Friday, June 29, 2012

Visit a Famed Mansion in the UK

Have you ever watched a film and wished you could visit the mansion or castle that the characters live in? Well, Nile Guide has found the top 10 mansions you can visit. From the site of the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots to the setting of Shakespeare in Love:

Broughton Castle
  1. Chatsworth House in North Derbyshire as seen in Pride and Prejudice and The Wolfman. Complete admission cost is £18, but if you buy your tickets online, you can save 10%! (Senior & Student: £16, child: £12, family: £50) You can spend less if you only want to visit just the house or the gardens, but with a combination ticket you see more and save off both.
  2. Highclere Castle in Hampshire as seen in Downtown Abbey and Eyes Wide Shut. Highclere has several packages to choose from. Choose from a gardens ticket (£5/£1), a gardens & Egyptian exhibition ticket (£9.50/£5), a castle & gardens ticket (9.50/£5) and a combo ticket hat gives you entry to all three (£16/£9.50). 
  3. Alnwick Castle in Northumberland as seen in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Harry Potter. Right now you can pay admission for a day and visit for the whole year, and get 5% off! Garden ticket: £12/£4, Castle ticket: £14/£7 or combo ticket: £24/£10. 
  4. Hatfield House in Hertfordshire as seen in Batman Returns, Laura Croft Tomb Raider, Sherlock Holmes, Get Him to the Greek, Shakespeare in Love and more! Explore over 400 years of history with a combo ticket: £15.50/£8.50, house ticket: £10/£5.50 and tickets for east and west gardens, farm, guided tours and more. Pay just £3 for the audio tour. 
  5. Wardour Castle in Wiltshire as seen in Billy Elliot and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Visit this English Heritage site for just £4/£2.40 which includes an audio tour. You can also take special spooky tours, see an outdoor play or a recreation of the siege of Wardour. Additional admission applies. 
  6. Haddon Hall in Derbyshire as seen in The Princess Bride. General admission costs up to £18, but you can save 48% by purchasing a ticket for entry after noon. There are also guided tours, special evening events and garden entry that you can attend. 
  7. Lunton Hoo Hotel in Hertfordshire as seen in James bond’s Never Say Never Again and The World is Not Enough as well as Quills and War Horse. Stay in this well-known luxury hotel. Enjoy an amazingly affordable break throughout 2012 on the Jubilee Celebration deal for just £60 per person per night, including breakfast. 
  8. Mentmore Towers in Buckinghamshire as seen in The Mummy Returns. Unfortunately, the Towers has changed hands and is in the process of being turned into a resort, so tours are not available, but if you happen to be in the area, I’m sure you could jump out and take some photos of the property. 
  9. Saltram House in Plymouth as seen in Sense and Sensibility. Wander the grounds and house for a paltry £9.40/£4.60, where your admission fee will pay for protecting green spaces and historical places. Arrive on bicycle or public transport and save. 
  10. Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire as seen in Shakespeare in Love. Discover both the castle and gardens of this beautiful property for just £8/£4.

Highclere Castle

Why not plan a day trip to visit one of these historic and famous locations? Almost everyone who visits the UK plans a trip to Notting Hill and Tower Bridge, but these uncommon destinations for travelers will make your holiday a bit more special and interesting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guest Post: How to Have a Great Time in Edinburgh on a Budget

If you're on a budget and want to visit Edinburgh and think it might be an expensive UK city to visit, don't fret, as it is actually an extremely tourist-friendly place with lots and lots of free and cheap things to see and do, which means you can get the full experience of this beautiful city without shelling out too much! If you have never been before and want some tips on what is free to see in the city then the following will be useful to you.

Get your culture fix by visiting one of the many free art galleries throughout Edinburgh. If you enjoy early Renaissance to early 19th century art, then you should visit the Scottish National Gallery

If you prefer modern art, then head on over to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Across the road from the Modern Art Gallery you will find the Dean gallery which has a free section to visit too. 

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has now reopended too and is free to visit and finally the Fruitmarket Gallery beside the train station is free to enter and has a rotating selection of contemporary installations and well worth a visit.

