Category Archives: Travel Gear

Advice on what to buy for travel

Zero Waste Products – The Beginner’s Guide

Eco Friendly Products Used in Everyday Life Go Plastic Free

Why the sudden switch from tanning on beaches to cleaning up beaches, Gemma? Good question! Recently, Scotland’s top content creators grouped together to take part in the first cross-network (bloggers, vloggers, IGers) campaign, #shoreyoucare, and it is making waves. Since the educational event and beach clean, I’ve spent the last month researching the best zero waste products used in everyday life from bags to brushes.

This guide will detail how to go plastic-free, reducing our single-use plastic purchases by switching to more environmentally friendly products. This is not a preachy post, going completely plastic-free is impossible and I will highlight the problems caused by businesses and government but the #shoreyoucare event has opened my eyes and hopefully, this article will show you a few changes you can make too.

The Kilted Coaches Beach clean North Queensferry | Shore you care campaign

Rab and Stephen, The Kilted Coaches, getting their hands dirty (in style)

Use of Plastic in Daily Lives

From breakfast through to bedtime we are accustomed to using plastic in our daily lives.

Small changes can make a big difference and the biggest focus is on avoiding single-use plastic products.

The key is being organised and prepared. Admittedly, any attempt to go plastic-free in the past was down to me selfishly benefiting from cheaper products or spill-free travel.

This July I pledge to attempt to use more green products and will share my success (or lack of it) on our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

Here are some ideas for switching from plastic to plastic-free products.

Zero Waste Products

Disclaimer: I am part of the ‘progress, not perfection’ clan. I do understand that there will be readers who are militant and I applaud you but negative comments are not helpful – patience is key.

This is an organic (boom boom) process, a lifestyle change which takes time and mistakes. I am in no way advising readers to throw out all of their plastic on June 30th! Just consider the small changes as your plastic items run out/come to end of life.

Kitchen/Food + Drink on the Go

There are a few easy switches you can make in the kitchen, starting with food/drink storage.

Eco water bottles such as the popular and very attractive Chilly’s (UK only) or chunkier but practical Tree Tribe US / UK keep cold water cool and hot liquids hot.

After a night of research, I decided to go for the Tree Tribe bottle because I like the hook for attaching to my bag when hiking.

I’m happy to report that there was no plastic packaging. These reusable water bottles cut down single-use plastic bottles, you just have to remember to fill them up and take them with you. For glasses, we’ve always used old pasta/jam jars (to my Dad’s annoyance!)

Tree Tribe Bottle Gift

Coffee drinkers, please put down the disposable cup!

The majority of paper cups are not recyclable (unless they use Vegware or similar) but there are alternatives on the market, again it’s about being prepared.

KeepCup US / UK are currently on-trend but the lid is made of plastic while the cup is glass.

Keep Cup

Thanks to a local zero waste Facebook group, I’ve sourced a local milk delivery who uses glass bottles and charge 85p for one.

Unfortunately, they don’t do yoghurt, we go through two cartons a week.

I’m just back from a hen weekend in Liverpool and the number of plastic straws was ridiculous – we’re talking two straws to one glass.

The solution?

Bring your own bamboo cutlery set US / UK which come with a cleaning brush. Annoyingly, people keep stealing them on nights out.

Bamboo Cutlery Straw

We are very guilty of using too much tin foil and single-use sandwich bags but that’s about to change now we have collapsible Tupperware boxes US / UK.

These babies flatten down so you can carry in your bag, took them to Liverpool on the hen weekend, brilliant!)

Other like beeswax wrap for pulling over tubs. 

A cheaper alternative than wraps would be glass bottle storage. Not just for the hipsters!

Collapsable Tupperware Collapsable Tupperware Tubs

Now for under the kitchen sink. My Gran has always said that vinegar can be used for a variety of everyday activities and it is a family tradition to use white vinegar to clean windows.

This vinegar can also be used for cleaning floors and worktops too. Another bonus is that it nasty chemical-free. I add a lemon drop of lemon oil to take away the strong chip shop smell. 

Finding vinegar that comes in a glass bottle has been a challenge!

Aldi advised me they recently switched from glass to plastic. 

Soda bicarbonate with water is another alternative for cleaning kitchens, bathrooms, and clogged sinks.

