Nine Things to do this Summer in London (Ideas for Summer activities in London)

This is my second London summer and I am loving it. It's surprising all the beautiful sunny days that we have had so far! Obviously, there was rain here and there, but it is still a beautiful season in London. It actually got really hot two weeks ago (30 degree) and I had to order a cooling fan! It arrived after the weather cooled down, but I am hoping it will get a little hot during July and August! 

Summer in London

Things to do in London this summer

Every summer, I make a list of things I want to do before the season ends. My list has lots of things and I thought it will be fun to share with you all! Hope you get to try some of these idea!  

Summer in London Activity 1: Park Picnics

I know this is the most obvious one, but it's so much fun! I would recommend that you go to a few this season and make most of your summer outdoors! By the way, forget Hyde Park. I seriously don't go there unless I am forced or there is something extra special happening there! I like: Regent Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park. Regent is the most central one of the three, but the other two are out of the way and can be great for a more peaceful park time away. The added benefit of Richmond is the deer you can spot there! There are also gardens that allow picnic like Kew Gardens.   

Find more London parks on: 

The best parks in London

24 quiet London parks and secret gardens to escape to

Ps. You can see some of the Greenwich Park in my Greenwich video below!

Summer in London - Park Picnic

Summer in London Activity 2: Art Festivals

The first one that comes to mind is Shubak Festival and it's an Arab art festival with lots of art related activities happening across two weeks. It only started three days ago, so you have time to checkout the rest of the activities they have on offer! I am planning to go to the art exhibitions they have arranged. 

Summer in London Activity 3: Music Gigs and Festivals

I have to admit. I got this idea slightly late! Most tickets are sold out at this point, but there are still few going! There is a great lineup happening in Somerset House. I am slightly sad I am not spending most of July in London because there is just SO MUCH to see and attend. There are also few music and art events to check in the Barbican Centre.   

More Music gigs and festivals from other websites: 

Music Festivals in London during 2017

Summer in London Activity 4: Rooftop Crawl

I haven't done much of this *yet* but I went to a few spots last. The only rooftop garden I have been to was the Canary Wharf: The Crossrail Place Roof Garden. It's small, but it's nice to chill after grabbing some food from one of the restaurants downstairs!

I have four more places to try this season on evenings with nice weather: 

I would also like to go to the fancy Sky Garden one of those days.

A full list of the best Roof spots can be found (here). 

Summer in London - Golden Tattoo

Summer in London Activity 5: Outdoor Cinema

This is very weather dependent. Although it is technically summer, but with the unpredictable British weather, this could be taken over by rain. It's still worth doing and luckily there are few venues that do that! 

The Luna Cinema has a list of movies that are shown in a number of London venues.

The Nomad Cinema does cinema pop ups at various venue around London too!  

Summer in London Activity 6: Stuffing face with Ice Cream! 

Like seriously this is my favourite thing to do the second I see sunshine! There are lots of great locations to get yummy ice cream from such Chin Chin Labs, Snowflake gelato, Gelupo or even your local supermarket. Doesn't matter where from just stuff your face with as much as ice cream as possible! 

Chin Chin Lab ice cream - Summer in London

Summer in London Activity 7: Lavender Fields

I don't know if you noticed all the instagramers last year posting beautiful photos in lavender fields. My instagram was seriously flooded with those photos and I just had to get one there too! I went to the Hitchin Lavender Fields (45mins from London by train). I still have my full bag of lavenders from last year, so I am not sure if I am doing it again this summer, but it was so much fun! They have a really nice cafe too that is worth chilling in! 

Summer in London Activity 8: Fruit Picking

This is basically the same idea as the lavender field above. I haven't done this yet, but I am planning on going next month! There are a few strawberry and berries farms that are very close to London such as

Stan Hill Farm

Hewitts Farm

Copas Farms

Here are more choices from other websites: 

Ps. I suggest checking google maps for the nearest locations to you! London is huge, but since I am closer to the South I have only focused on that area. There are plenty scattered around.  

Summer in London Activity 9: Day Trips!

Yes this is not technically in London, but very accessible from one of the Central London train stations. Few weeks ago, I went on a country forest walk to Ashridge. Being under the shade, walking and eating ice cream was one of the best things I have done! There are many possible walks all around London. There are beach walks too! Last summer, I went on a beach one to Hayling Island. This summer I want to go to Portsmouth and Brighton!  

