Traveling to Hurghada

Our tans have long faded, the snorkle masks are put away and I still haven’t seen any of the pictures Steve got on the GoPro. Our trip to Egypt was 2 months+ ago, though it feels like a lifetime! August has been super rainy here in the UK and I am over it! I need to be back in the sunshine, drinking colorful drinks and swimming in the lagoon!

Unfortunately I have to wait another 5 weeks until I’m back in the sun again. In the meantime I figured it was high time I told my readers about our trip – where we stayed and what we did.

We booked our trip just 9 days before leaving because a) we’re crazy and we needed to wait till payday to book it and b) we we’re hoping to snag the trip super cheap (which we did). In the end with Thomas Cook, we paid about £750($973)for a week at an all inclusive hotel for the both of us, not too bad. If you can be flexible with travel locations etc I suggest booking late.

This was our first packaged holiday, flights and hotel all booked with one company so we didn’t know what to expect. We treated ourselves and bought some extra luggage weight, meals on the flights and picking our seats ahead of time. That set us back about £75 but after the flights we had I’m glad we at least had seats we wanted. The check in counter at Gatwick for Thomas Cook was a mad house! Long lines, not enough employees and no smiles. Since we primarily fly BA or Delta/Virgin this was a very different experience. Once we boarded the plane we saw what a “budget airline” was all about. The seats were like stadium seats with a bit of cloth over – no cushion. architecture-1750794_1920The flight attendants were nice but looked tired and overworked. After taking our seats the pilot came on and told us there has been a computer issue so they were going to be handling the flight paperwork manually for the flight. Way to make us feel safe!

Our 5.5 hour flight took 7 hours – and when you add an obnoxious 5 year old a few seats in front of you – it was one of the worst in my life.

Once we landed we found out just how careful and a little overboard the Egyptian government is when it comes to airports. We bought our visas in one line, got in another to fill out boarding cards, had our passports checked and stamped and then someone made sure our passports had been stamped. It was a lot of deja vu.

After getting our bags we were directed to a coach that would take us to the hotel. We had to wait on the bus for 45+ min for 1 guest. When she finally showed up she said her husband had walked away from her in the airport so she just sat and waited for him to come back. This was about 11.45pm local time, so it took a lot for me not to lose it at her.

Our hotel was the closest to the airport but we were the last to be dropped off so the ride took an hour. To say we were hungry and unhappy campers when we finally arrived would be a massive understatement. Thankfully the rest of the trip went much better!

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AirBnB Packing List

Steve and I love airbnb. Its so much nicer to stay at a home then a hotel when we’re traveling – especially when it saves us a fair amount of cash. On average we book airbnbs for £40 a night where a hotel would cost us £80.

Depending on the sort of holiday we’re going for we stay in both rooms and whole houses. When we do a holiday with multiple locations we normally just do rooms, we save money and can get advice from locals. When we want something more relaxing or are staying in one place for a few nights we like to go for an entire house. Just makes it easier to relax.

When we do go for a whole house we’ve found some come complete with everything and anything you might want or need. Unfortunately they’re not all like that. Since most of the places we stay are international we find different people in different countries have different definitions of “we provide everything”. So in order to avoid being stuck without we’ve made a little airbnb kit we keep packed and ready for our trips. Due to the contents we dont fly with it but we could if we really needed to.

Here’s what’s in our AirBnB Kit

  1. Tea bags
  2. Instant coffee
  3. Sanitizing gel
  4. Dish soap
  5. Paper towels
  6. Laundry detergent
  7. Close pins
  8. Bin bags
  9. Granola
  10. Spoons
  11. Honey
  12. Set of sheets

We tend to pick up basics like milk and maybe yogurt in a local shop to cover breakfast. If we are traveling by car and on a strict budget I will even pack my crockpot to make/reheat a simple meal I can easily bring from home.

We’re looking at going away for the bank holiday weekend at the end of August so I will be making sure our “kit” is set and ready to go!

Do you have an airbnb kit? Or something similar that you always pack? Tell me in the comments below

Elevator of Death

One of the highlights of our Prague trip was seeing and using a paternoster elevator. These elevators – also called the Elevators of Death due to their history of being unsafe are becoming more and more rare. When I found out there was a working one in Prague I knew it was one of those now or never moments.

PaternosterIf you also want to annoy a number of locals at their place of work on a normal day when you visit Prague – I suggest going to Magistrat Hlavniho Mesta Prahy – Google Map RBS, its just accross the road. Its a big local government building so its not exactly a “tourist attraction” but thanks to their elevator I think they get a fair number of people walking in. I asked at information for the elevator and the gentleman sighed, half smiled and pointed us down the hall. I think he gets asked where it is a lot.

