Category Archives: Advice

The pros and cons of different holiday accommodation

Whenever you book a holiday, one of the important decisions you have to make is the kind of accommodation you choose to stay in.

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Of course it depends on who you’re going away with and what they want from a holiday. Some people prefer the freedom of self-catering as you can choose to eat out whenever you want, but you have the facilities in your own place to cook your own meals. It’s a really popular choice for people with young children and fussy appetites. Having a self-catering apartment or villa also gives you more space than you’d get in a hotel room, so there’s less chance of going stir crazy in the evenings with toddlers in a confined space! You can also choose to have your own private pool – which can be a big plus for some holidays.

However, what you don’t get from self-catering is so much opportunity to interact with and meet other holidaymakers. Hotels are a great place to do this, and meal times are the ideal time to socialise. A big advantage with hotel accommodation nowadays is that you can often choose which level of board you want – just bed and breakfast, half-board, full-board or even all-inclusive. Going all-inclusive is a great way to budget ahead for your holiday. The whole trip is paid for before you get on the plane, save for any spending money and excursions you might feel like doing while you’re away.

Pretty much every holiday resort now offers all types of accommodation, so if you prefer to book your accommodation and flights separately, it’s no problem. So if you see some cheap flights to Gran Canaria, for example, there’s no need to worry about sorting out accommodation immediately – in fact you often get a better deal if you leave booking where you’re going to stay until the last minute.

If you’re in two minds about booking self-catering accommodation if you’ve only ever stayed in hotels, what risk is it really? You’ll either enjoy the experience or not, and if you don’t, you can always go back to the hotel option for your next trip!

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Five ways to live like the French

What is the French way of life? Do you imagine cycling through Province, sun beating on your back, wearing a beret and an amulet of garlic around your neck? If you do you may be in for a surprise, as statistics show three quarters of the French population live in the towns and cities. So much for stereotypes, but one stereotype about typical French way of life does ring true, the food and more specially the art of eating.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ant1_g

Eating out in France is not, generally, expensive. A two-course lunch can usually be found for around €12, but if you’re travelling on a tight budget, that may still be too much. Which is where a supermarket comes in handy, eat well and healthy for less.

But eating out in a French restaurant is a joy you have to savour once while on your holiday if you wish to really learn the French way of life. The French love taking their time over food, fast food is not an option for authentic French living. Good food and even better wine is an integral part of France.

Eating at home or at your rented accommodation is an excellent way to experience the French way of life. Tracking down a local farmer’s market or even a local food stuff shop and you’ll be amazed at the array of cheeses, cured meats and beards available.

But what is traditional French cuisine? The French place a high priority on the enjoyment of food. Dishes and ingredients vary by region but there are some significant regional dishes which have become national dishes of France. Cheese and wine play a major role in French cuisine, while there still differences regionally, it is safe to say no French meal is complete with a cheese board or glass of wine.

 

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Tips on Planning a Family Activity Break

Unsure how to go about planning a family activity break and guarantee it doesn’t turn into a disaster waiting to happen? The key is to plan ahead. To ensure your holiday doesn’t descend into chaos, discuss all the different options as a family, so everyone, children included feel like they have a say in the planning of the family holiday.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adventuresinlibrarianship

If the thought of organising your next big family holiday makes you want to curl up on the couch, don’t worry, help is on hand. Holidays with the kids can be fun, adventurous, luxurious and most importantly relaxing and stress-free. Here are some relatively simple and easy tips to avoid a family holiday disaster…

First lets start with transport, if you are flying, it’s important to know before you depart, the total number of pieces of luggage you will be taking with you on holiday. That includes check-in luggage, carry-on, and speciality items such as skis, car-seats, strollers etc. Checking in can often be chaotic and a bad start to a holiday, a stress-free check-in means you start your holiday on the best footing.

To avoid all of the uncertainty of travel and check-in worries why not holiday closer to home. Take short trips within your own country and  take advantage of historical sites, national parks and other attractions closer to your home.

