Current Affairs, Dreams, Travel

Postcards from Salt Lake City

Plane over Salt Lake City

I’ve been out here in Salt Lake City since Wednesday and I am having the best time.

I was a little nervous about travelling alone, having never left the country on my own. What I found out is that it’s loads of fun to make a trip alone because you have no choice but to meet people. From conversations struck up in the airport to staying in an Airbnb; I’ve spent this week open to new connections.

Salt Lake City is beautiful, surrounded by mountains which peek down each street you can’t help but feel in awe.

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City

As I was attending Alt Summit (more about this later) I didn’t have much time to explore the city. I was determined not to miss it completely and took a an early morning trip to Temple Square to see the incredible 18th century Mormon Temple and meeting house.

I had hoped for a pretty sunrise but happily made do with the cool overcast morning light. The temple forces your eye up to the heavens and the golden angel proclaiming the resurrection.

As a space considered sacred by The Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints it’s not open for public tours. If you want to go inside you’ll need to get a recommendation from a church member. I was happy to walk through Temple Square and admire the architecture.

Salt Lake City Temple

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City

I walked and took the Trax (tram) around the city as well as using Uber for rides in the evenings. The city is on a grid system which messed with my head a bit, it’s like my conditioning to winding and irregular road navigation is hard wired.

I’m not sure if my experience is unique but I found the welcome from everyone I met to be warm and genuine. My Airbnb hosts were so friendly, they even gave me a couple of lifts and picked me up at the airport. It was like coming to stay with old friends and I stayed up way too late chatting last night.

Salt Lake City

I will share more about the people I met out here when I’m back in the UK because I have a lot more to say.

Today I’m headed to San Diego to visit family before coming home on Sunday. I’m looking forward to great Mexican food, my first trip to Target, getting my camera out a bit more and to wrapping myself up in family hugs for a day.

Current Affairs, Dreams

Big Wide World

Kat Molesworth filled with joy

Six years ago I managed to shrink my world. Postnatal depression had me frequently considering not being here and avoiding contact with all but a limited number of friends.

I still find it hard to believe that I hid away from the world but as someone who feels emotion like a searing fire in my veins I was overwhelmed by every experience. While I still, (always have, always will), feel everything deeply it’s no longer something I struggle with.

The vulnerability I feel when I travel a new path sometimes pulls me back to those days. There are moments when I wonder if I can, or if I should, take a leap.

Frosty Morning

The difference now is that I have the courage to say yes to experiences; knowing that whatever comes my way is going to be woven into the story of my life one way or the other.

Tomorrow I’m headed off to Salt Lake City to dive head first into Alt Summit. I’m an enthusiast when it comes to blog conferences (as you may have guessed) and hearing different perspectives on our online landscape. I was lucky enough to be given a ticket and booked a flight within hours of finding out. I’m ready to make a dozen new friends and connect with companies I’ve only met over email.

So with butterflies in my tummy I am awaiting the cab at an unspeakable hour and the confinement of the flight because at the other end my world is about to expand.

Life Shrinks or Expands Depending on One's Courage Housewife Confidential

Follow my adventures on instagram & twitter @thatkat and on Snapchat where I will share video stories @blogtacular.

Travel

Tips for Booking a Family Holiday That Won’t Break the Bank

This past Solstice as we took stock of the year gone by it became clear that it was the experiences and travel which had fed our souls the most. When we made our intentions for 2015 travel was a top priority.

As a family our travels have been exclusively in the UK and that may not change this year but I’m going to apply for passports just in case we do turn things around.

In the spirit of getting away from it all a little more this year I’ve been gathering tips for family holidays that won’t bankrupt you. From insider tips on booking family holidays through travel companies to finding the cheapest prices on flights I’ve got it all here.

Booking Family Holidays That Won't Break the Bank

Booking Through Travel Companies.

Travel companies can give you the whole holiday on a plate leaving you free to plan what you’ll do when you get there. Here are some hot insider tips for finding the best deals.

  1. Look for places outside the Euro-zone – when you’re booking your holiday think beyond the costas, islands and rivieras we’re used to and see what’s on offer outside the Euro-zone countries. For example, Croatia’s cities, coast and islands have culture, sun and aren’t yet on the mainstream holiday trail.
  2. Find for new hotels and destinations in the portfolio – they will come at a sweeter price to help them establish within the brand.
  3. Search for free children’s places. Knock a chunk of your cost off right at the start by finding holidays where your kids go free.
  4. The beginning and end of the season will be cheaper. You can often get a good deal in the shoulder season (transition between peak and off peak) in some places this may be April and November when you can take advantage of an early Easter or Autumn half term.
  5. Keep an eye on the last minute sections of the site. If you can be flexible about when you travel then you could snap up a bargain days before you leave.

