WHY YOU NEED TO EXPLORE KISSIMMEE

I’m gonna be honest with you, when I realised that I was going to Kissimmee on a work trip, the first thing that came into my mind was OH MY GOD I’M GONNA GO TO DISNEY AND IT’LL BE MAGICAL AND THINK OF THE GODDAMN INSTAGRAMS, ALL THE HEART EYE’D EMOJI’S HERE.

I thought this because I knew absolutely nothing about Kissimmee apart from the fact that it was close to Disney and surely that’s the only thing to do there, right? Wrong. A big fat wrong. Oh, so so wrong! I quickly learned that we wouldn’t be going to Disney - although we did have dinner at Disney Springs which was all kinds of dreamy - but we would be doing so much more. Better, I actually think, because Kissimmee is not only one of the most stunning places I’ve ever visited, but it’s also full of fun things to do.

So here’s a little mash up of a post. It’s going to be part diary - because who doesn’t like feeling like a 10 year old girl in her bedroom writing about the boys at school - and part “get your butt in gear and book a trip to Kissimmee right now please and thank you”, and part, here’s a guide to Kissimmee, when you book that flight of yours, here’s what you need to see/do.
 Where to stay 
Now, I am really excited to tell you about where we stayed in Kissimmee because basically, the only way that I can describe it, is that is was like something out of Keeping up with the Kardashians. We stayed at the most stunning villa/mansion/dream home rented through Jeeves Florida Rentals. It slept 22 people, a kitchen that made me wanna be like KIM AND KHLOE WHERE YOU AT, LET’S CHAT?! a master bedroom that Pinterest dreams were made of and the most stunning pool, cinema room and grounds that I’ve been lucky enough to stay in. It’s funny because despite it being so grand and so beautiful and so “Is this really my life?”, it also felt surprisingly homely and cosy and totally totally comfortable. I honestly could not recommend renting out a Villa in Kissimmee enough because it really is a home from home and just makes the whole experience even more special!

What to do
OK, grab a pen/bookmark the page/take a screenshot… basically listen up. Here’s what you need to be doing in Kissimmee;
I have to be honest in that my favourite thing about this was speeding through the water because the inner thrill seeker in me died and went to heaven. But that aside, getting up close and personal with alligators, cows, birds, turtles etc. was just the most surreal experience and one that I couldn’t recommend enough. Out in the middle of the creek you really do feel a million miles away from “normal life”, and I just loved discovering another corner of the world so different to the one I live in.

LOL AT THE LEVEL OF CHEESE PLEASE DON'T HATE ME
Kayaking with Alligators
I think Kayaking down Shingle Creek was one of my all time favourite experiences in Kissimmee. I thought I was good at picking out/creating peaceful moments but oh my god nothing beats being halfway down the creek, engulfed by the tallest trees and totally surrounded by nature to make you feel the most zen you’ve ever felt. I mean, it’s ironic really considering you’re surrounded by alligators - LOL - but honestly, when life gets a little manic, I often think back to those hours paddling along in the sunshine with nothing to think about but the absolute beauty surrounding us and I miss it so much.

