5 Years On - Can You Travel? Geneva Airport Railway Station

5 Years On – Can YOU Travel?

It’s just 5 years since we “found our wings” and started to travel outside of the UK, where we live. In our view we don’t get away that much, especially compared to other bloggers I read. But we enjoy ourselves and spend a lot of time looking for new places and ways to travel more. Can YOU travel. Our answer was a resounding yes!

So this post is aimed at people perhaps a bit like us. Call us “baby boomers”, “empty nesters”, “silver surfers” or whatever (I hate labels). The kids have grown up and left home. You still need the 9 to 5. The attractions of a tent on a budget trip are not what they were 20 years ago? You look at the adverts on TV and read a few travel bloggers? And wish you could travel.

We are not about to sell the house or blow the pension pot, but we will travel when and how we can, see some interesting places, eat some good food, and have fun.

Destinations – We Went There

Can You Travel - a fishing boat at Bazaruto Islan in Mozambique.
A tourist fishing boat at Bazaruto Island, with sand and fantastic blues and greens of the receeding tide in the background. Many boats are available in the area, from canoes to large dhows and state of the art fishing boats like this.

Looking at some of the travel blogs around, it would be great to say we have been all over the world. We have not, but we visited some interesting places.

  • 2014Ireland and later, the Isle of Wight. And don’t forget Tenby as well. And the wish to travel was growing. The travel bug was starting to bite!
  • 2015 – Santorini, and that fantastic Christmas break in Mozambique.
  • 2016 – Nerja in Spain and Durban in South Africa.
  • 2017 – Valras Plage and Beziers and Carcassonne in France and Hermanus and Umdloti in South Africa.
  • 2018 – Gstaad, Bern and more in Switzerland. A couple of family events took us on many day trips in the UK with visiting family. (Top picture is Geneva Airport railway station).
  • 2019 – So far a couple of day trips to London and Oxford. Thinking about the rest!
  • 2020 – The ideas are already buzzing! A “big trip” at Christmas?

And don’t forget other day trips to London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Hastings and more.

Obviously we are operating from the UK, where we live, but there’s normally a way, wherever you may be.

Our aim is to travel more – Working on that one.

So How Do You Travel?

At the beginning of the year, we start with a list of possibilities. Then it’s a matter of bringing the budget together and going. Simple really. Most of the time, anyway.

If there is a “big trip”, i.e. a long haul, expensive one, in the list we can be saving and planning for that over a year ahead.

For European trips we’ll kick a bunch of ideas around and book a month or two ahead.

Whenever or wherever we go, here are the questions we ask.

How will you pay for it?

Travel - Earn it or save the dollars

For many this is where your travel thoughts stop! Travel is expensive! Isn’t it?

Well, let’s put it this way:

  • If you want to just hop a business class flight to Jamaica and stay in a five-star resort for a week you probably won’t have much change from at least US$12,000 for a couple.
  • Pick your time carefully and three weeks in two locations in South Africa, economy class and self-catering will set you back around £3,500.
  • At the right time of year a week for a couple in Europe, all in, can be as low as £900.

Backpackers will tell you how much cheaper you can do it. I don’t know about you but my backpacking days ended a decade or two ago!

We are not talking about year long trips, so there are only two ways to finance your travels:

  1. Save from your income, whether that’s your job or some form of pension income;
  2. Earn some extra cash.

As a couple, if each of you can save or bring in £1 per day (=£14 per week, £60 per month, £730 per year) you are close to that week in Europe.

Save or earn £10 per day extra and you could go to South Africa, Australia, or similar.

Take that luxury trip to Jamaica when you win the lottery!

Tip: Remember also that what you spend at home on meals, going to the pub, etc., is money in your pocket for the trip.

Tip: Look at using customer loyalty points on store cards and debit and credit cards which accumulate points which can be swapped for travel.

What we do: We save each month, but also look for other means to make some cash.

When will you travel

When wil YOU Travel

As “older travellers” you don’t have to worry about the kids, school holidays and the like. So choose a time that suits you. Having said that, the first thing I do every year is fill in the school holidays in my planner. In red. That’s when we don’t travel because the crowds are there and it is more expensive.