Big thanks to my friend Christian for teaching me how to find the best deals. 

Booking Family Holidays That Won't Break the Bank

Find Alternative Accommodation.

For us as a family of five hotels are a near impossibility – they can cope with two children but less frequently three in a room with two adults. We’re happy to forgo the luxury of someone else picking up after us to gain the benefits of a larger space.

Airbnb

I’ve been a big fan of Airbnb since my friend introduced me to them a few years ago. Essentially they connect homeowners with a network of travellers who may want a room or their whole property. We’ve stayed with them a few times most recently when we were on our anniversary weekend trip last year. We had a lovely apartment just up the street from the Colosseum for less than £75 a night – perfect! I’m staying with them again next week when I head to Salt Lake City and renting a room in an apartment was less than half the price of a hotel room.

You can search by location and zoom in on specific areas you would like to stay in to find properties. The hosts have pictures and reviews which gives you an idea of what to expect from your stay. I’ve found my hosts to be friendly and willing to help out in any way they can.

I’ve created a few wishlists based around areas we want to visit so I can go back and find potential rentals when we’re ready to book.

If you’re looking to offset your travelling you could even become a host and make money from your spare room or empty property. I recently met with some Airbnb hosts over dinner and was intrigued by their stories of friendship and support form guests not to mention the difference it made to their income. I love this social aspect of travelling and it certainly allows an introvert like me to get to know people without the pressure.

If you want a friends’ referral code here’s mine which will give you £16 off your first booking (and give me travels credit if you book to travel or become a host).

Self Catering

Searching self-catering sites is well worth the time if you turn up the perfect cottage for a cosy weekend.

My tips for searching here are to look for local tourism sites which often have a last minute section for holiday cottages in the area you are hoping to visit. Once you have found somewhere call rather than booking online as there might be a deal to be done. We have booked accommodation at 50% of the list price in the past as letting agents and owners would rather it was occupied than not.

House Swap

While we haven’t tried house swapping yet the lure of essentially free accommodation is making me curious.

You can do either simultaneous or non-simultaneous swaps. The benefit of a mutual exchange is that you have time to get to know each other and that you will both treat each other’s homes with respect. I’m thinking this could be great for us to explore another city without breaking the bank.

Stay With Family or Friends.

It is probably lower down on my list but it’s another great way to escape without spending lots on a hotel. We’ve been known to pitch our tent in family gardens to take the pressure off the host. With three children interested in conservation and jungles I am thinking a trip to my Indonesian family is a good idea.

Not only does this tick the budget option but it gives you a chance to spend time with loved ones who know the area. Even if you don’t stay with relatives or friends, having local guides is invaluable in finding a great place to stay.

Booking Family Holidays That Won't Break the Bank

Don’t travel in school holidays.

Urgh, I know, it’s infuriating that those of us with children in state schools are taxed by holiday companies during school holiday periods and potentially fined by schools for taking children out during term time. I could rant for some time on the subject!

There is no easy win here; if you’re going on a holiday during the holidays use every trick below to bring the cost down. Here are a few tips for minimising the cost:

  1. Avoid the first and last weeks of the summer holiday as these are the most popular.
  2. Book in advance – you can secure the best rates on rooms, self catering and packages the further out you plan when it comes to the summer holidays. Snap them up before someone else does.
  3. Say goodbye to weekend travel. Flights at the weekend are often more expensive during the holidays, fly mid-week to get a better deal on your trip.

While longer breaks and school term-time aren’t compatible there is no reason why you can’t take shorter weekend trips on the weekends especially if an inset day boots your time off.

Booking Family Holidays That Won't Break the Bank

Finding Cheap Flights.

Often everything hinges around where you can find the best priced flights for and a little legwork could save you hundreds on flights for a family. Here are a few of the apps & sites I use when I’m searching.

Kayak

I love both their site and their app. Kayak has some nifty searching tools which help you figure out which is the cheapest date for you to fly using a graph of the dates you want to travel on. You can also use their explore feature to set loose parameters and find out where you could go in the world for your budget. And if you’re thinking of travelling to more than one destination on your trip their multi-city search is superb.

Their app makes searching for flights (plus hotels & cars) a breeze. I can see it becoming quite addictive. It also holds your itinerary, packing list, checks baggage charges and alerts you to price drops on routes you’re watching.

