How to Actually Relax on Summer Vacation

Americans seem somewhat programmed to like the idea of vacation more than the actual practice of taking a vacation. Americans work long hours, and often don’t even take the vacation time that’s available to them. It seems to be a pervasive part of the culture in this country, and it’s not necessarily a positive thing.

Vacations are important for a lot more than having fun. Science says they’re good for your health. A study from the American Psychological Association showed that vacations help relieve stress. A separate study from the University of Vienna showed that when people took time off, they had fewer physical elements related to stress including headaches and backaches. Those benefits extended to weeks after their actual vacation.

Taking a vacation can have cardiovascular benefits, it can improve productivity, and it can also help improve sleep quality.

So, with all those physical and mental health benefits, don’t feel guilty about taking the time to de-stress.

Even when we take vacation time, however, we might not necessarily be relaxing the way we should. So how can you truly relax and unplug this summer if you’re taking a vacation?

How to Actually Relax on Summer Vacation - If you truly want to relax and reap the health-related benefits of a vacation, think outside the box. One idea is renting an RV and visiting somewhere quieter. You have the peace of the open road, and it’s less expensive.  Photo by Eugene Quek on Unsplash
Photo by Eugene Quek on Unsplash

Plan a Different Kind of Trip

Sometimes traveling and taking a vacation can in and of itself become stressful. Between the long security lines at the airport, the hustle and bustle of travel hubs, and the high costs of traveling, you may feel more stressed than when you started.

If you truly want to relax and reap the health-related benefits of a vacation, think outside the box. One idea is renting an RV and visiting somewhere quieter. You have the peace of the open road, and it’s less expensive. For example, RV rental site Outdoorsy cites the average RV rental price even in a high-priced city like San Francisco as only $189.95 a night.

In general, even if you’re not renting an RV, a good way to start out a relaxing vacation is to know you haven’t overextended yourself to make it happen. It’s tough to relax if you’re thinking about how you can’t afford your trip the whole time you’re on it.

Choose a Destination Where You Can Relax

When you’re choosing your destination, whether you’re taking a road trip or getting there in a different way, try to think about how easily you’re going to be able to relax once you arrive.

For example, if you’re going to Disney World, you may not feel very relaxed. It’s loud, crowded and there’s a tendency to want to rush around and get in all the experiences you can while you’re there.

Does that mean Disney World isn’t a great travel destination? Of course not, but if your goal is to truly relax, it may not be the ideal option.

Don’t Overschedule

When we plan a vacation, there’s this desire to feel like we’re getting the full experience. You want to schedule your days to make sure you’re seeing it all and doing it all, but this can negate any benefits of relaxation you get. You’re still putting pressure on yourself, and putting yourself on a schedule.

Try not to do that. You can make plans for one activity a day while you’re away, but don’t try to cram everything in.

While you’re at it, don’t forget the importance of being flexible in your travel plans. We tend to get so stuck on one way of doing things that we then stress ourselves out to the point of not being able to enjoy our vacation.

Avoid the Email Trap

It’s hard to avoid your email while you’re on vacation these days. It’s on your phone, your computer and your tablet. Try to cut off your access to email while you travel. If you’re constantly even just seeing emails from back home and from your boss or coworkers, it changes the feel of your trip.

It can be tough to cut yourself off from access, but it can be valuable for your mental state.

Finally, avoid the temptation to make your entire travel experience about social media. When we put the pressure on ourselves to show our picture perfect vacations on Instagram of Facebook, we’re taking away from being present or in the moment. Don’t worry about taking pictures unless they’re photos you want to remember your trip. If you’re spending your entire trip trying to get that great photo that can show all your Instagram followers how much fun you’re having, you’ve really missed the point of the vacation.


My Four Year Running Anniversary

A reminder appeared in today's Facebook memories.  It's four years since I did my very first session of the Couch To 5k plan with GroupRun Blackburn. At the time, I had no idea how much it would change my life. Apart from a three month break for a knee injury (the L O N G E S T three months of my life) and the occasional holiday, I've been running three times a week for all that time. I've become a Group Leader (by mistake - long story), I've coached hundreds of people through the plan and beyond, I've made life-long friends and I've found a hobby that keeps me sane(ish).