Jesus christ, I’ve turned into a wet, soppy version of David Attenborough but honestly, it is the most beautiful experience.
Visiting Celebration
Oh Celebration you big fat babe, how are you SO pretty? I fell in love with Celebration in 0.93473948 seconds. The bright colourful houses, American flags everywhere, Wisteria bloody Lane - no Jesse Metcalfe sadly but you win some, you lose some - and some of the best food we ate on the trip. We visited Columbia for some tapas which was so good and I couldn’t recommend enough, as well as the Bohemian hotel which served up a beautiful breakfast in even more beautiful surroundings.
Gaylord Palms
If you didn’t laugh at the name Gaylord Palms then congratulations for being a better adult then I am. In all seriousness though, Gaylord Palms was one of my favourite places in Kissimmee, absolutely huge in size, with a gorgeous restaurant (and slamming breakfast buffet, hey gluten free pancakes) and even more gorgeous gardens inside, it’s such a peaceful place to wander, eat and stay if you wish.
Paddlefish
One of my favourite meals in Kissimmee had to be at Paddlefish in Disney Springs. From the moment we walked in, it was like the world just turned from normal to magical in seconds. And I know that sounds cheesy af but nothing quite beats the feeling of walking through Disney as the sun’s setting, surrounded by so much happiness and excitement. We ate at Paddlefish where I demolished one of the best Steaks I’ve ever had, and topped it all off with a visit to Sephora. A pretty blooming successful evening if you ask me!
The inner tomboy in me lost her shit over tree climbing and zip lining and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I think my favourite thing about it was that it genuinely challenged me. I was terrified, like… genuinely terrified of some of the sections of the course we took because OH MY GOD SO HIGH AND WOBBLY AND SCARY AND PLEASE GET ME DOWN, but it pushed me to carry on going, problem solve and work through it. I could whack out a Pinterest-Ensue “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” but I feel like the level of cheese and happiness in this post is almost at it’s limit. But what I will say is that I loved watching our little group all help each other out, it’s an incredible activity to do if you’re with a group but also so much fun to join in with everyone else. Highly recommend!
One of the things I was most excited to do in Kissimmee was go hot air ballooning. I’ve done it once before in Dubai and it was one of those experiences that takes your breath away, leaves you speechless and then makes you want to relive every moment with anyone that’ll listen. Sadly when we got to the base we were told it was too windy to go out and it had been cancelled and I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed. It was mildly made better by the three  McDonald’s hash browns I demolished on the way back but I would say that if you’re considering it, DO IT!!

So that brings me to the end of my Kissimmee guide/fangirl, all I can say is that it was one of my favourite places to visit, I will 100% be back, and I honestly couldn't recommend it enough. So if you're looking for a new destination to go to, put this baby on your shortlist!


I'd love to know if you've been to Kissimmee before? Is it somewhere you'd consider now? I always love hearing your thoughts!

xx

Thank you so much to Experience Kissimmee for organising such an incredible trip.


MY TOP TIPS FOR NERVOUS FLYERS

I am lucky enough to fly quite a lot. As travel is now a big part of my job, being able to up and go and be on a plane a week after receiving an email is something that I am not only eternally grateful for, but something that I just have to be able to do - the stressy Sally part of my brain has a total meltdown, but on the whole, I'm OK, I survive - but I am totally aware that this isn't always the case. And even frequent flyers still struggle a lot but they have to do so to get to wherever they need to be.

As someone that has now fallen in love with flying - this is an actual thing, I shit you not - I wanted to share with you some of my tips for making a flight as stress free and easy as possible as I honestly think that flying should - or at least could - be something that you could all enjoy. After all, it's a solid [however many hours you're travelling] where you can just shut off the world, chill or be productive, and generally just "BYE FELICIA" to normal life. And I'm all about doing that.

_________

FIND AN AIRLINE YOU TRUST
So my first tip would undoubtedly be to find an airline you trust. Whether it's one that you've been with before or one that comes highly recommended, knowing that everything will be looked after and taken care of immediately takes a weight off of my shoulders and allows me to relax a little more. On a recent trip to Florida - which was bloody amazing - I flew with Norwegian on the London Gatwick to Orlando route (which operates all year round) in Premium and it was a total, total dream. Right from the lounges that you can chill in pre-flight, full of delicious complimentary food and drinks and a really lovely and calm atmosphere (perfect for anyone that finds the whole airport experience nerve wracking), to the on board experience which was second to none.

Norwegian is the only low cost, long haul airline with direct flights to the US and I think sometimes when you hear "budget" or "affordable", it's easy to think that quality of flight/service will reflect the price. This couldn't be any further from the truth with Norwegian, everything was totally seamless. The service was spot on, the plane itself (seating, tv screens etc.) was really very premium and the food was actually bloody good. I repeat, plane food that was actually super tasty! In Premium you get extra legroom - 46 inches - which is a total dream as this 5"8 giant needs all the help she can get, complimentary drinks, dinner, inclusive luggage, fast track security (believe me guys, this makes you feel like a Kardashian [insert sassy girl emoji here]) and access to select airport lounges.

