5 STEPS FOR RESEARCHING YOUR NEXT TRAVEL DESTINATION (SO YOU FIND ALL THE COOL PLACES)

We’ve all been travelling before and felt as though we missed out on seeing the best things, those hidden places that sometimes you stumble upon if you’re lucky, but otherwise you won’t ever find. That’s why research is absolutely key to getting the best out of travel. It’s the difference between sitting in front of the Trevi fountain and wondering why the food isn’t great, and finding that secret nook of a restaurant that only the locals know about. Sadly we can’t all travel with a local (that would be my number 1  tip), but by doing some research before you go you can find these places yourself. And although we all used to travel with guide books and they were the number 1 source of information, the internet has brought a million different travel voices – many of which that are probably more attuned to your personal interests than a mass market book could ever be. So below I’ve listed a few of my go-to places for travel research which help me get to the heart of the place, and the way that I put the ideas together and hold onto them.

How to research your travel destination (so you find the cool spots)

You’re probably groaning at the thought of research – ‘Geneva I left high school a while ago and I don’t wanna hit the books‘. Luckily for you, I’ve listed a few of my favourite ways to quickly research a place for results that don’t take all day. Cheers to your next trip!

Step 1. Set yourself up on Pinterest (and maybe google…)

Ok so it won’t come as a surprise that I’m a Pinterest freak, it’s the number one source of referral traffic to this blog, so that’s something you can’t sneeze at is it? Anyway, amongst other things I find it invaluable for travel. The first thing I do is create a secret board with my destination. This will be my go to board when I’m on the road, the place I save off everything I find while researching. No more printed pieces of paper that always get lost! The downside to this is that it really does require you to have a working phone with internet access, so this will depend on your destination but generally is ok – most hotels have internet these days.

The next thing I do is trawl Pinterest itself, searching my location, towns I might visit, places to eat etc etc. I use lots of different search terms when  I’m doing this and keep on scrolling down – you can find find hidden gems on Pinterest that link to blogs or obscure websites if you look beyond the obvious photos and search terms.

And yes yes naturally I google, but these days Pinterest is my go to search engine, I think it’s because I feel Pinterest is a better (visual) curation of things that might interest me?

Step 2. Instagram

Instagram is also another really useful tool for researching places things to do at your destination. I’m a screenshot freak and always save off inspiration from other people’s holidays (yep, that’s me, creeping on your holiday photos from Barcelona in 2012), and in addition I always check hashtags for the places I’m going. That will usually allow me to find geolocated places for the hotel I’m thinking about staying or the restaurants/ activities I want to do. Instagram is also often a really sharing community so connecting up with someone who is on the ground and asking them for some tips is a great way to go – and has worked for me so many times! Kinda like getting a local view before you’ve even arrived.

Step 3. Check the blogs

The best thing about blogs (and presumably one reason for you reading this blog in the first place) is that bloggers show a unique perspective which is individual to who they are. I have lots of different bloggers I (internet) like and would trust with their recommendations, so I always google ‘blog name + destination’ in the event that they have done a travel guide – or even better, live there – that might be helpful. Even if it’s two years old chances are it will give a view more relevant to what I like than a guide book aimed at a more general audience. Anything I find on these sites (or anywhere online) I’ll pin to my board, for easy access when pre-planning and when I’m in at the destination.

Step 4. Websites

You will have stumbled upon a zillion great websites through your Pinterest search, and so when I look at mainstream websites I like to focus on ones that I know have great content that will be aimed at someone like me – much the same as how I choose which blogger’s travel guides I will take to heart. Websites I  will check for coverage of my destination are magazine websites like Conde Nast Traveller and food magazines like Gourmet Traveller (they understand that for me, it’s all about food), accommodation websites that have travel guides such as Air Bnb, The Luxe Nomad and Mr and Mrs Smith and Tourism Board websites.

Step 5. Ask your mates

And lastly, nothing beats real live experience from people that you know and trust. Right? Just make sure that the person you’re asking is similar to you in their tastes and interests, just because you’re friends it doesn’t mean you both want to go and get pineapples painted on your nails at Bangkok’s best underground nail salon.

