Travel Budget: Long Weekend in Amsterdam

travel budget long weekend in amsterdam
Every time I have visited Amsterdam, I have spent entirely too much money. It hasn’t mattered what my financial position was at the time, I’ve always managed to seriously go over my budget. Whether that has meant borrowing money from friends or allowing myself money that should be spent at home, it is a city that encourages me to do things that I know I shouldn’t!

Amsterdam isn’t even in the top 20 most expensive European cities, however, that doesn’t change how broke you will feel at the end of it. The temptation to spend is high. Every street has the most delicious looking baked goods, we’re talking Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on hot waffles, topped with whipped cream… I mean, how can you say no? Every corner has a souvenir shop full of weird and wonderful keepsakes and a lot of the time, you aren’t in the best frame of mind to think logically about your expenses.

Here’s what our latest travel budget was for our long weekend in Amsterdam and how we tried to keep on top of our expenses this time around, despite our change in circumstances and last minute booking blunders. All costs are based on 2 people, spending 4 days in Amsterdam.

Transport

€260 – We definitely could have gotten this cheaper, had we been smart about things and booked our tickets earlier. Dan and I had intended to take a flight and saw pretty cheap prices a few months ago, however, life got in the way and we forgot to book our tickets until 2 weeks before the trip. Woops. As a result, we had to take a high speed train (ICE) which took almost 6 hours to arrive in Amsterdam (with one stop over in Cologne for 40 minutes) and 4 hours to arrive back in Frankfurt 4 days later. Considering the price was for the two of us and high speed trains are not normally cheap in Germany, I was still happy with the price we paid for this ticket. However, it’s a far cry from the days I was picking up tickets to Amsterdam for €1.

As our apartment was so close to the city and the weather was pure summer goodness, we walked everywhere as soon as we arrived in Amsterdam. This meant we didn’t have to pay extra costs for trams.

Accommodation

€380 – Considering we stayed in a really nice apartment in Amsterdam, I think this price was completely worth it. Around this time of year, hostels are charging €40 per night to their guests and you have to share dorms and bathrooms. We paid roughly the same and had an entire apartment to ourselves. Dan and I met up with 3 of our friends for this trip and we all had a bed to sleep in at the apartment, not to mention a huge bathroom (with a bath!) and we were a 5 minute walk from the centre of the city. If you are travelling in a group, I highly recommend you look into bed & breakfasts/apartments to rent.

To check out the apartment we stayed in, click here.

Food

€180 – I recently wrote a post on trying to keep your eating budget low when travelling because we tried to implement this in Amsterdam. It was difficult, because food there is not known for being ‘cheap and cheerful’, however, I think we did pretty well! We avoided snacking, visited places we knew had decent prices and knew our way around the supermarket for days when sitting in a hot restaurant were just not an option. We also ensured to hit the supermarket for our journey home to avoid buying over priced train food.

Other

€85 – We visited the Anne Frank House which cost us €9 each for a ticket, as well as picking up a painting from an art market we found whilst walking around the city. There’s also a few other expenses in there such as alcohol and other things people do in Amsterdam which cost us around €50.

Total Cost = €905

Per Person = €402.50 / Per Day = €100.63

I think we could have saved roughly €200 on this trip, had we booked our transport tickets earlier and gone for a cheaper accommodation option. However, this is Dan and I’s first trip ever* where we have had the possibility to stay in an apartment instead of on someone’s floor, take a high speed train instead of a horribly long bus journey and eat out with friends instead of eating from food stalls on the street. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suddenly going to ditch all of my budget travel methods and ways, I love keeping things cheap when I travel, but it was really nice to know our hard work is paying off and making things a little easier.

*My husband and I have been traveling and working for 2 years, earning salaries of €260-€400 per month max. Since June 2014, he entered full time employment as a teacher in Germany and I declared myself as self-employed with my web & graphic design business… aka we are finally not piss poor anymore.

Ways to cut costs in Amsterdam

As I mentioned, this trip was a little different to previous ones. Below I wanted to share a few of my cost cutting tips from previous visits, save those pennies ;).

Albert Cuypmarkt – The largest street market in Amsterdam, great for wandering around.
Vondelpark – It’s free to visit, absolutely gorgeous and has an amazing atmosphere. A great place to relax on a warm day or walk around on a cooler evening.
Cheese shops – I love cheese shops. 90% of them in the city offer free samples of amazing cheese and mustard. Have a taste… or five!
Bloemenmarkt – A gorgeous flower market in the city, so good you will almost spend money ;).
Civic Guard Gallery – A free section of the Amsterdam museum.
Cannabis College – Get educated, whether it’s something you do or don’t do, this is an interesting visit!
Walk along the canals – They are so beautiful and take you to some beautiful residential areas around the city.

Have you ever been to Amsterdam? Did you manage to stick to your budget? What would you recommend for cutting costs?

