Sent by Evie Fothergill
Based in Whetstone
My name is Jenny and I am based in Whetstone, North London.
I love being a Travel Counsellor because I can use my extensive travel experience to create unique personalised trips for my clients, whether that's for leisure or business.
I believe that arranging any kind of travel should be exciting and not stressful. I like to think of myself as offering quite a retro service with a personal human touch, with actual tickets, and I find that clients become friends just as often as friends become clients! I am the complete opposite of booking online.
I was first shown how amazing it is to travel by my parents, who no matter what would ensure we holidayed abroad every year growing up. I had only visited European countries until the age of 20, but within Europe we did some exciting trips like a cruise along the Norwegian Fjords, a holiday to Switzerland in the summertime as well as many beach holidays to Spain and Greece.
At 20 I went travelling properly for the first and my first experience of a tropical country was Thailand. I lived and worked for a year in Sydney Australia which was really special at such a young age. On the way home I spent time in Fiji, Hawaii, LA and Las Vegas.
I did a Modern Apprenticeship in Travel and Customer Service with Thomas Cook originally, and then I spent 10 years at Flight Centre in central London which was great experience in tailor made, business and adventure travel. During those years I was sent on some amazing trips to places like Los Angeles, Tanzania for a safari and beautiful Zanzibar! I have been very lucky.
In 2008 my husband and I went travelling together to South and Central America. We spent a month in Brazil, experienced the Rio Carnival and travelled south via many beaches to Sao Paolo and then Iguazzu Falls. We travelled Argentina for a month too which was mind blowing before joining a tour of Peru and Bolivia. We trekked the Inca Trail, saw pickled brains at the Witches Market in La Paz and even spent a day in San Pedro jail. If you have read the book Marching Powder you will know about this place! After a month of yoga and sunshine in Costa Rica we ended the trip with island hopping in Panama, Belize and finally Mexico.
We now have 3 children and for a few years holidays became centered around what is easy, which generally meant the Balearic Islands for us, which we love. We try to get across to Ireland every year for a big road trip visiting family and friends... its always lots of fresh air and cups of tea.
The last 2 years we have become adventurous again introducing our kids to long haul flights and experiences outside of our comfort zone. We took them to Dubai and Australia last year and flew home on the brand new QF9 direct flight from Perth to London! 17 hours with a 8,7 and 3 year old and I now consider myself an expert on travelling long haul with kids! This year we tried our first ever ski trip - AMAZING - totally hooked.
If you would like any help creating a travel experience or holiday I love nothing more than receiving a call or email with your initial thoughts! I want to help peoples travel dreams come true, no matter what their needs are.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
07 April 2021
Until Boris finally announces that we can all travel abroad this summer, many of us feel more comfortable with a UK holiday this year. Going abroad may involve testing, filling in of extra forms, and for some people they would just rather wait until next year 2022. Staycations are absolutely booming right now and availability on key summer dates is already scarce. Here are some of my top picks for your UK staycation this summer! 1) Boating the Norfolk Broads Head for Norfolk with your favourite people and shop in the cute town of Wroxham for your captains hats and fancy food and drink to take on board your chosen pre-booked boat. Sail for 3, 4 or 7 nights on anything from a 2 berth wooden boat to a massive 11 berth cruiser! You will receive tuition before you leave your mooring and then its off you go for a relaxing, and very pretty few days on the Broads. Wave at the other boats, mind the fishing rods, choose a Broad and moor up for the evening. There will likely be a great pub, a village green, ice cream shops or just amazing country walks to enjoy. 2) Brighton and Surrounding Area For me Brighton Pier is pure happiness. The arcades, rides, and award winning fish and chips are all just good old fashioned British seaside fun. If you have kids, the wristband is great value and they will spend hours on the rides. Shopping in the Laines is a lovely experience with lots of unique shops, and the bars! The bars are full of life… even when we visited last October during the pandemic the atmosphere was electric. Slightly further out you have glamourous Hove, or Shoreham for a quieter beach and many other lovely towns along the coast to visit. 3) For big groups, we can book you stay in the childhood home of Florence Nightingale. Near Derby, Lea Hall oozes Victorian opulence and grandeur. With open fires and wood burning stoves, extensive 4 acre gardens, it sleeps 20 in 10 En Suite bedrooms. Perfect for gathering the extended family together for long dinners and a garden party after June 21st. Lets hope! 4) If you love to be active and get your steps in, why not walk Hadrian’s Wall. Stretching 84 miles from coast to coast, this epic walk follows the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall. As you walk through Roman settlements and forts, through valleys and over hills, you will feel as though you’ve travelled back in time. Hadrian’s Wall Path is completely unique, passing not only one of the UK’s most iconic heritage sites, but also quaint pubs, bustling market towns and arguably the best views in the North. I can help you to plan all of these and more, feel free to contact me any time to discuss your perfect Staycay for 2021.
