8 tips that will make you a sample sale pro

Sample sales are amazing. You can bag designer or high street items at a fraction of their usual cost, restock your wardrobe, buy presents or pick up a one-off item for that special event. But they can be intimidating, and sometimes quite disheartening. Often they can be very busy, and if you haven’t been to one before it’s difficult to know what to do your first time.

sample saleHere’s a few tips to help you be confident and get those items that you really covet for super cheap!

1. Get there early

Most sample sales (except the seriously secret ones) will have a queue of people waiting outside for sometimes hours before the doors even open on the first day, hoping to get first pickings at what’s inside. Don’t just turn up five minutes before opening time, give it at least half an hour, grab a coffee while you wait, bring a friend and you won’t end up being late to the party.

2. Have an idea what you’re looking for

It’s great to go in open minded, but remember this isn’t your usual wonder around the shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon. You want to be in and out fairly quickly, and other people have got the same plan too. Decide whether you need a new bag, or if you’re looking for a scarf for your mum’s birthday or some earrings for your friend before you go. You may not end up getting these things when you’re there, but it’ll help you know where to start looking when you get in.

3. Don’t be afraid to be a bit pushy but don’t be rude

Sample sale regulars have a reputation of being a bit on the rude side… Don’t let them push you around! Don’t be scared to politely say ‘excuse me’ to someone who is in the way of those shoes in exactly your size so you can grab them before the lady next to you does. Just remember, no snatching things out of people’s hands! If they got there first, it’s theirs.

4. Be prepared to not get what you went in there for 

Every sale is different, and there’s no guaranteeing they’ll have what you were hoping to buy. There’s no guaranteeing you’ll want any of what they’re selling! Don’t get too disheartened if you can’t find anything you like. If this particular sale goes on longer than one day, you can always go back another day and see if they’ve replenished the stock or if they’ve added anything new. If not, there are always other sales!

5. Keep an open mind

I’m not saying buy anything just because it’s cheap, but it’s worth considering some items that you might not ordinarily give a second glance in a regular shop. You might find that you pick up something that you would never have thought of wearing before, but you end up loving it and it becomes a staple piece in your wardrobe!

6. Know when to say no

On the flip side of keeping an open mind, also be aware of when you’re talking yourself into buying something for the sake of it. You don’t always need to spend £75 on a pair of heels you don’t like that much just because they’re Jimmy Choo (it can happen!), so if you find yourself trying too hard to convince yourself that’s a sign to stop and say no.

7. Limit yourself to a set number of items

Most sample sales arm you with a bin liner when you walk through the door. This is dangerous because it is very tempting to just walk around throwing stuff in the bag without a second thought as to the total when you come to pay. Tell yourself before you go that you’ll only come away with a set number of items, and try to stick to it. Before you go to pay, have a rifle through your bag to see how much you’ve really picked up, and see if you can get rid of anything if you’re over your limit.

8. Bring cash

Most sample sales ask for a small entry fee (usually between £1 and £5) so don’t get caught short on the door. Most of the time you can use card for your purchases, but often there is a minimum card spend which is quite high (around £50). If you’re planning on spending big, don’t worry too much – do check before you go that they accept cards just in case. However, if you want to limit your spending the best thing to do is bring cash (leave your card at home) and you’re forced to stick to it.

If you stick to these guidelines you should become a sample sale pro in no time! I’d love to hear how you get on, let me know in the comments!

Where to find free drinks in London

One of my favourite activities apart from shopping for bargains is hunting for free drinks. It turns out there are quite a few places these delightful freebies are available without having to chat someone up in a bar!

The first discovery I had was that art often comes with free booze. In fact, every time a new exhibition opens, there is free alcohol (usually beer and wine, but sometimes spirits and cocktails too). All you need to do is turn up, grab a drink and enjoy the artwork.

New Exhibitions provides is a calendar list of private views happening in London (along with openings and talks, which may also have a free bar but not as likely). You’ll see there are private views almost every night of the week! Perfect for a quick tipple after work or something to get you started before a night out. Private views are usually open to the public, but it is worth calling the gallery in advance just to avoid disappointment.

First Thursdays is a late night art opening in over 170 galleries across East London every first Thursday of the month. Some of these offer private views and free bars. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy to find out which ones are offering drinks and it’s worth calling a couple of galleries ahead of time to ask. Whitechapel Gallery is the main gallery in the series and sometimes offers a free cocktail bar sponsored by Jamieson’s Whiskey. Amazing.

