his own lightsaber- expensive, but a fantastic thing to do! My stepbrother also built one, they were both very excited! The attention to detail was just unbelievable! We then had a potter around the whole park, to be honest, we were just so hot by this point, that when my stepdad came to pick us up at 6.30pm, we were glad to get home! Though on reflection, I wish we had at least pottered over to Epcot, or hung out somewhere until the fireworks came on! Got uber eats for tea that night!
Day 9- We had a lovely day in the apartment and by the pool just relaxing and recharging, lots of badly played volleyball went on!
Day 10- We went to NASA! I will be totally honest, I wasn’t sure I would be that bothered, I am not spacey, but hubby is spacey and has always wanted to go! I was very surprised at how interesting it all was, I was really gripped. We also saw an Alligator which was my best bit! It was a hot but very valuable day out, I would recommend NASA as a must do! We went out to a cheap pizza place called Cici’s for tea, where I had found a discount card for buy one get on free on unlimited pizza buffet, best tea of the trip and it only cost $8 for both of us!haha. I am a cheapskate and honestly, I think our food bill would have been a lot less if it was just the two of us!
Day 11- Another pool day, with tea at the clubhouse for our final night together!
Day 12- We travelled home, plane left on time, Thomas Cook staff were great and the only hold up was collecting our car from the hotel as someone who had the keys wasn’t there- annoying when you just want to go home and sleep!
Hope this may be of some interest to anyone who has been or is thinking of going!
I love to read and research about places we are going to go on holiday, and even places we may never end up going! I love to read about what amazing places, eateries and things there are to do, and make lists upon lists of must do’s, if we get time do’s and fantasy do’s!
So it will be no shocker than when we decided to go to Florida, I researched the poop out of the holiday! I was aware we would never be able to do everything that I had read about or listed so we narrowed it down to must do’s:
Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure- this comes with Volcano Bay, the new water park, and ticked off hubbies must do of a water park visit!
Halloween Horror Nights, they would be on when we went, and we needed to go!
Hollywood Studios- New Star Wars land, Galaxys Edge for hubby!
Old Town for the American Muscle Car show on a Friday night
We were initially only going to go for 8 nights, but we found a kennels we liked (dog boarding but seperate areas- we will never use them again, as when we got back dogs were all stressed and the people said the little dog was aggressive. There is a whole other story here which basically boils down to the kennels not doing what they said they would). So I got in touch with the airline and paid £100 to move both our tickets from the Tuesday to the Friday. I was happy to spend this, but to be fair could have been avoided if we hadn’t prebooked the tickets!
We booked our flights 18months out, with Thomas Cook, we were flying out with 8 other people in total and my mum wanted to lock in the early bird prices and they seemed perfectly acceptable so I happily agreed. They all went for 14nights, too long for us to be away from home! I feel our 11 nights was just the right amount of time, any longer I would have been homesick!
The rest of the folks all got a taxi to the airport, we didn’t, obviously, as we came back early and there was no way a taxi for 2 would be cost effective. We got a hotel and parking in one for a good deal (IMHO). I will go over prices towards the end of this epic tale!
We prebooked Universal, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay and Halloween Horror Night tickets with attractionticketsdirect. No affiliated links here, just that they were offering the best deals at the time! We got 14day unlimited tickets for all three parks which was great. And Halloween Horror Nights came with buy one night, get one free! Love it! W bought NASA tickets direct from their website on a day where they were offering a 10% discount, another win!
Old Town was cost free in theory, any spends would be our choices and we would get to see some authentic american muscle cars- hubbies favourite!
We debated getting our own car- ultimately would have been more convenient on reflection- but we hired out a 12seater mini bus instead, hubby and step dad were the drivers on it and everyone chipped in!
Accomodation was ‘free’, as my mum and stepdad have a timeshare and points to spend. We did pay to upgrade our room from a one bedroom with settee bed, to a two bedroom as we were sharing with my little sister and her boyfriend, and to be honest, we live alone usually! First world problems, I dont want to sleep on the couch, or have someone sleep on the couch, I want to be able to unpack and make myself at home- not possible in one bedroom and I am not used to sharing closed spaces with others! Money well spent, we got a huge two bedroom, two bathroom apartment, with a balcony overlooking the golf course with a beautiful lake. We got a massive room and the ensuite was insane! Huge bath and massive shower! Brilliant kitchen and lounge area and washing machine and drier. The complex itself was also beautiful, lots of swimming pools, couple of places to eat and lots of beautiful lakes. Lots of wildlife too, which I find very exciting!
The only downside for hubby and myself about the complex, was you had to drive everywhere, there was a walmart and restaurants 10minutes away in the car, this meant taxis to eat out every night. I think if we were going alone, we would have forgone the beauty of this complex for convenience. For others in the group, this was also a relaxing and rejuvinating holiday, so this was great for them. I think we only spent one whole day next to the pool!haha.
We got a great deal on exchanging money as hubbies work had USA dollars that they no longer used, so they sold it to staff at previous rate of 1.42 dollars to the pound. We changed all our money to cash, we are heading to New York next year so left overs are fine!
It was agreed that this holiday was all about theme parks, so that is where we would channel our times and efforts! Most people had been before except hubby and sisters boyfriend. I hadnt been since I was a teenager and couldnt wait to go back!
