Simple Money Saving Tips and Tricks to Make Your Travel Budget Go Further

I spend the majority of my disposable income on travel, and I’m assuming if you’re reading my blog, at least some of your money goes on it too!

Travel is an amazing thing, and as the saying goes it’s the “only thing you can spend money on that makes you richer” but it can be pricey, especially if you’re looking to go away at least a few times a year like me.

Whilst I’m willing to spend most of my money on travelling, I’m always keen to make my budget stretch as much as possible, so that I can see and do as much as possible.

With some simple tips and tricks, you can make your travel budget go much further. And who doesn’t want to be able to travel more and better?!

Flights

Use Skyscanner

I’m sure that you’re no stranger to Skyscanner but I can’t stress enough how good the site is for finding cheap flights. Particularly if you can be flexible, their search “Everywhere” function is amazing.

 

Check other websites

Skyscanner is great but I’d encourage you to check out other sites as well, comparison is your best friend when you’re looking for cheap flights and accommodation.

STA Travel often has great flight deals, especially if you’re under 26 or a student. Google Flights is great too.

I tend to keep an eye on flight prices for a while before I book, particularly for long haul ones. The prices really do fluctuate and sometimes it’s a good idea to wait for them to drop.

 

Clear your cookies

When it comes to booking flights, you might see that the prices go up once you’ve looked at them a few times. The cookies on your phone or laptop track what you’ve been looking at, and prices go up automatically.

Clear your browsing history/cookies or book on a different machine to avoid inflated prices.

 

Sign up to airline loyalty schemes

Even if you’re not a frequent flier, it’s well worth signing up to airline loyalty schemes. Not only will you collect air miles on flights, you can unlock other benefits and are more likely to be upgraded if you have a loyalty account!

Sometimes you don’t need to save up lots of miles to get free flights, schemes such as Emirates Skywards allow you to use your points to buy flights on budget airlines; in this case on EasyJet. I did so a couple of years ago, getting a return flight to Rome for free.

 

Get an American Express credit card

A credit card through which you can collect air miles is such a great thing to have, even if you don’t fly that frequently. You can either take free (or very cheap flights), or get an upgrade. You can also spend air miles on hotels and a number of other things.

American Express is the best option in the UK, and even though the sign up offers aren’t as good as in the US, there are still some deals to be had.

I’ve got the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card and I love it. It’s free for the first year and £140 thereafter. If you are referred, you’ll receive an extra 22,000 miles if you spend £2,000 in the first three months. That’s enough for a couple of return flights from London to Europe with British Airways! Let me know if you need a referral code and I’ll be happy to help you out.

Another great bonus with the card is that you get two free airport lounge passes per year, and additional passes are just £15 per person for many lounges around the world! An extra treat for a bit of luxury at no extra cost to you.

It’s also worth noting that you earn double points on all flights booked on your card, and you get some great travel insurance protection included too.

 

Sign up to Jack’s Flight Club

Jack’s Flight Club is an amazing concept that can help save you a lot of money on flights. Sign up for free and you’ll get weekly emails to your inbox with some incredible flights deals. There’s a premium version too which gives you even more.

Keep an eye out once you’ve signed up- you never know, you might see a deal to a destination you’re planning to visit!

 

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Accommodation 

Compare, compare, compare

It’s true what the TV adverts say, look on the internet and you’ll find the same hotel room for a wide range of different prices.

By searching through comparison sites, you’ll be able to find the cheapest deal. Going direct to the accommodation is often best but take your time to check different sites, it’s worth it.

 

Use Booking.com and Expedia 

I use Booking.com and Expedia as they often have the best deals. Plus, if you’re a member, you get access to special prices and extra perks for being a regular user. Expedia even has a loyalty points scheme now where you can collect points to use on future stays.

 

Sign up to hotel loyalty schemes

If you’re planning on staying in a hotel that’s part of a chain, sign up to their loyalty scheme. Again you might get a cheeky upgrade and you can save up points towards future stays.

