Travels inspired by a good book

Has anything you’ve read recently made you start planning your next holiday? From Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist to the fascinating history of Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered by Dianne Hales, we suggest some recent books that will give you some great ideas for your next trip.

Florence, Italy

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Dianne Hales’ Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered

You know her elusive smile but what about her story? This book unveils Lisa Gherardini, the Florentine housewife who became the world’s most legendary artistic subject. It’s a fascinating portrait of a Renaissance everywoman swept up in the social scandals and political dramas of Florence’s most turbulent times.

Fancy following in her footsteps through Florence? Stop in Via Sguazza, the seedy street where she was born, and at the beautiful Baptistery where she was christened: Michelangelo dubbed its doors the “Gates of Paradise”. You can also tour Leonardo da Vinci’s birthplace in nearby Anchiano and soak up the gorgeous landscape of sundrenched vines and olive groves.

Find your model place to stay in Florence

Georgia, USA

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Frances Mayes’ Under Magnolia

Under Magnolia is a poetic and and atmospheric memoir that oozes the hot, lush Deep South: you can almost taste the squishy pot of beans disintegrating in salt pork. Is that the sweet smell of honeysuckle? And how about the overripe peaches wafting through the balmy night air?

Follow in Mayes’ footsteps and take a leisurely saunter along the banks of the Chattahoochee River. You can also tour the Heard County Historical Center and Museum housed in the Old Jail for a fascinating glimpse into the heritage of this rural community.

Locate your own Georgian adventure

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist

It’s 1686 and Petronella Oortman has just moved into her new husband’s elegant townhouse in Amsterdam’s most affluent district. Her husband gives her a cabinet-sized replica of their home as a wedding present and she commissions a mysterious miniaturist to furnish it. How can the miniaturist’s little creations reflect the household so familiarly? And what secrets do the eerily closed doors conceal?

You can check out the real cabinet house that inspired the novel at the city’s Rijksmuseum. The materials used and precise proportions are impressive. It’s only a couple of minutes walk to the excellent Van Gogh Museum where you can absorb masterpieces such as Almond Blossom and The Bedroom.

Choose your own pad in Amsterdam

Oaxaca, Mexico

ancient Mayan ruins temple of Tulum in Caribbean turquoise sea shore
Chilli Notes by Thomasina Miers

Feel the heat with the latest recipes from the founder of the Mexican street food cantina, Wahaca. They follow her delicious travels through Oaxaca, Mexico’s culinary capital, and around the rest of the world. Can you honestly resist the chilli-chocolate brownies as an indulgent late-night treat or the rose-scented slow roast lamb for the perfect Sunday lunch?

If you like it hot, you’ll love Oaxaca’s famous mole sauces and giant balls of quesillo cheese ribbons. They are delicious whether you get them from a simple stand in the Central de Abastos market or a lively café. You can always pick up some tips for your own kitchen adventures at the nearby La Casa de los Sabores Cooking School.

Explore places to stay in Oaxaca

Think like a local – what’s in your area?

iStock_000006078276Medium“What’s the area like?” is an inevitable question that pops into travellers’ minds when choosing a holiday. It doesn’t matter whether your place is surrounded by a variety of tourist attractions or whether it’s a secluded rural retreat, your guest will want to know why they should choose your home over one in a neighbouring area.

It’s all about giving your guest a feel for your neighbourhood. Is it quiet? It is busy in summer? Are there shops nearby? What’s the local pub like? If you’re lacking in local knowledge, guests may look elsewhere. Here are some top tips to help your guests feel like a local.

1. Your favourite places to visit in the area. Start by making a list of where you like to go nearby. This could include:

  •         The nearest beach
  •         The local park
  •         Your favourite pubs and restaurants
  •         Shops and cafes
  •         Places to go walking
  •         Museums, theme parks and other tourist attractions

Next, write a few lines about why you enjoy them. For example, maybe the shops in the area include artisan bakeries, vintage clothing shops and delis. What’s the sand like at the beach and does it have Blue Flag status? Is there a walk you can recommend and if so, what can you see along the way? Is the food good at the local pub?