05 March 2021
As lockdown fatigue grows, we are seeing slow but steady increase in bookings for later this year and into 2022. There are some real trends emerging which I would like to share for your inspiration. Private Pools It’s hot right now to book a villa or hotel suite with a private pool. Aside from it being very aesthetically pleasing to look out from your bed and see your own glistening pool... it reduces contact with other guests and gives maximum privacy for those “working from home” this summer. Big Bucket List trips No more requests for “anywhere hot, what have you got?” It’s about ticking off your list of travel goals. Visiting Lapland, and staying in a glass igloo under the Northern Lights. A short break in Monaco, but adding a helicopter transfer – arriving in style! Christmas in New York, but upgrading to Business Class. We have all been reminded that life is short... and we want to get out and LIVE! My top pick for 2022 would be an escorted tour of Japan including watching Sumo Wrestling, and visiting tea houses in Kyoto. Booking far ahead Many operators brought forward their release dates to enable us to book travel in 2022 and in some case even 2023 to allow people to forward plan, spread payments and remove anxiety about what will happen this year. New Hotels This summer sees some amazing properties open across Europe. I am most excited about the brand new IKOS Andalusia, in Southern Spain. The newest addition to the IKOS group which holds the accolade of being the Worlds Best All Inclusive Resort. It’s opulent and luxurious and it’s due to open in April. I am hoping to go and see it later this year... watch this space. If you prefer a more laid back low key boutique hotel, check out the new Olivar Suites opening this Spring. Built inside a 100 year old olive grove on Corfu’s beautiful South East Coast, with the crystal clear waters and beach of Messonghi. They have 120 suites, and 100 of them feature large private pool and gardens. Follow me at @jens_travel_inspo on Instagram for daily travel restriction updates, inspiration and offers... Until next time!
12 February 2021
5 Things Covid 19 taught us about Travel… 1. The memories will carry you through. It could be the last holiday you had, it could be 20years ago... One thing is for sure, the memories of past trips have resurfaced time and time again during this period of enforced lockdowns and travel bans. The memories are ALWAYS good. Those pounds spent on holidays over the years suddenly seem to have tripled in value. 2. Package Holidays rule! A package no longer has to mean you are herded into a one-size-fits-all bucket and spade holiday. A package simply means that you book the main components of your holiday at the same time, thus activating Package Travel Regulations. This gives you protection and peace of mind that if one component fails (either by an airline going bust, or hotel closing for good) you are entitled to a refund. The package can still be tailor made to suit your exact taste, budget and needs. 3. Book it yourself, you're on your own. We had a good 20 years of DIY online bookings working very well on the whole. The idea of a Travel Agent became out of date - a bit Retro. But along came Covid, and most people who had booked a flight on one website, hotel on another... found it very difficult to get any help. Busy call centres, phonelines switched off, offices empty with all on furlough or redundant. People had to reluctantly agree to vouchers, or worse, just watch their original planned travel date come and go and just hope someone somewhere had picked up the email. Voila, the trusted Travel Agent is back in favour, modernised, with the best tech and most caring manner. 4. We need it. 10 months into working from home, homeschooling, furlough or redundancy.... no social gatherings, unable to celebrate that big birthday with the ones you love. Some of us have adapted, some of us have suffered. Most of us (if not all of us) quietly resolve that as soon as we are allowed we will take that holiday… buy the dress, eat the cake. It’s not the things we miss, as much as the people. And places. Getting out of your hometown, in fact scrap that, getting out of your HOME, is something we need to do for our wellbeing. 5. The next one will be really special. I speak to my clients often and one thing I hear the most is that they won’t be putting off that big trip any longer. A trek to Everest Base Camp... a safari in South Africa... a Glass igloo to see the Northern Lights. Gone will be the days of going "anywhere hot" People will be ticking off that bucket list.... and bringing along friends and other generations in the same family to experience travel together. And make new memories as 2020 hopefully becomes a distant one.
