Things to think about before hiring a van

Things to consider before renting a van

Are you thinking of hiring a van? You may be moving to a new place or just finally handling that gardening situation in your backyard. Or maybe you are planning a holiday with family and friends and wondering whether renting a van is a convenient option for you.

Vans can be an affordable and comfortable option available for you. However, there are a few things you should consider before renting a van out. To begin with, hiring a van can enable you significant flexibility and freedom through your journey. Plenty of renting agencies offer affordable and customized deals when renting out their vans to their clients. Make sure that you sign up for the plan and van that meets your needs and budget.

Here are some additional  things that you need to consider before you hire a van.

Things to look out for before booking a van

It is crucial that you are well aware of all your requirements before you reach out to rental agencies. Specifying these needs to the Transport Executive or van through van rental agencies can ensure that you are provided with a suitable vehicle that can help you get your job done.

For instance, you may specifically need a minivan or SUV if you are travelling with children and a load of luggage. Also, if you are on a tight budget, it would be wiser to choose one with  a comparatively smaller engine. You need to be specific about whether you need manual or Automatic vehicle. Communicating these specificities to your rental agent would save you a whole lot of hassle. 

Check the condition of the van with your rental agent before finalizing the deal to make sure you aren’t charged for any damages that you didn’t make. Also, make sure that you check the fuel level and mileage before hiring the van. 

 

Select the right rental company

If you need a van for the transport of passengers, a minivan is suggested appropriate for your needs. Then, you can rent a van through a traditional car rental agency. Check a few rental agencies and select the agency which is suitable for your needs and convenience.

However, if your requirement for renting a van is for the transport of cargo, you can hire a van through a van rental agency. 

One efficient approach to get the best price is to call several rental agencies and asking them for price estimate instead of zeroing down on the first quote given to you. It is important to take into consideration a few essential aspects while understanding the price estimates. 

Photo by Mash Babkova from Pexels

Size of the van

Calculating the size of the van you are going to need can be a game changer. You’re probably going to need a bigger van if you’re moving houses as a family but If you’re living solo and  moving, you could probably get away with a smaller one. If the van is considerably bigger that you require, you can consider scaling down and saving some good bucks on it.

On the other hand, if the van is too small you may want to consider getting a bigger one and save yourself several trips or worse, a cramped one. Ask the rental agency for advice and recommendations on which van could work best for you.

 

Understanding the rental agreements

To get the most out of your rented van and ensure a smooth process with renting it, you must make time to work through your rental agreement and understand it. Read the blueprints and terms and conditions from cover to cover and clarify any doubts that you may have. Get all the information you need before you make a final deal. 

Don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as you need to. This includes asking about security deposits, mile average, existing condition of the van and other things that may be important to you. Before hiring a van, it may also be helpful to inquire about the availability of additional drivers, experience of Drivers, gas Requirements, grace periods to return the vehicle and also any additional costs that may arise on the way.

Knowing the hidden costs

We strongly recommend that you do your research, specifically regarding the overall costs  incurred for hiring a van. There may be several hidden costs included in the price estimate and breaking it down and asking questions on this front could help you save some money on services that you may not require. Discuss these costs with your rental agent and know exactly what you’re signing up for.

The final price also includes all the extra costs incurred during the travel. Some of the extra charges that are to be considered are as follows:

  • Additional Driver Charges
  • Tax Charges
  • Toll Charges
  • Insurance
  • Drop off Charges

 

Driving license and age

It is very important to know that you have a standard driving license to hire and drive a van. Also, make sure that you are old enough to drive a Van and competent to drive if you hire it for self-drive. Driving license requirements, age limits and other criteria for hiring and driving a van are diverse in different places.

Discuss these criterias with the rental agency and ensure that you are eligible. This is especially crucial if you plan on driving inter-state. If you are planning to hire a van for self-driving purposes, make sure that you have all the required documents that you may need.

 

All it takes is thinking through certain things and doing some research on your part. You can ensure yourself a smooth journey and make your trip safe and happy one simply buy following these guidelines. Plan ahead of time, do you research, ask as many questions as you need to, it’s as simple as that. Renting a van gets easier with time, and once you see how well it can go, you’re bound to do this again. 

