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Victoria Sully Nov 2018 Circle Logo

 

Welcome to the Lylia Rose UK money and lifestyle blog.  I'm Victoria Sully, a busy mum of two, wife, full-time blogger and online money-maker.  I’m passionate about making money online, saving money, self-employment, healthy living and blogging.  I’m on a personal mission to be healthier and wealthier!  Thank you so much for joining me.


 

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Category: Travel, Holidays & Days Out

  1. How to stay warm when camping in a Mazda Bongo in cold weather

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    We recently went camping to Rhossili Bay in our Mazda Bongo Friendee for a spur of the moment one night trip without the kids, and let me tell you, it was freezing!  We got a great deal on the campsite as it was the end of the season being October and they don’t open past this month.  I quite enjoyed it as it meant the campsite was really quiet.  I did ask Ben why he thought they shut at the end of October, but before he could answer, I answered my own question as I realised it’s probably just too cold. 

    Even though we went near the beginning of October, it was still freezing!  The weather was quite unpredictable.  It was 6 degrees when we woke at around 7am to 7.30am in the morning, so who knows how cold it had been overnight.  In the day time though, it was really warm by midday in the sun.  So warm, in fact, that we had to take all our layers off and we were in t-shirts!

    It seems a shame to have the van all through winter and not be able to use it.  Even though I detest the cold weather, I do sometimes like wrapping up warm and getting outdoors.  I don’t want to totally hibernate inside for the entire winter.  I love being outdoors in nature and seeing the change in season.  I just need to find a way to stay warm! 

    Here are my suggestions of how to stay warm when camping in a campervan in cold weather:

    How to stay warm when camping in a Mazda Bongo in cold weather 1

    Wrap up warm!

    Mini heater

    This is such a great idea.  We have a plug socket in the van and Ben said perhaps we can get a mini heater inside the van.  I have found the perfect solution at Coopers of Stortford who stock a mini heater that they call a ‘pint sized’ heater.  It plugs into a socket and is not much bigger.  It can heat for 1-12 hours and even has temperature control.  I’m not sure if Ben realised there would be something quite so dinky, but I think it’s a perfect solution.  We have a leisure battery installed so we can run it off this without draining the main battery.

    Leave the pop-top down

    This was my genius solution whilst camping as I was certain lifting the pop-top roof would just create more space that would need heating up.  We left it down so we were in a more confined space and I believe this kept us warmer.

    Sleep fully dressed

    I didn’t dare get changed into my pyjamas and instead slept fully dressed, socks and all.  I would highly recommend fluffy socks, cosy jogging bottoms and a fluffy jumper to sleep in!  Perhaps even a hat if it’s super freezing! 

    Snuggle up

    If there’s two or more of you, then snuggle up!  Keep each other warm!

    Take lots of blankets

    Pack some extra blankets.  And then pack some more.  And then pack some more.  I questioned ben on why he was packing sooooo many blankets and thought it was overkill, but when it came to night time I realised it wasn’t even enough!  We had a couple of cosy blankets under us, our duvet from home and then around three or four throws on top.  It was still cold!  The extra blankets and throws definitely helped though and we’ll be taking every last one we own next time!

    How to stay warm when camping in a Mazda Bongo in cold weather

    We took a camping stove so we could have warm food first thing!

    Or use a thermal sleeping bag

    Probably the most obvious solution is to use a thermal sleeping bag.  This was Ben’s suggestion, but I just hate sleeping in sleeping bags.  I feel so trapped.  Perhaps I’ll change my mind if we go in even colder weather!

    Use thermal screens

    I’ve also discovered these thermal interior screens that will not only keep us warm and retain the heat in the van overnight, but they’ll give us some extra privacy too.  We have built in blinds on all the regular windows, but nothing on the front or back windscreens.  It’s on our list of things to buy, but we were just thinking of something thin for privacy, instead we can choose thermal screens to keep us warm in the colder months.

    Have a warm cuppa

    There’s nothing more warming than a nice hot cup of tea or cocoa!  Invest in some proper thermos flasks to keep hot drinks hot for hours and use them when you need them the most – to warm up at night time or in the morning!