If you are travelling with young pre-teen children and find they are getting restless, consider stopping early and saving the activity for another time. Sometimes just getting back to your accommodation is all they want to do.

While in the planning stage of your holiday, each family member has to be honest about what they want from the holiday and be open to ideas from other family members. Remember it’s a family break, not an individual one. All opinions must be taken into account.

Also at the planning is the budget, think of what you’ll need to pay for, accommodation  flights, car-hire, insurance, entertainment, food and drink, and set a limit. Overestimating a budget rather than underestimating is encouraged, as there always little extra costs that come up.

 

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5 Things You Should Know Before Purchasing a Timeshare

When you think of a timeshare, you probably think of a fantastic vacation on the beach or in the mountains, enjoying a beautiful condo with your family for part of the year. It’s true that timeshares can make that dream vacation a reality, but there are several things you should know before diving into the commitment:



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 1.  Know How to Deal with the Sales Pitch

It’s absolutely essential to keep in mind that everything about a timeshare looks rosy and perfect when you see it with the salesman. They are earning a commission off of every sale, so they’ll take to you to the most gorgeous properties and offer you freebies to sway your decision. Stick with hard research and go into these presentations with an educated mind.

2.  Know When to Walk Away

Just like when buying a car, sometimes you need to play hard to get. When the sales person pressures you too much or offers a higher number than you’re willing to pay, simply walk away. If you’re not too attached to the outcome, you’ll often end up getting what you want.

3.  It’s Not Really an Investment

The salespeople are going to tell you that a timeshare is one of the best investments you can make. But in truth, a timeshare is more like a car: it actually loses almost half its value the minute you purchase it! Think of it more as investing in your family’s enjoyment and vacation, rather than a property you’re going to earn revenue on one day, as this is extremely unlikely. If you end up with a timeshare that you realize isn’t really the best for you, turn to Right Choice Transfer to help you sell your timeshare.

4.  Bombard Them With Questions

With an investment as large as a timeshare, you literally cannot ask too many questions. What sorts of fees are involved? Can I bring pets? What is the flexibility like? Anything and everything that could come up needs to be addressed before you make the big purchase.

5.  Watch Out for Fees

Don’t think that when you purchase a timeshare that you’ll just be paying the cost of the property. There are maintenance fees you will pay every year to maintain the facility where your property is, and even when you’ve paid off the timeshare you will still have these fees. Taxes and management fees apply as well, so make sure you’re completely aware of all costs you’ll have to pay related to your timeshare.

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When is the best time to visit the Nordic Countries?

The Scandinavian countries have always been very popular destinations among travellers. They are popular not only for some of the best and naturally beautiful stunning scenic vistas in Europe, but they are also well-renowned for their laidback attitude, and their relaxed and easy lifestyle. For readers who are unaware, the Nordic Countries is a collective phrase used to refer to Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. Also included in this collection of regions are the autonomous regions of Greenland, Faroe Islands, Svalbard and Aland. Scandinavian Countries is also a term used to refer to this region, but that does not include Greenland.

Denmark in Winter

Denmark in Winter

These countries share a common heritage and immense similarities in their societies. They are independent in their governing systems, but their cultural traditions and languages are similar. The Nordic nations have been renowned not only for their unique beauty, but also for the fact that they are among the most eco-conscious nations in the world. ‘Green’ is a term that is not used loosely here; it is a part of their persona, and they go to immense lengths to preserve their flora and fauna and to take care of their environment.

The best time to visit the Nordic countries is dependent upon the kind of holiday you would like to have. Flights to Stockholm are popular all through summer, and flights to Copenhagen always seem to be jam-packed with holiday travellers. If you are planning to have a summer holiday, then the best time to visit the Scandinavian countries would be the months from May till September. Why not take a look at the airfares now on a major Scandinavian Airline SAS (www.flysas.com/en/uk).Each country has its own special seasons, but if you are planning to travel through all the Nordic countries then travel towards the end of June till mid-July. The weather is beautiful with temperatures in Stockholm hovering around 16 C. The best aspect of this season is the fact that daylight hours last for 17 hours a day and you can travel around the country quite easily, as a result. These countries are within the Arctic region and during summer, the midnight sun is an unforgettable experience.

In Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the summer months have a fairly mild climate. This is quite surprising, especially when one considers the fact that all of these Nordic countries are so close to the Arctic. Finland has the most stable summer weather among these countries. In August, the weather in Norway can be very erratic, with sudden cold rain dropping the temperatures to an uncomfortable 8 C.

Winter sports are the forte of these nations and if you are a die-hard fan of mountain sports, then visit the Nordic countries during the winter season. Be prepared for harsh temperatures but amazingly white winter lands. Flights to Oslo in winter are easily available and there are not too many tourists. The countries are well-equipped for the skiing and winter sports aficionados, and there are world famous resorts as well. Except for coastal Norway, you will find a winter landscape here which is equal to none other in the world. The northern parts of Scandinavia are full of snow during winter months, but do remember that daylight hours are very short. And in the Arctic circles, the sun does not emerge for days on end.

Flights to Copenhagen from London are available all through the year, and this lovely city can be used as a starting point for your travels through this region. Visit Greenland for a totally unique experience; Finland for a crowd-free holiday; Norway for some fabulous fjords and quaint villages; and Sweden for the best castles and manors.

 

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Sun, sea and Shamu

In light of the UK’s recent disappointing ‘summer’ weather, we can be forgiven for looking further afield this year in search of our much needed dose of summer sunshine. Especially since 2012 was the wettest in 100 years. So where better to look than the sunshine state itself, Florida? Boasting sumptuous sub-tropical temperatures and a list of world class attractions, Orlando is the city of choice for many visiting the region. We all know that it only takes a mention of “Disney world” to get the kids jumping with excitement but, if you’re an animal lover like me, you can’t miss the chance to visit SeaWorld, one of the world’s largest sea life parks.

orlando florida

If you’re lucky enough to be paying Orlando a visit this year, you’re best to get in quick and pre-book tickets for Orlando’s top attractions before you leave. Especially since you can make significant savings by booking attractions such as SeaWorld Orlando tickets before leaving the UK.

SeaWorld offers you a chance to lose yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of the sea and get up close and personal with huge range of amazing creatures. Come feeding time you can really become part of their world, as you meet and hand-feed a range of colourful park residents, including playful Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins, majestic sea lions and feisty stingrays.

But perhaps one of the most entertaining features of the park is its live shows. Here you can experience the wonders of the sea as they unfold before you. As you watch the live antics of animals and their trainers you can’t help realising just how incredible these creatures really are and what an amazing bond they share with their keepers. The shows set out to educate inspire and enthrall and they certainly don’t disappoint. But be warned, if you decide to sit in one of the front rows you may come out pretty wet!

For the thrill-seekers out there, the park also offers a range of world class rollercoasters, including Manta, the world’s only ‘flying’ rollercoaster. Manta sets out to let you experience what it’s like to spin, glide, skim and fly just like a giant ray. This monster of a ride sees passengers taunted by head-first, face-down inverted nose dives as they skim across the water on one of the smoothest tracks in the world.

Or how about the Kraken? Inspired by the myth of legendary giant sea monsters said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland, this is a monster-coaster like no other. Consistently voted by enthusiasts as one of the world’s best coaster experiences, this ‘mythical beast’ will lift you higher, drop you longer and spiral you faster than any other coaster in Orlando.

It’s also great to know that the centre is a world leader in animal welfare and conservation, supporting and working with more than 100 environmental organisations worldwide. In an effort to protect wildlife and their habitats, the centre is committed to raising awareness of conservation issues around the world and giving everyone a chance to play their part in helping out. Working in partnership with the state and local federal agencies, the park also trains rescue teams who are on call 24/7 to respond to wildlife crises. The job of these workers range from treating animals victims of natural disasters to caring for those who have been orphaned or injured.