Similarly, free lecture events sometimes also provide a free bar. Institutions like LSE hold regular public lectures that are free to attend, and it is possible to see which ones are followed by a drinks reception. These aren’t quite as easy to see which ones have drinks receptions and which don’t, but if you have the patience to go through them all there will be a few that state “this lecture will be followed by a drinks reception”.

Timeout London have a good list of other institutions in London that run public lectures; not all of these provide drinks receptions, so it’s worth taking the time to look through the listings or give the events offices of each institution a call.

Finally, sometimes it’s possible to get free tickets to trade shows and events – often, there are giveaways in magazines or email offers to fairs going on in places like Earl’s Court and Kensington Olympia Exhibition Centres. Look out for these tickets, as you can usually get a free glass of wine or bottle of beer upon entry, most likely on opening night.

Although these tips are all London-based, if you don’t live in London it’s worth looking out for private views and drinks receptions at local galleries and events. Info is usually available online but a quick phone call will be able to tell you whether there’s booze available or not!

Ever dreamed of living in a mansion? Now you can!

When I was a kid I used to dream of living in a mansion. I drew pictures of it with its imposing Georgian exterior, sweeping driveways and marble staircases, extravagant topiary and manicured lawns. That was just my dreams for the front of the house! Too many Disney movies and too much Jane Austen are the culprits for this, no doubt.

Unfortunately I have yet to realise my childhood dreams of owning a mansion, but I’ve discovered a way in which I can recreate that lifestyle for myself for a week or two at a time. It’s called holiday rental.

If you get a group of friends together, it can be very reasonable to book a large manor house or mansion for a week or two at a time. You can rent ones with swimming pools, saunas, cinemas, tennis courts, bowling alleys… Whatever your wildest dreams can conjure!

There are lots of options out there for finding a mansion to meet your requirements. Some are more pricey than others, of course, but there are so many to choose from that there’ll be something to meet your requirements.

Try sites like Unique Homestays for some seriously luxurious properties, like The House in the Sea in Cornwall: a gorgeous house on an island attached to the coast by a footbridge. Only around £3,100 for 4 nights for 6 people – that works out at just £129 per person per night – not bad for a private island all to yourself.

House in the Sea Cornwall

How about a contemporary Cotswolds mansion that sleeps 9 with its own on-site spa? This gem is listed on Home Away for just £1,995 (7 nights peak season) – that’s only £31 each per night!

oak lodge swimming pool

Or you and 12 friends could stay for 5 nights in a castle (yes, an actual castle) for just £103 each per night, listed on Holiday LettingsKing John’s Castle in Wiltshire was built in 1080 and was home to (among many others) Henry VIII’s wives. It even has a moat!

King John's Castle Wiltshire

Search for terms like “luxury home stays” or “luxury holiday rentals” and you’ll come across a multitude of sites with mansions, stately homes and castles available for short term self catered stays across the UK. Who knew there were so many mansions?

Have you ever realised your dream of living in a mansion? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

4 top tricks to get more for your money on flights

For most of us, economy flying is the reality, and while it is usually bearable, it can at times be very unpleasant and by no means luxurious. Here are some ideas of how  to make the flying experience a bit more comfortable and to help your holiday start the second you step on the plane, rather than when you step off it.

Business class bar on an Emirates A380

1. Plan your seat in advance. For those economy flights, check out Seat Guru or Seat Plans to find out the best seats on the best planes for your money. These tools can help you choose your seat before you check in online (or even choose which flight to book based on the plane’s features), and make sure that you get the best seats possible on particular flights. You can find out if a flight has seat-back in-flight entertainment or overhead screens (or worst – none at all!) or if the carrier is offering food, whether ther is in-flight WiFi connectivity, even how comfy the seats are. You can also find out from the seat plans the best places to sit to be able to see out of the window (in front of the wings), and to be far enough from the toilets to not have people waiting in line next to your seat the entire flight. Definitely worth checking out.

The swimming pool at Singapore Chiangi Airport

2. Take advantage of a stop-over. If you’re going long haul, consider breaking up the trip into two separate flights. This is almost always cheaper than getting direct flights, but also allows you the option to stop off at an extra destination for a day or so, or even just to stay at the airport while you wait for your connecting flight. Some airports are better than others to stop-over at. Singapore’s Chiangi International has swimming pools and spas as well as a free cinema. Hong Kong International boasts free terminal-wide WiFi and luxury shops for window shopping, while Amsterdam Schiphol features an oxygen bar and casino.