After months of persevering with bicarbonate, I have reverted back to Cif for cleaning bathrooms.

Craig and I volunteered at a hostel on Canada’s Sunshine Coast and the main material for laundry cleaning was soap nuts which are placed in a bag and put in with the washing. 

I’ve now tried this at home and I’m not a fan so we’re back on boxed detergent. 


Bathroom/Toiletries Eco-Products

Those following the #shoreyoucare event will know that cotton buds were found in our plastic tide. Follow in many of the UK supermarkets footsteps by opting for alternatives like non-plastic. 

They actually say you shouldn’t put anything bigger than your elbow in your ear but I love cleaning my ears, it’s therapeutic! It freaks Craig out about how much I enjoy it.

I’ve invested in Truthpaste after reading rave reviews. It was expensive in comparison to a tube of Colgate but it is made of natural ingredients and lasts for two months apparently.

Update, I didn’t love it. I’ve since tried other ranges and have settled on alternating tooth tabs and tubes of toothpaste. 

I now use a toothbrush with a biodegradable bamboo-based handle and charcoal brushes US / UK.

Finding floss was a bit of a challenge but settled on Georganics US / UK – at five times the price of plastic floss.

All of these products were boxed, no plastic used by the original company.

Update, absolutely love it, worth every penny.

I’ve always used Lush’s solid shampoo and conditioner for travelling as it means no spills. It comes in a tin but there’s an issue if you are travelling each day as there is no time for the shampoo bar to dry out and remain solid.

Lush isn’t local to me either which is an issue as I’m rarely in the city for shopping. Militants don’t recommend the company because of their use of ‘safe sulphates’.

Another downside of Lush is that I struggle to use their fresh products by the sell-by date (for face masks and cleansers) but their tubs are recyclable and you get a free face mask when you return five.

I do really like their products.

Moving forward, I am happy to make the change to using solid shampoo and conditioner full time, I just need to find a more accessible option like this award-winning 5-in-1 for replacing in-between city trips. We’re ditching our regular liquid body washes for soap.

Deodorant! Quite an unusual change to go from a roll-on stick to a product you scoop out of a tin but my new friend Bex is a big fan so I’m going to give it a try. Alternatively, check out the stick variations on Etsy.

From the age of 19, I’ve suffered from painful acne on my chin, really sore boil-like spots that rarely come to head (I’ve been on Roaccutane three times).

I’ve been acne-free for a year now and I’m not sure if it is age or the fact I switched from using liquid face cleaners to cleanser melts (by Lush) which you remove with a cloth (plastic-free).

For those who use make-up remover, consider this plastic-free option – replace cotton wool/pads (which come in plastic) with material ones. You can buy them on Etsy or make your own. Also good for removing nail varnish.

TOTM, I was horrified to see plastic tampon containers amongst the seaweed on North Queensferry beach and have always been curious about menstrual cups so it is time to ditch the pads.

The most popular menstrual cup on the market is the Diva Cup which comes in different sizes. To insert you, sit relaxed on the toilet, flatten the cup and fold in half creating a ‘C’ shape then place inside using your thumb and index finger. The cup should then unfold. You can use the cup for up to 8 hours.

To remove, pinch the bottom and pull the stem which hangs outside. Dispose of the blood down the toilet, rinse and reinsert. To keep clean, at the end of your period wash in unscented soapy water.

To sanitise you can boil the cup in water but avoid it touching any sides as it will lose shape. The cup is made from silicone which is durable, while the lifespan recommendation is around one year.

Let’s do the maths – tampons at around $3/£2.27 nine times per year, $27/£21 (ish – you probably don’t use a full pack of tampons per period though) which works out around the same price as the menstrual cup but no waste and it lasts longer than one year!

New on the scene, period pants. Feel a little heavier than a pair of pants but soak up any liquid so you are not sitting a wet nappy. Highly recommend, Period pants.

I’ve got the ‘pretty’ ones but my friend prefers the ‘sassy’

Finally, toilet roll and this is the one product I am probably not going to going plastic-free for at this time.

Seventh Generation is one of the biggest players on the market for recycled toilet paper but the reviews are inconsistent – too thin and expensive. Similar reviews are said about Who Gives A Crap (UK) but I do like their marketing!

My Progress

[table id=3 /]

 

Plastic Challenge

This is a lifestyle choice for me but the idea started when I heard about the Go Plastic Free campaign.

