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

 

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

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

 

An early start

 

My coach from Oxford to London Gatwick

 

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

 

A comfortable outwards journey

 

Image courtesy of National Express

 

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

 

A relaxing homeward journey

 

Image courtesy of National Express

 

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

 

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

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

Love Jess x

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

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

 

Image courtesy of National Express

The Secret to Happy Travel? VIP Treatment Before you Fly!

 

 

As most of you will know, I headed to Copenhagen last weekend with my sister for our first overseas adventure of 2017 and we had the most amazing time! A full city guide will be coming soon, as well as a hotel review too, but first of all I’ll start at the beginning where we were lucky enough to be invited by Executive Lounges to spend some time at the Aspire Lounge at London Luton Airport ahead of our morning flight…

After dropping off our bag and whizzing through security we made our way towards the Aspire Lounge to start our adventure in style. Luton Airport is pretty small, and there aren’t many shops or restaurants to eat at so we were really looking forward to having somewhere private, and comfortable, to sit and chill before our flight. The Lounge is conveniently located next to Accessorise on the 1st Floor of the departure area and is super easy to find.

Upon arrival we were greeted with a glass of Prosecco and told that everything on offer was complimentary, apart from champagne and additional Prosecco. We headed to one of the empty tables, with comfy seating and a view across to the rest of the airport, before checking out the food and drink that was laid out for us. We had a morning flight so the breakfast menu was on offer and we opted for fruit juice, hot drinks, and cereal as well as croissants and a sausage sandwich each! The food was really good and we would have had more drinks had we had more time, and it not been so early in the morning – I think a glass of Prosseco each was more than enough for both of us!

 

 

 

The lounge itself was laid out really nicely, with plenty of space for people to chill out and relax. There were work stations, snooze pods, plenty of tables and comfy seating as well as sparkling clean toilets and showers too. There was also a spa where treatments including manicures and massages were on offer for a fixed price. The lounge was fairly busy with people taking advantage of the VIP treatment, but it didn’t feel overcrowded or that there wasn’t enough space for everyone, given that the lounge is big and there is plenty of room.

We only had around an hour to spend time in the lounge because we arrived slightly late from Oxford and were checking out the shops in the airport before we headed up, but I really wanted at least half an hour more just to relax and unwind before our flight – sadly we didn’t get chance to try out the snooze pods! I think if I were to visit another lounge before a flight I would definitely arrive a little earlier to try and make the most of the comfort, and the food and drink, that is on offer.

 

 

Overall we had a truly relaxing time at the Aspire Lounge at London Luton Airport and were looked after really well by all the staff – thank you for making our stay so enjoyable! The cost of the lounge experience is £23.99pp which is slightly pricey, but worth it if you are going to be spending more than a couple of hours there and can make the most of the comfort and food and drink that is on offer. If I were to go again I would probably make sure I have more time there and would maybe attend ahead of a longer haul flight instead of a short one, just to fully benefit from everything on offer. However, I would highly recommend booking the Aspire Lounge for a stress-free start to any trip and to find the secret to happy travel in the most comfortable way possible!

Love Jess x

NB. I was a guest of The Aspire Lounge for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are of course my own. Please book directly to reserve your experience!

 

Come fly with me ✈️✈️ @ldnlutonairport @easyjet

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Feb 18, 2017 at 3:23am PST

 

 

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Contiki Grand Southern Tour Part Four

Found the most famous house on the planet today 🇺🇸🏡 #Washington #whitehouse #heyobama #noregrets #USA

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 2, 2016 at 2:12pm PDT

 

Hey everyone,

I’m back at home safe and sound now but am missing Contiki so so much! I miss everything about being on tour, from the bus to my friends to the stopovers, I just want to be back on the road again! I thought I’d wrap up part four of the Grand Southern by recapping what we did during the last few days on tour. Here goes…

Washington D.C.

After departing Charleston during the early part of the afternoon on day 23 we crossed the border into Richmond and made our way towards the nations capital, Washington D.C. We stopped at Arlington National Cemetery, where JFK is buried along with thousands upon thousands of US soldiers, and also witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which takes place each day every hour on the hour.

 

We will remember them 🇺🇸

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 10, 2016 at 6:36am PDT

 

After leaving the Cemetery we passed the historic Pentagon building whilst en-route to our hotel and then, after dinner, we headed back onto the coach for an evening tour of the city and were treated to glimpses of the historic monuments lit up in all their glory. We drove along the National Mall, past the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument, and caught sight of the White House and the Jefferson memorial. We made special stops at the iconic Lincoln memorial and the new Martin Luther King memorial which opened in 2011.