    We definitely need to invest in a few more things for the van to keep us warm outside of the summer months.  I don’t want the cold weather to put us off exploring and we’ll be getting a mini heater and thermal screens ASAP!

     

    Here’s some kid-free camping adventures:

    A Kid Free Camping Trip to the Vale of Glamorgan - A weekend in Wales with camping, beaches and castles 
    A Kid Free Weekend: Hot tub glamping and zip wire fun at Chepstow Quarry

    And with the kids:

    Branscombe Airfield and Campsite review and two day Devon travel diary

     How to stay warm when camping in a Mazda Bongo in cold weather (2)

     

  2. A last minute campervan camping trip to Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wales

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    Two weekends ago we went on a spur of the moment camping trip to Rhossili Bay which is part of the Welsh coast on the Gower Peninsula.  It was the first time going there and our second trip to the Gower this year.  Earlier this year Ben and I took the camper van for its first ever camping trip to Oxwich Bay.

    My mum had the kids for the night which had already been planned.  She was having them for 24 hours from 3pm Sat to 3pm Sun.  We didn’t originally plan on going away as it didn’t seem long enough to get very far and after writing my winter bucket list blog post I originally wanted to go tubing to tick it off the list!  So we’d planned on going tubing which is only £11 each at the local dry ski slope in Gloucester – somewhere I’ve never been yet.  But that week I was feeling really stressed!  I was getting serious cabin fever with being at home so much!

    A last minute campervan camping trip to Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wale

    A last minute campervan camping trip to Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wale

    For the first time in almost eight years, Ben managed to take some nice photos of me!

    I work at home and I’m at home nearly all the rest of the time as our kids are just 3 and 6, so in bed early and so on.  My day is often school runs, work at home, then home all evening.  I was starting to feel like I’ve just been at home for weeks on end and not done anything else, so needed to get out of here. School, home, gym.  That’s my life and it’s all local to me and I just need to get out and do more things!

    I said to Ben we should maybe go away for the night instead and expected him to say there wasn’t enough time.  He usually classes any drive over one hour as a holiday and doesn’t usually like driving far at all unless it is for a holiday or specific reason.  So I was shocked when he sent me a map image of Rhossili Bay back and said ‘let’s go’.  It was a 2.5 hour drive and we only had 24 hours!  I thought he was joking, but luckily he was being serious so we started searching for a campsite.

    Hillend Campsite review

    A last minute campervan camping trip to Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wale

    Our van is down there in the field!

    We found Hillend Campsite online before we left and it looked perfect.  It was right by the beach and only £16 for a night’s stay as it was October – the last month they are open for the year.  There was also no need to book, just turn up, pitch up and pay when your there.  I loved this flexibility so we didn’t feel tied to go if it was chucking it down with rain!

    Pitching up for us is easy with the van.  We have a Mazda Bongo with pop top roof.  We literally pull up, find a spot and we’re done!  Ha!

    It’s so easy.  We don’t have a converted van as we decided we wanted a larger sleeping area and would just go out for food, buy picnic type food or use Ben’s new camping stove to cook something easy in a pan and we don’t need to take up valuable space in the van for this.  I’d much rather a bigger bed!

    The campsite was ideal.  Super cheap, lots of toilets, hot showers and as it was end of season it was really quiet – perfect!  It was also only a stone’s throw away from the beach. 

    A last minute campervan camping trip to Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wale

    Dinner at Kings Head Inn, Llangennith, Gower

    The setting was great.  It was one mile from a pub called Kings Head Inn which we walked to as soon as we got there.  We arrived at dinner time and are clockwork with our hunger!  I can’t wait too late for food!  They had a delicious vegan chickpea curry so this was perfect.

    We sat outside as the view was lovely.  It wasn’t that warm, but we kept our coats on and the setting was too beautiful not to really.  There was a church opposite and the hills dropped down to the sea.  It was so nice and we really felt like we had got away for a mini holiday!

    The curry was so delicious and huge portions!  I ordered chips on the side as I was starving, but the mains were plenty big enough.

