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Sick of stressful airport travel? Ride in style with National Express!

 

So your alarm is set, your suitcase is packed and your trip is booked. Every final detail is confirmed, from your flights and transfers to your tour itineraries and restaurant reservations. Going on holiday can be pretty stressful, and it is often made worse by the hassle of getting to and from the airport. Flying is lots of fun, but let’s face it, who really wants to get there 3 hours before a flight and spend ages queuing at the check in desk?! Not me, that’s for sure! One of the things I find most stressful about travelling is actually the hassle of getting to and from the airport. I can drive but I prefer not to travel long distances in my car and would rather not leave it at the airport car park for a week.

Living in Oxford, I am lucky that I have several airports to choose from when considering booking flights, but the hassle of getting to and from each airport has often put me off in the past. However, as an avid fan of public transport, I would always try and catch a bus, coach or train to an airport wherever possible, and that’s where National Express comes in. I’ve been using National Express services for years and have always had fantastic journeys, so I was delighted to be asked to team up with them for the purpose of this blog review, and when I realised I needed transport for my upcoming European city break it was hard to refuse such a fantastic offer. Lets find out what I got up to on my recent trip with National Express…

 

An early start

 

My coach from Oxford to London Gatwick

 

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person in the world who will happily get up at 2am, after zero sleep and at the most awkward time possible, just to jump on a cheap flight to anywhere if it means I can get better value on my travel deals! Luckily, National Express is the largest operator of scheduled coach services in the UK operating high frequency services linking more than 900 destinations. National Express know that there are lots of people out there who, like me, need to get to an airport at ridiculous o’clock in the morning, and they operate coach services direct to the terminal for all major UK airports, 24 hours a day with 1,100 airport services running every day. They also offer generous luggage allowance of two medium sized suitcases and a small piece of hand luggage as well as driver assistance – pretty amazing if you ask me! My 2am wake up call didn’t seem so bad when I hopped on board my perfectly timed coach ready to start my next adventure.

 

A comfortable outwards journey

 

Image courtesy of National Express

 

One of the benefits of getting on an early morning coach usually means that it’s not too busy, although surprisingly my coach was pretty full by the time I left Oxford to head to London! The coaches are also usually very quiet during the early morning times, which means I can catch up on some much needed sleep before arriving at the airport and being in holiday mode. National Express coaches are modern and comfortable with a variety of facilities and features including a free wifi and entertainment system which consists of a complimentary on-board app offering TV, films and magazines to passengers. On board the coach you’ll also find smart leather seats, convenient power sockets for charging your mobile devices, comfortable leg room for business class passengers, welcome air-conditioning on a warm day and clean toilets on every journey. My outwards journey from Oxford to London Gatwick took just under 2 hours and it was smooth, comfortable and extremely easy.

 

A relaxing homeward journey

 

Image courtesy of National Express

 

After my whirlwind weekend abroad, it was time to come home and I actually looked forward to my return journey back home given that my first coach journey on the way out was so comfortable. I wasn’t sure if I would actually make my return journey on time as my flight was delayed by almost an hour! But luckily we made up some time and I had booked the coach an hour later than I had actually needed to just allow for some additional time, so this really helped. If your flight is delayed though, I’m aware that you can hop on the next coach (up to 180 mins after your booked coach time) providing that the driver of the next available coach has room for you. My journey home was just as good as my journey out and I felt fully relaxed by the time I got back to Oxford – there’s nothing worse than a stressful drive home to dampen your holiday mood!

 

So as you can see I had a really pleasant journey to and from Oxford and London Gatwick during my recent trip and it definitely made my holiday both stress free and hassle free. Turning up and being able to get to and from the airport safely and swiftly really makes me relax before a holiday and, for me, is a great alternative to driving. The drivers were friendly, the seats were comfy, I felt safe at all times and even got a couple of hours kip before my flight… Oh and the free on board WIFI worked a treat too – bonus! Overall I had a fantastic return journey with National Express and I would highly recommend their services to anyone looking for a hassle free start and end to their airport trips. You can also benefit from a Coachcard if you’re a young person (aged 16- 26), a senior (aged 60+), or if you’re registered as disabled. For the price of just £12.50 a year you’ll get up to a third off standard and fully flexible fares, as well as benefiting from discounted travel to and from nationwide festivals, and 20% off Pizza Hut too!

