Staycation Booking Tips

Hi, loves!

Last weekend Matt and I enjoyed a little staycation in our very favourite local hotel; Hotel du Vin, Newcastle. We’ve stayed there many times before and it always feels like such a treat, so much so that we rarely book anywhere else if we’re looking for a luxurious and romantic staycation! We especially love a night or two away from home because it’s just like a mini holiday for us, and we always treat it like that. We pack minimally, play tourist in our own city and just enjoy spending time together. I feel like it’s such a blessing that we’re able to take trips like this and I never want to take it for granted! I totally get this is not everyone’s cup of tea which is fine, but if you’re a fan of nights/weekends away I really hope this is helpful to you.

So, there’s several things to consider when you’re booking a staycation. Are you going to spend a lot of time in the hotel? Does it make sense to splurge a little more on your accommodation as you’re travelling less distance? Does the hotel look comfortable and cosy? Do you know of any friends or family who have stayed there before? Is it a suitable distance to the nightlife of the city/town you’re visiting? Is there anywhere to explore or play tourist nearby? If you want to really relax is there a spa facility?

Our checklist for a romantic weekend trip is pretty standard whether we’re staying close to home or travelling a few hours away. The five top things on our list are:
– a little bit of luxury that feels extra special
– the hotel being based close (ish) to shops restaurants and bars. We love to play tourist even in our own city and we went to make sure we can explore easily
– a roll top bath, because why the heck not?
– beautiful views
– a good deal on the room price, bonus points if it includes breakfast

For us, the benefit of a staycation is we’re jumping in the car and driving less than thirty minutes to our destination, and we want to R E L A X. We spend a lot of time in the hotel room before we go out for dinner, and also like to make the most of our morning there too. A roll top bath is obviously not a necessity for a hotel room, but hey… when in Rome Newcastle… Truthfully we are bath lovers, and a bubble bath sounds like a pretty fun way to spend time during a romantic weekend to me. Little luxuries of boutique hotels like fancy toiletries and a mini bar are great, but we try to take any extras we need… including our own cans of Diet Coke. I wish I was joking, hahaha. We usually book breakfast as an extra little treat because most days we don’t get to eat breakfast together due to our work schedules. And you all know, we love a breakfast date!

Choosing the right hotel for you and your needs is important; I personally think it’s extra special to be in a boutique hotel because there’s so many extra little touches that you don’t get in a large franchised hotel. We’ve stayed at several HdV’s (seriously guys, feel free to work with me!) and all of them have the same feel of a grand building, muted colour tones, huge comfy beds – which makes no difference because we always wake up right on the edge of Matt’s side, oops! – and friendly staff who look after you. I personally think Hotel du Vin’s have a very ‘homey’ feeling, it’s just really relaxing and quiet which is perfect for us. Every time we stay we also go for a walk along the Quayside which feels like something extra special too, because it’s somewhere we both love to be.

BOOKING (& PACKING!) TIPS

– read lots of blog posts and Trip Advisor reviews if you’ve never stayed at the hotel before
– look through the Instagram geotag to see real photos from guests
– check there is parking available on site, but remember it’s often charged separately to your hotel room
– set a budget beforehand so you aren’t tempted to book something too expensive
– plan ahead; if you stay on a Sunday evening you’ll normally get the best rates
– compare prices on different sites before booking, although often the best deal is with the hotel’s own website
– bring your own champagne/wine if you fancy a tipple in the room and you’re going all out on the romantic feeling. Glasses are always provided for free!
– you probably don’t need pj’s because hotel robes are the BEST
– whether you’re eating at the hotel or at a restaurant in the town/city, book ahead of time to avoid disappointment
– don’t overpack on the toiletries, it’s all there for you anyway
– check the hotel’s amenities for things that are important to you. Is there a hairdryer / coffee machine / fridge etc? Chances are, yes!
– make a (rough) itinerary of things to do and places to see so you aren’t tempted to spend all of your time lounging in your beautiful hotel room!
– pack snacks, nobody wants to be getting hangry

I hope this post was helpful to you if you’re thinking of planning a staycation any time soon! I’m still dreaming of that bubble bath… Have you stayed in a Hotel du Vin before? What hotels are your favourite for a luxury staycation? Do you have any additional booking tips to share with me and my readers?!

