Get Me Outta Here! The March Edition.

Sarah Loughlin hunts down the best travel deals for holidays in March.

March can be a very tense time in the office, being the final month of the holiday calendar for some companies. It brings to light that there are two types of person in every office. Person A has neither the time nor inclination to take vacation days. Person B works solely for vacations and uses up all allotted days in the first few months of said year…

Person A spends March complaining HR are insisting they take their remaining days off, even though they have far too much work to do (they will almost definitely come into the office on at least one of these ‘days off’); while Person B wishes March away staring longingly out of the office window and browsing last minute holidays that they can’t go on, trying not to throw office supplies at Person A.

For those lucky people who have squirrelled away some time, here are three great deals for this month…

A Weekend: Three nights in a prison cell in Stockholm, Sweden – Friday 20th March – Monday 23rd March £156.50

Flights from London Stansted to Stockholm Skavsta are just £50 return for next weekend. The bus from Skavsta airport to Stockholm takes 1h20 and costs £21.50 return; you can book your ticket in advance. The weather in the next few weeks doesn’t look too cold but it can get down to below freezing at this time of year so take lots of layers!

There are many different types of accommodation in Stockholm to fit every budget. For a quirky cheap get away why not stay in a prison cell! This hostel set up in an old prison is not ideal for couples because there are bunkbeds, but is definitely a quirky way to spend a weekend! And is great value, working out at roughly £75 per person for three nights based on two people sharing a cell with a private shower and toilet. If you don’t fancy bunk beds or just want to treat yourself why not upgrade to a double cell in the hotel part of the prison, £175 per person for three nights including breakfast. Both the hotel and hostel have good reviews on TripAdvisor.

If it’s not too chilly take a walk around the the old town (Gamla Stan) and maybe visit to the Royal Palace. There are guided tours of the Palace from Tuesday-Sunday between 11am-3pm included in the price of your ticket (£12), check out the website for more details.

The Vasa museum was my favourite part of our Stockholm trip; it houses the 17th century warship ‘Vasa’ which after sinking on her maiden voyage spent 300 years at the bottom of the sea. She is now on display and you can learn all about the history of the boat at the museum. If you have time head to Skansen, which is an open air history museum and zoo; well worth a visit!

A Week Skiing: Seven nights skiing in La Plagne, France – Saturday the 14th of March to Saturday 21st of March £399

Although the sun is out there is still plenty of skiing to be had! The snow in La Plagne looks good, with just under 10cm of powder forecast over the next week. for £399 you can stay in the Chalet Vidal for seven nights including flights from London Gatwick, return transfers to resort, and chalet board. Which includes breakfast, afternoon tea and six three course evening meals with wine. The chalet is in Plagne 1800, and is a short walk from the ski lifts. There is currently a special offer for this week which means that for £210 you get an area lift pass instead of a local lift pass, giving you access to the whole Paradiski area, rather than just La Plagne.

For a mid afternoon beer on the piste try Bar Fort Colorado a wooden fort on the piste just above Plagne Centre with deck chairs and music playing, ideal for sunny spring afternoons!

From where the chalet is in Plagne 1800 you can easily access other villages in resort such as Plagne Centre. Buses run every 15 minutes from 08.30am to 00.50am. So if you fancy a bit of cheeky apres at Scottys you don’t have to worry about getting back to the chalet in time for tea!

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A Week in the Sun: Seven nights in Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Tuesday 17th March – Wednesday 25th March £745

Fly with Oman Air from London Heathrow to Dubai for £288 return. There are cheaper flights available but these flights strike the balance between convenient timings, flight length and price. Leaving the UK just after 9pm on Tuesday evening means you can go from work to the airport and travel over night; arriving in Dubai to start your holiday just after 11am on the Wednesday.

As with the flights, there are definitely cheaper hotels available, but Dubai is all about spoiling yourself a little bit! Stay at the 5* Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel and Towers for £457 per person based on two people sharing. Located close to the old town this hotel is good value for a bit of luxury, with great views and an outdoor pool. The hotel is located only a ten minute walk to the metro station, so if you are budget conscious this is a great way to get around; the metro is clean and cheap. Taxis in Dubai are also fairly cheap compared to London so if you are travelling with a group it works out cheaper. The metro is not extensive so you may have to get taxis depending on where you want to go. From one side of Dubai to the other should cost no more than about £10, make sure you get a regular taxi and not a Lexus or hotel taxi as these will cost more. The best places to grab a taxi when out and about are at the entrance to a big hotel or shopping mall.

Catching some rays… Although the public beaches in Dubai do not have the services of the swanky private beach clubs, they are free, clean, and full of lovely white sand! For a nice chilled out beach day try Umm Suqeim Public Beach which has views of the Burj Al Arab.

Dubai is home to a number of water parks, including Aquaventure, which is part of the Atlantis Hotel on the Palm. I am not one for water parks normally, but this place is incredible! Definitely an all day affair, it is roughly the same price as theme parks in the UK, so get there early to avoid queues and make the most of the day! After a hard day of sunbathing on a rubber ring in the lazy river, treat yourself to a Cold Stone Creamery on the way out of the hotel. If you have never been to one before, and you like ice-cream, this is the place for you. Choose your own flavour combinations and then watch them skilfully juggle your ice-cream and throw it into a cup without even looking! Best. Day. Ever.

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Best ice-cream experience of my entire life.

However, if you don’t fancy venturing out why not just have a pool day at the hotel with a good book!

Fancy a spot of shopping? From the Sheraton it is just a 25 minute meander along the waterfront to the famous spice souk. From the spice souk you can take an Abra (small wooden boat) over to the textile souk for only one dirham (about 20p). This area of town is great to see a bit of the history of Dubai, but remember to cover your shoulders and knees when out and about in this area because although very liberal, it is arabic country. Not only is it respectful to the local culture, you will also feel more comfortable because you may get people staring at you if you wear something revealing in this area of Dubai. If you want to learn more about the culture and heritage, why not stop for breakfast or lunch at the cultural centre. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding offers a chance to have a traditional Emirati meal in old Dubai and find out about the culture and history, prices start from about £15 and you have to book in advance.

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Spice Souk

Dubai is also known for its modern shopping malls, housing not only every shop you could ever want but also attractions such as an indoor ski slope, an aquarium, and a waterfall! The malls are open late so a great place to go for a post dinner stroll.

Eating and drinking… Where to start? There is so much going on in Dubai, you cant try everything… but here are my fave picks through out the week. For a full list of ideas see Time Out.