My Four Year Running Anniversary

But things have moved on from then too. I've joined a running club, I've completed my first half marathon (with a second coming up very soon - EEK!) and my whole attitude to running has shifted from it being a place for me to be Bossy Nickie to a place for me to challenge myself and push myself further than I ever imagined.

The other day I shared a 'side by side' photo on Instagram and a Facebook group as a six month update for running and weight loss.  During that time I've swung between doubting my ability as a runner but also enjoying upping my distance to tackle the half marathon distance - something that I never thought would even be achievable at the beginning of the year.

My Four Year Running Anniversary - photos from East Lancs Hospice 10k and Wesham Summer 10k - both in 2018
Neither are flattering photos and I have to stop doing that thing with my thumbs!

The picture on the left was taken in January at the end of the East Lancs Hospice 10k. I'd run with a friend on her debut 10k and we'd both found the run tough but enjoyable - we were very glad to see the finish line though! The picture on the right was taken in May about 2/3 of the way round the Wesham Summer 10k. In between those races I've completed the Darwen Half Marathon, changed my training schedule to include one off-road run a week and one long run a week and I've lost almost two stone in weight. The times I clocked for each 10k race were 1.21.54 (January) and 1.11.07 (May) - a full 10 minutes difference!! Now, it's obvious from those times that I'm a slow plodder but this one comparison gave me a much needed boost just when I was starting to feel a bit meh about all the training I was doing.

I always get amazing support from my fellow club members and the gang that I run with regularly but something my boss said to me this week also put everything into perspective. I was explaining about the long run training required for a half marathon and mentioned the 10-mile run last week and the 11-mile run planned for this week. She looked at me and said, "Ten miles? Ten actual miles? That's like from here to..." and she couldn't even think of anywhere 10 miles away to compare it to. So I explained about our community running group sessions keep me going and how much my runner friends inspire me but she turned back and said, "Ten miles... on a Friday... after work? You underestimate yourself."

And, yes, I probably do. It's no secret that I find running really hard work every time I set foot out of the door. I'm not one of these people that can go out and 'lose myself for an hour' whilst running.  But I look at those two pictures, I see the weight loss, I count up the miles that I've run since the beginning of the year and I think I'm ready to accept that all the hard work is actually having a positive effect. If I can accomplish those small goals in just six months, where could I be by the end of the year?

I miss my Couch To 5k sessions like I miss smoking. It's something I had to give up to improve in other areas - but it's also something I crave. Even after four years, I'm still very much involved in GroupRun Blackburn as I'm part of the Management team and I run all the Facebook pages for the plan. It's wonderful to see people that I coached and/or ran with either continuing to be part of the running community in the may ways that we offer, progressing up to 10k and even taking the leap to join Blackburn Road Runners themselves.

So, aside from all the training, there hasn't really been anything else going on this month.  I've been micro-blogging each run on Instagram (you can follow me over there if you like) because it feels easier to analyse everything by breaking it down like that.  I'm convinced my non-runner friends are bored with all the running talk but I suppose they can scroll past or unfollow if they don't like it, can't they?

But one lovely thing that did happen on social media at the beginning of the month was being tagged in the tweet below.  I got a bit emosh about the fact that my own half marathon recap helped someone else calm themselves down before their own half marathon and I've found a new twitter buddy to my ever-growing list of "Sole Mates".  Bonus!

I've only got a couple more training sessions this month and then the Southport Half Marathon is on Sunday 1st July.  If you're in the area on the day and see me limping past, looking like I'm about to burst into tears, give me a shout or chuck me a jelly baby and tell me to get the fuck on with it!  I'm expecting to finish in around 2 hours 45 minutes - just in time for lunch!


