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Christmas at Blenhiem Palace: The Most Festive Place in the Cotswolds

 

 

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of being invited to the VIP press launch of Christmas at Blenheim, an exclusive event being held at beautiful Blenheim Palace in the heart of Oxfordshire. Located in Woodstock, just 10 miles from the city of Oxford, Blenheim Palace is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country, and is open all year round. As the Palace is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, tourists gather in their thousands every year to explore the house and it’s stunning grounds. As a local Oxfordshire girl I’ve been going to Blenheim since I was around 5 or 6 years old, and have been an annual pass holder many times. Blenheim is the perfect place for a family day out, a dog walk or just for a lazy stroll around the lake on a Sunday morning. The market town of Woodstock is worth a visit too, and I always pop in to some of the little shops, pubs and café’s when I’m stopping by – The Black Prince is a firm favourite of mine! The festive Christmas at Blenheim event was first launched back in 2016 and I can’t believe I haven’t visited until now! I’ve been wanting an excuse to attend so, when I was invited to the VIP press launch, I just couldn’t resist bringing my mum along for the ride and getting us both into the Christmas spirit. Here’s what we got up to, and what you can expect from your visit to Blenheim this Christmas…

 

 

The Great Court

 

 

Upon arrival we were taken into the Orangery for a welcome drink and a speech by the CEO of Blenheim before mingling and enjoying some festive nibbles. The Orangery is part of the estate I have never been to before, but it is decorated beautifully and is host to regular events at Blenheim, as well as being used as a restaurant serving evening meals, lunches and afternoon tea. Between the Orangery and the gift shop, with the small café inside, lies the Great Court. This is the starting point for the festivities of Christmas at Blenheim and is home to food stalls serving Bratwurst sausages and gourmet burgers as well as yummy churros and delicious donuts too. Opposite the food stalls you’ll find a helter-skelter, a carousel and a couple of other fairground favourites; tokens for which can be purchased at an additional cost. The Great Court looked super pretty all decorated in sparking lights, and got us feeling festive the moment we walked through the entrance archway.

 

The New Christmas Markets

 

 

A new attraction for 2018, the New Christmas Markets are located right in the middle of the main courtyard, just in front of the palace itself. Lined with lights and Christmas decorations, the markets sell every kind of gift you can think of, from cheese, chocolate and wine to portraits, bath products and pets toys. My mum and I spent some time wandering around the markets before we did the Cinderella exhibition and it was really lovely to see so many stalls set up all selling lots of fab gifts. We then sat down in the outdoor seating area (which was actually pretty small given that there were so many stands!) and indulged in a traditional German Bratwurst. The smells of the meat cooking, mixed with the smells of the sweet treats on sale, made our mouths water and I can see how people really get into the Christmas spirit whilst visiting this section!

 

The Fairytale Cinderella Experience

 

 

Another new attraction for this year, the Fairytale Cinderella Experience was something I was really looking forward to seeing as I am a TOTAL Disney Princess 😉 Upon entrance into the main palace you are greeted by Christmas tree after Christmas tree, glittering with lights, bows, flowers, stars, anything you can think of that is slightly sparkly is waiting for you in the entrance hall! We said hello to one of the staff members before heading off on the Experience. I’ve been to the palace many times so know what all the rooms are like, but the sheer amount of twinkling lights and decorations made it so much more magical and they have really done a fantastic job of making the palace look extra special. Each room is decorated with props and clothing from a certain character from Cinderella, so you have Prince Charming, the Wicked Stepmother, the Ugly Sisters and then lovely Cinderella herself right at the end, with a gorgeous display of her dresses illuminated against a back drop, and the stunning glass slipper encased in a glass box! There are of course some of Cinderella’s friends dotted throughout the trail and I think you are supposed to count the mice in each room along the way, but I was totally distracted by the sheer beauty of every room that I totally forgot to count! I was really impressed by the Cinderella Experience and I do think it is worth the money to pay extra and see this exhibition whilst you’re at Blenheim for the evening… it was truly magical!