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Squeeze more quality time into family life

How to squeeze more quality time into busy family life

I’m not sure it really gets easier does it.

Parenting and juggling family life I mean.

You move from one phase to the next and each one brings its own challenges.  The biggest challenge for most of us I think is having enough hours in the day to get everything done.  And you think when your children start school it’ll get easier but somehow the hours and days and weeks are still full.

Whether you’re a stay at home parent or someone who works outside the home, when you’re juggling everything that busy family life throws at you, it can be really hard to feel like you’re getting enough quality time with your children.

 

The thing we all need to remember is that it really is about the quality of the time we spend with our children, not the quantity.

We can all stop feeling guilty about not having hours and hours to spend reading with our children, on the floor playing with them or listening to their endless stories.  What our children need from us is little moments of time throughout the day where they have our absolute focus.

They need to feel that they’re important, that they’re worthy of our undivided attention.

And, really, that is more achievable through small, repeated moments rather than one big block of time once a week.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas of how to find those little windows of time:

 

Organise your mornings so you can sit and have breakfast together

I’m so guilty of making breakfast for my children and then leaving them to it while I rush around sorting out lunch boxes and swimming kits, grabbing sips of tea when I can.

Getting just a bit more organised would mean I could sit with my children, just for ten minutes, and eat breakfast with them.

If you can make the time for that to happen then you can talk.  Turn the tv off and put away your phone and just chat.  Ask them about what they’re looking forward to doing at school that day.  Get them to tell you about the friends they want to sit with at lunch time.

 

Make the most of the school run

If you’re the one to take the children to school and pick them up again, then make the most of that travel time each day.

When I collect my children from school I get them to each tell me 2 things from their day.  One thing they learnt about and one thing that made them happy.  Asking this tends to get me more information about their day than if I just ask “what did you do today?”.

I love this little insight into their school day and they get to know that I’m interested, that I want to know what they’ve been up to and I care about what’s made them happy that day.

We generally drive to and from school, so my attention is obviously split, so if you can walk to school then you really can make that time focused, quality time with your children.

 

Get them in the kitchen with you

Early evenings are often the same as mornings in our house.  We come home from school and the children often play by themselves while I head out to the kitchen to sort out dinner and get lunches made for the next day.

That’s another window of time though that could be spent together.

There are a few ways you can use that time.  You can get the children involved in cooking their tea, or they can help with getting the lunches made while dinner is in the oven.  Or you can set them up with their homework at the kitchen table so you can sit with them and talk to them about it when the cooking doesn’t require your attention.

 

Build quality time into the bedtime routine

If you work outside the home then you might not be able to do some of the other things I’ve mentioned, but if you’re home for bedtime then you can squeeze some quality time in then.

Leave your phone and any other distractions downstairs when you go up for the children’s bedtime.

Spend 15 minutes reading to them, or listening to them read to you.

Have a 5 minute chat about your days.  Ask them what made them happy that day, and tell them something from your day that made you smile.

And remember to give everyone a long hug goodnight.

 

Once you start looking you’ll hopefully be able to find more of these little windows of time.

See where you can include your children in things like cooking meals and popping to the shops.  You might not think they’d want to come out with you to pick up some milk and bread but you’d be surprised. It might be an annoying chore to us, but our children often see it for what it really is, a chance to get a bonus 20 minutes of time with you.

Just remember that it really is about the quality, not the quantity, of time we spend with our children.  Find those moments where you can and spend them completely with your family.

PuroBasic headphones review

PuroBasic wired headphones review

Disclosure:  we were sent a pair of PuroBasic headphones for the purpose of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

 

Back in October last year we were sent a pair of Junior Jams headphones to review.  Nerys has claimed them as her own now, and still absolutely loves them.  They still look as good as new, are really easy for her to use and let her watch her videos in peace without me asking her to turn the volume down all the time!

The thing is, the old pair of headphones that Rhys had gave up a few months ago, so he was still having to put up with me commenting on the nonsense he likes to watch on YouTube.