How To Rebrand Your Blog

How To Rebrand Your Blog

At the risk of stating the obvious, I just rebranded my blog. I went for a full blown, in your face, hey-wait-a-second rebrand, complete with a new name, look and (to an extent) content. Why do things by halves, hey? ;)

Something that was really surprising for me during my rebrand process was how different it is when you are “working for yourself”. I have implemented plenty of website transfers and rebrands for design clients of mine and it’s something I am very confident with, but when it came to my own blog? Jeez, I am one tough customer.

Now it’s all over, I want to share my experience with you on how to do it and what to expect during the process. I’ve covered everything from the choices you need to make, to the process you have to follow and the things you should be aware of after you rebrand. Consider this a go-to guide for all the things you need to rebrand your blog.

The Choices

Choosing a name

At this point, I am assuming you have made the decision to rebrand your blog. If you are still unsure, wait until you are or it’s probably not the right time for you. You’ve got to be 100% behind this. The same goes for if you are changing your niche. Don’t rush these decisions.

My previous blog name was Diaries of an Essex Girl. One of the main reasons I switched to a new blog name was because although I am always going to be a girl from Essex, I no longer felt like the “Essex Girl” I had labelled myself as the previous year when I set up my blog. I’ve moved on, grown, progressed and distanced from that and so it felt right to make the change.

Your new blog name needs to be something you love. Before I arrived at The Lotus Creative, I considered many blog names which I just knew I would hate after 1 month of blogging at my new space. I strongly advise you brainstorm at least 5 alternative names and choose between those, and even then, don’t settle on the one you like the most if you aren’t 100% sure on it. Your blog name should be intriguing to people from it’s URL, loosely define who/what your blog is about and still be relevant in a year’s time.

Choosing a design

Most people choose to go for a new design when they rebrand their blog. You should not rush the design of your rebranded blog and if necessary, hire someone else to do it for you. I can help you with that. Choose a design that is easy to navigate, consistent with your content and most importantly, responsive. This means your blog needs to look rocking on phones, tablets and computers.

In mid 2014, it is just not ideal if your blog’s design is not responsive. In fact, it’s pure crazies. I view 90% of the blogs I read via my phone/iPad and I’d be willing to bet that most of you do the same. Nobody wants to zoom in on your blog post content to read it, especially when they usually have to scroll left/right for every new line in your post, right?

Responsive designs, in my experience, are not more expensive than non-responsive designs. I code all of my WordPress designs to be responsive and do not charge more than I would for a non-responsive design. If you are a bit of a code wiz anyway, you can always create your own responsive design.

Choosing a blogging platform

If you don’t want to pay any money towards your blog, choose Blogger as your platform. Honestly, that’s the only reason I can come up with for why you would want to use Blogger. If you are a Blogger user, then Google owns your content. This means, Google can delete your blog and all of it’s content, at any time, without any notice (link takes you to search results full of people having issues with this). Blogger is also a lot less customisable, doesn’t offer responsive designs (aside from their own mobile view, which is pretty old school) and you have to tread carefully to ensure you follow their rules.

This is why I would always recommend WordPress.

As a WordPress user, you own your own content, have access to a lot of incredible plugins and can customise your design to look however you want. Anything is possible. I understand that WordPress can be daunting for new users as it’s also got an expense attached to it. I have found Host Gator to be one of the cheapest web hosts with a pay monthly option, which allowed me flexibility when I first started using WordPress so that I could back out whenever I wanted to. Hosting costs between $6-$8 per month and is well worth it as the only expensive associated with WordPress.

Choosing your content

This is only applicable if you don’t intend on starting a brand new blog. You should consider wisely what content you will bring over to your rebranded blog. I deleted several old blog posts during my rebrand for various reasons, some because they were no longer applicable, some because I didn’t like them and others because after a year of blogging, I feel like a different person.

It’s important your new blog reflects who you are, as well as what your blog is about. Take the time to make your content user friendly and something you can be proud of.

The Process

Step 1: Buy your new .com

I purchased thelotuscreative.com from Namecheap because they have always been a reliable service for me. They don’t spam my inbox with junk after I buy a domain from them and the purchasing process is uncomplicated; they simply want your .com details, payment details and who to register it to. Simple!

If you find your .com isn’t available, I strongly suggest choosing another name where you can purchase the .com. People will assume your blog has a .com at the end anyway, particularly if they have only visited once or twice before. This makes it more likely that they will try to access your blog with a .com and give up if they can’t find you.

Step 2: Organise hosting for your .com

If you are on Blogger, skip this step as you can attach your .com to your new Blogger account via Blogger settings.

If your old .com was self-hosted, then you can use your existing hosting for your new blog. I use Host Gator for the hosting of all my domains and specifically, I use the Baby Plan which allows me to have multiple .coms on my account.

To add your new domain to your existing hosting, you need to point the .com towards your hosting account. For this, you need the domain name servers for your hosting account, which you can find in your hosting cPanel or in emails sent at the time you registered your account. They will be something like ns1.yourhostingcompany.com and ns2.yourhostingcompany.com. After you have found these, you need to login to where you purchased your .com and search for an area labelled something similar to “DNS”. Here, you should be able to change your domain name servers so your .com points to your hosting.

