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In this age of the internet and social media, it’s easier than ever to research and plan your own adventure holiday. There is inspiration everywhere, however it can sometimes be overwhelming trying to choose where you want to travel next. In this post I’ll give you some ideas for brilliant off the beaten track adventure holidays, plus some travel tips and things that you need to consider when travelling to lesser known regions.

Azerbaijan

For anyone planning an off the beaten track adventure holiday, Central Asia must surely be near the top of the list. Nestled between Europe and Asia, for many years this enigmatic region fell under most people’s radars. However, in recent years things have started to change, this is most noticeable in Azerbaijan. Its capital, Baku has played host to many prominent events in recent years, such as the inaugural European Games in 2015,  an annual F1 Grand Prix and, of course not forgetting the Eurovison Song Contest in 2012. The city will also host this year’s UEFA Champions League Final. The region, situated between the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian Sea, is notable for its stunning landscapes and really is a paradise for hiking and mountain biking.

The Caucasus Mountains offer plenty of opportunity for adventures in Azerbaijan

Rwanda

In recent years Rwanda has worked hard to reinvent itself as a tourist destination, and despite the tragic events of the past, it has largely been able to move forward positively. Known as Le Pays des Mille Collines (Land of a Thousand Hills), it is full of adventurous possibilities. From hiking in the mountains of the Virunga volcanoes in the northwest of the country, to exploring the Nyungwe Forest National Park, or spotting the majestic mountain gorillas among the bamboo, it’s a great location for an off the beaten track adventure holiday. The capital Kigali is also a modern and safe city, making Rwanda an all round holiday destination.

Sarajevo

Eastern Europe is a region full of history, culture and stunning landscapes, so it’s no coincidence that it has grown in popularity as more and more travellers discover its delights. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t still plenty of off the beaten track adventures to be had. Sarajevo sits in a valley surrounded by mountains, so it’s the perfect place to head out hiking. One of the best places to make the most of the landscape is the  Sutjeska National Park, the oldest and the biggest national park in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  If you require a faster paced adventure, the Tara river is a great place for rafting.

Trnovacko Lake in Sutjeska National Park

El Salvador

Quieter than more popular tourist hotspots such as Costa Rica, El Salvador may be small but it offers some truly magical experiences for those looking for adventure. Famed for its black sand beaches, lush rainforests and endless mountain landscapes, it offers a myriad of possibilities. For fans of surfing, it is a real mecca, offering some great waves along its stretch of Pacific coastline. There is also some amazing hiking to be had trekking up some of the many volcanic peaks including the impressive El Pital, at 2,730m, the highest point in El Salvador.

Zhangye, China

Sometimes it may take a little more effort to find an off the beaten track adventure holiday, but it’s always worth it! Zhangye is home to some of the most stunning geological formations in the world. The truly stunning Rainbow Hills look like something from another planet, their layers revealing thousands of years of history. The area is largely undiscovered so you are likely to have the mountains more or less to yourself.

The otherworldly Rainbow Mountains

The region also boasts some remote temples hanging from the cliffs and intricate hidden caves that take some hiking to reach. The effort is well worth it as you will discover beautifully decorated Buddhist rooms and centuries of history.

Travel Tips

When travelling to lesser know regions it’s important to take a few simple precautions. Travelling is such a rewarding experience, but it does sometimes mean having to be out of your comfort zone. By being prepared and following some sensible safety rules can help you remember your adventure holiday for the right reasons.

Do your research

Before you leave, there are a few things that you need to check. Make sure that you book your holiday and travel arrangements through a reputable service. Also, make sure that you have checked the up to date advice for the country/region you are visiting, including entry requirements and necessary vaccinations plus any specific safety concerns. If you are a UK citizen, the Foreign Office has all the official travel advice that you will need. It’s also vital that your documents (passport/visa etc) are in order and valid for the dates you are travelling.. It is also essential that you have up to date travel insurance that will cover the activities that you plan to do. Nowadays there is a wealth of information online, plus forums for advice. It’s also sometimes worth asking advice from people who have experienced the destination. It is important to be aware of local customs and laws and how they differ from your home country.