For even more ideas here is a list of activities for July and August from the London Time Out website:

Over to you: What's on your summer activities list? 

Where to Stay in Malta and Gozo

While searching online for places to stay in Malta, I got easily confused, so now after I am back, I decided to do a mini area guide to help you decide where you want to stay. It's surprising how much I felt I knew the two Islands after just few days there. I am sure the locals know the real secrets of the islands, but here are my findings regarding the areas! Hope you find it useful. 

Where to stay in Malta?

Sleima

A very lively part of town with access to halal restaurants, entertainment and boat trips and tours. It's not easy to find very budget friendly places, but there are plenty of options. 

Sliema Marina Hotel seems like a very decent option. 

Valletta

That's Malt's capital and it's close to the airport, so it might be worth staying there for your last night. It's a busy area though. Valletta Mint Apartment 1 looks really nice. 

Mdina  

If you would like to be close to the old city and enjoy some of Malta's history and be away from the noise of the centre, it might be nice to stay in Mdina. Plus being there means you are slightly closer to the second island, which is handy if you plan to visit Gozo. Melitte's guest house looks very cozy! 

Photo from the Mdina 

Photo from the Mdina 

Where to stay in Gozo?

Next to the port

This is a great location if you are only in Gozo for a short time and you need to leave early. That's where I stayed. It was useful when I get into Gozo from the long airport trip, but it's a little far from Gozo's attractions. I stayed in Globetrotters Guest house

Victoria

This is the centre of Gozo and it's a great point to stay and have everything accessible. I found the Duke Boutique Hotel and it looks very central and pretty.  

Xlendi

This is a lovely, family friendly finishing village and it's not too far from Victoria, but much quieter. Mario Hideaway is located very close to the beach and it looks good. 

Gharb

This translates to West in Arabic and as the name suggests it's in the West of the island and close to Dwjera. Mood Farmhouse Mythology seems like a nice option. 

Marsalforn

This area is accessible to the Ramla beach and the North beaches of the Island. I looked at the options and Murella Living looks really pretty.   

Ramla beach

Ramla beach

Note: It is always handy to decide on the activities and the spots you want to visit and then choose a place to stay accordingly. 

Booking.com

* This post includes affiliate links. If you book any of these hotels using my links, I get a commission from Booking.com with no extra costs to you! 

Over to you: Have you been to Malta or Gozo? What was your favourite area and where would you recommend to stay?

Is the Hop on and Hop off worth it in Malta and Gozo?

As you walk around the island you see the red bus trumping up and down. It makes everything look easy and the distances doable. It was also recommended to me by a friend who visited Malta previously. The bus is on both of the islands and I tried it in both. This is what I thought in details:

The Hop on and Hop off Bus in Malta

Bus costs 15 euros per person (usually 20 according to the driver)

The distances of Malta are vast and it takes a while to get from one end to the other. We got on the bus from the last ending point Rotunda because the bus from the Ferry took us there. Then we made our way to point one in Bugibba all the way to point 22, which took two hours. The route map with numbers below or could be accessed from the official website. We could have gotten off, but there was not much to see in terms of the architecture in that route we took. We passed by few quiet beaches though. 

Hop on and Hop off  Malta Bus Route

The bus goes over the edge of the island so there are a lot of sea fronts to enjoy. The upper deck was nice, but then it got really windy. Being on the bus gives you an over view of the island. The downside was the information points on the bus didn't work, so it was like riding any bus without knowing any inside information about the place. Also, the famous places are accessible by public buses and only costs you 1.50 euros per person. Due to the big distances of Malta, I felt like the bus was taking much longer time than it needed. It also stopped at a number of hotels and sea fronts rather than historic and natural sights. Without being on it, I wouldn't have known how unnecessary this bus was. I would not recommend it for Malta.  

The Hop on and Hop off Bus in Malta 

The Hop on an Hop off Bus in Gozo

Bus costs 10 euros per person (usually 18 according to the tourism office)

Since Gozo is much smaller, getting the Hop on and off bus was a very different experience. Plus, the information deck was functional, so it was nice knowing more about the place while passing it. With the Gozo bus, we actually hopped off a few times to enjoy the place for 45 minutes at a time and then headed to the next stop. The only downside was we took the bus slightly later and didn't enjoy it to its full potential. I guess Gozo as well could have been done with just the normal public transport bus, but the hop on and off came quicker and followed a nice route. I think it was worth it. My friend E and I really enjoyed our time on it! 