The elevator isn’t anything very exciting to look at, as people use it everyday to get from one floor to another, but knowing this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to ride one we jumped in. I wasn’t brave enough to ride it all the way around but brave folks who do say the mechanism is really cool to see.

So not your traditional tourist attraction but its off the beaten path and its free – win in my book!

Sights and Sounds of Prague

After spending all day monday in a beer tent we decided we needed to make a point to see as much of the city as we could on Tuesday. Unfortunately the weather was against us – it was hot, much hotter then expected and rainy. Not a great combination for sightseeing in a walkable city. In spite of the weather we did see a number of famous sights.

When we travel I tend to be the one in charge of photography – with my phone and my Nikon but this trip Steve decided he wanted to use our GoPro Hero 4 to capture the sites. Unfortunately he decided this days before we left so I didn’t have time to order a handle for it – this you get fingers in most pictures.

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Dancing House

The Dancing house is right on the river which meant we got a nice breeze while we stood with a throng of other people taking snaps of this odd shaped building. I didn’t find out until later that it’s a hotel and we could have gone inside. Next time!

Our next stop was recommended to us by a friend of mine back in the US – U Fleku. She and her husband lived in Germany a few years back and traveled to Prague. They told us we needed to stop by this brewery from the 1400s and try their dark lager. I am so glad we did – it was amazing! I can’t remember what we ate but it was delicious and the beer was light and refreshing despite it’s dark color.

After the brewery we walked back into the center of the city in hopes of exploring Charles Bridge – another free tourist favorite. Unfortunately our luck didn’t hold out and the blue skies from earlier that day turned grey and the we we’re soaked within minutes of being on the bridge.

Not having been smart enough to bring our raincoats that day we slunk off to find a dry spot to wait out the rain and came across the perfect place to cool off and stay dry. Yes – it’s a massive touristy gimmick but I’ve always wanted to go to an ice bar. There’s a famous one in London but at £16($20+) just to get in with one drink its not worth it in my mind. Prague Ice Pub charges 200CZK which at the time was about £4 – a pretty fair price for a drink and 20 minutes of selfies.

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Astronomical Clock

After freezing for 20 minutes we walked around Prague city center, picked up our go to souvenir – Starbucks city and country mugs and made sure we got ourselves in front of the famous astrological clock for the display that happens every hour on the hour. As the time drew closer a huge hoard of tourists stood in the square looking at the clock waiting for the mechanical display. Right on the dot the bells rang and the saints circled around. This is one of those “must see” things that you only have to witness once. It’s more hype than anything else.

That evening we tried a few different spots for dinner but in true Ckz fashion if you don’t arrive early enough the small restaurants and pubs tend to run out of food. Thankfully we found Pivnice U Sadu, I can only describe it as a whole in the wall TGIFridays if that makes sense. The food was yummy and very traditional – like something your mom would make when you visit from college. Plenty of beers on tap and friendly wait staff who spoke excellent english. A real win after a long day.

Prague – The City Of Beers

I’m about 90% sure that is not the tagline for this ancient city but today we’re just going to go with it because why not right? For Steve and I it was one big epic pub crawl – perfect sort of holiday in the heat!

Before I go any further with pictures of what we visits and recommendations of things to do and not to do I need to give a shout out to Honest Prague Guide. I found this youtube channel on a friend’s pinterest page and it was a total lifesaver! When we travel I always use my well worn copy of Lonely Planet’s Europe On A Shoestring. It’s the perfect mix of things that are inexpensive and yet still worth seeing. Plus its saved us a lot of money as we dont buy individual country travel books. But sometimes you wish you had a local to point you to the best spots you would miss since the book can only hold so much.

Thats where The HPG comes it – its a duo based in Prague who make informational videos for tourists on how to best spend their time visiting their amazing city. The videos explained how to take public transport from the airport to the city center (saving us about £30 in taxi fare). It covered the best places to eat for under £5, best place for a cheap beer (1 pint for less than $1) and alternatives to the super tourist spots. It does take awhile to watch all of them but it’s time well spent!

We lucked out with a great BA holiday – meaning we got our flight and our hotel together making them much cheaper than if we had booked them on our own. Our hotel Luxury Family Hotel Bila Labut a little ways away from the main tourist area but thanks to amazing public transit it took about 8 minutes to be right in the hub of things. We bought 3 day travel cards so we could take the subway, bus or street cars as much as we wanted. Very helpful and it worked out to be about $10 a day for the 2 of us. Occasionally we took ubers (when we were too drunk tired to navigate) and thanks to the great exchange rate we didn’t ever spend more than $5 a ride.