Have you ever travelled with National Express before? What did you think of their services? As I mentioned, I have used them for many years and never had a problem so am already looking forward to booking up next time I need airport transport. The question is, where will I travel to next? Answers on a postcard please!…

Love Jess x

NB. I was a guest of National Express and was gifted tickets to come on board for the purpose of this review but all thoughts and comments are of course my own.

For more information and to find the best value fares visit www.nationalexpress.com or call 0871 7818181

 

Image courtesy of National Express

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Social Media Overhaul: Q2 2016

Monday blogging in the garden sunshine 💻 #bloglife

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Hey everyone,

This post is waaay overdue but, you know what I always say, better late than never!! I’ve been delayed in writing this up as I’m not long back from America but I wanted to post Quarter 2 of this year’s Social Media Overhaul now and I’ll post a final one between now and the end of the year! Here’s my latest stats for you…

Trip Advisor

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I must admit that I haven’t used my Trip Advisor account much in the past few months, but it’s super reassuring to know that I am still in the top 1% of reviewers in Oxfordshire with over 53,000 readers! I’ve got lots of catching up to do in terms of reviewing the various restaurants and hotels I visited across America during my time there last month so I’ll be sure to update my account over the coming weeks. I’m still on my way to reaching my target of 60,000 readers and am aiming for that milestone audience by the time 2016 is almost at an end!

Twitter

Twitter

Twitter  continues to be my biggest social channel and I smashed my target of 1500 followers earlier on this month so I was DELIGHTED! I love how easy and quick Twitter is to use and I can connect with readers, followers and fellow bloggers in no time at all. I also have a good engagement on Twitter and the analytics side of the site is great for helping me to see which of my tweets are the most popular. I’m aiming for around 1800 followers on Twitter by the end of the year and I’ll be working hard to reach that figure!

Facebook

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On a personal level, Facebook is my most used social channel but, on a professional level, it’s probably my least favourite!! I think it just is taking a long time for me to grow the page and, after two years, I’ve still not reached the level of followers I would have liked to compared to my other social channels. I am constantly thinking of ways to improve my page though and, although I don’t have a massive amount of likes, I’m getting a good engagement whenever I do post. I’m looking to reach between 400 and 500 likes by the time December is here – if you’re reading this and you haven’t liked my page on Facebook please help a girl out!

Instagram

instagram

My favourite social channel, especially lately, is definitely the wonder that is Instagram! I try to post three times a day and I always get an average of around 80 likes per image which, for me, is pretty good and I have great engagement on my feed. I love using different edits and filters when uploading my shots and I’ve had some fantastic content lately from my recent America trip which has been hugely popular with my audience. I also use Instagram to embed photos into my blog posts when I’m publishing on WordPress and it looks great on the page. I’m aiming for a whopping 1500 Insta followers by the end of the year and I’ll be super proud if I can achieve that!

LinkedIn

linkedin

I’m loving LinkedIn and it’s something I use whenever I have a new blog post or a generic update to share – I find I get a lot of views and referrals on my blog from my LinkedIn profile which is great news! It’s a brilliant way of connecting with like minded professionals and can open so many doors if you get spotted by the right people! As I’m currently trying to carve myself a career in the travel industry it’s imperative that I use LinkedIn correctly to try and attract potential job opportunities etc. I’ve reached my goal of 500 connections so will aim for 700 by the end of the year.

WordPress

wordpress

As you know, this is where it all started for me! I guess that my WordPress following is proof of my success as a blogger and I’ve continually smashed my targets over the past few months so I’m absolutely thrilled! This year has been my best to date and I’ve reached over 16,000 hits and over 1700 subscribers which, for someone like me, is something I can be hugely proud of. I’m currently in the middle of trying to rebrand my site slightly just to make it look a bit more professional and to create a proper menu based site so I’ll keep you updated on all the latest news! Thank you WordPress for allowing me to grow as a blogger, I wouldn’t be here without you! I’m looking to reach a massive 20,000 hits and 2,000 subscribers by the end of the year and I’d love to end on a high!

Google Plus

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I really like the way GooglePlus appears visually so I always link my blog posts on there but I don’t know if it really does me any favours in terms of referrals and views etc. I’ll stick with the platform and continue to promote my posts on there, but I would say it’s a channel I focus on less and I put a lot more time into my other channels.