This campaign is similar to the campaign by the Marine Conservation Society (Plastic Challenge #GOplasticfree) who delivered a workshop during the #shoreyoucare campaign at the Doubletree Hilton at North Queensferry. Catherine, the presenter, had a real infectious personality.

Not only did the presentation and activities change my outlook on life (wet, I know, sorry) but also my focus for Two Scots Abroad. I’ve been discussing plastic use and your support on our social media channels (predominately during Trash Talk Tuesdays on Instagram Stories) shows you care too.

So what’s next? This July you can pledge to go plastic-free too. It will be hard, it is a challenge after all, but by doing so we’re not only reducing our single-use plastic usage but also raising awareness and saying yes to zero waste!

What To Do Next

  1. Join the Plastic Free Campaign – sign up here (it’s free, you get information)
  2.  Look out for free zero waste Facebook groups in your area for support
  3. Follow our Trash Talk Tuesdays on Instagram Stories for my progress
  4.  Switch single-use plastic for more sustainable options (see table above)
  5.  Carry a cloth bag with you
  6. Order milk in glass bottles with a return scheme
  7. Explain to others why you are saying no to plastic – people love it!
  8. Watch Erin Beauty Creep and The Kilted Coaches videos of our beach clean

Eco-Friendly Products Used in Everyday Life | Go plastic free

Why is plastic bad for the environment?

It’s estimated that over 300 billion pieces of plastic are ruining the Arctic Ocean, some of which will lasts forever.

I know we are all doing our bit by putting plastic in the correctly coloured bin but still, thousands of marine life die every day because they think our junk is their meal.

We’ve all seen the video of the whale that died from eating 80 plastic bags eh? Watch below if not.

Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it just gets smaller and smaller. Companies that work with plastic often use plastic pellets called nurdles.

These nurdles end up in our oceans at the ports or during shipment. Nurdles were the biggest offender during our beach clean.

As you can see from our survey findings below, plastic/polystyrene made up over three-quarters of our find. 

Alasdair Neilson from the local marine charity, Fidra, highlighted the issue of nurdles during our talks.

Fidra is also known as the nurdle hunters and wants to know if there are nurdles near you. You can join them in their hunt through the Operation Clean Sweep.

What’re the issues with nurdles? Animals think they’re food, 95% of dead gulls, terns and fulmars studied in the North Sea had traces of nurdles in their stomachs.

The event ended with a boat tour with Forth Tours where we spotted seals and puffins, it really put into perspective what will be lost.

Our oceans have no boundaries, this plastic pollution impacts all of us. Jokes aside about a message in a bottle but a bottle dumped in Canada can make its way to Cornwall!

On a positive note, kudos to the UK Government for banning microbeads in cosmetics. Still, a long way to go though.

We had the pleasure of listening to Robbie from Fife’s Coast and Country Trust (my local area) who was baffled at the number of sanitary products and condoms flushed down the toilet.

The findings of our beach clean confirmed this annoyance with just under one-quarter of the survey being sanitary waste.

Robbie asked why do schools not discuss the safe disposal of these products when they educate young people on how to use them?

Beach clean survey results

The challenge with the plastic-free challenge

We are not denying that big businesses are cock-blocking us in our fight against single-use plastic.

Those who have been following my Trash Talk Tuesdays on Instagram Stories will know that supermarkets have a lot to answer for – unnecessary plastic packaging around fruit and vegetables (they have natural packaging in the form of skin), surprise plastic packaging on goods which are already packed in boxes and plastic bags.

In Scotland and England in an attempt to avoid plastic bags, the Scottish Government put a ban on free bags so we pay 5p+.

I distinctly remember food shopping at Willie Lows in the 80s and we packed our food in boxes which were free to use at the side of the checkout.

♥ The solution? Remove plastic packaging at the supermarket, let them deal with the recycling and send a message that we don’t need it. I’ve only done this once in a bigger supermarket, felt too awkward in the wee Co-op up the road.

> Our local supermarkets (Asda and Tesco in Dunfermline) won’t let us use our own Tupperware for meat and fish.

♥ The solution? Is there a community or farmers market near you? Or a delivery van or butchers/fish shop? Ask in your local zero waste Facebook group.