Our first meal in Prage was at Provaznice – an amazing and cheap Czk restaurant/pub just a few steps from Wenceslas Square – a major tourist attraction. Aside from cheap beer they had delicious food! We tried a few different things that looked good. Everything was amazing – I’d go as far to say it was the best place we ate as we went twice over our 4 day trip.

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Beer cheese, garlic potato pancakes and more local cheese

We spent the rest of our Sunday wandering around Prague, getting lost, popping our heads into lots of little bars and student hangouts recommended by HPG. We didn’t do much “sight seeing” as we were pretty tired from our 4am wake up call, so we called it an early night.

Our first dinner in Prague wasn’t traditional Czech, but its a favorite of Steve’s and mine and its not available in Reading – Pho! We have to travel into London for it and thanks to health and safety its nothing like what we get at home with raw beef.

Remember Vietnam was just next door to our hotel which made it a super easy place to grab a bite. Steve’s head cold made it even more perfect – a bowl of pho is known to cure any and all colds!

It wasn’t the same as what we get back in the US, but it was still really good. I imagine when it’s cold and damp in Prague in the fall and winter this place is packed with people warming themselves with these giant and inexpensive bowls of soup!

I’ve got 3 more days of sights, sounds and tastes to tell you about! Stay tuned.

Hurghada, Egypt

Steve and I just got back from an amazing 7 nights in Egypt where we had a really spectacular time. The weather was perfect – I didn’t see a single cloud in the sky the entire time we were there.

This was our first “package holiday” with Thomas Cook and we learned a lot. Some good and some bad – but that’s the best way. We got ourselves a very good deal on our trip by booking it about 10 days out. It worked for us because we’re pretty flexible with holiday etc for our jobs. We also knew they needed bodies in seats on the charter flight so waiting meant saving a lot.

If you follow my instagram you will have seen a number of photos from our holiday. Lots of sun, san and sea – just the way I like it! Here are a few snaps from our trip – I’ll go more into detail of where we stayed and what we did after I do that for Prague!

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This was the view from our room at sunrise one morning (I couldn’t sleep)

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The view of the Red Sea from the pool area

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Steve and I snorkeling in the Red Sea – it’s very salty which makes photos blurry

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Hurghada was hit very hard by the Egyptian recession and much of it is half finished hotels and tourist destinations

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A rather unflattering photo of me trying Hookah for the first time. It was not successful – but as funny as it looks

Now that we’re back in the UK we’re having a heat wave – its 89 degrees here today! Thankfully the office has AC but our house doesn’t – most dont – so its fans and open windows and a lot of laying around and moaning about the heat.

Prague Beers

For those of you who know Steve and I personally know we are big beer drinkers – so when we visited Prague in May we drank a lot, and I mean a lot of beer! I didn’t get photos of every pint we drank but nearly.

Here they are in all their glory – the beers of Prague

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Beers from the Festival

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Beer Ice Cream

Plus Size Travel Tips

It seems like every time I log into Facebook I see some sort of add or blog post or article about travel tips – making the most of a long flight, how to get upgraded for free or how to roll your clothes so everything fits in a clutch.

All that is well and good,

Side note: if anyone finds an article about fitting a weekends worth of clothes into a clutch please let me know! I’m a notorious over packer.

But what I find the hardest part about traveling, especially flying is doing it as a plus size person.  The world is getting very PC, not judging people for their sexuality or skin color. But when it comes to weight, especially on airplanes, the gloves come off. People seem to think its ok to make a fellow traveler feel bad for also traveling. I can’t tell you how many scared looks I get as I walk between the rows of seats to mine. Those terrified looks of “is this whale going to sit next to me and use up all the space?” If you do that – shame! Trust me, I don’t want to be squeezed into a tiny sheet in a metal tube for hours on end anymore then the next guy, but in order to travel I do it. Here are my tips on making the entire process a little less awful for everyone.

Fly Early or Late

Now I realize this isn’t always possible, but I try and book my flights at less desirable times of the day. Not only does it normally mean cheaper fairs, but it also means emptier planes. And of course, emptier planes means more empty seats so you’re much more likely not to have to sit directly next to someone.

Arrive at the Airport Early – Especially for a Full Flight

This may seem obvious, but I like to arrive for my flights about an hour or 1.5 hours before take off for the off-peak flights. I have zero desire to sit at a gate at 5am waiting to board my 6.45am flight. No sir. But when I have to take that 10.45am flight that I know is booked solid I will arrived by 8, so I can chill in the lounge.