The Hop on an Hop off Bus in Gozo Route Map
The Hop on an Hop off Bus in Gozo

Making the most of Instagram stories

Instagram stories have been the highlight for a few months now. When Instagram came out with that new feature, many resisted because it was a rip off of snapchat. I really wanted to stand by Snapchat and just ignore the Instagram stories, but I couldn't! The appeal of them was too strong and my audience is much bigger on Instagram. The thing I like the most in the Insta stories is the option to see who exactly is viewing the stories and seeing their interests and profiles. A few features have been added a few weeks ago such as the location and the hashtags. Those two have really helped me reach to more people that I thought I was losing!

I found five useful ways for using Instagram stories and I thought you might make a use of them too!  

1- Post something on your story at least once a day

With the very annoying algorithm of Instagram that makes you see only the people and the posts it thinks you are interested in, I stopped seeing many posts from the 850 people I follow. When the stories pop up on the top of the page, I remember those people exist.  I see the stories of people I haven't seen in my feeds in ages, which is good because then I click on their profiles and find that I haven't even seen their last 10 photos! My insta story views are significantly higher than my post likes. The most likes I have been getting lately on my travel instagram is 150, but my story views reach to over 400, which is massive to me! 

Ps. Don't over share though. The more stories you have, the more people you will loose. 

Impression of Instagram Stories
Instagram Story Viewers

2- Make it interesting

The Instagram stories need a little more thought unlike snapchat. Some avid instagrammers even go to the lengths of editing videos with an editing software such as Premier pro to create a much more engaging story. You can certainly do that, but you can also be interesting without spending too much time on there. I especially love the Boomerang option! It only needs a slight movement and it gives more life. I generally prefer sharing videos on insta stories and keep the good photos for the feed. Another thing people seem to enjoy is process! My art instagram gets so much love when I share a process for a new piece of art. I also get more views and engagement out of that. 

3- Add a location

One of the coolest, newest things about the Instagram stories is the public story based on a location. All you have to do is to take a photo or a video then add the location and Instagram will automatically add you to the public story. I am not sure what's the reasoning behind who gets shown or not, but it's really cool when it happens. I got 100 views once from a specific London location. This also means that your story will show up (for 24 hours) when someone is searching the chosen location.   

4- Add a hashtag

A hashtag is the key to be found on Instagram and I am so excited that Instagram has added this to the story features. I have been using relevant popular tags and it's been working. For example, I used #Ramadan2017 a few times this month since I know many people are looking it up. I got a good amount of views just out of adding that. Instagram tells you how many views you are getting from a specific location or a hashtag. Worth adding for sure! 

Instagram Stories Hashtags

5- Call to action

Call to Action on Instagram

This is what makes your story shift from an individual's point of view to an engaging story. Talk to your viewers. Don't only give them orders to check links, but also attempt to have a conversation. Ask about their days, favourite activities and recommendation. It's fun to see what people have to say and it gives you a more personal view of your followers and their interests. I posted once asking people if they are interested in visiting unusual locations like Uzbekistan and after few minutes I got five responses from people who were intrigued. Not many, but it's still something!  


More Instagram posts that you might like: 

Instagram Tips and Highlights from Polkadots Passport

Instagram shadowban and how to get around it

Instagram Fully Explained 

Instagram as a Research Tool

Over to you: Do you have any ways to use the Insta stories to their fullest potential?

Hijabi Friendly Outfits for an Island Holiday in Malta

Malta is a gorgeous island and having few pretty outfits to match is a must! I tried my best to look stylish while modest. I also needed to pick light outfit so I can survive the island's summer heat. Thankfully I visited Malta end of May, which meant that the weather was still beautiful and breezy. Hope you like the outfits!  

Hijabi Friendly Outfits for an Island Holiday

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Modest Fashion Ideas

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Modest Activewear Ideas

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Summer Modest Fashion

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PS. All outfits were packed in carry on, so that's fantastic if you like to travel light! 

