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How to book your European interrailing trip for under £500pp

 

 

Last month I took my first trip of 2018 as I went inter-railing round Europe (again!) with my sister. After inter-railing round Italy together back in 2016, we were super excited to be back on the road again, but this time exploring three countries in a row: France, Luxembourg and Belgium! We’d planned the route fairly quickly and, once we decided that we wanted to use the Eurostar to get there and back, had chosen our starting point as Paris and our final destination as Bruges, so just had one stop in between meaning that Luxembourg was the obvious candidate! Getting to and from the UK and each city was extremely easy, and both stress and hassle free. My sister and I organised every aspect of the trip before we left and we managed to get a week-long stay, including transport to and from the Eurostar stations, national and international trains plus six nights’ accommodation in 3-4* hotels for just £437pp! We had given ourselves a budget of £600pp for the entire week and well and truly smashed it. I like to think I’m quite good at getting a bit of a bargain, and this trip was certainly a steal. Being the geek that I am I’ve even worked out all the individual costings for this trip and included them in my total  pricing breakdown below. Want to know how I got a week’s inter-railing trip for less than £500pp? Let’s find out…

 

UK transport

 

 

Obviously this one depends on where you’re based, and I am lucky to live in Oxford so am very close to London, but our capital can be reached easily by most of the UK’s major cities, which makes getting to St Pancras Eurostar Station very accessible. We were travelling on Easter Sunday which may have slightly put the prices up, but usually a one way ticket from Oxford to London costs around £10 per adult, and is cheaper for me as I have a young person’s rail card. The Eurostar tickets themselves, from London – Paris and from Brussels – London were pretty reasonable and each journey was less than £70pp return. Have a look to see which trains are cheapest/most expensive on the day of travel as you could save a lot of money by going later in the day, or earlier on in the morning, or even the day before or after if you’re really flexible and want to get the best deal possible!

Costings:

Oxford – London return train – 1x adult, 1x rail card holder = £28.90pp and £19.05pp

London St Pancras – Paris Gare du Nord one way train – 2x youths = £65pp

Brussells Midi – London St Pancras one way train – 2x youths = £53.30pp (don’t forget your ticket should state that departure is from any Belgian station and includes onward travel between cities ie if you’re staying in Bruges and need to get back to Brussels Midi for your departing train, the journey between Bruges and Brussels is included in your ticket price, you don’t need to buy an additional ticket).

 

International trains

 

 

Sadly we were hit by the dreaded SNCF train strike during our time away – they had only just started and it caused havoc! Our train from Paris to Luxembourg was cancelled and, because it was bank holiday Monday, none of the phone lines were working and no one on the website online chat/social media pages were able to get back to me. Luckily we were able to use our existing ticket free of charge on the next available train which was only 3 hours later than our scheduled train, but if that one had been cancelled I don’t know what we would have done! I would recommend downloading the SNCF app for live updates to your train as this came in handy when the website crashed! All other trains ran smoothly though and international train travel is so enjoyable for me as I love the scenery between cities and the excitement when I pass over the border into a new country! My top tip is to book your trains as far in advance as possible for the best rates, be flexible on timings, and don’t forget if you’re under 26 you qualify for youth prices.

Costings:

Paris – Luxembourg international train (direct) – 2x youths = £25.61pp

Luxembourg – Bruges train (change at Liege) – 2x youths = £29.14pp

 

Accommodation

 

 

We picked some fantastic hotels for our trip and it made such a difference to have somewhere cosy and warm to come home to after a busy day of exploring. I knew the cities we had chosen weren’t the cheapest on earth and so we would have to use a significant amount of our budget to cover the cost of accommodation, but I think we did well considering we got 6 nights for under £600 which is just less than £300pp for the entire duration. I usually look at private rooms in hostels to keep costs down, but actually we found hotels that were still within our budget and so decided to spend a little bit more in order to get maximum comfort and security during our stay. Being a travel blogger, I usually reach out to hotels and offer my services (writing a review/promoting on social media) in exchange for a discounted/complimentary stay, however sadly I didn’t find any hotels that were free on my dates that were able to collaborate with me on this occasion which was a real shame. I did expect this though as we went over Easter weekend and the kids half term holidays, so be careful when you choose to travel if you are trying to pitch to hotels!