 

The Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail

 

 

This was what we had been waiting for, the main reason I wanted to attend and the focal point of the entire event, the Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail was the last stop on our itinerary for the evening and it certainly didn’t disappoint! I had seen so many photos online which looked amazing but, if I’m honest, totally didn’t do the place any justice, and it doesn’t really look as good until you see it in person. But let me tell you, it is well worth being surprised and seeing everything up close and personal as every single section is just incredible! You’ll be taken on a winter wonderland and lead through a variety of different areas including a tunnel of lights, a majestic waterfall, a sea of flowers hanging from the trees and a singing statue in the middle of the lake. The lights, the animation, the music, everything is seriously spectacular and I could have done that trail over and over again. It takes around an hour to complete the trail, maybe a little longer if you have small kids who want to run around and take everything in, and there are some muddy paths and steep hills in places, so be careful if you’re bringing the buggy. The trail was the best part of our entire evening and I would recommend that everyone does this part of Christmas at Blenheim as it’ll leave even the Scrooges amongst us feeling full of festive cheer!

 

 

As I’m sure you can tell from the insane amount of twinkly lights and Christmas trees, I had such a fantastic time at Blenheim for this event and it really got me feeling festive!  Everything from the Great Court to the Christmas Markets looked absolutely stunning, and the attention to detail on some of the décor was second to none. The brand new Cinderella Experience was better than I thought it was going to be, and I can see this being a real hit with kids and adults alike – especially if they’re visiting the Palace for the first time. The real crowning glory though was of course the Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail which totally blew me away. Every single section was expertly decorated, with the music, lights, silhouettes and props looking incredible from every angle. I honestly had the most magical time at Blenheim and I really can’t wait to go back again next year! Have you been to Blenheim Palace before? And have you been at Christmas time? Let me know what you thought of it, and I would love to see all your festive photos!

Don’t forget to head to the Blenheim Palace website to purchase your tickets for this event, but be patient as it is hugely popular. I spoke to the CEO of the Estate when I was at the press launch and he told me that a whopping 82,000 tickets had already been sold before the launch night had even started, so get yours here if you want to book your preferred dates! Tickets cost £36pp for combined entrance to the Cinderella Experience and the Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail, whilst tickets to just the Lights Trail cost £26pp.

Love Jess x

NB. Big thanks to the fab teams at Flamingo PR and Blenheim Palace for hosting me on this wonderful event! My tickets to Christmas at Blenheim were provided to me complimentary for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts, words and photos are of course my own.

 

 

 

 

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A Travel Guide to Cornwall: The Capital of the South West

 

Located on the southwestern tip of England, and famed for its sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and glorious bays, the rugged county of Cornwall offers the perfect stay-cation to thousands of holiday makers year after year. The Cornish Riveria is home to popular seaside resorts, beautiful harbour towns and awesome surfing regions too, offering a fun filled family holiday or weekend break. Whether you’re going surfing in Sennen Cove or fishing in Falmouth, you’re sure to have an amazing holiday with so many things to see and do. I’ve been going to Cornwall almost every year since I was a six month old baby and, to this day, I never tire of its beautiful scenery and it’s long sandy beaches. I love Cornwall so much that I thought I’d put together a round up of my top things to do in one of the UK’s most loved go-to getaways at any time of year, and with a little help from the guys over at Clickstay, you can find your dream Cornish holiday home too…

 

Stand on the edge of England at Lands End

 

My whole world in one picture, at our favourite place

 

I don’t know what it is about this place, I can’t help but feel emotional each and every time I visit. I’ve been going to Lands End, the most westerly point of England, for years now; I’ve been as a baby, as a child, as a teenager and as an adult, and each time I go I get the same feeling. I get goosebumps on my arms,  shivers down my spine, and tears running down my cheeks. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve stood near one of the cliff edges, standing alone and just gazing out into the sea, lost in my own thoughts. As the name suggests, standing in those places and looking out to sea literally does make it feel as if you’re standing on the edge of the world, at the place where the land ends, and it’s pretty damn special if you ask me! As well as offering stunning views across to the Atlantic Sea, you’ll also find a whole host of fun things to do for all the family, including exploring one of their interactive exhibitions, playing in the park, visiting the wildlife centre and stopping off at the  shop and large restaurant.

Go surfing in Newquay

 

Image courtesy of Visit Cornwall – I only have hard copy photographs from my time in Newquay a few years ago but  they’re all in the loft!