07 September 2020
For the second part of our Summer 2020 staycation we moved from Norfolk (see earlier blog post) to Suffolk. The sun came out during the 1 hour drive from Wroxham to Kessingland through the greenest countryside… a really lovely drive with no motorways, just the open road. We arrived at our pre-booked holiday park – The Hollies in Kessingland, near Lowestoft. We had arranged a 3 bedroom lodge, for an amazingly low rate, for 4 nights to complete our week long UK holiday. It was modern and clean and had everything we needed except Wifi which I planned on purpose. An enforced break from screens for all of us (except for the 4G when really desperate.) The Hollies is located on a cliff top. There are a handful of lodges like ours, and then a field for caravans, one for campervans, one for tents and one field had around 4 glamping pods which sleep 4 in each. There was also a Yurt but I couldn’t get a peek because it had guests inside. But I LOVE a yurt! There is nothing else at the Hollies, no bar or entertainment, but this was its charm! Just a stunning location to pitch up and enjoy the scenery and the slow pace. We took a walk down the wooden staircase from the cliff top onto the beach and the views were breathtaking. A very wild, rugged beach with powerful waves, gold sand and tufts of grass. Areas were sectioned off for nesting bird. We took a walk to the left, towards Lowestoft in the distance. It was windy but the kids enjoyed wave jumping for what felt like ages. We drove to Southwold, one of the prettiest seaside towns I’ve seen. If you’re a pastel coloured beach hut lover like me you will love it. I made enquiries about buying one (its on my vision board from pre-Covid times) and learned they can go for as much as £85,000! So it stays on the board for now. The sand here is smooth and the waves less angry looking, enough for body boarding though, and the pier is cute and quirky with some interesting attractions on it. The first visit to Southwold was on a chilly and windy day…. We wore jumpers and sat beside a wall for shelter… and ended the day with the classic fish and chips among the seagulls. The next day we visited Walberswick. Recommended to me by 2 friends, as the #crabbingcapital of the UK. We took our crab lines and buckets around 4pm ready to set up for golden hour as the weather had improved. We did catch crabs, and Walberswick won my heart with its village green, amazing pubs (all fully booked) and gorgeous cottages. We later found a surf beach nearby and our love was sealed, sitting watching surfers for the evening with a beer while the kids looked for shells, what could be better. No visit to Suffolk would be complete without a day at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach. We prebooked tickets (necessary to control numbers with Social distancing) and for the bargain price of £12 each we had 3 hours unlimited access to all rides. We had such a good time that day, we started at some tea rooms for lunch, before hitting the rides. My son is 6 and it was his first time on semi-scary rides… to see his little face go from fear to excitement to giggling on repeat was so special. We should have been at Disneyworld Orlando that week! But at that moment, this was just as good. We ended the day on the log flume and got a good soaking which was welcome in the heat. Before driving home to our lodge. The weather was hotting up with a real heatwave on the cards due the day we planned to leave Suffolk. So we booked a night at The Crown in Southwold town centre. It was the first day it was reopening after Covid so we felt lucky to get 2 rooms. We decided to head to Southwold early for a spot on the beach. We made quite the little base for ourselves, I queued up for 40 mins at Southwold’s best bakery – Two Magpies. First it was 10 mins in the queue before I realised everyone had a mask except me (the new rule had only come in the week before) so I had to leave the queue, spend £12 on a face mask in a boutique and rejoin the queue. This is just so me. It was an expensive breakfast! But delicious eating it on the beach with my little fam. We swam, built sandcastles, found shade, swam again, read the paper…. And when we all felt sun whipped we went to Sole Bay, a pub, for a late lunch. Pub food after the boredom of lockdown was such a treat. It must have been around 37 degrees and our rooms at the Crown were unbearably hot. With the windows open all you could hear was the squawking of seagulls all night. But despite having the worst nights sleep of 2020 it was worth every second for the fact I was not at home in my own bed! In the morning you could tell that the staff were on their first post Covid shift, so nervous, slow, careful… it was fine because we were feeling the same. Once we were full of coffee, coco pops and poached eggs we hit the road to drive home before it got boiling hot again. My impression of Suffolk was really positive I absolutely loved the seaside towns, the differences with the wild beaches of Kessingland and then the cuteness of Southwold. Great Yarmouth felt like another world in some ways but was the most fun day of the week. We would love to come and visit again. If you know of other little Suffolk gems that we missed out on, please send them to me!