It might seem obvious to you but remember that your guest might not have been to the area before (or even heard of it) so you really need to familiarise them with it. And don’t forget to make your descriptions unique

2. Use your reviews. Have a read through your reviews and use tips left by previous guests as inspiration for your descriptions. Insight from former guests can be invaluable. They might mention attractions in the area you might not have considered and may offer information about public transport timings. Take a look at this example:

“The location of the apartment is perfect to get around pretty easily, There is a bus stop a minute from the apartment which runs very regularly, we would get the bus to the main street and get off just after a restaurant called Da Luigi’s, cross over the road to lots of little cobbled streets very close to Piazza Navona, such a vibrant area and lots of places to eat”

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Haven’t got any reviews yet? Find out how to start collecting them.

3. Be a good communicator. It can be a little daunting staying somewhere you’ve never been before, especially if you’ve got small children in tow. Even if you’ve written a detailed area description, be ready to answer any questions your guests have about how to get to your home and what the area is like. Is there parking nearby? Are there any safety concerns? Can you arrange a pick-up and drop-off service for them? Considering these points in advance will make responding easier and you’ll be able to put your guests’ minds at rest.

4. Give directions and pinpoint your map. When your guests aren’t busy getting excited about what there is to see and do in the area, they’ll be planning how to get to your place. It’s really important to complete the How to get there section of your ad, which shows your nearest travel links such as the airport, ferry and train station. This will help travellers decide on the best mode of transport. Also, if you haven’t already, make sure you’ve put your place on the map. You can update your area info by going to Properties > Update location info in your account.

5. Provide a welcome pack. A great place to start building a welcome pack for your guests is at your local tourist information centre. You can usually pick up plenty of leaflets providing info on local attractions and free maps of the area. Go the extra mile and invest in a few souvenirs, such as pens and notepads, so they can plan their itinerary based on the local knowledge you’ve armed them with.

 

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Location, location…where exactly are you?

How TripAdvisor reviews work

Don’t let your listing disappear

iStock_000053559666MediumAs the saying goes, you’ve got to be in it to win it. If your advert isn’t coming up in searches, you won’t get any bookings. Here’s how to help your home get the attention (and the bookings) it deserves:

1. Tell guests how much it costs

Without prices for the next 12 months your ad is seriously missing out. Your place will be at the bottom of the search results and won’t get seen at all when travellers search for specific dates.

Log in and go to Properties > Update prices and click on Set seasonal prices.

Read about how to set your seasonal prices and watch our short video guide.

2. Respond as soon as possible

Travellers tell us all the time that having to wait ages for a response to their enquiry is their biggest bugbear. Because of this, your response rate has a big influence  on where your ad appears in searches. Find out how the response rate works and read our tips on how to improve it.

3. Collect reviews

Did you know that travellers can sort the search results by reviews? Even one review is enough to make sure your ad appears in these searches, but the more reviews you have the better.

Reviews help to build trust and there’s no better recommendation than the words of a happy guest. Start collecting reviews to get your advert noticed.

4. Keep your calendar current

Not only does it mean that your home will appear in all relevant date-related searches, it also stops travellers getting frustrated if they send an enquiry for dates that should have been marked off as booked. A recently updated calendar reassures travellers that your information can be trusted. Watch our short video to find out how to update your calendar or read our FAQ.

 

Find out more

Prices – how much to charge

Why updating your calendar is the key to securing bookings


Location, location…where exactly are you?

haystack2If you haven’t pinned your holiday home’s location on the map, finding your place can be a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack.

This is because ads that aren’t using the pinpoint map feature won’t appear in Map view searches and will only show in the List view.

Location is the deciding factor for many people when booking a holiday. You need to make it easy for them to see how far your place is from local facilities and attractions such as the beach, airport, museums, theme parks and restaurants. It’s especially worthwhile adding a pin for travellers who are planning a stay for a specific reason, such as a wedding, so they can check how close your place is to the action.

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Example of a Map view search

It’s really important that travellers can find your advert, however they choose to search our site, and it’s as easy as pie to add a pin:

  •         Go to Properties > Update location info in your account
  •         Zoom in and click to pin your place on the map
  •         Click Save

If you don’t want to give your property’s exact location, you can show the general area so potential guests still have enough info to make a booking. Just check the tick box: Don’t show travellers the pin on the map.