 

Newquay is perhaps one of the best loved surfing spots in the whole of the UK and for very good reason. With its large sandy beach, crystal clear waters and awesome tidal waves, Newquay provides the perfect surfers paradise and attracts thousands of tourists year after year. Some of the UK’s surfing competitions are held there and their surfers rank amongst some of the highest in the world. There’s more to Newquay than surfing though, with its busy high street and pretty promenade which is popular with locals and tourists alike. This seaside resort is located on the North Atlantic coast of Cornwall and offers one of the best beaches in the entire county. As well as surfing, Newquay is also famed for its vibrant nightlife and is often a hit with men and women on stag and hen do’s looking for a memorable weekend away down on the Cornish coast. The last time I went to Newquay I headed straight to the Sealife Centre to discover some of our beautiful marine life and spent an afternoon in the sunshine devouring homemade ice cream – bliss!

 

Go mermaid spotting in Zennor

 

Image courtesy of Encounter Walking Holidays (I don’t have any pics from my time in Zennor when I was a little girl!)

 

I love a good fairytale, and Cornwall has myths and legends at every corner, which is one of the main reasons I find it so magical! The Zennor Mermaid is something that has fascinated me since I was a little girl, and it still continues to do so even now… Legend has it that Mathey Trewella, son of the local churchwarden, became transfixed with a female parishioner who attended services and sang every hymn sweeter than all the rest. With her enchanting beauty and haunting voice, Mathey followed her home and was never seen at Zennor Church again. Years passed and, one Sunday, a ship allegedly cast anchor in a nearby cove prompting a mermaid to rise from the ocean and beg for the anchor to be removed as it was trapping her home beneath the sea. Recoiling in horror, the sailor quickly set sail believing that the mermaid was an ill omen and that she would curse them. When the villagers heard of this, they agreed that the mermaid was the same lady who had long visited their church, and that she had enticed Mathey Trewella to come and live with her under the sea. Today, the famous “mermaid chair” at St. Senara’s Church can still be seen and is one of the popular tourist attractions in Cornwall, putting Zennor firmly on the map for centuries to come.

 

Go back in time at Tintagel Castle

 

Image courtesy of English Heritage – sadly I haven’t managed to get to Tintagel yet!

 

This medieval fortress is one of the best known in the whole of England, and one of the most visited too. Located in North Cornwall, Tintagel Castle was built in the 13th century by Richard, first Earl of Cornwall, and was settled during the early Medieval period. The castle was believed to have fallen into disrepair and was left to rot for hundreds of years before archaeological investigation on the site began in the 19th century. Like many castles in England, Tintagel was linked to yet another hisotric myth, this time the legend of King Arthur, where the castle was believed to be the place of his conception. Since the mid 1900s the castle has been turned into a major tourist attraction and is now owned by Prince Charles and managed by English Heritage.

 

Celebrate the New Year on St Ives Harbour

 

Fireworks over the beach on NYE

 

I’ve only actually done this once, and I can’t believe I haven’t done it more times if I’m honest! I love celebrating New Years, even more than I love Christmas, because I love the idea of reflecting on the past year but also looking forward to the next year ahead too.  My family and I celebrate NYE together every single year and last year we went to St Ives for the first time during the festive period. It’s an old tradition for everyone in St Ives to wear fancy dress on new years eve, with literally EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the town going all out and dressing up – you end up looking pretty stupid if you DON’T dress up so we knew we had to go hard, or go home! Once we’d picked our outfits we headed down to the main street to do a pub crawl. Everyone tends to have the same idea and it’s so much fun looking at all the different outfits – I was people watching til my heart was content! Just before midnight everyone runs down to the harbour to get their spot for watching the fireworks over the sea, and there’s then a marching band that goes on parade up and down the harbour front and off onto the cobbled side streets. The whole night was amazing and we had so much fun! I would highly recommend St Ives for NYE for a quirky, alternative place to go – it definitely beats queuing in clubs and paying for overpriced drinks!

 

So there we have it, just a few of my top picks for your visit to this beautiful county. Whether you’re off surfing, rock pooling or standing on the edge of England, you’ll be sure to have a fantastic time. Have you ever visited Cornwall before? I’d love to know what you thought of it! Don’t forget to find your dream holiday home with Clickstay to make your holiday extra special.

Love Jess x

NB. This post was brought to you in collaboration with holiday rental company Clickstay, but all thoughts & comments are of course my own.