-G x

Pack With Me: Overnight Trip

Happy, happy Sunday loves!

As this post goes live, we will be on our way to enjoy a staycation at one of our favourite hotels, Hotel du Vin at Newcastle Quayside. It’s a birthday treat for Matthew as he turns 25 tomorrow, and we’re making the most of it! We’re planning on doing very little; maybe a chilled walk along the Quayside, a bubble bath, dinner, drinks, and a whole lot of relaxing with yours truly. What more could he want, eh?!

Packing is my thing and I love reading packing related blog posts or watching ‘pack with me’ videos on YouTube, some of these incredible people fit enough clothes for three weeks in a carry on suitcase! Mind = blown. I am borderline obsessed with the whole process and find it so exciting, as soon as we have a trip booked I find myself beginning to plan my outfits, search through my stash of travel sized minis and find the Insta-worthy hotspots usually reserved for the locals. As much as I enjoy that kind of packing, there’s something real nice about heading for a staycation, less than thirty minutes from home. You already know the best places to go! Driving means no luggage restrictions! Full sized beauty products! The ability to pop home if you forget your favourite shoes… Also, it means I don’t have to hide Matt’s birthday presents as I can easily sneak them in the boot.

Really, the chances of me forgetting something on a staycation trip are pretty slim, as I tend to go with the ‘if you might need it, take it’ method of packing when there’s no weight restriction. Slippers? Our favourite blanket? Ski goggles? You name it, I’ve probably packed it. I feel I’m being a tad hard on myself as I’ve definitely honed it down from previous trips, but I’m still not the most minimalistic or streamlined packer, and for a one or two night trip close to home, I’m okay with that. Also, the best thing about travelling anywhere with your boyfriend? He takes literally the essentials. (By ‘he’ I mean me, because of course I end up packing for him HAHA). I’m sure all girls have read between the lines here and know where I’m going with this… extra space for our stuff, YAY!

*I’ve linked all of the items you can still purchase to save you having to find them!*

The Beauty Bits

My favourite part of packing is always my skincare, makeup and toiletries. As I mentioned above, I do love a travel sized mini, but there is something a little bit special about being able to take your old faithfuls without having to find a mini or decant them. Although I often take full sized beauty products on staycation trips, or really anywhere we travel to by car, I tend to take less products overall, and just take the things I actually need. Sort of. I definitely minimize my skincare and makeup routine, and don’t take all of the extra ‘just incase’ bits I usually keep in my skincare stash. I’m so happy with my daily skincare routine so I’m definitely taking all my must-haves for morning and night, even though it may seem like a lot to some. I talked about my current skincare routine in this post so please check that out if you’d like to know my thoughts on the products pictured, in more detail!

I also try to pack as little as possible in the category of ‘body care’ (I feel like there needs to be an actual name for this stuff?!) because A) it’s just a one night trip and I won’t be doing a full on pamper sesh and B) Hotel du Vin have Ren products in all of their rooms anyway, which is an amazing cruelty free brand that I love. Matt and I always share whichever shampoo and conditioner I pack, and we’ll use one of our own mini Molton Brown shower gels, then I need my shaving products, moisturiser and hair products to style my hair before I blow dry it. We very rarely use the mini toiletries provided in the room when we’re there as I (not so) secretly love to take them for future trips that may not provide them. That’s why they’re there, right?!

If this is your first time reading my blog you may not know that my aim for 2019 is to go fully cruelty free on my beauty products. I’m already there on my everyday skincare and makeup items, but body care is proving a little more tricky – I’m yet to find a razor that works as well as my beloved Gillette Swirl, and any other shaving gel apart from Gillette leaves my skin dry and/or irritated. I wanted so badly to love the Lush D’Fluff as it smelled glorious, but it really wasn’t right for my skin, and never gave me a close enough shave. My beloved Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt is a must-have, I use this almost every day and I love it; it reminds me of so many wonderful memories.

