I know, something I should have written whilst in England, right? But hey, better late than never they say! So, travelling to London or the UK anytime soon? Well, don’t leave the house before downloading these fabulous travel apps!
There are so many apps nowadays and it can get overwhelming, time-consuming, and even expensive, to weed through them. The eight years of living and exploring England have gotten me attached to a few fantastic travel apps and on this post, I want to share them with you.
To make the categories a bit easier to navigate, I’ll divide this post into three:
- Travel apps to use for general travel besides being awesome to use in the UK
- Travels specific to the UK
- Travel apps most handy when used in London
General Travel Apps
- Google Maps. I save favourite places, places I want to go, get direction, look up public transport options, look up reviews, etc using this app. Google Maps works best with data but you can also download maps before your visit to use offline. Later down the road, I shall write a specific post on how I use this app. iOS and Android.
- Waze. Now owned by Google, Waze does a nifty job of sharing traffic info in a fairly congested area. What I mean is, awesome on highways, but unless another Wazer is in front of you and updating the app with traffic info, you’re not going to know if a particular tiny road in the middle of nowhere has traffic issues due to sheep not wanting to move out of the way.Let’s ignore the “millenial” part of this video and don’t text and drive. Besides those bits, the video has some useful info.
- ViaMichelin. When you are road tripping, this app helps estimate time, distance, and cost (petrol and toll). iOS and Android.
- XE. A currency conversion.
- Skyscanner. How I find the awesome deals on flight, can rental and sometimes lodging.
- Booking.com. Where I can find great deals on lodging. From hotel rooms to apartments.
- Airbnb. My other go to when finding lodging. Often we book a whole place but sometimes, if the reviews are great, we would rent a room. My advice is to only book places that have great reviews unless you are the kind who doesn’t mind taking a bit o risk.
- Google Translate. You can use your camera to auto-translate a label or menu, or, copy and paste from a website. It does require data to use but, you do have the option to download the language pack for that country so that you can use the app offline. iOS and Android.
- TripIt. Cause you need an app to keep track of all your bookings automatically. What this app does is scans your email inbox. When it detects a booking, it’ll import it. I love having to just open up TripIt and see all my flight, hotel, etc bookings instead of rummaging through my 5000 unread and read emails. I know, I am THAT person.
- TripAdvisor. Find restaurants/cafes near you and check out the reviews before you dine or lodge. iOS and Android.
- Sygic Travel. This is where I plan and map out which places to visit or which route to take. When I create a trip, Sygic will recommend the top sites with a bit of blurb. I can easily add and remove sites and the neat part, in my opinion, is how long it would take to walk from one place to the other. With kids, this is important.
Google Trips. TripIt and Sygic got married and the result was Google Trips. The nice thing about Google Trips is that it includes the reviews of the many places it recommends. To be honest I am still a newbie with this app and I am still a big fan of Sygic and TripIt. But if you haven’t heavily invested, time and money (I bought the Pro version for Sygic when it went on sale on day), this one app can do what TripIt and Sygic does.
- Parkopedia. Help you find parking. Too bad it doesn’t help you pay also.
UK Travel Apps
- RingGo. If you’re planning on driving around the island, this app can help you find parking and also pay for it. Many car parks use RingGo as their mobile pay system. Here is a tip though: Never driver around England without at least £5 of change. Unless you are in a not touristy village/town, the chance of finding free parking can be slim.
- AppyParking. Is another parking app and quite comprehensive too. The only downside is that it only works in London and two handfuls of other major cities (Norwich and Cambridge being two of them, so it was useful for me).
- Trainline: When you need to look up timetables and book train tickets.
- National Trust. It shows details on parking, opening times, fees etc of gardens and estates managed by National Trust. If you will be in England for 7-14 days, why not get a touring pass and visit around 300 gardens and estates whilst in England. Some favourites are Beatrix Potter’s and Isaac Newton’s home, Corfe Castle, Lacock and many many more. We made our membership worth it 😊
- English Heritage. Similar to National Trust, just different properties with fewer gardens and estates. Castles, forts, prehistoric sites and more are what EH manages. They also have a 9 or 16 days visitor’s pass and you can visit Dover Castle, Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall, and many more.
- Met Office Weather: Compared to the other weather websites, the MET was always most accurate.