Naturally I also check user review websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, however I am always a little careful when using them these days because I feel that sometimes they are the target of spam and fake reviews. So use carefully!

Once I’ve got all the ideas, together, it’s all about culling them down and planning the perfect schedule! Feel free to let me know if you can think of any other sites I should be checking, I know there are lots of great sites out there!

WHAT TO WEAR ON A BOAT

I know I know, ‘What am I going to wear on the boat’ is pretty much at the top of the list of First World Problems, up there with inexplicable anger when your phone battery dies and eating so much you get sleepy. Regardless, if you’re lucky this Summer you might get invited on a boat. Yay! Rejoice because a) drinking Aperol Spritz’s in the sunshine on the water is what Summer 2015 is all about and b) you don’t own said boat (ask anyone who owns a boat and they’ll tell you that it’s like throwing money out the window).

And considering all that, naturally you’re going to want to look good on this venture. You deserve to! And although I didn’t start out always being good at dressing for a boat – my earliest experience was a work trip in which my dress blew up constantly and showed everyone my knickers – recent experience in Hong Kong, where many people own boats and thus lots of opportunities to make plenty of other mistakes, has helped me shape a few rules for dressing for a boat. In a nutshell it’s about striking a balance between looking good, comfort and the practicalities of the boat. Read on for a few thoughts.

What to wear on a boat

Wearing: Denim DIY cut offs, Her one piece, Ray Ban sunglasses, Market Flats, Hat from Athens

Plan for all weather conditions

No matter what the forecast says, or what the weather is like before you leave, be prepared for both cold and windy and blazing hot sunshine. Pack sunscreen and a hat (make sure it fits properly as that pesky wind can strike at any time) as well as something warm to throw on like a denim shirt (like this one) or utility jacket (like this one).

Choose the right footwear

Make sure it’s something that can slip on and off easily and something with a bit of grip. I’m all about a flat but a wedge could also work (although is much less practical). Sandals (like these) or converse (like these) are perfect – just make sure they have light coloured soles. Black soles that mark the deck are a big no no and the first rule of boating etiquette.

Keep clothing basic

Don’t wear anything that is too precious so avoid silk and anything that you wouldn’t want getting wet – Denim is a great hardy fabric to wear – these denim shorts or these ones would be perfect. Hats and discarded items of clothing are notorious for flying off the boat too, so be careful!

Take a big bag

I always take a few outfits with me when I go on a boat, mainly because sometimes your clothes get wet or you want something more comfortable to wear. That’s where a big bag will come in – a large tote that can handle a few changes as well as your magazines and beauty products.

Take a pair of sunnies (or three)

Forgetting to bring a pair of sunglasses will truly ruin your day. I always take more than one pair because I find that friends sometimes don’t bring their own – sharing is caring! I just make sure I get them back at the end of the the day :)

Arrive with your swimsuit already on

Space is a big issue on boats and the changing facilities are usually below deck in the toilet. Small and cramped and terrible if you get seasick so spend as little time in there as possible. Bikinis are just as appropriate as a one piece, but I love that my one piece doubles as a bodysuit as soon as you throw on a pair of shorts. This looks like the perfect one piece, and I love this nautical swimsuit.

Consider Short Skirts or dresses carefully

Not only are these a bad idea in windy conditions but boats are often 2 levels. You spend a lot of the day climbing up and down the ladder between them so don’t wear a skirt of dress. The upper deck is where all the sunbathing happens too! A romper  like this one is a great alternative.

Other tips

If you arrive in your swimsuit don’t forget to bring your underwear. A kaftan is great for throwing over your swimsuit while in the cabin or eating lunch (and is super sun smart). Don’t be afraid to get into the boating spirit. Nothing says nautical like blue and white with a touch of red and some tan accessories. Oh, and on the practical side – fashion doesn’t apply when you feel like there’s a need to put s life jacket on (when you’re inverting or traversing the seaway for example), and don’t ever get in the water when the engine or propellor are still on.

