Lose one debt and gain another!

So in exciting news, we paid off the car loan last week and recieved confirmation in the post yesterday. We will be getting £56 back, and possibly £186 as we paid that as well as the whole balance, the person on the phone was unsure if it had been counted or not.

So we own our car outright! It doesn’t save us any interest as it was a set sum, but it’s nice to know it’s gone! Hubby has his new job and this means that he won’t have to pay the car anymore and goes someway to help with the fact he will be earning about £400 less a month. We will also, sadly, be reducing the mortgage overpayments to £50 until we get used to the reduction in wages, and then hopefully we can play around a bit and increase it again. That is another £200 less to find so this and the car loan should cover the loss of earnings.

So, whilst we have removed the car loan, I have got a £5k personal loan as I am going to have a gastric balloon fitted to help me with my weight loss issues. Part of me wonders if I should just bite the bullet and have the gastric bypass, but that is life altering (and over double the price) and if I can have the balloon and learn to change my eating behaviours (this company offers 18months psychological support) then I won’t need the surgery. That is my plan anyway. And I can afford my loan and pay a small chunk off the credit card every month, without it impacting on the house account or Hubby’s contribution.

So one giant step forward for the car, one small step forward with the mortgage and a step backward getting a personal loan- but ultimately if it can help me with my eating issues, then it will be money well invested.

Take care everyone!

Jodie

New York Prep Part 2

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.

New York (:0) Prep Part 1!

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
  • Central Park
  • The Highline
  • 9/11 Memorial and Museum
  • Intrepid Museum
  • Times Square
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Coney Island, Luna Park and the Wonder Wheel, mostly inspired by Lana Del Ray!
  • Chelsea Market
  • 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!

Countdown to Christmas

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!

December 1st-

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!

December 2nd-

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!

December 3rd-

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?!

December 4th-

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!

December 5th-

We watched The Holiday, technically a Christmas film, very good film!

December 6th-

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

December 7th-

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
  • Wrap presents
  • 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!

Florida Prep

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
  • NASA

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!