> It can be expensive. Dental floss that was once £1 is now £10, getting fruit delivered for one is not an option at £14 and a trip to Lush costs me a train ride plus the product.

♥ The solution? Prioritise what you can do. One member of the Zero Waste FB group said it is progress, not perfection. Can you get creative and make alternatives yourself? Old tops for make-up removal pads maybe?

> Our local fruit shop is in the town of Dunfermline, 10 minutes’ drive from our home and there is no free parking near the fruit shop. Alternatively, I have to drive 25 minutes to my childhood town of Burntisland for free parking. This (or walking) is not realistic for busy families who work full time. We are lucky to have two bakers and one butcher in our small hometown that we buy from often. Annoyingly single rolls are packed in single-use bags yet pastries come in paper bags in one baker.

♥ The solution? Prioritise as mentioned above and tell the shops why you don’t want plastic bags, dialogue makes change. I’ve not had any negative response from shop owners so far.

So What are Sustainable Products?

Sustainable products consider the resources that they are made from and the process by which they are made. Although there is a shift towards wood and paper-based products in the go plastic movement, sustainable literature would point to how wood fibre is recycled.

The use of hazardous substance elements is also a focus of sustainable product analysis.

Its life cycle impact on global climate change and renewable energy may also be addressed. Socio-economic issues from design to end of life also impact on the sustainability of the product. Consider, in an attempt to go plastic-free is it worth purchasing products that have been shipped from another country taking its carbon footprint on-board? I know this is a discussion amongst the environmentalists in the vegan community. Buy less, experience more!

Conclusion

The quest to create a plastic-free environment in our homes is going to be a tough one but focusing on the reduction of single-use plastic is a great starting point.

We are often guilty of wearing rose-tinted glasses when we look to the past but frequent discussions have highlighted that paper bags were the norm, families shopped at their local grocers on high streets and the lack of disposable income benefited the environment because water was poured from the tap and not £1 plastic bottles.

Going plastic-free not only protects our marine life but also supports local businesses! I hope that you have found our guide to eco-friendly products used in every day more useful than a single-use plastic bag.

Are you in?
What is the experience in your country like?
Tell me in the comments below.

 

10 DIY Gift Ideas To Save You Money

Thrifty Homemade Gift Ideas

Looking for DIY Christmas gift ideas for all of the family? The festive period can be overwhelming and expensive so why not take the time to connect with the gifts you plan to give to loved ones and save some cash by making them yourself?

Let’s get our creative hands dirty with these tried and tested, cheap and cheerful, homemade gift ideas. No breaking the bank while saving for travel, weddings, babies, houses or that trip to the Canadian Rockies.

Handmade Gifts They Won’t Know Are Handmade

1. Great Gift Bake Off

This super cheap gift idea is running as strong as the TV programme, even if it has moved channel and is supporting new presenters.

Making a cake shows the receiver that you have spent time nurturing their present from shopping for ingredients to wrapping the dessert.

Take time to present the cake in a cute fashion using a nice container, basket or wrapping paper with string.

Things to Consider

When choosing which cake to bake think about the following:

  • What does the recipient like?
  • Do they have a connection to a cake for example a trip or previous celebration?
  • Dietary requirements
  • What ingredients are available to you?
  • What utensils do you have?
  • Storage space, fridges tend to be very busy around Christmas time
  • Do you have to travel far with it?
  • How well does it package up?

You also need to consider the cake’s shelf life.

Fresh fruit and cream cakes last 1-2 days, sponge cake with buttercream and fondant icing can stretch to 5 days

Type of Cakes That Work As Gifts

  • Cheesecake if eating immediately, get crafty like my mother-in-law’s business does does with Easter eggs!
  • Tray bakes, we actually had a tray bake wedding cake!
  • Shortbread, travels well and lasts for ages
  • Sponge cake with buttercream and fondant icing
  • Types of cake bread such as banana and walnut

If going for a sponge cake, stick a note to let the recipient know if it goes stale it can be added to trifle! DIY gifts are great for recycling and zero waste too.

Here’s a picture of two famous Hungarian cakes.

Cake Budapest, Taste Hungary

2. Homemade Candles

If you are not crazy for cooking why not try melting up a storm with homemade candles?

Wax, wick, and scent can be purchased for relatively cheap online and is actually fun to play with.