So when we were asked if we’d like to review a pair of PuroBasic headphones I jumped at the chance for us all to have a bit of peace!

 

The PuroBasic headphones come in blue, green, pink and red and the shades are all really nice and vibrant.

We picked out the red pair for Rhys as it’s his favourite colour, and he was so happy when he opened the box.  The picture on the box was of a blue pair, so I think he expected the pair inside to be the same colour so he had a happy surprise when he opened it up.

 

The box itself is quite nice and compact, because the headphones are sort of folded down inside.

The ear cups fold down so the headphones don’t take up that much space which is great if you want to take them out and about with you.  There’s a little storage bag for them included in the box which is a nice touch.

Once you take the headphones out of the box you just pop the ear cups into place and then they feel nice and sturdy.

 

The PuroBasics are wired headphones which is great for Rhys, because he mainly uses them while sitting at the computer.

Nerys loves the fact that hers are wireless so she can get up and dance around to songs on the iPad without getting tangled, but that’s not so much an issue for Rhys.  He just loves to sit at the computer and watch the gamers he likes on YouTube and play his own music when he’s playing games, without being asked to turn the sound down all the time.

 

The PuroBasics do look a bit more, well, basic than the Junior Jams headphones but they are still a great quality pair of headphones.

The sound quality is great, it’s something that Puro Sounds really pride themselves on.  They don’t scrimp on the quality just because these are children’s headphones.  What they do do though, is help protect little ears by limiting how high you can turn the volume up, so you can trust that your children won’t harm their hearing while wearing these.

 

Rhys will quite happily wear these headphones for long stretches of time, which tells you something about how comfy they are.  You can adjust the sizing on them, and the ear cups are lovely and soft.

 

All in all we’re really happy with the PuroBasic headphones.

Rhys really loves the bright, vibrant red and the classic, simple design.  The cable to plug the headphones in feels like it will stand the test of time and is long enough for him to be comfortable using them plugged in to the computer.  They’re also compatible with our other devices which is great for when he does want to use the iPad or the laptop in peace.

Just like the Junior Jams, I can see these headphones getting a lot of use over the next few years!

 

You can find out more about these headphones and the others in the range on the Puro Sound Labs website.

ways to be luckier

3 ways to become a luckier person

There’s a scene in Titanic when Jack is having dinner with Rose and her family.

Colonel Gracie makes a comment that “All life is a game of luck”, and Cal replies that “a real man makes his own luck”.

Now, as much as I dislike Cal, you can’t argue with the point he’s making that luck is something we can all choose to create more of.

You might not think of yourself as a naturally lucky person, but that’s probably part of the problem.

Generally speaking, what we think about the world and ourselves becomes our reality.  So if you think you’re unlucky, then chances are that you won’t get many lucky breaks.

Don’t worry though, you can turn it all around!

Here are 3 different things you can do to become a luckier person.

 

1. Pay attention to the world around you

A lot of the time we’ll say that someone is lucky because they seem to always be finding amazing opportunities, or moments of serendipity.

All that’s really happening is that they’re paying attention to the world around them.  They’re always keeping an eye on the little things around them that other people might just walk right past.  So they spot the amazing job opportunity posted in a window.  They find a bargain designer jacket in the charity shop.  They get chatting to the person next to them in a queue who offers them a way into the industry they want to crack.

This idea of lucky people paying more attention to everything has been shown to be true in various studies.

The most famous was carried out by Professor Richard Wiseman in 2003.  He took a group of people who thought they were lucky and a group who thought they were unlucky and asked them all to count the number of photographs in a newspaper.

The unlucky people were so focused on the task of counting photos that they didn’t notice anything else that was printed in the paper.  The lucky people, on the other hand, noticed a sign in the paper telling them that they’d won $250, and another one towards the front of the paper saying they could stop counting photos.

So the lesson here is that while it’s good to focus on what we’re doing, if we want to invite more luck into our lives we have to be more open and observant of potentially great things going on around us.

 

2. Listen to your gut

If you get a gut feeling about something, do you tend to listen to it and trust it?