London Travel Apps
- Citymapper. London has one of the best public transport systems and this app can help you navigate this beautiful large city with ease. No matter the tube, bus, cycle or walk, Citymapper can help. PS, I know this app can be used in different cities but I decided to place it here so that it won’t be buried under the general apps since it is my #1 in London.
- TubeLive: If you strictly want to have a tube map app
- Santander Cycles: Want to explore London via bicycal? Hop on one of the many bikes located all over London using this handy app.
- Thames Clipper Rive Boat: Explore London via water. You can view schedules and buy tickets using this app. Multiple tickets can be stored in one app. Handy when you travel with friends/family members.
- BusTime. I love riding the bus when the distance between my locations are not far. Often the bus is quicker than the tube (especially of the tube stop is a distance away). Often though one can’t be sure when the bus will arrive. No worries though, this app can help!
- Dusk. Find the most hopping bar/pub in London.
- British Streetfood: Yes, the name says it all. A tool to help you locate the street food you’ve been craving for.
- VisitLondon. And yes, you cannot visit one of my favourite city without their official app!
This is it. I’ll keep this post updated when I can and add/edit when needed. There is always a new app, or a current one that gets discontinued. Is there a must have that I missed? Comment below!
According to the weather folks, the next few days will be warmer than the last few weeks. By warmer I meant low 40F or 6C.
While I have the want to wander, I have not the will power to go into the cold to just walk about and snap photos. So instead I’ve been scouring my camera roll, finding some warmer weather inspiration and playing with a few new software that I have been testing the last few days.
Today I want to share a bit about photography and address the most frequently asked question on my Instagram feed: What camera and filter I use. If you keep reading, I have a few other bits to share a video tutorial.
Mobile photo editing is only getting better! For basic Instagram, Facebook or blog posts, there is no need to purchase a high-end photo editing software. What you can download via your phone app store, for FREE, will be sufficient! Let me show you how!
I mostly use the iPhone 6s (upgraded to the XR) for daily wanders and Nikon D300 for portraits, flowers and places I may want to print and hang on our wall one day. The D300 is a dSLR and I pair it with one of these lenses: Nikon 50mm f.1/8, Nikon 85mm f.1/4, and Tamron 17-50mm. I’d love to upgrade to a full-frame when I ever get back to working full-time again but until then, I rather use the extra cash to wander.
Update: October last year I purchased a Pentax Lumix G85. I LOVE it and I only use the kit lens.
Presets, Actions and Filters
Photos from my dSLR are edited in Lightroom. I bought and use VSCO presets for Lightroom on the iMac. But often time than not, I just manual edit and then copy and paste the settings onto the rest of the photos taken on that day.
If I feel the mood, or the photo could do with some major removing of a bush or tree or swapping eyes (kids blink waaaay too often ?) I’d use Photoshop. I do have a few actions, some of my favourites are Paint the Moon and Florabella, but rarely use them. When I do use them, I use these actions lightly on each photo. When I edit manually, like Lightroom, I only do a bit of a simple and clean edit and that’s it. To make it easier, I saved that simple edit of mine into an action. This way I can just load the photo into PS, swap some eyes around and then push a button for the action to run and be done.
When comparing my editing style to putting make-up on, I try to go for the simple and natural look. I use make-up to hid small imperfections and to enhance a few bits and bobs. I am not one who put a quarter inch of foundation and blend in four different eye shadow colours.
When I photograph using the iPhone, 90% of the time I edit in Lightroom (free app). The 10% are spread out between VSCO (for facades) and aColorStory (for colourful photos). I use VSCO and aColorStory, also SnapSeed (super rare) for educational reasons than need. I just want to make sure I keep up with the technology.
I edit on the iPhone slightly differently I think compare to the dSLR photos. With the dSLR I have so much more control of the lighting where the phone you can only poke around the screen so much. I can get a bit heavy on the iPhone editing. Maybe I am just not that great at it or maybe it’s the phone’s limitation. Whatever it is, now and then I push a few options way to the left or to the right.
I photograph a lot of facades and sceneries and lens distortions caused by wide-angle lens are always present in my photos. Instagram has the ability to straighten out and adjust the perspective.
I use it a lot, it’s not bad in my opinion. But now and then I need more and a paid app called SKRWT does the job beautifully — iDevice | Android
Here is a great demo video on SKRWT’s features
I am going to grab one of my photos and show you the Straight out of Camera (SOOC) image and the edited version.