3. Use your air miles to get an upgrade. If you collect air miles (such as Avios) or any other airline affiliate points scheme, use them to upgrade your flight to business or first class next time you fly rather than using them to buy an economy ticket outright. Often, you’ll get far better value for money. For example, you can buy a return flight from London to New York with British Airways for around £500 economy class, whereas business class seats will cost you around £4,000. You could buy your economy flights outright with your points, or, if you have enough Avios points, you can upgrade your economy ticket to business class. You are effectively getting a £4,000 ticket for the equivalent of about £1,000 worth of points. Or in real terms, you’ll be paying £500 for the same seat that the person sitting next to you has paid £4,000 for. And enjoying the same free wine, hot towels and leg room.

Budget airlines don’t offer in-flight entertainment

4. Don’t assume that budget carriers offer the best value flights. When people are looking for cheap flights, many people go straight to airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair with the assumption that they offer the best value for money. Though they do offer some very cheap flights to some destinations, they might not necessarily be the best option particularly if you’re booking at short notice (when the prices go up). And they certainly aren’t luxurious (or comfortable for that matter). Check out price comparison sites like Kayak and Skyscanner to see what other airlines have to offer for your trip. You’ll be surprised what an extra £30-£40 can buy you on your return flights, particularly when you think about the benefits you get from flying with non-budget airlines. Consider if you want to check bags in, choose your own seat or if you’re going to want food on your flight. Or even if you want some in-flight entertainment. All of these things cost extra (or aren’t available) with budget carriers. Also think about which airports the airlines fly from. For instance, EasyJet’s London hub is Luton, which adds travel costs and time on to your journey if you’re coming from central London or the South compared to Heathrow or Gatwick.

Luxury online travel clubs – genuine bargains?

If, like me, you keep seeing adverts for travel websites like Voyage Prive and Secret Escapes offering up to 70% off luxury holidays and being blown away by the bargains, you might be curious as to whether they are as great as they seem.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, these luxury online travel clubs claim to offer massive discounts to their members on four- and five-star holidays. These online travel clubs aren’t to be confused with the ultra-luxury travel clubs that require thousands of pounds in annual membership fees; these are free to join, you just need to create an account.

Being an avid bargain luxury hunter I checked out whether the offerings of some of these online travel clubs lived up to hype and whether or not they were actually the home of the holy grail of holiday booking – luxury holidays that are CHEAPER than normal holidays!!

(I chose these four because they’re some of the bigger offerings that are available in the UK. There are loads more if you search around though.)

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Jetsetter (www.jetsetter.com)

What does it offer? This website posts offers on luxury hotels, with the odd packaged tour holiday thrown in.

How much can I save? The average saving is about 30% but these vary by date. The hotels are all selected by the Jetsetter team, ensuring the best experiences for customers. Flash sales happen every week, with a few selected hotels discounted further.

Hotel Verta, Battersea

Hotel Verta, Battersea

How does it compare? The main benefit of Jetsetter is the guarantee that these hotels are worth the money. You might be getting fairly hefty discounts but not always enough to make these stays affordable (38% off a £600/night suite in the Maldives? Still not in my budget). If you do want to splash out a little though it is worth a look. My boyfriend and I celebrated our anniversary in the 4* Hotel Verta in Battersea booked through Jetsetter. It ended up costing about £120 for the night and breakfast after the discount, but we got a free upgrade to a suite and the hotel was totally up to scratch.

Verdict? If you’re looking to treat yourself to something special and often out of the ordinary (no Hyatts or Hiltons here), do check out what Jetsetter is offering. Don’t expect 5 star on a 3 star budget.

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Voyage Prive (www.voyage-prive.co.uk)

What does it offer? This website deals in package holidays, city breaks and cruises at heavily discounted rates.

How much can I save? Up to 70% on some holidays, but usually between 30%-50%. These vary by date of travel , number of nights and whether or not they are inclusive of flights. Each holiday has 3 or 4 package options.

Grand Beach Hotel, Mykonos

Grand Beach Hotel, Mykonos

How does it compare? Some of the discounts are enormous and considerably cheaper than offers from other sites. For example, Voyage Prive offers 70% off a 5 night stay in May for two in a standard double room with breakfast at the 4* Grand Beach Hotel in Mykonos for just £127, while on Booking.com the same is offered at £430! This seems absurdly cheap, especially when you realise that the cheapest 5 night double B&B in Greece offered by Thompson is a 3T aparthotel in Crete for £189.