Things My Husband Wants For His Birthday

Every year I have the same conversation with my husband about what he wants for his birthday.  I ask the question and he never knows so I've put together a list of the presents that he may or may not be receiving this year and then I've at least got something to go on. Feel free to add to the list because I'm all out of inspiration! 

Things My Husband Wants For His Birthday
Photo by Audrey Fretz on Unsplash

Camping Equipment

My husband goes away a couple of times a year to motorbike rallies - it's his "thing" and his favourite one is usually on the same weekend as his birthday. Now, he has literally everything for camping - the luxury blow up bed, the super warm sleeping bag, all the cooking equipment but he was short of a decent camping lamp. I found one from Varta - the Outdoor Sports Comfort Lantern - which uses amber light effectively (reducing bugs and insects by 60%)
camping lamp and is also waterproof, pretty robust and has hooks for hanging at the top and bottom.  Perfect! 

Power Bank

We have so many power banks in the house now but they are so useful - you can never have enough in my opinion. We're on our mobile phones so much more these days and the battery life of a phone (or tablet) isn't relative to the time spent on it so a quick charge with a portable powerbank does the trick. Varta offer a slimline powerbank (6000 mAh) which will charge a phone twice and doesn't take up too much room in a jacket pocket or a bag. 

Personalised Keyring

Ok, another recommendation from Hope House Press. I know I mention them in almost every gift guide but they keep coming up with brilliant ideas.  This personalised keyring (originally released for Father's Day) is fab!  It can be carried loose in a pocket but it can also be opened and attached to a belt loop too.  The personalisation can be plain embossing, gold, rose gold or silver and at £9.00 it's a steal! 

Subscription Box For Blokes

Every month I receive a Birchbox through the post. It's a little box of joy full of make-up and beauty samples.  I noticed the offered one for blokes too but it was a limited edition for Father's Day (shame) but it got me thinking about something similar as an ongoing gift.  I found a selection on All Subscription Boxes but socks and grooming kits seem to be the favourite d'jour! 

Magazine Subscription

Leading on from the above suggestions, I always think a magazine subscription is the gift that keeps on giving! I bought a Private Eye one for my dad one Christmas and he used to save the magazines up and send them to me once every few months too but he also resubscribed at the end of the 12-month run because he was enjoying it so much!  I've worked with in the past so really can recommend using their service and they have a fantastic selection to choose from. 


My husband won't admit it but I think he's secretly pleased that I have a fascination with stationery. He's not adverse to using a "nice" pen to write with and he's forever poking around looking for a new notebook to use for his scribblings.  We are both fans of the Filofax refillable notebook (I prefer the A5, he likes the pocket size) because of the adaptability of the dividers and because you can change the order of the pages if you need to but I wanted to get him something a bit more special.  I found out that I could order a leather notebook cover from Executive Pens Direct, have it personalised and then just change the notebook when needed.  


Hands up if your husband struggles to buy any type of swim shorts before he goes on holiday.  I know mine is an absolute nightmare. He hates clothes shopping at the best of times so online shopping is the only compromise.  I managed to find some great swim trunks at Simply Swim which will be a nice surprise for him!

Things My Husband Wants For His Birthday

I'm sure you're bored of reading my disclaimers these days but I like to be transparent. There are a few of these links that are collaborations with brands but I wouldn't dream of recommending them if I really didn't rate the products. I will also mention companies that I've worked with in the past that I've continued to use and/or buy from with my own hard earned cash. If you want to read more about this you can check out my disclosure policy

School’s out – 1 in 2 Brits abroad willing to take their kids away in term time

School’s out – 1 in 2 Brits abroad willing to take their kids away in term time - Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

50% of UK holidaymakers are happy to take their children out of school during term time, a new survey has revealed.

The 1,500-people survey, released today by UK package travel retailer Holiday Hypermarket, highlighted the familiar clichés of Brits abroad, but it also showed that a growing number of UK holidaymakers – 49% of those surveyed – are willing to remove their children from school during term time, whether that is to save money or simply for convenience.