 

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General tips

Collect supermarket loyalty points 

I’m not sure what the situation is other countries but in the UK, collecting supermarket loyalty points is a great way to travel cheaper or even for free.

Nectar (Sainsbury’s, Argos) and Tesco Clubcard both allow you to collect points on your shopping to exchange in to vouchers. Nectar allows you to spend points on Expedia bookings amongst others; Tesco Clubcard has lots of hotel and transport options.

By signing up for these and remembering to use them each time you shop, you can soon rack up enough points for a free train or a big discount on a hotel room.

If you can, I’d recommend giving your parents a secondary card if they’re not particularly bothered about collecting points. My dad has a copy of my Nectar card and Clubcard, so I’m lucky enough to collect lots of extra points without spending a penny.

You can also look out for special events and vouchers that mean you earn double or triple points.

 

Use Top Cashback

I feel that everybody should be making use of Top Cashback.

Essentially, by clicking through their website (barely any extra effort), you can get cash back on things that you were buying anyway.

In terms of travel, the site has some amazing rates for companies such as Booking.com and Expedia. I’ve earnt up to 12% cash back on hotel bookings before, a nice discount; meaning you can either save money or afford to stay somewhere slightly nicer!

You can make particularly big savings on airport parking through Top Cashback- up to 33% in some cases. Check it out for a cheap option to get to and from the airport.

 

Get a credit or debit card with no use abroad fees

A lot of people lose out on money when they exchange money or use their cards abroad. Some banks and credit card providers can add on hefty fees for using your card when you’re abroad.

Avoid this and save money by signing up for a card with no foreign transaction fees. I’d highly recommend Starling Bank for those in the UK but there are plenty of other options which you’ll find with a quick Google search.

 

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Travel with hand luggage only 

An obvious one but one that can save you sooo much money. Why spend £30 on a flight to a European city then another £50 for checked baggage? Surely that money is better spent on your trip, or another flight.

Take just hand luggage- even on most budget airlines these days, you can take a small suitcase plus another small bag such as a handbag or rucksack.

There are plenty of packing guides available on Pinterest if you’re an overpacker (like me) and need some help making the most of that pesky hand luggage space.

 

Use toiletries bottles

Travelling a lot can mean that you buy extra toiletries very often- not good for the environment or your bank balance.

Buy some cheap plastic toiletry bottles (under 100ml for your hand luggage only trips!) and decant what you already have at home in to those where you can.

You’ll save plenty of money over a year, especially if you regularly buy mini shampoos and the like.

 

Be flexible

Flexibility can go a long way when you’re planning travel; for example being willing to catch flights at awkward times and visiting countries in their off-peak season.

Keep an open mind and there will be bargains to be had!

 

There are quite a lot of things there but my top tips out of these would be:

  • Invest time in comparing prices for flights and accommodation
  • Get a card with no foreign fees
  • Use Top Cashback
  • Travel with hand luggage where possible

 

Do you already do any of these or have any tips to share? I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

My Ultimate Travelist

I received the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist for Christmas last year. It details the “500 best places on the planet… ranked” and it is possibly the most wanderlust-inducing thing I’ve ever read!

It got me thinking about what my ultimate travelist would be. So, I’ve decided to put together a top 10 of the places I’ve already visited and the 10 that are highest on my bucket list. I’ve ranked them in order, which was not an easy task!

 

Top 10 Places Visited

1. Khao Sok National Park, Thailand

Khao Sok National Park is situated in the Surat Thani province of Thailand. The crowing jewel of the park is Cheow Lan lake, which is home to beautiful lime stone karsts.

I stayed in a floating bungalow on the lake, where the facilities are very basic and there is only electricity for a few hours in the evening. The setting is absolutely stunning and my one-night stay is one of my all time favourite travel memories. Quite simply, it’s the most breathtaking place I’ve ever visited.