Verdict? Some of the offers up for grabs here are unbelievable. Only around 30 holidays are available at a time though, so make sure you keep checking back to get what you want. From UK getaways to once in a lifetime trips there’ll be something worth booking through this site.

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Secret Escapes (www.secretescapes.com)

What does it offer? Holidays, hotels and experiences at discounted rates mainly for holidays in the UK and Ireland but does venture abroad as well.

How much can I save? The site claims to offer savings of up to 70% but most are between 20%-35%. The site advertises last-second deals for weekend breaks each Thursday too, with further savings.

The Slaughters Country Inn

The Slaughters Country Inn, Cotswolds

How does it compare? I chose the 56% off the 4* Slaughters Country Inn, Cotswolds which Secret Escapes offers 1 night in March for two sharing a standard double room with breakfast at £85. Laterooms and Expedia both offer the same for £155. Although Thomas Cook offer a 3* Cotswold hotel for £73, Secret Escapes’s offering is still superior if you’re looking for quality (the extra £12 buys you a lot, here).

Verdict? More varied offerings than any others (fancy a ladies’ bootcamp in Marbella? Grand Prix weekend in Barcelona?), but the discounts aren’t as hefty. Still good value for money and particularly good for UK breaks.

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Achica (travel.achica.com)

What does it offer? The travel arm of this luxury lifestyle store offers many of the same deals advertised on Secret Escapes. However, Achica also has several extra deals with much larger discounts.

Park Hotel, Amsterdam

Park Hotel, Amsterdam

How much can I save? Up to 75%, though most vary from 20%-40%. Like the others, this varies considerably by date of travel. It is not easy to compare dates for different prices, which is off-putting.

How does it compare? Very similar to Secret Escapes on prices (because most of the offers are the same). Not particularly great on other offers. I chose the tantalising 75% off the 4* Park Hotel  in Amsterdam, which Achica offers one night in an executive room for two in February at £88 (plus 5.5% taxes) and no breakfast. Expedia offers the same for £118 (including taxes). Although it is a decent saving of around £25, I did feel a little let down by the promise of 75% off.

Verdict? Some interesting holiday ideas here and more on offer than Secret Escapes, but the savings don’t quite live up to the hype.

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In conclusion, it is definitely worth having a look at these sites but be careful to double check the prices against what is offered elsewhere. As always when it comes to grabbing a bargain, do your homework. Some of these deals are genuine, but others – while still good value for money – may not be the amazing deals they are made out to be. Keep savvy and there’s no excuse for paying over the odds for luxury again!

*Note: These prices and deals were correct as of the time of writing the article. The offers are examples and may no longer be available.

Up to 50% off Mulberry until Sunday!

I’ve been hankering after something Mulberry for some time now, so when I spotted the sale on their website I got very excited!

For a limited time, Mulberry are offering discounts up to 50% on a huge selection of their best-selling bags, shoes, clothes and accessories.

Here are some of my favourites:

oversized alexa
Grab a chocolate Oversized Alexa for £597 (was £995)

bayswater
Get a gorgeous Burnt Peach Bayswater for £626 (was £895)

lily
Here’s my personal favourite, the Lily in Raspberry, for £486 (was £695)
continental

The Continental Wallet in Oak Silky Snake Print for £177 (was £295). If I hadn’t just bought a new purse I’d be snapping this one up!

The sale ends on Sunday (23rd June) so get in there quick!

Birthday treats!

It was my birthday on Sunday so I decided to treat myself to a new wallet. I’d had my eye on this gorgeous faux python one from Diane von Furstenburg for months and decided to go for it. Luckily it was half price on The Outnet!

 

dvf

The wallet was at the top of an accessories wishlist the length of my arm and I’m so happy with it!

Sadly I can’t afford to treat myself more often! But buying from The Outnet mean that I get to look forward to splashing out (somewhat) guilt-free once in a while on bargainous treats. My next purchases are likely to be this beautiful printed silk scarf from Versace:

versaceRRP£265 Now £119.24 (55% off)

These cute aviators from Marc Jacobs:


m jacobsRRP £125 Now £62.50 (50% off)

This stunning Swarovski crystal ring from Roberto Cavalli:

r cavalliRRP £330 Now £132 (60% off)