Wednesday After a long flight from London you will need to rehydrate! Why not try Vida Downtown’s Cheese and Wine night. For just £28 you get three glasses of wine and a cheese buffet. The bar is small and relaxed with a great atmosphere.

Thursday – Head for dinner at Zaroob for the best arabic food you have ever had. And it’s a bargain to boot! Sit outside under the fariy lights a sip your lemon mint while chatting with friends – ideal! If you fancy a drink afterwards take a short taxi ride to the H hotel and head to the entrance of the 40 Kong rooftop bar – just to the right of the hotel. You will be whisked up in the lift and emerge on the roof which has a great atmosphere and panoramic views.

My friend Jess enjoying a Lemon Mint at Zaroob.

Friday – The Saturday of the Middle East, Friday is a tough one in Dubai. With so many things going on, how will you choose? For me its got to be brunch. Who doesn’t love getting all dressed up 11am in a fancy frock and eating and drinking all day long? There are brunches to suit all sorts of groups and budgets, why not try the quirky picnic brunch at Vida Downtown. Set in the chic courtyard next to the pool you collect your picnic basket full of drinks and then head to your table. Its a mix of buffet and table service. Both the service and food are great, and for £55 eating and drinking alcohol all day its a pretty good deal! Brunch is served from 1pm-5pm but people seem to arrive early to dig in to the picnic! You can also upgrade to a cabana by the pool for £18 per person. Best to reserve a table in advance.

Picnic brunch, brunch dubai, brunch vida, poolside brunch, outside brunch, where to go to brunch dubai, brunch downtown

Picnic Brunch at Vida Downtown

 

Saturday – After brunch you are going to need a bit of fresh air and a chilled out evening to recover. What better than a sunset cruise around the creek on your very own BBQ donut? The floating BBQ’s seat eight people and you need to book a time slot in advance. Incredible food, and relaxing atmosphere, perfect way to end the day!

BBQ Donuts on the Creek at sunset.

BBQ Donuts on the Creek at sunset.

Sunday After the amazing donut feast you wont want to eat again for a while, but incase you do feel peckish head to the Mango Tree, a great Thai place with a terrace overlooking the Dubai Fountains. Make sure to call ahead and make a reservation; ask for a table on the Terrace so you can watch the fountain shows over dinner. Afterwards head to Calabar at the Address Downtown to the super relaxed garden and have a cocktail while chilling out on a bean bags.

Dubai Fountains.

Dubai Fountains.

Monday – Like Margaritas? Claw has 2-4-1 Margarita Mondays! And also a great food menu.

Tuesday – Ladies nights in Dubai are a mid-week treat for the credit card! With exclusive night clubs such as Mahiki offering free entry and free drinks for ladies there is no excuse not to have an amazing last night before sleeping it off on the plane the next day!

For more ideas about great holiday deals check out my previous post ‘How to Fly for £17 Return’.

All prices and availability were accurate on Wednesday the 11th of March; please check websites for up to date pricing.

Happy Holiday-ing!

Get Me Outta Here! The Ski Edition.

Sarah Loughlin hunts down the best travel deals for ski holidays this winter.

After a very green start to the winter the snow is here! Just as you were beginning to think that the age old vacation problem of ‘sun or snow’ was going to be answered for you by the unseasonable lack of the latter ingredient…. its only gone and dumped it down! Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Like many other people, starting at an early age meant skiing has always been a big part of my life. It’s not just the sport itself but the atmosphere and the people it attracts that keep you going back year after year. There’s nothing like sitting down at dinner to stuff your face full of cheese and chatting to everyone about their day up the hill. But saying that, every year around this time, normally on a chilly walk to work, I start to crave a beach day in the sunshine – just me and a good book!

If you still can’t decide whether to don your bikini or your snowboard, maybe these cheeky ski deals will help you out!

A Weekend:

Three nights in Avoriaz, France – Thursday 26th March-Sunday 29th March £267.26

This trip perfect is for you indecisive folk; can’t decide between sun and snow? Do Both! Thursday afternoon flights from Gatwick mean you only need one and a half days holiday to enjoy two full days of skiing! Plenty of holiday left for that dose of mid-winter sun!

Fly from London Gatwick to Geneva with Swissair for £64 per person:

Avoriaz is only about an hour and a half from Geneva. This means you can be up the mountain by 10ish to get an early night and awake refreshed for the first lift on Friday morning, or be there in time to catch a few drinks at aprés… which ever takes your fancy. There are quite a few transfer options around of varying reliability, you can in theory get a return transfer for about €50 but if you are only there for a few days best to pick a company with a good reputation. I traveled with Ski- Lifts, who offer a return shared minibus transfer for £71.76 per person. They were efficient, friendly, and after a short wait for the other passengers on my bus we hopped on board and were up the mountain in no time. I would love to tell you about the amazing scenic views on the way up the valley – but I fell promptly asleep before we left the car park!

AirBnB offers an Apartment in the center of town that sleeps up to six for £263; which works out as £131.50 per person based on two people sharing. One of the great things about Avoriaz is that they have no cars in resort, so pretty much everywhere is ski in ski out. All the roads around town are pisted into slopes and are dotted with skiers, pedestrians and the occasional piste-basher; the only thing you have to watch out for are the horse drawn sleds!

You can pre-order your lift pass online before you go to make the most of your time on the mountain. All you have to do is order a re-loadable Portes du Soleil card and then charge it with a two day lift pass which costs €93 for the area pass (+€3 for the card).

Eating: With only a few days up the hill its going to be hard to fit in all the essential mountain grub! So here are my faves; if you like omelet try La Grenouille du Marais, where they come served in huge frying pans straight to your table! If you don’t want to stop for too long grab a quick burger from Changabang, super tasty, but sometimes there is a bit of a queue. Or if you fancy somewhere a bit quirky be sure to check out Chez BaBeth a cosy chalet style restaurant choc-full of fur throws and alpine themed decor, they even have a bit of aprés on the terrace in the afternoon!

Skiing:  Avoriaz is a huge ski area, spreading out into the Portes du Soleil. There is something for everyone, long gentle blues, parks and half pipes, and a lot of off piste. Including the famous ‘Swiss Wall’ if you fancy a challenge!

Aprés: When you are all skied out head to Globe Trotters for a few chilled out beers on the terrace, and if you fancy some music afterwards it’s a short stumble to Shooters who have a live band from 5-7pm.