Read more: 9 Reasons to Visit Thailand 

 

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2. Great Wall of China

The Great Wall probably makes it on to most people’s travel bucket lists, it is a bit of a cliche.

It rightly deserves a place, it is out of this world amazing. I was super excited to hike the wall but nothing could prepare me for quite how incredible (and steep!) it was.

I visited the Jinshanling section of this wall and there were barely any other people!

 

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3. Temples of Angkor

The Temples of Angkor are out of this world and like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

I joined a small cycling tour when I visited; we got to Angkor Wat for sunrise and then cycled around the other temples and surrounding countryside.

Read more: Female solo travel in Cambodia and Vietnam: a 3 week itinerary 

 

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4. Hoi An Old Town

Most people that have visited Hoi An Old Town would probably agree that the place just feels absolutely magical, especially at night when the beautiful old buildings are lit up with colourful lanterns.

It was definitely my favourite place in Vietnam, although as you’ll see, two more places in my favourite country ever have also made it on to my list!

 

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5. Hanoi Old Quarter, Vietnam

Hanoi is by far my favourite large city in Asia. It’s busy and it’s polluted but it also has so much charm!

Home to many beautiful buildings, Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple and lots of lovely restaurants, there’s plenty to see and do. But this is also a place where you can just wander and get lost, taking it all in.

Read more: Vietnam Travel Tips

 

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6. Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

One of the things I loved most about Sri Lanka is that every place we visited was so different. Galle Fort was no exception, I certainly wasn’t expecting charming cobbled streets, boutique shops and a lighthouse in Sri Lanka!

I stayed within the fort, which I’d highly recommend doing.

Read more: Sri Lankan Adventure Part 1: Colombo to Galle

 

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7. Plaza Mayor, Cuba

Trinidad in Cuba is by far one of the prettiest towns I’ve ever visited. Cobbled streets and pastel coloured buildings, it is a delight. It attracts a fair amount of tourists but it still felt really laid back and not at all crowded.

Plaza Mayor is the historic centre of the town and it’s the perfect place to wander for a couple of hours, followed by a cold beer.

See more: Cuba: Photo Edit

 

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8. Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay is a must-see for visitors to Vietnam. It’s famous for its limestone karsts and dramatic scenery.

I stayed on a traditional junk boats for two days and it was an amazing experience, not to mention that the seafood served on board was some of the best and freshest I’ve ever eaten.

 

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9. Habana Vieja, Cuba

Think of Cuba and Habana Vieja is likely to be the picture in your head- the bright, pastel coloured old buildings in the old part of town.

They are iconic and even better experienced on a ride around Havana in an old American car.

Read more: Cuba Travel Tips

 

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10. Le Jardin Majorelle

I recently visited Marrakech and was concerned that I’d be disappointed by Le Jardin Majorelle given all the photos I’d seen and the masses of tourists.

I definitely wasn’t disappointed, the gardens were absolutely magical and like a complete oasis away from the slight madness of Marrakech itself.

Read more: How to Spend a Long Weekend in Marrakech

 

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So, that’s where I’ve been. Now for the list of the top 10 places I’d like go visit form the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist:

1. Bora Bora, French Polynesia

2. Machu Picchu, Peru

3. Petra, Jordan

4. Taj Mahal, India

5. Bagan, Myanmar

6. Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

7. Dubrovnik Old City Walls, Croatia

8. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

9. Cristo Redentor, Brazil

10. Empire State Building

Check out the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist here.

Where are your top 10 places visited and the top 10 you want to go to? I’d love to hear from you xxx

Why You Should Stay in a Riad in Marrakech

 

There are hundreds of traditional riads in Marrakech, from the simple to the outright decadent. During my recent trip to Morroco, I stayed in two riads within Marrakech medina, and I absolutely loved the experience!

If you’re heading to Morocco, I’d 100% recommend that you stay in a riad for at least part of your trip, it’s an unforgettable experience. Here are all of the reasons why.