Typically prices are lower in the “shoulder” seasons, especially in the first half of the year.

What we do:

  • Use Google calendar and fill in the school holidays.
  • Then create a calendar with the seasons in possible destinations.
  • That tells us when we are likely to travel. Except when we don’t! Like going to Mozambique at Christmas!

Who will travel?

Traveling with friends can be tricky. It’s a good way to break friendships. But with the right friends its a great way to share the cost. Do leave each other room to breathe and be accepting of each other ways. We’re all different.

What kind of Travel do you want?

We are not big into visiting iconic sights and places. Great, if we are close, but that’s not our main aim. In Switzerland we had an unexpected free day, so we hopped on a train and went to Bern. Why? It was a good idea at the time and great fun!

Tip: Decide what you want to see and do. Be clear on this one. If you are into weekend city escapes, or magical beach holidays, or walking holidays, then plan to do those things. Travel for fun!

Where do you want to stay?

Our Hotel in Perivolos, Santorini
Our Hotel in Perivolos, Santorini

Some enjoy the all-inclusive, sit by the pool trip. Others will only ever go self-catering. Some want five star, while others are happy with a hostel. Where would you, realistically, like to stay?

This can be tricky. Opt for self-catering and you can find yourself in the middle of nowhere with no access to interesting places. Opt for an expensive all-inclusive deal and you could find that the restaurants down the street are much more interesting. But now you have blown the budget.

What we do:

We will always opt for the self-catering option first. And then do our homework. In Santorini and Nerja we chose a bed and breakfast, flights and hotel deal. That meant we found places for lunch and dinner away from the hotel. We ate well! On our 2017 South Africa trip it was all self-catering, except when we chose to go out.

Tip: A bit of homework is necessary, and can be done easily using Google Maps – simply zoom in on the place you are heading for. The ideal is a self catering spot with a cafe, restaurant and store, probably a small supermarket, within 10 minutes walk. The cafe for breakfast and restaurant for dinner with the store supplying everything else.

How will you eat?

Cheese fondue for one at Gruyeres.
Cheese fondue for one at Gruyeres.

A big part of our trips is enjoying local cuisine. Strange as it may sound, that often means skipping the big flashy restaurants and hunting down the popular local ones.

Most hotels, we have found, serve very toned down meals to try and meet everyone’s tastes.

What we do: We have a light breakfast. Every day we aim to eat out once, but look for the simple local spots. the food is often better and more representative of the local cuisine. Then we will buy simple food like cold meat and salad and eat that on the beach, or even in our hotel room.

Tip: Ask a local!

Greek food – Santorini, in a restaurant in a cave.

How will you get there?

Switzerland – A train at Lausanne station

If it’s a long haul trip, you have little choice but to find the most economical flights.

Short haul generally means using a budget airline, as much as you may hate those.

But look at your options and preferences. Train travel to and in Europe is an attractive thought and something we haven’t tried. Bus travel and self drive are options as well, though we don’t find either of those attractive.

What we do:For Europe we have typically used the budget airlines, which are never fun. For future trips we are thinking carefully about the train.

Then Go

Then we just go. And enjoy.

Okay, there is normally a bit of anxiety attached. Will the plan work? Will the budget work? But that is all part of the fun.

Can YOU Travel

5 years on – Can YOU travel.?

Yes, we can. You can too. It does take a bit of effort, but it’s worth it!

Give it some thought.

Drop us a comment with your thoughts.

On a sunny day in the town of Nerja, in Andalucia on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. The Balcon de Europa, giving a fantastic view of the sea and nearby coastline, is a 19th century monument. Here’s the view along the boulevard looking back towards Nerja.

Can You Travel – Share to Pinterest

5 Years on - can YOU travel? We can. Visit us and see how we go.
Put your holiday photos in the cloud - a simple guide to Google Photos

How to Use Google Photos Simply When you Travel

Google Photos

Google Photos has many uses when you are travelling. But if I am on holiday I don’t want to spend my precious holiday time fussing about photo uploads and backups. Follow my simple formula and take the pain out of your holiday photo backups.

