Tales from a Welsh holiday, land of sunshine and rain

South Stack

I woke up with a start this morning, thinking the alarm was going off. When I opened my eyes I was surprised to find I was still in the caravan on my Welsh holiday and I didnt have to get up for work. Excellent!

Back to Aberdovey

The guillemots through the telescope

We shall make the most of the last day of our Welsh holiday and have a walk along the coast at Aberdovey. We have been there 4 or 5 times but never actually walked the coastal path. Generally, we head to Aberdovey when the sun is out and tend to hang around on the beach but today a mix of sunshine and showers is forecast.

Then we will drive into Machynlleth and buy something nice for dinner and food for the journey back to Essex tomorrow. I love it here and I am always sad to leave. How lucky we have been with the weather! Only one day of rain and one rather dull day. The rest of the time has been full on sunshine, although it rained a river in the night!

South Stack, Anglesey

It was a beautiful morning when we headed out to the RSBP South Stack reserve at Holyhead yesterday.  Our Airbnb hosts left our breakfast on the table with a note to help ourselves. What a strange experience that was! I am sure if I was renting a room for the night I would get up and give my guests breakfast!

We didn’t linger. The fridge was completely filthy, we couldn’t find any juice and the only milk was the bottle we had bought the night before. We couldn’t get the toilet to flush either…We made some tea and toast and were on our way by 9.30. At least the shower was hot and the bathroom was clean.

South Stack was absolutely stunning. The cacophony of noise from the birds nesting on the cliffs was so loud. It was a bird city! We spotted some very rare choughs and thousands of guillemots. We probably also saw puffins but couldn’t be sure as we had no binoculars with us. If we ever return we will take them for sure.

Didn’t we have a lovely time…

…the day we went to Bangor! Mr Shoestring was curious about the long pier from the mainland that we could see when we were at Beaumaris the previous day. It seemed to be at Bangor so next we hopped over there – well, we drove again back across the Menai Bridge.

Bangor pier

Bangor is apparently the UK’s smallest city and it certainly didn’t feel like one. It had some nice little shops and a very large cathedral. We had a quick look around, and some very good fish and chips before talking a windy walk along the pier to the tea rooms. There were fantastic views across the estuary back to Anglesey.

I even managed to pick up some more charity shop bargains. I have two carrier bags full but think Mr S may have run out of patience so no more charity shop browsing today 😀.

Our Welsh holiday has been another good one. I wish we could stay another week! My next blog post will doubtless tell a tale of too much laundry and giant courgettes!

Cheap accommodation on Anglesey and the perils of Air B&B 

Cheap accommodation on Anglesey We have left our lovely caravan to spend the night in some cheap accommodation on Anglesey. It was a long drive up and we wanted to get the best of our time here so it seemed a good idea.

Beautiful Plas Cadnant

Anglesey certainly has some gems. We had a wonderful visit to Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens
followed by a trip to Beaumaris. Today we were blessed with beautiful sunny weather. What a gorgeous day! We even saw a red squirrel!

Cheap accommodation on Anglesey


The gardens were gorgeous. They are in a gentle valley which creates a warmer micro climate than is usual for Wales, and the planting is stunning. The walled part of the garden is quite formal with triangular trees and deep flower beds on each side. The second half of the garden is more naturalistic, consisting of wild woods with dappled shady areas and  lots of little water falls. There were many places to sit and hear the relaxing sounds of trickling water – totally magical.

Cheap and cheerful

We found cheap accommodation on Anglesey and are staying overnight at a house on the island courtesy of Air B&B. This is the first time we have tried it and it is certainly  a very frugal sort of accommodation. Only £43 for the two of us.

However, it is a bit like a student house! The landlady is very sweet but the house smells of her two dogs and the mattress sags so badly in the middle so we have had to put some pillows down the centre so we don’t end up squashed together.

She has very kindly left us teabags and a kettle and told us to help ourselves to milk from the fridge. However, the fridge stinks and the milk was lumpy so we had to buy a bottle when we went out to dinner. Still, it is very cheap and only for one night 😀. Thank heavens!

Cheap accommodation on Anglesey We had a delicious meal out as a treat. Both of us had fish. Mr S had sea bass on a seafood biriani and I had a beautifully cooked piece of plaice. Followed by the hugest puddings ever! We went to Sullivan’s restaurant and we would recommend it.  The staff were lovely and the food was simple but delicious. Massive portions too if you are feeling hungry!

Cheap accommodation on Anglesey We had a walk along the beach at Rhosneigr after dinner. The sunset was amazing. What a great day. Worth sleeping on a lumpy mattress.

