Monday, May 16, 2016

7 Travel Tips for your next holiday

Disclaimer: I'm no Nomadic Matt. I've just spent the last two weeks submerged in prep for my upcoming holiday and these are my simple go-to resources for holiday planning.

I'm off in 3 days, eeek! Here's a little peek at where I'm headed:


Don't get me wrong - I'm a big info/planning-nerd and all about the YAY in holid-yay.

But the research, planning, itinerarizing, bookings, payments, cancellations, (shudder) last minute changes AND that too for an ENTIRE group is just about as fun as getting your teeth pulled. I wouldn't have it any other way :)

For now, I'm reaching the very end of this process and thought I'd share my go-to resources/tips that made my planning process infinitely easier! 

Flight search


Usually, I use Cleartrip for flight searches - it's easy, you can compare a bunch of flights and book with very few clicks - what's not to love? But on this trip, we stumbled upon some incredible rates using Google Flights. Google magically picked up (as they do) these awesome promotional fares that didn't show up elsewhere and boom, we got tickets almost half off the original price!

Start a spreadsheet


As soon as a holiday plan is in place, the next thing I do is make a Google spreadsheet (promise I'm not sponsored by Google, teehee) and share it with people I'm travelling with - it includes the basic info like a rough schedule, cities we're going to and things we want to see in these places, flight info etc.

This little guy is useful for so many different reasons - you have all the info you need in one place which helps especially if you have a long trip and lots of bookings, you have a clear overview of the schedule, costs and status of things and like I mentioned, you can share this and any updates you make will reflect for others also. It serves a nice little list for the future as well!

The Modern Tourist has done a great in-depth post on this, so head over there if you want more on this!

Finding a place to stay


My go-to is always Booking.com because (again) it's easy, you have free cancellation on most places, so you can book and then take your time to look around for some more options in the meanwhile. I do refer back to reviews on TripAdvisor because sometimes reviews are not that detailed on Booking and they only have the fancy shiny photos of the accommodations as opposed to regular life photos which TripAdvisor has in addition.

Airbnb is also a popular option if you're looking for a homely experience (or so I've heard), I'm yet to try it out myself.

Where to go, what to see


This is the fun but difficult part - I usually use TripAdvisor as a starting point for places to see and then work my way down the rabbit-hole to travel blogs, social media, friends, family etc.

During this process, make sure to look out for the little additional info that people usually share like this is not open on that day, buy these tickets in advance and don't bother waiting in line for this statue etc which will help save time (and heartache). There's tons of different itineraries online from different tour companies, just mix and match as you please.

Zomato collections also work as an good base guide as to where you can eat and drink your way through the city. Apart from this, do a general Google search for events possibly happening in that city while you're there, might stumble into something exciting! (Adele in Lisbon, Coldplay in Barcelona for me and a local festival in Cordoba for me!)

Internal travel


We're booking a lot of internal travel on this trip and it was quite the challenge to figure out what works best with distances, times and the different modes of transport. This website called Rome2Rio was super useful for this specific reason - it lists all options between two places (bus/flight/car/train) along with the relevant information and links to where you can book them as well. You can use this for international travel as well if you need.

Label your bookings in your inbox


While this is not a new trick, it's well worth adding in this list! I have a little more than 20 different bookings on this trip and I've done myself a favor and labelled every booking - Spain/Portugal 2016 - in my email, so that when it's time to print, everything is in place and I don't need to worry about missing an important printout to present at the airport or anywhere else I might need.

Get your International Driving Permit (IDP)


This is a no-brainer. If you're planning to drive where you're going (even if you're not, good to keep handy), get your IDP locally, they are valid for a year and so it'll also help for future travel within that time frame. They print it in a bunch of different languages so you're covered translation wise.

Here's a detailed post on how and where to get your license in Dubai by Globe Trotting Filipina!


And that about rounds up this post, hope it helps you on your next trip. You can follow me on Instagram and Snapchat for updates on my travels!