    A last minute campervan camping trip to Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wale

    Rhossili Bay review

    I absolutely love Rhossili Bay.  I felt really emotional when there as it’s the most perfect beach in the UK that I’ve seen so far.  I really want to live by a beach one day and hadn’t seen anything remotely suitable yet, but now I think Rhossili could be a contender.  It is a large sandy beach with pebbles and dunes at the back, as well as gorgeous green hills behind it with plenty of countryside and walks.  The back of the beach is hilly and not built up with residence or for tourism at all.  It still has all its natural beauty.

    At the end of the beach is Worm’s Head.  It’s a tidal island that is accessible at low tide.  It has a really cool natural rock bridge called Devil’s Bridge.  We did walk along the beach for around one hour from the campsite to Worm’s Head in the morning, but we needed to get back home for lunch and to pick up the kids, so didn’t make it all the way across Worm’s Head.  I hope to return one day to see cross over at low tide and walk over Devil’s Bridge.

    A last minute campervan camping trip to Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wale

    It’s a really spectacular place and we sat for a moment at the edge of the low tide crossing part of Worm’s Head to look back over the beach and see the sea all around.  There are lots of rugged rocky cliffs to admire and I enjoy the fresh sea breeze and sound of the gulls.  I could imagine myself living there and walking to that spot with a book on a summer’s day to lie in the sun and read.  Bliss!

    Rather than walk back along the beach, we walked up the hill to the top where there’s a view over the whole peninsula.  I said to Ben there must be something wrong with this place as it’s so ideal – sandy beach ideal for running along in the morning and the kids to play on,  plenty of countryside, not built up, campsites, a couple of pubs and lots of walks… what could be wrong?  It seemed perfect.  On our hour walk back over the hills to the campsite we bumped into some residents and they said it was very calm day.  They told us it’s normally really windy and we’d be battling against the wind to get up that hill and walk across it.  Ah-ha.  It does have a downside, not that I was hoping for one, but it all seemed too perfect a place.  I think we need to go back and see how windy it is!

    A last minute campervan camping trip to Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wels

    Final thoughts

    Even when there Ben questioned why I would not go to the same place twice.  I always say this and it’s because I feel life is short and if I go back somewhere again then that’s a chance of seeing somewhere new that I’ll never get back again.  I want to see and do as much as possible in my life and so I love to explore new places all the time.  That said, I do want to go back to explore the other beaches we didn’t see and to go properly onto Worm’s Head and see Devil’s Bridge.  We also picked up a map for the Gower coastal path so this is something we are both keen to do – walk around the whole Gower over 2-3 days and see everywhere!

    I really enjoyed Rhossili Bay.  It’s a stunning beach with a beautiful natural backdrop, perfect for long walks, beautiful scenery and fresh air.  A true escape from the monotony I was feeling at home!

     A last minute campervan camping trip to Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wale

    Here’s some camping we’ve done without the kids before:

    A Kid Free Camping Trip to the Vale of Glamorgan - A weekend in Wales with camping, beaches and castles 
    A Kid Free Weekend: Hot tub glamping and zip wire fun at Chepstow Quarry

    And with the kids:

    Branscombe Airfield and Campsite review and two day Devon travel diary

    A last minute campervan camping trip to Rhossili Bay in the Gower, Wales

  3. Accommodation types for all budgets in European cities

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    Whether you’re looking for a little luxury on your next European city break, or you’re on a shoestring budget, here are several different types of accommodation that you’ll find in European cities.

    Accommodation types for all budgets in European cities

    Image

    Hotel

    Hotels are a popular accommodation as it’s easy to check in and out, easy to pay, some offer free cancellation and your room is cleaned for you.  Many hotels also have a concierge who is there for you to ask advice and make your stay as comfortable as possible. They can arrange tours of the city for you, book excursions, order taxis and help to ensure you have an enjoyable stay.  They’ll also be able to recommend the best places to visit.  Hotels are definitely a convenient choice when travelling.  Hotels can vary greatly in price depending on the star rating and services offered.  It's also possible to save money by booking last minute.

