All-Inclusive Vs Pay-As-You-Go: Verdict

Ever wondered if all-inclusive actually works out better value? Sarah Loughlin compares two European cruises to find out! Read more…

Regent Seven Seas Explorer all inclusive cruise

Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Sarah vs. Shark: Surfing Down Under

With the recent rise in Shark attacks both in Australia and other parts of the world Sarah Loughlin finds out just how Sharky it really is out there.

The most dangerous thing about surfing in Jersey was the chocolate milkshakes from El Tico’s. Those things were seriously addictive. Learning to surf in the UK seemed a tremendous feat at the time, but looking back the worst thing that could happen was you would get a weaver fish, or be washed up on the beach a bit battered and bruised.

Growing up in the England I had never given sharks much of a thought. But the recent move to Australia has bought these issues to the front of my mind. The week we moved over to the Gold Coast, a surfing mecca, was just after World Champion Surfer Mick Fanning was attacked by a shark in South Africa. Mick is from the Gold Coast, and can often be seen out on the water when he is in the area.

Surfer Shark View

What I probably look like to a shark.

Just How Sharky Is It?

There have been record numbers of Shark attacks in the last few years on both the West coast and more recently the East coast of Australia. In 2015 there were 22 recorded shark attacks on humans in Australia, this is double the amount recorded in 2014, and higher than the yearly average of 13. Of the 22 attacks, only one was fatal, and seven of the shark attack victims were uninjured. NSW has the highest rate of attacks with 14 recorded in 2015. Experts have many theories about why this might be, and are equally unsure as to how to deal with the problem. From increased helicopter patrols and lifeguards on previously un-manned beaches, to more controversial solutions such as shark culling and shark nets. Some reports say that one of the most influential factors to the increase in attacks is the increase in population. The more people there are in Australia spending time in the water, the more chance that a shark attack could occur.

Facing My Fear

Before heading in to the water I wanted to find out exactly what I was up against so I caught up with Josh Fuller, a pro surfer who now runs his surf school from Kingscliff, NSW. One of the first things Josh explained is that is it a small selection of shark species that are normally involved in shark attacks; Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, and Great White Sharks. Most other species are completely harmless. Josh explained that there are risks involved with surfing, as there are with most sports, but if you take the time to learn about basic ocean safety you are more likely to enjoy surfing and stay safe in the water.

One of the first Aussie phrases I came across moving over here was ‘Sharky’. Not commonly used in other parts of the world, I still wasn’t quite sure what it meant. ‘It’s more of a feeling’, explains Josh, ‘when the sky is grey and overcast, and the water looks really dark, it just feels sharky’. One of the first points covered in Josh’s ocean safety run down is to avoid surfing at dusk and dawn, as this is feeding time for sharks. After our pep talk on the beach I was ready to hit the surf.

Surfing Dbar NSW

Heading out for a solo surf in Dbar, NSW. Sarah 1: Shark 0.

Splashing about in the shallows in the warm, clear waters it was hard to imagine that there were huge predators swimming probably not that far away. Josh explained that although sharks are often close by, the number of attacks on surfers compared to the number of surfers is very low. After picking up a few tips from Josh on my technique and spending time in the water with a local, I felt confident that I could take to the beach on my own, but I still couldn’t get the thought of sharks out of my head.

To get over my fear I wanted to see what was going on under the water, and get a feel of what might be lurking underneath me. I felt that if I could see one up close I wouldn’t be scared anymore. It’s more the fear of the unknown than anything else. Sort of like falling off your bike for the first time when your a kid, once you have done it, and it doesn’t hurt that bad, and you don’t have to be scared of it.

turtle cook island NSW

Swimming with Sea Turtles @ Cook Island, NSW.