I am a big advocate of using online promo codes/vouchers to book hotels though and my travel hack when booking accommodation would be to book using Expedia. I have used them for years and never had a bad experience! For every hotel I booked I was able to find a 10-15% off voucher online (literally just Google Expedia promo code and one usually always comes up!) and also received up to 200 nectar points for each booking which is another bonus for me. I’ll be talking a bit more about the hotels I stayed in over the course of the next few weeks as I will be putting together individual travel guides to each city, but I wanted to keep this post purely about the costings/planning of an inter-railing trip so hopefully these tips will come in handy when you’re looking to book something!

Costings:

Hotel De Seine, Paris – 2 nights = total £246 = £123pp

Hotel Parc Belle Vue, Luxembourg – 2 nights = total £204 = £102pp

Ibis Hotel Brugge Centrum, Bruges – 2 nights = total £140.98 = £70.49pp

 

Activities/optional tours

 

 

Luckily as a travel blogger I am able to reach out and pitch to tour companies/excursion brands in order to enhance my trip and book some much needed add-on’s. On this occasion I was lucky enough to work with tour company Triple and holiday company Euroventure whilst in Paris. I went on a guided tour around the secret passageways of Paris with Triple and went up the famous Montparnasse Tower with Euroventure and both of these experiences really enhanced our stay. Again I will be writing about both tours in more detail when my Paris travel guide goes live. I also worked with the Luxembourg Tourism Board whilst I was exploring their beautiful capital city and was offered complimentary visitor cards which enabled us to make use of free public transport, free museum entry and discounted entry to a range of other attractions which really helped our budget in a city which is quite expensive! Where possible, pitch to brands in order to keep costs down – you’re probably going to be writing about them for your blog anyway, so you may as well get something in return for it. Obviously we did more tours/trips whilst we were there, but here are the ones we pre-booked/pre-paid before we left and what they cost/saved us in money…

Costings:

Montparnasse access for 2 adults, Paris = £17pp – GIFTED to us by Euroventure

Guided passageway tour for 2 adults, Paris = £30pp – GIFTED to us by Triple

Luxembourg card for 2 adults, Luxembourg = £17.50pp – GIFTED to us by Luxembourg Tourism

 

Total breakdown

 

 

Transport: £284.55 (£142.28pp)

Accommodation: £590.98 (£295.49pp)

Extras: £129 (£64.50pp) if we hadn’t been kindly gifted them.

GRAND TOTAL = £437.77pp – still would have been under £500pp even if we had paid for the optional extras!

So as you can see, there were lots of different elements to this trip which did make it add up, but everything was kept at a relatively low cost, which definitely helped to stick within budget. Obviously we had additional spending money for food/drink, other excursions and attractions we wanted to visit, and this was covered by the euros we used for spends. When planning an inter-railing trip like this I would definitely take into consideration the time of year, dates of travel (ie try and go mid-week where possible) and try to book transport as far in advance as possible. As you can see, even with a train strike, we were still able to travel to our intended destination and it didn’t affect our holiday too much, but having as much planned in advance really helped to take the stress away from what was otherwise quite a hectic trip. We had a brilliant week away and I can’t wait for my next adventure… inter-railing is definitely my favourite method of travel and I hope this might inspire you to take a similar trip in 2018!

Have you ever been inter-railing before? Get in touch – I’d love to hear your train tales!

Love Jess x

 

A Little Life Update: My Half Year Review

 

 

We are now over six months into 2017… OVER SIX MONTHS?! How the bloody hell did that happen?! It feels as though January to June came and went in the blink of an eye. I have done so much, traveled so far, and experienced so many new things, but it’s not until I take a step back and look at my diary, or my Instagram page, that I realise just how much has happened these past six months.