The full list of characteristics most associated with a Brit abroad can be seen below:

Terrible sunburn
Drinking before 12pm
Not learning the language
Searching for hours for English food
Having a fry-up abroad
Packing tea bags
Socks and sandals
Reserving sun loungers with towels
Talking about the weather at home
Constantly checking the weather
Novelty towels
Buying items from beach sellers
Not sure / other characteristic

Holiday Hypermarket representative Craig Duncan comments, “It’s interesting to see what people associate with the term ‘Brits abroad’, especially as this survey was carried out in the UK. I wonder how this would compare with what our European neighbours think?”

The survey explores a wide range of opinions relating to package holidays abroad and revealed a number of intriguing and, sometimes comical, insights.

In addition to those happy to pay to book a sunbed, one in four of those surveyed are also prepared to get up early to reserve their prime sunbed spot by the pool. And the pool is where we are happiest, with 38% of us preferring to hang out there, in comparison with 32% who prefer the beach (30% are unsure).

Overall, beach package holidays still rule the roost with 62% of us opting for this getaway type over others. As far as families are concerned, there are a number of debates that continue to cause a stir across social media and beyond.

49% of people think it’s OK for parents to take their kids out of school for holidays, with 26% against the idea and 25% on the fence.

And when we’re on holiday, 65% of people think it’s unacceptable for kids to use mobiles or tablets at the dinner table. This has risen from 56% in 2015. So are we dialling down our tech more than ever, in favour of connecting with our families when on holiday?

While this may be true, interestingly, over 40% of parents part company with their children while on holiday, using the very accommodating kids’ clubs. Another topic for debate.

Duncan continues, “There are many debates surrounding holidays but one thing’s for sure; singles, couples and families all need downtime and are willing to spend more for a better experience. At the same time, if there are savings to be made, people will take holidays at times that are more convenient, which is understandable given the wider financial pressures of life.”

The perception of Brits abroad continues to be a comical one of sunburn, fry-ups and morning drinking, but there are more serious issues, too, and the debate on whether children should be allowed to go on holiday with their parents during term time is one that continues to divide opinion.


REVIEW : ZeroWater - Getting More Out Of Your Water

REVIEW : ZeroWater - Getting More Out Of Your Water

Back in January, my running club set a 12-month health and fitness challenge for 2018 and the first challenge was to drink a minimum of two litres of water per day.  It worked really well for me as I already drink buckets of the stuff (or so I thought) and it helped me to kick start my new diet too. At the beginning of the year, if you'd have told me that my most favourite kitchen gadget would end up being my water filter jug, I'd have laughed in your face.  There's nothing wrong with British tap water - in fact, we are extremely lucky to be able to drink "corporation pop" without having to treat it or rely on bottled water. 

But the ZeroWater filter jug is a bit of a game changer.

We all know that a lack of water intake can cause stress, lack of sleep, headaches and even muscle strain. According to their blurb, ZeroWater is the only gravity-fed filtration system to match the TDS* levels found in purified bottled water so the result is amazing tasting water straight from the tap. 

The ZeroWater jug has a unique filter technology system that combines five sophisticated technologies to remove virtually all dissolved solids from the tap water and these filters are also the only pour-through filters on the market that are certified by the NSF (The Public Health And Safety Organisation) to reduce lead. 

REVIEW : ZeroWater - Getting More Out Of Your Water

To filter your tap water, you just fill the "well" at the top of the jug and leave it for a few minutes to filter through into the jug. You have to do this twice to completely fill the 2 litre jug that I have.  And that is literally it!  And with the jug being the size it is, I know that I would need to drink the whole jug full to maintain my recommended daily intake but I've found that I'm drinking more. It also fits neatly in the fridge (although I had to move my shelves around a bit as I have the smallest fridge in the world) so you can have fresh, filtered, cold water whenever you want! 

