When I was a kid I used to dream of travelling to far-off places, experiencing different cultures and exploring places I’d only read about in books.
From New Zealand, where I grew up, it seemed frustratingly out of reach; I was, after all, in a tiny country dotted in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, very much isolated from the rest of the world.
But then I moved to London by way of Sydney, and suddenly Europe was right on my doorstep. I could catch a train to Pairs in the same time it used to take me to drive a quarter of the way up the North Island: I can’t even tell how much that used to blow my mind.
So when Groupon invited me to recall some of my favourite getaways, I took a lovely wander down memory lane…
When I arrived in London I wasted no time, using my new home city as base to travel all over Europe and beyond. In those first few years, I filled my passport with stamps from countries including Italy, France, Latvia, Slovenia and Finland. I swam with dolphins in Miami and ate blowfish in New York and sang The Sound of Music in Salzburg. I island-hopped along the Dalmatian Coast, and danced on the bar of San Antonio’s Coyote Ugly, and drank silver rum in Hemingway’s favourite Cuban bar, La Floridita.
Then the girls arrived, and my wings were temporarily clipped. I’d pretty much always ventured away on my own, having discovered a real passion for solo travelling when I first arrived, so once the girls were old enough to cope without Mummy for the odd weekend it was simple enough for Daddy to hold down the fort while I resumed my travels.
My first trip was a weekend in the picture-perfect city of Bruges, followed by Grasse, the perfume-making capital of the world. Last year it was a fascinating weekend in Reims, exploring the history of French Champagne houses, including Dom Perignon and Taittinger.
This year, I’m planning a trip to Iceland, where I’m planning to admire the stunning volcanic landscapes, the majestic waterfalls, black sand beaches and – fingers crossed – see the Aurora Borealis. This is actually a bit of a sore point for me, as I’ve had two previous attempts at catching the Northern Lights – once in Swedish Lapland and once in Finnish Lapland – and haven’t managed it yet.
One of the fun parts for me (being a total nerd) is squeezing the very most out of every penny I spend. I’ll literally spend hours scouring the internet for the best deals, comparing them and reading reviews, and searching for discount vouchers. I always use websites such as Expedia, which does the tough job for you by collating the best low-cost travel deals from all corners of the internet, but I didn’t realise until recently that Groupon (another of my go-to goldmines) doubled down on these deals, by offering additional offers and exclusive discounts.
Basically, you just click through to Expedia via the Groupon website to take advantage of even more savings on your flights and accommodation, leaving you with more to spend when you’re actually on holiday. Plus… you can even claim Nectar points for your Expedia transactions. What’s not to love about that?
I’m already eyeing up some great Icelandic hotel deals for this year AND looking ahead to where I might travel next year. Right now, I’m leaning towards Transylvania in Romania, but that might chance – after all, there’s an entire world out there to explore!