Let’s rewind back to 1st January 2017; the first day, week and month of a brand new year. A chance to focus on new things, make new memories and set new goals. I did all of those things at the start of the year. I spent the post Christmas/New Year period down in Cornwall with my family, taking long dog walks on the beach, eating ice cream sat on the harbour walls, going out for dinner in nice restaurants and waking up to sea views every morning. Just after I got back from Cornwall I made myself some New Years Resolutions. Given that we are now past the midway point of 2017 I thought I’d do a little life update and reflect on the things that have happened in the past six months, to see whether or not I’m on track and if I’m achieving/failing my goals set by my 2017 Resolutions post… Here goes!

 

 

I want to travel to 10 new countries

 

 

This was my biggest and most challenging resolution – definitely the one I was most scared about tackling, but I’m so pleased to say that I’ve been smashing it!! So far this year I have taken seven trips and have been everywhere from Copenhagen and Bratislava to Menorca and Tenerife. I’ve been to five new countries, five new cities and made countless new memories. All of my trips have been totally amazing, but highlights have included my first ever group press trip to Menorca, a last minute city break to Sofia, and a girly holiday with my sisters to Tenerife. In the next two weeks I’ll also be ticking two new countries off my list as I’m heading to Switzerland tomorrow and Germany the week after! Both are group press trips with other bloggers and we’ll be working with the respective tourist boards when we are out there. I’m so excited for my future travels and feel I’m in good stead to complete this challenge as I’ll have done 7/10 by August – not bad going if I do say so myself 😉

 

I want to stop buying scratch cards

 

Amazingly, I’ve actually not done too badly at this one! So I’m not saying I’ve stopped buying them completely – cheeky ones still fall into my shopping basket every now and again – but I have made a conscious effort to try and avoid them wherever possible and I now only use the self service check out at the supermarket to minimize the temptation at the kiosk! I’ve started a little savings pot too and am collecting 50p’s and £2 coins, so whenever I do get the urge to buy one I plonk my change in there and watch it build up –  WAY more fun than losing money every week!

 

I want to grow my blog as much as possible

 

This was probably the single most important resolution for me, and I’m proud to say I think I’m halfway there. I’ve still got a long way to go before I can become a full time travel blogger, but before this year I had never been on a press trip and by the end of August I will have been on THREE in the space of just a few months! For me, a real turning point came when I visited #Traverse17. If you read my post you’ll know that I had an amazing time at the three day travel blogging event down in London, but what I didn’t expect from it was the sheer amount of opportunities I would be opened up to after attending. Just a few weeks after the conference I was lucky enough to be selected to attend the Must See Menorca press trip in April, along with the Spanish Tourist Board and Traverse themselves. And then I was asked to pop over to Hamburg for the weekend with the Visit Hamburg team. I’ve also grown in confidence and have started reaching out to pr companies, tourist boards and local attractions to create new opportunities for myself. So what if there’s no press trip advertised? Make yourself known and start creating things that you might otherwise miss out on!

 

 

I now really enjoy the networking side of things and rarely get nervous. At Traverse everyone was pitching themselves to the tourist boards for trips, I could hear fellow bloggers practising what they were going to say in their speech and it made me feel a little nervous – I certainly wasn’t professional enough to start pitching!! When it came to meeting the brands and speaking to the tourist boards though I actually felt really confident and was completely myself. I didn’t ‘pitch’, I didn’t start reeling off numbers of followers, my monthly page views or my audience demographics, but instead I started talking about the brands and asking questions. I told Visit Spain that I have been to their beautiful country 14 times, and that I have the most amazing childhood memories of beach holidays and tapas and paella. I told Visit Hamburg that I genuinely have always wanted to go to Hamburg because I want to start exploring some of the smaller cities across Europe and promote them to new audiences, rather just writing about capitals like Berlin and Barcelona. I was 100% myself when I was talking to these brands and I think this just might have been why I was lucky enough to be picked to attend these brilliant press trips.