Skyscanner

Skyscanner is still my favourite flight searching tool. It may not have the multi-city search yet but in terms of searching for specific dates I find it always turns up cheap flights which I haven’t seen elsewhere. If you’re watching flights to a particular destination their alerts are great to grab any price drops (we used this for our Rome trip and saved around £80 in total).

Money Saving Expert Flight Checker

Martin Lewis is a genius when it comes to saving money and his flight checker is a nifty tool for finding cheap flights in Europe. Put in a range of dates, rough holiday length and dial up a specific destination or search anywhere in Europe. I love this for quickly figuring out where the cheap fares are.

 

Booking Family Holidays That Won't Break the Bank

Go Camping.

This is our current plan for affordable family holidays. It takes a bit of investment up front but once you’re kitted up (tent, roof box, camping stove and blow up beds are my essentials) you can expect to cut your holiday bills considerably.

There are a few ways to find kit on the cheap eBay being the most obvious. We managed to snag an ex-hire bell tent at 80% of the new price on Gumtree, keep an eye out for stock being off loaded in Autumn and Spring. Car boot sales are another excellent source of bargain camping gear, we’ve picked up lots of useful bits and bobs for pennies.

Once you have all the gear finding camp sites is pretty easy. Compare prices on the whole tariff (often the price quoted is for two adults in one tent) when you search. Look for campsites away from the most popular places, often neighbouring towns can be half the price. Sometimes the most popular sites can be as packed as a festival ground so check out online reviews before you book.

One of my friends manages to get three or four weeks camping in Cornwall every summer for under £300 so if you’re looking to max out your holiday time without maxing your cards this could be the option for you.

Booking Family Holidays That Won't Break the Bank

So those are my tips and tricks for finding great family holidays without bankrupting yourselves. Now, what are your secrets to getting the best deals?

Exercise

Failing My Fitness Challenge?

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The time in between years is a time we use to reflect on the year gone by. As part of our Solstice & New Year rituals we light a candle each night and towards the turning of the year our discussions centre around the past 12 months and the coming year.

Last year I crossed a mental barrier and had joined the local gym. I had spent a long time thinking about my increasing lack of activity and I wanted to be strong and fit for Blogtacular in the Spring.

When I went for my induction I snapped the photo above and uploaded it to Instagram. The response and support was so incredible that I added a hashtag, #katfit52, on a whim. Standing there at the foot of the mountain in January I figured it couldn’t get harder to go to the gym each week.

So it turns out that doing something every single week is tough. There are several reasons for this: my childcare hours got cut, I tore my calf muscle and I was really really tired. I think the overriding issue was that after Blogtacular my singular focus had gone and, compounded by squeezed time and injury, I let it slip. When the first week I didn’t set foot in the gym passed it became easier to let it slide down the priority list and I don’t think I’ve been in there on a Monday morning in the last six months.

Of course I am almost deliberately looking at this from the negative point of view. If you flip it around I went from pretty much zero active weeks to 37/52. That’s 70% and I’m taking it as a win.

KatFit52

I learned a lot from not completing my 52 in 52 weeks; sometimes setting a challenge isn’t as straight forward as it first seems.

One: I was so out of tune with my body. I knew that I wasn’t feeling right but until I started to actually focus on what my body could do that I realised just how much it couldn’t. The first time I did the cross trainer I couldn’t manage more then three or four minutes.

Two: finding plus size workout gear and shoes is in and of itself a nearly impossible task. This time of year is your best bet as big businesses cash in on our resolutions. My solutions – sports bra from Simply Be, running leggings from Sainsbury’s, (men’s wide) shoes by New Balance and t-shirts from ASOS although these are cotton rather than technical tees.

Three: July and December are a write off. It’s taken me a long while to realise that school events and the flurry of trying to get work done before the end of term leaves little time for anything else. I need to factor this in next year, lots of frustration came from trying to carry on as normal.

Four: people assume I’m trying to lose weight. I’m not, I’ve said so from the start. I know I would feel better if I did but I also know enough about the complexities of my body and weight to know that it’s not that simple. I’ve ended the year on the same weight as I began; no more, no less. I’m good with this and I hope everyone else is too.

Five: and this is the big one. It’s ok. It’s ok not to do it all. It’s ok to cut yourself some slack. The world doesn’t end, you can fail and start over.

So that’s my year of fitness. 37/52 weeks and proud of it. I’m undecided on whether I will finish the hashtag or begin a new one. One thing I know for sure is that this is important to me and I’ll be making time for it in 2015.

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