18 August 2020
I’ve discovered over the Covid 19 period that the word Staycation causes quite a divide. Some think it means a UK holiday, (I am in this camp) and some think it means staying at actual home, having the odd day out, and a takeaway. So for the purpose of this blog, our staycation means a holiday in the UK, and we chose a boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads followed by a holiday park in Suffolk which we used as a base to explore. See part 2 of my blog coming soon which will describe the Suffolk part. This blog is all about the Norfolk Broads! I must give full Norfolk boating credits to one of my best friends Jenny for telling me all about her childhood experiences on the Broads, after hearing her stories we booked our boat the very next day. We arrived in Wroxham, a cute town where many of the boats are hired from. A short lesson for my husband on how to drive it, while we purchased captains hats and food and drinks supplies… and off we went. Life jackets on, our boat had a steering wheel upstairs and downstairs and we chose to drive upstairs whatever the weather as the views were amazing. The speed limit means you never go too fast – 6mph at the most, but if you don’t keep your eye on your direction you could definitely do some damage! We almost took out a couple of fishing rods much to the local’s disgust, but other than that we did well as first timers. On the first evening we took an easy looking mooring spot at Horning, around a 1.5 hour cruise from Wroxham. A friendly chap pulled us in by our rope when we struggled to do a 25 point turn to reverse in. We ate at the New Inn, and met some people who kindly showed my son how to set up his fishing rod, gave him some bate and we were delighted to catch a couple of small fish! Hot chocolate on the boat and all into bed by 10.30pm, lovely. We even had celebrity neighbours but my lips are sealed as to who's stunning boat it was! We woke the next day to drizzle but had a wander around Horning and found friendly locals… and a cute shop selling everything from pirate swords to crabbing lines. But its speciality was all the ice cream flavours in the world. True Brits - we sat in the rain and enjoyed our ice creams. Another 1.5 hour sailing to Ludham and we pulled into some free moorings a 15 minute walk from the village. This was most un-touristy and we found ourselves parked between a houseboat (a couple who’d lived 17 years on the boat, we had great chats) and a man who operates the bridges in Wroxham who knew this spot was a hidden gem. Unsuccessful fishing here, but we wandered through fields to the village and found a pub, the Kings Arms which had the greatest beer garden I’ve seen, with a great play area and a treehouse. We were able to eat here, plus enjoy a few drinks while our kids played in the treehouse and we all watched a very dramatic thunder and lightning storm! When the storm passed we stocked up at the shop with sweets and chocolate and walked back to the boat. The next morning we got up early – we had been told of a special place where you need to moor up by mid- morning on a Sunday or else the daytrippers take all the spots – Ranworth Broad. Just an hour’s cruise away and so many fisherman along the banks on a Sunday. We had great weather today – sun cream and hats on… but when we reached Ranworth the spots were all taken. We dropped our anchor out in the water and waited, hoping for someone to leave – eventually our time came. Dragging the mud weight out of the water – not easy, David reversed the boat between 2 others. It was very snug, and the guy next door helped rope us in. This part of the boating holiday is high-pressure for the driver – hilarious for everyone else. During our 3 day trip we saw many a bad attempt at parking, couples having domestics, even a dog falling overboard – he was a great swimmer luckily. Unless it’s you driving – it’s one of the best forms of people watching I’ve ever enjoyed! Ranworth Broad has a village green, a pub which has a wood fire oven for pizza (up to 5 toppings- decent) and a