Anyone else familiar with this fabulous part of Wales? Have you tried Air B&B or found cheap accommodation on Anglesey – or anywhere else for that matter?

Bargain hunters on holiday!

Bargain hunting in Wales

Huge sky at Aberdovey

We are back in our little Welsh caravan. It really feels like a home from home, but without work, noise and traffic!

 We are on a smallholding a few miles from Machynlleth. There are trees and hills all around us and the sound of a stream just a few feet away. Everything is green and lush and all is quiet, apart from the sounds of birds, ducks and sheep. It is bliss! We love it so much we have been each summer for the past five years.

Yesterday we got up to beautiful sunshine. As it was clearly a beach day, and you can’t guarantee many of those in Wales, we packed up our picnic and drove the few miles to Aberdovey. What a glorious little place, a long sandy beach with a backdrop of hills and a huge sky. Aberdovey is really just a row of colourful shops and houses on the front with a few gorgeous cottages on the hills behind. It is small but perfectly formed and in a delightful location. 

Bargain hunters on the rampage

Today we woke to heavy rain. A bit of a change but we expect this in Wales. We took ourselves off to Aberystwyth for the day, with Mr S showing great patience as I dragged him around the charity shops. Well, it would be rude not to. I can’t resist a bargain even when I’m on holiday!

The Barnado’s shop was the best. Almost everything was £1.99, and I picked up a Karen Millen dress and a Coast silk basque top. In the Salvation Army shop I discovered a really beautiful Monsoon 100% silk dress for £4. These will be cleaned and sold on eBay.

I found a nice quality black skirt for work for £3 and a smart office top for £2.50. Frustratingly, I have been looking for ages for a decent pair of leather sandals but I had no luck. I even looked in the Clarks’ sale. Wide feet witch narrow heels are not a great shape when you are searching for strappy sandals! Oh well, I will keep looking.

Simple living

We haven’t had wifi much so far, hence the lack of blog posts. One of the disadvantages of staying in the wilds – but also one of the great advantages! It means we talk and read rather than sitting in our phones or laptops. Yesterday I even managed a lovely outdoor yoga session behind the caravan. I will be so relaxed by the time we leave.

Life is so simple when you can spend your days doing yoga and scouring the charity shops. Are you a family of bargain hunters, even on holiday?

Holiday preparations: more organisation needed here!

Holiday preparations for our rural retreat

It is possible that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to holiday preparations. I tend to leave it all to the last minute. I am fine at booking and paying for it, checking passports and sorting travel insurance…it’s the packing!

This time we are going to Wales, a nice frugal holiday, so no passport necessary or currency to buy. But we are off in the morning, I have been at work today and I haven’t even started packing yet.

A haphazard approach

Holiday preparations for a week in WalesMy holiday preparations so far have involved going to the supermarket last night for food to leave for my daughter and the cats and then chucking a wash on. The lodger will, thankfully, sort herself out. At least if I am up to date with  laundry I will have clothes to pack.

There is still so much to do! Why didn’t I start sooner? Because there is always so much to do. Maybe this is why I need another holiday !

A mad rush

So tonight will be a mad rush of ironing, packing the cases, making the picnic for our journey and rushing around the garden cropping and watering!

Luckily Mr S has had the time to work in the garden this week. If he hadn’t we would have been returning to a jungle. This is the upside of him being self employed and being able to organise his own schedule.

I have also been rushing to get things done at work. I will need my holiday after all this!  It will be worth it but I know I can organise myself better. How good are you at holiday preparations?

Think you can’t afford to go on holiday? Ideas for frugal holidays

Mr Shoestring and I work hard all year. We scrimp and save and live a frugal lifestyle to make sure bills are paid and no debts accrued. One thing we insist on, however, is at least one vacation a year.  We know we can go on our frugal holidays!

Building it into our budget

Building a holiday fund into our budget is important to us. We don’t run a fancy car, have lots of nights in the pub or wear designer clothing. Because of this, for the last few years we have managed two holidays every year. It depends what your priorities are and this is what we like to do.

A Welsh idyll

However, we still can’t afford a luxury 5 star hotel in the Maldives. We have our holidays but they have to be within our means. For several years we have spent a week in Wales at an organic smallholding, staying very cheaply in an old but comfy caravan. We mostly self cater (always treating ourselves to some superb Welsh lamb and other local produce) and have a great week walking, wild swimming and perusing the interesting towns and villages nearby. This costs us around £350 for the week, including accommodation, food and transport.  You can see our gorgeous Welsh home from home here.

We generally also have a holiday abroad and have found all inclusive works well.  However this is more expensive. So if the all inclusive package holiday doesn’t suit your budget, what other frugal holidays are there?

