Why I stayed at the ariport before our Big Trip with Premier Inn

Why I stayed at the ariport before our Big Trip with Premier Inn

Photo of AJ in a checked shirt smiling and holding up a class of Champagne
Not at the hotel, but I hardly took any photos 

If you're going on the Holiday of a Lifetime, I'm a firm believer that your holiday officially starts the second your Out of Office switches on and not just when you get on the plane. It makes everything feel more exciting because it's holiday then and now, rather than holiday tomorrow, or holiday at the weekend.

For our Big Holiday to New Zealand last year, we managed to get an absolute steal on flights from Jack's Flight Club, that were even cheaper if we flew from Manchester instead of London. What with it not exactly being a local airport, Gary and I decided (well, mostly I decided) that we should stay at the airport the night before we fly.

I'm a bit of a panicker before big things and always imagine the worst case scenario.

- What if the trains are cancelled and we don't make it to the airport?
- What if there are delays and there's no time to get from the station to the airport?
- What if we oversleep and miss the train?
- What if we fall asleep on the train and wake up in Glasgow?

Welcome to what it's like in my brain...

 Also, I did feel like continuing my 30th Birthday celebrations a little bit longer and a stay in a hotel seemed like a fabulous idea. Big thumbs up to Gary too for getting us First Class train tickets for a grand total of £60 for both of us. A little bit of extra comfort AND Wi-Fi.

The front of the Premier Inn at Manchester Airport. The building is grey against a cloudy sky

If you didn't know, I'm a mega Premier Inn faingirl (and no, this post isn't sponsored by Premier Inn, just genuine love). After researching hotels at the airport, we realised that the Premier Inn was the best value for quality. I mean, we didn't want to spend hundreds of pounds for just one night, but at the same time we didn't want to end up staying somewhere uncomfortable or grotty. Treat yo' self... but cheap.

After experiencing trying to get to Heathrow on the Tube in the past, I definitely don't want to go through nonsense like that again. It takes way longer than you think it would and no one wants to be weighed down by all the luggage when you're travelling from one end of London to another. It's a pain in the arse and other passengers will tut and hate you.

The journey from the train station was surprisingly easy. Faster than I thought and with the friendliest driver known to man (how you know you're in the North). This made my stupid brain calm down because the whole 'what if we couldn't check in because we were too late?' thing was chucked out of the window. It was all chill and completely hassle free. Amazing after the stressful Must Finish Everything day at work I had!

Staying at the airport, was genuinely one of the best decisions I have made on a long time. There's no better feeling than waking up completely refreshed (thank you, Good Night Guarantee), with my favourite beds known to man. Seriously, I will own one eventually.

A bubble bath before bed, a cup of tea and the typical Family Guy in bed ensured we were totally relaxed and completely stress free because you know the airport is two minutes away. Typically this meant we turned up WAY before check in happened as a result. But something had to go 'wrong' didn't it?

The departure board at Manchester Airport, our 14:10 flight to Doha doesn't have a gate desk number because we arrived too early

I'd 100% recommend making the decision to extend your holiday a wee bit and treat yourself to a stay at the airport. I'm definitely going to do it again for my next big holiday, and maybe even before our trip to Poland in February, because why the hell not, eh?

Tips for seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for the first time

Tips for seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for the first time

Back in 2015, the Harry Potter Community had a mini explode when tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child were announced.

On 28th October 2015, I went into work early to do that thing where you hit refresh constantly and jump between multiple different browsers, and even your phone. At one point, I'm pretty sure I was 10,000th in the queue but that may be an exaggeration.

I got tickets.

Turns out, I'm a god damn idiot and booked the tickets for the following June for when we were supposed to be at Glastonbury. So I gave them to my friends.

It was then announced that Coldplay were headlining Glastonbury so I didn't end up going. Typical, eh?

On 30th October (my birthday), the next run of tickets for the following September were released. Cue me on the sofa with Gary surrounded by wrapping paper, going through the rapid refresh process all over again. I got tickets for 22nd and 23rd September 2016.

But it turns I didn't have to wait that long. My best friend invited me to be her plus one so a showing with Lumos (who I am now an ambassador for) on 18th September 2016.

Thrilled doesn't cover it. I cried. A lot. #NoShame.

As I have seen it twice now, like the lucky madam I am, and even though it was a few years ago now, I thought it would be useful to share my tips / advice for those who may be planning on seeing it for the first time. Aren't I nice?

Sign up to the Friday Forty

I'm sure everyone knows what the Friday Forty is by now, but just in case...

Tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sell out fast. At the moment, you'll be looking at waiting until 2020 (unless you get really lucky).

I completely understand that sometimes people don't want to wait that long. I don't know how I had the patience to wait as long as I did! This is why the Friday Forty is your friend.

Every Friday, 40 tickets for every performance the following week are available for £40. That;s £20 per part (#bargain). Not only does this mean that you might get to see the show sooner, but it can also be more affordable as some seats can cost serious dollar.

However, it is a lottery so not everyone gets them, and you can only enter between 12:01pm - 1pm. It's always worth a try!

See both parts in one day

This one may not be everyone's cup of tea but after seeing it twice, once in one day and once over two days, I 100% prefer the one day event.

Sure, it's likely you'll be tired afterwards but I felt like it was more of an experience when you see it in one. The anticipation for seeing part two dwindled and wore away a tad when I knew I'd have to wait longer.

But if that's not for you, I totally get it.