very old church. There is a shop that sells cream teas and doggy ice cream. Dogs are VIP's across the whole of Norfolk as far as I could tell and it made me wish so badly I had a dog to bring with us! The dogs are so happy on the boats, tongues out catching the fresh air and the occasional swim. That evening we got to know our boat mates next door who played football with my son all evening and a great time was had by all. My eldest daughter caught a whopper sized fish and the sunset provided a perfect backdrop. We slept very well on our boat, Fair Commodore. It’s a 6 berth boat, with 2 bathrooms, kitchenette and living area. Our fave spot was up on top which has a sundeck and seats beside the driver. All 3 kids had their turn at driving, which they loved. Returning the boat on the Monday morning was sad and wet occasion, with rain lashing down, but we couldn’t help but be impressed by the slick operation who hopped on board to refuel, clean and restock the boat for the next family. The company we used is booked up until November, a result of Covid 19 and the hype around staycations. What a wonderful thing for these hardworking people, and all of the pubs, tea rooms and little village shops on the Broads who will benefit from the busy season. We ended our Norfolk weekend with a cream tea at the River Café, a lovely spot to watch the boats go by in Wroxham.
10 May 2020
My definition of long haul is 7 hours plus. The longest flight we have taken with our kids is 17 hours, Perth to London, age 3, 7 and 8. So I feel equipped to cover this subject. Whether its to visit family in New Zealand, or Mickey Mouse in Orlando, its ALWAYS worth the travel time. I give mine a bag each which they need to pack with things for the flight. My 9 year old would take up all the room with her favourite cuddly toy. My 10 year old would bring her vlogging camera and an eye mask. My 5 year old would want his Top Trumps. As the parent you need to be mentally ready. But it can be done! And even enjoyed. Break the flight down into sections… Boarding the plane is exciting. Take off can be testing with babies who need to pop their ears (plan to feed them during take off and landing to help with this) and toddlers who need to stay strapped in their seat when they may not want to be. Bribery is a good tool…. Screen time and Haribo are totally acceptable here. Check out the movie list…. Hook them up with their headphones for the first hour or two of the flight. Food and drinks trolley – excellent – this passes a good hour… gets them fed, we get to have a glass of something nice which is relaxing and lets face it makes us nicer parents! It can be a long time waiting for the trays to be cleared, so we designate one person to take one for the team, taking all the trays stacked in front of them to free up the others and allow the kids to get out to the loo. If you have really little ones, getting them changed at this point can help encourage “sleepy time” which is the ultimate goal! I find that age 6 and up they are really just content with the movies and games… for most of the time. I do always have some other things in my bag that they aren’t expecting like a magazine, snacks and of course – playing cards! For me the most challenging age is the 1.5 years to 4 years where they are fidgety/tired/hungry and if you are parents of this age group there is a certain amount of acceptance needed. They are going to cry, probably kick the seat in front a lot, need to have cuddles and stimulation at different times… you’ll need to engage in their games/books… so be ready for that. Let them sleep when they want to… you can recover any lost routine once you get to your destination, the flight is about survival with the least amount of stress. If you are lucky enough that your kid falls asleep… don’t do what I do and get stuck into the mini bottles of wine while binge-watching. You sleep as well. You will thank yourself when they wake and you haven’t got a dehydrated hangover brewing. After that you are on the home straight. Another meal will be served! Another movie! A stretch of the legs… maybe brush their teeth and get excited about being there soon. Mine are always fascinated to look at the moving map to see where we are flying over. Recently I put this subject out to my customers to ask for their top tips. The responses were heart-warming and hilarious. More than one told me tales of exploding baby poos – why does this ALWAYS happen on planes, is it the air pressure? Another told me they always wish they could tell the mothers and fathers with crying babies that its okay…. Just comfort the child…people are not judging! Anyone who stares… let them. They