A March week:

Seven nights in Kitzbühel, Austria – Saturday 21st March – Saturday £379pp

When looking for a week’s ski holiday I always aim to get a flight, transfer and accommodation package for roughly £350. Depending on the time of year you want to go you can normally find a nice place to stay in a good resort for that price. You can get them much cheaper but bear in mind, you get what you pay for. That self catering deal for £199 might look appealing, but you will be four to a room in bunk-beds on a corridor full of students vomiting in their own shoes.

This deal with Crystal Ski to Chalet Karlberger, in Kitzbühel is great value; the package includes flights from Manchester, transfers and accommodation with chalet board which includes breakfast, afternoon tea and three course dinner with wine. Gatwick flights available for £429 per person.

On the chalet staff night off head to Sigi’s for one of their famous burger’s and beer or two. This family run sports bar is part of the Hotel Jagerwirt, which has beautifully decorated alpine inspired lobby. The staff are all super friendly and are sure to show you a good time. If you like spicy food try the ‘Fire Burger’, but be warned it has more than a little kick to it!

A February week:

Seven nights in Val Thorens, France – Saturday 7th February – Saturday 14th February £561pp

Having said that £350 is a reasonable price to pay for your package, I would definitely fork out the extra money for this deal! Val Thorens is the place to be at the minute with 50-60cm of snow predicted towards the end of this week! Travel with Skiworld from London Gatwick to the Chalet Verseau, located at the top of the resort with easy access to the slopes and town. The package includes flights, transfers accommodation and chalet board (breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner including wine).

Eating: The great thing about a chalet holiday is that the food is all included in the price of the package along with the wine, but you do get one evening to go out and try some of the local restaurants – best of both worlds! If you don’t want to venture too far from the Chalet go for a fondue at the l’Auberge, then when you are totally cheese out head over to the Red Fox for an digestif or two!

Skiing: What can I say about the Trois Vallees that hasn’t already been said – probably my favorite place to ski! Like most big French ski areas, there is something for everyone – park, piste, off piste; even a fab little cross country route on the lake at Les Menuires, ideal for beginners.

Aprés: There is almost far too much choice in Val Thorens its hard to know where to start! If you are a mid-afternoon aprés on the mountain fan there is a choice of 360 or the famous Folie Douce both with live music and great atmosphere. If you want to ski until the very last second possible then the center of town is where you want to head; the Frog has great bands and as much dancing on the table as you can shake a stick at, while Danish bar Cafe Snesko also its own theme song and sets fire to things at regular intervals through out the evening.

For more ideas about great holiday deals check out my previous post ‘How to Fly for £17 Return’.

All prices and availability were accurate on Monday 26th of January; please check websites for up to date pricing.

Happy Holiday-ing!

Get Me Outta Here! The December Edition.

Sarah Loughlin hunts down the best travel deals for holidays in December.

Post Christmas blues can be a real downer. If you are reading this it probably means you have finished scoffing turkey and opening presents and you are now looking for something to keep you entertained until the New Year’s Eve celebrations commence.

New Year’s Eve is a tricky evening to get right, if you live in London you will be familiar with the options; all of which are pricey and or overcrowded. When even the local pub charges £10 to get in, I begin to wonder if there isn’t another way to celebrate the beginning of a new year.

There are some great last minute deals around whether you want to go away for a few weeks, or just a few days…

A New Year’s Eve Break:

Two nights enjoying Hogmanay in Edinburgh – Tuesday 30th December – Thursday 1st January £248

Street party’s, concerts and torch light processions – Hogmanay has it all. Fly to Edinburgh with BA from London Heathrow and stay two nights at the Marriott for just £248 per person. To book tickets and find out more about Hogmanay events visit their website.

A week in the sun:

Seven nights of sunshine in Tunisia – Wednesday 31st December – Wednesday 7th January £238

Dont fancy going back to work, or starting all the post Christmas diet just yet? This package with Thomson for flights from London Gatwick, transfers to the hotel and All Inclusive accommodation is the one for you! Staying in the Hotel Marhaba Salem in Sousse, which has great reviews on Trip Advisor and has been given the Travelife Gold Award for sustainability. Weather next week is due to be mostly sunny and in the mid-teens, so perfect for a wander along the beach, or a mid afternoon drink by the pool. The all inclusive board basis is a perfect excuse to carry on the festive eating well into January!

Two weeks in the sun:

14 nights in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic‎ – Tuesday 30th December – Tuesday 13th January.

Ever fancied going to a New Year’s Eve party in a cave? Look no further, Imagine in Punta Cana is a night club which plays a great mix of English and Latin music, and the drinks are reasonable for a night club….. plus it’s in a CAVE!

Imagine, punta cana, dom rep, dominican republic, Caribbean, night club, night life, cave, new years eve

Night out at Imagine, Punta Cana earlier this summer.

You can fly from London Gatwick to Punta Cana with Thomson for £268.98:

punta cana, flights, thomson, winter sun, holiday, beach, imagine, new year's eve, dom rep, dominican republic

flights.thomson.co.uk

The Aquamarina Apartment in the Cap Cana Marina available via airbnb.co.uk sleeps 6 people and works out at £467.83 per person. The Cap Cana Resort, located about 30 minutes from Imagine night club and 20 minutes from the airport, has something for everyone. From beach clubs and nature reserves to water-sports and golf courses. This apartment is in a great location close to bars and restaurants, but also has cooking facilities if you want to save your pennies for excursions and activities.

Weather for the next two weeks is due to be in the mid- to late-twenties – ideal sunbathing weather if you fancy relaxing and reading a book on one of the well kept white sandy beaches, and not too hot for exploring the many activities that the resort offers. I had a blast at Cap Cana earlier this summer, check out my top things to do in Cap Cana on your relaxing post Christmas vacay!

1. Head to the Caleton beach club for a cocktail – Caleton is a small bay with a great beach bar and pool. It is a small secluded spot with sun loungers spread amongst the palm trees. The bay is wavy so not ideal if you want to go for a long swim, but really fun for messing around in the sea – check out my wave pictures from the bay.

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Perfect day playing in the sea and drinking cocktails in the sunshine!

2. Go windsurfing at Juanillo beach – Juanillo is a long white sandy beach with a great beach bar/ restaurant and water sports facilities. Less wavy that Caleton and also more spread out. We hired windsurf kit for an hour which cost about 40 USD. The staff were all very friendly and helpful, the water is waist deep for quite a way out and the centre has a range of kit so its ideal for any standard of windsurfer. They also have SUP boards if you fancy a paddle.

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Teaching my friend Steph to windsurf at Juanillo beach

3. Head to the Sunset party at DUX in the marina – it costs roughly £15 to get in, starting from 3pm every Sunday with an open bar and is only a short stroll from the apartment.