Well if you want to be luckier you should start trusting your gut more.

Professor Wiseman believes that our intuition is a result of our bodies and brains picking up on patterns that our conscious minds haven’t put together yet.  So that gut feeling is our subconscious telling us, “we’ve seen this before, it will most likely work out well/badly”.

People who think of themselves as unlucky are often quite anxious too.  And this anxiety leads them to question where that gut feeling has come from and ultimately ignore it when there seems to be no obvious, logical reason for it.

Lucky people, on the other hand, are more confident and trust their gut instincts.

 

3. Expect good luck

One of the reasons that lucky people trust their gut instincts is that it’s worked out well for them in the past, so they expect the same to happen each time.

The same goes with good luck.

If you expect good things to happen to you, then you’ll notice more potential opportunities and be more open to inviting good things into your life.

Studies have shown that lucky people are generally more optimistic and more persistent in their approach to life.  They expect things to go well, so they persevere more to get the outcome they’re after.

It might seem like they’ve just ‘got lucky’ but it’s more likely that they’ve just stuck at things long enough for them to work out in their favour.

 

I do think that there are some things in this life that do just come down to chance, but I love this idea that by changing our attitude and approach to life we can all become luckier.

So much of how we experience life comes down to our mindset, and we can all become lucky people if we make the shifts in our thoughts and outlook on life to invite more luck in.

Do you think of yourself as a lucky or an unlucky person?

If you feel that you’ve generally been unlucky up till now, try making these changes to how you see the world and see if things get luckier for you!

cleaning without the chemicals

Getting started with cleaning without the chemicals

We’ve just come back from a lovely, spur of the moment, week away.

With the trip being last minute, there wasn’t much time to get things in order at home before we left, which means we’ve come back from a perfectly-cleaned-by-housekeeping lodge to a cluttered, messy home with beds that need changing, floors that need vacuuming and surfaces that need a good clean.

So of course I’m sitting writing this instead of tackling it all!

When the house needs a good clean it can be really overwhelming.  I know I often don’t know where to start when everything needs doing.  This year though I really want to start getting on top of things at home, putting a bit of a routine in place to get the cleaning done.

Like a lot of people I also want to be more mindful of the products I’m using and trying to be more eco-friendly when it comes to cleaning.

 

Here are some great tips I’ve picked up recently for ways to keeping on top of things at home without relying on too many chemicals.

 

Let the fresh air in

I really love it when the house smells nice when you walk through the front door, but I don’t really want to be spraying air freshener around too often.

So I try to fling the windows open for a bit each day to let fresh air circulate around the house.

To really then make the house smell nice you can do things like putting out vases of fresh flowers, making a natural air freshener with water, baking soda and essential oils or making a simmer pot to pop on the hob for a bit to fill the house with gorgeous scents.

 

Look out for eco-friendly products

More and more companies now are producing eco-friendly cleaning products that don’t contain nasty chemicals but are still really easy to pick up with your weekly shop.

If you look around most supermarkets you can find everything from natural washing powders, to floor cleaners and furniture polish.

What’s really great these days is that these kind of products aren’t limited to what we use at home. Business supplier Jangro has a great range of products in their Jangro enviro range so that companies can clean on a larger scale and be happy knowing they’re using more natural products.

 

Make your own cleaning products

If you want to go one step further, and possibly save money along the way, then you can buy some reusable containers like spray bottles and make your own natural cleaning products.

Vinegar is great mixed with water to clean windows and mirrors.  You can use scrunched up newspaper or a microfiber cloth to get a brilliant streak-free finish.

You can also add some essential oils like lavender or lemon to a vinegar and water mix to use as an all-purpose cleaner around the house.

There are recipes for all sorts of homemade cleaning products online, but I love the look of these from clean mama.

 

Are you trying to use less chemicals when you clean at home?  Do you have any other top tips for being more eco-friendly when it comes to keeping your house clean?

 

DIsclosure: this is a collaborative post

Jooki music player review

Jooki smart player – Review

Disclosure: we were sent a Jooki for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts, words and opinions are my own

 

When I think back to my childhood and my teenage years, a lot of the memories are built around music.