And remember: your property’s address details will never be published on your ad or shared with travellers who don’t have a confirmed booking.

A pinpoint map tempts travellers and boosts bookings

When you’ve pinned your place on the map, travellers looking at your ad can easily see nearby attractions and restaurants. They can take a look at them on TripAdvisor and get more info. Seeing what there is to do in the area can be the difference between them looking elsewhere or making a booking with you.

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Example of a map on an advert

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Give your guests the gift of local knowledge

Quotes just got better

We’ve listened to your feedback and have changed the way quotes work. Gone are the days when a quote would reserve dates in your calendar. From 9 December 2014, when you send a quote the dates will still be available for other guests to enquire and book.

So sending quotes has become a much more valuable way of pulling in bookings for your holiday home. And especially because travellers have told us they want quotes so they have a chance to pay.

A new sense of urgency

There’s no more missing out on bookings if a guest is biding their time and then decides not to book. Guests must act fast to grab the holiday dates they want. It should make getting your calendar filled up a much smoother process.

Plus, you can send more than one quote for the same holiday dates – the traveller who pays the fastest gets the booking.

Booking requests stay the same

The only time your calendar is marked as reserved is when a traveller sends a booking request. This is because they’ve provisionally paid and are just waiting for you to accept.

Wondering who gets the booking if two travellers want to book the same dates? Here’s a little run through of how it works:

Let’s say that Michael sends a booking request, but you’ve already sent Jean a quote for the same dates.

If you accept Michael’s booking request first, his payment will be processed and the booking is his.

But if Jean pays the quote before you’ve had chance to respond to Michael’s booking request, her payment goes through and Michael’s request will be declined.

More quotes = more bookings

Quotes are a fantastic way of encouraging guests to book. Create a quote from scratch by going to Bookings > Create a quote in your account, or see our video guide on how to respond to enquiries with a quote.

Thanks again for sending us your suggestion!

See our help pages

What is a quote?

How do I send a quote?

How does my calendar automatically update?

All your guests want for Christmas…

Santa brings a presentIs a holiday! And with 1,000s of travellers spending Boxing Day booking their 2015 holidays, it’s essential that you have prices displayed for the year ahead.

In fact, without prices for the next 12 months your ad is seriously missing out. Your place will be at the bottom of the search results and won’t get seen at all when traveller searches for specific dates. And what they can’t see – they won’t book.

How to make your ad visible and bookable

Update your prices and give your listing the attention it deserves. It’s easy to do and doesn’t take long. Here’s how:

1. Set default prices if you haven’t already done so. They do exactly what they say on the tin – they’re the price we default to for any dates not covered by your seasonal prices. This means there’s always a price shown on your listing so travellers can always send you a booking request (providing you’ve got the dates available). Log in and go to Properties > Update prices and click on Set default prices.

2. Set seasonal prices to indicate prices for specific periods throughout the year. For example, you may want to increase prices at popular times such as the school holidays or special local events. Lower, out-of-season prices will encourage guests to book for the quieter periods. We ask that you set seasonal prices for at least the next 12 months, but up to 18 months would be great – yes people really do book that far in advance!

Need help updating your prices? Check out our video guide.


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Are you ready for the Boxing Day rush?

Prices – how much to charge

FAQ: How do I add/update my prices?

 

 

New! Keen travellers can now request quotes

Guests who are ready and want to book quickly are keen to pay online as soon as possible to secure their stay at your place.

We’re pretty sure you know that the best way of securing a booking quickly is with a quote. In fact, unless you’re one of the few not taking bookings online, it’s the only way travellers can book.

That’s why we’ve made it easier for guests to get their hands on a quote for a stay at your place.

We’ve introduced a tick box just above the message field on your advert:

quote

If a potential guest ticks this box, you can be confident that they’re serious about booking.

We’ll send you an email letting you know that a quote has been requested and the dates they want to stay. All you’ll need to do is click on the button in the email to send the quote: it’s as easy as that. If they’ve asked a question about their stay, you can answer it by editing the message in the quote before sending.

Make it even easier for travellers to book by adding prices.