You can buy the items separately or as a part of a candle making kit which you can see here – UK readers click this link, US readers click here.

Charity shop-bought teacups make a nice holder or candle filled jam jars is a new hip idea hitting the shops!

How to Make a Teacup Candle

  • Get the teacup, wick, wax, scent, metal melting pot with pouring edge and a pot full of water ready
  • Place the bottom of the wick on the bottom of the teacup, consider using a glue gun (UK/US)
  • Bring the water to boil
  • Add the wax to the metal pouring pot and place into the boiling water
  • Add the scent if it’s not already mixed into the wax
  • Pour the molten wax into the teacup ensuring the wick stay upright
  • Let the wax harden naturally

The wax clean up can be a bit of a mess so go easy on the pour and be prepared to lose a pot if not buying as part of a kit.

I made teacup candles as gifts for family one Christmas and my friend Liz used them as favours at her wedding.

Candle Teacups DIY Gift_

3. Tasty Tea Gifts

A tea package or hamper is a fantastic idea for friends and family who love brew.

Creating a Tea-rific Hamper

  • Loose tea in different flavours
  • A tea strainer like this super cute Loch Ness Monster strainer UK/US
  • Vintage tea cups and saucers or a mug with a design that means something like this Schitt’s Creek mug UK/US
  • Unique tea spoons like these guitar shaped ones UK/US
  • A nice pack or box of biscuits for dunking

I love tea and I love giving and receiving mugs which have a connection. Last year I got my mum a mug  which had a picture of the Derry Girls nun and one of her quotes on it. Hilarious.

Piper and Leaf Tea Lowe Mill Huntsville_

4. Homemade Hampers

Homemade hampers not only look impressive but they are also very personal and easy to compile.

Pick up a wicker basket for a budget shop and think about a theme your loved ones like.

Examples of Hampers

  • Soup hampers – bowls, spoons, salt and pepper shakers, insulated soup containers (UK/US), microwaveable Tupperware, nice bread, butter, soup
  • Chocolate hampers – hot chocolate, nice mugs, stirrer, marshmallow, cream, chocolate snacks, chocolate spread
  • Gin hampers – flavoured gin, stirrer, gin glass, gin cocktail book (UK/US), gin chocolate, gin candle, hangover relief
  • Beauty hampers – bath soaks, face mask, foot cream, cute fluffy bed socks

5. Spa in a Jar

I made spa in a jar for my friends who helped with my wedding party.

Use a mason jar or glass storage jar with a lid a pack with spa goodies such as bath melts, hair masks, heart shaped soaps, pillow spray.

Add a tag with their name and the words ‘spa in a jar’ on it or create a hip dymo label using a dymo machine UK/US .

6. Bar in a Jar

Same premise as the spa in the jar but with booze!

Stock up on your loved one’s preferred tipples. The bottles will need to be in miniature size for them to fit.

Throw in a packet of nuts and electrolytes (UK/US)for the hangover.

7. Family Calendar

With the growth in the digital age, no one prints out pictures anymore.

Give stale social media images a new leash of life by printing out and adding to a 12 month calendar!

You might find cheaper print deals by signing up for new apps so it is worth shopping around before heading to your local print centre.

You can get blank calendars is budget shops, sometimes for as low as £1.

Then all you need to do is glue the images to the months. What about matching birthday months with family members?

This was a popular gift in my family and my cousin has kept some of the images and framed them!

There are also a number of online companies that will print the calendar with the images for you but that tends to be more expensive this the DIY version.

Salar de Uyuni, Sunset Shots, Salt Flats,_

8. Love Notes

A modern take on a love note involves cheap tags and a stamp or sticker with numbers on them.

Stamp one side of the tag and write a promise or task or date night idea on the other.

Bring the tags together and connect with string or a clip.

Not in love? This can be adapted for friends or even promises to your parents!

Love Notes DIY Gift_

9. Music Mixtape

Select your favourite, their favourite, team favourite, songs, whack them on a Spotify playlist.

Name it something cute that means something to you and your loved one.

Throw in a dual headphone connector (UK / US) and listen to the playlist together.

10. Pretty Prints In Frames 

There are multiple options for prints in frames! One homemade gift idea could be to print out nicely typed up lyrics to a favourite song or poem and frame it.

A4 frames can be bought relatively cheap in pound/dollar shops.

