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5 Things I’ve Learnt from 5 Years of Blogging, and how Travelling Changed my Life!

 

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Sooo I just wanted to come on here and let you all know that Journeys with Jessica celebrated its 5th birthday this week! 5th!! That is CRAZYYYY! ๐Ÿ˜ฑ I remember when I started my little blog, back in 2014, when I was 21 years old and my world had just been turned upside down for all the wrong reasons. An awful relationship break up left me with no motivation, no energy, no desire to carry on and make something of my life. For 3 months I barely ate or slept. I was broken and didn't think I'd ever be happy again, until I started to travel and I started my blog. I didn't know it back then, but the decision I made to start travelling actually changed my life. ๐ŸŒŽ Instead of wallowing in self pity and worrying about trying to change the past, I started to look forward. I started to plan trips, book short weekend stays and long weeks away, and I started to live again. I couldn't fall in love with anyone else, but I did fall in love with travelling, and to this day it's been the best decision I've ever made. โค๏ธ I've driven across Route 66 in America, rode the Great Ocean Road in Australia, inter-railed around Europe, cruised around the Med and visited 28 countries by the age of 26. I've helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed on Daytona Beach, been on a gondola in Venice, climbed the Eiffel Tower, skydived over Uluru, flew over Fraser Island and snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef. Sometimes I can't believe how much I've done and I have to pinch myself that this has been my life. ๐ŸŽ‰ So if anyone out there is ever feeling like I did 5 years ago, or if you're not sure where your life is heading and need to make some changes, I urge you to travel. To discover new places, to meet new faces, to live a different life. 5 years from now I hope I'm still in love with travel, that I'm going to more countries than ever before and that I'm even happier than I am now. ๐ŸŒŸ

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In case you missed my epic Instagram announcement earlier on this week, I am absolutely THRILLED to let you all know that my little blog celebrated it’s 5th birthday this week and it has made me so unbelievably happy! I cannot imagine my life without my blog, or without travel in it, and sometimes I genuinely have to pinch myself that I’ve lived the life I have. 5 years ago, when I first launched my little space on the Internet, I had no idea how much it would change my life. I didn’t know the friends I would make, or the opportunities I would gain. I didn’t know that I’d reach almost 10,000 social media followers across all platforms, or that a whopping 5000 people would view my blog every single month. I thought it would just give me something to do in my spare time, and would be a little hobby for me. I thought that only my mum and dad would read it, and that no one else would ever take an interest, but boy how wrong I was! Here’s 5 things I’ve learnt during my 5 years of blogging…

 

It’s given me so much confidence

 

 

Let’s take it back to the beginning, back to 2014 when this little blog was launched. I had just come out of a horrific relationship break up and was at an all time low. For three months I barely slept or ate, I had no confidence, no motivation, no desire to do anything or make something of myself. I wasn’t excited about anything, I had no appetite, I didn’t even want to see my friends or do anything with my family. I was completely broken, and I was a shadow of my former self, until one day when I decided to book a trip to Barcelona with 2 of my best friends. I didn’t know it back then, but that day would shape the course of my entire life for the next 5 years. Once I had my trip booked I had something to look forward to, something to get excited about. Once that trip was over I booked another one, and another one after that. I started my blog, so that writing about my trips would keep my travel dreams alive until I got on my next flight. I was obsessed with all things travel, and blogging, and it gave me a new lease of life. I started attending events, networking, going to conferences. I started speaking to more and more bloggers online and consumed myself with this new world – it was amazing, I felt like a new person, and it really gave me my mojo back.

 

I’ve made some amazing friendsย 

 

 

One of the best things about blogging has got to be all the new friends I’ve made over the past 5 years since I started Journeys with Jessica. I didn’t know that strangers I would interact with online would later become some of my best friends, and people I still speak to now on a daily basis. I’ve even gone on trips with some of them, and attended new events and parties with them too. The turning point for me came when I went to my first ever travel blogging conference, Traverse in Cardiff back in 2016. I went with Lucy, one of the girls I met on Twitter, stayed overnight at her house and ended up becoming firm friends. We went on a trip to Bratislava and Vienna two years later, and next week we are going to be reunited in Italy as I attend my 4th Traverse conference in Trento! I speak to so many fellow bloggers online, and count many of them as wonderful, real life friends as they’re no longer just strangers off the Internet! That’s the beauty of blogging, it brings you face to face with friends you’d never meet in every day life and gives you the opportunity to connect with like-minded people from all over the world.