It’s possible that you’re being asked for a quote because the traveller wants to book straight away but can’t. If you’ve not added prices for the dates they’re looking for, they won’t be able to send you a booking request.

Instead, the guest will have to send you an enquiry and request a quote. Some guests might not be willing to wait and go looking elsewhere, so it’s really important that you’ve added prices for at least the next 12 months.

Log in to add prices and find out why keeping them up to date is the key to your advert’s success.

 

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Video guide to responding to enquiries with a quote

Strictly dance fever: the best places to go dancing

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Get out your glitter ball and sew on your sequins as the competition on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing hots up. Have you ever wanted to dance the sizzling samba like Jake and Janette or the tempestuous tango like Pixie and Trent? We look at the history of some of Strictly’s most popular dances and find out where you can step into their dance shoes.

Tango – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Originally a risqué show from the Buenos Aires underworld, tango mixed European music with African and Cuban moves. It differed from previous dances in calling for improvisation. The sultry dance seduced Paris in 1912 and its international fame spread.

Head to the city’s authentic neighbourhood ‘milongas’ (dance venues) and experience the real tango. Watch intertwined dancers in action, encircling each other and the dance floor, listen to live orchestras or catch exhibition dance performances. Celebrate a tango great at the Museo Casa Carlos Gardel and pay your respects at the Cementerio la Chacarita.

Find somewhere to stay in Buenos Aires

Waltz – Vienna, Austria

Its roots in traditional German folk dance make it the world’s oldest ballroom dance. As it stepped onto 19th century ballrooms, the intimate moves made the dance as contentious as it was fashionable. Its popularity has endured and Austrians dance the New Year in with Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz playing on radio.

Why not join them? Vienna has hundreds of balls over a three-month period where you can waltz the evening away like Kevin and Frankie. You could go to the Imperial Ball at the Hofburg on New Year’s Eve or the wildly opulent Opera Ball on 31 January. You could even go on a boat down the Blue Danube or go to a Strauss concert at one of the city’s many concert halls.

Pick your place in Vienna

Foxtrot – New York, USA

This smooth, progressive dance is credited to Vaudeville actor Harry Fox. He amused audiences with distinctive dancing to ragtime songs on the New York stage in 1914. Husband and wife ballroom dancing team Vernon and Irene Castle then popularised the dance, imbuing it with their trademark elegance and sophistication.

Pack your dancing shoes and head to New York, New York to find out more: you can even dance the foxtrot to the city’s anthem like Frank Sinatra. There are dance studios across the city that you can enrol in and practise your slow, slow, quick, quick moves. Dive into a Broadway theatre to imagine the dance’s early days and catch one of today’s excellent shows. With all of this to inspire you, you’ll soon be dancing with joy like Caroline and Pasha.

Choose your perfect New York apartment

Samba – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Samba is so iconic that it has its own National Day on 2 December. Not that this dance needs an excuse for a party: the fun, fast steps and rhythms are worth celebrating at any time. It’s been performed at carnivals and street dances in Brazil for almost a century.

Celebrate samba’s bright sights and wild sounds yourself – party with 2 million revellers at Rio’s carnival. Take in the fierce competition between numerous samba schools: who will have the most extravagant float and most elaborate moves? You’ll need the next day to recover in the sun on Copacabana Beach.

Discover a party pad in Rio

 

Island idylls: perfect places to escape the winter chill

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There’s nothing that beats sipping a cocktail as you sit on a golden beach and look out at a dazzlingly blue ocean, particularly as the winter sets in at home. Jet off with us and find out what some of our favourite sun-drenched islands, from the Caribbean to the Canaries, have to offer.

Tenerife, The Canary Islands

You might think you already know Tenerife: it’s the buzzing island that draws party goers a-plenty, pulls the perfect pint and cooks a mean fry-up the next morning. Put aside your preconceptions, though, as it’s also home to the majestic Mount Teide, ancient colonial towns like La Orotava and the mysterious pyramids at Güímar.

The island really does have something for everyone. Walk along the coast and take in its lunar landscape of massive cacti, volcanic craters and agave trees. Bask in the sun with the lizards or go for a refreshing dip on the beach at Los Cristianos. Stroll along the chic San Miguel Marina and toast a glorious sunset with a locally brewed Dorada beer at the cool lighthouse bar.