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Travel Insurance Tips

When you’re traveling, chances are your main focus is on enjoying your time to the max, seeing new and interesting sights, eating local food and experiencing a new culture. But oftentimes, one mishap can turn a completely positive holiday upside down- a missed flight, stolen bag or passport or even travel company going bankrupt are all risks that you take when you travel. For these reasons, many travelers opt for travel insurance to protect them from the worst case scenario. Here are a few tips to get you on the way to picking out the right travel insurance for your trip:

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Why Travel Insurance? Of course we know that insurance protects against stolen baggage and belongings, but imagine some of the following other scenarios: A family member comes down with the flu the day before you’re scheduled to depart on holiday, and they can’t fly. That’s a lot of money gone on a plane ticket that can’t be used! Or a massive storm wipes out the beach where you’re staying in a resort, and you’re forced to evacuate. Wouldn’t you want to recover the cost of your stay? Travel insurance protects against all the unexpected problems that can come up while traveling, saving you tons of money and stress.

Pick your Categories Travel insurance covers five main areas: medical, flight, baggage, evacuation and trip cancellation/interruption. You’ll usually end up buying a package that has a few of these, and you can always add on policies like identity theft, for example.

Where to Buy You can get travel insurance in a few ways: from a travel agent, an online broker, or from your current insurance provider. Travel agents will usually try to push travel insurance because they earn a commission, but shop around before you choose what to go with.

Before you Buy… Make sure you completely go over what’s covered by your existing insurance before you buy a travel plan! You might find that you have property loss protection that’s still in effect when you travel, or your health insurance offers medical care overseas. Don’t invest in something that you don’t really need if you’ve got the coverage already.

Other Kinds of Insurance If you’re a student planning to go abroad, you can purchase insurance plans for both short and long-term stays. Business travel insurance is great for jet-setting professionals who need protection for laptops and electronics or reimbursement for canceled conferences and meetings. Or even if you leave your pets at home, you can even get pet insurance to protect your furry loved ones.

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5 Things to Do in Barbados

If you’re looking for a Caribbean vacation packed with things to do, look no further than Barbados. There are so many interesting and active things you can get up to on the island, so book up one of the beautiful villas in Barbados and get ready for the holiday of a lifetime.

Also, Best At Barbados holidays offer affordable luxury holidays to exclusive hotels and resorts in Barbados, including Sandy Lane and Turtle Beach by Elegant Hotels..

barbados

Hire a Car and Tour the Island

Barbados is so diverse that the best way to see it is by car, so you can enjoy the gorgeous and quiet coasts to the north and east, surfing beaches of the south, and rolling countryside in the center of the island- and everything in between. The island is a completely different experience when you escape the crowded beaches, and explore the beautiful land within. Make sure to stop at the rum shops along the way!

fish fry

Oistins Fish Fry

Every Friday night is fish night on Barbados, and Oistins in the parish of GetChrist Church is the happening spot to catch up with locals and dine on some fabulous freshly caught fish and chips. Live music starts up around 7 pm, with everything from reggae beats to ballroom dancing providing the entertainment for this festive event.

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Get Underwater

It wouldn’t be a complete trip to Barbados without checking out the vibrant life under the sea. Snorkel among colorful fish along the bright coral reefs- the crystal waters let you see for what seems like miles. Or if you prefer to stay dry, take the Atlantis submarine down to depths of 100 feet to view all manner of sea life!

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Go Hiking

A great way to meet locals and enjoy the beautiful natural landscape is by joining a hiking group though local website www.hikebarbados.com. They organize weekly walks and hikes all over the island on Sundays- with varying degrees of difficulty.

Watch a Sporting Event

Barbados has cricket pitches in every Parish, so check out those or the main stadium in in the Capital for a lively afternoon watching oen of the island’s popular sports. The island also hosts a marathon, half marathon and several fun runs if you’d like the experience of competing with people from all over the world.