My cheapest holiday

Years ago,  I hitch hiked through France and into Spain with my then boyfriend. We stayed in the most basic campsites en route and occasionally pitched the tent in a random field. We once slept behind a pile of rocks on a motorway as we were dropped too late to find another lift. I wouldn’t recommend that! This holiday cost barely anything, but would I let my daughters do it? NO WAY! I mention it just to prove you can have some kind of break away on the tightest of budgets. Instead of hitching, I would get them to explore Interrailing. This seems still to be a great way of travelling in Europe. There is an interesting article about the pros and cons of Interrail here.

House swapping

I have done house swaps several times in France and in Spain. The big advantage is that your (usually comfortable and well-equipped) accommodation is free. In addition, someone is looking after your house as well. However, you do still need to get there. We drove to France and Spain. The latter was a long journey with relatively young children and we did need to stop over at a cheap hotel on the way, which obviously added to the cost. However, there is no reason you can’t house swap in your own country, especially if you live somewhere generally popular with tourists. I used a now defunct house swap organisation aimed at teachers, but there are many, many on the internet these days. This is a good option for families.

A disadvantage of house swapping is the amount of work that goes into getting your house ready. You need everything to be very clean and tidy, and your house needs to be in good decorative order.

Sun £9.50 holidays

Each January the Sun newspaper runs its £9.50 holiday promotion. You collect 10 tokens from the papers and can book a 3 or 4 night holiday for 4 people for (in theory anyway) £9.50. In fact. as this article from Money Saving Expert explains, they generally cost more than this, but are still very good value and worth investigating.

WOOFing

In case you think I have gone barking mad (geddit?), this means Working On Organic Farms. If you are in good physical and mental health, you can volunteer to work on farms throughout the world in exchange for your bed and board. You do need to pay a subscription to the host country’s WOOF organisation and your own travel costs. However, this can be a great cultural experience and you are likely to make many friends from around the world. Tom and Liza, who own our lovely Welsh smallholding, take in WOOFers every once in a while.

Camping

Camping as a family is probably the cheapest holiday option of all. However, it can be expensive to buy all of the gear to start with. You will need a large tent, inflatable mattresses, sleeping bags, lights, a gas cooker, and utensils like kettle, pots, pans, plates, cups, etc. as a minimum. I would also go for a fold up table, a wind break and some comfy chairs. A friend insisted on camp beds, a fridge and a loo as well! If you are going to go away regularly you will soon recoup the costs as generally campsites are so much cheaper than other forms of accommodation.

If you are camping in the UK you all need a decent set of waterproofs! You are at the mercy of the weather. We had some fabulous camping holidays when the kids were young. However, If I am being honest, we also baled out of two. One because of continuous, heavy rain and the other because the winds were so bad our tent almost got blown away!

We bought our tent in the sale at the end of the summer and managed to pick up some other bits second hand. We even managed to pick up some gear on Freecycle. Overall, camping is a great frugal holiday choice for families.

Hostels

Years ago, I belonged to the Youth Hostels Association. YHAs were always an excellent frugal option for accommodation. It was basic and you had to do some jobs to stay in them, such as clean the loos or sweep the stairs. They appear to have moved on apace and now the YHA prices are for private rooms similar to hotels, with much of their accommodation upgraded. However, they still have some more traditional dormitory hostel accommodation. Their Brighton hostel is advertising rooms from £11.85 a night.

I had a look at hostels more generally as an option for frugal holidays. Some of the foreign language students have used them to stay in places such as London and Cambridge. They are super basic but cheap. You share a room with a lot of strangers, not all the same sex. Sometimes they aren’t as clean as you might ideally like! However, if I was young and travelling on a budget I would definitely do my research and give some of them a try. You can stay in a dorm at a backpackers hostel in Birmingham, with free breakfast, from £13 a night.  More information  on frugal holidays in the UK and abroad can be found at Hostel World.

Become a house sitter

This is one I would love to try! Offer to look after someone’s house and pets for free and you can stay in their house for nothing. Trusted House Sitters can put you in touch with those who would like their pets and accommodation looked after. There are opportunities worldwide. According to the promo video, it is possible to families, couples or solo travellers to do this. You do have to pay your own travel costs, however, and obviously love animals.

So – my ideas for frugal holidays in a nutshell. What are yours? Have you ever house swapped or what is your experience of camping?

Frugal Friday 26th May 2017: How has your week been?

Frugal Friday is a good day to think about this week’s frugal accomplishments. I returned home from holiday on Tuesday to find quite a bit of food sitting around – darling daughter didn’t appear to have eaten much whilst we were away! I hate food waste. There was a lot of fruit hanging about so I thought I would tackle that first.