You’ll be greeted like an old friend

There’s no hotel welcome like a riad welcome in my opinion. You’ll knock on the door of the riad and be greeted by a friendly local, who will usher you in to the tranquility of the courtyard.

You’ll be seated then offered some traditional Moroccan mint tea with sweet treats. Beats a watered down cocktail/fruit juice you get in most places!

It’s also likely that your hosts will give you a guided tour of the riad and will offer plenty of helpful advice about Marrakech. With the accommodation being much smaller than your standard hotel, you’ll find the service to be much more attentive, even in a mid-range riad.

 

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The riad will be your oasis

Marrakech medina is an overwhelming place at times. Vendors, crowds, scooters, even horses trotting by make for a real hustle and bustle. It’s fun, it’s interesting but after a long and hot day, stepping in to your riad will be a welcome oasis.

Although you’ll still be right in the heart of the action, step in to your riad, and it will be like a different world. Quiet, cool, clean and relaxing. Possibly the exact opposite of the medina itself.

 

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You’ll get serious interior decor inspiration/envy

Traditional Moroccan décor is absolutely beautiful and your riad will no doubt feature it in spades.

Think pretty tiles, gorgeous lanterns, handcrafted furniture, colourful cushions and lush greenery.

Aside from being perfect instagram fodder, you’ll feel like you’re experiencing the real Morocco.

 

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You’ll get luxury without a huge price tag

Compared to what you’d pay in Europe, accommodation in Morocco is really reasonable. Riads are usually cheaper than your standard chain hotel and offer a real sense of luxury, from the surroundings right through to the service.

Staying in a riad is much like being in a boutique hotel, something that you can pay a lot for in many places.

 

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A traditional Moroccan breakfast is the best way to start your day

Most riads will offer a complimentary Moroccan style breakfast. Fresh orange juice, mint tea, traditional breads and pastries, omelettes, fresh fruit; you’ll be spoilt for choice.

It’s a great way to start the day and certainly beats most hotel breakfasts I’ve ever had!

 

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In-house spas mean pampering right on your doorstep

Many riads have in-house spa facilities that are again reasonably priced compared to in Europe.

Massages, hammams and manicures available right there, what’s not to love?

 

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You can embrace rooftop living

With a mild winter climate, and being warm to hot from Spring though to Autumn, Marrakech is the perfect city to experience on a rooftop.

Lots of riads have lovely roof terraces on which you can enjoy your breakfast, or spend a relaxing evening. Again, this offers an oasis away from the craziness of the medina.

You may even be able to enjoy a traditional dinner up on the terrace organised by the riad.

 

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It will be a completely unique experience

The main reason that I’d recommend staying in a riad is that it is a totally unique experience and definitely one you should have whilst in Morocco.

I can’t quite explain what makes staying in a riad so unique and special, so my advice would be to book a stay and experience it for yourself.

 

 

I stayed at Riad Spa Sindibad and Riad Dar More, both of which I’d highly recommend.

Riad Spa Sindibad is the slightly more traditional of the two; Riad Dar More feels a little more like a boutique hotel. Click on the links above to find out more, or I’d be happy to answer your questions!

The Versatile Blogger Award

I was over the moon to receive a Versatile Blogger Award from the lovely Charlie from Reaching 30 Before 30 earlier this week! Charlie is one of my favourite bloggers; her posts give me serious wanderlust and she’s smashed her goal of visiting 30 countries before 30, so now she’s aiming for 40. I love following her adventures.

This award was created by bloggers for bloggers and is a great way to connect and help people to discover new blogs.

 

Here are 7 facts about me:

1) My birthday is on April Fool’s Day. And no, I’m not playing an early April Fool’s trick, it really is. This year, it also falls on Easter, so a busy day of celebrations! I have to admit that people do go easy on me despite me being an April Fool, I’ve only had a few birthday pranks pulled. The most memorable one was from my best friend, who gave me a large sized present before I got on the bus to school (we went to different schools but caught our buses from the same place). Turns out she’d wrapped 13 pennies up and covered it in layers of wrapping paper and newspaper, which took me around 10 minutes to get through on my journey to school.