Mona xo

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Clarisonic Mia 2 Review - Yay or Nay?

So, I waited patiently to do this review and have now been using the Clarisonic Mia 2 for a whole 4 months - that's like a lifetime in waiting-to-write-a-blog-post years.

If you've not already heard about this product, the Clarisonic Mia 2 is a facial sonic cleansing brush with an oscillating brush head that's meant to give you squeaky clean skin by cleaning 6 times more intensely than if you would wash your face with your hands alone.

What, where, how much



Let's look at the basic info - the Mia 2 model is a good one to start with. It comes with a compact charger (each charge will last you 30-ish uses), a sensitive brush head, a sample of the Clarisonic cleanser and a travel case. It's definitely pricey at AED 700 - see it as a relatively long-term investment but do keep in mind that it's best to change brush heads every 3 months which cost roughly 100 AED. You can get the Mia 2 as well as the brush heads at Sephora. There seem to be vendors selling it online for cheaper, be cautious of fakes as always.

How does it work?

It's pretty easy to use - apply your cleanser of choice either onto the brush or onto your face. Mia 2 also has a useful setting which is a buzzer for every time you need to switch to a different spot on your face in the 1-minute period - 20 seconds on chin/nose, 20 seconds on forehead, 10 seconds on each cheek. It also has two speeds in case you want to experiment with what works better with your skin.

So, switch on the Clarisonic and follow the vibrating buzz-es. Afterwards, rinse your face and then rinse your brush head, dab the brush head onto a towel to remove the extra water, put on the lid and it should dry off before your next use. You can use it in the shower even as it's waterproof.

Chapter 1: Mia 2 + Sensitive Brush Head


Now, for the review itself. My expectations from the Mia 2 was to help improve my skin texture in general. I started off using the Mia 2 once a day with the sensitive brush head that came with the product and the first time I used it - I was very impressed, my skin was super smooth, soft and so clean.

Yeah, this lasted all of one week. I started breaking out so horribly and I hadn't changed anything else in my routine except for adding the Mia 2. So, I gave it up and decided to just chalk it to a bad purchase. I went online, read some reviews to see who I can blame this on and move on with my life, and came across a bunch that mentioned that they had the same issue before it got so much better.

So, I went back to reluctantly using the Mia 2 and waited for the light at the end of the tunnel. Nope, nothing - still as bad and no signs of improvement. At this point, I did feel as though the sensitive brush head was harsh on my skin and caused redness, but I just dismissed that thought assuming that that is how the brush felt and plus I was still waiting for this to turn better as it did for most people.

Chapter 2: Mia 2 + Acne Brush Head

My final ray of hope was to try a different brush head. My skin had been strangely sensitive over the last 6 months prior to Mia 2, so I had figured that the 'sensitive' brush head that I'm already using should be best for it. I anyway looked at some options and decided to try out the acne cleansing brush head which is usually for acne-prone skin.

In the meanwhile, I stopped using the Clarisonic till I got this new brush head and as soon as it came, I braced myself for whatever was about to come - one last try.


And.. it worked. The acne brush head is INCREDIBLE. It is essentially the brush head that is meant to be used for people with sensitive skin - it's much softer and gentle on your skin than the damn sensitive brush head + it almost feels like it's polishing your skin while deep cleaning it. So if you've reached this part of the post and hate your Clarisonic, try the acne brush head!

Since the acne brush head, I've experienced some vast improvements in my skin - much smoother, my skin feels so soft and radiant, my pores seem smaller and makeup goes on much nicer. It's even helped with absorption of my other products into my skin helping get better results from them as well, so more bang for your buck. I usually use it once a day at night and follow it up with my night routine.

It didn't seem help to particularly help with scars or pigmentation - let me know if you've seen otherwise.