I remember lying in bed falling asleep to the sound of my dad’s Bob Dylan records playing in the lounge.  I remember long car journeys to the south of France listening to John Denver on my walkman.  I remember recording songs from the top 40 on my stereo, waiting for the songs I wanted and hoping the dj woudn’t ruin them by talking over them.

So it makes me really happy that my children love listening to music too.  I hope there are already some songs that will bring back memories for them when they’re older.

The thing is, we don’t actually have a stereo in our house, we don’t even have a simple radio.  We play music in the car and they listen to the songs the love via YouTube when we’re at home.

So we were all really excited when we were sent a Jooki smart player to try out.

 

The Jooki is a screen-free smart player that lets the children play the music they love, without needing any help from us.  It’s a really simple but clever device that we have already fallen in love with.

When the Jooki arrived I was immediately impressed by the quality of the packaging.  I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but everything from the feel of the box to the images and fonts that they used gave me the impression that this would be a great quality piece of kit.

 

Inside the box you get:

  • The Jooki smart player
  • 5 character figurines that you load with playlists
  • A USB charger cable
  • A quick start up guide

The pieces are all really nice and secure in the box, but there aren’t any annoying cable ties or anything to undo to get everything out, which is great when you have excited children around who just want to get the Jooki out and start playing music on it!

 

The Jooki itself is basically a speaker with simple controls and a chunky rubber handle that is perfect for little hands to grab hold of.

It’s designed for children aged 3 and over, so it’s good and solid, and also splashproof which is good to know if you want to use it at bathtime or in the kitchen.

The blue and orange colour scheme is bright and fun, without being too childish, and would look good in a child’s bedroom and not completely out of place in the lounge.

 

The controls on the Jooki are really simple.  There’s the power button, left and right skip track buttons and a volume control button.

So, how does it actually work?

The hard part is done by the grown ups, and actually isn’t all that hard.  The quick startup guide that comes with the Jooki walks you through connecting your device to your home wifi and then you can use spotify or deezer to create playlists.

You then assign each playlist to a different character.

The recommendation seems to be that you use a premium/paid for subscription from Spotify or Deezer but you can actually use it just fine with a free account.

We have a free account with Spotify and have had no problems using that with our Jooki.  You are just a bit more limited in the songs you have access to and the fact that Spotify will play them on the ‘shuffle’ setting rather than you getting to pick the order that they play in.

What’s great is that there are clear instructions for all of these set up questions on the Jooki website.  The FAQ page gives concise answers to most of the questions you might have about using the Jooki.

 

There are 5 different characters that come with the Jooki which is great for saving arguments if you have more than one child.

You could assign them a character each and set up a playlist for each one.  Or you could use one character for an upbeat, morning playlist, another for a more calming, evening playlist and so on.

 

Once the playlists are set up and assigned to characters then you can let your children take over.

All they have to do to listen to their music is turn the Jooki on, pick a character and pop it on the circle on the top of the Jooki.

The songs will then start to play straight away.

 

The one limitation with the Jooki using Spotify and Deezer is that you need to be connected to your home wifi to be able to stream your music.  To get around this you can add your songs to a micro SD card and pop that in the back of the Jooki, then you can take it out and about with you.

And if you want some peace and quiet from your children’s music you can also plug headphones into it which also makes it great for car journeys.

 

The Jooki isn’t just for music either, it’s also a great way for children to listen to audiobooks.

We bought Rhys an mp3 player a while ago so he could listen to music at bedtime to help him relax, and my husband had the brilliant idea of downloading some audiobooks for him to listen to as he lay in bed.  He has been really loving them, and Nerys would love to be able to listen too.

So the next job for me is to get a few books like ‘the owl who was afraid of the dark’ added to the Jooki so that both the children can listen to it after having a story with me or Steve at bedtime.

 

We’ve been using our Jooki for about a month now and we all absolutely love it.

It looks great, and feels nice and robust too.  The character figurines are really cute and a fun way for the children to pick out what music they want to listen to.  I’m also really impressed with the sound quality and love the fact that it can be used normally as a speaker but you can also plug headphones in if not everyone in the house wants to listen to it.