Always trust your instincts when travelling and don’t take unnecessary risks

Safety in mind

Being in an unknown place can heighten our sense of fear and make us feel vulnerable. However, as long as you always bear your personal safety in mind and trust your instincts, there is nothing to stop you enjoying your off the beaten track adventure holiday. Keep your belongings close and never leave them unattended, luckily there are some great security travel products on the market to make this easy. Make sure that you have copies of your travel documents (you can store them in a secure data storage site) and it is also worth making a note of the nearest British Consulate in case you need consular help. It’s wise to tell someone your itinerary in advance with emergency contact details.

Get expert advice

One of the joys of travel is getting to know a new place and meeting new people. One of the best ways to stay safe is to make the most of local knowledge and be aware of specific risks in your location. There are things that no guide book or website can know. Always follow the advice of local guides and use their insights to further your experience.

Have you ever travelled to somewhere off the beaten track? Or is there somewhere on your bucket list that you’d love to experience? Let me know in the comments below.

The post How to plan an off the beaten track Adventure Holiday appeared first on The Helpful Hiker.

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Hi and welcome back to #AdventureCalling, the outdoor themed linky where we love hearing about all of your adventures-big and small! As I mentioned last time, David is stepping down as host to concentrate on other projects, and I am delighted to announce that Lauren from Exploring the Landscape will be joining me as co host. From now we will be open every other Wednesday (I know I’m a week late, but we are really back to normal now!)

If you haven’t joined us before, or if you’re an old hand, this is the place to link up your outdoor posts. We don’t care if they’re old or new, grand adventures, reviews or trips to the local park. As long as you’re outside, anything goes. Every week, as well as reading and commenting on every post, myself and Lauren will choose a favourite post. Our readers and followers love discovering new outdoor inspiration, just as much as we do.  Consequently, it’s a great way to reach new people and gain new readers.  This time around it was really hard to choose a favourite as there were some brilliant posts, but I’m going to pick Hiking in Malhamdale, Yorkshire by thetravellingwilbennetts. It’s an area I really want to visit and the photos have inspired me.

We don’t have many rules, but here’s a few to help everything run smoothly. Please remember to pop back and comment on other posts, it’s what makes this such a friendly and supportive community. If you have any questions, or aren’t sure of anything, please just ask me and I’ll do my best to help.

  1. Add our #adventurecalling badge to each post that you link up using the code below.
  2. Comment on the hosts’ post and a minimum of two other posts (of your choice) using the hashtag #adventurecalling when you comment.
  3. Tweet us the post that you’ve linked up using #adventurecalling and I will retweet with pleasure.
  4. I’d love you to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  5. You can link up a maximum of two posts and they can be old or new, we don’t mind!

Add your link below:

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

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The post #AdventureCalling Outdoor Linky Week 47 appeared first on The Helpful Hiker.

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Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to spend four nights at Bluestone. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you might have seen my posts about all the fun we got up to. If you haven’t heard of Bluestone (aff link) before (where have you been?) it’s a family resort in the beautiful Pembrokeshire, Wales. I’m going to write a couple of posts about what we got up to away from the site, but here’s our thoughts on the resort itself.

Setting

Bluestone is set in the stunning countryside of Pembrokeshire National Park. The resort is centred around the ‘Village’, where you’ll find the village hall, play area, pub, general shop, coffee shop, booking office and other amenities.

The village shop has all the essentials

It has a lovely, laid back feel to it and is a great place to relax after a busy day exploring. There were nearly always activities for the children running there so Finn was kept occupied while we could sit down for a few minutes.

We spent a couple of afternoons in the village, watching the world go by while Finn played on the village green.

As you would expect, Bluestone makes the most of its natural amenities, and there are some lovely nature trails to explore around the resort. On our first morning I had a lovely run following the ‘yellow route’.

The lake is a lovely setting for a family stroll. The nature trails at Bluestone are perfect for family friendly exploring

The site is car free, so it’s lovely and peaceful and very safe for small children. It is quite a hilly though, so many people choose to hire bikes or electric buggies. We mainly walked, although there is a free land train which runs between the Village and the Blue Lagoon that we used a couple of times.

Accommodation

Our accommodation was fantastic and well equipped, with a really homely feel to it. We stayed in a ‘Ramsey’ lodge, which has an upside down feel, as the bedrooms are on the ground floor and the living space and kitchen is upstairs. Here’s a video with a quick tour of the amenities.