Skincare: Glossier Milky Oil / Boots Botanics Micellar Water / Cotton Rounds / Sukin Foaming Facial Cleanser / Pixi Glow Tonic / The Body Shop Serum-in-Oil / The Body Shop Drops Of Youth Bouncy Eye Mask / Neals’ Yard Remedies Yarrow & Comfrey Moisturiser / Glossier Balm Dot Com / Facetheory Eye Cream / Facetheory SuperGel Moisturiser

Makeup: The Ordinary High Adherence Silicone Primer / Colourpop X Zoella Eyeshadow Palette / Urban Decay Naked Petite Heat Palette / Too Faced Better Than Sex & Diamonds Mascara / It Cosmetics CC+ Cream Matte in Fair / Laura Mercier Flawless Fusion Concealer / Charlotte Tilbury Magic Eye Concealer in 2 / Laura Mercier Loose Setting Powder / Physician’s Formula Butter Bronzer / Charlotte Tilbury Cheek To Chic Blush in First Love / Colourpop Highlighter in Flexitarian / Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Pillow Talk / Charlotte Tilbury Lipstick in The Duchess / NYX Butter Gloss in Tiramisu / Minimal amount of makeup brushes & my beauty blender

Hair & Body Care: Ren Oat & Bay Shampoo (mini) / Love Beauty & Planet Magic Masque / Lush R&B Hair Moisturiser / Soap & Glory The Rushower Dry Shampoo / Tangle Teezer Brush / Straighteners / Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt / Dove Deodorant / Lush Sleepy Moisturiser / Gillette Shaving Gel (mini) / Gillette Swirl Razor / Molton Brown Shower Gel (mini) / Contact Lenses / Medication

Clothing & Accessories

I love planning my outfits in general, and I find this the easiest category to pack for, even though I do like to have some kind of option, just in case. I’ll use the same bag both day and night – my Kate Spade crossbody is my go-to – and my trusty Vans will go with any day time outfit. I tend to be pretty hard on just taking one evening outfit for an overnight stay, as I know exactly what we’ll be doing – in this case, dinner at The Botanist and drinks on Grey St – but packing for the next day is a little trickier. We know our morning consists of Matt opening his presents (I’m so excited for that!) and us going for breakfast, but then we have the whole day to explore our favourite city and spend time with family, which is what birthdays are for.

I keep it minimal with my jewellery day-to-day, and I’ll be wearing my good ol’ faithfuls. My Missoma initial G necklace and mis-matched star and moon studs, my Pandora bracelet and various rings, and the rest of my earrings are silver, purchased from various stores. I very rarely change up my earrings as I love how they look, although it’s something I really want be more adventurous with this Spring/Summer! I’m also determined to try hoop earrings and to love them, other girls look SO good wearing hoops.

The weather is still very odd right now up North as we’re finally moving into Spring. Some days it’s warm, sunny and bright, and others it’s dark, rainy and freezing cold. This is my justification for taking two day outfit options, if you hadn’t already guessed what was coming. Also, we don’t take pyjamas as we never sleep in them, and we know from experience that Hotel du Vin robes are the bomb. I love to wear my hotel robe whilst I get ready for the evening and the following morning, so other than my two three outfits, there’s nothing else I need here! Except for a few spare pairs of pants and an extra bralette that I know I won’t wear. I can’t help it, it’s the overpacker in me. (Side note: VS thongs are the only underwear I buy, but I’m always looking for new options, and more sustainable brands would be great – if you have any tried and trusted recommendations please let me know in the comments!)