    Serviced apartment

    For the ultimate in luxury and if you have more cash to splash, then try your very own private and serviced apartment.  Have an entire apartment to yourself with the benefit of a kitchen so you can choose to cook yourself.   Apartments are spacious and more homely than hotels.  I've seen some amazing serviced apartment accommodation in Paris which looks gorgeous and I'd love the opportunity to stay there one day.  See what I'm talking about at https://paris-claridge.frasershospitality.com/en/accommodation.html

    Hostel

    The cheapest hostels are set up like dorms where you simply use it as a place to crash for the night.  Bedrooms are shared and there are often bunk beds.  Toilets and bathrooms are shared.  Some will provide inexpensive food.  They are a great option for those who really want the ‘traveller’ experience, to meet other travellers and make a travel budget stretch further.  They are great for those on a tight budget.

    Luxury hostel

    Luxury hostels are relatively new and offer you the chance to stay in affordable accommodation, but with hotel like luxuries or décor.  You'll get the hostel vibe with some features of a hotel, but without the hotel price tag.  It’s the perfect combination.  They also offer private ensuite rooms as well as the traditional hostel dorms.

    BnB

    Bed and breakfasts are usually cheaper than hotels and they include a delicious, often home cooked, breakfast.  Some will have shared bathrooms and some will have an ensuite.  They are usually a part of someone’s home so can feel very personal and homely with hosts who are proud of their local area and its offerings.  There are still different standards of BnBs so price and standard can vary to suit different budgets.

    Air BnB

    Thanks to Air BnB there are so many options nowadays for accommodation which enables you to stay in an actual home or someone’s second home.  This could be an entire house, a flat or just a room.  There are unlimited options on websites like these for cities all over Europe.  Prices vary to suit all budgets and depend on the type of accommodation and location.  These can offer great value if you are looking for more of a short-term rental when compared to the price of a hotel for a long stay.

    Sofa surfing

    I told you this would be a blog post for all budgets and share all types of places to stay!  If you’re looking for free or very cheap accommodation then staying on someone’s sofa could be for you!  There are dedicated sofa surfing websites where you can find details of people offering this service.

    Whether you’re looking to spend more on luxury on your European city break or want to try your luck at finding free accommodation, there really is a choice for every type of traveller and budget.

     

    What to read next

    Top tips for saving money on your summer holiday

    How to save money on family holidays and day trips

    Things to prepare in advance for your family summer holiday abroad

    Ways to save money while on holiday

    Accommodation types for all budgets in European cities

  4. Ways to save money while on holiday

    Posted on

    You may have found yourself a bargain of a holiday, but the money saving doesn’t need to end there.   Some savvy preparation before your trip abroad and clever advice when you’re there can prevent you from over-spending unnecessarily.  Read on to discover how to save money while on holiday.

    Save money with an all-inclusive holiday

    Choosing to book an all-inclusive holiday package with a reputable company such as Mark Warner can be a more cost-effective solution than choosing half-board or catering, particularly if you’ll spend a lot of time at the resort and drink a lot!  If you have kids then they’ll have access to unlimited ice-creams, snacks and drinks so you’ll not need to be pestered all day long or spend a small fortune at the bar.  When booking your holiday work out the average cost of buying food, drinks and snacks each day to see if the all-inclusive deal is worth it.  Many hotels will offer a packed lunch if you are going out for the day, so check if this is an option too so you don’t need to spend any money on food at all if you don’t need to.  We chose an all-inclusive family holiday in Spring 2018 and barely needed any spending money at all.  Don’t forget to book using a cashback website where possible to save even more.

     Ways to save money while on holiday

    Photo by Chris Lawton 

    Buy your own food

    If you’re on a self-catering holiday then visit the supermarket and buy your own food.  It’s always going to be a much cheaper option than paying for three meals out every day.  That’s not to say you can’t treat yourself to a nice meal out, you are on holiday after all, but if funds are limited then it’ll be much cheaper for you to take a packed lunch most days and then splurge on a restaurant every other day instead of daily.  Taking your own lunch out with you will also save you time as you don’t have to stop and find somewhere to eat and can carry on exploring.

    Find a competitive exchange rate

    Before leaving, make sure you shop around for a competitive exchange rate on your holiday money.  Using cash abroad can avoid bank exchange rates on debit and credit cards, as well as ATM fees withdrawing cash whilst you are abroad.  If you are taking cards with you then check the fees before you leave and try to choose a card that has no foreign transaction fees if possible, otherwise every time you pay for anything you are spending more than you need to by paying a fee just to pay!