 

It’s given me some epic travel opportunitiesย 

 

 

I didn’t start my blog in order to get free travel, it was never even something that crossed my mind, but 5 years later I have been lucky enough to benefit from some fantastic travel opportunities, and it’s all thanks to my little corner of the Internet! It took me 3 years before I started to go on press trips or get invites to go to things with my blog, so it’s definitely not something that happens overnight. A real turning point for me came when I went to my second Traverse conference, this time in London, and I met so many brands, bloggers and tourism boards who were ACTUALLY INTERESTED in working with influencers and creating content. I hit the jackpot when, just a couple of weeks later, I was invited to Menorca for a week long trip with Visit Spain, Turismo de Menorca and Traverse themselves for a weekend conference followed by 4 days of post-event adventures. I was selected as one of 50 UK bloggers and it was such an honour for me to be there. Later on that year I also went to Hamburg on a 3 day trip with 4 other bloggers and got to experience the best that the city has to offer with the German tourism board. Other press trips have included numerous hotel and restaurant reviews, gifted city cards and itineraries hand crafted by tourism boards ready for me to explore and share content on my blog. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that has been my job for the past few years!

 

I’ve pushed myself to be the best person I can be

 

 

Although travelling has made me the best person I can be, I would also say that blogging has too. I know the two go hand in hand, but before I started blogging I had no experience in the social media or marketing world, no idea how to present myself or pitch for work, and no clue on how to network and meet new people. Fast forward 5 years and I can now walk in to a room full of strangers and introduce myself and my blog. I can send pitch emails to brands who I want to work with, and I can tell them why I’m the right person they should choose to collaborate with. As well as the Traverse travel blogging conferences, I have also been twice to WTM, the biggest travel conference in the world, and have met with brands, tourism boards and airlines face to face to pitch directly to them and tell them all about me and my blog. I would NEVER have had the confidence to do something like this 5 years ago, and I think that shows just how far I have come in both my professional life and on a personal level. I push myself to do things that are out of my comfort zone because I know how much it will benefit me in the long run, and I think this has been a key part of my success as a travel blogger.

 

It’s taught me to appreciate everything in life

 

 

Travelling has taught me so much about the world, but also so much about myself too. When I’m on a trip I just throw myself into it every single day, I wake up early and go to bed late, I see as much as I can whilst I’m there and I enjoy every single second. When you’re travelling you realise just how small you are in comparison to the rest of the world. You see things in a different light, and you realise that some things just don’t matter. All perception of things become clearer when you travel, and I’ve had two life changing experiences through 2 different trips (4 weeks in America and 6 weeks in Australia) which have totally turned my world around. I also see things differently when I come home after trips like these too – they just open my eyes and make me realise there are things which aren’t important, and things that are, and they help to re-align my life and get things back on track.ย  Life is too short to be unhappy, so book that hotel, get on that flight and don’t look back! I honestly don’t know that I’d have done over the past 5 years if I haven’t had travelled, and I can’t ever imagine my life without it now.

 

Starting my blog was honestly the best thing I’ve ever done, and it definitely changed my life for the better. I cannot imagine what I would have done over the past 5 years if I hadn’t been blogging, or travelling, and I’m thankful every day that I decided to take my leap of faith and launch Journeys with Jessica back in 2014. If anyone out there is thinking of starting a blog, or if you’re hesitating about booking that dream trip my advice would be JUST DO IT! Life is too short to worry, too short to pass up opportunities and too short to be anything less than amazing. Travelling changed my life, I hope it changes yours too.

 

 

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How to Travel the Great Ocean Road, the Ultimate Australian Road Trip!

 

One of the most iconic road trips in the entire world, Australia’s Great Ocean Road is up there with America’s Route 66, South Africa’s Garden Route and Scotland’s North Coast 500 as being an itinerary that’s on everyone’s bucket lists. Starting in Melbourne, Victoria and finishing in Adelaide, South Australia, the Great Ocean Road spans a distance of 243 kilometres, boasting fantastic coastal views and offering some epic scenery along the way. Listed as an Australian National Heritage Site, and the largest war memorial in the world, the Great Ocean Road is a sight not to be missed during your time Down Under. I kick-started my own Australian adventure there back in March with a three day Groovy Grape Great Ocean Road & Grampians tour booked through trendy travel company Ratpack Travel, so here’s my highlights from that tour, and my guide on how to plan the perfect Great Ocean Road itinerary…

 

Day One: Melbourne – Twelve Apostles

 

 

A 6am start is never fun, especially when you’re struggling with jet-lag, but after a couple of nights in Melbourneย travelling solo I was ready to embark on my first tour to kick-start my time in Australia, so I joined the rest of my new tour mates onboard the Groovy Grape mini van. After heading out of Melbourne, our first stop was the seaside resort of Torquay, the official starting point of the Great Ocean Road, and the home of global surfing brands Ripcurl and Quiksilver. Next up was Bells Beach, the setting for the final scene of hit 90s movie Point Break, and soon after we were on our way to the beach village of Apollo Bay and the pretty town of Lorne, which was our lunch stop. After lunch we headed back on the road and stopped off at the famous Great Ocean Road sign, where the iconic Memorial Arch is located. The road itself was painstakingly laid by hand and was worked on by 3000 soldiers who returned from the war and began the construction in 1919. Some soldiers even lost their lives building the road, which is now the largest war memorial in the world.