What to wear on a boatWhat to wear on a boatWhat to wear on a boatWhat to wear on a boatWhat to wear on a boatWhat to wear on a boatWhat to wear on a boat

Oh to be back on the water!

DIY OFF THE SHOULDER TOP

In case you haven’t noticed, off the shoulder silhouettes are my jam. Maybe it’s that they remind me of a past life as a German Beer Girl, orrrr bring to mind holidays in the sun where tops and bras with straps are banned. Either way, I find them endlessly easy to wear, and also to make (!). I’ve crafted a few styles in the last year or so, and each one has been a little easier to make and to wear than the last. This one is my favourite design yet – a gathered waist skirt neckline with arm holes sewn on. Easy! Read on toe see how.

DIY off the shoulder topDIY off the shoulder top

Wearing: DIY top, Riders by Lee jeans, Celine Bag, Mode Collective heels & Daniel Wellington Watch

You need:

  • cotton fabric (or any natural fabric with a nice drape)
  •  scissors
  • elastic
  • pins
  • sewing machine

DIY off the shoulder red top

How to

1. Cut two squares of fabric approximately the size of your shoulders to your waist. If your piece of fabric is wide enough you can fold your fabric in half and then cut along the fold. I used the selvage edge of the fabric for the bottom on the top to avoid hemming.

DIY off the shoulder red top

2. Measure how long you want your sleeves to be and then cut two smaller rectangular pieces of fabric which will form your sleeves.

DIY off the shoulder red top

3. Fold your rectangular sleeves in half and pin the open sides to the side seams of your top, aligned with the top of the garment.

DIY off the shoulder red top

4. Sew your sleeves to the body of the garment whilst also sewing the sides of your front and back pieces together.

DIY off the shoulder red top

5. Once you have finished sewing everything, turn the top inside out.

DIY off the shoulder red top

6. Measure your elastic and double that measurement. Fold the top of your garment inwards according to that measurement. Sew along the bottom of  the folded section to create a fabric loop leaving room between the start and finish.

DIY off the shoulder red top

7. Take something sharp like a wooden screwer or safety pin and attach it to the elastic. Thread it thought until the elastic appears at the other end. Sew the elastic together.DIY off the shoulder red top

8. Adjust and loosen the gathered fabric and voila!

DIY off the shoulder red top

I decided to leave the bottom hem raw a to add a bit of an edge to the top, but you can hem it if you prefer.

DIY off the shoulder topDIY off the shoulder topDIY off the shoulder top

Photos by Nicola Lemmon

See last year’s off the shoulder top here.

DIY HANGING LEATHER PLANTER

Because the studio is absolutely overflowing with plants these days, it seems silly not to experiment with as many different types of planters as possible. It’s pretty clear that you can fashion a planter out of pretty much anything, rope, chain and now a square of leather! Read on to see how you can make your own.

DIY Leather Box Planter

See yesterday’s post for details on buying the perfect white romper.

DIY Leather Box Planter

You need:

  • Succulents
  • Leather
  • Rope
  • Scissors
  • Multi Hole Punch
  • Ruler
  • Chalk Pencil or Pen

How to make leather box planters www.apairandasparediy.com

How to:

1. Measure the base and height of your plant pot.

How to make leather box planters www.apairandasparediy.com

2. First, draw a square based on the measurement of the base of your plant pot. Then add square wings on each side of the square according to the height of your plant pot.

How to make leather box planters www.apairandasparediy.com

3. Cut out your box template and punch holes 1cm (around half an inch) from the corner.

How to make leather box planters www.apairandasparediy.com

4. Cut 4 pieces of 90 cm (36 in) rope.

How to make leather box planters www.apairandasparediy.com

5. Attach the rope through the parallel holes with the know facing the inside.

How to make leather box planters www.apairandasparediy.com

6. Once you have attached all your pieces, it should look like this.

How to make leather box planters www.apairandasparediy.com

7. Place your succulent in the centre.

How to make leather box planters www.apairandasparediy.com

8. Hold up all your pieces of string to create your hanging leather box planter

How to make leather box planters www.apairandasparediy.comDIY Leather Box PlanterDIY Leather Box Planter

Photos by Nicola Lemmon