Heading out on the boat to Cook Island, a local diving spot known for being a bit sharky, I had mixed feelings. I wanted to see a shark, but at the same time I felt like hunting them down was asking for trouble. Never the less I hopped into the water and sunk down with the dive instructor to have a look around. I will never tire of diving and seeing at the marine life going about their business, swimming about, its mesmerising. About 10 minutes in, almost forgetting why I was there, I saw one. Small, but most certainly a shark, it swam by in the distance, not giving us a second glance. After thinking of nothing but sharks for the last few weeks, it seemed almost an anti-climax to have the shark be so uninterested in us.

I blame my irrational fear of Australian wildlife on being addicted to Steve Erwin’s TV show. Before I moved here I imagined that everything in Australia would kill you as soon as look at you. But with one fatal shark attack per year in Australia you are far more likely to come to a sticky end using a vending machine!

To get out surfing on the Gold Coast visit and book your lesson!

Dbar Suring NSW

Having caught approximately three waves in my surfing career so far, here is one of my terrific paddling.


Holiday Survival Guide

Sarah Loughlin talks to Joanne Reid Rodrigues, nutritionist and author of Slim, Happy Free about how to eat healthily while enjoying yourself on holiday.

Hotel breakfasts will be the death of me. I am a sucker for a buffet. I promise myself I will just have a bit of toast, but before I know it I am tucking in to three different types of eggs and a mound of bacon. This wouldn’t be a problem if hotel breakfasts were a rare occasion, or a special treat, but when you have one everyday of your two-week holiday you can quickly start piling on the pounds.

Jersey’s own Joanne Reid Rodrigues from Slimming Together has been teaching islanders how to live a healthy lifestyle while still enjoying themselves for 30 years; I caught up with her to see how she copes with travel.

SL: What do you think is the most common downfall for frequent travellers when it comes to eating healthily?

JRR:Some folks panic a little bit when they are out of their own kitchen; but in reality, nothing finds its way into our stomach unless we put it there! On short trips in particular, there are various ways to keep choices health-oriented. However, if the trips are pleasure-oriented, we might feel more relaxed and have an alcoholic drink at the airport to get the holiday started; if our mindset is focused on having fun or relaxation, our food choices might reflect this.  I would say our mindset is both our greatest strength and downfall, depending on how we approach situations.

SL: If like me people have eyes bigger than their stomachs, what is the best tactic to tackle a hotel buffet situation?

JRR: Ask yourself how you want to feel after your meal or in the morning. Being mindful that too much food can cause us to feel bloated and tired can help us make balanced choices. I love buffets, but I usually take a look at all the appealing foods and remind myself that it’s not all for me! Eating is a pleasure, but if we overdo it we might diminish our enjoyment of our day or evening ahead. Everything in balance.

SL: How can eating healthily benefit you while away?

JRR: We benefit from eating healthily in numerous ways – most typically, our mood and energy levels are affected by our dietary choices. It’s important to avoid any foods we have an intolerance of, since many folks feel sluggish and tired if they eat foods their body has an immune reaction to. Our dietary choices affect our cognitive state, our feelings, and even our behaviour. Making healthful choices helps us have clear thinking and sharper concentration.

SL: Airport delays are one of my down falls, what are the best choices at the airport?

JRR: Many airports are now catering for health-oriented travellers and I would often choose vegetable soup or a baked potato with salad. I’ve even been able to find porridge at many airports. On long flights, I’d recommend avoiding wheat-based foods like bread and pasta since wheat encourages fluid retention, which can be more of a problem during a long flight. Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are excellent and a piece or two of fruit – these make good snacks.

SL: I am the worst for trying to eat my way through jetlag, if you get the post flight munchies what are the best types of food to go for?

JRR: When we feel extremely tired we might have strong coffee to give us a kick and perhaps some chocolate or sugary pastries for that little sugar rush. But it’s the worst thing really, because caffeine and sugar actually deplete our energy and the more we have, the more exhausted we feel. The body needs sleep, and a good natural sleep aid is tart cherry juice which is a natural source of the hormone melatonin and also contains the amino acid tryptophan. Drinking half a glass before bed typically aids sleep and mood. As at all times, the best food choices include plenty vegetables and vegetable juices, fruits and other unprocessed complex carbohydrates, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins such as fish including salmon and mackerel and white meat.