Book for the Dress Circle if you can

When I first booked tickets, I got them right in the heavens. You know, those vertigo inducing seats you get in every old theatre. I did this intentionally though because I have epilepsy and I know that strobe lights and other lighting effects are used so I wanted to be safe. Turns out they were absolutely fine (for me, maybe not for everyone with the same condition)

When I went with Lumos, we were in the Dress Circle and it was a much better experience.

Sure, I know that when you're in the theatre, it doesn't always matter where you sit bit I feel like it does for this particular show. Like how it's better to sit up the top for 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time'. 

In the Dress Circle, you were close enough where your neck didn't hurt from either looking up at the stage or constantly having to lean around the taller people in front of you (which happens to me everywhere I go) and also, you could see everything, rather than just little blurred shapes across the stage.

Most importantly, these seats made you feel as though magic is real. some of the stage tricks in this show are absolutely out of this world. I felt absorbed in in. When you're up in the heavens, the illusion was shattered because you could see how some things were done and you didn't have to look closely.

Buy your merch before the show starts

I'm sure my fellow experienced gig goers would tell you exactly the same thing.

The queues at merch stands can be insane, as with any other theatre / concert / festival.

During the interval, you don't want to be wasting your precious pee and bar time in yet another queue and at the end of the show, you sometimes leave via a separate door so you won't always pass a merch stand. Better to get it all beforehand and eagerly await your badges as you leave.

Start your day at House of MinaLima

This one is more of an added extra than anything else, but it's the perfect way to make the magic last even longer. It's probably about 2 minutes walk away from the Palace Theatre so it's not like you'd be going out of your way.

My main recommendation here though would be to get there as it opens then grab some lunch nearby before Part One of the show starts.

House of MinaLima can get absolutely rammed and I'm sure you'd want the opportunity to take everything in in peace.

That and get the perfect Instagram shot of the Marauders Map floor.

So there we go. A handful of advice. I hope at least some of it was useful and not all of the same stuff you have heard before. If you have any other questions, feel free to hit me up via DM on Instagram. After all, we still need to Keep the Secrets.

Into 2019

Into 2019

AJ and Gary wearing Christmas Jumpers on Christmas Day

So, there we go. 2018 has flown past before we even noticed.

It's been a year of ups and downs for me, as I'm sure with everyone else. Some pretty major ups, and the downs? A pretty big struggle, especially MH wise. But, whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger so I'm getting there now.

I'm hoping 2019 will be an entirely different kettle of fish and I'm quite determined to make it so. I'm pretty darn happy and settled in my career (who else can say that at 30 these days?), so it's more of an internal focus than anything else.

It's obviously that time of year where every man and his dog have made new Year's Resolutions and we all know the gyms are going to be busier for the next two weeks than they were for the majority of next year. I personally think that if you set solid 'resolutions' and drastic changes to your lifestyle every January 1st, you're setting yourself up for failure and that's not for me.

I did set some 'goals' last year though and I did quite well. This is because they weren't drastic changes to my lifestyle, more like things I was already kinda doing anyway. I just wanted to be better at them.

This year, I want to do a little more than I did in 2018, but something that's still relatively easy to achieve rather than do something stupid like say I'm going to go to the gym every day but only last a week because I'm shit.

AJ holding Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts books while wearing a library print dress from Joanie Clothing

Read More

I have always been a book worm ever since I was a little girl. My 'to be read' pile is currently building up on the floor in my living room because I have run out of space on my bookcase and I carry a book with me everywhere I go. In 2018, I barely read at all and it felt so unnatural. It took me well over a year to finally finish The Belle Sauvage which Gary bought for me back in October 2017. This year, I'm not going to let one of my passions slip away again. 

I'm lucky enough where I don't have to commute to work but this does make me feel like I don't have as much time to read as other people. I mean, even an extra hour sitting on a train really makes a difference. So now I'm just going to make the time, even if that means actually taking a lunch break rather than eating at my desk.

AJ wearing Gryffindor robes

Get more involved with the Harry Potter Community

Last year, I made the effort to show more of my nerdy side and what I am truly obsessed with 

Harry Potter has been a HUGE part of my life for 21 years (God, I'm old) and it really has influenced who I am today. 

Not only did this little step perform well for me and help me reach milestones, it also introduced me to a fabulous bunch of people I'm now lucky enough to call some of my closest friends. 

Most importantly, it inspired me and made me happy.

Over the years, I have had opportunities to work with the Warner Brothers Studio Tour and Lumos, so who wouldn't want to keep that up?

Dedicate more time to self-care

This was actually one of my intentions for last year and I really wasn't very good at it. 

Despite encouraging myself to say 'no' more, I didn't do that at all. I was busy all the time, whether it was helping friends, meeting friends at the pub, or playing (at one point) 5 performances in one month. Little things like constantly having chipped nail polish because I had no time to do them really affected me and I was exhausted all the time, which obviously impacted my mood.

Moving forward, where realistic (obviously), I'm going to have one day a week where I just focus on me. Bubble baths, face mask and nail polish galore. 

Eat less meat

When I was a teenager I was a vegetarian for a good few years. I got ill, really thin and even now, 15 years later, I still have issues with my iron levels.

It's far from possible for me to go veggie again because my health does need to come first, but we cannot deny that this lovely little planet of our is fucked. Hopefully not beyond repair.

For the sake of the environment and my future children's lives here, I want to reduce my damage as much as possible. Last year, I kept to my aim of using less single use plastic so I may as well step it up a notch and do even better this year.

All of these 'goals' are relatively small and definitely achievable. I just hope I'm better at sticking to them than I was last year!