The only thing you have to keep your eye on is the performance level of the filter and you're provided with a special test meter to do this.  You just dip it into a glass of filtered water and check the reading against the information provided and change the filter when reading reaches a certain figure.  Your filter should last around 2-3 months and replacement filters cost £20 (although buying in bulk reduces the cost per filter). 

There's loads of extra information on the Zerowater website including a FAQ section about filtered water and also an area where you can submit your water quality reading in return for a £5 discount voucher for your next replacement filter order. 

Shop here :

(available in various sizes and prices from just £24.99)

Follow here : Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

* "Dissolved solids" refer to any minerals, salts, metals, cations or anions dissolved in water. Total dissolved solids (TDS) comprise inorganic salts (principally calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates) and some small amounts of organic matter that are dissolved in water.  Source

This review is a collaboration with ZeroWater. 
Please read my disclosure policy for more information


My Bikini Body... Revisited

A few months ago I found some old pictures of myself; a time when I didn't appreciate the body I had and didn't think twice about fitting into a swimsuit or bikini. 

My Bikini Body... Revisited

As time has gone on, I've become more body-conscious but have also realised that a lot of the pressure to have a 'perfect body' comes from my own perception of what is printed in the media. Almost four years ago to the day I wrote about this in a blog post - 'This Isn't The Body I Want But It's The Body I've Got' - where I sort of conclude with the thought that I wish I was as fat as I was when I first though I was fat... but it doesn't really matter because it's only really me and the Daily Mail that cares, isn't it?  Fast forward to 2018 and I'm finally on track with fitness and weight loss in a way that I'm happy about.

A few weeks ago, we went on holiday to Tenerife. I fancied some new 'sitting out in the sun and looking like a supermodel' type swimwear so I read loads of articles about how to find the right style of swimsuit for your body (or draw attention away from the most disliked parts of my body which has changed drastically over the years) and tried to work out how many different coloured bikinis I would need to have just the right amount of 'mix and match' outfits but then I gave myself a bit of a shake. 

My Bikini Body... Revisited - swimwear from Simply BeachMy Bikini Body... Revisited - swimwear from Simply Beach

I forced myself to not look at the size on the label and find something that would be comfortable enough to sit on a sun lounger whilst sipping a cold drink and reading my Kindle for a few hours a day. I had to take my own advice about not conforming to a particular size or shape, especially when age and lifestyle has a lot to answer for in the way my body looks at the moment.

But... after finding a style that suited me, for the first time in many years I felt a bit more confident about walking around the pool wearing a swimsuit and actually get a little colour on my skin. And, if we're being totally honest, no-one is really looking at me anyway - and I'm OK with that. 


The "hashtag not sponsored" section : I hate writing this paragraph but it's necessary. Occasionally I collaborate with companies to share a link that I'm happy to recommend - in this instance it was Simply Beach who sell the most amazing swimwear for all shapes and sizes.  Please see my disclosure policy for more details about why I partners with companies like this and why I'll only recommend products that I have tried and love. 


6 holiday tips for first time travellers to Mykonos

Mykonos is an island famous for its beautiful beaches, wild nightlife, and luxurious resorts. Greek is the official language and the winters are mild while the summers are hot and dry. There is a lot more to the island than just preening celebrities, dazzling sand and parties. Just start planning your trip and book a villa in Mykonos with a pool. Like every Greek island, Mykonos carries a certain charm that sets it apart from the rest. Wander the colourful streets and feel the vibrant energy of locals. Mykonos has something for everyone and read on to know some useful tips for the first time travellers.

6 holiday tips for first time travellers to Mykonos
Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

When to go

Whichever time you decide to visit, you are sure to fall in love with the breath-taking scenery, the food, and the atmosphere. The weather is perfect during spring, and this is the prime time to see Mykonos. June and September are the warmest months, and the water is perfect for swimming. Weather is still charming from May till October.

Where to stay

There is a wide range of options when it comes to staying in Mykonos. You can stay at a villa or at a resort near Mykonos. The island is packed with guesthouses, restaurants, and hotels near the waterfront. The town is bustling with restaurants and cafes. You have two options as to where to stay, first, near the beach areas of Mykonos and second, right in the middle of the town where most of the action happens. Book your hotel before you go.