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Enjoying free drinks at DUX’s Lady’s night, Cap Cana Marina earlier this summer.

4. Try Zip Lining at Scape Park – Get the George of the Jungle feeling, flying over the tree tops and hiking up through the forest. The guides also tell you about some of the nature and wildlife as you go. Great way to see some more of the island. DSCN0536 If you can’t convince five friends to accompany you for some winter sunshine there are other options nearby such as the Pool and Garden View Apartment, which works out as £535 based on two people sharing via airbnb.com. 

For more ideas about great holiday deals check out my previous post ‘How to Fly for £17 Return’.

All prices and availability were accurate on Thursday the 26th of December; please check websites for up to date pricing.

Happy Holiday-ing!

Get Me Outta Here! The November Edition.

Sarah Loughlin hunts down the best travel deals for holidays in November.

Unless you have been locked in a darkened room for the last few weeks, you will have noticed its becoming decidedly wintery. Although this means that soon enough the ski resorts will start opening up, and the Christmas markets will be in full swing. For now, well…its just a bit soggy.

So to while away your time until it is socially acceptable to don christmas jumpers and drink mulled wine in the afternoon, here are a few insanely good deals to get some last minute sunshine before the festive season officially commences…

A Weekend Break:

Three nights exploring Marrakech, Morocco – Saturday the 29th Of November- Tuesday 2nd of December £296.

Book via Voyage Prive and stay in the 5* Kenzi Menara Palace. Flights, accommodation, breakfast and private transfers are all included as well as one free day in the spa. This hotel has great reviews on Trip Advisor and loads of facilities including both an indoor and outdoor pool, tennis courts and a volley ball court. This deal is based on flying from Stansted with Ryanair, although there are alternatives if the thought of driving to Stansted at 2am makes you want to stay at home in the rain!

The weather is due to be 20 degrees and sunny in Marrakech next week, perfect for chilling by the pool or exploring the town. This deal is only available for three more days, so don’t miss out!

If you have not been to Marrakech before check out Elle Croft’s handy guide.

A week in the sun:

Seven nights soaking up the sun in Hurghada, Egypt – Tuesday the 2nd of December – Tuesday the 9th of December £342.

I know this is strictly in December, but it was good a deal to ignore! Fly from London Gatwick with Thomas Cook staying at the Sunrise Royal Makadi Resort, which has great reviews and it’s an All Inclusive hotel, so everything is covered!

This Hotel has been given a Travelife Award which means they take great care of their environmental and social impacts within their local communities. To see how choosing a hotel like this can mean you go on holiday, while saving the world, keep reading…

The weather is due to be sunny and in the mid 20’s all week, perfect weather to catch a few rays and read a book! But if lounging by the pool is just far too relaxing, here are my top five things to do in Hurghada:

1. Ride a camel… Those of you who have read my previous post’s will know that my Dad and I tend to get carried away when embracing history and culture, camel riding was no exception! My sisters were mortified to see us running around with our camels pretending we were ancient Egyptian explorers.

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Dad and I pretending we were Egyptian Kings, exploring the desert…

3. Go Scuba-diving… I tried diving for the first time in Egypt and absolutely loved it. The Red Sea is renowned for their great dive spots, and it wasn’t too pricey compared to some other destinations. If you don’t fancy scuba-diving, try snorkelling, you can still see a lot of the amazing coral and wildlife just buy swimming around on the surface. TOP TIP: Always take care when snorkelling and diving, the coral is very delicate and touching it or treading on it can easily kill it.

2. Spend some time in the desert…. There are a lot of different activities and excursions to choose from so pick something that suites you and head out into the desert for the day, you won’t regret it! TOP TIP: Remember to take a jumper if you are staying into the evening because it can get cold quite quickly.

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Excursion to a Bedouin Camp, and more camel riding!

4. Visit the Marina…. take a taxi down to Hurghada Marina for a wonder around the shops and bars. It’s a great atmosphere in the town, remember that haggling is a part of the culture over there so give it a go! TOP TIP: Book a return taxi from the hotel and arrange to meet them at a set time and place, this way you don’t have to worry about getting home.

5. Have a cheeky afternoon beer at the pool bar… there is nothing like catching up on the days events over a beer to cool off in the afternoon sun. Whether you have been playing volleyball, taking a nap or reading a great book, it’s always good to pencil in an afternoon refreshment or two!

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My sisters, pretending they didn’t know me when I came back from an afternoon running around with camels…

 

Two weeks in the sun:

14 nights saving the world in The Gambia – Friday the 28th of November – Friday the 12th of December.

Book with The Gambia Experience and stay at Kombo Beach, for just £551 per person based on two people sharing. This includes your flights, transfers, accommodation and breakfast.

In my feature ‘Go on Holiday Whilst Saving the World’ I discussed how you can really make a difference in places such as The Gambia, which as a developing country relies heavily on the tourist trade to make money. You can make your money go a lot further by choosing a hotel such as Kombo Beach, which has great reviews as well as being recognised by Travelife as a hotel that is making an effort to look after the environment and local community. Kombo beach works with Gambia is Good (GiG), a business which supports thousands of remote local farmers by linking them with the tourist market. Kombo Beach buys fruit and vegetables from GiG, as well as serving locally produced beer at the hotel. They also monitor their environmental impact in terms of energy and water usage and try, where they can, to improve on it every year. This hotel really goes the extra mile to look after its staff, during the rainy season when the hotel is closed they try to employ staff as handy men in the hotel, if that is not possible they provide them with food packages each month.

As if saving the world was not reason enough to go, the weather for next week is due to be in the mid 30’s! So you will definitely pick up a healthy glow in time for the office Christmas party!

For more ideas about great holiday deals check out my previous post ‘How to Fly for £17 Return’.

All prices and availability were accurate on Sunday the 23rd of November; please check websites for up to date pricing.

Happy Holiday-ing!

Get Me Outta Here! The Weekend Edition.

Sarah Loughlin hunts down the best travel deals for weekend breaks.

Autumn is a time for weekend breaks. Not because weekends are particularly spectacular in autumn, but because you have run out of holiday allowance at work.

Unless by some miracle you have been rationing your holidays like a sensible person, in which case I applaud you!

I however, have not been lucky enough to squirrel away many holiday days! So will be spending the next few months wishing I had had a bit more self- control with those last minute summer bargains. And taking weekend breaks. Lots of them.

Here are my top picks to tide you over until the New (holiday) Year!!

October: Oslo, Norway. Friday 24th – Monday 27th October.

There is a choice of flights from London Stansted for £53 return.