 

 

Our penultimate stop of the day was the Great Otway National Park, home to some of the oldest rainforests on the planet, where we roamed through trees and admired the sights. The Mait’s Rest Rainforest was a real treat and one of my favourite stop offs; it was pouring down with rain whilst we were there but I think that actually made it better! Our final stop of the day was the one I was most looking forward to: The Twelve Apostles, even though there are only 8 now due to erosion but supposedly there were never 12 in the first place! Anyway, we arrived just before sunset to catch a glimpse of the famous limestone stacks whilst it was still light and the views were amazing. The site itself was pretty crowded, but the boardwalk allows you to get around as slowly or as quickly as you like, and you can get some fantastic photos without feeling the need to rush. Our first night on tour was spent in shared accommodation (13 people in one room) at a local hostel, where we were treated to a delicious home cooked meal by our hosts.

 

Day Two: Twelve Apostles – Grampians

 

 

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep (I wasn’t expecting much after my first experience of sharing a room with 13 people!) we were soon back on the road ready for day 2 of our tour. Our first stop was sunrise at Loch Ard Gorge which was INCREDIBLE. I had a real ‘pinch me’ moment here, as I had zero expectations from this place, and watching the waves crash against the rocks whilst feeling the wind in my hair and the golden sun on my face as it rose above the sea was truly breath-taking. We then made our way along the Shipwreck Coast, stopping off at the Bay of Martyrs, The Grotto and London Bridge all in quick succession. Lunch was eaten at the spectacular Tower Hill Reserve, home to a dormant volcano which was active 30,000 years ago, and is now a nature park teeming with Aussie wildlife including emu’s, koalas, kangaroos and echidna’s.

 

 

After a long drive we reached our next stop, the magnificent Grampians National Park, where we paid a visit to the Brambuk Cultural Centre to gain a good understanding of the local Aboriginal history. We then trekked towards the Mackenzie Waterfalls, which were incredibly powerful and a real sight to behold; it was also here that I saw my first ever wild kangaroo, just bouncing around in front of me! We then headed to the Reeds Lookout Point for sunset in the heart of the Grampians, which offered panoramic views out to the surrounding mountains and dramatic landscapes below. Dinner and accommodation was in a shared wood cabin on night 2 and it was a really peaceful place to unwind after a busy day on the road.

 

Day Three: Grampians – Adelaide

 

 

Our third and final day saw us get up at the crack of dawn, ready for a two hour sunrise hike right in the middle of The Grampians.ย  We hiked a mountain called The Pinnacle, which was pretty tough going as some of the rocks/boulders on the main path were quite big, and the altitude was high so I struggled a little with my breathing. Any worries I’d had soon vanished though as I made it all the way to the top of The Pinnacle where my group and I were rewarded with the most spectacular views over the Grampians below. This was my first hike of many during my time in Australia and it was a really special time for me. I really enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone and reaping the rewards at the end.

 

 

We didn’t do much else on our last day, other than having lunch and spending lots more time on the road driving before we reached our final destination and cruised into the vibrant city of Adelaide. Groovy Grape offer a very ‘hands on’ kind of tour experience, so breakfast, lunch and dinner was always made and served by all of us in the group, taking turns to do different jobs each day. We were also responsible for washing up and tidying away after meal times, and for sorting out all our linen etc too at our accommodation stops. This style of trip is pretty basic and doesn’t offer any luxuries so it may not suit every style of traveller, but your food is included, your accommodation is clean and tidy and your tour guides are excellent. I’d really recommend Groovy Grape for those travelling Australia on a budget, and don’t forget to contact Sammy at Ratpack Travel for all your Aussie needs!

Just FYI, here are the inclusions that were covered in this trip:

  • 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners
  • 2 nights dorm accommodation (shared with the entire group)
  • All national park entry fees
  • All transport from Melbourne – Adelaide, or in reverse from Adelaide – Melbourne

NB. I received a small discount off this tour from Ratpack Travel in exchange for social media content and this blog post but, as always, all words are of course my own.