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A Little Life Update… Where I Was vs Where I am Now

Don't look back… You're not going that way! ✈️🌎 #Venice #Italy #Venezia #wanderlustwednesday #noregrets

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Hi everyone,

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas filled with lots of love, fun and laughter – I know I did! The festivities feel like they’re well and truly over now though and, although I do love Christmas, I am so excited for the new year to arrive and for a fresh start. I’m looking ahead to all my travel plans for 2017 but am also reflecting and putting together my end of year review, with my top highlights from 2016. First though, I thought I’d share a very honest post with you all. As some of you will know, 2016 was a huge turning point in my life, for very personal reasons, and here’s why…

I lost 2 family members

 

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For the first time in my life, I lost 2 close family members. My Aunty Pat left us in January, and my Uncle Terry passed away in July, just six months later. It was awful, I’ve never really dealt with grief, or loss before. I’m lucky that, at the age of 23, none of my close family members had passed away, until this year. My nan gave us a scare too – she has had ongoing heart problems for a while now, but she collapsed and her heart stopped beating. Thank god she was in hospital at the time and was immediately brought back to life – I don’t know what I’d have done if she’d have left me. My nan is one of the most amazing, strong and selfless women I know, and she is my total inspiration. If you’re reading this nan, I want you to know how much I love you, and I hope I might have made you proud this year. <3

My health finally started to improve

 

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This is a huge positive, and one I am so happy has turned around for the better. As most of you will know, I suffer with a health condition called a prolactinoma, which is basically a small tumor on the pituitary gland in my brain. My condition seemed to deteriorate throughout 2015, when I was off and on medication and subsequently felt the worst I had ever felt. However, after a few months of yet more blood tests, eye tests and trips to the hospital I am finally in control of my condition and feel the best I ever have! My consultant and I made the decision to go back on my long term medication, and my prolactin levels have finally been lowered meaning my symptoms have disappeared and I am generally feeling much better. Yes I still have crippling headaches and yes I am often poorly, but I’m a million times better than I was last year and I finally feel happier with my health. I last went to the doctors at the end of November, and my next hospital check up is in March, so I’ll have more news then but, for now at least, I’m pleased to report that I’m feeling on top of the world… Long may it continue!

I made the decision to quit my 9-5 life

 

 

On to something less positive now, but it does have a happy ending- promise! Some of you might remember reading about my quarter-life crisis, where this time last year I had a mini breakdown. I was so unhappy with my life; I wasn’t enjoying my job, I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go, and I had this incurable wanderlust that made me want to travel as much as possible, although, at the time, I just didn’t know how to go about it. Then 2016 came along and, all of a sudden, this light-bulb went off in my head and I knew something had to change.

 

 

On 7th January 2016, after a few hours in my local STA Travel store in Oxford, I made the decision to book an epic Contiki trip across America, from LA to NYC, and I knew that there was no turning back. The following Monday, I handed in my notice at work. I knew that travelling across America would make me more determined than ever to travel as much of this world as I possibly could, and I knew that I couldn’t do it without quitting my 9-5 job. So I did it, I handed in my notice ridiculously early, and I started my final few months at work whilst preparing for America and then, subsequently, deciding what I was going to do when I returned.

I travelled more than I ever have before

 

 

The start of 2016 saw me take numerous trips to London and Liverpool, as well as little visits to Brighton and Bournemouth too. As you’ll know, June and July saw me travelling throughout America, across 23 states in 28 days and I had the time of my life! I visited over 25 cities, from LA and Vegas to Memphis, New Orleans, Miami and New York. I helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed over Daytona Beach, road tripped across Route 66, visited the White House in Washington and went ghost hunting in Savannah. I also celebrated 4th July in New York courtesy of my £471 flight change fees (!!!) the craziest, most spontaneous decision I have ever made, but so totally worth it!

 

September saw me travelling across Italy, from Venice to Florence to Rome, and ticking even more off the bucket list. I rode a gondola around the canals of Venice, climbed the Duomo in Florence, wandered round the Collosseum and threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome. I’m also about to embark on my last trip of the year and will be heading down to St Ives in Cornwall on Thursday ready for some new year celebrations – I’m so excited!!

