This Urban Adventurer Has The Best Tips For Saving Money And Making the Most of Your City Vacations
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GAFFL
9th Dec | 15 min read

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    At GAFFL, we love to publish inspiring travel stories from adventurers around the world. You can connect with travelers from 190+ countries on GAFFL, meet up, and explore destinations together. In this post, we are featuring Nele (Nay-la),  a UK-based travel blogger who shares her love for urban travel through her blog The Navigatio

    Despite the fact that she was born in the Netherlands, Nele moved to England at the age of 18 to study English and Creative Writing. She stayed after college and now manages her website full-time while also working as a freelance writer and editor from her Manchester flat.

    Her blog is dedicated to her favorite types of travel: city breaks and trips to Japan. Nele provides easy-to-follow itineraries, as well as advice on how to make the most of your vacation, save money on travel, and find the finest locations to stay.

    Fortunately, her partner Richard enjoys accompanying her on European city breaks. They are blessed because Richard is a music producer and performer, so they get to choose their own work hours and work from anywhere they want — that makes traveling so much easier.

    You can find Nele and Adrian on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  You can also connect with Nele on GAFFL

    Barcelona-Navigatio

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    Meeting Richard & Our Inspiration To Start Traveling Together

    Richard and I met when I still lived in the Netherlands. As I mentioned before, he’s a music producer and at the time, I was doing a lot of singer-songwriter stuff on YouTube. We found each other’s videos since we liked the same kind of music and started working on a collaboration.

    We ended up talking a lot and before we knew it, I’d booked a ticket to England to meet him in real life. It still took a year and a half before I was able to actually move to England, which was also to study English and Creative Writing at university – but it all worked out very well in the end!

    Navigatio-Palma

    Our first trip together was to Mallorca in 2016, and I wasn’t sure if he was going to like my jam-packed itineraries, so we took it pretty easy. It only took about an hour on the beach for us to get bored though. We started looking for tours and things to do in the nearest city and had the most wonderful time. He’s a keeper ;)

    After I graduated from university, we took a big trip to my dream destination: Japan. It was better than I could’ve imagined, and it definitely got Richard even more excited to visit new places together. Since then, we’ve taken a lot of city breaks (both in the UK and Europe) and since my family still lives in the Netherlands, we often fly back and forth to spend time with them.

    We’re currently planning a big 2 – 3 month trip to Japan. It’s been my dream to live there for a few months – especially since we’re self-employed, we’d love to take advantage of the fact we can work from anywhere!

    Activities That We Usually Do When We Travel

    Over the last two years, it’s been kinda tricky to travel. Luckily, we were still able to visit a few awesome places together (Dublin, Palma, and a trip to the Netherlands to see my family), but I really hope things will go back to “normal” in the next year or so.

    Our trips are usually pretty packed. City breaks are my favorite type of travel, and since you usually only have a few days to see the city, we try to make the most of it. From museums and finding the best cafes to walking tours and wine-tasting, you name it!

    Dublin-Navigatio

    Duration Of Our Trips

    We have a huge travel wish list! There are still a lot of cities in the UK and Europe we haven’t been to yet, so they will definitely keep us busy over the next few years.

    We usually decide which city to go to depending on the time of year and the things we can do. Most of it really comes down to personal preference – what kind of things are we in the mood for? Or did we see pictures online of things we’d love to see and experience in real life?

    Another way we decide is by having a look at cheap flights from Manchester. It may sound silly, but if there are crazy cheap flights available to a city we haven’t been to yet, it’s exciting to see what we could do there. I’m all for a cheap trip!

    Our city breaks are usually three to four days, while our bigger trips to places like Japan are around two to three weeks. Once we booked the flights, I get into research mode. Other travel blogs are some of my favorite sources of information when planning my trips, they usually have the best tips on where to go, what to see and where to eat.

    I also love using Google Maps to plan out my itineraries – it helps me add all the best places on a map so I can find the best route through the city.

    Must-Haves That We Carry

    We always try to travel comfortably but not spend any unnecessary money. Especially for city breaks, we never take more than one small carry-on suitcase and a backpack. When flying with budget airlines, like we usually do for short trips, costs can add up so quickly by adding an extra bag.

    We did recently buy a bigger suitcase for our trip to Palma. Since we were staying for over a week, we needed more than one small suitcase between the both of us, but adding two carry-ons turned out to be way more expensive than booking one 25 kg suitcase. It takes some time to plan what’s the cheapest option, but I think it’s worth it!