 

Reflecting in #washington 🇺🇸 @contiki @statravel_uk #contiki #grandsouthern #noregrets #america #USA

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 4, 2016 at 6:13am PDT

 

On our second day we fully explored the city and started early by reserving  our tickets to ride to the top of the extraordinary Washington Monument. From here we made our way to the Holocaust Museum, which was incredibly moving and so well put together by the organisers, before heading back to the Lincoln memorial and reflection pool again. We then visited the rest of the memorials in the city including the stunning World War Two memorial, the poignant Vietnam and Korean memorials and the FDR  memorial before making our way back to the Monument ready for our ride up in the air. We rose just over 555feet into the sky right to the top of the Monument for the most amazing panoramic views across the entire city – something I will never forget!

 

Wish I was back exploring #Washington 🇺🇸🇺🇸 @contiki @statravel_uk #grandsouthern #contiki #noregrets #america #USA #DC #capital

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 8, 2016 at 8:55am PDT

 

 

The evening was taken over by baseball (yay!) and we got another chance to see this American sport being played live but this time at a Major League level as we watched the Washington Nationals take on the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park. The evening was fantastic and the atmosphere was amazing as we were in the central stands right at the heart of the action.

 

Another #baseball game last night with my #contiki fam ⚾️⚾️ #Washington #DC #noregrets

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 3, 2016 at 11:45am PDT

 

Our third and final day in Washington was kind of spent chilling out as I had seen all the landmarks I wanted to see so me and two friends headed to the local zoo before grabbing lunch and doing a little bit of shopping. We made our way to quirky Georgetown for dinner (and cupcakes) before heading back to the hotel where we had our white t-shirt signing party and said a mini goodbye to everyone as, for some, it was their last night on tour. Anyone that knows me will know I am AWFUL with goodbyes so I spent most of the time sobbing, writing messages through teary eyes and remembering all the amazing memories I had made on my trip!

 

White T-Shirt signing party on our last night in #Washington 👚👨‍👩‍👦‍👦 #Contiki #family #noregrets #stopcryingjess

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 9, 2016 at 8:22am PDT

 

New York City

HAPPY 4TH JULY!! Our final official day on tour came round soo quick I kind of didn’t want us to reach New York for fear of the trip being over too soon! On with the journey though and we stopped off at Philadelphia whilst en-route to the Big Apple and devoured a classic Philly cheese steak sandwich for lunch – it’d be rude not to, right?! We also saw a few sights including the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where America’s Declaration of Independence was signed 240 years ago to the day! The vibe in Philadelphia was pretty special as it was 4th July and there were street parades, fancy dress and music on every corner!

 

We made good time and arrived in NYC early afternoon, watching the iconic skyline come into view as we rolled in to the city via the Lincoln Tunnel whilst listening to Alicia Keys classic Empire State of Mind played on the coach speakers – good choice John (our TM)! I was officially due to be flying home a few hours after arriving in New York but, being the crazy, spontaneous travel lover that I am I decided I was having TOO MUCH FUN to leave and forked out a whopping £471 to postpone my flight back to London by 24hours!!!! Possibly the most crazy travel decision I have ever made but I 100% stick by it and I have NO REGRETS as I was able to spend one more night with my Contiki family on 4th July in New York City – I couldn’t have asked for a better end to my adventure if I’d tried!

 

When you remember that this time yesterday you were in #newyork 🇺🇸🇺🇸 #America #USA #NYC #reflections

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 7, 2016 at 9:26am PDT

 

 

We rocked up at a rooftop bar overlooking the Empire State Building and had dinner and drinks before counting down to the legendary 4th July fireworks shortly before 9pm. Unfortunately there was a bit of a storm and it rained heavily but, instead of dampening out spirits, it made us ten times rowdier and 50 of us ran down to the Hudson river to watch the incredible fireworks display start with a bang. I’ve seen a fair few fireworks in my time and this display was right up there with the London New Years Eve show – it was breath-taking and so fitting for 4th July celebrations, I really didn’t want the night to end so we continued partying until the early hours on our last full night together.