Evening: Underwear / Zara Animal Print Skirt / Black Camisole (similar) / Heeled Teal Boots / Kate Spade Crossbody
(YAY for ‘no bra’ outfits! #freethenipple)

Day: Underwear & Bra / Black Leather Jacket / Scarf / Black Old Skool Vans / Kate Spade Crossbody
Option 1 – Colourblock Jumper / Topshop Black Jamie Jeans
Option 2 – Black V Neck T-Shirt / Topshop Blue Jamie Jeans

The Bits I Actually Need (And Definitely Do Not Need But Will Take Anyway)

Like I said, I’m not perfect when it comes to packing (or anything, ha) and I knowingly pack more than I need. I always make sure to pack our phone chargers and also squeeze in snacks for the room because we love to have our home comforts for the evening. We’ve got our favourite sweets to snack on, and we’ll also have a box of our favourite donuts thanks to the amazing guys at Proven Goods Co. Matt won’t know this until we get there, and I’m so excited to surprise him! The only thing better than birthday cake is birthday donuts, right?! We always make sure to take a few bottles of water and cans of Diet Coke to stick in the fridge in the room, because we’re cheap and can’t justify paying the mini bar prices LOL. For special staycation trips like this one, we like to take a bottle of champagne, because that’s half the fun of the amazing roll top bath, right?! Also, it’s my love’s birthday, and if he wants champagne then that’s what he’ll get!

We’ll be throwing an extra coat in the car and I’ve already packed an umbrella ‘just incase’ but with good reason; in Newcastle it’s not uncommon to experience every weather possible in the space of 24 hours! Ironically, I’ll definitely be taking my sunglasses as the optimist in me will be praying for a sunny day so we can take a nice morning walk along the Quayside; it’s one of our favourite places in Newcastle and it’s just so beautiful.

We’d never take our iPads or laptops on an overnight trip like this as we absolutely will not need them, so there’s no need to worry about fitting those in to our luggage. I would normally take a book with me, but I know I’ll have no time to read so I wouldn’t bother lugging it around. (Even though this makes me a little sad as I’m obsessed with my current book, Make Or Break by Catherine Bennetto, it’s the eighth book I’ve read so far this year and I hate putting it down!) I do always throw a tote bag into our luggage no matter where we’re going as they take up no space and come in so handy for tons of reasons. I mean, how else would I take all the miniature Ren toiletries home? I have to add, Poo Pourri comes in so handy on trips, I bought it originally as a joke when Matt and I went on our first weekend away together, but it’s actually a great idea (and still funny). Also, I think it’s a brilliant ‘gag gift’ for someone who’d laugh about it! Now, if only I could get him to use it at home…

I’m SO excited to relax and spoil my favourite person in the world, he deserves it so much. I hope you liked having a peek inside my suitcase, and if you haven’t already, you can check out my previous packing-related posts here and here. They’re the kind of posts you can come back to at any point for a little extra inspiration or motivation to pack! I’ll definitely be writing an updated What’s In My Carry On post when we go on our Summer holiday to Croatia later in the year, and we have a few city breaks in the pipeline too, I’m so excited to share more travel-related content.

What are your must-have items to pack for an overnight stay? Are you way more minimalist than me? I bet you are. Also, HOW do you do it? Please leave me all the tips and tricks in the comments, it would be very much appreciated! Thank you so much for reading!

-G x


My Favourite Lush Products

Happy Sunday, loves!

There’s not too many brands I would consider a ‘favourite’. Of course I have lots of favourite products from varying brands, but it’s not often I love so many products from one brand. One of the very few exceptions to this, is of course Lush. I’ve shopped in Lush since I was 13 and spent my Saturday’s in town with my friends, stretching £20.00 as far as it would go. Like many, my first foray into the world of Lush was bath bombs and bubble bars, and I still use them often now, over ten years later. I’m not as into the gimmicky products (although damn it I want that cute little Easter lamb!) but it still brings me so much joy to use bath bombs and bubble bars. Over the years I’ve turned my boyfriend and mum into self-confessed fans too, and I feel like I’m always recommending products to my friends.