 

Ride a gondola in Venice – TICK! ✅✅ Next stop Florence 🚂🚂 #bucketlist #italianescapade #tourists

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My blog continued to grow

 

 

I’m so pleased that my little blog had it’s best ever year in 2016, and I couldn’t be more thankful to my amazing friends, family and my READERS who have supported me throughout this past year. Journeys with Jessica has gone from strength to strength; we’ve had press coverage, an award nomination and our first press trip – these were things I could only have dreamed of when I first started writing back in 2014, and I still can’t quite believe that they all happened! I’m excited about the prospect of growing my blog even further in 2017 and can’t wait to continue to share all of my future adventures with you all – THANKYOU for making this all happen, I wouldn’t be anywhere without you lovely lot! <3

 

I launched my freelance business

 

 

When I returned from America in July I took a month or so off to just completely relax, see friends and spend some quality time with my family. I celebrated my mum and dads 25th wedding anniversary, went to Liverpool for a week to stay with my nan and granddad, and I went to V Fest with my cousins. I wanted to have a month where I just had FUN, lived life and totally let go. I think this was really important for me to do as it gave me perspective on what I actually wanted from life, and what truly made me happy. At the end of September I decided to launch my freelance business as an online virtual assistant, and I’ve never looked back! It’s still early days, but my client base is growing and I’m making enough money from it now to go full time – although the dream is still to be a full time blogger, and I’m hoping I’ll make it there one day! For now though, I’m super happy with my new freelance life and am looking forward to continuing this in 2017.

 

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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So that’s my little life update. I guess when you think about it, an awful lot has happened in such a short space of time! Aside from the obvious negatives, and the low points, I think that, overall, 2016 turned out to be one of the best years of my life. I had so many highs and ticked SO much off my ever growing bucket-list, and am so much happier now compared to where I was this time last year. Since October I have been freelancing fulltime whilst throwing myself into my blog too. Fast forward to December and I’m still doing both of those things whilst looking forward to seeing what 2017 will bring, and I’m pleased to announce that planning for my European Adventure is well underway… Watch this space!

Love Jess x

#summer ☀💖

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November Newsletter

Hi everyone,

It’s that time of the month again, and my jam-packed newsletter is here! As November is a five week month it’s felt like ages since I wrote my last newsletter, but I have crammed so much into these past few weeks and am so excited to tell you all what I’ve been up to! Here goes…

I celebrated Bonfire Night

 

My favourite time of year 💥🎉😍🍂 #bonfirenight #fireworks #autumn

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Bonfire Night is undoubtedly my favourite time of the year, I just LOVE it! I love wrapping up warm, grabbing a sparkler and gazing towards the skies as they light up with firework after firework. The food is a winner too, who doesn’t love tucking into a  hot dog (or three) whilst watching the fireworks go off?! I was lucky enough to go to TWO local displays this year and they were both wonderful.

I watched Ghost the Musical on stage

Musicals are soooo my thing, I love everything about them and am attempting to see as many as I can over the next few years! This year I’ve already seen The Bodyguard, Chicago and Les Mis, so watching Ghost was my final show of 2016 and what a show it was. Every single element from the cast to the music to the performance was mesmerising; I cried like a baby at the end but I loved every minute of it! Congratulations to the fantastic cast, crew and production company for putting on SUCH an amazing show.

I attended WTM London for the first time

 

 

I was sooo excited to attend my first conference at WTM London this year and couldn’t wait to start rubbing shoulders with brands, tourism boards and fellow bloggers at the biggest travel trade show in the world. I met so many people and learnt so much in such a short amount of time, one day definitely wasn’t enough to take everything in. Read all about my amazing time at London’s ExCel Centre here – I already can’t wait to return in 2017!

I won FREE return flights with Jet2.com

 

 

So anyone that knows me will know that I have really BAD luck at winning things. I never win on scratch cards, on lottery tickets or at any competition at all, until this month when I was one of 20,000 lucky people who won FREE return flights with Jet2.com’s  Name It competition! I was sooo overwhelmed I couldn’t believe it! I have the choice of visiting over 58 of Jet2’s fab European destinations in summer 2017 and I need to pick my holiday destination by 16th December, so I don’t have long! At the moment I’m torn between a cheeky week in Tenerife, or a little city break to either Dubrovnik, Geneva or Warsaw – people of WordPress… HELP ME CHOOSE! I might run a Twitter poll because I genuinely can’t decide.. watch this space…

I visited London three times in space of 7 days

 

 

It’s no secret how much I love London, and I was delighted when I recently got the chance to visit the city three times in the same week. I did some sightseeing on the Southbank, some wandering around Winter Wonderland and accidentally stumbled upon the UK premier of Fantastic Beasts in the middle of Leicester Square! London is looking particularly beautiful now that all the Christmas lights are up, and I just love the city at this time of year.