Our Accommodation at Bluestone - YouTube

Facilities

There is so much to do at Bluestone, and with entrance to the Blue Lagoon and Adventure Centre included in your stay, you won’t be bored! We went to the Blue Lagoon twice, it includes a wave pool, two areas for children, a lazy river and four flumes. It was Finn’s highlight of the holiday, although I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more for his age group to do (he didn’t mind!). However, there is a great area for toddlers and smaller children that was perfect for Ollie. The Adventure Centre was brilliant fun, and well worth exploring. The only reason we didn’t go more was because the weather was so good so we preferred to be outdoors. It has a big play area, bouncy castle, soft play and mini golf. There is also an area for babies and smaller children on the other side but we didn’t have time to get there.

There are some activities at the Adventure Centre that incur an extra cost-such as the climbing, so it’s worth checking what is happening during your stay.

There are loads of activities that you can do at Bluestone, from archery, to kayaking, climbing, the high ropes course-and plenty more in between! We didn’t do any extra activities, as there are some many places to explore we preferred to go and see what Pembrokeshire has to offer. I was, however, disappointed that we didn’t get round to going to Camp Smokey, the outdoor dining venue, so that’s top of our list for next time (we’ve already decided there will definitely be a next time).

Final Treat

We were lucky to be staying at Bluestone while the Myths and Legends festival was happening. On our final night, me and Finn joined fellow holidaymakers and followed the parade to the Tournament Field where we watched some jousting. It was great fun, with two knights (obviously a goodie and a baddie) engaging in competitions and a final winner-takes-all fight. It was a lovely evening and a really good way to end our brilliant break.

The knights before battle commenced

As well as our time at the resort, we went to Tenby and Manorbier, which I’ll cover in subsequent posts. As brilliant as Bluestone is, Pembrokeshire is such a stunning location that I really do urge you to explore some of it.

Overall we had a fantastic time. There is so much for the whole family, especially if, like us, you enjoy being active and outdoors. We were blessed with amazing weather, but even if we weren’t, there is still so much to do. It really is the perfect place to spend quality time together in a beautiful setting and make lifelong memories. As I said above, we didn’t get to do everything and are already planning a return visit. I can’t give a better endorsement than that!

We were gifted a four night stay at Bluestone in return for a review and social media coverage. All opinions are my own.

The post Review: Bluestone Wales appeared first on The Helpful Hiker.

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Buying a tent can be a long process. There’s a lot to consider, not to mention an awful lot of choice! It is really helpful to be able to see different tents set up in order to compare your options and see how they would work for you. Many outdoor retailers, such as Go Outdoors and Winfields Outdoors have tent displays at all of their branches, but there are also many tent shows held across the UK.

Here is a list of places that you can see tents this summer.

May

10th/11th Guildford Tent and Awning Show, Sutton Green Garden Centre, Guildford, GU4 7QB

11th May to 2nd June, Sussex Tent Show, Middle Farm, Lewes BN8 6LJ

18/19th Camping World, Horsham, Hornbrook Park (Hillier Garden Centre), Brighton Road, A281, Horsham West Sussex, RH13 6QA

18th/19th Bristol Tent Show, St Katherines School, Pill, near junction 19 off the M5

June

1st/2nd Camping World, Horsham

8th- 23rd , Thames Valley Tent Show, Ladds Garden Village, Hare Hatch, Reading RG10 9SB

8th/9th Camping World, New Forest, John Brown’s Garden Centre, Ringwood Road, Three Legged Cross, Wimborne, Nr. Ringwood, Dorset, BH21 6RD

29th/30th, Camping World, Essex, The Open Site Collier Row Road Romford RM5 2BJ


29th/30th Bucks Tent Show, Woodrow High House, Cherry Lane, Woodrow, Bucks, HP7 0QG

July

6th/7th Leisure Outlet Tent and Awning Show, Chilwell Olympia Sports Centre, Nottingham; NG9 5HR

6th/7th July Bucks Tent Show, Woodrow High House, Cherry Lane, Woodrow, Bucks, HP7 0QG

6/7th Camping World, Horsham

August

3rd/4th Camping World, New Forest

10th/11th Camping World, Horsham and Essex

Do you know of any other tent shows in the UK this summer? Let me know in the comments below.

All information correct at time of publication. Please double check details before setting off

The post UK Tent Shows Summer 2019 appeared first on The Helpful Hiker.

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This post contains some affiliate links, if you click through and subsequently make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. There is no extra cost to you.