Domain name servers take up to 48 hours in some cases to update. Be patient!

If you can have multiple domains on your hosting account: Head back to your hosting cPanel and add your new domain under “Addon domains”.

From personal experience, it is worth upgrading your hosting account to host more then one .com for your rebrand, as the step below is a lot more complicated and will require more down time for your blog.

If you can only have 1 domain on your hosting account: Locate your domain management area. For Host Gator customers, this is under the billing login, not the cPanel. Change your primary domain from your old .com to your new .com.

Please note that this will mean your new .com url will display everything the old .com displayed and the old .com will no longer work until you set up a redirect (covered in the next step).

Step 3: Set up redirect

A 301 redirect takes anyone trying to visit youroldblog.com and automatically sends them to yournewblog.com.

WordPress
Most hosting providers offer this service for you. Mine allowed me to set up a “Wild Card Redirect” from myoldblog.com to mynewblog.com so that when someone types myoldblog.com/about into their browser, the server redirects them to mynewblog.com/about. It is then my job to ensure that mynewblog.com/about would take them where they want to be. I highly recommend you ask your hosting provider for the same.

If you are using Host Gator, you can find the redirect tool under “Addon Domains”. Remember, you will be setting up the redirect under your old .com, not the new one.

Additionally, I installed Redirection, a WordPress plugin that allows you to redirect random URLs from your site. I used this on the odd occasion where I couldn’t replicate a URL from my 301 redirect.

Blogger
I recommend you check out this tutorial.

Step 4: Set up your new blog

If your old blog is still up and running, now is a good time to advise your readers that you will shortly be rebranding. If your old blog no longer works, use Maintenance Mode, a WordPress plugin that will put a temporary home page up for anyone not logged in to your WordPress account. Here, you can give visitors the low down on why you will be MIA for a short time.

At this point, you should be setting up your new design on your new blog and transferring over any content you want to keep. Try to keep people as up to date a possible via social media and maybe even ask a few to take a sneak preview and let you know what they think!

Step 5: Update your social media accounts & feeds

You need to change all of your usernames to match your new blog name and it’s best to do it before you launch your rebranded blog. I think it looks sloppy to have updated your url but not your social media usernames, it also causes confusion amongst your followers.

Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest: These are all super simple. Locate where you edit your profile/account and change your username there. It takes less than a minute!

Bloglovin’: Email the Bloglovin’ staff with your new blog URL and advise them of the move. Sometimes they ask for visual proof such as your old blog stating it’s moving to the new URL, but if you new blog is already set up they will work with that too.

Facebook: I kind of hate Facebook. You need to send some kind of documented proof to them that you have changed your page name. As a result, I am 2 weeks on from my rebrand and still waiting for the page name to change. I have been advised that if you keep trying, they will change it. You can find the option to change it under “Edit Page Info” and they ask for something like a bank statement.

Step 6: Launch your blog

At this point, your design should be sharp, your content organised, redirects set up and all of your social media should match your new blog. Your hosting account should be set up correctly for your new .com, with your old .com redirecting to it. If you have been using the Maintenance Mode plugin mentioned previously, de-activate that bad boy!

It’s important to have a post set up to go as soon as you launch the rebrand. Don’t leave people confused or guessing as to what’s going on when youroldblog.com takes them to yournewblog.com. Write a brief post explaining the change, your excitement and what your readers can expect now you’ve rebranded. Then sit back and wait as all the comments come flooding in on how fantastic your rebrand is ;).

A note on traffic loss

Something I had a hard time searching for when I came to rebrand my blog was how much traffic I could potentially lose from the rebrand. You see, no matter how many redirects you put in place, you will lose traffic when you rebrand your blog. This may only be a temporary dip, but it does happen.

Right now, my views are down by roughly 20% per day because a huge portion of my traffic came from search engines. Now my url has changed, my blog needs to be re-indexed by Google and this can take some time. I am still getting search engine traffic, but it’s going to take a little while to build it back up to what it was. This is something you should prepare for and don’t beat yourself up over it. It will happen.

The best way to help this is with 301 redirects, but this will not eliminate the issue entirely.

Although your links will redirect, the best way to ensure your traffic picks back up is to change as many links as possible that linked to your old .com. I advise sending a mass email to followers and blogs you sponsor, asking them to update the information on their ends.

On the plus side of this, I have noticed an increase in new readers and followers since I rebranded my blog. The majority of my older visitors have stuck around, which is great, but I’ve also had the opportunity to get to know quite a few new bloggers too, which has been awesome. I suspect this is down to widening my niche topics and my blog name being more intriguing to new visitors.

Overall, I am excited for the months to come and couldn’t be happier to have rebranded my blog.

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I really hope this guide is helpful if you are looking to rebrand your blog! I have found when previously looking online that information like this is spread over 2/3 different websites and isn’t always the easiest to understand. I decided to put this guide together after my recent rebranding experience, in the hopes future bloggers can find everything they need in one place!

Are you considering rebranding your blog? If you have rebranded your blog, what was the biggest struggle for you? If you haven’t but want to, what’s stopping you?