Part II: Travelling Solo in London

As promised, I’ve decided to trace out my travel plans from this summer. I hope my post inspires some of you to explore and seek out adventures solo or not! I took a flight from Toronto Pearson to Gatwick Airport with one stopover. It was the perfect redeye because I slept through both flights and arrived in the UK refreshed and ready to start my adventure at 8 in the morning.

The second I got out of baggage pickup (quick and painless since I only had carry-ons!), I searched for the Visitor’s Centre. It’s the best place to stop at as a tourist. I picked up an Osyter card, topped it off and received a bunch of instructions on how to access the airport wifi, travel maps, a step by step guide on how to get to my hotel, an essential Tube map and instructions on how to use the Osyter Card. I definitely recommend stopping at the Visitor’s Centre before starting your trip!

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I somehow navigated the Tube and took a double decker to the Kensington House Hotel right next door to the Kensington Gardens. I scored a CAD $110/3nights through the hotel website which isn’t bad at all for a 4 star place!  I dropped off my stuff, put stars on my Google Maps and looked up directions by public transport to a bunch of places and off I went to explore London. Here’s a link to how I planned out my entire trip: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Lthx158Nuaz2BZhRFYUjX78bw6c&usp=sharing!


Day 1: I decided to take the bus to Portobello Market, a must see in Notting Hill. It was so quaint and busy and lovely. I wish I had extra space in my luggage, because my biggest regret is not buying the vintage Enid Blyton I spotted at a roadside bookstall. The colourful houses of Nottinghill are actually gorgeous in person and the Nottinghill Bookstore from the Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts movie is actually adorable. I somehow got a kind Korean tourist who spoke no English to take a photo of me at the bookstore (it didn’t look like the kind of place one take selfies in).

I passed someone who looked like Bansky spray painting a Bansky-like teddy bear on a wall, which was beyond cool. I then took a bus to explore Kensington Gardens, Kensington Palace and Hyde Park all in the steady downpour for which London is known. I also explored Harrods and then decided to watch a play in the evening. The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie (my favourite mystery novelist) was fantastic and the St. Martin’s Theatre is a must see even if you don’t like plays.

I finished the day by grabbing a meal from Stick and Bowl (the BEST asian restaurant) and a few French macaroons from Harrods.


Day 2: Going off of the maps I’d created in Toronto, I started off my day at Buckingham Palace, where I decided to save my money and not explore the interior. The exterior itself is lovely and since the flag was raised, I heard the queen was actually at the palace–I did not see her unfortunately.

Not discouraged by the rainy weather, I continued onwards through St. James Park to see the gorgeous Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, explore Somerset House where I took a break with a well deserved chocolate and lemon polenta.

The British Museum was my next stop where I stopped by the Rosetta Stone and bought a few souvenirs. I walked through the Sicilian Avenue with its lovely archway and quaint shop lined street.

I also visited the Harry Potter Shop at Kings Cross and a lineup which I avoided. Instead I bought a Deathly Hallows pin, a Hogwarts notebook and a keychain which I will forever treasure. I ended my day by stopping off at the Coca Cola London Eye, seeing the line up and deciding that the view couldn’t possibly be worth the wait time or the cost!

I recommend walking along Westminster Bridge to have the most amazing view over the Thames of both the Westminster Palace and the London Eye on the opposite sides. A complimentary beer at my hotel’s bar concluded a tiring but wonderful day.


Day 3: This was my most relaxed day since it was my last in London. I started off by attending an Anglican service at the St. Paul’s Cathedral and relaxing after, taking in the view of the stunning ceilings.

The architecture, the painting, the atmosphere is all worth the cost and more in my opinion. I climbed to the very top of the dome which gave me incredible views of the city (made me feel better about skipping the London Eye). After, I took a circuitous route through Saint Dunstan in the East, a haven with gothic ruins from WWII, to get to the Tower of London where I got the classic fish and chips before entering.

I must say I was slightly disappointed by the Crown Jewels and I’d say if you have something else you’d rather pay for, do that instead of paying for entrance at the Tower of London. It was still nice enough and the architecture was cool. I found the exterior to be worth my time spent there. The Tower Bridge is a must! It looks like a Disney bridge, colourful and something out of Cinderella.