Gozo, relaxing and active island holiday

Gozo is the second island in Malta. It is gorgeous and very relaxing. My friend E and I went there straight from the airport which was a mission. We had to take the X1 bus directly from the airpot to the the ferry terminal, which was the last stop. It took about an hour and a half on the bus. When we arrived to the ferry terminal we had to wait an hour for the second ferry because we missed the previous one by 10 minutes and it's only one ferry an hour. The ferry ride was only half an hour. We were staying relatively close to the port, which meant a 5 minute car journey upon arrival. After that trip, everything else was easy.

Gozo is very quiet and most tourists only show up for a day trip from Malta, so it gets slightly busy between 11am to around 4pm, but from that point it's just local. I spent about two days there and I would highly recommend it. It's a great place for peaceful swims and relaxation. It's also great for private or family holidays. Potentially, you can see everything in one day or even two, but I would suggest a third day for either beach time or some hiking, which the island have plenty of. 

By the way, everything is accessible by public transports in Gozo and it costs 1.50 euros for each bus ride. You can use that same ticket on any other bus for the next two hours. The only problem with buses there is that they are not frequent and some of them only come once in an hour. Make sure you have a schedule because they usually come exactly on time. 

Five Things To Do/See in Gozo

I really enjoyed them and I hope you get to try them during your trip.   

1- Vitoria

This is the central area of Gozo. Think of it like the downtown. There are few restaurants and tourism offices. You can also book the hop on and off bus from there. The most important site there is the Citadel. It was very similar to Dubrovnik especially with the wall that encompassed a few museums, sights and churches. It's impressive and it could take you at least four hours. It will take longer if you go into the Museums there. The weather was perfection so we didn't want to go indoors. We walked around the fort walls going to the top to get a 360 view of Gozo. The only place we went into was a historic house. It was mostly open and airy.

Citadel in Vitoria - for 360 view of Gozo

2- Dwejra

This used to be the most popular spot for visitors to go see the Azure Window, but even after the unfortunate natural disaster that destroyed it, the site is still popular.

Right in front the cave opening, the inland sea is located. There are boat ride though the cave for 4euros each. It's only a 15mins ride and I think it was the highlight of my day. Just outside the cave, the inland sea was very shallow and clear. I laid in the water immersing half of myself in water. The water was just right for a swim. A number of people were on the side tanning or enjoying a little swim.

Inland Sea in Dwajira Gozo

3- Xlendi Beach

Pronounced Shlendi. The X is a SH sound. The village feels like such a nice family holiday spot. Some kids were playing with the rocks while their parents had their meals in one of the restaurants overlooking the shore. There were boats for hire to go on a short ocean tours and for personal use. Many people rented them and jump in the sea for a swim. There is also a mini hike to over view the village. We went there the end of the day, so it was very quiet  and just beautiful. 

Xlendi in Gozo

4- Ramla beach

Ramla means sand in Arabic and this is known as the sandy beach. It is sandy until you get to the actual beach. The surface of the beach is actually covered in rocks. It is very relaxing there. The morning was quiet, but the later it got the busier it got especially around 2pm. What I loved about this beach is the possibility of some privacy if you are willing to climb the other side and explore!

Ramla Beach Gozo

5- Calypso Cave

This cave is overlooking the Ramla Beach. You basically need to get to the beach first and walk to the far side and start claiming. There are few red dots to mark the route. It took us 40 minutes each way. It is very peaceful and quiet in the top. Make sure you have your walking shoes with you. The path is not paved or easy, but doable and enjoyable. Not to mention that photos up there are amazing! The view on top of the cave is also impressive. 

The legend has it that Calypso, the beautiful mythical creature, kept Odysseus as a `prisoner of love' for seven years. Calypso had promised him immortality if he stayed with her, but he escaped when he could, and returned to his wife Penelope!  

Hiking to Calypso Cave in Gozo Malta

Over to you: Have you visited Gozo? Do you have any recommendations?

Malta Highlights in one day

I was only in Malta (main Island) for one full day. I could have spent more there, but I didn't wish to leave Gozo (the sister island). So I only had a day to spend on the main island. It was very busy and full of life. It has a completely different vibe from Gozo. The distances in Malta were large, which is something I did not anticipate of some reason.