But that's not to say that you have to fly premium, Norwegian Economy is also really incredibly comfortable too. Fares start from £179 one way in economy and £499 one way in Premium. So if you're looking to fly abroad, I really couldn't recommend Norwegian enough.

PREPARE
For me, feeling comfortable and calm is all about the preparation. Once my flights are booked and ready to go I like to make sure I have all documentation at the ready as soon as possible - yes I am one of those annoying people that has a million pieces of paper at all times [insert cry laughter/“but I’m helpful, right?” emojis here]. So plan your route to the airport, make sure you’ve given yourself plenty of time - factor in delays because hello, this is life/transport - check in early and chill out in duty free. Preferably with a large glass of wine/beer/[insert your own choice of I’M OFF ON HOLIDAY BITCHES beverage here].

ENTERTAINMENT
I used to dread flying because my worst nightmare is being bored and omg there is nothing worse than having no TV/Plug sockets/any form of entertainment. On a long haul flight especially, I hit the entertainment stick at all angles. I will have; a book (or two), my diary/notebook so I can plan work/life, my laptop because plane time for me is work time - I’m actually writing this on the way back from Crete - because there is something about being cut off from the world that is magically productive. I usually have a couple of Grey’s Anatomy’s loaded and ready to go (because if Derek Shepherd can’t see you through turbulence then who can? - whatever keeps you  entertained, get it ready to go.


WINE
Down a bottle of wine and some sleeping tablets

Just kidding…. No really, I 100% don’t advise this for anyone, but if a glass of red will help you drop off into the land of nod then why the hell not?
THE IN FLIGHT PAMPER ROUTINE
So this may not be for everyone, but personally I am a fan of a good in flight pamper routine (my guilty pleasure is using sheet masks and terrifying the life out of fellow passengers #sorrynotsorry). I’m not talking a solid hour long spa session but I am talking a quick cleanse, a long ole face mask and a big fat injection of moisturisation. My current favourite quick but ridiculously effective routine consists of the Clinique Take the day off balm (how cute is this mini by the way?) which is one of my all time favourite cleansers for removing makeup/cleansing whilst leaving your skin silky smooth and hydrated. Followed by the Garnier Moisture bomb sheet masks which yes look terrifying, but left on for 20 minutes or so, completely make a difference to my skin. It leaves your face looking bright, plump and totally nourished… it’s basically everything you need on a hydration zapping flight. I follow off my basic but oh so dreamy routine with the Elemis pro collagen marine cream which I think may be my all time favourite moisturiser (HOLD THE PHONE, HOLD THE PHONE, THIS IS BIG NEWS), and I say this because I have left it in my travel bag now for over 6 weeks using it on 5 different trips and I am still not at all bored/wanting to try any of my new goodies. It smells incredible, it leaves your skin feeling like silk and I honestly think that it’s in the best condition that it’s ever been right now. Which is hilariously ironic as my travel schedule really should be leaving it like a dried up, shrivelled prune.

BE COMFORTABLE
I have come to realise now (a casual 14 flights into 2017 alone) that nobody frickin cares what you look like on a plane so get your comfy clothes on and say Bye Felicia to looking chic/put together in any way, shape, or form. If you’re not wearing a tracksuit/hoody/some form of Pyjama like outfit then you are do travel all wrong my friend!

ALERT THE STAFF
On our Norwegian flight, the staff couldn’t have been any more friendly and helpful, especially considering that I am the awkward coeliac with a million questions in regards to the food being gluten free and all of them were beyond helpful. So if you’re really nervous, alert a air hostess and just let them know that you’re nervous/slightly panicky and from my experience, they will always go out of their way to make sure you’re doing OK/to see if they can move you to somewhere with a little more space etc.