SL: Another potential downfall of holiday eating is the pre-dinner drinks, have you got any advice to avoid over indulging on the canapés and aperitifs?

JRR: It’s not what we do upon occasion that creates weight gain – it’s what we do on a regular basis. If you go on trips occasionally, having an aperitif and canapés typically isn’t a problem. But if you go often, and if you’re concerned about your weight or aspects of your health, I would simply make a decision to drink San Pellegrino – a clear head helps us maintain control over how much we eat. To avoid feeling ravenous which of course naturally leads to us eating lots at a party or gathering, we can even have a small healthy meal before going to the event – a couple of oat cakes lightly spread with mashed avocado or even a small bowl of porridge takes the edge off our appetite and helps us maintain control.

slimming together, weight loss, weight loss jersey, weight watchers jersey, slimming jersey, Joanne Reid Rodrigues

Joanne in St Helier Marina

To see more from Joanne and get a copy of her book visit her website

I’m dreaming of a…..Green Christmas?

With thousands of holiday makers due to arrive this weekend, the Alps are still struggling for snow. Sarah Loughlin looks at alternative activities to enjoy on your Christmas alpine break!

Whether you think that the lack of snow this year is down to global warming, disgruntled Snow God’s, or just plain bad luck, the fact is there are a fair amount of resorts not opening their lifts this weekend due to snow conditions. If you have already booked a ski holiday for this Christmas and your resort is looking more golf course, than ski piste, read on!

Austria, Europe, Snow, no snow, things to do, ski resort, winter, christmas, christmas  holiday, holiday, travel, late deals

Attempts by some resorts to make snow with the cannons.

‘No snow?! At Christmas??!’ I hear you cry, ‘This madness’…. And madness it will be, thousands of people are due to descend into resorts this week, and as I look out on the very green and leafy mountains of the Tirol in Austria I can’t help wondering how this will play out. One solution used by many ski resorts are snow cannons which create artificial snow. However due to unseasonably warm temperatures and humidity they are not able to use them to create snow for this coming weekend. To create artificial snow it needs to be around -2/-3C. Christmas Day this year in parts of the Tirol region are due to be between 8-10C.

This is not what we have come to expect on the 19th of December, most years there is some sort of covering on the mountain, enough for resorts to open, even if it’s only the higher ski runs. With the scientists reporting that the weather is getting warmer, the glaciers are shrinking and the altitude at which rain turns to snow getting ever higher, it begs the question of whether low lying resorts such as those in the Tirol will still be skiable in the future. However traveling around the Tirol and speaking to various locals over the last few days I am told this is not the first time this has happened. One hotelier tells me he can remember a season about 20 years ago where they didn’t get the first snow until mid January. He doesn’t think that this situation is new, but it just happens a bit more often than it used to. He is not worried though, ‘the snow will come’, he tells me, ‘it always does’.

I imagine there will be a lot of disappointed people at the airport this weekend, but don’t be one of them!! After all, It’s Christmas!!! Although not ideal if you had envisaged spending a week swanning around the slopes, there is plenty to do in resort if there is limited skiing. These are my top activities to make the most of your non-ski holiday this week!

1. Try something different…. Most resorts offer activities that don’t need snow, such as paraponting (running/ skiing off a hill while attached to a nice French/ Austrian man and floating down through the valley with a parachute). If you think this could be the new sport for you, do some research and try to book something before you get there, I imagine they will get very busy! Companies like Evolution 2 in France offer a wide range of non-skiing activities.