On Booking.com I found the Anker Apartment which has both apartments and also dorm rooms depending on your budget; it is great value in a good location, £90.50 per person for three nights (based on two people sharing a twin room with a private bathroom and kitchenette) and it has good reviews on Tripadvisor. It has basic cooking facilities, which can be handy if you don’t want to spend too much money on eating out; Norway is notoriously pricey compared to the UK. On average a beer costs about £7. Traveling from the airport to town takes about an hour, you can either get the bus or train.

oslo, holiday, weekend, travel, city break, norway

The Anker Apartment on http://www.booking.com

If I were going to Norway (which since doing the reading about the city, I might do just that!) this is how I would spend my weekend:

*All prices converted from Norwegian Krone to GBP to give you an idea of cost*

Friday

The Oslo Opera Festival is on during October – why not check out the performance of Madame Butterfly for free at the Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania. The performance starts at 7pm and the hotel is about 30 minutes walk from the Anker Apartment (see map below for location).

Saturday

Norway has some fantastic history – spend the day exploring some of the museums:

The Edvard Munch Museum – Dedicated to Norwegian artist Edvard Munch whose famous works include The Scream. Adult entry £9, open from 11am-5pm, guided tours everyday at 1pm. Aprox 20 minutes walk from the Anker Apartment (see map below).

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The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Viking Ship Museum – Check out some genuine Viking ships! Entry £6, open 10-4pm. To get there from the Anker Apartment: Take the number 30 bus from the Dælenenga (stop next to the Anker Apartment) towards Bygdøy. Get off at Vikingskipshuset. Journey takes about 30 minutes and costs £9 for an all day bus ticket or £3 for a single journey if you buy your ticket before you get on the bus. For more information on getting around check out Oslo’s journey planning website.

Sunday

Nobels Fredssenter (Nobel peace price museum) – Learn all about the history of the Nobel Peace Prize and some of the people who have received it such as Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. Adult entry £9, open 10am-6pm. 40 minutes walk from the Anker Apartment (see map below).

After your hectic weekend of learning about Norwegian culture and history make time to relax with a live band on Sunday afternoon at Bla, a well known Jazz Club. It is only 20 minutes walk from the Nobels Fredssenter and 20 minutes from the Anker Apartment (see map). There is a 4pm acoustic set, and an electric set at 8.30pm – free entry.

Not a museum fan? Don’t panic, here is plenty more to do! Check out the Everywhereist’s blog post on Oslo – its very funny. Lonley Planet has some good suggestions, and The Oslo Pass website has a page of ‘Top 10’s’ for every occasion.

The Oslo Pass is about £28 for the day and gives you access to various museums and sights, so if you are planning to have an action packed day it might work about cheaper than paying for attractions individually.

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Map of Oslo showing location and address of each of the sights mentioned. All walking distance (apart from the Viking Ship Museum which is a bus ride away).

 

November: Jersey, UK. Saturday 8th – Monday 10th of November.

Flight and hotel package with the BA Holiday Finder for £99 per person based on two people sharing a room (breakfast included) at the Mayfair Hotel St Helier. This hotel has great reviews and is right in the centre of town.

This will be the last weekend of the annual Channel Islands ‘Tennerfest’, which runs from 1st of October to the 11th of November. The Tennerfest, which has been going for over 10 years, is a six week period in which over 180 restaurants across the Channel Islands have a special fixed price menu exclusive to the Tennerfest. So not surprisingly most of my suggested activities are based around food – mixed in with some sporty outdoor type things to justify all the food.

Saturday 

To get from the airport to the hotel take bus number 15 from outside the airport terminal. It goes roughly every 15 minutes and costs £1.70 for an adult fare (Use the handy Journey Planner to check bus times).

After dumping your bags head to the St Helier bus station and take the number 22 bus towards L’etacq. Get of at St Ouen’s beach close to El Tico’s Restaurant (ask the driver if you are not sure where to get off).

Laneez is the surf shop on the beach next to El Tico’s you can rent a surfboard and a wetsuit for £10 for 2 hours, or all day for £20. If you have never surfed before, no problem, they also offer lessons. The surf is best at St Ouen’s at mid- to low- tide so check the times before you set off. If you don’t fancy a surf, St Ouen’s is Jersey’s longest beach, great for a nice walk to stretch your legs after the flight.

Stop at El Tico’s for dinner or a late lunch, during Tennerfest they are doing two courses for £15 or three courses for £17.50, check out the menu here.

Jersey, beach, holiday, travel, weekend, tennerfest, channel islands

Sunset from El Tico’s after a day of surfing.

Afterwards why not head to the bonfire night display at Moulin de Lecq Pub which starts at 6.30pm.

Sunday

The Collas Crill Island Walk, formally known as the Itex Walk is the annual 48 mile round the Island walk to raise money for charity. On their website the walk is broken down into 13 stages of varying length and difficulty. Pick a stage that suits you and go for a walk to explore the island.

Alternatively there are the ‘Aletrails’ which are six walking routes put together by Visit Jersey, described as ‘walking routes to build thirst’ – they all end at pubs, which is very convenient. You can download the PDF and print it out to take with you before you go. I would pick Walk 4, which is a bit more challenging and starts and ends at the Vic in the Valley pub. They are offering two courses for £10 and three courses for £12.50, check out the menu here (open for lunch between 12 and 4.30pm). To get there take bus 28 or bus 8 from the bus station in St Helier.

Monday 

If the weather holds out why not make the most of your last day in Jersey and take a guided bike tour around the island – starting at £25 per person including equipment hire the rides can be tailored to your group.

Afterwards try out another of the Tennerfest menus at the Adelphi Lounge in St Helier, click here for menu. They are offering two courses for £10 or three courses for £12.50 (open for lunch between 12 and 2.30pm).

 

December: Berlin, Germany. Saturday 6th of December – Tuesday 9th of December.

Two words. Christmas. Markets.

The Practical bits: Fly from London Stansted for £73 return.

Stay at Penthouse am Checkpoint Charlie in the centre of Berlin with AirBnB for just £105.50 per person based on two sharing. The Penthouse is in a prime location on Charlottenstraße (Charlotte Street) – see map below. Not only is it well connected for public transport, but it’s on the same street as the famous Fassbender-Rausch chocolate restaurant, and it is right next to the Christmas market WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt. To get from the airport to the city take the train, you can buy a Berlin WelcomeCard which covers public transport and also gives you a discount to selected tourist attractions.