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Side note – if you travel a lot its worth checking with your credit card companies to see if they offer lounge discounts or memberships. Thanks to my American Express I can get into any delta or partner lounge gratis. Hello free snacks and drinks. 

A few drinks and some free bottles of water help to keep me calm pre flight. I can reorganize my carry on, fill my metal water bottle & change shoes if I need to. Plus most lounges have quiet areas where you can just chill.

stylespilotshop_2281_1389190889Safety First

The first time I flew and realized that the seatbelt was not going to fit I thought I might just die right there. I felt like every passenger on the flight was staring at me (they weren’t) and I told myself I wouldn’t fly again. Obviously that’s not the case because I’m flying in 4 days. I tried to hide the 2 halves of the seatbelt under my blanket but a flight attendant noticed. She didn’t make a big fuss, she just came over to me and passed me a bottle of water and an extender and said “here’s the water you asked for miss, let me know if I can get you anything else”. No mention of the extender – no loud announcement over the intercom that I needed one. It was amazing.

Will this always happen – no. I’m sure there are rude attendants out there, but they’re few and far between. These days I simply go up to the desk before boarding and explain what seat I’m in and that I need an extender. It’s also a great time to see if there’s an empty seat next to you, and if not see if you can switch. No fuss, no drama, no embarrassment. Seatbelt’s keep you safe – so wear it!

A1+sOhQ0YXL._AC_UL200_SR160,200_Pack A Mini Carry On

When I fly I tend to over pack. This is where Steve would say I over packed for a walk into town. It’s true – I tend to get very anxious about having everything I will need whenever I leave the house. So my carry on is often over packed and heavy. What I do is I pack a smaller bag in the big carryon bag. It’s big enough to hold a book , some gum & chap stick, my phone, passport, usb cable and headphones. That’s it. Not the 3 books in my bag, or my entire make up bag, or 4 pairs of socks. Just the stuff I actually want on the flight. So I pull the little bag out and put it on my seat. Put my s’well bottle in the pocket in front and put my big carryon bag in the locker above me. Then I don’t have to try and dig through it while I’m in the tiny airline seat because I have what I need right in front of me.

Sit at the Back of the Plane

I’m sure there are studies about the best place to sit on a plane, and where the safest seats are. In my experience they’re all the same. In order to make you more comfortable look for seats in the back. Often the front part of the cabin fills up faster – people naturally want to sit closest to the door to get on and get off faster. Not me, give me the back – where there is the highest likeliness of empty seats.

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Last time I flew to the US my flight looks super booked. I was dreading a 9 hour flight squeezed next to someone who didn’t want to be sitting next to me. As I boarded I noticed the first 20 rows where full, even middle seats, but as I got back to my row (high 30s) there were lots of empty seats. As soon as we pulled away from the gate I smiled at my seatmate and took a row of 3 seats to myself. Bliss! He got 2 seats, I got 3 and all those sardines in the first 20 rows had no idea how much space we had in the back. Winning!

You Have The Right to Travel

If you don’t take any of my other tips – this is the most important one. You pay for your seat like everyone else; you have the right to travel comfortably as is humanly possible on a flight.  No one has the right to make you feel bad for your size no matter what! If you happen to have a rude seatmate, and unfortunately it will likely happen to all of us, don’t engage with them. Simply call an attendant and say you’re feeling uncomfortable due to the verbal abuse and would like to request a seat change. They’re amazing problem solvers.

Now go book that flight and see the world!

Oh The Beer Of It All

Steve and I like beer.

A more accurate statement would be that we love beer. Good beer. No more Natty Light or BudLite for us. We appreciate beer like people appreciate wine. We collect it, we drink it and we brew it. So it makes sense our holidays often revolve around beer.

Here in the UK there is something called a Booze Cruise where folks in the UK go over to mainland europe to stock up on good alcohol (buy from the source saves money). We take this concept a little further – we make a holiday out of it.

This last trip we did some shopping in Germany & Belgium for our favorite liquid gold.

In Aachen we hit our favorite liquor store to stock up on the basics, with a few fun mixed crates of samples. This last trip we filled 2 shopping carts with beer!

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Steve with our first cart of beer in Germany

We also go to a discounted grocery store in Belgium to get some every day beer and well as some specialty items – along with some snacks for me because I love belgian food!

After all this shopping our car looks and drives more like a van then an SUV, but it’s so worth it.

IMG_0523[1]Now that we’re home all our beer is in our dining room (hello crate decor) while we sort out the house, get some in the fridge and move the rest out to the shed.

We don’t really buy souvenirs, because all we need is good beer!

Prost to all of you – raise a glass of the good stuff tonight!