 

I want to spend more time with family and friends

 

First night out together now that Baby Buck is old enough! Why do I feel so OLDDDDD 😭 #saturdaynight #sisters #love 👯💖

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I like to think I was pretty good at this one anyway, but I do think I have really started to spent more quality time with the people that mean the most to me, and I’m so grateful to have the most amazing support network. I still live at home so I’m really close with my parents and my sisters (probably too close, we argue constantly, but we always work things out). I live near to all my friends so I go out for dinner and drinks with them every few days and am always making plans to catch up whenever I have the time. Sadly the rest of my family are split between Liverpool and Essex, so I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like to, but we communicate daily and they’re only a phone call away.  Every single person in my life right now knows how much they mean to me, so thank you <3

 

I want to spend less time on social media

Yea this one hasn’t gone quite the way I’d have liked it to. I’m a social media obsessive; it’s my job, my hobby, my whole life, what can I say?! I’m actually quite sad I haven’t nailed this one as I know that the amount of time I am spending on the net is damaging and I really want to cut it down. I just find it difficult to switch off and feel like I constantly have to know what’s going on in the world. I recently read a brilliant article by the lovely Emily Luxton who described how Instagram is ruining her life. I really resonated with a lot of the aspects in Emily’s post, although my blog isn’t as big as hers, so it’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who has an unhealthy relationship with social media. I  know it’s not good at all though, so I’m gonna work really hard to cut down my usage over the next few months… Wish me luck and please send any tips my way. PS thanks Emily for the refreshing, very honest and personal post! <3

 

I want to stop looking for love

 

 

Lol this one is easy. I’ve done it, I’m not going to find anyone, so I’ve given up looking. Ok that’s not strictly true, I was seeing someone off and on for a couple of months, but he found his way to me, I didn’t go looking for him. And we’ve known each other YEARS, so it wasn’t a new thing. Or a Tinder match – that’s deleted, thank God. I’ve finally stopped looking because I genuinely have no desire to be with anyone at the moment. I know that’s quite sad and at times I would love to have someone to share my life with, and I do want that for my future, but right now it’s the last thing on my mind. I don’t have TIME for a boyfriend, I’m travelling too much to want to settle and I’m so spontaneous and carefree that I just don’t want the hassle of a relationship, despite the good things that I know will (one day) come with it. I don’t feel unhappy though, for the first time in months I feel really great about being single and am just getting my confidence up before I decide when/if I want to start dating again. There’s no rush though, I’m still only 24 – sorry mum, you’ll have to wait a bit longer to be a nanny 😉

 

I want to focus on myself

After that last paragraph, I think this goes without saying, but I have focused on myself so much since January that I’m actually starting to feel a bit selfish! Is that a bad thing?! I guess it kind of is, but I’m just looking after number one because one day I won’t be able to do that! So I’m saying YES to new opportunities, YES to hanging out with new friends and YES to doing whatever the hell I want. I’ve been really enjoying every aspect of 2017 so far, and hope that will continue for the remainder of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I still get my down days, and there are (very few) times when I really struggle to be happy, but I’m much better at picking myself up, dusting myself down and painting a big smile on my face.

 

So there we go, I don’t think I’ve done too badly?! It’s quite nice to look back at all the things I’ve done since January and it gives me the confidence to carry on as I have been doing so that I can make the most of the rest of 2017. For now I’m looking forward to heading to Switzerland tomorrow – don’t forget you can follow my journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! What new years resolutions have you been sticking to this year? I’d love to know if you have been achieving your goals, so leave me a comment below!

