Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Holiday Planning - New York & Orlando on a Budget

So I am a super lucky girl - this year I have a couple of holidays - firstly in July I am heading to the Forest of Dean for a Forest Holiday which I won :) You can read my plans so far here.

However, my second holiday is to New York and Orlando in September whoop whoop :)

If you have read my blog before you will know that I am a planner I love planning my holidays - I tend to do a random mix and book everything myself for a couple of reasons:-

  • I want my holiday to be my holiday my way
  • I am cheap - well actually poor therefore in order to afford to do the holiday I want I have to look at the cheapest way of booking it - holiday companies charge you for their booking service - if your a nervous traveller or your looking for something a bit more bog standard then they are fine - if you want to do some random stuff (like my hol last year - niagara falls, las vegas, disneyworld and then i-drive) it's more costly and complicated.
  • I'm a control freak - I like to know that everything is planned to the last detail, with contingency plans and a day by day break down!
I've wanted to go visit NY for a while and my mum really wants to go too so even as we arrived back bleary eyed and shattered from last years holiday we were already considering this years holiday.

Having looked at NY I realised it was ridiculously expensive like a 'cheap' room was running to the 100's which is ridiculous - there was no way we would be able to afford to spend 2 weeks in NY and to be honest whilst there is loads to do I only really wanted to do a couple of days so I could arrange to go back again in the future. 

We decided to do a split stay - as we love Orlando we decided we would do a couple of days in NYC and then 2 weeks in Orlando - skipping Disney and just staying on i-drive this time. I wanted the holiday to be less than £1000 per person as I'm paying.

I started off by looking for flights on skyscanner - I knew that I could travel at various times including mid week - I also had a variety of airports to choose from - Bristol, Birmingham and London are all easy to get to from Cardiff and I had no preference about which airport to fly into in NY (there are 3 within close proximity) 

I found flights on a Friday from Gatwick to JFK with luggage for £230 per person - my budget for the one way flights to NY was £250 so these were perfect. I never bother pre-booking the seats - I would rather rock up to the airport and hope they have some left available - and if they dont I will just chuck the headphones on and sleep - no worries and a saving of £25 per person!

Our flights are with Norwegian - now an interesting thing about Norwegian is that your in-flight meal is not included and you have to pay for it - they charge £25 for this service. Our flight is at 5pm - we have free passes to the airport lounge through my mum's bank account which includes unlimited cold food (pastries, bread, cheese, salad, cakes, meats etc) plus your choice of one hot item from their hot menu. So the plan is to stuff myself until I can hardly walk at the lounge! And to buy a pack of sarnies from boots / WHS in the airport to take on the plane - total cost to me of around £8

I found flights from Orlando to Gatwick on a Wednesday for £176 per person - again with Norwegian and including luggage - again I didnt bother with booking the food or the seats - the flights not until midnight and we always have food at the Golden Coral before leaving plus there is plenty of cheap eats in Orlando airport.

I havent booked the internal flights yet - I have checked them out and they are running between £25-50 per person which is not too bad.

Hotels have been an issue - I have booked a cheap one in NY but when I booked it had no review - after re-checking the reviews have been put up and they are bbbaaadddd - we wanted a small room but private bathroom - I am currently looking at some other options including staying in NJ as its only a 30 min bus ride to Times Square which would be fine. I havent paid yet as you pay on arrival and I have free cancellation so I have time to look at the other ones.

I booked a hotel in Orlando for us - it has mixed reviews but a friend has stayed there and they said to ignore the reviews and go for it (if its awful I am going to kill them). Hotel in Orlando cost £350

So total cost so far £1132. I still have the NY hotel to sort which will cost between £150 - £300, Gatwick transfers which will be around £100 and Gatwick hotel around £60 but even with these costs the total cost of the flights and travel will be around £1700 - thats £300 under budget - which is great as it means I can book some dinner shows and things too.

Next month (after payday!) I will be sorting out the internal flights and hopefully the NY hotel, gatwick hotel and transfers :)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A crazy couple of weeks!

You know how sometimes you think your all caught up with everything and then it's like the gods look down on you and start laughing and drop you in the middle of a crazy zone? That's been my last few weeks!

So here is a brief update of whats been happening!

1. My sister got given a house in Cardiff - she knew about it we knew about it everyone knew about it but do you think she got her ass into gear and got herself organised for the move? Hell no! So I did around 8 round trips back and forth to move some of her stuff then a friend of ours did 2 massive van loads. In between trying to get my sis signed up with a gp, a health visitor for the kids and various other services and unpacked. Total chaos.

However on the positive:
1. got her some beds from gumtree so her and the nephew are no longer sleeping on the floor
2. got carpet from gum tree for H's bedroom
3. mostly moved in and most of the repairs on the new place done
4. grant application done for some carpets for the rest of the rooms and a cooker (shes currently living off micro, toaster and deep fat fryer food which is not good!)

On the negative:
1. House in bridgend still not empty!!!
2. unpacking not finished in new house
3. need to sort out sofas she has none
4. waiting on grant application approval to get vouchers for a cooker and carpet

Overall this is a positive improvement for us - her new house is 20 mins by a direct bus from my house or a short 10min drive. It's a new start and she is working pretty hard to try and sort out her belongings and to get rid of what she doesnt need - this is hard for her due to metal health issues and problems with concentrating but she is doing it slowly. It also means that H has her own bedroom - this will help to get her into a better nighttime routine. There are lots of services available in the area she has moved into for her and J's mental health needs and there is also lots of things nearby for her to do such as parks, a leisure centre, shops and food places. The house is lovely with a large enclosed back garden which J has already worked hard in and brought from the state of an overgrown jungle to a safe play environment for H and for D when he stays over.

Sorting my sis out has taken a lot of my time and energy - but I have also started my new job. At first I thought I had made a mistake - sure the new job is better paid but it seemed really boring for the first week and I felt a bit let  down - I am used to being busy from the moment I step through the door until I go home and the first week I didnt really do anything - my computer id took a long time to come through and it seemed like they didnt really have anything for me to do. Thankfully the second week picked up.

It's a little scary actually how much I will be responsible for but I am sure I can do it.

Everyone in the new place seems really nice and approachable which is good. The office is massive and open plan which has taken a bit of getting used to. My parking space is a 10 min walk from the office which means I have to leave earlier in the morning and I get home later in the evening - not a huge difference about 30mins or so but its something else to get used to!

I've been so shattered with the move and with the new job that I actually took a break from comping and went a whole week without doing them.

In other exciting news - well exciting for me :D I'm doing a project with savvy circle IF team (thats the instant feedback team) with anew oral b toothbrush I am really pleased about this because I needed a new one as my dad dropped my old one down the loo when he last stayed over and I have been using a regular one and its just not as good as an electric one. The new toothbrush is proper clever and talks to my phone and stuff.

I am also going to be reviewing a washing machine for ao.com which will be fab.

Both reviews will be on the blog in the next week or so :D