Another gift idea, a personal favourite of mine for weddings, is to purchase a record of the first dance (if it is an oldy) and frame it.

LP frames can be purchased from Amazon /UK /US in plastic or metal form, depending on your budget

A sweet, personal touch, believe me, this gift always goes down well with the bride and groom!

Finally, acquire nicely printed wrapping paper from a card shop, cut out a heart, star, square etc and glue to card then frame it.

I did this for Craig’s birthday, cut into a heart around Southeast Asia as that was our next trip (you can read about the trip here).

Map Heart Shaped Card I Prints in Frames I Homemade Gift Ideas_

An obvious freeby thrown in….

Why don’t you do something (as Britney said)

Spend time with a loved one instead of buying commercial crap which may be given away to the work tombola the following year.

Homemade afternoon tea, long walks, cocktails – whatever your style.


Did you find this gift guide useful? Pin to your DIY Christmas gift board

Looking for DIY Christmas gifts that you can easily make at home? These cheap homemade Christmas gift ideas are quick and so successful they won't know they are handmade! Gifts for all the family, click to find out more.

Final Word Homemade Gift Ideas

Not everyone has to be a whizz with a whisk or a super with scissors, to create a welcomed thrifty homemade gift with a personal touch for loved ones at Christmas, birthdays, or life events!


Super Saving Articles

I’m a super saver! Here are more tips on how to save for travel, weddings, rainy days.

Our Gift Guides

See the full gift guide page here.

What ideas of yours can I steal? Tell me the comments below…

Best Credit Cards for Affordable Travel – For Brits!

You’ve saved hard, lived off pasta and had to bunk back at your folks’ home for half a year so don’t get ripped off spending money abroad! Fed up with only reading about points benefits for U.S credit and debit cards I’ve dug deep to research the best credit cards for travel for Scots and Brits (and debt and travel cards too).

Why do I need a Different Credit or Debit Card?

When travelling to different countries, whether they be European, or further afield, we are often hit with charges for using ATMs or making credit card transactions abroad.

This is not always necessary if you are willing to leave your day to day cards at home while you hang around Havana or laze around Lisbon.

Some of these debit and credit cards are free, others charge a monthly fee but also include other benefits such as car break down coverage in the UK, mobile phone insurance and the handy European travel insurance coverage.


⇨ Taking a trip? We saved £20K to travel for 18 months – check out our tips


What to look for

When researching for the ideal travel credit card you should look out for reviews on

  1. 0% foreign transaction fees (no fees on overseas) saving around 3% in fees.
  2. 24/7 contact from abroad (call/email/social media) for lost or stolen cards especially.
  3. Reliable online banking.
  4. APR (annual percentage rate – the rate you pay back at).
  5. Never take money out using the ATM using a credit card at home or abroad.

Best credit cards for travel (UK)

1. Credit Card: Post Office Mastercard Platinum 

This card has 0% foreign transaction fees, which is great, right? I used it for one month travelling around the USA and also in South East Asia for another 5 weeks. However the Post Office Mastercard has its flaws, and this is mainly down to the website.

It is not user-friendly, often difficult to understand and when I spoke with customer service about this over the phone they laughed, agreed and apologised. I even missed a bill payment due to the site being awkward, the customer service advisor waived the fee and stated that they get frequent complaints about the website.

There is an app but it receives 1.8 stars out of five.

There is also a very high APR coming in at 18.9% APR (up from 17% in 2014).

Advice: do not use a credit card with high APR unless to plan to pay off the full balance each month. A bonus is that the card is free of monthly or annual charges.

Pros

  • No overseas transaction fees.
  • No monthly/annual account fee.

Cons

  • Digital banking is poor.
  • Poor ratings for app.

Best Credit Cards to Use Abroad

Halifax Clarity Credit Card 

We are now using the Halifax Clarity Credit Card (since Lloyds has lost Amex, see below). 

Like the Post Office Platinum, there are no charges for using abroad. There is also the added bonus of no charge for withdrawing money from ATM aborad too, although some ATMs may charge. 

Another high APR at 19.9% means this is not the card to leave a balance on each month. 

There is no annual fee. 

Pros

  • No overseas transaction fees or ATM withdrawal.
  • No monthly/annual account fee.

Cons

  • Highest APR.