 

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Last night my Great Ocean Road tour came to the end ๐Ÿ˜ญ I've had an amazing three days travelling from Melbourne – Adelaide with some lovely people from my tour and have seen some INCREDIBLE sights ๐Ÿ˜ On day 1 we ticked off Bells Beach, Lorne and Apollo Bay, wandered through the Maits Rainforest & watched the sun set over the 12 Apostles. On day 2 we saw sunrise at Loch Ard Gorge, made our way to London Bridge & The Grotto, had lunch inside a dormant volcano (whilst emus strolled by!), marvelled at Mackenzie Falls and I saw my first ever wild kangaroo! On day 3 we took a difficult 2 hour hike up to the top of the Pinnacle, in the heart of the Grampian Mountains, and were rewarded with the most incredible views from the top before crossing the Victoria/South Australia border and cruising into Adelaide. What an adventure it has been! ๐ŸŒŽ I booked my trip @groovygrapetours through the fantastic team @ratpack_travel – go check them out for all your Aussie tours and itineraries! #JessDoesAustralia #Days2-5

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Why Cruising is my New Favourite Way to Travel

I know what you’re thinking… cruising is for old people, right? WRONG! Cruises are so much fun, they’re so exciting and they are SUCH a great way to travel to new places. I embarked on my very first cruise last summer when I spent a week sailing round the Med with my family, and I had one of the best weeks of my whole life – you can read more about that trip right here. I loved just waking up in a new destination each day and couldn’t wait to get off the ship at each port and explore a new city. Days at sea also give a totally new meaning to the words ‘ultimate relaxation’ and I certainly got my money’s worth at the epic food buffets! Here’s why cruising is my new favourite way to travel, and why I think you’ll fall in love with it too…

 

The ship feels like a gigantic hotel

 

 

I know most people will say that some of these pointers will vary depending on what ship, cruise line and what destinations you choose, which is of course absolutely correct, but I can guarantee that pretty much every single cruise ship you’ll ever go on will ALWAYS feel like a gigantic hotel! With hundreds of rooms, multiple floors, hoards of bars and restaurants and plenty of shops, your cruise ship will feel like the biggest all inclusive hotel you’ve ever seen – and then some. At first you’ll get lost trying to find your room and won’t be able to remember which bars are in which direction but trust me, that’s all part of the fun, it’s like discovering a new hotel or resort every single day, but the best bit is that you’re staying in one place the entire time!

 

Your all inclusive package will be worth it

 

 

I have to say, I never usually opt for all inclusive when I’m abroad and always go for self catering, but with a cruise you don’t really have a choice! Every guest receives some type of meal plan with their cruise, whether it’s half board, full board or all inclusive, and this obviously depends on which cruise line/ship you choose. Some companies may offer an upgrade from full board to all inclusive, which I wouldn’t usually pick, but ours was free when we booked as we were eligible for a special offer, so naturally we said YES! This actually made a real difference to our stay as we didn’t pay a single penny for any food and drink consumed on board, even branded drinks and cocktails were included within our package, and you could literally have as much as you wanted – result! Some of the restaurants on board some of the biggest cruise ships out there are totally out of this world, and you’ll want to try as much of the food and drink as you can whilst you’re on your cruise to get the most out of your experience – just be prepared to come home a few pounds heavier after all that over indulging ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

The sail in’s/ sail away’s are amazing

 

 

This was without doubt my favourite part of cruising. The sail away on our first night was so much fun and we had a live band playing party music as we left Croatia, with the bright lights of Dubrovnik glittering in the distance as we made our way further out to sea. Sailing in to a new destination every day was also super exciting, and I got up at around 5:30 each morning so that I could head up to the top deck and be one of the first on board to take in the epic sights. I’ve never really experienced anything like it before, just breathing in the fresh sea air and enjoying the panoramic views that were ahead of me. One of my favourite sail in’s was Kotor, Montenegro; it was an early one (6am) and there were only a handful of people on the top deck watching with me and my parents. The turquoise waters glistened below and the enormous mountains provided the most amazing backdrop whilst we glided into the tiny port. It was at that exact moment, just 2 days into my trip, that I realised cruising was such a special way of travelling and that I’d totally fallen in love with it.

 

There’s excellent entertainment on board

 

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* (link in bio) Top 10 Tips for First Time Cruisers in Their 20s ๐Ÿšข My first post from my recent cruising adventure has just gone live on the #blog, and I'm sharing my top tips for first time cruisers, especially if (like me) you're in your 20s and you have NO IDEA what to expect from a holiday at sea ๐ŸŒŠ This post will talk about all things cruising, from choosing your favourite cabin type to watching different entertainment on board, and I hope it's useful to those of you who want to know a bit more about ship life โš“๏ธ I also try to dispel the myth that cruising is just for old people, so hopefully this post helps you see why it is fun for all ages! I can't wait to book my next one, and I'm a total cruise convert now! ๐Ÿšข #allaboard #newblogpost #happycruising

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Again this depends on which cruise line and which ship you choose, but cruising nowadays has such a big focus on the entertainment factor that you’re bound to find something which appeals to everyone. From West End style shows and world class magician experiences to dance extravaganza’s and Cabaret performances, the entertainment on board cruise ships has never been better. Most ships will offer jam packed programmes every night of the week, with shows to cater for all tastes and ages, whilst the cruise teams will also have entertainment throughout the day too. We often took part in the trivia quizzes, bingo and interactive games during the day and went to at least one show every couple of nights. You can be involved as much as you want, or if you prefer just to sit back and relax with a glass of wine whilst listening to some live music, you can of course do that too.