Verdict

Yay! Absolutely recommend if you're looking to elevate your skincare routine. You'll be fine without it for sure but I'm glad I got onto this wagon (though it took a while). If you're looking for a good cleanse and refined skin texture, you can bank on this product for that. It also means for fewer facials (lesser $$) as you have far less blackheads, acne and clogged pores etc. You're giving your skin some TLC essentially everyday with this one.


And that brings to me to the end of this saga. Let me know if you have any tips/tricks for me to try out with this one!

Mona xo 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Landmark International SS'16 Trends

So, it's fortunately (or unfortunately) nearly spring time which only means it's time for some new clothes! I was recently invited to the Landmark International SS'16 preview - I now want to throw all my existing clothes and get the superb new ones from this preview.

Anyway, highlights for me were that New Look had these wonderful collections inspired by 90s trends, Reiss featured some amazing prints inspired by artist Marlene Dumas, Koton's collection Ole is pretty much a summer dream, Lipsy has collaborated with Ariana Grande on a fun flirty collection,  and finally Yours London has launched swim wear for plus-size & modest!

So now that you're all caught up, let's look at some of this season's trends:

Laser-cut

Lots of laser-cut garments across the lines, not complaining though - it's SO pretty.

L to R: New Look, Lipsy, Reiss

Belted

This is a trend I can get on board with - flattering on pretty much any body type and is classy AF.

L to R: Koton, Reiss, New Look

Stripes

I like how differently each brand has treated the stripes - nothing new but still interesting.

L to R: Lipsy, Reiss, New Look

Florals

Florals is a no-brainer for spring, I'm starting to think florals are pretty much never going to go out of style.

L to R: Koton (Ole), Lipsy, Yours London

Spring/summer is looking pretty good, eh? Time to shop!

Mona xo

Sunday, January 10, 2016

2016 resolutions

Another year has come and gone. And also, yes, it has been a while since I've been on here - but hey, new year new me? (just threw up a little bit in my mouth)

This blogging stuff is hard (#firstworldpain) and I often find myself struggling to talk about something fresh, something that's not just another product or trend or whatever else. Don't get me wrong - it's interesting to share that content and I binge-read those blogs but to do that constantly is really not up my alley. 

So, back to the new year, 2016 has been just the same as 2015 so far which isn't necessarily a bad thing! But nevertheless, let's get this out the way. Presenting some damn resolutions:

1. #52booksin2016

So I've taken this on because I've been sorely disappointed with how many books I've read in the last few years and hopefully, this helps kick start something. On that note, please drop me some suggestions - I made a whole deal about making a full list for this and have a grand total of 12 books on there so far.

2. Lose some weight

I've struggled with my weight more or less all of my life and it's about time to try and get a hold on it. I feel like this is everyone and their mothers' resolution so you know how this goes.

3. Less stress

I've come to a not-so-crazy realization that I stress about the stupidest damn things and this needs to stop, preferably very soon.

4. No more nail biting 

I have a painfully chronic nail biting habit and I almost succeeded at kicking this end of last year until I didn't. So, here goes attempt no. 5687.

And that's it. My list is very short and sweet this year, hoping less is more. Let's kick some 2016 butt!

What are some of your resolutions? Share - would love to know what you guys are taking on!

Mona xo

Monday, November 23, 2015

Festive Season Wishlist

The festive season is upon us! Yes, it's only November but I honestly can't wait any longer to partake in ALL them festivities and I'm sure most people would agree. I've been browsing online for some gift ideas (mostly for myself, ahem) and have now fallen in love with many new discoveries, thanks to this 'research'.

So, in the spirit of the holidays, here's my wishlist for the season:


1. YouBeauty advent calendar -  If I could, I would put all them damn beauty advent calendars on this list because each one of them looks incredible. My current favorite from this season is this YouBeauty one - it seems to have a great mix of skincare as well as beauty products from some brands I'm looking to try out such as Rodial, Philip Kingsley, Nuxe etc. Other favorite advent calendars include the Marks & Spencer and L'Occitane calendars.