Lloyds Bank Avios Rewards Points Credit Card

This is no longer an option, unfortunately.

First, Lloyds switched from Avois to British Airways. This removed the function to use points for hotels and the points for BA are reserved for certain flights, mostly from London. Not great of us Scots. 

Then Lloyds recently announced that they are losing American Express altogether and you will be charged to use the Mastercard abroad. 

No use as a travel card.

Cons

  • Can no longer use abroad without being charged. 

What do you use? Tell us in the comments below


Using Debit Cards Abroad

Do not take money out of ATMs with your debit card abroad if you can.

Obviously, this is not an option for most people but this is where your purse is hit.

For example, I used my Royal Bank of Scotland debit card in the USA and South East Asia, we were hit with a fee of 2.75% and then up to £5 charge on each withdrawal. Why don’t I just bend over?

Nationwide Flex Account Debit Card

I wanted to go with a bank I was familiar with hence bypassing Norwich & Peterborough and Metro Bank who are both recommending elsewhere online. 

I had a dormant account with Nationwide from when they offered ‘no to very low’ charges on transactions overseas (back in the early 2000s when I went inter-railing around Eastern Europe).

I brought life back into this account because of the low 2% transaction fee for withdrawals overseas. This debit card account is free.

As of 2015, I now use the upgraded Nationwide Flex Plus account which has a monthly fee of £13.

With this, there are no charges of using ATMs abroad (just the rate of conversion), car break down in the UK and Europe, worldwide mobile phone insurance and free worldwide family European travel (including skiing bonus for Austria!)


⇨ For longer breaks we use True Traveller, I claimed in Vancouver for ear crystals (GP visit and two trips to the physio) and they paid out, fast.


Monzo – the New Kid on the Block

When I lived in Glasgow a new music club opened and to give the impression that it was thee place to be the stewards would hold back the queue making the desire to enter evident to anyone walking past.

Monzo is thriving a similar vibe! The pink card from the anti-tradition bank is only available to those with an invite.

Jokes aside, friends who have a Monzo UK account are buzzing about it. They like the speediness of the app which shows purchases as soon as they happen, money-saving settings, and ease of using abroad.

Pros

  • Free transactions abroad.
  • Instant notifications when spending.
  • Nifty app.
  • It’s like a club for cool kids. 

Cons

  • Withdraw limited to up to £200 every 30 days for free.
  • 3% charge after that.

A fellow traveller has also suggested CaxtonFX prepaid card which Money Saving Expert, Martin, says is decent if you want to withdraw money at ATMs but the exchange rate is determined by the company.

You top up online, the card is free and if you lose the card (or it gets stolen, same travelling friend’s boyfriend was a drugged and mugged victim!) you get the money back. However, I need to look into its use worldwide.

Las Penitas Leon Sunset Nicaragua Shadows

Super Saving Tips

Saving money? I can help you. I’m a super saver, yes the stereotypical tight Scot! Browse the following articles for more tips.

How do you deal with money overseas?
Please check the comments below for tips from readers too.

DrinkSafe Systems Travel Tap Review

Filtering and purifying water bottles

No one wants to get sick while they travel and one way to avoid it is to invest in a safe water filtering system. Luckily, today these sophisticated systems come in the shape of a handy water bottle! This guide will review our Drink Safe Systems Travel Tap bottle and discuss other options on the market too.

Although it is unlikely that you will need a filtering water system in most developed countries, you will need one for Less Economically Developed Countries. To check if the country you are visiting next has questionable water click here.

Why do I need Travel Tap (or other systems?)

  • Better for the environment
  • Cheaper in the long run
  • Questionable water in certain countries (specifically LEDCs) could make you sick

Plastic Fantastic

I’m not an eco-warrior but try to be environmentally conscious. When we travelled previously around Southeast Asia, I was disgusted with the amount of litter we found in Halong Bay in Vietnam. This waste mainly consisted of plastic bottles! Not only does this carelessness by tourists make an area look dirty but it can take up to 1000 years for plastic to biodegrade, terrible for the environment and animals.

Financial Impact of Using Water Bottles

The recommended daily amount of water a person should drink every day is two litres. While backpacking around hot climates it is likely you’ll need to consume more than this recommendation as your sweat your ass off touring busy cities and hiking in scenic mountains.  The cost of purchasing fresh, bottled water soon mounts up, so it was not only for environmental reasons that we (Craig and Gemma) decided to invest in a portable water filter bottle but also for financial purposes.