 

Both the sunrises and the sunsets are unreal

 

 

Along with the sail in’s and sail away’s, I think this was my other favourite part of cruising. Being in the middle of the ocean you are in prime position to see the best sunrises and sunsets in the world. There’s nothing in the way, there’s no light pollution when you’re at sea, and the reflection of the water just makes it that bit more special. The sunrises are amazing during the sail in’s, especially if you’re a bit far away from port but can see it in the distance. I know not everyone wants to wake up early on their holiday though, so don’t worry, the sunsets are just as spectacular and you definitely won’t want to miss out on golden hour. We sometimes just spent ages on the top deck watching the sun cast it’s golden shadow across the water, waiting for the pink skies to go dark, and it was truly mesmerising.

 

You can wake up somewhere new every day

 

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Don't mind me, just posing in front of expensive boats like it's the most normal thing in the world ๐Ÿ™‹ I'm currently writing up my #travel guide to #Kotor and can't wait to share it with you all! This pretty city is fast becoming the new go-to place for a European break in 2018, and with cute cobbled streets, an ancient old town and a glamorous waterfront like this, it's not hard to see why! ๐Ÿ˜ I LOVED my time in #Montenegro when I visited as part of my recent #cruise and am already planning a return trip to explore more of this gorgeous country ๐ŸŒ Have you ever been to Kotor before? On this miserable windy day in England, I know where I'd rather be rn โœˆ๏ธ #TBT #VisitKotor #VisitMontenegro #MarellaCruises #GoMontenegro #Insta_Montenegro #MontenegroWildBeauty #KotorMontenegro #KotorBay #CruiseLife #Europe #TravelGuide #TUI #ThrowbackThursday

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One of the best parts about cruising is that all the travelling is done for you while you sleep! Most ships do all the travel between their guests going to bed at night and then waking up the next morning, meaning you’ll go to sleep in one destination and wake up in another, amazing huh?! I absolutely loved this element to cruising as it meant I could really maximise my time in each port and wasn’t tired after a long travel day. Plus you don’t feel a thing whilst your sleeping and you don’t miss out on any sights either as you’re literally just in the middle of the sea for hours. Some of the destinations I went to in the Med would take DAYS to travel between if I was on land, so I realised just how handy cruising could be and how much time it saves doing it all by boat!

 

You can see why I had such a great time on my cruise now, right?! I just loved every single second on board that ship, and I’m already dreaming about booking my next cruise so I can tick some brand new cities (and countries) off my ever expanding bucket list. With thousands of different ships, itineraries and routes offered across the globe, and with plenty of places online to find a great cruise offer, there’s never been a better time to go on a cruise! Have you ever been on one before? I’d love to know what you thought of it!

NB. This post was brought to you in collaboration with Rol Cruises but, as always, all words are of course my own.ย 

 

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Doing the Titanic pose all by myself cos this Rose doesn't need a Jack in her life ๐Ÿ˜Ž I've been home for just 24 hours and I'm already missing being at sea ๐ŸŒŠ Words can't describe the amazing experience I had on my first ever cruise ๐Ÿšข I was so nervous before going as I suffer so much with travel sickness (ironic as I'm a travel blogger) but luckily I was absolutely fine and kept well the entire time! It's only now that I'm home I'm suffering with motion sickness despite being back on land! What is THAT all about?! ๐Ÿ˜ฉI think it means I need to book another cruise asap, I'm a total convert now and loved waking up in a new place each day, but my favourite thing was spending hours looking out at the blue waters, with nothing but the ocean staring back at me ๐Ÿฌ Can I go be a mermaid again please? #cruiselife #titanicpose #takemeback #marellacruises

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How to Spend a Week in Florida: Top Attractions and Must Sees

 

The sunshine state of Florida lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean in the south eastern region of America and is one of the most visited states in the whole country. Brimming with gigantic theme parks, designer shopping malls, gorgeous sandy beaches and vibrant cosmopolitan cities, Florida offers something for everyone and is popular with families and tourists from all over the world. During my 4 week tour of the US back in 2016, I was lucky enough to spend seven glorious days exploring Florida and found plenty of things to see and do in this wonderful state. Here are the top sights and biggest Florida attractions that you absolutely won’t want to miss during your visit…

 

Walt Disney World, Orlando

 

 

No list of Florida attractions is complete without the absolute ICON that is Walt Disney World; the place where all your magical dreams come true (cheesy, I know). I am a huge Disney fan and have wanted to visit ever since I can remember, so I was totally overwhelmed when I entered the Magic Kingdom and saw Cinderellaโ€™s castle for the first time! I only had one full day at Walt Disney World so decided to focus solely on Magic Kingdom, but you can of course head to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and the Typhoon Lagoon waterpark to get an added Disney fix and to make the most of all the epic parks on site.