Snap Chat

snapchat

Soo I finally caved and got SnapChat! After months of saying I’d never get it I decided to bite the bullet and download it before I left for my American adventure in June. I loved using it to take photos in so many different places and the area filters were so fun to play around with. I’m very strict about the fact that I am NOT vlogger and therefore don’t record any videos on it but it’s a great way of connecting with my family, friends and followers so it worked really well when I was away! I’m sure there’s lots I’m still to learn about this channel but I’m looking forward to using it more in the coming months. Don’t forget to add me @jessica16_x

So there we have it, my latest stats and figures for you all compressed in to one little blog post! Taking the time to review my channels individually really helps me to see where I am with things and allows me to focus on my targets for the months ahead. As I am ‘trying’ to make the transition into a full time travel blogger I’m more and more keen to boost my following as much as possible and seek areas of improvement where needed!

As always a massive THANK YOU to each and every one of you who support me by continuing to read this blog, I wouldn’t be where I am now without you – I have sooo much planned in the next few months so please stay tuned and I’ll keep you all updated as much as poss!

Love Jess x

Beautiful day at a beautiful place 🇬🇧 #Cotswolds #wanderlustwednesday #visitgreatbritain #uk

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My first travel conference: Traverse16

 

So I’m just back from my first EVER travel conference, and what a weekend I had! Traverse 16 was held in the lively Welsh capital of Cardiff this year and the city stadium made for a fantastic venue. I was super impressed by Traverse; they were welcoming, friendly and the whole atmosphere was relaxed and informal yet completely informative and helpful – I learnt SO much! Here are my top highlights from a fun filled weekend…

 

I met so many new people & have made some wonderful friends

We've arrived at the #traverse networking party! Hellooo free food and drinks 🎉🎉 @lucyronan

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So I have known the beautiful Lucy Ronan from Faraway Lucy for the past few months now – we are both shortlisted as finalists in the UK Blog Awards – and we decided we would FINALLY meet by attending Traverse together for our first ever networking conference. Naturally we were both a little nervous but it actually really helped that we were together and I think we boosted each others confidence by sharing ideas and discussing everything we had learnt from our differing workshops.

I also met the lovely Sabina Trojanova, Emma Hart & Sophie Davis from Girl vs Globe,  Paper Planes and Caramel Waffles and Sophie’s Suitcase respectively – we finally met girls!! – and it was lovely to put faces to names as we have been in touch with each other in the virtual blogosphere for so long.

 

I attended workshops with industry professionals and expert bloggers

So many reasons to visit #cardiff 📷🇬🇧@visitwales @traverseevents #traverse16 #findyourepic

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I took part in three workshops and two one-to-one sessions during my days conference – I had such a jam packed day but I loved every second! I also took the opportunity to speak with the sponsors who were showcasing their brands and I met some really interesting people. My favourite workshop was ‘How to take the Leap into Fulltime Blogging’ with Monica Stott of The Travel Hack– this was incredibly helpful and I was full of admiration for Monica after seeing first hand how she has turned her hobby into a career.

 

I also attended a writing workshop with Abi King of Inside the Travel Lab and a photography workshop with Kim Leuenberger – both talks were fantastic and I came away with so many ideas and so much inspo. Before the day was out I was lucky enough to book two 1-1’s with Skyscanner’s Tika Larasati and Julie Falconer of A Lady in London – thanks for the advice ladies!

I entered some competitions

Because who doesn't love dressing up stupid to try win a free trip ✈👓 oh hey @icelollyholiday @traverseevents #traverse16 #findyourepic

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And here's another one.. This time for @expedia ✈🏊 @traverseevents #traverse16 #findyourepic @visitwales

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Who doesn’t love a good competition, especially when there are travel prizes and free trips up for grabs?! I entered four different competitions during my day at Traverse, two included dressing up silly for Expedia & Icelolly to win free trips/credit towards a bookings (see above – I had so much fun) the other was a treasure hunt with ILOVENYPR searching for US themed clues to win (yep, you guessed it, a trip to NYC) and the last one was a Twitter comp with Surprise Trips – guess the ‘surprise’ European city and win a free trip! I had so much fun entering the competitions and chatting to the lovely sponsors throughout the day and I know so many others did too – unfortunately I wasn’t a winner but it’s the taking part that counts, right?!