Explore places to stay in Tenerife

Tahiti, French Polynesia

‘Tahiti’. Who knew that one word could transport you instantly to a paradise of gently lapping aquamarine waters, brightly blossoming tiare flowers and softly swaying traditional grass skirts? Just add scenes of towering waterfalls, crystal brooks and bottomless valleys glittering in green-tinged light and you’re there.

If your daydreaming becomes reality, head to Le Marché in Papeete: the colourful market stalls offer you everything traditionally Tahitian from monoi oil to vanilla beans. Treat yourself at the nearby Robert Wan Pearl Museum and admire the world’s most lovely cultured gems. Dip into Mara’a Grotto if you’re on the west coast where the caverns are dramatic, the water’s enticing and the ferns are abundant.

Locate your perfect pad in Tahiti

Santo Antão, Cape Verde

Set sail for the gorgeous Cape Verde islands. You’ll think the archipelago was named ironically as your ferry nears striking Santo Antão: surely there’s nothing verde (green) about this inhospitable terrain? Navigate to the north east, though, and you’ll find lushly flourishing exotic flora in the valleys and pine forests on the hilltops.

See the countryside for yourself on a great hiking trip from Porto Novo to Ribeira Grande where you’ll stroll from the harbour through eucalyptus groves to the luxuriant crater of Covo do Paul. Don’t look down as you descend – the tight bends drop 600m on either your side so you’ll soon be clinging to them as tightly as the little farms, villages and terraces.

Find your own Cape Verde adventure

Grenada, The Caribbean

Spice up your travels with a trip to the sizzling Spice Isle. You can literally smell the nutmeg in the air here – and if variety’s the spice of your life, then you should know that abundant cinnamon, cloves and ginger all grow locally too. Unsurprisingly, local dishes like the famous pepper pot are as zingy as the calypso tunes that season the island.

Follow the scent to Gouyave and tour the Nutmeg Processing Co-operative to get a sense of the island’s heritage. Any volunteers to taste the delicious chocolate at the Belmont Estate’s working plantation? You can also jump into the Underwater Sculpture Park’s collection – it features 65 modern statues fastened to a sea-floor gallery.

Jet off to Grenada this winter

Top 20 Urban Travel Bloggers – 2014

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Life is all about balance and holidays are just the same. A bit of downtime spent relaxing on a far off shore or cosying up in a quiet cottage in the depths of the countryside are great ways to recharge the batteries. But what about appealing to your sense of urban adventure?

We’ve scoured the web to find inspiring urban travel bloggers who’ll bring out your inner culture vulture. From hidden gems to popular city hotspots, these bloggers have got it covered.

Urban Travel Blog

With contributions from professional and amateur travel writers from around the world, this collective blog has compiled over 50 city guides full of hot tips for their favourite breaks, from Amsterdam to Yerevan. They report on urban trends, eco-tourism, nightlife and more. @UrbanTravelBlog

Travelling Ted

Ted Nelson is an outdoor adventure travel writer and blogger. Ted chronicles his adventures hiking, canoeing and skiing in the United States and around the world. He also reports on the cultural side of travel; meeting people from around the world, eating their food and learning about their history. He aims to inspire others and provides tips for budding travellers. @travelingted

Jetting Around

Pola of Jetting Around is a Chicago-based blogger originally from Krakow, Poland. Travelling and ‘jetting around’ since the age of three and blogging since July 2010, Pola’s posts range from off-the-beaten-track experiences to exploring cities and their cultures. @jettingaround

Urban Swank

Based in Houston, Texas, Urban Swank is a lifestyle blog providing a new perspective on all things related to food, fashion, beauty, travel and entertainment. From restaurant reviews to the latest travel trends, Urban Swank have got it covered. The blog was founded by Shanna Jones and Felice Sloan in September 2011. @UrbanSwank

WildJunket

Wild Junket is written by husband and wife team, Nellie and Alberto. They’ve been travelling around the world since 2003, experiencing over 70 countries on seven continents. Wild Junket’s focus is on adventure travel, inspiring others to get off the conventional trail and seek out extraordinary experiences.  @WildJunket