May is a great time to get outside. Firstly, it’s National Walking Month, and secondly there are two bank holiday weekends this month. Furthermore, it’s a fab time to treat yourself to some new outdoor kit as many retailers have deals on at the moment.

Here are some of the best bank holiday deals around right now:

Ordnance Survey

There’s a fantastic 15% off in the OS shop until 14th May with code WALKTHISMAY

From paper maps, outdoor gear and picnic blankets, there’s everything you need to get outside this Spring

Craghoppers

Craghoppers has a great spend and save offer running until 23rd May

Spend £60 save £10 with code SP60SA10

Spend £80 save £20 with code SP80SA20

Spend £100 save £100 with code SP100SA30

Hawkshead

Offers valid until 23rd May

Spend £40 save £10 with code SP40SA10  

Spend £70 save £20 with code SP70SA20  

Spend £100 or more save £35 with code SP100SA35

Joules

Be quick with this one as offer ends on Monday, but there is 30% off everything at Joules this weekend.

Ultimate Outdoors

Get 20% off walking and hiking with code WALK20

Offer is valid online until midnight 08.05.19

Winfields Outdoors

There are still some bargains to be had in the Winfields mega deals, including big savings on tent bundles and camping gear.

Sundried

If you’re looking for premium, ehtical activewear, Sundried has 30% off with code VC30

Camping World

If you’re heading out camping this year, there’s deals to be had in the Camping World sale, including tents and outdoor gear from the likes of Outwell, Kampa, Robens and more…

I hope this has helped you save some money on your next purchase. Let me know if you’ve spotted any other unmissable bank holiday deals.

The post Bank Holiday Deals appeared first on The Helpful Hiker.

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Can you believe it’s May already? I’m loving the milder weather and getting very excited about our summer adventures. I know it’s been a while since the last installment, but as you know, both me and David have families and day jobs, so blogging sometimes has to come second. On that theme, David has decided to step down as co-host so he can pay more attention and time to the important things in life. As it was his idea to start this linky, I’m sure everyone will join me in saying a massive thanks for his hard work in establishing this community. I’m sure our paths will cross again, but going forward it would be great if somebody would like to volunteer to join to me as co host. We run #AdventureCalling every 2 weeks and alternate hosting so it’s not too time consuming (although I still manage to forget until the last moment when it’s my turn!) If you’re interested, please email me at lauren@thehelpfulhiker.com.

Now back to the linky!

If you haven’t joined us before, or if you’re an old hand, this is the place to link up your outdoor posts. We don’t care if they’re old or new, grand adventures or trips to the local park. As long as you’re outside, anything goes. Every week, as well as reading and commenting on every post, myself and David will choose a favourite post each to share on our Facebook pages.  Our readers and followers love discovering new outdoor inspiration, just as much as we do.  Consequently, it’s a great way to reach new people and gain new readers.  In a slight change to the usual format, my favourite post from our last link up was the fab TOP 5 THINGS WE’VE LEARNED ABOUT HIKING WITH TODDLERS from Potty Adventures.

We don’t have many rules, but here’s a few to help everything run smoothly. Please remember to pop back and comment on other posts, it’s what makes this such a friendly and supportive community. If you have any questions, or aren’t sure of anything, please just ask me and I’ll do my best to help.

  1. Add our #adventurecalling badge to each post that you link up using the code below.
  2. Comment on the hosts’ post and a minimum of two other posts (of your choice) using the hashtag #adventurecalling when you comment.
  3. Tweet us the post that you’ve linked up using #adventurecalling and I will retweet with pleasure.
  4. I’d love you to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  5. You can link up a maximum of two posts and they can be old or new, we don’t mind!
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Click here to enter

The post #AdventureCalling Outdoor Linky 46 appeared first on The Helpful Hiker.

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You might not think it to look at me, but I actually used to be quite good at running. Despite my complete lack of coordination, and my dismal record in sport, I used to run about 25 kilometres a week. I did several 5 and 10k races, and back in 2012 I even managed a half marathon in the time of 2 hours and 32 seconds. After that however, my running career stalled. I had been so focused on training for the half that once I’d completed it, I lost all motivation. Also, I had met Luke that summer, and quite frankly, a lie in and cuddles on a Sunday morning was far more appealing than getting up early and going out for a run.

I plodded on, managing a couple of Parkruns a year, but I never really got back into running. Until now.