2. Relax….. There are normally great spa’s and sauna’s in ski resorts. Make the most of the time you don’t normally have when running between ski school, après and dinner to relax in the spa, take a steam,  or get a massage. Depending on your budget and the resort you are in there is normally a few to choose from. Again, research before you go and get booked in, especially if you want treatments. This could also double as a cheeky last minute Christmas present for someone you are traveling with!!

3. Explore…. I think like a lot of keen skiers I have only ever visited the mountains in the winter. Until this autumn, when I spent some time in the French Alps. I completely fell in love with it, it is so beautiful and peaceful walking in the mountains; there are so many animals and amazing views. You can even burn off some of that Christmas dinner while getting out in the fresh air! Make the most of a chance to go for a nice long hike and see the mountains before they get buried again for another winter.

4. Get sporty…… If hiking and paraponting aren’t your thing, visit the local sports centre. Depending on the resort there are all sorts of activities from climbing and  swimming, to ice skating and table tennis.

5. Go shopping…. Whether you are into tacky souvenirs, hand carved wooden statues or cool snowboard apparel you will find it up in the mountains. Again, something you don’t normally have time for on an action packed ski holiday, so make the most of the time to look around the shops and pick up a few cool Christmas presents for yourself (and/ or friends and loved ones!).

6. Pig out….. It wouldn’t be Christmas without eating yourself silly. The mountains are a great place to do it, with more cheese and carbs than you can shake a stick at! So treat everyday like Christmas and take long boozey lunches while praying to the Snow God’s for a midweek dump!

7. Après…. Just because there is no snow doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in the strange post-skiing afternoon tradition of watching live music, drinking beer and dancing on tables; other wise known as après ski. Plus you can hit it extra hard because you don’t have to be up early for ski school in the morning!!

8. Excursions…. Depending on the resort you are going to it is relatively easy to take the train to visit a nearby town or city. Check out my article on Salzburg for some inspiration!

Happy holidays!

Austria, Europe, Snow, no snow, things to do, ski resort, winter, christmas, christmas  holiday, holiday, travel, late deals

Driving through the Tirol region in Austria this afternoon.

A Royal Education

Sarah Loughlin reflects on cultural stereotyping after an interesting few hours in the Los Angeles bus station

Standing between an Escalade and a Hummer, I flicker between wanting to laugh hysterically, and die of embarrassment. If only the game of Rock Paper Scissors had gone my way, I would be standing where my sister is now. On the other side of the car park, excitedly waiting for the food our pitiful casino winnings would buy us.

It’s another warm evening in California. The area around the Los Angeles Greyhound bus station is miles removed from the outrageously lavish architecture of the Las Vegas Strip, our home for the previous week. Just a few blocks from the infamous Skid Row, this is the part of the Golden State that they don’t advertise. People shuffle along the sidewalk in ragged clothes, between the run-down buildings, while some huddle in shadowy doorways. I can’t help wondering how they ended up here.

We had been on the Greyhound bus together from Las Vegas for 8 hours and we were ravenous. Our connection to San Diego wasn’t for hours. After walking for a block or two, our eyes lit up as we rounded the corner and saw a fast food joint. Approaching the doors excitedly discussing what we should order I noticed that the restaurant was strangely empty. I pulled the door towards me, but it wouldn’t budge. It was locked. At this point the only way we were going to eat was to stand in the drive-through queue with the cars and hope for the best. After ordering into the microphone I walked up to the window to collect the order. Thinking, why do I always pick scissors?

USA, California, Greyhound, budget travel, local peopleSitting in the Greyhound station with our long-awaited food we started chatting, as we usually do, about what to see in the next town. Over the last month we had travelled all over California, spending what we had saved from our student loans on $1 burritos and lounging on the beach. As usual our strong English accents had attracted the attention of our fellow passengers.