Edinburgh is home to many many historic churches and cathedrals and architectural wonders that you can explore for free. Many are centuries old where you can step back in time as you view the splendor of ancient murals and stained glass windows. Head to St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile it is the Mother Church of Presbyterianism and contains the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle. It is free to enter, but a donation is asked if you want to take pictures inside the cathedral. 

If you are a bookworm then the National Library of Scotland just around the corner is a fascinating place to spend a few hours and with free exhibitions too it is well worth a visit.

If writing is your thing, then the Writers Museum on the Royal Mile offers an insight into some of Scotland's best knows authors including Robbie Burns and Robert Louis Stephenson.

And finally, one of my favourite buildings and not mentioned in the guide books are the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland on Charlotte square - possibly one of the most amazing banking halls in the country - just look up to the dome in the ceiling and you will see what I mean!

For the Kids
If you're bringing the kids, the the following is well worth visiting. Want to see a million pounds... Yes? Well the Museum on the Mound is all about the history of money and banking in Scotland and they do have a million pounds that you can see and all this for free! 

If you want an afternoon of history and also lots of cool stuff for the kids to see then head to the Museum of Scotland. Having undergone a recent renovation not only will you be blown away by the inside of the building but the exhibitions are fantastic, too!

Back on the mound, no trip to Edinburgh would be complete without a trip to the Museum of Childhood. Take a trip through the ages and see the evolution of toys and games and is fascinating for adults and kids too!

And finally, if you have had enough of being indoors head to Edinburgh’s Botanical Gardens this is a fantastic place for a walk and they have exhibitions for children about plants at the John Hope garden entrance. 

And there we have it, a big selection of free things to visit when you are in Edinburgh!

So, for those of you who like to hang on to your money, there are plenty of things to do in Edinburgh on the cheap. You'll have a rich experience without going broke in the process. 

This article was written by Ross (originally for who runs and lives in Edinburgh.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Discover Your Destination by “Treasure Map”

If you’re into finding non-traditional shops and dining while on holiday and having a great time doing it, then HiddenCity might be for you. Turn your holiday into a scavenger hunt, by signing up for a hunt and getting clues by text message. Your whole travel group can be a team or you can break up into smaller teams to be more competitive. Hunts cost just £16 per team/phone and are available for Brighton, London, Manchester, Newcastle and York. You can see more of each city by engaging in a hunt or even learn more about your own neighborhood with a variety of hunts for each city.

Each hunt has between 8 and 22 clues and can range from 2 to 4 hours. Solve the clues to get the next clue and get to your final destination and learn about awesome places that you may not find on your own when you visit. Get an answer incorrect? Incur a time penalty. Get a hint in addition for a short time penalty. HiddenCity is a fun way to sightsee and interact with the locals, too. You won’t find a more engaging way to explore a city. It’s a perfect way to make any holiday in the UK more exciting, especially when you have kids, because it will help them learn about your destination, while also having a great time.

HiddenCity locations are easy to walk to and free to enter, so you won’t have to pay more than your initial £16/team and any text message fees. Make sure to wear your best walking shoes. You don’t have a time limit to complete your hunt either, so if you want to hang around a location and get a pint or have a look around, you are free to do so at your leisure. Of course, if you’re in competition with another team, you may want to finish and come back to it after you win. Think someone you know might like to participate in a hunt? Buy them a HiddenCity gift voucher!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Travelling can be expensive, but as I’ve shown you before, there are many ways to cut costs and go on great holidays for less. One of the easiest ways to do this is by seeking out all-inclusive resorts that bundle all your meals, entertainment, lodging and, if you’re lucky, airfare into one manageable package. You know exactly how much you’ve paid and any leftover money in your budget can be put toward activities that aren’t included in your rate, like shopping and other things you want to do off-site. While some websites claim that an all-inclusive is cheaper than you could book on your own, it’s not always true, but if you do the math to see what it is per night per person, you may find that if you book separately, you would never be able to go for so cheap. 

Some of the best deals on holidays can be found on all-inclusive holiday sites geared toward travellers from the UK. You can find 3-, 4- and 5-star resorts that have packages to fit every budget. Choose your own dates and stay between 1 day and 3 weeks! Look at the offers of the week and find great holidays starting around £250 per person, including resort stay, round-trip airfare, meals, drinks and more. Most resorts are beachfront or very close to the shore, so you can splash around in the surf, too. If the ocean isn’t for you, all resorts have beautiful swimming pools that are perfect for everyone in your travel party. You also have the possibility of shopping at nearby, off-site stores at many resorts, so you don’t feel as if you are trapped on the premises. 