I entered Accor Hotels latest competition

 

 

I found this competition after scrolling past something on Twitter but I was also emailed directly about it and was invited to enter before the deadline closed, so thought I would get my entry in nice and quickly! AccorHotels is inviting bloggers to share their top tips on how to spend 24hrs in their fave cities. Naturally, I chose to write about the Big Apple as I literally had just 24hrs there before I had to jet back to sunny London the day after Independence Day! The prize is an incredible 9 night stay in Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris which, for me, would be my total dream trip so I’m keeping everything crossed that I may have a teeny tiny chance of winning. Have a read of my entry – and GOOD LUCK to all other bloggers entering, don’t forget to use the dedicated hashtag #AccorHotels24Hrs

I spent a festive day at Winter Wonderland

 

 

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I’ve been to Winter Wonderland recently as my feed is FULL of festive images from my day out there a couple of weeks ago. London’s Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this year, and my fourth annual visit to the wintry spectacle certainly didn’t disappoint! I had a wonderful time and already can’t wait to return next Christmas (am I really thinking about next Christmas already?! Time – Please. Stop. Going. So. FAST!!

I reviewed a lovely hotel at the heart of the Cotswolds

 

Another day, another hotel review! Wonderful stay in the heart of the #Cotswolds – full review and blog post coming soon! #Oxfordshire

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Last weekend I had the pleasure of staying in one of the cosiest Cotswolds retreats, The White Horse Inn at Duns Tew. I was reviewing the Inn on behalf of a PR company and had a wonderful time. The staff made us feel so welcome, the room was sooo nice and cosy, and the dinner and breakfasts the next morning were AMAZING! The White Horse Inn was such as lovely location to spend my last weekend in November, and I would whole-heartedly recommend it to those looking for the ultimate getaway at the heart of the Cotswolds. Full review and blog post coming soon!

So there we go, I told you I’d had a busy month! It seems like November has gone by nice and slowly, and has given me chance to catch my breath after my hectic summer and busy autumn. I can’t quite believe we are about to enter our final month of 2016 though, where the HELL has this past year gone?! I’m in full festive mode now, I’m halfway through my Christmas shopping and I’m looking forward to the big day. Have you got yourself prepared for Christmas yet? Are you spending the festive period away from home? Tell me all your plans!

Love Jess x

 

Unexpectedly #London bound… Again! ✨💃 #selfie #happytuesday #backtomyfavecity

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Surviving your first time at WTM London

 

Had so much fun @wtmlondon earlier on this week! Blog post coming soon! #WTMLDN #london #LDN #ExCel

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Hi everyone,

So last week I attended WTM London for the first time EVER and I had the most amazing time! For those of you who don’t know, WTM is the biggest travel trade show in the world and is held in London every November for three days, at the ExCel Centre. Anyone and everyone from the travel world is present at WTM, from tour operators and tourism boards to hotels, airlines and resort representatives. I consider myself to be a little blogger in a big, big travel pond, so I was understandably nervous/excited about the prospect of attending WTM for the first time! Here’s my guide to surviving your first time at this fantastic exhibition…

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!

 

 

I can’t stress how important this is when attending WTM for the first time! I feel as if I prepared as much as I possibly could by navigating the website, booking meetings, looking up lectures and planning my journey in advance before the big day arrived. I made sure I planned my tube route (although this changed due to station closures on the day!), I made sure I knew where my meetings were and what stands I wanted to visit, and I made sure I knew which lectures I wanted to attend. Planning in advance really helped me to calm my nerves and take everything in my stride when I eventually arrived on the day. I also reached out to other bloggers who had attended before, Eileen from Crooked Flight held a fantastic webinar which was super helpful and I was SO glad I watched it before I attended!