‘’Scuse me Miss, where are y’all from’
‘England, how about you?’
‘Hmmm, it’s funny, y’all don’t look like y’all are from En-ger-land’
‘Ah really, why is that?’
‘’Cas y’all don’t have Princess Diana’s nose’

It transpired Charlene from Texas had been visiting family in California and was on her way home. After the usual pleasantries I attempted to go back to my guidebook and fried chicken. No such luck.

‘So did y’all go to the wedding?’
‘I’m sorry, which wedding?’
‘You know, Princess Kate’s wedding’

I sigh inwardly, and almost roll my eyes. I stop myself when it occurs to me that everything I think I know about Americans, apart from the people I have met here, is from television. And it must be the same for them. I went on to explain to Charlene that although England was a small country, not everyone was invited to the Royal wedding, and unfortunately we were not all descendants of Diana Princess of Wales.

‘En-ger-land’ Interjects Charlene’s friend, ‘that’s near Norway right?’
‘Well, relatively’ I reply.
‘I got a friend out there in Norway, he’s call Bill, d’y’all know him?’

I suppress a giggle, and then remember that until a few weeks ago I would have had no idea where Texas was in relation to New Mexico; and then there was the awkward time in the bank that I couldn’t spell Arkansas. I had arrived in the USA over 4 months ago, thinking that as an English speaking country the culture must be largely the same, but I was wrong. Every place I visited had a unique way about it. Starting out in Louisiana I got to know that people from the Southern state, describing themselves on bumper stickers as ‘Third World and Proud of it’, are the most warm and accommodating of all; never so embodied but in the Litchl family who took me in for a week and showed me New Orleans the local way:

Louisiana, New Orleans, NOLA, talking to strangers‘You don’t know Pat O’Brien’s! What have you been doing here all this time!’ Says Marci as we are seated on a cosy table not far from the Duelling Pianos. ‘Two Hurricanes please!’ she calls to the waiter over the bustling atmosphere of the bar. I stop to take in the audience, chatting away and enjoying the performance. Music lovers in the crowd note down their favourite songs on a napkin and pass it to the front to be played, the musician’s jest that they don’t know the song before breaking into a jazzy NOLA rendition, just for us to hear.

Again it occurs to me that before that evening the only things I knew about New Orleans were from the UK media. In my head ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Louisiana’ would make me think, ‘Katrina’, rather than ‘the jazz bar off Bourbon Street’. In that moment I know that the next time a friendly fellow traveller makes an un-informed snap judgement or makes what seems to me like a silly remark, I will ask myself, ‘what do I know about their country? Could I point it out on a map?’ I bet 9 out of 10 times I probably couldn’t.

I turn back to Charlene and offer her one of my now cold and slightly soggy chips, or fries to the locals, and I ask her what sort of food her home town is famous for; just one traveller educating another.

Go on Holiday while Saving the World

Sarah Loughlin explains how to swap your standing orders for jungle safaris by supporting social enterprises.

With so many charities to choose from it can be difficult to know who to direct your philanthropy towards. I think everyone at some point has been approached on the street or watched a television advert telling them what a difference a £3 a month donation to their charity could make, but what if you could make your money go further? For some issues and causes the charitable donations are essential, but for others it may not be the answer.

In developing and developed countries alike, the local communities of many popular tourist destinations and their income are almost totally dependent on tourism. By choosing a holiday with a company that engages with locals you can really make a difference. In many cases these communities don’t want or need charity, they want a chance to grow and develop and invest in their own futures. Social enterprises aim to increase the employability of locals by offering training and permanent jobs with fair pay, as well as getting supplies from local businesses to give money back to the community. The ripple effects of these projects can be huge and add a vast amount of money in to the local economy.

Tourism also has a huge impact on the environment due, in part, to the travel involved – there is often a large carbon foot print associated with it, as well as issues around maintaining and preserving the beautiful environments which we enjoy visiting. So why not pick a hotel that is taking responsibility to limit its impact on the environment or a company that is making a real effort to cut its carbon foot print?

To find out more or to book a holiday and save the world go to