 

South Beach, Miami

 

 

One of the most famous stretches of sand in the world, Miami’s South Beach is an absolute must see during your time in Florida. Perfect for water sports, celeb spotting and sunbathing, South Beach is a great place to chill out in a city which is always buzzing. If you’re looking to escape the sun, why not head to the nearby Lincoln Road Mall? This open air mall is completely pedestrianised and is brimming with big name fashion retailers, luxurious boutique stores and quirky cafes and eateries. The Art Deco scene in Miami is pretty big, so it’s worth checking that out too whilst you’re visiting South Beach. Nightlife in Miami is on par with the likes of Vegas and NYC and, as with any major city, Miamiโ€™s glamour comes at a price so be prepared to spend top dollar on drinks and club entry.

 

Kennedy Space Centre, Titusville

 

 

To infinity, and beyond! Nope, we’re not talking about Disney again, this time it’s the Kennedy Space Centre in Titusville. If galaxies, planets and spaceships are your thing you won’t want to miss out on a visit to NASA HQ during your time in Florida. The centre is huge and they have done a great job of preserving real life rockets and other space related artefacts. Some of the talks and interactive exhibitions are super informative, the shuttle buses are handy and the centre is easy to get around, especially if youโ€™re travelling with children. There are some great photo opportunities along the way, and I’d recommend spending at least a few hours here to really get the most out of your visit.

 

Universal Resort, Orlando

 

 

Another theme park has made this post, and this time it’s Universal, which is definitely on the ‘most visited’ list of top Florida attractions. With its big thrill rides, fantastic character interactions and a whopping three theme parks all on one resort, Universal is a hit with visitors of all ages. Kids will love the Shrek and the Despicable Me rides, whilst older ones will find the Transformers and Jurassic Park sections much more enjoyable. Thrill seekers won’t want to miss the Volcano Bay water park, with enormous slides, coasters and rapids. The Islands of Adventure park is home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with life size recreations of the Forbidden Forest, Hogwarts Castle and the Hogwarts Express just waiting to be discovered.

 

Everglades National Park, The Everglades

 

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โ€œThe Everglades is Americaโ€™s largest subtropical wilderness and the largest protected stretch of mangrove coastline in the Western Hemisphere. There are nearly four million acres of contiguous public conservation lands in the Everglades of South Florida, often quite close to cities like Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers and Naples. I captured this photography from a Cessna 177 airplane near Everglades City, which is one of my favorite basecamps for Everglades adventure. Its where Everglades National Park meets Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and wild lands and waters extend for dozens of miles in every direction. For those who want to immerse in the Everglades, the 99-mile Everglades Wilderness Waterway included marked paddling trails and camping sites that connect through the mangrove fringe from Everglades City to Flamingo (closer to Miami). Everglades National Park has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site and a Wetland of International Importance, one of only three locations in the world to appear on all three lists.โ€ โ€” Carlton Ward. Photo by @carltonward #EvergladesNationalPark #Everglades #Mangroves

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Spending long days at theme parks certainly takes its toll, so it’s nice to break up the intensity with something a little more laid back. I say laid back, coming up close and personal with alligators is not for the faint hearted, but on your visit to the Everglades National Park at least you’ll be swapping rollercoasters and log flumes for boat rides and swamps! Listed as a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance, the Everglades are one of Florida’s best loved natural beauties. Visitors can hop on a tram and ride the 15 mile Shark Valley Loop if they’re on the lookout for gators, or for something a little more tame, why not hike along the 2 mile boardwalk into the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to view the largest collection of old growth Cypress trees in the world.

 

SeaWorld, Orlando

 

 

Home to every kind of marine animal you can think of, and with a whole host of shows, exhibitions, thrilling rides and interactive displays, SeaWorld and it’s neighbours, Discovery Cove and Aquatica, combine to make a huge entertainment complex and are high on the list of top Florida attractions. Thrill seekers can take on the high speed Manta, Kraken and Mako rollercoasters whilst the Infinity Falls rapids are super popular too. For animal experiences, head to the underwater viewing or aquarium areas to see dolphins, sharks, turtles and sting rays up close. Arguably the best time to go to SeaWorld will be when they host their huge events, including their fireworks display on 4th July, or their Halloween Spooktacular which runs on weekends from 21st September – 27th October.