The views of the Shard and the city are pretty cool too. I walked over to Tate Modern which was a bit of a hike and explored the paintings and the collection. The building itself is nothing special but the collections are worth it, especially since it’s free (donations are welcomed). Plus, the Shakespeare Globe is close by and the bank has a great view of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

I decided to end my evening exploring Covent Garden and taking in the theatre scene with some gelato and then grabbed dinner with I proceeded to enjoy with a book in Kensington Gardens.


Overall, London was fantastic. It was worth every penny I spent. I met several wonderful people and I experienced so much I had always read about or watched on TV. It is absolutely possible to see at least 80%-90% of tourist spots and more in 3 days. I didn’t feel rushed at all and I enjoyed everything at my own pace. A lot of this trip was done foot, saving me bus fare and also allowed me to see the city the way a local does. I’m definitely going back for a longer trip because London has so much more to see. But if you have three days, I hope my guide helps you see the finer points of London without feeling like you missed out!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments on things I missed out on during my trip and any recommendations you have from experience! Part III will encompass my solo adventures in Switzerland–stay tuned!


Until next time,

Rochelle

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Group Travel vs Solo Travel

This summer while Rochelle flew to Europe on her own(!), I headed to Spain with a group of 49 people. To say that Rochelle’s and my experiences were different would be an understatement, not only because we visited completely different countries but mainly because solo vs group travel has so many pros and cons attached to them. Rochelle also has a 3 post series (you can check the first two posts here), today I am sharing with you my time in Spain and some hefty tips I picked up along the way.


Although group travel is fun and entertaining, it can also be inefficient. This summer I travelled with my dance group to Spain to perform in Barcelona and Lloret de Mar meaning that I was surrounded by familiar faces and I was bound to enjoy all the company. Unlike Rochelle who had a harder time convincing her family and friends that solo travel was happening regardless, my family was eager to have Canadian-Ukrainian representation in Spain. Furthermore, although its a big group of people, everyone has a warm group of friends surrounding them with similar interests so it never really feels like you are being dragged around.

While with solo travel you are planning for one person, meaning that you can get your tickets 8 months in advance, book multiple layovers, and generally save money, this is not the case in a group scenario. You may get group rate discounts but the savings do not always balance out solo travel savings, especially when your group takes up half the plane seating. Keep in mind though, that if it is a large enough group, you might get “VIP treatment.” To give you an example, we had 49 persons travelling so when we took a yacht trip, we had the whole yacht to ourselves because of the size of our group. However, I did have an immense peace of mind as everything, literally everything was booked for me, even the excursions. Needless to say, I had no use for the travel books I had taken out of the library.



Following Rochelle’s post format, I was also not scared of group travel because traveling in a group is a cushiony experience where “one for all and all for one.” However, I also cannot leave out some major downsides. Because you are in a foreign country, in a non-English speaking environment, you are asked to always stick together which is reasonable. This becomes an issue if everyone’s interests of where to go, what to eat, or where to shop don’t intersect. You are also less likely to get the full experience of seeing every corner of the city as a coach bus is most likely taking you to your destinations. Generally, you miss out on walks in the city, discovering a cute market or boutique, and experiencing the city first hand. You are also less likely to see everything you were wanting to see.



Although group travel is tough and a lot of scheduling goes into it, I would not change the experience that I had. Not only was I able to share memories with some amazing people but I also had no need for a selfie stick… We loved the experience of looking at photos from the trip and laughing at our derp faces. Its great being able to share in the experience with someone else who will understand the inside jokes and remember the time you had. All jokes aside, when the touring part ends and you are all in the hotel, its fun having company to hang out with and go on adventures with during your “free time.”

So here you have it! Some pros and cons of group travel. Let us know if you are planning on traveling anywhere and wether you prefer group or solo travel.

Looking forward to your replies!

~Kisses, Kvitka~

Part I. Travel Solo and like a Pro

Solo travel isn’t as hard as it seems. I am by no means an expert. But after travelling to Europe for the first time and then spending a week alone in London and hiking in Switzerland, I would love to make the case for travelling solo.