    Since I usually take quite a few electronics (my laptop, phone, portable charger, camera, etc.), my must-have travel item is a travel adapter. I use the one from iBlockCube since it comes with a few USB slots as well as your regular plug socket.

    How We Manage Our Work & Travel At The Same Time

    We’re both super lucky that we get to work from our laptops and plan our own working hours. But working for myself and running my blog does mean that I sometimes have to finish projects while I’m on a trip.

    Nele Navigatio

    I do try to plan my work around my trips, so I can do as much exploring while I’m away. When that’s not possible, hotels usually have pretty good WIFI and there’s always a decent coffee shop nearby. Since I am a freelance writer and editor, I don’t need much more than my laptop, a charger, and a VPN – easy peasy.

    One Of Our Coolest Experiences In Japan

    One of my favorite travel memories happened when we were in Japan. Richard wanted to try this game called Pachinko, it’s a type of arcade game where you shoot small metal balls into different holes. But since gambling for cash is forbidden in Japan, these Pachinko parlor fill that gap – you can win prizes here. It’s kinda like slot machines in the western world.

    Anyways, Richard wanted to try it because he had seen some videos about it online and it looked cool. So on our last day in Tokyo, before heading over to Kyoto, we found a Pachinko parlor and sat down. We put 500 yen in the machine and started playing. One of the girls in the parlor helped Richard get the right grip on the machine because all the sounds and signs in Japanese didn’t make any sense to us.

    Somehow, Richard figured out how to play it and started gaining a lot of points. Three hours later, we were still on the first 500 yen we put in and some Japanese businessmen had stopped playing their own game to watch this English guy work his magic on the machine. I had no idea what was going on!

    The game ended when the parlor closed and one of the employees assisted us – we wanted to get our prize! He didn’t speak English very well and our Japanese was basically non-existent at the time, so we simply followed him down the stairs. We still had no idea how many points we had scored or what we could get for the points, but since we played for more than three hours, we hoped it would be something a little decent.

    Navigatio-Barcelona-City-Break

    The man behind the counter scanned our card, typed some stuff on his machine, and pointed to a rack of cookies. “Pick three,” he said. I was slightly disappointed. Three hours in this parlor for three cookies? Seems a bit rubbish, but hey, we had a good time!

    I picked the cookies and almost turned around. Then the man opened a drawer under his desk and picked up 14 pieces of gold, wrapped in protected plastic. He handed them to Richard and smiled. We had no idea what was happening.

    The first employee that guided us downstairs now gestured at us, “come this way!”. He walked to the back of the parlor. I started to wonder whether this was a good idea – we were holding 14 pieces of gold, didn’t know what the man was saying, and were now walking to the back of a gambling bar in the middle of Ikebukuro at midnight…

    He opened the back door into the poorly lit alleyway. We stepped outside.

    He then pointed to a small shop next door, a gold exchange. He smiled at us and waved. “Ah,” my first thought, “that’s how they get around the gambling for money rules. You win your gold as a prize and then go exchange it for cash in another establishment. Clever!’

    We walked into the gold exchange, still not knowing how much this gold would be worth. I was hoping it’d be enough for a fancy dinner in Kyoto, that’d be awesome. The lady behind the glass accepted the gold and pointed at the screen. It read “77.000 yen”. At the time, that was close to £600!
    And that’s how we paid cash for the rest of our hotels during our trip. What a great night haha!

    Our Inspiration To Start Blogging

    I started my blog when I was still in university. Studying English and Creative Writing was amazing because I got to surround myself with two of my favorite things: books and the English language. But I also knew that everybody in my course was going to graduate with the same degree, so I wanted to do something more.

    The Navigatio started off as a lifestyle and travel blog. I’ve always loved traveling so I thought sharing my stories would be fun, but since I was still at university, I wasn’t able to travel a lot at the time. Lifestyle topics and some stories about living abroad seemed like the natural choice.

    It didn’t take long for it to turn into a travel-only blog, however. Especially after learning more about SEO and digital marketing, the numbers started to grow and I was able to quit my first graduate job six months after starting it to focus on the blog and my freelancing full-time.

    The Navigatio’s mission is to help like-minded couples plan their own city breaks or trips to Japan. Travel planning can be overwhelming and trips can turn out way more expensive than they have to be, so I hope that my articles take some of that stress away and make it a more enjoyable process.

    Nele-Navigatio-Kimono

    One Of Our Favorite Memories Of Meeting New People

    On our first trip to Japan, we took a day off in Osaka. It was about halfway through our trip and even though we had planned to go to Nara that day, we really needed a break. I love doing a lot of things on holiday, but if you’re going away for a few weeks, you also need rest days which I totally forgot to plan.