Don’t know anything about Google Photos? Here’s the Wikipedia Entry. You will need to open a Google account (free) if you don’t already have one.

So you are taking a holiday trip. And you are taking photos, probably lots of them. If you are anything like me you have a mobile phone camera, a compact camera and a DSLR (or two?). The challenge is backing up the photos, sharing them and then having them available to use as and when you want. Sometimes waiting until you get home to process and post them is just not something you want to do. But you are on holiday. You don’t want to be wasting time poring over a computer trying to get photos backed up and uploaded. I know. I have tried it.

For a long time I used Google Photos just as a backup for my mobile devices. Then I recognised another use. I could upload full size DSLR JPEGs to Google Photos, and that way make them available when I was away from home for editing and captioning for blog use. And then I bought a camera with WiFi, and my whole approach change. The whole point here is to use a bit of the downtime between the day’s holiday activities to easily and without much effort backup your best photos. I do this at least every three days, but I find that, like most photographers, I enjoy having a quick view of the day’s shooting on the day.

So How do I use Google Photos?

Simple Outline

  • Set it up once, before you go;
  • While you are travelling, when you have a bit of idle time, load selected photos to your phone or tablet;
  • Connect to the Internet;
  • When you feel motivated go online, organise your uploads into albums and share with family and friends.

Simple!

Some Basics

When you create a Google account you get Google Photos as part of the deal. If you haven’t already done so, go and have a look. It is a cloud based photo storage and sharing system. In general the photos are private, until you give someone the gallery link. Then that person can see and interact with the gallery.

One important Tip: you can have multiple Google accounts, each with 15GB of storage. It would be silly to just keep adding accounts, but you may find it useful to register more than one account. I have four, for good business and personal reasons, though I tend to keep photos to only one of those. If you are short of space in one account use a separate one to handle your photography.

But here are the really important parts:

  • You can choose whether photos uploaded to Google are kept at full size, or reduced to 16 megapixels;
    • If you opt for full size, the space occupied by your pictures comes off the space in Google Drive allocated to your account (currently 15GB, though you can buy more);
    • If you opt to upload at “High Quality” (16 MP) size, photo storage is FREE! That means you have unlimited photo storage at 16 megapixels!
    • Best of all, Google has a function to reclaim storage. If you have uploaded at full size, click on this option to reduce the photos to High Quality, 16 MP resolution. This is important point 1– remember it;
  • Google Photos has an app for iOS and Android. The app gives the option to backup all photos on the device This is important point 2 – remember it;
    • You control whether it updates using WiFi, data, or both;
    • The app offers an option to clear from the device any photos which are already backed up to Google Photos. That means no more running out of space on your phone while you are away!

My “Formula”

To begin with simply ensure that your Google Photos settings allow upload at Full Size. This makes sure that any photos uploaded are full-sized JPEGs, providing a backup if it is needed.

Set this on the website: Menu -> Settings -> Upload size for photos and videos uploaded on the web only. Set it to Original

If you haven’t already done so, install the Google Photos app on your mobile devices, and set it to backup all photos. I carry an iPad and Android phone, and it is effective on both. Note that I don’t carry a laptop unless it is a business trip. The app instructions are in the menus, as follows:

Menu -> Settings -> Backup & Sync.  Switch on the Backup & Sync option. On iOS the Menu is the gear wheel icon.

On Android check on the Backup Device Folders option. Android stores edited versions in different folders.

Set the upload size to Original in Menu -> Settings -> Backup & Sync -> Upload Size

Now, when you take a photo on your phone, it will, as soon as you connect to the Internet, upload to Google Photos.

If your camera is WiFi enabled, selectively transfer the best of the day’s photos, or those you want to use or share, to one of your mobile devices. They will also be backed up.

For my DSLRs I have an OTG (On The Go) android hub. This allows me to insert the SD card from the camera and selectively copy photos to the Android phone. Again, these will upload when you connect the device.