There’s such a stigma against solo travel. When I told people about my trip reactions ranged from, “why would you do something so stupid?” to “Umm, I’d be terrified if I were you!”. My family was surprisingly fine with it. A few close friends were very supportive. But the rest were simply wondering why I wasn’t bringing someone along.

I read How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and Matt Kepnes is so inspirational I simply had to try his advice! So what if there wasn’t anyone able to travel with me? The fact that I’m a short young woman should not be a barrier to my desire to see the world. So I researched my tickets, did some really bad math and managed to score cheap tickets to London and from Geneva. I read a bunch of travel books in the months leading up to the trip and I wrote down must-see destinations.

Weirdly I simply wasn’t scared of travelling alone. This was probably because the trip didn’t feel real until the week I had to leave. Even though I researched so much, I wasn’t really prepared. My biggest advice would be to buy packing cubes and a selfie stick while keeping your luggage to a minimum. You want to be able to bring back souvenirs and also be able to lug it up a cobble stone hill to a castle you didn’t realise you were staying at (fact: this actually happened to me).

Google Maps is a godsend. It was the only reason I managed to go anywhere during my trip. You can now save offline maps and then place stars on your destinations so that you can point your phone at the star and follow the blue dot to your destination. So I saved offline maps of each city I wanted to visit and put stars on each spot I needed to see and off I went!

If you want to see a country or state or province no matter how far or close, just do it! Seriously! Nothing is holding you back except your fears. You don’t have to do a month long trip or a year long one. I did a two week one and I saw each city I visited in depth. Since I’m still on my vacation high, I’ll be sharing my tips on getting around and seeing as much as possible in London and Switzerland in three separate posts. So stay tuned for some major travel posts coming your way!


Until next time,

Rochelle

5 Ways to Travel Better + GIVEAWAY!

“Travel is so cliché”, said no one ever. Everyone wants to travel! Everybody wants to experience different cultures or see amazing views or watch the sun set on that stunning Galapagos beach. But not everyone ends up travelling. Why? Because it’s expensive. They’re not wrong. Travel is really expensive. Flights, hotel rooms, food–it all adds up and all that money you’ve put toward that Volkswagon has suddenly disappeared. But I’ve been researching travelling for the past two months since I decided to hit up London and Switzerland with a short detour to Italy, for 2 whole weeks at the end of August. And I decided to compile my own (and several other people’s) wisdom so that you, loyal readers, can stop saying no to your dreams.


1. Google Flights: It’s the best thing on the planet. Seriously. Stop booking through travel agencies because you’re paying for commission and while you might think you’re getting a good deal, you’re really getting an easy deal. Instead, look up Flights on Google which compiles every airline flight, price and travel time. I booked my one way trip to London for $362 CAD and my trip out of Geneva for $450 CAD. Spending about $812 for flights to Europe feels pretty fantastic. I did book three months in advance which does play a big role in costs!

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2. Booking.com: I don’t normally like promoting sites but I planned all my hotel rooms through Booking.com this year. They have free cancellation option and a great interface for users. They also offer hotels, hostels, guest rooms etc, and free breakfast options. I’ve compared direct hotel prices vs. Booking.com vs. Travelocity and was surprised that Booking.com won simply because they’re honest about their prices and they’re really cheap. Their customer service is pretty great too!

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3. Deutsch Bahn: Travelling to Europe? Get this app! It’s a German train schedule app but it eerily accurate about train schedule across the continent and show prices, precise timings and maps. Plus it’s in English and the app is really easy to use to map out your spur of the moment trip. A must have!

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4. Couchsurfing: A fantastic way to stay in countries for free! And you’ll make amazing friends most of the time. Or so I’ve heard from numerous sources. I’m testing this app out this summer in Switzerland with a friend. In theory, this sounds sightly scary but mostly cool because it’s such a good way to save money and meet locals!