 

Love Jess x

 

Party #2 of #MustSeeMenorca and we're having tapas and cocktails at the beautiful @portbluehotels

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Happy Blogiversary to Me! What I've Learnt From 3 Years of Blogging

 

 

 

OH-MY-GOD-I-CAN’T-BELIEVE-IT’S-BEEN-THREE-YEARS!!!!

This is literally what I have been saying to myself over and over in my head all day. I can’t believe it’s been three years since Journeys with Jessica was born. I can’t believe it’s still published. I can’t believe it’s grown from what it was to what it is now. I also can’t believe how I, as a person, have grown from what I was, to what I am now. If you’ve been with me from the beginning, you’ll know that I went through the toughest time of my life three years ago. On one day back in January 2014 my life as I knew it totally changed forever. I won’t go into all the details cos you guys have probably heard it all before and are starting to get bored (I know I am), but having my heart broken completely turned my world upside down. For three months I was a complete wreck; I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I barely had enough energy to get up in the morning. I had no motivation, I had no interest in anything and I just didn’t know how to pick myself up and feel better. My health worsened, my medical condition was dragging me down, and I really couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I hit rock bottom and didn’t know where to go or what to do. There was nothing my friends, or my family, could do to make me see that I needed to start again, that I needed to move on and that I needed to find a purpose, until I started my blog.

Blogging gave me a purpose, it gave me a reason to get excited, and it made me realise I could have a life again. When I booked a spontaneous trip to Barcelona with my two best friends I started to write this blog. At first I wrote about my upcoming trip, then I wrote about the trip when I got back, then I started writing about trips I had been on in the past. Then I booked a trip to Majorca. Then Reykjavik. Then Prague. Then Budapest… The list goes on and on, and it’s there that my love for travel, and blogging, was truly born.

 

 

Back then I could never have imagined that my blog would gain a readership, or a social following of over 5000 users, or attract messages from anyone other than my friends and family. Back then I could never have imagined that my blog would one day be a source of income for me, or that I’d get invited on press trips or attend special events. Back then it was just a hobby, something for me to do when I was bored, or when I wanted to let my creative energy pour out, but now it’s my whole life.

Fast forward three years and my blog is the best it’s ever been and I, in turn, am the happiest I have ever been. My blog has been nominated for an award, it’s received press coverage, it’s racked up thousands upon thousands of views, and it’s made me actual real life friends with fellow bloggers from all across the world. Without my blog I don’t think I’d have had the motivation, or the encouragement, to pick myself up and get on with my life. I don’t think I’d have quit my job as an estate agent to travel the world, and I definitely would never have launched my own freelancing business. I would never have gone to conferences, or met with travel brands, or made friends with so many like minded people. I’m connected with people on Facebook and Twitter who I’ve never met before, but we speak almost every day and I feel as though we have been life long friends. Without my blog, I wouldn’t have had any of this.

 

 

Over the past three years my blog has genuinely brought me so much happiness, and never once have I experienced any negativity from it, or had anything bring me down. Yes it’s hard work, yes it’s time consuming, yes it’s always going to be judged and it can always be improved, but I can honestly say that every single second, minute and hour that I have put into my blog over these past few years has been totally and utterly worth it. I can’t explain the sheer excitement I feel when I receive a new comment on one of my posts, or when I receive a Facebook message from someone telling me they booked the same trip as me because they read my blog post and couldn’t wait to go. Those feelings won’t ever go away, and they bring me so much joy.

I guess I just want to say thank you to all the people who have helped to make this blog a success, because it definitely isn’t just down to little old me! Thank you to my best friends for making me book that trip to Barcelona in the first place.  Thank you to my fellow travel blogger friends who continue to motivate me and inspire me everyday. Thank you to my readers who continue to enjoy my posts, and who like following my adventures on my social channels. Thank you to all my voters who helped to get me to the top 10 in the UK Blog Awards 2016 – my biggest and best achievement to date. And finally, thank you to my family for continuing to support me in all that I do, and for not constantly moaning at me to get a ‘proper’ job. Thank you for letting me do what I love.