 

Have you been to the sunshine state before? How many Florida attractions did you visit? I’ve only been to half of the ones on this list, so I think that’s an excuse to go back soon, right?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

NB. This post was brought to you in collaboration with ATD but, as always, all words are of course my own.

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6 Weeks Down Under: How I Went Travelling Around Australia

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Swapping Scotland for Sydney ๐Ÿ˜Ž Some of you may have noticed on my Insta feed that I've been reading a fair few travel guides lately, and that I've been on an awful lot of trips too, but there's one travel company who have really helped me whilst I've been away, and that company is @marcopologuides ๐Ÿ“š I absolutely love their travel guides, so it gives me great pleasure to finally let you know that I am one of their Brand Ambassadors for 2019! โค๏ธ I'll be putting some of their brilliant guide books to the test on my upcoming travels and telling you all about them in my blog posts too๐Ÿ’ป First up is a round up of my epic 6 week Australian adventure which is now LIVE on the blog – go check it out for all your Aussie travel tips and to relive my wonderful experiences! (Link in bio)๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Stay tuned for more epic travel guides coming soon to Journeys with Jessica – i can't wait to share more of my adventures with you! ๐ŸŒŽ #ad #brandambassador #gifted

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If you’ve been following me on social media over the past few months you’ll know that I’ve recently returned from the trip of a lifetime travelling around Australia, where I spent 40 wonderful days exploring this beautiful country, taking in 10 cities, 5 states and covering thousands of miles of land. I planned my trip totally on my own, but had the help of my trusty Marco Polo Australia Guidebook with me all the way. Here’s my full itinerary in detail, and a breakdown of all six weeks so you can see how I planned my trip, and just how much I fitted in during my time travelling around Australia!

 

Week 1: Melbourne – Adelaide

 

 

I kick started my tour of Australia with a couple of nights in Melbourne on my own, staying in a private room at the Melbourne Metro YHA, which was brilliant FYI. After a 24hr flight and HORRENDOUS jet lag, it was sooo nice to have my own room and just take things at my own pace for a few days whilst I started to adjust to life in Australia. You can read all about my time in Melbourne here. On my last day in the city I had an early 6am start as I embarked on my tour of the Great Ocean Road down to Adelaide. I booked this 2night/3day Groovy Grape tour through Ratpack Travel, a trendy travel company based in Byron Bay.

 

 

As I’ve mentioned, this tour was operated by Groovy Grape and there were 15 of us in total. Most of the group were solo travellers like me, but there were a few couples as well. There’s a fair amount of walking to do on this tour, including hiking the Grampians and trekking down to Mackenzie Falls, so you need a moderate level of fitness but it wasn’t too taxing. You can read my full review of this Great Ocean Road tour in more detail here, but my highlights included watching the sunrise over Loch Ard Gorge, visiting the Twelve Apostles and having lunch in the Tower Hill wildlife reserve, which is an active volcano!

 

Week 2: Adelaide – Alice Springs

 

 

Upon reaching Adelaide I spent 4 nights here with my lovely friend Jess, who I’d met in America three whole years ago! It was the first time we had been reunited since our US trip back in 2016 so I was so excited to get to Adelaide. Jess showed me allll the sights and we spent time wandering around the city itself (I was lucky enough to be there when the world famous Fringe Festival was on!) and we also headed to the German town of Hahndorf where I felt like I was actually in Germany and not in Australia at all. Other highlights included visiting the brilliant Cleland Wildlife Park, where I got the CUTEST kanga selfies, and we also drove to the seaside resort of Glenelg which boasted a gorgeous beach, promenade and plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. I was super sad to be leaving Jess behind in Adelaide but knew we’d be reunited once more in Sydney at the end of my trip.

 

 

In Adelaide I got picked up ready for my new tour, the Adelaide – Alice Springs Overland Adventure which was operated by Intrepid Travel. I’d heard great things about Intrepid but was super nervous about my outback tour as I had never been camping IN MY LIFE and I was about to spend an entire week sleeping on the floor with bugs and spiders ahhhh! I needn’t have worried though, from the minute I walked on board the tour bus to the minute I left all my new friends behind a week later I can honestly say I had the best experience of my entire life on that outback trip! Again, I’ll be blogging about the tour in much more detail separately, but my main highlights (god there were so many) included sleeping in an underground bunkhouse at Coober Pedy, skydiving over Uluru(!!), hiking Kata Tjuta and watching the sunset over the mountains in Alice Springs.