    We walked around the city for a bit, had a nice dinner, played some games in the arcades, and stumbled upon a small bar on our way back to the hotel. This wasn’t your usual bar though, it was filled with aquariums!

    It wasn’t very big either, maybe ten seats in total. Because it was in a back alley and probably not in the most touristy area of Osaka (we had wandered off quite a bit), the owner was very surprised when we walked in. He asked how we knew about the place and if we had seen it online, but we just found it by accident.

    The owner of the bar was incredibly kind to us and we had the most wonderful evening chatting with him. He gave us some free sake to try, taught us how to drink it properly, and shared all sorts of facts about the fish he kept in his bar.

    Navigatio-Japan

    We followed each other on Instagram and we still chat sometimes – plus, he sends me pictures of his dog! Win! The bar has since moved to another city near Osaka, but we’ve got the address so we’ll definitely make sure to stop by when we’re in Japan again.

    Countries We Have Visited So Far

    So far, I’ve been to 24 countries and Richard has been to 10, nine of which we traveled together – including many city trips in the UK and the Netherlands. Our bucket list, however, is way, way, way bigger!

    It’s been hard to plan anything with the current state of the world, but our first big trip will hopefully be to Japan again. From there, we’d also love to visit South Korea and Hong Kong. Closer to home, there is an endless list of European cities that we’d love to visit as soon as the travel restrictions ease, including Madrid, Brno, Berlin, Tallinn, and Seville.

    How We Manage Costs

    Even though I don’t like to go overboard when traveling, I never feel like I have to miss out on things. I make sure I plan ahead, so I know whether a city pass is a good investment for my trip, for example. It’s similar to picking hotels, I strangely enjoy finding the best hotels for the best prices – whether that means I pick different dates, get a cheaper room, or pick a different location in the city, whatever I can do to get it cheaper.

    Nele Navigatio

    Since we do like to stay in hotels, eating out is one of the biggest costs on our trips. But, once again, it can be as expensive as you make it. We avoid restaurants in the main tourist areas and busy streets and don’t go overboard with alcohol. Plus, you can get pretty cheap breakfast or lunch in supermarkets or on the go.

    My Thoughts On GAFFL

    I’m super lucky that Richard also likes to travel because I don’t like traveling alone and it also cuts the costs massively – so I find it fantastic to see GAFFL making it so easy to find like-minded people to meet up and join forces with!

    Especially since I’m quite introverted, it can be tough to meet new people when traveling. And when you’re traveling as a couple, not as many people make conversation with you compared to when you’re traveling alone, so I’m excited to use it on our next adventure.

    My personal go-to app for travel is Google Maps – very basic, but I plan all my itineraries on it before I leave home. It’s such a great way to find the best routes and make the most of your days in a city.

    Some Things That Prevented Us From Traveling More

    Money is definitely a big one. We’re not digital nomads and have a home base in Manchester, so we always have to keep in mind that we have our regular bills to pay on top of staying in foreign accommodation.

    And while city breaks are a great way to see more of the world without breaking the bank, it does add up quickly when you go on many of them. Staying somewhere for a month is often way cheaper per day compared to only visiting for a few days (discount on Airbnb for staying longer and the cost of flights for example).

    And obviously, travel restrictions are currently the biggest obstacle since it’s completely out of our control. We do our best to stay safe while traveling, but if rules change when you’re abroad, it’s a lot of hassle to figure out what to do. Luckily, things seem to be heading in the right direction and I’m very excited to see what 2022 will bring us!

    Advice To Other Urban Adventurers

    Plan ahead! Cities are filled with the most amazing things to do, places to eat, and rooftop bars with the best views – it would be a shame if you missed them. Travel blogs, Instagram, and guidebooks have so much information to share, and most of it can be accessed completely for free.

    Nele-Navigatio-Tokyo

    Things We Wish We’d Known When We First Started Traveling

    I’m a big planner. I like knowing what is going to happen, how I can avoid problems, and making sure that I make the most of what has been given to me. Unfortunately, life just doesn’t work like that. Especially when you’re on the road.

    Flights get canceled, connections are missed, restaurants close early and the sun sets earlier than expected so you miss that beautiful picture moment. But I’m getting much better at simply accepting that that’s the case and trying to see the positives.

    I’m super lucky I get to visit so many wonderful places and learn more about the world and its people, one delayed flight isn’t going to change that!


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