2) I have a business management degree. I studied for it at Lancaster University, which I loved. It allowed me to learn all about the different aspects of  business and to gain some amazing practical experience through a year-long work placement and completing projects for real businesses. Since then, I’ve worked for a few food businesses and have definitely put what I learnt in to practice.

3) I’ve visited 33 countries so far. Like Charlie, I’m on a mission to visit as many countries as possible. So far I’ve visited 33, which doesn’t feel like that many, but I have explored different places within many of those countries. I’d like to visit 40 before I turn 30 as well; that gives me 3 years and 3 days to visit 7 more!

4) I was part of the cheerleading squad at university. Ok, so only for a year, but still. I had wanted to try out in my first year, but was scared due to (unfair) preconceptions about what the cheerleaders would be like. I really enjoyed being part of the squad and even went to a competition. I gave it up in final year due to workload and wanting to concentrate on playing netball.

5) I am taking Spanish lessons. I started my classes in January and am currently booked up until June. I’m totally rubbish at learning languages but am loving it and plan on learning long-term and potentially even taking an exam eventually! Read more about why I decided to take lessons here.

6) I’m obsessed with Asia. Like, unhealthily obsessed. With the Far East/SE Asia in particular. I talk about it all the time much to family’s annoyance (they’re always saying stuff along the lines of “WHAT?! You’ve been to Cambodia? Why didn’t you tell us?”) and am constantly thinking about the next trip there. I’ve visited 7 countries so far and there’s so many more I want to see. Next up on the list is The Phillipines, China or Myanmar; hopefully at some point during 2018.

7) I live 200 miles away from my office. A very random fact but one that people tend to be surprised about when I tell them. I live in Manchester but my office is down south, just north of London. I relocated north last August after almost 4 years living in London. My job is home-based with 1-2 days in the office. Although the drive is long (I stay overnight when I’m down here), it means that I get to see my London friends regularly and I love my job, so I’ve embraced the long distance! The industry I work in is mainly based down south, which means future jobs will probably be similar too now I’m in Manchester.

Now to pass this along, I nominate the following incredible bloggers for an award:

Giles Meets World
The Travel Connoisseur
Perfectly Claudia
Travelling Wanderer
Pip and the City
My Passion Projects
Hannah Copcutt
The Barefoot Backpacker
Elle Louise
Riri Travels

If you do want to pass along the award, please let me know when you’ve done so. I can’t wait to find out more about you all!

 

Rules for the Versatile Blogger Award:

1) Thank the person who nominated you- Charlie @ Reaching 30 before 30.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Nominate up to 15 others for the award.

For those of you who don’t know, The Versatile Blogger Award was created by bloggers to give to other bloggers. If nominated, you have received the award and are tasked with passing it on, by nominating other bloggers. It shows the incredible amount of support in the community! No questions about blogging is ever “too silly” or weird, and this award helps you to get to know the people behind their blog and/or brand. We are so humbled to have received this!

Why I’ve decided to take Spanish lessons this year

Hola! I’ve wanted to learn a second language for as long as I can remember. This has always been something in the back of mind, something that I looked in to but never actually got around to acting on.

There’s something about a new year coming around that makes people want to better themselves, to improve upon the person they were in the previous year. I’m one of those people. Yes I know, many people are pretty cynical about new year’s resolutions and say that you can make changes at any point in the year. That’s completely true but I find it easy to find motivation when it comes to a new year drawing in. And for this year, I’ve decided to finally take up Spanish classes. I wanted to share with you some of my reasons and maybe even inspire you to do something you’ve been putting off for a long time in 2018!

 

To gain a new skill

Simple first reason. It goes without saying that I’m learning Spanish to gain a new skill. And not just as something to add to my CV, one that I will actually put to use and see some value from.