This January, after two babies and finding myself in the worst shape of my life, I made a resolution to start running again. I’m not going to lie, most of my resolutions had gone by the wayside by mid January, however I’m still running and finding myself enjoying it again.

April 2019 has been something of a watershed in my return to running. This month I’ve not only racked up more miles than ever (well, since 2012), but I also completed my longest run in 7 years (7.7 km) and even ran my first competitive 5k race (excluding Parkrun) since my return. I’ve well and truly got my running mojo back. Running is one of the most friendly and inclusive sports I can think of, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you’ve ever considered it, but are not sure how to get started, here are my beginner’s running tips to help ease you in.

This year I’ve entered the Northants 5K Series. There’s five races held across the summer in different locations. Can’t wait to get the other 4 medals! Last week’s route for the first race in the Northants 5k Series. I’m used to running on tarmac, so the multi terrain route and the hills were a challenge!

Get kitted out

One of the best things about running is how cheap and accessible it is, there’s very little cost involved and it’s open to anybody. Having said that, it’s worth investing in a good pair of running shoes. If you go to a reputable retailer they can analyse your gait and choose the best pair of trainers for you. If you’re a beginner, I really recommend going and speaking to someone knowledgeable, rather than buying over the internet. Other than that, and a good sports bra, you’re good to go. Once you start running regularly you can invest in some proper kit but, if you’re just starting out, a t shirt and leggings or shorts will suffice.

Don’t run before you can walk

If there is one tip I can give you, it’s to start slowly. Really slowly. If you’ve never run before, the couch to 5k program is brilliant and gives you the perfect framework to aim towards running 5k. To begin with, there’s lots of walking, while you steadily build up running longer stretches. If you try to do too much too fast, you risk injury and also not enjoying it. It is meant to be fun!

Don’t do it alone

Like any exercise, it’s much more fun and more motivating if you do it with friends. If you don’t know anyone who runs, try your local area. I’m sure that there will be some beginner’s running groups or couch to 5k groups to join.

Don’t be scared

Prior to running, my only experience of group sports was at school and it was pretty miserable. It consisted of the sporty kids being amazing and getting all the praise, while the rest of us trudged in the mud and rain (it was always raining) while a PE teacher screamed and shouted. In the grown up world, people do things because they enjoy it, and are actually really supportive of each other. Once you are able to run for a bit, I heartily recommend having a go at your local Parkrun, these free, timed 5k runs are open to all and even if you walk the whole way, you won’t be alone. You’d be hard pressed to find a more friendly and supportive environment. Also, if you’re thinking of entering a run, I say go for it! Every “race” (the inverted commas are because for most of us, running events are not races and are all about the taking part) I’ve ever done has been amazing. I’ve not been to an event that wasn’t really friendly and welcoming. You might think that only top runners enter, but there is always a really wide spread of abilities at each one. I’m a very average runner and am always bang in the middle of the field. I used to be very intimidated when I turned up and there’d be lots of runners with all the right kit stretching and warming up in a very professional manner, but honestly, they’re all just normal people who like to go for a run every now and then. Most of them aren’t even that quick, I promise!

Hopefully these beginner’s running tips have given you some pointers.

Have you ever thought about taking up running? Is something holding you back? Let me and know and I’m sure I can help.

The post The Beginner’s Guide to Running appeared first on The Helpful Hiker.

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Doing any kind of outdoor activity with kids is definitely a challenge first and fun later. Like adults, kids don’t really understand or know what’s dangerous or harmful for them and what’s not. Guiding them outdoors becomes a little tough because they are curious about the new environment they are in and want to be free to explore it.

However, what you can do is be prepared for camping with kids. Surviving camping with kids doesn’t just involve the right things to pack (although, that’s a major part of it), it also involves keeping certain things in mind at the camping site.

1. What to Pack

When it comes to packing things to survive camping with your kids, you can need almost everything that it’s in your home, at the camping site. However, carrying your entire home in a rucksack is not possible so here’s a list of essentials that you MUST pack and not forget.