Once the photos are on the phone or tablet, do any edits you like. I favour Snapseed for quick edits. Originally developed by Nik software, it is now owned by Google and is very intuitive and powerful. Available in the Android Play Store and Apple store.

Create an album in Google Photos for the trip, or for each part of the trip, if you like, and put your selections there.

By doing this, you have a neatly curated full resolution backup of the pick of each day’s shooting in one or more albums.

Share the Photos

Go the extra step and share your photos. Share the link to the family back home (I use WhatsApp). That way they can see your trip as it happens.

Share your album(s) on either the app or website: Click on the Albums Icon -> Click on the Sharing icon

Either select recipients and send the link to them, or look for the Get Link option and copy the link.

Connectivity

At some time well before the internet (I heard this in 1989!), someone said “the system is the network, the network is the system”. That was never more true that it is today. The network, of course, is the internet. If you aren’t connected your fantastic phone / tablet / laptop can’t do much. The beauty of cloud services like Google Photos is that you just need to have a data connection, and your photos will sync to the cloud. All you need to do is put the photos on the device, and let the app do its thing.

Typically you will either connect via 4G or WiFi. In general I have found that 4G is easily available in many places, including the Mozambique coast, South Africa and many European locations. WiFi, as many have discovered, is another story, ranging from low-grade, overloaded hotel systems to high performance internet café systems.

Uploading photos every day on holiday will use a big chunk of your 4G data allowance, so be aware of this and keep an eye if you choose this method. If you have the capacity, this is the best way to connect. Using a WiFi connection, particularly a public one, can raise some security worries, so it’s best to limit the connection as much as possible.

My method goes like this:

  • Arrange for unlimited 4G for the trip. This may cost a bit, but is worth it. If you do need to limit it, give yourself between 10 GB and 20 GB for a three week trip.
  • Set the Google Photos app to sync using mobile data
    • Menu -> Settings -> Backup & Sync -> Mobile Data Backup
  • Leave the mobile phone connected to 4G all of the time. This is useful if you use WhatsApp and the like to communicate.
  • Any photos on the mobile phone will be automatically uploaded to Google Photos. Simple!
  • If the photos to upload are on the tablet, I set up a hotspot on the phone
  • If all i have available to WiFi I will carefully choose where I connect, and leave the phone connected just long enough to complete the upload.
  • Obviously I will connect the tablet directly to WiFi if there are photos on it.

If you have no internet connection, don’t let that stop you. Just carry on offloading photos to the mobile device. Once you reconnect, it may take a bit of time, but the photos will sync. All you need to do is connect to the internet.

The Backup Option

Google Photos is often touted as a full backup method for your photos. You certainly could do worse than keep a 16 megapixel JPEG backup, and Photos is effectively an unlimited storage at this resolution. I don’t use this for a couple of good reasons.

Put simply, a couple of hundred photos uploaded while away from home is likely to take a lot of time.

More importantly, if you are not carrying a laptop, the transfer time from SD card, always assuming your mobile device is big enough to store all of your photos, to mobile device will be huge, consuming both time and battery power. Your holiday will soon become an exercise in uploading photos.

If the worst happened, and I lost my gear, SD cards or whatever, I would rather come home with a small selection of good photos, and memories of a good time away. Up to the point of disaster at least!

The RAW backup option

RAW files are big files. I’d rather have a holiday than spend my time trying to upload them, juggling bandwidth and storage capacity. In fact I have never used the RAW capability in Google Photos, though I believe it is pretty good.

That said, if I have a mind blowing fantastic photo or two, I may drop the RAW versions into DropBox or similar.

And then What?

Here’s where this comes into its own! You get home, offload your SD cards, BACKUP! If you followed my formula, you have a neatly curated album from your trip, with all of the JPEGs at full resolution. Add to it, show it off, download any edits to add to your home system, blog them or whatever.

At some point, don’t forget to reduce the storage utilisation.

Google Photos? Wouldn’t leave home without them!