 

This is how I feel right now. Today I calculated that I've earnt *almost* as much each month as I was earning in my old 9-5 job! I knew I could do it!!! I've started with nothing and built up my little business all by myself. At times I felt like giving up, like I wasn't good enough, and like I had no right to make a career for myself, but today I've felt so inspired and so pleased that my hard work seems to be paying off. Any doubts that may have been in my mind have now been dismissed and I am SO excited to continue my journey in my new career and see where this takes me! Here's to future success and many more adventures 📝💻✈️🌍 #MondayMotivation #freelancer #bloglife #virtualassistant

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It’s been an amazing three years, and what a ride it’s been. Since Journeys with Jessica was launched I have travelled to 9 new countries, visited over 5o new cities and explored 23 US States. Over the next 12 months I will be roaming around Europe and ticking off country after country and city after city as I aim to visit 25 countries before I turn 25 next January. After that, I plan to spend a few months travelling around Australia before returning home next Spring and then deciding what else I want to do with this little life of mine. I still can’t believe it’s been three years, but they have been bloody amazing. If you’re reading this and you’re thinking of starting your own blog my advice is simple – JUST DO IT! Find your niche, throw yourself into it, enjoy every second and you might just change your life. I know mine did, and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

Love Jess x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published works/Collab posts: Revealed!

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Hi everyone,

So a few weeks ago I wrote about a few exciting collab posts I had coming up and I’m pleased to announce that these have now been published by some brilliant fellow travel bloggers on their respective sites. I had so much fun putting these posts together and enjoyed networking with two other industry professionals, gaining an insight into how they gather their research and material for their write ups.

Savvy Girl Travel

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Hayley Swinson from Savvy Girl Travel asked me to put together a recommendation of an ideal winter holiday destination. I chose the magical city of Reykjavik, Iceland as I travelled there last November for a girly city break and had the most amazing time! You can view my Iceland write up on Hayleys blog here: http://www.savvygirltravel.com/10-winter-destinations/9/  and you can read my personal review of the trip on one of my previous posts: https://journeyswithjessica.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/holiday-to-reykjavik-iceland-november-14/

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Mad Travel Diaries

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Marissa Dookeran of Mad Travel Diaries advertised her latest feature, Ask a Local, and needed contributors so I was only too happy to oblige! Coming from Oxford this was obviously the location for my home town blog post and I loved sharing my knowledge of the local area with Marissa and her readers. My post gave handy hints and tips ensuring that visitors didn’t miss out on important attractions that might not be overly well known. Whilst putting this post together I spent some time in the city exploring hidden streets that even I hadn’t ventured to before! View my Ask a Local feature on Marissa’s blog here: http://www.madtraveldiaries.com/ask-local-feature-oxford-england/ and you can also read another of my recent Oxford posts when I became a tourist for the day in my home city!: https://journeyswithjessica.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/the-day-i-became-a-tourist-in-my-home-city-oxford/

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I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of my collaborations and published works! I’m jetting off to Prague on Friday so can’t wait to share details of that trip with you all when I’m home… Bon Voyage!

Love Jess x

My WordPress: 2014 stats in review

Hey everyone,

This really is my last ever post of 2014 and it’s been a truly amazing year for me! As you saw from my round up of the year I have managed to go on so many trips over the past 12 months and have loved sharing my adventures with you all.

This blog post details information on my stats from the past year giving an insight into how popular my posts have become, and showing how much it has grown already.

I am extremely proud of my blog and can’t wait to increase its success in 2015. I have also just joined Instagram and am loving it so far! Find me at Instagram.com/Jessica16_x

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Finally, I just want to say a massive thankyou to all my followers and to wish you all a happy and successful new year! I’ll be up in Liverpool celebrating with the family for new years, so wherever you are please have fun, be safe and enjoy yourselves!

My WordPress round up of 2014 is below!

Love Jess x

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable ca

r holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 32 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.