Now for the fun parts. Berlin at Christmas is just incredible. The polar opposite to Oslo, everything here is great value compared to London. A mug of glühwein or beer will set you back around €3 (or about €4 if you want to keep the souvenir mug that it is served in).

Christmas market to do list:

Drink Glühwein – It is pretty chilly in Berlin in December, so wrap up warm and grab a mug of glühwein (german mulled wine) from one of the stalls as you wonder around the market.

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Keeping warm with some glühwein! You can keep the souvenir mugs, or return them to get the deposit back (normally €1/2).

Eat Bratwurst – Again super good value and amazingly tasty – will help keep you going on your Christmassy adventures.

Eat Cedar – Planked Salmon – The salmon steaks are nailed to the charred planks and then propped against the fire to cook. Then they are broken up and put in a bun with some herby mayonnaise. Totally amazing. And a good alternative to the bratwurst if you are not a meat eater!

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Cedar – Planked Salmon being cooked at the Charlottenburg Palace Christmas Market.

Eat Chocolate Covered Fruit on Sticks – It wont keep you particularly warm, but it is really delicious. And healthy. Compared to a bratwurst. Maybe.

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Yummm.

Drink more Glühwein – It really can get quite chilly! Plus the Christmas markets come into their own in the evenings, there is a fantastic atmosphere with lots of people meeting up to look around or have bite to eat and a drink, so stick around and get involved.

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Drinking glühwein and enjoying the atmosphere.

There are many great Christmas markets to choose from in Berlin, but my favourite were:

Alexanderplatz Christmas Market (Alexanderplatz, Berlin, 10178) – I will always have a soft spot for this market because it was the first one I had ever visited and I was beyond excited. Its also really close to some of the other markets so you can wander between them very easily.

WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt (Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin, 10117) – I really enjoyed this market, there were quite a few more covered/indoor sections with lots of hand made crafts. Including a man who made sculptures from antique cutlery, very cool. There was also entertainment in the evening. Plus it is across the road from the Penthouse am Checkpoint Charlie!

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Listening to a choir at the Weihnachtszauber at Gendarmenmarkt

Winterwelt market at Potsdamer Platz (Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, 10785) – This Christmas market has curling and an apres ski party from 7pm! It is also next to Arkaden Shopping centre, so if your travel buddy is all Glühweined out, they can do a spot of shopping while you grab another bratwurst and some chocolate covered fruit!

Go to the Visit Berlin website for more details on the markets, or see Richard Carter’s Article for more reviews.

Other things to do in Berlin:

Charlottenberg Palace – This beautiful 17th century Palace and Gardens is only a short train ride from the centre of town. We didn’t actually go inside, but did a self guided tour of the gardens from my guidebook. Plus there is a Christmas market in front of the Palace, so you are never too far away from a warming Glühwein!

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Charlottenburg Palace Gardens

Berlin TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm) – See the whole of the city from over 300m up! This is a popular attraction, so book ahead to avoid the waiting time, and go during the evening so you can see the city lit up late at night. The view from the top of the tower is fantastic. Un-like similar sites in other cities the TV tower is very reasonable, entry is €13 and a cocktail costs around €6/7. So make time to relax at the bar and enjoy the view, or why not make a dinner reservation at the TV Tower restaurant ‘Sphere’.

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Cosmos at the TV Tower

Chocolate restaurant – On the same street as the Penthouse am Checkpoint Charlie, opposite the entrance to the WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market you will find the most amazing chocolate shop you have ever been too. There are huge intricate sculptures of buildings made of Chocolate as well as little Santas and tiny chocolate truffles. But thats not the best bit! Upstairs you will find a restaurant serving food and drink inspired by chocolate (even savoury main meals, crazy!). We only had time to dash in for a quick hot chocolate, but blimey, it was quite the hot chocolate indeed!

Walking tour of Berlin – Not being much of a history buff I found this tour fascinating! Learn all about WW2 and the years afterwards, and how the city is still recovering. Plus it’s a chance to see some of the famous sights while burning off a few of those bratwursts! But remember to wrap up warm, and take snacks. Nothing like a spot of ‘Hanger‘ to ruin your trip! With your Berlin WelcomeCard you get 25% of the walking tours with Insider Tours, the ‘Famous Insider Walk‘ leaves daily at 10am and cost €9 with the discount.

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Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – one of the stops on the walking tour, this is a spectacular monument. Make sure to take your time to walk among the pillars.

 

If these don’t grab your fancy see my post ‘How to Fly for £17 Return’ for tips on hunting out great travel deals.

All prices and availability were accurate on Tuesday 14th of October; please check websites for up to date pricing.

Happy Holiday-ing!

Get Me Outta Here! The September Edition.

Sarah Loughlin hunts down the best travel deals for holidays in September.

As the summer comes to an end its time to take advantage of those great travel deals and make the most of the nice weather in Europe. Whether its a long weekend in Spain, staying in a tree house in Turkey, or quite simply a ridiculously cheap holiday in Greece, these are my top September picks:

A Weekend Break:

2 nights in Barcelona, Spain: Saturday the 20th- Monday the 22nd September

Fancy a sangria on the beach this weekend? Who doesn’t! Barcelona is the perfect place for a city break, you can spend the morning sight seeing and the afternoon soaking up the last of the summer sun in a deck chair! It is due to be a balmy 27 degrees C out there this weekend!

Flights and Accommodation with British Airways From London Heathrow for just £150.50 per person based on two people sharing. The deal includes a hotel which is about a 20 minute taxi ride from town, but if you fancy somewhere more central there are several hotels to choose from.

Top 5 must see in Barcelona:

Las Rambla – The 1.2 km long pedestrianised central road in Barcelona. This leafy street is a great place to meander around looking the the shops, or maybe stopping for a sangria to do some people watching. Keep an eye on your bags though, I didn’t experience any problems, but it is said there are pickpockets in this area.

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria– A huge food market located off Las Rambla, where you can find everything from fresh fruit to cows tongues! This busy bustling market is a great place to grab a fruit smoothy, or a snack from one of the bakery stalls to keep you going until dinner! If you are squeamish stay away from the meat stalls – I turned a corner while looking for my friend and came face to face with a skinned animal head! The market is closed on a Sunday, so make sure you add it to your Saturday to do list!

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Parc Güell – This park, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, was designed by architect Antoni Gaudí. There are mosaic sculptures and buildings set amongst the foliage with foot paths to guide you around as well as view points to stop and take a few holiday snaps. Although it is not walking distance to the Las Rambla, it is definitely worth a visit, there is something for everyone. Whether you love art and history, buskers and live music, or just amazing views. There is a part to the park that is free to access, but if you want entry to the main section it will cost €7 per person (we just did the free bit).