For instance, it will take you two hours from the ferry terminal to Mdina and another hour from there to Sliema. So make sure you check google maps for the vast distances. I also don't advice craming everything in Malta in a day and then heading back to Gozo. I did that and I was extremly exhusted not to mention all the time I spent on the bus that day! 

Mdina

As perhaps you have already seen, the old city of Malta is one of the main attractions there. The stone ground and structure were out of a storybook. It was slightly like a maze with colourful doors and windows. The bad thing is we arrived there at 4:30 when shops and sights were about to shut. On the bright side, the Medina was quiet and mostly empty, so we got to talk plenty of photos. I wish I had an extra outfit with me for the photos! The medina felt like a very small Dubrovnik. The most amazing thing was that there was a wedding happening in the church. The door was open and we got to witness some of the amazing ceremony. It was so beautiful!!

P.S. From all the souvenirs shop I loved the one pictured below.

They had a special ceramic range from a very skilled artist that only show cases his work in there. There were a few other cheaper ceramics there too. I found more affordable ceramics in the airport, but a very small range.

Rotunda

The structure of the church is fascinating and it is the biggest dome in the whole of Malta. Unfortunately, we missed going inside because we didn't realise they had special opening times. There is a fantastic cafe just across the road called The Cake Box. Really loved it there and if you are in the area stop by for lunch!

Sleima

This is a very lively part of town with a lovely sea front. It is very close from the capital Valletta. We found a yummy and budget friendly halal restaurant there called Lebanon Restaurant. It was the best 5 euros I spent! The atmosphere in the area is also nice. We went on a Friday night. It was full of life. There was even live music playing in on of the venues.

waterfront in Malta

The day flew by quickly and because of the location of these sights we did not have time to explore more, but that is a good reason to visit again!

Over to you: Have you been to Malta? What are the highlights you would recommend seeing?

Practical & Modest Outfits for Bosnia and Herzegovina

The great thing about Bosnia and Herzegovina is that I didn't feel out of place with my modest wear. Lots of local Muslim females were dressed similar to me, which meant that everyone is used to it. It felt great. It's good to be accepted like that. Here are some of the outfits I wore there during early Fall in September. It was surprisingly warm! Hope they give you some ideas for your next trip!  

Modest Fashion Idea

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Modest Fashion Idea for Travelling

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Swimming Modest Fashion Idea

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Modest Fashion Look Idea

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Santorini: The perfect photo destination + Spendings

Santorini is such a gorgeous island. I know it has been all over Instagram the past year, but being there in person is just amazing. Plus, all the gram fuss is real! It's the perfect photo destination. I would love to go back with a new set of clothes for more photos! My Santorini photos were the most loved from all my trips. Here's my Santorini Hijab friendly look book if you haven't seen it! However, visiting the island and the type of activities you would do is so weather dependent. I went the first week of April and it was rainy and a little cold, which meant absolutely no pool or beach. The girls and I did try to take a dip and it was just FREEZING! The weather was nice for long walks, little hikes and food! (Spendings down below!)

Benefit of being in Santorini in the off-season

If you wear the scarf or like your modest fashion, then the off season is perfect weather wise because that means you can be covered without feeling over heated. You can even hike without getting sweaty. 

Six Things to do in Santorini (in the off-season)  

  1. Enjoy the Santorini view
    As the title suggests, Santorini is the perfect photo destination, so take the opportunity of being there and have your own special photo shoot! It's easy to ask others to take photos of you, but if you want to do it yourself, some parts are very quiet and you can spend hours setting your own tripod and timer.  
  2. Take a walk from Fira to Imerovigli
    The main Santorini activity on Trip Advisor is the walk from Fira to Oia, but the locals don't recommend it because you end up walk on the very tight highway. You can take a shorter one from Fira to Imerovigli because there is a walking path. Google Maps gave me the highway route first because it's the fastest, but ignore that and go on the inside. It will be 15mins longer, but it's so much better because there isn't a pavement. Even though this walk is shorter, it is still very beautiful.   
  3. Hike the Skaros Rock
    This was my absolute favourite thing in Santorini. This rock is located in Imerovigli (The town between Fira and Oia). You can walk from the main town Fira to it, which will take you an hour. Luckily we were already staying in Imerovigli so it was only half an hour walk from us. Then about two hours to hike up there slowly and take photos when we got to the top. The higher up you go, the more challenging it is because you have to climb the rock without any help. I thought it was fun. It was one of the trip's highlights.  
  4. Get lost
    Unfortunately, I didn't have time to get lost in this beautiful island, but if I ever visit again, that's on top of my list. I just want to wander and find where the locals eat and chill. With the limited time I had on the Island, I only stuck to the main touristy spots. There are few walking paths that seem very interesting. I encourage you to look them up! 
  5. Enjoy the Greek food
    I had really high hopes for the food. I know that I would have loved and the Greek food and the fresh catches of the day, but being there in the off-season meant that many restaurants are yet to open and being in the touristy spots meant expensive choices. For some reason almost every restaurant we went to had an extended pasta menu. The off-season also meant no fish! The water was too cold to fish, so that was a little sad. I was really looking forward to that. I had lots of Greek salads though!  
    Halal food: We found one shop that said it was halal in Fira, but there wasn't any certification to prove it. I just ate vegetarian dishes and a few sea food ones. 
  6. Sail Away
    You can try a boat trip if you want to do something different during your time there. Here's what I thought of my Yacht experience in details.   