2. Bakery Charms Pizza Ring - I don't know how you can go wrong with anything you buy from Bakery Charms. All their pieces are winners but have to say, this was my favorite - it was a very close call between this one and an equally realistic cake ring.

3. Estée Lauder Double Wear Foundation - Based on several reviews, this foundation seems to be a tough cookie which pretty much stays on no matter what. As someone who lives in Dubai where it's summer for most part of the year, this could be very useful!

4. Skinnydip London Milk iPhone case - I'm not usually one for these obnoxiously giant cases for your phone but this one is just so adorable! I must have it.

5. Diptyque Holiday Collection - Diptyque is no new addition to the candle party but I can honestly admit that I solely want to buy these candles just based on this packaging - SO festive and I'm sure they smell equally delicious! The three scents in the holiday collection are Sapin, Liquidambar and Oliban.

6. Glen Coco Holiday Pullover - Mean Girls + Christmas = shut up and take my money.

7. Clarisonic Mia 2 - I've been looking for something to take my skincare routine to the next level and this product has that's been making quite the difference for many people. It was between this one or the Foreo but after some careful review surfing, the Clarisonic seems to be it!

Apart from this list, I obviously also accept cake, Christmas ornaments and hot chocolate (pretty much all year around).

What's on your wishlist this season? Comment below, let me know!

Mona xo

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Solo Bistronomia and Vino Bar

Wine and cheese on a Tuesday night? Hell yes. I feel like I don't even need to write anything more to convince you to head to Solo Bistronomia and Vino Bar for their 'Genius Loci' night.



Located at Raffles Hotel, this night offers 5 wines paired with 5 cheese (and bread for taste) for an incredible price of AED 120 (yes, you are reading this right). This night is basically my happy place. Spending a cozy evening with wine, cheese and friends in the quirky rustic setting that is Solo is pretty much guaranteed to rid you of midweek blues.

A photo posted by Mona (@monagir) on

Being a newbie with really understanding wine and its ways, it was great that someone did walk us through the different wine and cheese pairs. Bonus - just in case you don't remember the pairings over the course of the evening, the place mat had them listed as well which was such a nice little touch.



The service was wonderful as was all the delicious wine and cheese. I don't think I'm equipped to describe either further so I think you should definitely go find out for yourself! However, I should say that I especially loved the final pairing of the dessert wine with the blue cheese.



So, that's your Tuesday night sorted, you're welcome! If you fancy indulging your sweeth tooth, they also have a wine and chocolate night every Sunday. I'm undoubtedly heading back to get me some good Italian grub and most definitely, for some more wine.

Solo Bistronomia and Vino Bar
Raffles Hotel, 3rd Floor
Tel: 04 370 8999

Have any wine and cheese night recommendations for me? Leave a comment below or tweet me @MonaGir!

Mona xo

Sunday, September 20, 2015

#TMTurns1 Giveaway: Herbline Essentials

It's no secret that Herbline Essentials is one of my favourite brands for skincare - they are part of my nighttime skincare routine as well as one of my favourite face masks.

There are so many natural brands in the market but what I love about HE is that their products are quite reasonably priced, they have ranges for all kinds of skin types and they work! So, if you are looking to try out some of their products, this would be a great time as they have some amazing bundle offers on their website for a limited time and they offer free delivery across the UAE!

But if you're looking to try your luck, I've teamed up with Herbline Essentials to give away products worth AED 500 to one lucky winner! (I almost wanted to keep this for myself)



The products included for this giveaway are:

- Neem and Brahmi Facewash
- Aloevera and Honey Under Eye Gel
- Apricot and Honey Face Scrub
- Aloevera and Liquorice Skin Protection and Healing Cream

Below are all the deets on how to win these lovely products:


The entries for this giveaway will close on 30 September 2015 and the winner will announced shortly after. The competition is open to GCC residents only. Good luck!

Mona xo

 
Site Design by Designer Blogs
UA-54556877-1