If you’re looking for a fun, screen-free way for your children to enjoy music and audiobooks then the Jooki is a great option.  I can see it being something that we get a lot of use out of for years to come.

Fit your photography kit into the family home

Fitting your photography kit into the family home

Any hobby can slowly take over the family home, but photography is particularly invasive because so much of the equipment is large – and expensive! It might start out as a single camera with a kit lens, but before you know it you’ve got a collection of glass worth several thousand, and enough lights to illuminate a film set.

If you feel as though you’re fighting a losing battle to keep your gear organised and safe, a few of these ideas might help.

 

Dedicated spaces

A special area to keep photography gear is very helpful.

It doesn’t have to be huge, just somewhere large enough for your needs. This is something only you can determine, but it obviously depends on the type of kit you’re storing.

  • Commandeer a cupboard and dedicate it to some aspect of photography. Lenses, speed lights, cables, chargers, batteries, adaptors… whatever you need to keep safe and organised.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room you can turn it into a home studio that would automatically provide all the storage space you need, including space for light stands, soft boxes or umbrellas and backdrops.
  • If you don’t have a whole room but need that much space for photography gear storage, consider self storage rooms. Alternatively, self storage lockers offer smaller spaces which can be handy for folding backdrops, reflectors, or umbrellas that you need to keep in good condition.
  • Larger rooms at home could be divided, with sections cordoned off where you can stow photography kit. Ornate or decorative room dividers are also useful as studio props for portraiture, so they can have a double purpose.
  • Utilise the nooks and crannies that are often overlooked. The little void under the stairs can hold loads if you fit a few shelves, or the space beneath kitchen cabinets is useful for folded stands or furled umbrellas as long as it’s clean and dry under there. A bit of DIY knowledge is all you need to remove the existing fitted boards and replace them with sliding or hinged doors.
  • Shelving – you can never have too many shelves and so much vertical space gets ignored that there’s nearly always room for a couple more, for example over doors. Arrange lenses, cameras, speed lights, even camera bags to keep them out of the way.

 

Photography phases

Unless your photography focuses solely on one genre, it’s likely you’ll go through phases of different interests. It might be landscape photography for a few months, then shift completely to macro work or to studio portraits. Each genre includes a few bits of specialist gear to get the best results, and these specialised items can clutter up limited space at home.

When you notice a shift in your photography interests, consider placing the equipment you’re not currently using into storage. When items not in use are kept at home gathering dust, there’s a temptation to sell them, especially if other family members don’t share your passion and wonder why you need so much stuff you never use.

Chances are, you’ll want that equipment again pretty soon and it’s nice to have it there waiting for you. Renting a small self storage locker or room will be a more economical option than repurchasing previously owned equipment. 

 

Printing and archiving images

Your portfolio is one of your most important photography collections. Most photographers have thousands of images, and while they may not always be award-winning quality, they’re all precious as part of your photography journey.

While most of us keep digital copies, there’s a growing movement towards printed works, especially in fine art photography. This can create its own storage challenge.

Make a display area by your home printer if you like to proof photos before getting them professionally printed. A corkboard or peg board provides somewhere to hang a temporary gallery, and if you can place it in a prominent position at home, so much the better. Living with an image in a small printed version for a while makes it easier to narrow down your final choice for professional printing.

When you take an image down off the wall (to make room for a new one) pack it away carefully. Images printed on paper store well in artist’s folders or archival quality card folders or boxes. Wrap up images printed on canvas or paper prints that are staying in frames. You can use bubble wrap or sturdy wrapping paper to cushion them from knocks and protect them from dust. Put them in self storage for long term protection, where they won’t be disturbed or damaged.

At the same time, make backups of digital files on flash drives or external hard drives, and put these into secure storage along with printed portfolios.

When you add up all the equipment photographers collect, it’s no wonder it can easily take over the family home. Factoring in the financial investment, it’s definitely cost effective to figure out ways to store things safely and keep those precious possessions in mint condition.

 

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post