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5. Uber: A huge must in my book simply because cabs are sometimes expensive and if you’re stuck in a new country with no cash or a stolen wallet and need to get to your hotel room/embassy, Uber swoops in to save the day. You get a driver by paying through the app so you don’t need cash in hand and won’t get ripped off when you don’t know the local language! Plus it ends up being cheaper than regular cabs. Trust me, get the app because it may end up saving your bacon.

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I highly recommend Nomadic Matt’s blog because that’s where I ended up with all my research. I even signed up for his mailing list because that’s how amazing his tips are! I also advice that you spend time researching everything because there are so many ways you can save money. Hotels vs. hostels, Couchsurfing vs. Airbnb, etc. is all personal preference in my opinion. Do your research, travel smart and you’ll end up travelling more. Hope you find these tips helpful! Read on for our GIVEAWAY.


Now is your chance to win some of these essentials to make sure you are covered for your next getaway! To win an assortment of Travel Essentials we ask that you follow @lipsticktrilogy and @always_kaye on Instagram and answer the question posted on our Instagram page in the caption. This week will be dedicated only to travel related posts on Instagram and the blog. To qualify, you must be a Greater Toronto Area resident and can meet up with us in the downtown core, TO to claim your prize. This us NOT a sponsored giveaway and all the items were purchased by us and Kaye. The deadline is Wednesday, July 13th and the winner will be announced shortly afterwards. We hope you enjoy this week as much as we will enjoy hearing from you!

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Until next time, 

Rochelle

Don’t Forget These Essentials + Giveaway

Summer is in full swing which also means its travel season! Rochelle and I have already pre-booked our flights to get away before school starts again. Although we wont be travelling together, we enjoy sharing tips and tricks for efficient packing, affordable flights, and things to see and do in our country of choice. As for this week, this is no regular old travel post as we’ve collaborated with Always Kaye to bring an array of awesome travel related posts and Giveaway some of these Travel Essentials to our readers! Keep reading to find out more.


Its no secret that packing is a hit or miss situation. That feeling of “I’m sure I forgot something” is an internal alarm and most of the time, the intuition is true. There are a few key items that I always forget to pack last minute yet they make a big difference. Check your suitcases if you are missing these items.

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Now is your chance to win some of these essentials to make sure you are covered for your next getaway! To win an assortment of Travel Essentials we ask that you follow @lipsticktrilogy and @always_kaye on Instagram and answer the question posted on our Instagram page in the caption. This week will be dedicated only to travel related posts on Instagram and the blog. To qualify, you must be a Greater Toronto Area resident and can meet up with us in the downtown core, TO to claim your prize. This us NOT a sponsored giveaway and all the items were purchased by us and Kaye. The deadline is Wednesday, July 13th and the winner will be announced shortly afterwards. We hope you enjoy this week as much as we will enjoy hearing from you!

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~Kisses, Kvitka~

Travel Winter Bucket-List Challenge

This week we had a very exciting Bucket-List challenge – travelling. Kvitka decided to exchange her Toronto nest for snowy mountain tops and skiing in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Let’s just say it was indeed a true “Family Vacation.” Keep reading to find out more about our adventures last week.

   

Every year, instead of trading the cold for sunny beaches and a lavished pool side, my family travels up north to Quebec for an annual family skiing trip. This year we were visiting the Mont-Tremblant ski resort which is about one of the most festive locations we have discovered thus far. Only one problem – NO SNOW! From extreme fog to constant rain and ice, skiing became an ordeal. Nevertheless we made the most of it.

   

Rochelle and I spent Christmas with our families entertaining, eating delicious home made meals, and opening presents. What better way to catch up with family and spend real quality time when you are all cramped in a small hotel room, constantly stepping on each other’s toes. Nevertheless, my New Year’s Resolution is to dedicate more time to family through hmm movie and board game nights.

     

Boxing Day, need I say more. Oh the line ups and crowds. I think I will hit the sales racks a week from now when the hype has gone down. Witnessing people battling over a sweatshirt was enough to scare me into online shopping on Boxing Day.

Q&A: What do you think about shopping on Boxing Day? Do you participate or wait until next week? Let us know in the comments below.

~ Kisses, Kvitka ~

We are wishing you a Happy and Warm New Year