are likely to be in awe of your bravery. If you are travelling with a baby under 2, you can request a Bassinet. This allows one parent plus the baby to sit at the bulkhead (extra leg room) with a small cot/babyseat, freeing up your arms and some space on your lap when they sleep. Booking with a Travel Counsellor can help improve your chances of securing one since we have seat maps and live availability. The cabin crew are your best friend in terms of heating baby milk, or having a chat with your older kids to pass the time and providing activity packs. Don’t be afraid to accept help from them if you are travelling as a single parent with more than one child, if you need to pop to the bathroom while one sleeps, or if two are crying at the same time. They are often delighted to help! Planes can get chilly so I dress mine in comfy clothes, and they love the blanket and pillow that the airline provides. Emirates really made our first long haul flight special by coming round and taking a polaroid picture, and giving it to the child as a gift. When it got late they brought around hot chocolates and marshmallows, what's not to love! I mentioned before, our longest flight was on the 17 hour non- stop service from Perth to London. It was the last flight home after an amazing Australian holiday. Its all very well preparing for a flight to your destination, packing a bag of spare clean clothes and fresh unread books and gadgets…. but what about after living out of a suitcase for 3 weeks, clothes dirty, books all read from cover to cover? I felt very anxious at the airport wondering how on earth we would survive the next 17 hours. I needn't have worried. Granted they had been prepped for this by the long flights taken 3 weeks earlier, but still….. they behaved like seasoned travellers. Kids deserve more credit than we give them! Qantas have been very clever when designing this flight. Firstly, the seats are roomier because they removed one seat from each row, creating a 3-3-3 configuration instead of the usual 3-4-3. This small change made a huge difference. Secondly, the aircraft is dark. After drinks and dinner, the cabin crew vanish, the lights are out… it feels natural to sleep. And sleep they did! 8 hours for my 3 yr old, just over 6 for my other two. You can't say fairer than that. For the parents staying awake for the peace and quiet,there is a self service fridge at the back for all the snacks, beers and water you could want. With better understanding of Autism and hidden disability within airlines and airports now it is easier than ever to travel with children affected by these issues. Travel Counsellors can advise on ways to reduce anxiety and stress when travelling with children who have additional needs. If you consider removing your usual flight length restriction for your next family holiday, let me come up with a holiday created for everyone’s tick-list, kids included. You might be surprised at where you can get to for your money! And with this extended lockdown and travel ban I am sure that long haul flights to visit loved ones will be more popular than ever when the restrictions are lifted. Until then! x
29 April 2020
When I started my business I began to spend more time with other business owners. I would listen and take note of the things they did that helped them to be successful. I have known about goal setting for years but it was only when I saw how my female mentors and peers put this into practice that I really began to understand its power. You need a way to get your thoughts and ideas out of your head and onto paper, or some kind of visible way to see them, work through them, and tick them off. For some this might be best done as a list, for some a really fun way to do this is to create a Vision Board – cringe! One woman I know told me that every year on New Years Day, she sits with her husband and sons and creates a Travel Vision Board of where they would like to visit in the coming year. They discuss where each of them wants to go, and find pictures of these places, stick them down on to a board, creating a list of destinations for the year. For example... one might be a city break, a snowboarding holiday, a break in the UK for a wedding or spa weekend, and one could be the main family summer holiday in somewhere like America or Portugal. I love this idea! Another female that I really look up to also spends time constantly reviewing and adapting her vision board, but its not only based on travel, its her whole lifestyle. From fitness, to home interiors, to days out and relationships… I loved that she was not afraid to put these personal wishes down on paper and work on them every day. In my first