Frugal Friday achievement no 1: Banana loaf and fruit salad

We had a large bunch of black bananas that I couldn’t just dump. I considered putting them in the freezer to make something later, but I decided to bite the bullet and use them up straight away. I also had quite a few oranges and a bag of walnuts, so it had to be Delia Smith’s super frugal  banana and walnut loaf. The recipe asks for lemons as well as oranges, but since I had none I just doubled up on the oranges. You only use the peel in the recipe so I shredded that then cut up the fruit to make a fruit salad with some grapes and apples that needed using. I made two loaves, one to eat now and another for the freezer.

Frugal Friday achievement no 2: Excellent value on holiday

Fabulous pic of the Caves of Drach taken by Mr S!

Our holiday turned out to be excellent value for money so I can add that to my Frugal Friday list. Because we went fully inclusive we barely spent anything. We did have a delicious meal in a restaurant for Mr S’s 50th, however. It was a beautiful place overlooking the port on a gorgeous sunny evening. The food was excellent quality and well worth splashing out on. We also had a trip to the Caves of Drach in Porto Cristou. They were truly stunning and I highly recommend them if you ever visit Mallorca. Other than that, we had a very relaxing time, walking, swimming and sunbathing (oh, and eating and drinking far too much!).

The hotel very kindly delivered a bottle of fizz and two glasses to our room for Mr S’s birthday. We saved this for the following day and sat decadently drinking it on the beach!

We had to catch the coach to the airport at 7.30 am on Tuesday, so we shot into the restaurant first and grabbed some coffee and breakfast and also made up some cheese and ham rolls to have on the plane with some fruit. Well, we were fully inclusive and our frugal tendancies got the better of us!

Frugal Friday achievement no 3: A frugal shop

As I said yesterday, I restocked a few things in B&M, as they are excellent value for money. I nipped into Sainsbury’s too for some Lactofree milk and yogurts as they aren’t available in Aldi or Lidl. It would save me so much money if the discount supermarkets stocked Lactofree products. I plan a bigger shop once I have used up what we already have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards.

Frugal Friday achievement no 4: excellent eBay sales

I was very pleased that I sold several items whilst I was on holiday. As my daughter was at home and works shifts, she was able to package them and take them to the post office for me. I have done the best ever in my 60 day total. I hope to list some more things at the weekend.  This is a really useful extra income stream for me.

So, this is my frugal Friday, and this is what the cat thinks of it all!

Five Fabulously Frugal Things I have Done this Week: 19th May 2017

As mentioned, we are on holiday in Mallorca this week and having a lovely time on this beautiful, sunny little gem of an island. Going on holiday isn’t a fabulously frugal thing to do in itself, of course. We could have stayed at home and had a staycation, but this blog isn’t about never spending any money, it’s about having the best life you can with what you’ve got. We love a holiday and it’s Mr S’s big 5-0, so we put money aside to allow us to come away.

However, just because we are spending money it doesn’t mean we are wasting it. The first fabulously frugal thing we have done is to make the most of the all-inclusive facilities here. So far we have had all of our meals at the hotel, taken advantage of the free bottles of water to carry out with us and made full use of the free bar (hic!).

Today we are off to visit the Caves of Drach in Puerto Cristo. To save money we have found out about public buses to get to there rather than paying for an excursion. This will cost us 14 Euros each for the bus and entrance instead of 30 Euros each. 

I have saved money using Boots three for two offers on sunscreen and fake tan, as explained here.

We were fabulously frugal on the plane here, Packing up sandwiches, fruit and snacks rather than purchasing expensive airport food. We found cheap bottles of water in the duty free section to keep us hydrated, which meant we only bought one cup of tea each during the flight. 

We will take some fruit and water from the restaurant on our trip today plus Aldi’s version of Nakd bars – raw fruit bars – to give us energy whilst we are out and about.

We have bought spending money with us, of course, but so far we have barely touched it and will be taking a lot of it home with us I think!

I’m linking up with Cass,  Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.  Check out their frugal achievements this week!

Frugal holiday essentials – sun protection and fake tan 

We managed to move room yesterday and now have one away from the noisy entertainment bar with a sea view. It definitely pays to ask if you’re not happy about something. 

My favourite sun protection cream

There are lots of very sunburnt people here. I don’t understand this. It’s so dangerous and bad for your skin. Too much and you soon look like a piece of old leather! Not attractive! You can get good sun protection very cheaply. I really like this one from Boots as it isn’t greasy or highly perfumed. I am using SP 15 but probably need 20. I am putting lots on frequently.  It cost  £4, plus you get the Boots points, of course! 