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Barceloneta – the city’s 7km long beach front, was a pleasant surprise. The sandy beach itself is very clean and has a great atmosphere, and it is only 20 minutes walk from the center of town. There are also nice bars and restaurants along the beach front.IMG_1908

Eat some Spanish food: Luckily there were no ‘hanger‘ incidents like on our visit to Rome, so I ate at some great places in Barcelona. La Taberna del Cobre has fantastic tapas and sangria! They have a nice courtyard for sitting outside in the sunshine or a cosy restaurant inside if it is a bit cooler in the evenings. I would recommend the croquettes, they were my fave! Around the corner from the restaurant is a quirky little cocktail bar, perfect for a pre-dinner drink or the start to your epic night out in Barcelona. TOP TIP: the Spanish tend to eat and go out for drinks a lot later, so do not be put off if a restaurant or bar is empty at 8pm – it will be full of people by 10.30pm!IMG_1919

A week in the sun:

Seven nights relaxing in Crete, Greece.

This offer from Thomas Cook is quite literally almost too cheap, £106 per person for flights, transfers and accommodation? It is certainly cheaper than spending the week at home in London! Leaving on the 23rd of September from Stansted for seven nights these self-catering apartments, which are only a short walk from the beach have great feedback on Tripadvisor. It is due to be around 30 degrees C next week, so if you just fancy relaxing and reading your book by the pool this would do the trick!

Two weeks in the sun:

14 nights in a tree-house in Çıralı, Turkey.

My pick for two weeks in the sun this month would be Çıralı in Turkey. I have read so many great things about this place! Far removed from the typical Turkish All Inclusive beach holiday, you can expect hiking, climbing, mountain biking and maybe even some turtle spotting!

The unique backpacker style tree house accommodation famous in this area of Turkey is what particularly attracts me to this place. There is a lot of History here with the ruins of the ancient city of Olympus to visit, as well as sights such as the Chimera – eternally burning flames that are kept alight by natural gases seeping out of the ground. It is also close to some great beaches if you fancy a few days of relaxing among the sight-seeing and activities.

The nearest airport is Antalya, there are plenty of flights from the UK to choose from, all under £100. Being an overly excitable and impatient person, now that I have learned a bit about it I would hop on the London Stansted with Thomson tomorrow evening! At only £98.98 per person, why not! The other benefit of booking so late is the slightly more accurate weather forecast, which looks incredible next week: 30+ degrees C!

I found a place called Olympos Woods Treehouses who have positive reviews on both booking.com and Trip Advisor, and at only £187 for a tree house (£93.50 per person based on two sharing) for 13 nights you cant go wrong! If that doesn’t take your fancy there are plenty of tree houses to chose from in the area.

The Olympos Woods Tree-houses are a two hour drive from Antalya airport, set back from the coast about 30 minutes from the beach. The Thomson flight lands at midnight on Friday so if you didn’t fancy driving that evening you could grab a hotel in Antalya. Again you are spoiled for choice when it comes to hotels but IC Hotel Airport is only 600 meters from the airport and has good reviews. The hotel also responds to feedback on TripAdvisor which is always a good sign. It is £81 per night for a double room on Friday the 19th of September.

Car hire is very reasonable at only £190.59 for the entire two weeks. Due to the remote location it is probably handy to have a car, but there are also transfers and public buses available.

For tips on searching for great holiday deals see my post ‘How to Fly for £17 Return’.

All prices and availability were accurate on Thursday the 18th of September; please check websites for up to date pricing.

Happy Holiday-ing!

Sarah Loughlin hunts down the best travel deals for holidays in August.

One of the most frustrating things in life, second only to not being able to open a jam jar and losing your keys, is finding a week where both you and your travel-buddy are free, only to discover it’s smack bang in the middle of the school holidays.

August can be a pricey time to travel, but there are always some great deals out there. Whether it’s a cheeky weekend break in Europe, or a dream trip to the Caribbean, these are my top picks for the next few weeks:

A Weekend Break:

Two nights in Rome, Italy: Friday 15th August – Sunday 17th August

Flights from London Heathrow and 4* Hotel accommodation for just £167 per person based on two people sharing.

Book a package with British Airways, using their holiday finder to get the best deal. There are 47 different hotels to choose from for this weekend!

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Top 5 must see in Rome:

The Colosseum – Building began in 70 AD for this ancient Roman amphitheater, which was the largest in the Roman Empire, and now the largest in the world. It was used for gladiator fights among other things. While there we got in to the ancient Roman spirit with the aid of some children’s fancy dress from a nearby souvenir shop! €12 entrance (plus €5 for guided tour). 

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The Vatican – It is well worth getting a guided tour for the Vatican, you might not get to see the Pope but if like me you are not up to speed on your history it will be full of fascinating facts about the Church, Italy and Rome. Plus, you can’t go to Rome and not see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo himself! TOPTIP: Remember to take clothes in your bag to cover up, you must cover your knees and shoulders when inside. €30 for a pre-booked guided tour. 

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The Spanish Steps – If you like people watching this is a dream come true! Tourists and locals alike sit on the steps chatting and going about their day. TOPTIP: for a cheap night out, buy a gelato to go and find a spot on the steps to watch the world go buy. Free to visit! (+ A few euros for a gelato!)

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Chocolate, Pistachio and vanilla, YUM!

The Trevi Fountain – Said to be the most famous fountain in the world, it stands at an impressive 26 meters high. Legend has it that that you have to throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder for good luck. There is a great atmosphere around Rome’s Largest Baroque fountain, especially in the evenings. Free to visit!

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Eat some Italian food – At this point I would really love to tell you about a fantastic restaurant to visit that has the most amazing Italian food. Unfortunately one of our group suffered from severe ‘Hanger’, which if you have not come across it before is one of the most undesirable traits in a traveling companion. Hanger is anger caused by hunger. This leaves the sufferer very shirty and unable to make rational decisions. The long and short of it was we ate at the first place we came to, which tuned out to be a very average pizza place. But luckily Time Out do have some good suggestions.

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Hangry menu reading at the particularly average pizza place.

A week in the sun:

Seven nights surfing in the Algarve, Portugal.

If like me you run out of holiday allowance at work about 3 months into the year you will be desperate to make use of the upcoming bank holiday (25th August). This is one of the most expensive times to travel, but these flights with Thomson airways to Portugal are a steal!