year with Travel Counsellors, I didn’t create a vision board. But I had one thing I really wanted, and it was to earn enough money consistently to be able to order my dream car. My husband works in vehicle leasing, so I knew exactly what it would cost per month, I had built the spec online many times, I knew every little gadget and feature it came with. I printed off a picture of my dream car and stuck it up at my desk. Seeing it every day motivated me, and eventually… once I achieved 6 months of consistent earnings, I ordered it. Taking delivery of the car 3 months later… the feeling was incredible, having dreamed of it, worked for it, and achieved it! My husband does roll his eyes when I talk about this because there have been months since where the car has felt a bit extravagant… since my work can be seasonal. But he cannot deny the car has been a TREAT! So I am now a superfan of the vision board, or as I prefer to call it, a Lifestyle Wishlist. During lockdown, more time on my hands…. I sat down and created a new one, covering everything from travel, to favourite foods and skincare and I am going to share how I made it. First, choose your way of displaying your goals. In its simplest form this could be a list, but I think that a visual display works better, it needs to be seen every single day… as a reminder to keep working at it. For mine I reused an old cork board, but you could use a piece of cardboard, paper or even a piece of string with small pegs to hang your ideas from. I had some magazines in the house, as well as holiday brochures from Travel Counsellors which showcase the most amazing resorts and islands… so I started with these. Flicking through and cutting out the things I liked. The Sunday magazines that come with a newspaper are my fave for recipes and style ideas. Because its lockdown at the moment, my vision board is not for the coming year – in fact its impossible to give mine any time limit as we are in uncertain times. Who knows when we can travel again?! Let alone when we will earn enough to pay for it. But it costs nothing to dream and plan, and it gives us hope and inspiration. I also think it’s a good time to reflect on the people in your life, and who you want to see more of in the future. Who makes you feel good, who could you make more time for, and take it one step further, who would you love to be with when you enjoy each experience on your list? If there is a restaurant that you always wanted to eat at, who would you take with you? Adding a photo of this person, or a mention of their name, brings it to life and almost makes it a plan rather than just a dream. When you stick down a must-visit travel destination, think about how you want to get there. Has it always been a dream to fly First Class? Yes it may seem ridiculous now, but this is your ultimate wishlist! Put it down – you never know. It may take you 10 years to reach it but if its important to you – it goes on the board. Perfect pair of sunglasses to wear on said holiday? Stick em down. New fancy luggage – get it on there. Maybe your goals are more around health… one thing that I put on mine was that it takes 66 days to form a habit. I recently took up running by starting the Couch to 5k program. On the days when I don’t feel like it, I see that reminder and it encourages me to just do it. One day closer to it becoming a part of my life, and not being so tough! I also considered my relationship with food. Like a lot of people lockdown has become one long food fest. I have been caught eating my feelings with chocolate brownies way too many times recently. So I cut out some pictures of my favourite meal of the day (which is breakfast) and I am reminded daily now to eat a big healthy breakfast of eggs and avocado, or yoghurt and granola… so that I don’t eat again until much later in the day. You can get the kids involved with this and they love it! Their board could be based on learning to cook, or playing an instrument. Maybe their goals could be around achieving their next swimming milestone or introducing a more positive morning routine. Things to do that are free, days out for when Lockdown is over….. I don’t think anyone can be too young to think about how they want their life to be. Volunteering, and giving time to causes that mean a lot to you are other common goals. Fundraising for a fave charity, or random acts of kindness for loved ones can also feature on your board. Try to balance out the material things with the stuff that really makes us feel good in our hearts! Mine is displayed on my dressing table, next to my mirror, so I see it every morning. Now here are some pics of mine, I would love to see yours!