I bagged tonnes of cheeky freebies

Oh hey freebies.. who knew I could pick up so much free stuff at a travel conference?! Thanks @traverseevents 🙋👜 #traverse16

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This was a MAJOR highlight for me.. who knew there could be so many freebies up for grabs at one of these events?! As I walked through the door at home my mum was quite literally astonished as to how much I’d brought home – I left the house with one bag and came back with FOUR! Amongst my fabulous freebies was a lovely Expedia towel (and pen and paper clamp), a Traverse business card holder, a Skyscanner hoodie, a cute little monkey from Cathay Pacific and goody bags from Visit Wales and Wye Valley. Thanks folks, love all my new blags!

I networked the hell outta there

https://www.instagram.com/p/BEBJWZwNPuf/?taken-by=jessica16_x

 

 

As this was my first conference, the act of ‘networking’ was something totally new to me but I think I took it in my stride and seemed to do ok! Effectively, networking is just chatting with like minded people and making contacts; I was just happy to get my name out there and meet as many people as possible, plus I love a good chat- who doesn’t?!

I set fire to a table (I’m not even lying)

 

Lol. I know what you’re thinking; who even sets fire to a TABLE?! Well folks, it did happen – and I think Lucy and I wanted the ground to just swallow us up there and then. I have never been SO EMBARRASED and I’ve done a lot of crazy things in my time! I’m sure I don’t need to give you all the explosive deets (see what I did there ;)) but basically there was a waffle in a waffle box (obvs) and a candle and a table..and then there was a flame and a pint of water and Lucy got soaked… you get the gist.. nothing in my life has ever compared to how mortified I was on that Friday night! Talk about making a good first impression… #ooopppsss

So as you can probably tell I had a whale of a time at my first ever travel blogging conference and cannot WAIT until the next one! A big thank you to everyone at Traverse who made my first experience so worthwhile, especially Lucy & Ollie who were both hilarious and soo friendly and welcoming <3

Until next time Traverse!

 

Yesterday's beaut of a venue for @traverseevents… It's a good job I'm a football fan ⚽⚽ #traverse16

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January Newsletter!

Hello and welcome to my first newsletter of 2016!

I have soooo much news to share with you all, so this jam packed edition of my monthly newsletter will give a round up of my oh-so-busy January! It’s been a crazy month and it seems like its dragged on FOREVER but I’ve squeezed an awful lot in to the past five weeks! Without further ado here it is, are you ready?…

I MADE MY NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS!

I kick-started my 2016 with a positively inspiring challenge which is the motivation that’s going to see me through these dull winter months! I’ve tasked myself with visiting 25 countries before I’ve reached the ripe old age of 25! Find out how I’m going to achieve it here

I’VE BEEN SHORTLISTED FOR MY FIRST EVER AWARDS COMPETITION!

So on 4th January I entered my little blog into its first EVER awards competition, UK Blog Awards 2016, and I’m delighted to announce that, after over 70,000 votes across 18 different categories, I’ve been shortlisted as a FINALIST in the travel category!! You can read more about my big announcement here… I’m still so thrilled and can’t quite believe it, a big THANK YOU to all who took the time to vote for me, it means everything! <3

I CELEBRATED MY BIRTHDAY!

#birthday #lastnight #vip #oxford #nightout 👯🎉🍸🎊

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I turned 23 on the 16th and spent the day with family followed by an evening of celebrations with my closest friends in my home city of Oxford! We headed to the fantastic Varsity Club for cocktails and then onto one of the city’s biggest clubs for a VIP experience in a private booth! A fantastic night was had by all and we rolled in at 5am so our heads were a little sore the next morning day/night/week! A big THANK YOU to everyone who celebrated with me. <3

I WORKED ON MY FIRST SPONSORED POST!

This month I was given the opportunity to review a fantastic new guidebook for Disneyland California and I relished working on my first ever sponsored post! Read my write up on this fantastic guidebook here – thanks go to Amazon and Independent Guides!

I GOT PAID FOR MY FIRST EVER FREELANCING JOBS!

I’ve recently started writing for US based company www.abnsave.com and recently received my FIRST paycheck for my FIRST lot of freelance work! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing for ABN over the past few months and can’t wait to expand my portfolio. Here’s to many more paychecks!

I WATCHED LES MISERABLES IN LONDON’S WEST END!