Bringing you back to reality with the spendings for five days in Santorini:

  • Flight 50GBP each way from London 
  • Eos Villa 215 GBP for five nights (shared with 14 other girls)
  • Food 200 euros including groceries for home cooked meals + two course meals.  
  • Transportations: the odd taxi here and there 30 euros 
  • Activities: Boat Trip 75 euros + cable cars 12 euros   

It's not cheap as one might think and little things add up really quickly. I imagine it could be done on a budget especially if you are staying in Fira and eating sandwiches rather than big meals. 

PS. Shopping for gifts and things in Santorini was very expensive especially in Oia.  

How to travel in a girl group (Hen Do!)

Last month, I was blessed to go on a trip to Greece for a friend's hen do (or as it's known in America a bachelorette trip) in the gorgeous island of Santorini. Since Greece is mostly affordable, a lot of the girls wanted to join for the fun hen do abroad. We ended up being fifteen girls including the bride. No one anticipated this big turn out, but it is a great feeling to see how many people would love to come and celebrate for a big occasion. We were all excited and rented a big villa. One of the only ones that accommodates fifteen! We were there for five days. On one hand it was undeniably fun, but on the other some plans were hard to arrange. Saying that, the maid of honour did a fantastic job organising everything!

On the last day, I asked the girls about their thoughts on group travel and how to make the most of it. So, this is a collective post with all our thoughts.  

Let's start off with everyone's favourite things about travelling in a group

  • Lots of fun 
  • Cheaper accommodations  
  • Meeting different people 
  • Getting to know your friends better 
  • Becoming more aware of your personality and your own traits 
How to make the most of group travel

Here are SEVEN tips to make the most of a group trip: 

  1. Designated a leader
    Let one person be in charge instead of various people who are trying to make plans as they go. 
     
  2. Discuss plans before the trip
    It's hard to determine all trip plans before the actual trips, but having a rough plan is very helpful. Luckily, the maid of honour, tried her best to do that. She even told us what to bring for certain occasions like the all dressed in white dinner!
     
  3. Be aware of the purpose of the trip
    Ask yourself and other attendees about the purpose of the trip. All members of the party should be on the same page. Is this trip to party? to spend most days on the pool? To try food?to explore? Being clear on that will give you better expectations
     
  4. Be flexible and open to other people's suggestions
    Going on a group by default means that the trip is about the whole group and trying to balance everyone's wishes. So, being flexible is key!
     
  5. Consider different budgets
    When you are travelling with a group, this is a very major consideration because not everyone has the same income. Defining that before a trip is ideal, but sometimes activity and food prices cannot be anticipated. Establishing a daily budget could be beneficial.   
     
  6. Take 5 and be accepting
    If someone bothers, just take a moment out of the situation to get your zen back and then discuss that subject again or avoid it. Plus, don't let it show through your behaviour. There is no point of heating things up unnecessarily. People just have their own views on things and not everyone needs to have the same mentality. Just accept it and move on.
     
  7.  Enjoy yourself
    Going with a group as pointed out earlier is FUN, so just focus on enjoying yourself, the new place and bonding with the awesome people you chose to travel with. 

Over to you: What are your thoughts on group travel? and what are your tips? Share with us in the comments below!