All-inclusive holidays are great for those travelling as a family and take the guesswork out of researching an entire trip to figure out if you can even afford to go. You will know right up front what the total of your holiday will be, including delicious multi-course meals that you may not have been able to find the money for otherwise. Isn’t that better than bringing your own food or eating at cheap restaurants that have a drive-thru the entire time you are away? The whole family will have so much to do; whether you travel for two weeks or just have time for a weekend break. Take the hassle out of holiday planning and just kick back and relax. Destinations vary widely and you will find something to everyone’s liking, whether you wish to holiday in the Canary Islands, Egypt or Cancun. Not only will you have amazing locales to choose from, but you’ll also enjoy amazing views when you get there.


Pricing and reviews can be found on many of the easy-to-use websites. A deposit often is required for booking, with the balance of your holiday costs due prior to your departure. Now, after finding your travel destination, all you need to do is pack your bags and be the hero of the family, because you saved so much money. You don’t need to tell them how easy it was!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Products We Love: Jack Black

Men travel, too, and like to look their best even while packing light. Jack Black products are certified organic, vegan and cruelty free, which are awesome in any product. There are no funky unnecessary additives like fragrance, colors or parabens. Shaving cream takes up a lot of room in your 3-1-1 bag and it’s not always great for your skin, especially when it’s dry from the elements and recycled air on the airplane.

The shave lather or beard lube is perfect to use for keeping your face smooth and moisturized and packs small. For extra luxury and skin care, add the double duty moisturizer, lip therapy and or Dry Erase Ultra-Calming Face Cream. They have a product for everything, whether you want your hair to look thicker, your wrinkles to appear less pronounced, your face to be protected from harmful sun rays or your hands to be softer. Who said beauty products are just for women? Though they can use Jack Black as well, it’s specially formulated for men.

My husband loves the thickening shampoo and the shave products save room in our carry-on and smell and work terrifically. Also choose from shower gels, facial cleansing, body scrubs, hair gels and more. Check out these fun travel sets for every jet-setting man or one that just  wants to sample the goods first. Look great, feel great and be environmentally conscious. What more can you ask for?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Exercising on Holiday

As much as the thought of exercising makes me want to grab a piece of cheesecake and curl up on the couch with the dog, I know it’s in my best interest to see it through. Somehow, I always come back from holiday with the best intentions to exercise more and walk everywhere, like I do while I’m sightseeing, but then come home and totally fall back into my eat-dinner-on-the-couch-watching-tv-and-playing-games-on-the-computer mode.

While I need help getting motivated at home, I know a lot of people need help getting motivated while on holiday. I know traveling is fun and you don’t want to think about exercise or eating healthy while you’re supposed to be relaxing and leaving “reality” behind. Unfortunately, as much as I claim that calories don’t count on holiday, they truly do. This is why I walk as much as I possibly can. If you have a regular routine where extra walking really won’t benefit you and you want to keep on track, here are a few ideas for packing equipment in your carry-on, without taking much room away from things you really want to take, like underwear and shoes.
Yoga – Many people are into yoga and it’s great for relaxation, working your core and increasing your flexibility. A yoga mat is easily transportable, but you can also bring along a DVD and some packable yoga items, like a block (though you can use things you’ve found in your room) and yoga socks and gloves that can prevent slippage. I recently bought a friend a yoga set that came with a resistance band for strengthening. I bring along a yoga strap that helps your stretch out and get into poses more easily. It’s great for helping you distress after a long day of walking.
Jump rope – This is an easily packable item and gets you great exercise anywhere you have some extra room. Not just little kids love to jump rope. It’s fun and helps you tone and keep in shape. Make sure you buy a nicely weighted one that will stand up to the rigors of the road, but will also do the job, like this one that has removable handle weights.