Then a tutorial on how I achieved the above look. Oh, do note that this is my first video tutorial in a looooong time and using a software that I just downloaded yesterday. I’ll keep practising and I hope this part will get better as I keep creating videos to share with you all.
I did post this photo on Instagram today. You may notice that it looks slightly different. The difference is that after I finished editing in Lightroom for mobile, I took the photo into SKWRT to straighten it out and then crop some. I also always find something to edit once on Instagram. So I messed a bit more with the brightness, structure, highlight, shadow and sharpness. A little IG quirk I suppose ??
That’s all I have to share today. I’ll chat with you again another day!?
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Hello again! I hope you found my last post useful!!
Today I want to share the basics of finding hashtags for those who are new to Instagram or those who are wanting to start growing their Instagram account. There are a lot of articles out there on the Internet in regards to top or best hashtags to use, but, there were only a few that I found to be really useful for those just starting out.
I found a lot of interesting findings when doing my hashtag research, the algorithm, but I will not go into that now. It’ll just be too much.
So let’s get started!
- Do not use general hashtags like #tuesday (9.2 million photos in there) #breakfast (53.2 million) #travel (147.2 million) or even #tbt (352 million). Right now, go into one of those hashtags and look under “most recent” and scroll through. How many posts come in every minute? A lot!
- This is where reflection comes in… Look at your feed if you have one or think about the one you will be starting. What do you want to share with the world? How do you want your feed to look and who do you want to engage with? Moms, fellow travelers, photo enthusiasts, lovers of architecture etc. What will your niche be? Ok, you may be thinking, “I don’t want to be too niche, it’ll be too restricting.” Have you heard the term niche marketing? Basically you want to be the big fish in the small pond and not the small fish in the big pond.
- Once you have a better idea of which direction you want to go, do a bit of digging around. There are a variety of ways to do this.
- If you love a particular magazine, see if it has an Instagram account and a hashtag. Or just look at any magazine’s IG account, magazines that would be read by people who may like what you have to offer, and see if they have a hashtag that they use.
- Find other Instagrammers, ideally an Instagrammer that doesn’t have a huge following as yet, in your niche with good engagement. In Instagram, 5% engagement is average, anything more is really good. Look at their hashtags, click on them and if you find some good ones, write them down on a piece of paper, phone Notepad/Evernote or whatever.
- If you are involved in a group, let’s say Clickin Mom and they have tags they use, write them down. If you love using a particular photo editing app, VSCO for example, look up vsco’s tags.
- Visit Instagram’s blog. They post weekly hashtag challenges. Give them a go. A lot of IGers participate and you have a chance to be featured.
- Look up related tags on Instagram. What you want to pay attention to when looking and selecting these hashtags are how big it is. This one example has about 167,250 posts and if you scroll through the most recent posts, you can get a rough estimate on how many new photos come in every hour.
This one I think had about 14 photos. It’s not bad. Your photo can be easily accessible by many for the next hour or three.
- Use a variety of tags for your photo. If you are posting a handmade doll that you sell on Etsy. Use a handful of doll related tags, use a handful of mom/kids tags (assuming these are toys), use a handful of lifestyle blog, use a handful of location tags (#eastanglia, #parismaville, #thebigapple but not #chichago, #london, #tokyo, they’re too big and generic) and if there is a flower or the doll is on a bike or the doll is against a pretty wall, use very niche tags like #fouriadorefriday, #bicichic, or #ihavethisthingwithwalls.
- Combine big-ish to small-ish tags. I nice rule of thumb is to use hashtags with 5k-100k photos in there and if the hashtag photo amount is small, make sure it’s active. That there are photos being posted using that tag at least every hour. You don’t want to be buried. But you don’t also want to be the only post in two days, or weeks.
That’s that. At least for now. I think those tips above will get you going! Please let me know in the comment below if you tried the tips above and finding them helpful. Also, if you need any help finding a few, please comment below also. I’ll help the first five people who ask ?
Until next time!!
Let me start with a bit of background…
Up to April 2010 I was an Instructional Technologist for a university in Missouri. What I did was developed websites for faculty members, researched (mostly) social media and open source software and conducted software training for the faculty and staff. For a hobby, I created Photoshop video tutorials. I know, nerdy, right?!
Before moving to England I opened my Instagram account. This was in 2010. It was private with about 122 followers. Mostly my real life Facebook friends and a few blog friends from back in my paper crafting days.