GO WITH A TRAVEL BUDDY
If possible, travel with someone you know well that can make you feel better/calmer. There's nothing worse than being around someone you don't know too well and being scared on your own so buddy up and giggle your way through the nerves.

THINK OF THE DESTINATION
Finally, because I know that no amount of tips can help some people (for example, I am currently sat next to a lady who has yelped every time the seat belt sign has gone on and off, hyperventilated twice and screamed out loud many times), sometimes you just gotta think of the destination and remember that it’s all worth it in the end.

So those are my top tips for nervous flyers, I really really hope it helped even 1 of you as I honestly couldn't imagine how difficult my life would be if I struggled to fly. The world is such a blimmin beautiful place that we should never let the fear of flying stop us from discovering it.


I'd love to know if you've travelled Norwegian before? What are your top tips for nervy flyers?

As always, thanks so much for reading!

xx

I flew Norwegian as part of an incredible press trip which they hosted. All thoughts and love of babe'in airlines, my own.



FINDING YOUR PERFECT STAYCATION

I love travelling. I do. I love exploring the world and experiencing new cultures and just soaking up a life that is so dissimilar from my own. I love meeting new people, falling in love with cities and never wanting to be dragged away from beaches. But sometimes, sometimes I just prefer to be home. 

Which is why recently, when both my Mum and I were in need of a major, major break, we headed off to Sopwell House, a stunningly beautiful country house in St Albans, only an hour’s drive and a 20 minute train ride away from St Pancras and oh my god it was the absolute dream!!
We started with a wander of the grounds - which ended with a mini photoshoot because if you see a cute bandstand and don’t take a photo are you even a blogger? - followed by a coffee and snack break in our gorgeous room. One thing that I was immediately impressed with was Sopwell House’s knowledge of gluten free. I was brought an entire cheeseboard - which was as divine as it looked - alongside some gluten free crackers while my Mum tucked into a nice bit of cake. It’s just the personal touches that make a difference (and obvs being greeted with a platter of cheese is enough to make me propose to anyone because cheese over Victoria’s Secret bod any day of the week).
We had dinner at The Restaurant and I honestly just had the most incredible evening. The atmosphere is gorgeous, luxe fine dining but not in any way pretentious, and the staff were unbelievable. That seemed to be a running theme at Sopwell actually, every single member of staff treated us like total royalty (no you pretended to be Kate Middleton) and went out of their way to make the experience as amazing as possible.

But back to the food….

From beautifully fresh Tomato soup, to the chicken in the mushroom sauce with the best fondant potato, to gluten free Mille feuille that dreams were made of. Every single dish was absolutely stunning and I have to say, it was one of my favourite ever meals.
Breakfast is my thing. I am not a girl that can ever go without breakfast and if I do…. probs best to avoid me at all costs, and genuinely, as a coeliac I have never been presented with so many options. I was offered gluten free crumpets, pastries, bread… you name it, they had it. So obviously I went for crumpets with a side of sausages - LOL AT MY LIFE - and basically a fry up, with a whole plate of toast, plus yogurt and fruit. Yes there was an awful lot of food and yes I did eat every last scrap but no, not at all sorry.

Not one little bit!
Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to try out the spa but we did have a little peak, which to be honest, was probably the worst idea because it looked like a total dream and I basically had to be pulled away kicking and screaming.

After another wander around the stunning grounds we had to say bye to Sopwell and I honestly felt so sad and not at all ready to leave. It was the most calm and zen I’d felt in such a long time and I finally managed to switch off a little even though we were only an hour from home.

So basically, if you’re looking for a place to stay without venturing too far away - or if you’re further away and fancy somewhere calm, idyllic, totally zen and utterly beautiful - Sopwell House is your place. The rooms are incredibly comfortable and homely, the staff are amazing, the grounds are stunning and the food, oh my god the food, is absolutely divine!! Divine. DIVINE!!!!


I would love to know if you’ve ever visited Sopwell house or are now thinking of going? Where is your favourite place to escape to?

As always, thanks so much for reading!

xx
© the Elle next door

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