Boxing – You don’t have to bring along full gear and a punching bag, but a pair of weighted gloves is a fabulous way to tone your arms and legs. Bring along a DVD to pop in your laptop or just search for a few good training videos that you can use. I have a nice pair that I bought for a cardio game I play on Wii, but I have also used them when doing regular exercise and they are awesome. They are pink and sporty, but are adjustable, so they can be used by everyone in your travel party.

Running – You’re going to bring along a pair of walking shoes anyway, so why not make them running shoes that are also good for walking. If you run at home, then keep your routine set and get up early to run around the block or the hotel grounds.

Swimming – If you are a swim freak, like my husband is, then you might be way more interested in using the on-site pool for your workout. Early mornings are a great time to get in your laps without having to dodge waders and cannonballing children. Make sure you pack your suit, so you’re prepared! Even if the pool isn’t good, you may have a choice of a lake or the ocean, depending on where you’re vacationing.

Hit the gym – A lot of hotels, timeshares and resorts have free gym access. Use the treadmill, weight machines and more to get in as much exercise as you need. Packing a spare pair of running shorts and workout top is easy and you’ll probably already bring along your ipod (or similar), so you’ll have something to entertain you, whether it be your favorite music or an audio book.

Make your lodging a gym – There are so many exercise videos online that you can use to switch up your workout and do in your room with just a little bit of room to move. Another thing you can do is get a set of resistance bands which you can use to do many different exercises, as well as with the assistance of any sturdy door. Does your lodging have stairs? If so, then make some time to run up and down them several times. As long as you aren’t annoying your travel companions, this is super cheap and nothing to pack!

Go dancing – Enjoy a few nights out on the town while you dance to local music and maybe even make some new friends. What a way to exercise without realizing you are doing it. Some cities have free dance lessons on certain evenings, so you can learn new steps of the region your're traveling in.

Do you have some good travel exercise tips? Do you use any of the above ideas?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Visiting Shakespeare’s Globe

To go or not to go, that should not be a question. If you are a fan of the Bard, then the Globe should be on your list of attractions to visit whilst in London. Though the original Globe burnt down, the pallets that were undamaged were used to help build the one that stands today. Not only do they give amazing tours, but in the warmer months you can actually take in one of Shakespeare’s plays and view it just as they did in his time. Of course, the seating may be a bit more comfortable and you would actually be able to afford to sit on something, so probably not exactly the same, but similar.

Learn the ins and outs of the different levels of the stage and where royalty sat during performances. You will also be educated on the history of the theater and be shown things that were changed as safety regulations have come into play. Within the attached building, you can check out the exhibition. See a timeline of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets as well as paintings, books and a gift shop (because every good attraction needs one).

Once you exit the exhibition and tour, take a trip around the corner to the Swan and grab a bite to eat – either from the cafĂ© menu or take in afternoon tea. If your plans include watching a production, make reservations for pre- or post-theatre dining and enjoy some very affordable and delicious dishes.

Friday, June 8, 2012

To The Dungeons with You!

If you are easily amused, like cheesy attractions, want to learn a bit of history and find bad lighting either creepy or hilarious, then The Dungeons are your cup of tea! If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out even one of the six Dungeons, you need to put it on your travel list to do when you visit London, Edinburgh, York, Blackpool, Hamburg or Amsterdam. While in London, close to Halloween, I was dying to visit the London Dungeon and my husband, Eric, was only too happy to oblige. He’s not afraid of anything and I’m afraid of everything. I had heard from a friend that it was kitschy, but I’m totally into that sort of thing.

Hokey, right? Ha!
We strolled up on a Saturday evening and were surprised to find a long line out the door. We waited a good hour to get in, but we were not disappointed once we made it to the front of the line. First, we had the chance to take the obligatory tourist photo with Eric in the stocks and me wielding the axe to cut off his head! Lame? Maybe. Fun? Definitely. You’re taken though the streets of London, showed various torture devices, taught about the dungeons of London, sent into the hall of mirrors and then you meet the judge that sends you to the executioner, who will be your host on the boat ride to Hell.

Think it’s over yet? No! You take a seat in one of Sweeney Todd’s chairs and hear the disturbing story of his business with Mrs. Lovett. I thought this part was really fun, even though it was totally in the dark. Eric told me that it freaked him out. So, the dungeon really has something for everyone and, for the price of admission, you sure get your money’s worth on this 90 minute tour. Make sure to get the best deal on your tickets by purchasing them from The Dungeons’ website. Save even more if you plan to visit mid-week. You probably won’t have to wait in such a long queue then either.