    Ensure medical emergencies are covered with travel insurance

    If you are ill or have an accident that requires medical attention while on holiday, then it’s likely you will have to pay a medical bill upfront.  Make sure you have a quality travel insurance to cover any medical needs whilst you are away.  It’s easy to compare the best travel insurance deals online.  You could be seriously out of pocket when on your holiday if you aren’t adequately covered!  Even as a citizen of the EU you may need cover when visiting other EU countries.  My Grandad recently experienced this as he injured himself on holiday and the only hospital that was near to him was a private hospital where he couldn’t access free medical treatment.  Instead, he had to pay the medical bill upfront and then claim it back from his insurance on his return.  Ensuring you have the right insurance will save you having to spend your own money on any medical assistance whilst abroad.

    Pay in the local currency

    When paying abroad by card, you are sometimes given the option of paying in your home currency.  Whilst this may at first seem like the logical thing to do…  don’t!  The business or their bank can set their own currency conversion and it’s likely to be much poorer than your own bank’s rates, so always choose to pay in the local currency. 

    Use public transport instead of taxis

    Navigating public transport abroad can be a little terrifying and so the convenience and ease of taxis becomes appealing.  But as we all know, it’s far more expensive to catch a taxi than a bus.  By working out the local public transport available to you instead of relying on taxis, you could save quite a substantial amount of your holiday money.  Your hotel will more than likely have a schedule and can explain to you the process.

    Be strict with your budget

    We’re probably all guilty of being frivolous with our cash on a whim when on holiday and in that more carefree mode, but it’s not so good for our bank balances and we probably spend on things we don’t really need!  To stop this from happening it’s a good idea to set a holiday budget before setting off and to break this down per day.  Be strict and stick to it if you really don’t want to overspend.

    Research free activities instead of paid excursions

    Paid excursions and tours can be pretty costly, especially when booked through holiday operators.  Instead, try to find cheaper and even free activities.  Many museums are free to enter and nearby towns and cities can be reached by bus.  Using an online guide you could organise your own tour of the city by foot instead of paying for an organised tour or taking a tour bus.

    Ask staff for their recommendations

    Ask local staff for their personal recommendations of what to do, where to eat and for free/cheap attractions in their city.  They will most likely know places that aren’t purely set up to make as much money from tourists as possible and you’ll discover hidden gems you’d otherwise not have found.  You’ll also likely get a more authentic feel of the place you’re visiting.

    Pre-book online to spread the cost or for discounts

    Many holiday excursions can be booked online before you jet off.  This enables you to spread the cost before you travel and not have to spend when you are there.  Also, look for discounts online.  Many companies offer cheaper tickets online and these can simply be shown on your phone whilst you are there.  You can even check online whilst you are on holiday if you find an attraction you want to visit.  Check their website to see if you can get cheaper entry and ask the hotel reception to print off the email if you need to print your tickets.

    There are lots of ways to save money when booking a holiday, but the saving can continue when we are abroad too.  Hopefully this blog post will inspire you to save money on your next holiday or even see that you can afford a holiday abroad without going crazy on the credit cards whilst there!

     

    What to read next

    Top tips for saving money on your 2018 summer holiday

    How to save money on family holidays and day trips

    Things to prepare in advance for your family summer holiday abroad

    ways to save money while on holiday

     

  5. EasySMX kids headphones review for travel and play

    Posted on

    Whether you love or hate kids using iPads, there’s no denying that they are here to stay.  Sure, kids are using technology from a much younger age nowadays, but it’s a sign of the times and in some ways it’s important they are fluent in their use of these devices.  They are growing up in an age where technology is becoming more important than ever and we depend on it for so much.  Imagine just how much more technology will have evolved by the time our children are adults.  There’s no doubt in my mind that most kids nowadays will need to have skills in technology that is far more advanced than our understanding of it ever has been or will be, by the time they are adults.  I’m sure the future world of jobs will rely heavily on those with the necessary computer skills.