What are the typical costs

The lodging expenses can start from 15 EUR per night for the cheap hostels, and the prices can go up to 30 EUR per night. A little pricier option can start for 50 EUR per night. While you can find cheap street food, eating can be expensive in Mykonos. Even a small dinner of just pasta can cost you 24 EUR! You can stick to local stretch food or cook your meals. As for the transport, you can rent a moped or scooter for 22 EUR. One can also travel by buses and hiring taxis can be expensive. Keep in mind that the holiday costs can go up during the summer. Also ensure you carry a small sized backpack as carry on luggage only. You don’t want to end up spending a lot on luggage costs if you are flying low cost airlines, your fare is almost double with a check-in bag. Check out some cool backpacks for Europe here and choose wisely. 

Where to eat

Mykonos is an ideal place to indulge your taste buds, and it is hard to keep away from the fresh fish and visions of tangy. The island will not disappoint you when it comes to food. Enjoy incredibly tasty and homemade pasta at Pasta Fresca Barkia. If you want to enjoy Greek lasagna- pastitsio, then La Casa is the perfect spot. Enjoy your extra buttery and delicious pastitsio and watch the life go by. There is a range of traditional Greek restaurants here where you can enjoy loukamades and delicious homemade ice cream. Try the fresh Greek yogurt in fresh strawberry flavor. Their Greek salad and tzatziki is simply delicious at Pepper.

Where to shop

Mykonos is lined with cute boutiques and is fun to go shopping. Buy gifts for friends and family at Anamnesia that sells designs from local Greek artists. The shopping streets here are lined with fashion boutiques, art stores, and touristy shops. Check out Mavrogenous street for Greek designers and if looking for casual fashion, head for Little Venice. Rarity Gallery and Art & Soul are some of the quirky art galleries.

What to do

Mykonos will keep you overwhelmed when it comes to fun-filled activities. It is the perfect blend of sea and sun, and there is plenty of swimming, sight-seeing, and dancing to keep you busy.

  • Both beginners and advanced divers can explore the walls, caves, and wrecks and the most reputable beaches are Lia and Kalafatis beaches where you will also find famous diving centers.
  • Visit the Unesco World Heritage site of sacred island of Delos which is a mythical birthplace of Aphrodite and Apollo. You can take the boat trips from the pier in Hora to reach the sacred island.
  • As Mykonos has a hilly interior, there are plenty of backcountry roads, deserted beaches and tranquil villages, where one can enjoy mountain biking. Look for mountain-biking tours based on your skill level.
  • Enjoy the fabulous free show on earth from prime spots for sunsets. Head for Agios Ioannis beach, Kato Mili or the bars of Little Venice in Hora. 
  • Mykonos doesn’t lack options when it comes to swimming, and one can take the plunge from infinity pools at leading resorts or explore the beautiful sandy beaches of the island.
  • Try your hand at activities such as wakeboarding, flyboarding, and wakeskating. There are lessons for the beginners and guidance for the experts.
  • Hire a boat to experience Mykonos from a distance. Discover hidden beaches and coves, and it is worth renting an ATV.
  • Another right spot to watch the sunset from the windmills. There are 16 windmills along the southern tip of Mykonos town. Just bring a blanket and get ready and cozy for the sunset.
  • There plenty of museums in Mykonos and one can visit Folklore Museum, The Archaeological Museum, Agricultural Museum, and Lena’s House Museum& Boni Mill.
  • If you are a diver, go for scuba diving around Mykonos. There are lots of fish, corals and even a few wrecks.
  • Explore the Elia Beach that happens to be the longest stretch of white sands. You will love the transparent waters, and enjoy great food and drinks at tavernas and bars.
6 holiday tips for first time travellers to Mykonos
Photo by Karsten Koehn on Unsplash

This is a collaborative post. For more details please view my disclosure policy
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