February 2016 I decided to use the platform on a regular basis. My goal was to post every day in hopes that I get my love for photography back. Before January I never knew that there were many gorgeous feeds. I just thought everybody posted IG filtered daily photos of lunches or of their families (HA!!)
Despite my background, I didn’t know exactly how hashtags worked and the word “algorithm” boggled my mind. You see, in education, at least my job, for security and privacy purposes, all social media accounts used in the classrooms were private. Just amongst the professors and students.
To educate myself, I scoured Google for resources. I found lots, some good and some just meh, and I got into my software research mode. I analysed, hypothesised and tested. A few things didn’t go well but a few others did.
Just as I got the hang of Instagram, the algorithm changed. I had to make changes too but a few things stayed the same.
Last year my personal life took me on a roller coaster ride. This got me to reflecting almost everyday and I read many many self-help books. I also sat down with a psychologist.
The things I learned from both Instagram and my personal growth was: You get back as much as you give and that as humans we all long to connect.
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” – Brene Brown.
I am in a few Instagram for business groups on Facebook and many members expressed the difficulty of getting their posts seen, being on the receiving end of the follow/unfollow methodology, and lack of engagement.
Hashtags and nice photos in Instagram are very important but as I observed people’s Instagram posts and usages, especially those using IG for business or to gain followers for financial gains, it seemed like many forgot the “social” part of social media. Many got too absorbed in wanting to gain followers fast or there just seemed too much of the “look at me” factor.
The last few months I have been receiving many messages on how my account grew fairly quickly and my standard replies have been: Engage, hashtags, photo quality, value, and consistency.
There is a lot to say for each of the five I mentioned above. Today, I will just briefly touch the engagement portion.
We all use Instagram, or any social media platforms for different reasons but if you are wanting to grow your IG organically, be it for personal or business, you need to engage. And engaging doesn’t mean liking 200 photos or saying “fab” or “?”. Now, I know I have done these types of engaging but, if the photo and/or caption touched my heart, I’d write a thoughtful comment.
In real life friendship, you wouldn’t make as many friends if you just waited around. In real life, you got to go up, introduce yourself and engage. You’d share information and try to find a connection. You connect more with folks who communicate in full sentences than just a high fives or a single “fab” word. Once the connection is there, to keep the friendship alive, you need to keep engaging. To have a good friendship going, both needs to give into the relationship.
Unless you’re famous, when you start out, you got to reach out first! Then connect regularly.
My reason to want followers (and me wanting to follow also) was so I could gather a nice group of encouraging folks to cheer me on in my journey. I wanted to be inspired also and I followed those who either inspired me on a photographic level or make me happy (like dogs, flowers, and pretties in general). My goal was to gain 1000 followers by December 31, 2016.
I got started!
When I started out, I spent about 10-15 minutes every other hour engaging. During the kids’ gymnastics, I can be on Instagram liking and commenting for an hour or two. I have never been banned! I just can’t type that fast!
I found a few hashtags that I liked: #visitbritian, #lovegreatbritain, #ukpotd, #alifeofintention, and my favourite #wisteriahysteria. I visited these hashtags regularly and I said hello to many. Many said hello back. As the days and weeks went by, I kept bumping into the same folks. We kept chatting back and forth and a connection was formed. Some followed me and some I followed back. Some I never follow and some unfollowed me too because they either got bored of my feed or I didn’t follow back. But this is ok (will talk more on this later), it’s social media.
As my account grew, I had to set some boundaries. I have a family and my real life is important to me. After I gained 5k followers or so I mostly engaged with those I follow and those who leave comments on my photos. I do also, if I happen to be online and see a follower from when I “only” had 300 followers liking my photo, I would go to his/her feed and like back. I reply to most of the comments left for each of my posts. I say most because it’s hard to catch them all. And when I reply, I also take the time to go into each of the commenters feeds to check out their photos, to read the captions and/or comment back.
Yes it’s a lot of work but they all took the time to comment (and often time read my long winded captions) and to me, it’s only nice to do the same back.
That’s my tip of the day and first proper blog post. Get out of your corner, say hello and genuinely comment on photos and/or captions that touch you on a regular basis. With millions of users out there, you are bound to find many people who will like what you have to offer. Remember: We all want to be feel seen, heard, and valued.