 

Just one of the fab exhibitors @wtmlondon this year! #WTMLDN #mexico #tourism #TravelTuesday

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Don’t get me wrong, I  was totally overwhelmed by WTM; the ExCel was absolutely enormous and I felt so out of my depth! I had lost my voice and had a terrible cough that day, so I think that just affected my confidence at first, but once I’d had a few meetings and started speaking to more people I felt much more comfortable and began to enjoy myself a bit more! Make sure you research the companies you have meetings with, know the name of the person you’re going to be speaking to, and make sure you know what it is you want from WTM. I wanted to meet with tourist boards and enquire about potential press trips, as that’s the direction I want my blog to take, but others may want to become a travel trade consultant or progress their careers in the industry, so talking to specific brands about what you want to achieve is key to success at WTM.

 

Make sure you look the part

 

 

Treat WTM as you would treat a professional meeting, or a job interview. I wore a skirt and top to look smart, and I took a blazer too but wore flats as I knew I would be doing a lot of walking! I feel I looked professional but not too over the top, and hopefully I went for style as well as comfort! Jeans and a t-shirt is a definite no-no; most of the guys were in suits or a shirt and trousers, whilst most of the girls were in dresses, smart tops and trousers or skirts and tops like myself.

Book meetings in advance

 

 

Booking meetings ahead of my visit to WTM really helped me to plan my day. It also ensured I could spend a certain amount of time meeting brands and a certain amount of time attending lectures, so I could balance my day correctly. I found the WTM website to be extremely helpful when planning; you can contact brands directly, find out about all the lectures and speakers and even see the full A-Z list of exhibitors who will be present each day. There’s also a WTM app which you can download and use to interact with brands and speakers on the day, making sure you’re super involved throughout the whole process. You can also use Twitter to mention brands and exhibitors in your tweets, showing them that you’re excited about the big event and that you’re planning it before you’ve even arrived… everyone loves a build up!

 

Print your media kit and take plenty of business cards

 

And I was sooo pleased with how my press pack turned out too! Who else took one to @wtmlondon this year? #London #WTMLDN #ExCel

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I have never printed my media kit as I think carrying prints around is very old-fashioned, but I am so glad I took copies to WTM with me! I printed around 20 of them, and had 100 business cards on me which was plenty. I gave all of my media kits out, and around 30-40 business cards too, as not everyone wants to see your media kit. I made sure my media kit was given to people I had meetings with, and people that I approached who I was really keen to work with. The beauty of presenting a media kit is that it gives you something to visually share with the person/company you’re approaching, and I think it makes you stand out over someone who is just there to drop off a business card.

 

Look up the lectures you want to attend

 

This was my holy grail @wtmlondon – wouldn't have survived without it! #London #WTMLDN #ExCel

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I think WTM is all about time planning, especially if (like me) you only have one full day there! To me, the lectures are just as important as meetings with professionals, you can learn a lot from the speakers and the Q&A sessions, so I was keen to catch as many lectures as I could during my day. It helped to look them up in advance so I could ignore any irrelevant ones and focus on the ones I really wanted to attend. The WTM guide that is handed out to you upon arrival is really helpful in terms of planning, but there are giant boards and maps dotted about too so that you can get your bearings and make your way to the lecture halls on time. Be sure to arrive early to make sure you get a seat!

 

Catch up with your fellow blogger friends

 

 

WTM doesn’t have to be totally serious; yes, you’re there to learn and meet professionals from the travel industry, but it’s s really great place to have some fun too. I met up with three of my fellow travel blogger friends whilst I was there- Emma (Paper Planes and Caramel Waffles), Kate (Kate Victoria Photography) and Mel (Footsteps on the Globe) – and we hung out, took photos and attended lectures together. It’s really nice to see a few friendly faces during what can be quite a stressful day, so I really enjoyed spending some time with these girls!

Follow up after the event

 

wtm1

Following up afterwards is just as important as attending the conference on the day! I did my follow ups yesterday, a week after attending, and sent emails to brands I met and had proper meetings with throughout the day. Following up doesn’t have to be in the form of emails though, you could interact with the brands on Twitter, make it fun, make yourself memorable! Keep in contact and you never know where your initial meetings might lead to in the future.

So there we have it, my ultimate guide to surviving your first time at WTM London. Have you been before? Are you wanting to go next year? Sharing is caring, so I’d love to hear any tips you have too!

Love Jess x

 

Where can you visit every country in the world, all under one roof? @wtmlondon of course! #WTMLDN #london #LDN #ExCel

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