As I’ve got older, I’ve enjoyed seeing what else Lush have to offer other than pretty coloured baths, and I’m slowly working my way through trying a bit of everything. There have been some products that didn’t work for me unfortunately, but for the most part I’ve found amazing products that I love to incorporate into my beauty routine and will re-purchase for years to come. I love the Christmas collections and Snow Fairy is my favourite scent of all time (but, I’m not into the gimmicky things. Remember?) although throughout the year they release so many new, innovative products. I’m currently trying out a few new-to-me items that I haven’t been using long enough to list as a favourite (although I do really love the H’Suan Wen Hua hair mask so far and I’m obsessed with the Sleepy shower gel – thanks to a recommendation from my friend Laura). I’m sure you’ll see them featured on the blog at some point!

Lush have been way ahead of most brands for years, and they are proudly a cruelty-free, vegetarian friendly and environmentally friendly company. They also use ethically sourced, organic ingredients and promote recycling and giving back. Basically, they’re awesome. If you buy products in the black tubs, please please please remember to save your empty tubs! Once you have accumulated five, you can return them to the store to be recycled and/or re-used, and as a bonus you get a free fresh face mask just for being a good egg and helping the environment. That sounds like a win-win to me! Lush employees are so passionate about their jobs and the products they sell, and I always find them to be very informative and helpful. I love shopping in store at Lush so much that I very rarely order online, it’s just such a fun in-store experience!

Sleepy
Body Moisturiser

This is my most recent new-to-me purchase from Lush, and it’s already right up there as one of my ultimate favourite beauty products. I remember when this was first released I smelled it in store, it smelled very strongly of lavender so I wrote it off as being a product that wasn’t for me. Fast forward around a year, Matt and I were browsing in Lush and I decided to test it again, this time I loved the scent and it felt amazing on my hand. It does have lavender flower in there, but as someone who doesn’t really like the smell of lavender, I would say this is very muted and not at all overpowering. It’s also infused with tonka and oatmeal, and is the most delicious, calming scent (that even Matt loves, which says something because he thinks most of my moisturisers are too strongly scented). I’ve used this every night since I purchased, and it’s a very comforting, lovely smell. The moisturiser sinks into my skin and isn’t at all tacky, but keeps my skin soft and moisturised through to the next day.

Rosy Cheeks
Fresh Face Mask

This product has gained cult status within the beauty industry, and it’s not hard to see why. A millenial pink coloured face mask, that smells like roses in a fresh and feminine way and works a treat on sensitive skin. Sold. I use this mask around once per week until I use up a tub, then I always forget to pick up another for a few weeks before dragging Matt back into town for the sole purpose of re-purchasing this. This is a fresh face mask, which means it needs to be stored in the fridge, so it always feels cooling and relaxing when applied to the skin. It works pretty quickly, and I tend to take it off with warm water and a flannel after around 5 – 10 minutes when the mask begins to harden/crack. This mask calms any redness or spots I have and thankfully it doesn’t cause me to have breakouts, which is very rare from a face mask as my skin is super sensitive.

Goddess/Avobath/Butterball
Bath Bomb

I still love bath bombs as much as I did when I was 13 (almost twelve years ago, wow) and I always feel like it’s a real treat to use them. I pick at least one up every time I’m in Lush, although I do try not to use them too often, as I think they’re pretty expensive for a one-use product. I always tend to reach for bath bombs on days I feel a little rubbish and need a pick-me-up, or before a date night when I want to feel a little bit special, and sometimes just because. I always take baths in the evening (people who shower/bath in the morning baffle me – surely those extra minutes are much better spent snoozing and snuggling in bed) and I find it’s a perfect way to unwind ready for the evening. As I mentioned above, I’m not super into the gimmicky products any more, but you can’t beat that feeling of joy seeing pretty colours and glitter swirls fill your bath. My skin always feels softer and smoother post-bath, and I love the varying scents in each option; they’re filled with essential oils. Goddess is my ultimate ‘feel-good’ bath bomb right now, and Avobath and Butterball are go-to’s year round. Matt also loves Butterball, although the first time I bought it for him he said he was ‘disappointed there’s no colour’. Bless.