One thing I found frustrating, was that people wanted to go with the flow, I like to plan the crap out of things like this, so I did struggle there! I think it would have been a very different holiday if we went alone, but there are so many aspects of the holiday that were made great by having a group of lovely people with us that I wouldn’t change it!
Money breakdowns (warning, though I attempted to be money saving, we did spend a lot of money 🙂 )
Thomas Cook Flights- £980 in total, this includes the date change and booking seats in advance, as I like to pick my seats, I am sad! We flew back on the Friday before they went bust. Sad about this, they were great. The rest of our group flew on the Monday, the day they went bust, luckily they were brought back with no issue
Hotel (Radisson) at the airport with two weeks secure parking- £179.10, could have been cheaper, but very happy with the service!
Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, 14 day unlimited tickets- £548 for both of us. Best deal we could find at the time
Halloween Horror Nights- £135 for two tickets, and we got a night free- sadly didnt get time to use the extra night. The people in the group that came with us bought tickets online just before we went and paid about £10 more per person, on the doors was so much more expensive!
Travel Insurance- £65.39 for both of us, for multi trips so cover a couple of local holidays this year and New York next year
ESTA- $28, for both of us and will cover New York next year
We last minute decided to buy a park hopper for Disney, instead of just Hollywood studios, we went onto the website the day before and paid around £400 for both of us, I cannot remember the exact figure, cheaper than on the door
NASA- £78 for both of us, such a fantastic place!
Orlando Eye and Sea Quarium- $70
Car Hire- £250 including extra payment to make hubby a named driver, that was the highest cost!
Room upgrade- £200
VIP lounge- £40 for both, loved this, drinking fizzy wine and eating snacks before the flight!!
Eating out and taxiing- disgusting amount of money I don’t want to think about!Haha.
I think that is most of the costs, but if I think of anymore I will add them on! I am not adding this up- I think I will cry. I loved the holiday though, hubby also built himself a lightsaber- so expensive, but he paid for it himself- and it was a great experience and the lightsaber is often twirled around even now! I would definately go back to Florida, not sure I would be bothered about the Theme Parks, kind of been there done that, but we only saw one alligator, I wanted to see Manatees, I wanted to go walking to find bears, go to the Florida Keyes etc! So that can be a future adventure!
I love getting away, I love exploring new areas, and I love to go away for my birthday! Yesterday, we arrived back from a three day trip to Northumberland, we stayed in an airbnb property, which was small but perfect for our needs- also a great price of £50 a night! It was in a lovely little village, with a nice pub opposite.
We spent time in Chillingham Castle, it was pretty quirky and interesting. It is apparently one of the most haunted castles in England- and I can believe that! It was taken over by Sir Humphrey Wakefield after it had been left to decay and rot for over 50years, he took the time to fix it up, including the ceilings in some rooms and get it back to its functional self. Sir Wakefield is a hoarder of interesting and random historical items, but as he has so much space to fill, he becomes a collector! We enjoyed the uniqueness of this place, it was much more than a castle and has such a rich history. I believe you can stay in the grounds and they do ghost tours, I didnt fancy that, I am a baby! The grounds are beautiful and we wandered through the woodlands, we saw a fox but no deer sadly. I also got serious garden envy!
Chillingham also has the only wild cattle in the UK, we went to see them as part of a secondary tour. It was certainly interesting and the cattle look interesting, smaller than a lot of other cattle. We heard bulls rutting and having fights up on the hill and saw some calves. The tours are only at set times on certain days. I loved the castle, the cattle tour was interesting but not as much as the castle!
We also went to Alnwick gardens, I love this place! It is the best gardens I have ever been too, and I love going to gardens! I think it was because the space was filled with interesting things, like the corridor of cherry blossom, which of course were still beautiful at this time of year, tulips and daffodils lined the paths and giant swings were dotted all over. The walled garden was incredible- walled gardens are the sexiest things in my humble opinion- the symmetry was just so eye catching. The way the trees were trained to espalier looked awesome and the water features, which again reflected the symmetry just felt so inspiring! There is a massive water feature right at the start which has fountain shows, and a corridor made of trees on either side. The serpent garden has the most amazing water features, and the bamboo maze is just fantastic! The rose garden was sadly not in bloom but still great, and the Poison garden was just fascinating!
The Castle at Alnwick is interesting, but a bit too perfect for me, I do like Castles to be falling down a little, or quirky ala Chillingham, though the views were stunning. We got to see a quidditch training session taking place!
We drove past Bambrough castle which was very picturesque and went along the coast for a drive, then on to Rothbury which is a sweet little town. We also went to Dobbies garden centre where I bought a Bonsai tree! So exciting!
The dogs stayed in kennels, this cost us just over £80, we payed for the Alnwick castle and gardens tickets in advance, this cost just over £50 with the online discount, airbnb cost us £150 for three nights, we have an economical car so that helps with carbon footprint and cost! It was £35.50 for Chillingham Castle and Cattle for both of us, which we paid when got there. In total we spent an extra £395 on the castle, fuel, eating out lots, and shopping! I am quite happy with this! I love a get away and we dont like to skimp, the room we had only had a small fridge and no cooking facilities, so great excuse to eat out and about!