Have you visited any of The Dungeons? Did you find it fun and scary, too?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Little (Hotel Search) Engines That Could

This was a guest post by me that originally ran on The Savalots.

I love to travel and I love saving money. With so many travel sites claiming they have The Best Deal, you want to make sure that’s really what you’re getting. Why bother searching multiple sites if they all claim this? Simple – because there are some sites that can actually get you better deals and incentives for future travel. If you’re on a budget, like many of us are, it’s important that your dollar stretch and you get the most you can out of it. Just because your budget is tight, doesn’t mean your vacations have to suffer. You can still save money without sacrificing destination or comfort, so try some of these lesser-known sites when booking your next trip: – This fast-growing site is UK-based and has a vast selection of hotels, bed & breakfasts and apartments worldwide. They have just started branching out to include American accommodations, but they do have listings for most of the big tourist cities, like Orlando, New York City and Los Angeles. What makes this site great is that the reviews are very candid, there are enough photos and information to know if it’s the accommodation for you and most of the listings don’t require you to pay up front. Some ask for a deposit, but many you just pay when you get there. I love this approach, because if you’re like me, you like to reserve as far out as possible, which isn’t always an option if you don’t have enough money in your bank account to tie up in a hotel reservation at the time. – With a free membership to their rewards program, HotelClub works a bit like your local grocery store rewards card, except the more reservations you complete, the more you can earn. A great resource for accommodations across the globe, you’ll find photos, guest reviews and a wealth of information about each property. Each time you book through them and complete a stay, you’ll bank 4% “cash back” in your account for use on future stays. After two stays you reach “Gold Club Member” status which can earn you 5% cash back, and after six stays, you’ll move up to “Platinum Club Member” status and earn up to 6% cash back. All last-minute bookings only get you 2% cash back, but a discount is a discount, and because this site is powered by Orbitz, you know you’ll have a wide selection of accommodations to choose from.
Enjoying our deck at our last vacation rental – Run by TripAdvisor, this site has over 100,000 vacation rentals by owner. What does this mean for you? Usually, you save over the price of hotels, you don’t have to worry about other noisy guests and you have all the comforts of home, including a kitchen, so you can save more money by limiting meals out and making as many as you want yourself. The site is super informative and includes detailed information about each property, previous renter reviews, many pictures and a nice calendar that shows you availability. You contact the owner safely through the site to ask any questions, request more pictures and to make your reservation. – If you’re planning a trip to Europe or the UK, this site is for you. Their motto is “London for Less” and they really deliver. While they have listings for other countries, they have amazing deals particularly for England. Book a “short break” with them and you could be looking at a package that includes accommodation and an activity, theater, concert tickets, dining or theme park admission for a huge discount. If you plan to stay longer, you can add more hotel days as well. I’ve found that Superbreak has some of the best deals on UK hotels on the Internet and flying there is very affordable in the fall and winter months.
If you do a bit of comparison-shopping for lodgings, you can easily save on convenient and comfortable accommodations wherever you go. The sites above have many other options than your traditional hotel websites, including smaller local hotels. Finding a hidden gem among big hotel chains is now easier than ever.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Calling All Science and Astronomy Lovers

If you get excited about the stars and the science of space, then the Royal Observatory Edinburgh should definitely be on your travel list. They have a vast collection of telescopes and specialize in technology and space science. The Fall season bring a series of writers talks that will only set you back £3 per person (£1.50 for children). If you’re really into the mysteries of the galaxy and everything related. You can purchase a season pass and attend any and all lectures for just £20/£10.

The Royal Observatory offers individual admission on Public Astronomy Evenings, where you can learn about the history of the Observatory and observe the night sky with your naked eye and with the use of their telescopes. You’ll also go on a tour of the Victorian telescope dome, learn a bit about meteorites and find out what is currently happening at the Observatory. There are year-round Astronomy Evenings held on Friday evenings where you will observe the Moon with their telescopes and the sun with the solar scope in the Summer and observe the stars and constellations in the Winter. You must book in advance and admission is quite affordable at £4/£3.