 

4th July fireworks in #NYC 🎉🎉 #USA #america #contiki #grandsouthern #independenceday #newyork

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 10, 2016 at 10:48am PDT

 

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I spent my last day in America with my partner in crime, also called Jess (great minds..) and we had a ball exploring the Big Apple! We hopped on a couple of tourist buses and saw all the landmarks comfortably; we passed the Empire State, Madison Square Gardens, World Trade Centre, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and of course Central Park. Sadly we didn’t have time to wander round all of these amazing attractions but we did make our way through the dazzling lights of Times Square and Broadway which in themselves were incredible. I saw as much as I could in the few hours that I had and I will certainly be back to do it all properly sometime soon!

 

Last day on tour 🇺🇸🎉 #NYC #timessquare #america #USA @contiki @statravel_uk #contiki #noregrets

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 5, 2016 at 1:11pm PDT

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of 🇺🇸 #newyork

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 5, 2016 at 11:40am PDT

 

Jess and I said our goodbyes shortly before 6pm where I headed off in a Big Yellow Taxi to Grand Central Station ready for my flight back to London Heathrow from JFK airport – we shed so many tears and held on so tightly to each other that I didn’t want to leave at all! Miss you Jess, until next time!! <3

So that’s it, I can’t believe my time on Contiki has come to an end! I have had the time of my life exploring so much of America and making lifelong friends. I’ll write a full in-a-nutshell review of my tour once I’ve caught up on some much needed sleep, but for now  I’ll leave you with this famous Contiki saying… ‘travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer’.

#NOREGRETS

Love Jess x

 

Jumping in my last big yellow taxi 🇺🇸🚕 #newyork

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 10, 2016 at 6:49am PDT

 

So after 28 amazing days the time has come for me to leave the US of A and travel home from my first solo adventure! I've white water rafted in Durango, helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed on Daytona Beach, been speed boating in Miami and celebrated Independence Day in New York! I've had the time of my life with the most amazing people making 52 new friends as well as hundreds of new memories that will last a lifetime! Honestly the best thing I've ever done and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Now it's time for me to fly home from NYC in my contiki top and cowboy boots in true tourist style! Til next time America… Mum I'm coming homeeee 🇺🇸🎉💖 #noregrets @contiki @statravel_uk @travelstarwarsjoe

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 5, 2016 at 4:45pm PDT

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Preparing for Beautiful Budapest!

Hey everyone,

So my second city break of the year is almost here and I AM SO EXCITED to be heading to Budapest on Saturday!! Me and my sister visited Prague back in February (we had a whale of a time!) so we thought we’d plan adventure number two and chose the beautiful Hungarian city as our next go-to destination! First of all I just want to say a massive THANK YOU to my lovely fellow travel bloggers Vicky from Eat Sleep Love Travel  and Rebecca from The World As Bec Sees It for providing me with the stunning images to enable me to write this post! They’re both amazing – go check out their blogs and, if you’re after some more Budapest-esque info, they’ve both compiled posts and handy guides to the city…

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Budapest looks to be absolutely AMAZING and I can’t wait to experience the local history and culture that the European capital has to offer. We’ll be staying in the 4* Hotel President on the Pest side of the river Danube and location wise it looks perfect for us. Its described as a luxury boutique hotel and we’re particularly excited about trying out the spa facilities and marvelling at the city views from the panoramic roof terrace – who said anything about high expectations?!

h Image courtesy of Google Images

As we’re only staying for three nights we are trying to cram in as much as we can so that our city break is as adventurous and fun filled as can be. So far we’ve pin pointed Chain Bridge, St Stephen’s Basilica & the stunning Hungarian Parliament Building as main attractions that we are just dying to see! We’re also planning to head to the Thermae Spa’s both in the evening and during the day and are super excited to be spending some relaxation time in one of the world’s prettiest spots of natural beauty.

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We’re catching our Easyjet flight from London Gatwick on Saturday morning and anticipate arriving in the capital during the early part of the afternoon ready for a few hours of exploring whilst daylight is still present! We’ll then be staying until Tuesday 29th September before flying home around dinner time and arriving back in the sunny UK close to midnight (booo).

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I’ll obviously be too busy having fun to be blogging whilst on my travels but you can keep up to date with my Budapest antics over on my Instagram page– I’ll be posting wanderlust inducing photos whenever I get a spare minute… and usage of some free wifi!

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Have you ever been to Budapest before? If so, what are the main sights I should see without fail, and do you have any local tips and hints I should know about before I travel?! If you haven’t been, is Budapest on your wanderlust list at all? If you have any advice for me please leave a comment below and I’ll catch up with you all when I’m home…

Bon Voyage!

Love Jess x