 

To challenge myself

Don’t get me wrong, my day job is challenging and I’m constantly learning new things. But I’m one of those annoyingly curious people that always wants to know more and be challenged further. Plus, I’m terrible at picking up languages, so learning to speak Spanish really will challenge me.

I did GCSE French at school and was pretty awful, it was definitely one of my weakest subjects. So yes, I’ll probably be rubbish and it will take years to pick Spanish up, but at least I’m challenging myself to do something that’s not going to be a walk in the park.

 

To get out of my comfort zone

I don’t really like speaking in English to more than a few people, let alone trying and failing to pronounce Spanish words in front of a group. Public speaking is not really my thing and the part I find most difficult when learning a language is the pronunciation of words. Add those two things together and you can see that these lessons are definitely going to push me out of my comfort zone. That’s not a bad thing- I think everybody needs to take trip there now and again.

 

 

img_5800The Spanish town (pueblo) of Mijas

 

To avoid being the stereotypical Brit abroad

Brits have quite a reputation when abroad and I think a big part of this (aside from the drinking and ridiculous sunburn) is that we often go to places expecting everybody to be able to speak English and often knowing no more than “hello” and “thank you” in the local language.

I don’t want to be one of those people anymore. Yes, learning to speak Spanish is not going to come in useful in a lot of countries I’ll visit. Obviously. But I think it will give me the confidence to try out a few phrases from my trusty Lonely Planet books, rather than me panicking that I won’t say a word properly and not attempting at all, which is what usually happens now. I want to make an effort to speak to locals in their own language and to get under the skin of a place, which brings me nicely on my next point.

 

To learn about a new culture

I’ve been to Spain quite a lot of times and do know a fair amount about the country’s culture, but on a very superficial basis. These lessons should help me to understand another culture, which is so important for me when I’m travelling. I really like to feel like I’ve got under the skin of a place and understood its culture, history and people.

Spain is definitely a country where I haven’t been able to do that, probably due to the fact that I’ve mainly travelled there when visiting family, which can provide somewhat of an unintentional buffer between you and a place. When you’re visiting somebody abroad, I find you often follow them rather than getting to know the place. After all, it’s like having a free tour guide!

I visited Cuba last year and whilst I felt that I gained a good understanding of the culture, much of this was from books, information from tour guides and generally observing my surroundings. I wish I had been able to speak Spanish so that I could have conversed more with the local people and really got to know more about the country and its people by actually talking to them properly.

 

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To travel more and to different places

The last point, and one of the only blog-related reasons, is that by learning Spanish, I feel like this will push me to travel more. To new parts of Spain, certainly, but also to Central and South America. I have to be honest, whilst places such as Mexico and Peru are high up on my travel bucket list, I would choose a destination in Asia over the Americas all day every at the moment.

Even though that’s the case, I know it’s a pretty closed attitude for me to have, as I’ve never visited South America to know whether I’ll like it more than Asia. Because I adore Asia so much, I’m just assuming that it won’t come close, when in actual fact I might like it even more!

I don’t really need another excuse to travel (I’ve got a pretty long list already) but I’ll take it. After all, wouldn’t it be a crying shame if I didn’t put my new found skill to use in the exact place intended! I’d like to travel to Central or South America in the next couple of years and maybe even attend a Spanish school for a week or two to really immerse myself in to the language.

 

IMG_1374Revolution Square, Havana

So, there you have it, my reasons for signing up to learn another language. None of them are particularly ground-breaking but hopefully there are ones that you can associate with. My advice would be to make this the year that you embrace every opportunity and do something you’ve wanted to for a while; be that learning a language, taking that trip or even just buying that handbag/top/dress that you’ve been eyeing up!
I’m only a mere three lessons in and I already feel like I’ve achieved something in 2018. Here’s to making this year our best one yet!
Adios por ahora!

Can you speak more than one language? If, would you like to? Or do you have a completely different goal in mind for 2018?