  • Extra pair of clothes
  • Socks
  • First aid kit
  • Wipes, tissues and toilet roll
  • Warm bedding and nightwear
  • A door mat or floor towel
  • Lots of energy bars
  • Chocolates for the times they hurt themselves or just crave something sweet
  • A small bike or sports equipment for them to play with
  • Some board games
  • Lots of food, juices and water

2. Camping Gear

Don’t compromise on buying a large sized family camping tent because you’re definitely going to need it. Kids need all the space to toss, turn and sleep. Make sure there is space for separate rooms for the kids and the adults because you don’t want the kids messing up your space with their toys. One thing that you must ensure is to keep your pocket knife or camping knife away from the easy reach of children. You can either lock it away in a bag or just keep it with you at all times so that the kids don’t end up playing with it and hurting themselves. Do invest in torches for each of your kids. Each camper should have at least one torch, these come in very handy in emergencies.

3. Set Some Rules

It’s important to set some rules for the kids to follow, if you want to survive your camping trip with them peacefully.

  • They are not to venture out alone into the woods without an adult.
  • They are not to eat any plant or shrubs even the ones that look like cherries.
  • They should always take off their shoes outside the tent and wipe their shoes on the doormat.
  • They should never leave any food outside, explain to them the reason behind it i.e. food can attract bears and hence bear attacks.
  • Teach them how to go to the bathroom and use the washing station.
  • Give them a brief about camping safety

4. Activities and Games For Children

Children are meant to play around and have fun anywhere they can and anywhere they are. This makes it important to be prepared with some activities and games for them at the camping site.
Here are some of the activities and games that children can enjoy.

  • Reading books
  • Colouring
  • Sports like football, cricket, frisbee and kite flying
  • Treasure hunt
  • Board games like chess, scrabble, monopoly etc.

You can even get the kids busy with games on your phones and tablets but avoid that and get the children in the habit of enjoying nature and people more than screens.

5. Safety Measures

Safety is extremely important when it comes to surviving camping with kids. Apart from ensuring that they don’t play with sharp and dangerous camping knives, it’s also important to ensure that they don’t get themselves involved in dangerous situations.

Ensure that the kids are not left without supervision at any point during the camping. Make sure you zip up your tent and secure it at night so that the kids don’t venture out alone. Also, make sure you don’t leave any food outside for the bears to smell, hang them in a bag far away from your tents.

Keep the kids away from the bonfire and always supervise the barbeque, if you plan on doing one.

6. Don’t Forget To Have Fun

Don’t just think about how much your kids are running around and screaming all the time, do that with them and become a part of their adventure. You’re bound to enjoy your camping trip more if you have fun WITH your kids rather than just worry about supervising them. Join in on their little adventures, discoveries and use your camping trip to teach your kids about the nature.

Conclusion

Take your camping trip as a learning experience for yourself as well as your kids. You learn how to handle little ones and their curiosities, while the little ones learn about nature and experience a new adventure activity.

The post How To Survive Camping With Kids appeared first on The Helpful Hiker.

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I hope that everyone has managed some outdoor time this week. As I’m typing this, Storm Gareth is raging outside (Storm Gareth-seriously who comes up with these names!) but I’ve managed to avoid the worst of the wild weather.

If you haven’t joined us before, or if you’re an old hand, this is the place to link up your outdoor posts. We don’t care if they’re old or new, grand adventures or trips to the local park. As long as you’re outside, anything goes. Every week, as well as reading and commenting on every post, myself and David will choose a favourite post each to share on our Facebook pages.  Our readers and followers love discovering new outdoor inspiration, just as much as we do.  Consequently, it’s a great way to reach new people and gain new readers.   David’s favourite post from our last link up was this great guide to planning a ski holiday from Flip Flops or Wellies, while I loved reading about An Ordinary Family of 5’s trip in the snow to Solomon’s Temple

We don’t have many rules, but here’s a few to help everything run smoothly. Please remember to pop back and comment on other posts, it’s what makes this such a friendly and supportive community. If you have any questions, or aren’t sure of anything, please just ask either me or David and we’ll do our best to help.

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I haven’t really written much about my current work situation, but things are changing around here! I am officially still on maternity leave, but in reality I haven’t stopped working. Since finishing work back in July, I have been taking on a few freelance jobs, as well as earning a few pounds from my blog. I decided before I left my day job that I couldn’t go back full time. I have loved retail, but working very long hours and weekends doesn’t fit with having a young family. Plus I’m fed up of missing out on everything! I have decided to go back part time, but having moved into a bigger house and having another mouth to feed means that I still have to earn money. I therefore am using the sills that I’ve built up as a blogger to carve out a career as a freelancer. So far I have used People Per Hour mainly to find jobs such as setting up and managing social media accounts for businesses, as well as blog writing for company websites. So far things have gone better than I ever imagined, but it’s hard work and I need to keep constantly striving to keep the momentum up. This is on top of having a baby who doesn’t always nap, a four year old who doesn’t stop talking, helping Luke run his garden design business and obviously running this blog. It’s a really tough balancing act. I’m hoping that once I start back to work next month and Ollie is at nursery a couple of days a week I can get into a better routine.