    EasySMX kids headphones review for travel and play boys

    The digital era is also infiltrating schools.  As soon as Bella started school she was assigned homework that required the use of a computer or iPad!  A website/app was to be used to practice maths and another for reading.  Luckily she was already used to using an iPad which helped her quickly get used to using a laptop too.  I heard recently that my old senior school, which I left 15 years ago, is now a technological school where the pupils use iPads in lessons!  No pens and paper, except for exams!  I must admit, even I found that crazy, but it is a sign of the times.  If we want our children to keep up to speed with how things are changing then they do need access to this technology and be competent in using it.

    I also think it’s just the games of today.  When I was younger we were on handheld electronic devices such as the Nintendo Game Boy!  I was never lucky enough to have one, but I remember having a handheld electronic Paperboy game.  I also often played on my SEGA Megadrive or Nintendo console.  My children don’t have these sorts of consoles, but they do have iPads.  We don’t let them have total free access to them just yet as they are only three years old and six years old.  But we do get them out every now and then so they can play their games.  They are also so useful to keep them entertained on long journeys or when they’d be bored and need to sit still – for example, when Reuben age three has to accompany me to Bella’s swimming lesson and sit nicely by the edge of the pool!  I’d be chasing him all over the place and hushing at him if it weren’t for the iPad!

    So yes, we use iPads and I think they are great.  I don’t agree for children to be on them ALL the time, but as part of a balanced lifestyle as with anything.  A good mix of indoor, outdoor and electronic play.  The best of all worlds.  Plus, they really are a lifesaver when travelling aren’t they?!

    Related - Try two of these kids craft subscription boxes for free

    Earlier this year we went on our first family package holiday abroad to Fuerteventura.  I’m not usually one for buying anything at the airport, but Ben fancied a look in the electronics shop and I spied some headphones for the kids.  I realised these would be amazing on the plane and we bought them a pair each.  They were the best thing we bought the kids for travelling as they were able to have the sound on their devices without disturbing other passengers and were totally entertained for the four hour flight.

    EasySMX comfortable kids headphones review

    EasySMX kids headphones review for travel and play

    I was recently contacted to see if we wanted to try the EasySMX comfortable kids headphones and I knew the kids would be ecstatic!  I didn’t tell them about them and just left them on the table one day for their return from school.  As I imagined they both were so excited as soon as they saw them with Bella exclaiming ‘Mummy I love them!  I love the hearts!  They’re pink, look Mummy!’  For first impressions and the look of them, they score a big tick!

    Of course, the children immediately wanted their iPads to test them out and they were more than happy with the sound quality. 

    ‘Kids, do you like your new headphones, are they good?’

    A resounding ‘YES!’ from both the kids with big smiles!

    These headphones are definitely a hit in our home and the kids are super impressed.  They also have some great features that us parents will appreciate: ­­

    • The volume is limited at 80-85dB so the kids can’t turn them up too loud and damage their ears.
    • The ear pads can be removed for cleaning if they get mucky.
    • The headband is adjustable to grow with your child and fit different ages.  They are a great fit both on my three year old and six year old.
    • They have super soft and squidgy cushioning on the ear pads for ultimate comfort.
    • There’s an 18 month warranty for extra peace of mind.
    • Great value at only £14.99 to £15.99 per pair as I type this.
    • Lightweight design means they are not bulky or uncomfortable when wearing.
    • The headband twists so is hard for children to snap or break.
    • Best of all, they will keep the kids entertained and quiet if you need them to be!

    Overall I think these are a great pair of headphones for children with responsible features such as volume limiting and the ability to twist the headphone band without breaking it.  They seem robust, but also comfortable to wear.  At less than £20 a pair they are great value too.  The kids love them!

    They are currently available on Amazon by clicking here.

     

    Related

    A list of 50 free and cheap things to do in the summer holidays with kids
    9 Free Things to do in Gloucestershire (with kids)
    Peppa Pig World Review 2017 (and where to stay for under £100 for 2 nights)
    My Very Honest CBeebies Land Hotel Review
    We The Curious | Bristol Science Museum Review

    EasySMX kids headphones review for travel and play