R&B
Hair Moisturiser

This is an oldie but a goodie, and a product I’ve rediscovered in the past few weeks. Real talk: my hair is in dire need of help; years of bleaching, dying, straightening and too much dry shampoo have finally taken their toll, and I’m a little bit at a loss as to what to do to with it. I’ve been a big fan of piling on hair masks recently and I’ve also enlisted any other product that might make any difference to my dry and frazzled locks. R&B is absolutely a miracle in a pot, and I’m mad at myself for ever stopping using it! I take the smallest amount and rub between my fingers then applying to towel dried hair. I’m trying not to blow dry my hair every day, but my natural hair dries super curly frizzy so it’s like an internal battle every evening. All I want to do post-shower/bath is make dinner and get snuggled up in my comfies with Matthew, without worrying about my hair! I have to admit this product does make my hair much less frizzy (it’s a miracle worker I tell you!) whether it dries naturally or I blow dry it, and my hair looks/feels so much more sleek and smooth. It smells glorious, and it’s one of those scents that lingers in your hair until your next wash.

Rub, Rub, Rub
Body Scrub

If I remember correctly, this was my first non-bath-bomb-or-bubble-bar purchase from Lush a few years back, and I’ve loved it ever since. This scrub is made with sea salt and isn’t harsh on the skin, but I find it does an excellent job of exfoliating and keeping my skin soft. In the warmer months I use this daily, although normally I reach for this around three to four times per week and I always feel so much cleaner when I’ve used it. It makes shaving a breeze, and then after I apply my body moisturiser post-shower my skin is silky smooth! This scrub smells very fresh and citrus-y, it’s always a scent that reminds me of Summer. No other scrub I’ve tried comes close to this, and I know I’ll continue to re-purchase for years to come. This product is multi-use and can also be used in your hair; I use it as a pre-shampoo treatment around once per week and my hair always feels so clean and fresh afterwards. If you try just one new thing from this post, make it this! (And pick up a new bath bomb whilst you’re at it, because well, we all deserve a treat!)

Mask Of Magnaminty
Self-Preserving Mask

I bloody love this mask. I love the consistency, I love that it’s self-preserving (which means it doesn’t have to be kept in the fridge), I love the results it gives and I love the smell! Matt is a huge fan too, and on our pamper evening each week – usually a Sunday if you’re interested. We are such losers, I know – we often reach for this mask. This is great for oily/combination skin, and it works wonders when I’m having a bad skin day. It’s a little thicker than the fresh version, which I was told by a Lush employee is down to having more honey in the formula, but it works just as well, if not better, in my opinion. I find this balances my skin really well, and my skin always feels less oily the first few days after using this. Sometimes I multi-mask between this and Rosy Cheeks, and it’s definitely holy-grail status in my beauty regime. If I can ever feel one of those horrible under-the-skin spots coming on, I reach for this to use as a spot treatment on that area and by the next day things always look and feel so much better. This product is also multi-use and can be used to treat spots on your body.

The Comforter/Creamy Candy
Bubble Bar

Like bath bombs, bubble bars have been a favourite product for 10+ years, yet I always tend to re-purchase my tried and tested favourites. I’m less intrigued by new launches with the bubble bars, as I know I love the smell of these two so much I usually have little desire to try anything new. The exception to this is of course the Christmas themed products, but day-to-day these are the ones I reach for. I always break these up into multiple pieces (way more for your bang for your buck than the bath bombs!) and I get around four to five baths from The Comforter, and two to three from Creamy Candy. PSA: if you’ve never tried a bubble bar before, the way to use these is to crumble a section of the bar under the tap as your bath is running! I’ve seen so many people on Instagram complain about how rubbish the bubble bars are because they threw them in the water, but that’s not how they’re supposed to be used. Matt and I always take a bubble bar with us the few times a year we treat each other to a stay at a fancy shmancy hotel, because surely a gorgeous hotel room with a roll top bath is the best setting for a Lush bath!

Thank you so much for reading! What are your favourite products from Lush? Do you have any must-have items you always re-purchase? Let me know in the comments for my next shopping spree!

-G x