I drink a lot of water and wear a hat as well. I am quite fair and I don’t want to get sunstroke. 

Faking it

And if you really want a tan, you can always fake it! That’s what I do 😀😀. I have found this one pretty good, Soltan instant gel – Boots again. I use a mitt to apply it and get Mr S to do my back. He doesn’t need to worry about getting burnt and already has a tan. I think he looks like a handsome Simon Cowell lookalike! Boots sun products are three for two at the moment so I got my mitt for free.

We are sitting at the port of Cala D’or having coffee and looking at the yachts. It’s very pretty here. We also had a walk up the coastal path yesterday which gave us absolutely stunning views of the sea. 

All in all, it is perfectly chilled. It’s nice not to be rushing around and I am surprisingly good at doing sod all 😀.

Off for another wander. Have a good day.

All-inclusive in Spain: the pros and cons of the package holiday

So this is what we work all year for! A holiday in the sun. We are having an all-inclusive week in Cala D’or in Mallorca. We fancied some sunshine and that is exactly what we are getting! The views are also stunning here, with clear blue sea and bright blue skies. Gorgeous. Check out the face in the rocks in the pic below!

As with anything we buy, we searched for a good deal before booking. We found the best price on Teletext Holidays. I didn’t know they still existed! Incredibly, when we looked, the all-inclusive was a cheaper price than half board. How can that be? It seems holiday pricing structures move in mysterious ways.  

We flew with Ryanair. The flight was absolutely fine with no problems or delays. However, I found the online check-in process frustrating and misleading. They wouldn’t let you check in more than seven days in advance unless you paid, and you couldn’t reserve seats until you had checked in, which they also charged for. I wanted to make sure we sat together so we had to pay more – around £50! I think this could have been reduced or avoided but, as I said, it was bewildering. We also had to pay a 15 Euro local tax when we arrived, which we weren’t expecting. We had a cup of tea on the plane but  brought some fruit and baguettes with us to save a bit of money on food whilst travelling.

I have never been on an all-inclusive holiday before. I usually like to self cater to keep my budget low. I wasn’t sure how the food would be, but so far it’s pretty good. Lots of salads, fruit and veg, free wine or beer, and you can have as much or as little as you fancy. However, this hotel is busy and so is the dining room, so not the place for a quiet meal. 

As well as your meals, you can have drinks and snacks throughout the day as part of the all-inclusive deal. We will be putting on weight!

The room is good, clean and basic, but there is no kettle! We couldn’t find a cup of tea anywhere when we arrived yesterday – something of a crisis for us tea swilling Brits 😀. We did have a very strong coffee at the hotel beach cafe in the afternoon but there was no tea there or in the restaurant. Apparently we had to find the sports bar, but we were too tired. Having been up to catch our flight at 3.45 am it had been a long day. 

Which brings us to our next problem: our room overlooks another bar, where there was loud entertainment until midnight. This will be ok when we are out in the evenings, but not when we want to relax in our room. I guess they intend you to chill in the sports bar with your evening cuppa! We are going to ask them to move us today. But it seems quite full so I’m not sure if it will be possible.

So, off to breakfast. If I don’t find tea, there will be trouble!

Saving, spending and making money in April

I had quite an expensive month in April. I spent the holiday fund and a bit more on Mr S’s 50th celebration trip to Mallorca. Very excited about this but holidays don’t come cheap. I have also spent some money on clothes to take, which is unusual for me! I normally raid the boot sales but, although I have found some good things to resell, there hasn’t been much that I wanted to keep for myself.

As mentioned before, I bought some items from Everything5pounds.com –  4 at £20! These should arrive today so I will report back on those. I managed to get the postage free using Money Saving Expert’s offer code too. I have also purchased 8 items second-hand on eBay. Sadly, four of those were too big so I just re-listed them. One has sold already for a £5 profit 😀. I really must stop buying size 14 clothes as I appear to be a 12 now. I put this down to almost completely giving up sugar since the end of February. 

I discovered TopCashback and did a £25 Asda shop through them to get £15 cash back. I will be exploring that a lot more and we are looking at booking our airport parking through them. I am going to look at some of the other cash back sites too and will report back.

I have sold quite a lot on eBay this month which will positively impact the bank balance. I am going to look at sourcing stock from auctions as well in the future. 

My MOT is due this month so I have my fingers crossed that I won’t have to spend much on that.

So April was a good month! May has kicked off with a lot of wintry feeling weather but I am sustained because I know we will be off to the sun in two weeks! This is what the moneysaving is all about 😀.