 

Week 3: Alice Springs – Cairns

 

 

After my outback tour ended I spent an additional 3 nights in Alice Springs just chilling out, walking around the town and spending time with some of my tour friends who were staying on in Alice too. I really wanted to spend a day hiking in the Western Macdonnells National Park, but unfortunately I didn’t have quite enough time to do a full day trip and I was exhausted from my tour so I just focused on recuperating in Alice instead.

 

 

My short flight to Cairns went smoothly and I spent 2 nights in the city ahead of my next tour starting. One of my outback friends, Rick, just happened to be in Cairns too, so I explored the area with him and we had a great couple of days wandering around the lagoon and esplanade, hitting up the nightlife and checking out the famous Rusty’s food market (which was recommended in my Marco Polo Guidebook). We also took a day trip to the Kuranda Rainforest after my Cape Tribulation tour was cancelled due to flooding. We got the cable car up to Kuranda village, stopping off at different parts of the rainforest and the spectacular Barron Falls along the way, and then hopped on the express train back to Cairns along the old fashioned railway.

 

Week 4: Cairns – Brisbane

 

 

My 10 day Cairns – Brisbane tour was operated by Topdeck Travel and I was so looking forward to joining another tour, especially as I’ve always fancied doing an 18-35 Topdeck one! The first half of the trip took us from Cairns – Airlie Beach, where we went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef (BUCKETLIST RIGHT THERE), went hiking and koala spotting up to WW2 forts on Magnetic Island, and we stopped off at the stunning Whitehaven beach after our epic overnight sailing on the Whitsundays.

 

 

After Airlie Beach (and it’s crazy nightlife) we headed onto Myella Farm for a traditional Australian farm stay. We got to see how everything works and how well the animals are looked after and we even hung out with the resident baby joeys! Next stop was the beautiful Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, which fast became one of the highlights of my entire trip. We went 4 wheel driving on the sand and river tubing down Eli Creek before stopping off at the Maheno Shipwreck then catching a scenic airplane flight over the island below. Our last stop was Brisbane and I was super sad to say goodbye to my new friends but also excited for the next part of my adventure.

 

Week 5: Brisbane/Gold Coast – Sydney

 

 

I spent the next 3 nights with my lovely friend Amy, another of my Contiki pals who I’d met in America 3 years ago. She showed me everything there was to see in beautiful Brisbane, including the vibrant Southbank and lagoon, the botanical gardens and the magnificent Story Bridge. Brisbane turned out to be one of my fave Aussie cities, and we then went on a road trip of the Gold Coast which I absolutely loved!

 

 

We spent a night at Byron Bay, hiking up to the lighthouse to watch the sunset and enjoying the nightlife on the main strip. We also stopped off at Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta, Tweed Heads, Rainbow Bay and Snapper Rocks so I saw a fair bit of the Gold Coast and really adored my time there with Amy! I then hopped on my last domestic flight of my trip and headed to Sydney for my final week of travelling around Australia.

 

Week 6: Sydney/Umina Beach – Bondi

 

 

I reunited with my friend Jess and more of my Contiki pals Tamara and James in Sydney which was amazing and we spent 3 nights exploring a city I have wanted to visit for sooo long. We did all the typical touristy stuff like the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Darling Harbour as well as the quirky Paddys Markets and we even hopped on a ferry over to Manly Beach for an afternoon. I really loved my time in Sydney and feel like I saw such a lot there during my visit. After leaving Sydney, Jess and I headed to nearby Umina Beach to stay with Tamara for a few nights. We really enjoyed the laid back vibe in this pretty area and took a day trip to Palm Beach, where the long running TV soap Home and Away is filmed. We enjoyed seeing different parts of the set and hiked up to the lighthouse for spectacular views over the bay below.

 

 

After Umina we headed to Bondi Beach for 2 nights and I was pleasantly surprised by this place; it wasn’t what I expected at all! It wasn’t particularly touristy (probably because we were there before the weekend rush) and I really liked the beaches of Clovelly and Tamarama as well as Bondi. Jess and I met up with another of our Contiki pals, Matt, and the three of us spent an afternoon hiking the epic Bondi to Coogee coastal path (recommended in my Marco Polo Guidebook) which was amazing and boasted some incredible views along the way. Bondi was the perfect place to spend my last few days in Australia and it was so beautiful I just didn’t want to leave!

 

Ahh writing up this post has brought back sooo many wonderful memories from my Aussie adventure. What an absolutely AMAZING time I had on the other side of the world; I would go as far to say that this trip was totally life changing for me and I had the most incredible experience travelling around Australia! I hope this posts helps you if you’re thinking about planning your very own trip Down Under. Let me know if you need any tips as I’d be more than happy to help and share more knowledge from my own experience, but the Marco Polo Australia Guidebook will work an absolute TREAT as well!

NB. This post was sponsored by Marco Polo Guides as I am one of their brand ambassadors for 2019, but all words and photos are of course my own.