  • Fly from Gatwick, Luton, Birmingham, Doncaster, Stansted or Manchester from £33.99 one way on Saturday the 24th of August.
  • Returning on Saturday the 30th of August via Dublin. Fly from Faro to Dublin with Ryanair for £71 (flight times: 07.00-10.00).

Then after a day in Dublin seeing the sites, or having a few post holiday pints, take a flight back to England later that evening or even stay the night in Dublin and take a flight back on the Sunday. Use Google flights to help you find the cheapest way home. Flights start from around £30.

  • Dublin – Stansted 22.10-23.20 £30 with Ryanair
  • Dublin – Manchester 21.35-22.35 £35 Ryanair

Or if you fancy the week after there are direct flights with Thomson from Newcastle (£68.98 return) or Birmingham (£98.98 return) to Faro 28th Aug- 4th September.

There are plenty of surf schools about on the Algarve. Browsing the web I found Extreme Algarve who can sort out your accommodation and surf lessons, they also have some handy tips about getting to and from the airport! Their ‘Surf and Stay’ package will cost you €410 Euros based on two people sharing and includes a five day surf course and equipment, accommodation, breakfast, pick nick lunch on surf days and beach transfers. They also offer a host of other activities including kite-surfing and stand up paddle boarding.

Two weeks in the sun:

14 nights in the Caribbean.

This is not the driest time of year for the Caribbean, but at these prices I think I would take a few thunderstorms in exchange for some scorching island sun! My pick for a two-week holiday would be 28th August to 11th September flight only from London Gatwick to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic with Thomson airways (£359.98 return).

There is such a huge variety of accommodation available in Punta Cana depending on your taste and budget. I found accommodation for as little as £100 per person for two weeks based on two people sharing. But you know what they say; you get what you pay for! So always read the reviews before you book. Check out www.booking.com to find the right accommodation for you.

There is a lot to do in Punta Cana, from snorkelling and diving to playing a few rounds of golf, and even trying your luck at a casino or two.

More activities available in Punta Cana:

Fishing

Yacht Rentals

Horseback Riding

Paddle Board

Kayaks

Windsurf

Paddle Boat

Dingy or Catamaran sailing

If you do want to use that handy bank holiday day to preserve your precious holiday allowance from the office why not try one of these alternatives:

For more ideas about great holiday deals check out my previous post ‘How to Fly for £17 Return’.

All prices and availability were accurate on Wednesday the 13th of August; please check websites for up to date pricing.

Happy Holiday-ing!

How to fly for £17 return

Sarah Loughlin’s big top three for flights, hotels and holidays…

I don’t know about you but if left unattended on the internet, after checking for any new Facebook notifications, I always end up holiday shopping. It might be a bit odd, but I think I enjoy researching holidays almost as much as going on them! For those of you who can’t think of anything worse than trawling through the internet comparing hotels, here is a handy little guide to make it as quick and painless as possible.

Three Golden rules to get you started:

1. ALWAYS check tripadvisor.com or other hotel review websites before you book.

2. Research the weather for the time of year in your destination, you don’t want to book a dream holiday to Bali only to get caught out during rainy season!

3. Buy a cheap travel guide from Amazon/ Ebay – they often have an itinerary, or ‘top 10 attractions to visit’ pages to give you an idea of what is on offer, and also a handy map for getting around (ideal if you don’t have time to do much research).

 

BIG TOP THREE – I just want flights…

1. Sky scanner – Things I love about this site…. you can search by anytime, anywhere. You can filter by length of journey, number of stops, airline, and sort by price/ journey time. Ideal for finding the best prices, and getting some holiday inspiration!

Today’s cheapest flight searching: UK – everywhere for the whole year was £17 return from Birmingham to Dublin in June 2014.

Don’t like the sound of that? Well, there were also 27 different locations you could fly to from the UK for under £50 return.

BUT wait….. it gets better….

 

2. Google flights – Things I love about this site….. there is an interactive map, you can filter by air-miles, and there is a multi-city option. BUT you have to know your dates, and it doesn’t always show all flight options so shop around!

FYI Kayak (http://www.kayak.co.uk/explore/) offer a similar website and you can search by month rather than specific dates BUT there are limited filtering options which are not very accurate.

 

3. Thomson flights – deal finder – Things I love about this site…. you can be as specific or vague as you like, you can filter by destination, departure airport or duration. It is great for last minute deals, and good value long haul flights if you are going outside of school holidays. Also ideal if you know where you want to go but are flexible with dates and want the cheapest deal. BUT it will only show you Thomson charter flights, so you are limited to the destinations they feature.

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flights.thomson.co.uk/thomson/en-GB/farefinder/start?vlid=dealsnav

 

BIG TOP THREE – I just want a Hotel…

1. Booking.com – Things I love about this site….it always has a lot of accommodation to choose from no matter your budget and you can normally pay when you get there, or cancel very close to your travel date if you change your mind. BUT… you have to know your dates and destination.

 

2. AirBnb – Things I love about this site….  it gives you the opportunity to stay with locals, what better way to find out the best places to visit than from the people who live there! Great search and filter options. BUT… be aware that even if you have ‘booked’ and entered payment details on the website your accommodation is not confirmed until your host emails you to confirm it.

 

3. Hotel Tonight – Things I love about this site….it’s a cool easy to use app with great pictures and information about each hotel, great for last minute impromptu trips. You can even set yourself alerts for when hotels go on sale. BUT it is only available via the app, it is not in all cities yet and you can only book on the day.

 

BIG TOP THREE – I want the whole package! (flight + hotel)

Travel republic -Things I love about this site…. it is really good value, has a great great map view, and shows you lots of board options so you can easily see the best price. You can also filter by customer rating so you can find the best hotel for your budget. BUT you have to be quite specific about where you want to go, and although 95% of the time I have had no problems booking with them, their customer service is not the best!

 

BA holiday finder – Things I love about this site…. you can search by temperature, and be as specific or vague as you like; when you click ‘more details’ it tells you the flight times and gives you a calender view so you can see other dates and prices.

Great value short breaks, even over popular periods such as public holidays. There are several packages under £200 for this coming bank holiday weekend (Saturday 24th – Monday 26th of May) to destinations such as Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris and Stockholm.

BUT the only drawback is you have to narrow it down to which month you would like to go and is limited to destinations British Airways fly to.

 

Thomson holidays – Things I love about this site…. it is great for last minute package deals with and easy to use website and very flexible search/ filter facilities. BUT the options are normally limited to the destinations covered by Thomson airways.

FYI Thomas Cook holidays offers a very similar website which is worth checking out: www.thomascook.com/lp/1z6-deals/

 

Happy shopping!