 

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A Taste of Japan – Tokyo Food Tours

A Taste of Japan: Tokyo Food Tours

Tokyo is a curious mix of modern and traditional. Known for the high-tech hum and buzz of its neon streets, this Japanese metropolis embraces manic energy and ancient serenity in equal parts. Traditional kimonos parade alongside quirky Harajuku get-ups. Cherry blossom-lined alleys open into frenetic concrete jungles. It’s all part of the city’s unforgettable charm.

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Crazy Japan

Of course, Tokyo’s two faces do share one thing: a love of food. From sushi to yakitori, soba to sake, Japan’s cultural identity is enmeshed with a reverence for cuisine, and experiencing authentic Tokyo is as simple as wandering through its stalls and restaurants. Where’s the best place to start your Tokyo food tours? Let us guide the way.

Yakitori Alley

Situated near Yurakucho, this energetic corridor of bars and street vendors is a haven for foodies. The iconic yakitori — a savory grilled-meat appetizer — started here, and you’ll get to sample some of the city’s best in the company of cuisine-loving locals. Make sure to ask for one of the special sauces; they take the dish from delicious to addictive.

Monja Street

After your yakitori adventure, head to this Tsukishima destination for a taste of its famous monjayaki, a tempura-like pancake dotted with meats and vegetables. You can even have a chat with the cook while he or she prepares your food. Want a little inside tip? Dig into your meal like the locals do: Cut the monjayaki into pieces with a spatula, and then use chopsticks to eat it right off the grill.

Beyond the City Limits

If you’re craving an experience outside Toyko, book a guided tour through Kyoto and Fushimi Inari. Start by picking up a few seasonal ingredients from Kyoto’s bustling food markets before heading off to learn the art of making rolled sushi and miso soup at a Japanese cooking class. After you’ve had your fill of norimaki, grab a train to Inari and uncover the secrets of sake at a local brewery. You’ll get to sample a few favourites and can even browse a liquor store that specialises in over 80 varieties.

Hungry for more? Discover a world of Japanese food tours with American Express Travel. Whether you’re interested in a night tour through Tokyo or a cooking class in Kyoto, American Express has everything you need to create can’t-miss experiences in any destination. Plus, you’ll enjoy cardmember benefits like incredible discounts and the ability to pay for travel with points, your card or both. With American Express, a delicious Japanese adventure is right around the corner.

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A week off from the grind

If you’re one of those people who works 9 to 5 everyday you’ll know that the routine can really start to wear you down – doing the same commute everyday and staring at the same computer screen can easily get tiring. Everyone needs a break every now and then to recharge the batteries and get away from it all.

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It true that sometimes the stresses of work or family life mean the thought of going on holiday for even just a week feels like more hassle than it’s worth. If this is the case it’s probably a sign that you really do need a holiday! if you can make the effort of getting yourself to an airport with just a carry-on bag and your sunnies, the benefit you’ll feel when you touch down on the runway in another country – with some sunshine to greet you – will make it all worthwhile.

Nowadays, with so many websites dedicated to travel, it’s really easy to pick up a bargain trip at short notice. Whether you feel like a cheap holiday to Greece to spend your time lazing on the beach or by the pool, or if you feel like taking a break in one of Europe’s most iconic cities, drinking up some culture, the effects of getting away from it all will be just the same. With price less of an obstacle, there’s really no excuse to get that well-deserved break.

Of course, this kind of last minute deal is much easier to organise if you’re footloose and fancy-free, without having to think about your kids or your partner, fitting in around other people’s work schedules or school holidays, but if that’s your situation, don’t be put off, it’s still possible to be spontaneous if you really want to. You may have to wait for the next school holidays, but you can still get the bargains if you don’t mind leaving the arrangements to the last minute.

Just getting out of the daily routine can be so uplifting and you’ll often come back feeling like you’ve been away for much longer. You’ll go back to work with a new spring in your step for a few weeks at least! You never know, maybe you’ll enjoy it so much that you’ll realise 9 to 5 isn’t for you, and decide to make your travelling a little more permanent!

 

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