Being busy means that I have to be as productive as possible to get everything done. There are a few blogging tools that I use that help me to manage my time, be more productive and fit in freelancing.

Here are my favourites:

Planoly

I love Planoly! I was a bit late to the party, but since discovering this awesome instagram scheduler and planner, I have saved so much time. I also love it because I prefer to use instagram on my desktop. Being able to schedule posts, type out captions and save lists of hashtags is so much quicker and easier than using the app on my phone. Planoly doesn’t automatically post for you, but you just need to copy the caption and add hashtags (which you’ve already typed out and saved into groups), so we’re talking a couple of buttons. You can also play around and change the order of your posts to make sure your grid looks as good as possible. It’s super simple to use and very visual-as you’d expect from an instagram tool. There are different plans available, I currently just use the free version, but may upgrade if I start doing more freelance instagram work.

Tailwind

I am not a big Pinterest player in the grand scheme of things, but I am trying to use it more and Tailwind (affiliate link) is a big part of that. I use it to schedule pins (it automatically works out the best times to post for you) and I’m also a member of a few tribes. Tribes are basically groups where people repin each others content, therefore increasing the reach of pins. They are often based around a theme, or some are especially for bloggers. I have my own tribe, The Great Outdoors which is for outdoor content. Tailwind is $15 a month, I’m very choosy about what I pay for, but I feel that it is definitely worth it.

Tailwind makes pinterest a breeze!

Canva

I would honestly be lost without Canva, it is a total hero product. I am not great at design, but with Canva, I can make great blog images, social media graphics and logos. I did my own logo and have also made one for a friend’s yoga business. It is super intuitive and really easy to use. I tend to not stray too far from the templates, but there’s so many that you don’t have to be a design expert by any means. Canva automatically uses templates that are the ideal size for each social media platform, although of course there are endless customisation options. I am slowly getting better and more confident in my design abilities, the next challenge is to make my own ebook so I’ll let you know how that goes! There is a free version, but I pay for the extra features of ‘Canva for Work’.

Snapseed

I’m not the best photographer in the world, but I am getting better and trying to improve. I wanted a photo editing tool that was simple to use, but would give great results. I also didn’t want to pay very much, so I was drawn to Snapseed, which is a free app I use on my phone. It makes it really easy to quickly touch up my photos and make them look so much more professional. It has a comprehensive tutorial section and lots of different options for editing. If you want to keep it super straightforward, you can just add a filter. It really is an app that everyone, from beginners to experts can use.

Hootsuite

I know that there are hundreds of schedulers out there, but I still use Hootsuite. As I use Planoly for Instagram, Tailwind for Pinterest and Facebook has its own scheduler, I only use Hootsuite for Twitter. If I was just using it for my blog, I would use the free version, however as I run several different Twitter accounts through my freelancing work, I pay for the professional version which is £30 a month. This is a lot, however it is invaluable for keeping track of different accounts and scheduling in advance. I like how straightforward it is, I can choose which streams I want to see (eg mentions, scheduled tweets, specific hashtags etc) and which accounts. It would be so hard to manage multiple accounts without some sort of management/scheduling tool.

Here is an idea of the different streams you can follow for each account

Toggl

Toggl is another recent discovery, and so far I am really seeing great benefits. Juggling different clients, plus my blog means I need to use my time as effectively as possible. I’m really bad at procrastinating so I use Toggl to time myself for each piece of work. Not only has it made me more aware of how much time I waste, but it ensures that I dedicate the right amount of time (and charge the right amount of money) to my clients. It has made me look at work in a much more professional light, as I have to use my time wisely and direct it where it will earn me the most benefit. It’s such a simple idea, you can list your projects and them just time yourself as you go about your work-just make sure you stop the timer when you finish!

What tools have you discovered to help you blog more effectively?

A note on affiliate links: If you click an affiliate link and subsequently make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. There is no extra charge to you.

The post My Top Blogging Tools appeared first on The Helpful Hiker.

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