What a show! Literally had goosebumps the WHOLE way through! Incredible. 😱🇬🇧🎭👏

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I had an AMAZING time watching the fantastic Les Miserables musical in London recently – it was definitely an experience to tick off the bucket list! The show, which is now in its 30th anniversary celebrations, was incredible from start to finish- everything from the lighting to the music to the cast was out of this world! I could watch Les Mis over and over again I never tire of its fantastic score and mesmerising scenes – I was left feeling very emotional that’s for sure!

So that completes my January round up- told you I’ve been busy! Stay tuned for some big news coming up in February… I’ll reveal all soon I promise!

Love Jess x

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Social Media Overhaul: Q1 2016

Hey everyone,

So this overhaul is a little overdue, I was meant to put one together at the end of 2015 but I was rushed off my feet what with it being Christmas etc! Instead I thought I’d kick-start my new year with a fab new round up to see if I was on course for my last targets, set in August, and what I’m likely to achieve for this first quarter of 2016. So without further ado lets get social!

Trip Advisor

tripadvisor

Trip Advisor is a huge part of my following; I have a massive readership, one of the highest in the whole of Oxfordshire, which is increasing day by day. I am passionate about providing genuine, good quality reviews for hotels, restaurants and places of interest that I have visited in the past. I also use Trip Advisor everytime I book a hotel and value the opinions of others hugely. I smashed my last target of 50,000 readers and am looking to reach a massive 60,000 by the time by next quarterly Review is due. Wish me luck!

Twitter

twitter3

My Twitter has grown massively in the last six months, and I’m so proud to say that I FINALLY reached the 1000 mark back in November! My followers are increasing hugely every time I log in to my account and I have to say that I’ve noticed a huge difference in the number of interactions now compared to when I was still at the pre-1k mark. I’m certainly not complaining and I credit Twitter as my number 1 go-to social media channel as it’s by far the best for my website referrals and I love joining in on all my weekly Twitter chats! I’m hoping to hit 1500 followers by quarter 2 of 2016.

Facebook

facebook

My Facebook page is becoming a bit of a slow burner for some reason, I find that its taking FOREVER to grow my numbers and I wonder if it’s because each liker on Facebook is actually a genuine PERSON rather than a follower on Twitter being  a company or, dare I say it, a spammer. Most of my friends, family and fellow travel bloggers make up my likes on Facebook and I’m keen to increase my following as much as possible. As I’ve only just scraped the 300 milestone I’m aiming for between 350 and 400 likes as my next target.

Instagram

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I love love love Instagram and it’s my second favourite social media channel, just behind my beloved Twitter! I love the filters and the vibrant images that Insta creates and I’m constantly getting tonnes of likes on each of my posts. I do however find it hard to grow my following – I’ve been stuck on around the 850 mark for WEEKS now and I just don’t know how else I can get past this figure! My likes are high but I don’t think my conversion rate from likes to followers is all that great. Unfortunately I didn’t hit my last goal so this time round I’m aiming for the big 1000 and I’ll need all the help I can get to achieve that… any tips would be a bonus!

LinkedIn

linkedin

LinkedIn is a fantastic tool and is the most professional of my social media channels. I’m quite active in promoting my blog and I do get an awful lot of referrals from LinkedIn which is a huge bonus! I probably only post once or twice a week though so it’s much less exciting than my other social outlets. I didn’t quite reach my target of 500 connections before 2016 so I’m still aiming for that before my next review.

WordPress

Wordpress

WordPress is probably my most successful social channel, and where it all started for me! My daily views are growing hour after hour and my subscribers have seen a massive jump too – thank you, you wonderful people! I smashed my most recent targets by getting to over 8000 hits (target was 7000) and over 1350 subscribers (target was 1100). I’m going to aim for an ENORMOUS 10,000 hits and 1500 subscribers before quarter 2 is here – these are perhaps my most ambitious targets yet!

Google Plus

Googleplus

This platform is totally new to me, I’ve only been using it for the past couple of months and I only update it when I have a new blog post. I seem to be getting large viewing figures but I’ve no idea how to convert those to followers?! Any tips on Google+ would be gratefully received please!

So that completes my social media overhaul for quarter 1 of 2016 – its so interesting for me looking back to see how far I’ve come! *Soppy moment* But in all seriousness I wouldn’t be where I am today without you guys so a big THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart <3 Here’s to the next quarter and to smashing even more targets!

Love Jess x

PS. Don’t forget to keep voting for me in UK Blog Awards 2016 – there’s only a few days to go til voting closes!

UKBA16