Let’s say that a one-litre bottle of water costs 50p (you’ll find that this is generally cheap for bottled water in LEDCs, it’s a misconception that everything in developing countries is cheap). You will spend at least £2 per day on your recommended daily amount of water intake. Travel for one month and you might spend approximately £60 of your budget on something that we take for granted as being free.

Another benefit of using a water purifying bottle is that you can stick it to the man at the airport. Airports are notorious for inflated prices, just carry your empty Travel Tap or Water to Go bottle through customs and fill up using the tap when you have cleared security – winning!

Choosing a Purification System

Sterilisation Pen

One way to treat water and ensure that it is safe to drink is by using a sterilisation pen such as the popular SteriPEN. This pen purifies the water by killing bacteria and protozoan cysts with a UV light. However, if you choose this method, bear in mind it takes a few minutes before the water is drinkable and can only be used with clear water. The SteriPEN is one of the more expensive options on the market.

Filtering Bottles

There are many types of filtration bottles on the market which remove impurities, in fact, you might even use one in your own homes to keep water cold in the fridge. However, these by themselves do not purify. You have to marry up the sterilisation pen with the filtering bottle to ensure that the viruses have been banished and that the water from filtering bottles is fully safe to drink.

See more reviews


Drink Safe Systems Travel Tap

DrinkSafe Systems Travel Tap combines the purifying action of the sterilisation pen and the filtration process of the filtering bottle in one action.

You simply unscrew the lid, fill the water bottle up under a tap or in a stream (great camping water filter!) then screw the lid back on. You can safely drink the water immediately just by flipping the spout and sucking the water through the straw. Do not squeeze too hard on the body of the bottle or tip the bottle. The water needs to travel through the straw for the filtering and purifying process to work.

Another benefit is the quantity of water you can filter with one bottle. The Travel Tap delivers 1200 litres of safe drinking water before the filter has to be replaced. This equates to roughly 300 days for two people.

The Travel Tap is also handy for those who like to hike as it filters out 99% of bacteria and if needs must, it is safe to use in murky (not muddy) water. We used it during the many hikes around South America, I even filled it up using nature’s water at the Colca Canyon!

At just under £30, the Travel Tap seemed good value for money plus I’d previously seen something similar on Dragons Den (British TV show where the public bid for support in starting a new business) a few years ago and being a bit of a survivalist at heart, I’d always wanted one.

Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout for 15% off] delivers a similar system also popular with travel fans.

DrinkSafe Systems Travel Tap I Water Filtering and Purifying Bottles for Travel

 

Water Purification Bottle Travel

Being a sad, ‘survival nerd’, I know some basic survival skills for purifying bad water so initially, I was sceptical of such a simple and relatively inexpensive device. Could this really prevent Dheli Belly? It seemed too good to be true! I’m pleased to report that after four months in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Cuba, neither of us have had any signs of a dodgy tummy! Good water bottles are essential for travel.

Criticisms

My only two gripes with this portable water purifier by Drink Safe Systems Travel Tap are minor. It’s too big to fit under small sink taps, this has been an occasional issue. Also, when you need immediate H20 to get a thirst-quenching/hangover remedying gulp, it can be annoying squeezing out a mouthful at a time. Minor, like I said.

Conclusion

Overall, I think everyone should own a filter and purifying bottle to take on holiday.

Thanks to the capitalist world we live in, the price of the likes of Drink Safe Systems Travel Tap will continue to drop as more people buy them. If the price gets low enough it’ll become feasible to distribute them to developing countries, so what are you waiting for? What do you think of our water purification bottle review? For further reading check out this traveller’s guide to safe drinking water. Don’t forget your 15% off the Water To Go bottle [quote TSA15 at checkout] – a gift from us.

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Honest review of water filtering and purifying bottles. Including DrinkSafe Systems Travel Tap. Safe drinking and saving the environment.

DISCLAIMER

» Travel Tap may only ship to Europe, apologies!

» We have no affiliation with Drink Safe Systems Travel Tap, I just really like the product and feel it was the best water filter bottle from online reviews.

READ MORE

» Our travel essentials 
» Packing list for girls 

What experience do you have with safe water systems?