Adventurous Kate

At age 26, Kate quit her day job to travel the world alone and spent six months in South East Asia. She turned her blog into a full-time business and today travels full time. Kate goes “anywhere that sounds wacky, beautiful or interesting”. Her goal is to show other travellers that they too can see the world alone; easily, safely and adventurously. @adventurouskate

GlobalGrasshopper

Becky and Gray are the UK-based duo behind global magazine and resource for independent travellers: Global Grasshopper. They’re joined by a team of “self-confessed travel snobs” and are on a mission to discover the world’s most underrated and beautiful places. @globalgrasshopr

Travels of Adam

Adam quit his job as a graphic designer in 2010 and embarked on a trip around the world for over 15 months. He visited places such as North Africa, the Middle East, India and South East Asia. Travels of Adam explores the world from the “quirky to the amazing”.  @travelsofadam

As We Travel

As We Travel is a comprehensive travel site full of the latest advice, city guides and videos from around the world for first-time travellers to well-seasoned enthusiasts. Founded in 2010, As We Travel have blogged from over 45 countries and is one of the top ranked blogs in the industry. @AsWeTravel

Continental Breakfast Travel

Travelling to Europe on a budget? Continental Breakfast Travel documents cheap, part-time travel. The brains behind the blog, John Pilkington, has travelled extensively throughout Europe. His aim is to visit every country in Europe before his 30th birthday (9 May 2020). Join John on his adventures and “read posts about my own personal experiences, including advice, guidance or simply a story or two”.  @jpilkington09

The Quirky Traveller

The Quirky Traveller Blog is packed full of articles about interesting places to see and do in the UK and abroad. Culture vultures will enjoy the added history, art and literature aspect and foodies will appreciate the reviews of cuisine from all over the globe.  @quirkytraveller

Wild About Travel

Travel addict Simon Falvo started Wild About Travel in 2009. With a passion for adventure, the outdoors, art and culture, Simon’s posts are an inspiring read. Her articles are illustrated with impressive photographs of the many places she’s visited on her travels.  @1step2theleft

501 Places

501 Places was recently listed in The Times list of 50 Travel Websites You Can’t Live Without. Even more recently, it was listed in the Independent’s 50 Best Travel Websites. 501 Places is a collection of travel articles, photos and opinions written with a dry wit and an engaging flair. @andyjarosz

Velvet Escape

Amsterdam based blogger Keith Jenkins shares his enthusiasm for travel through his writing and photography. Velvet Escape is a multiple award-winning travel blog and has been featured by The New York Times, BBC Travel, Lonely Planet and National Geographic Traveller, to name but a few. @velvetescape

Vicky Flip Flop Travels

This blog is aimed at those who want to make the most of their annual leave and weekends by travelling. From days out in London to two-week itineraries for some of the most popular long-haul destinations, Vicky Flip Flop Travels blogs about it all.  @VickyFlipFlop

The Travel Hack

The Travel Hack is all about stylish yet affordable adventures such as hiking in the mountains followed by a luxurious day in a spa. Travelling in style doesn’t have to mean 5* glamour: affordable luxury and unusual experiences are the order of the day at The Travel Hack. @TheTravelHack

Hecktic Travels

Pete and Dalene Heck, a Canadian couple with a passion for adventure, are the 2014 National Geographic Travelers of the Year. Their blog is all about getting the most out of life, enjoying every moment and embracing new travel experiences. @HeckticTravels

Twenty-something Travel

Twenty-Something Travel believe “that your twenties are some of the most valuable and transformative years to travel the world”. Their blog aims to encourage other twenty-somethings to find a lust for adventure and offers practical advice, tips and guidance. @20sTravel

Urban Backpacker

If you’re looking for artful travel reviews of hidden budget gems to five-star destinations, Urban Backpacker has them. They aim to help you plan your own travels and review hotels, restaurants, shopping and “fun things to do” in cities all over the world. @RochelleCarr

Caroline in the City 

Caroline’s blog is all about throwing caution to the wind and following your passion for adventure, even if it seems scary at first. She aims to help others who might have concerns about taking the plunge by offering an insight into her own experiences and giving practical advice. @cairinthecity

 

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