15 May 2020
***GUEST BLOG BY Whitley Lane*** During February this year, I took an unforgettable trip to Thailand with my family to celebrate my Mum's 50th birthday. Jenny helped us arrange a 3 centre holiday including Phuket, Elephant Hills and Khao Lak. This is my blog on the experience. After a long flight (we took a direct Thai Airways flight to Bangkok plus an internal Thai Airways flight to Phuket), we were grateful to have 2 nights in the amazing Mövenpick Hotel in Karon Beach, to relax. By far the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in, its tranquil settings and luxurious accommodation makes it perfect for honeymooners, couples and adult families wanting a relaxing break. Even with its calming atmosphere, its good for kids, particularly with its extensive kids club – we travelled with a 6 and 9 year old who loved it. Its designated ‘Chocolate Hour’ everyday was definitely a highlight! The second and most loved part of our trip was our 4 day visit to Elephant Hills. A unique experience for all ages to enjoy, we thought it would be a perfect choice for this celebratory holiday. Elephant Hills have really got it all covered: they provide their own transfer from wherever you had previously stayed, in air-conditioned, plush minivans, even when our hotel was 4 hours away! Additionally, the staff are so friendly and the welcome upon arrival makes you feel well looked after from start to finish. We became great friends with our tour guide, who was with us every activity throughout, and really made the trip special for us, getting to know the kids especially. Elephant Hills do a variety of packages ranging from 2-4 days. All including similar activities, we went for the longest 4-day safari, experiencing all the unique activities they offer. Situated in Khao Sok National Park, you get a true jungle experience – the ‘tents’ provided have en suites with large double beds and a nice outdoor area to relax in the evenings in your hammock or chairs. Our adventures began immediately, with day 1 including canoeing down a beautiful river with breath-taking mountainous views on either side, and of course, meeting their elephants. As an animal lover, I was personally concerned about the ethics behind keeping elephants, and did my research before going (as I’m sure many people would do). Compared to most other elephant “sanctuaries” (as they like to call them) in Thailand, I saw with my own eyes that Elephant Hills truly prioritise elephant welfare above anything else. They’ve received awards for excellent animal welfare and sustainable tourism, and are one of the only chain-free elephant parks on the planet. In fact, these 12 majestic elephants have been rescued from tourist attractions that could never been called Ethical. During our visit, we interacted with, washed, prepared their food and fed them, a truly unique experience I’ll never forget. Whether you are a fan of authentic Thai food or not, the meals were consistently high-quality with a big range of choice in the buffet-style restaurant. If you do love Thai food, you will not be disappointed – their curries are AMAZING. We travelled with a fussy 9 year old eater, and even she was able to eat well– Elephant Hills have got it all covered! During special occasions (we happened to be there on Valentines Day), Elephant Hills make a big event, with a luxurious dessert table and various decorations, giving a lovely atmosphere to the communal dining. Evenings consisted of relaxing with a drink, watching traditional Thai dances, and taking part in their cooking demonstrations. Day 2 was my personal favourite day, the day I really felt we got to see Thai culture and natural beauty. Our group (typically around 12 people) travelled into a local market, exploring the variety of foods and goods on offer. After this, we took an hour trip in a traditional Thai boat on Cheow Larn Lake – one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen. We left the boat at Elephant Hill’s second camp: Rainforest Camp. There are options to stay one night here, with private swimming areas in the lake among exquisite settings. Many honeymooners (which made up a large number of our group) did this as a way of having some alone time. During our time at Rainforest Camp we were free to explore as we wished: my siblings and I kayaked around the area, spotting wild monkeys in their natural jungle habits, and swam in the lake’s crystal waters, before enjoying another incredible Thai meal, then making our way back by boat. By the third day, we didn’t think it could get much better and so were completely taken by surprise at how unique and fun our day was. We were taken for a trip on a speedboat through screen-saver like settings – it didn’t seem real! We came to a floating Burmese Junk Boat in the middle of nowhere, to experience a traditional lunch and relaxing on board. We then canoed from the boat into mangrove channels, exploring the peaceful nature around us and having loads of fun. On our way back, we sailed through the jungle with all its natural vines and greenery, spotting crocodiles and snakes, watching wild monkey families playing a mere metre away - this was an experience we reminisce on as being truly once-in-a-lifetime and one of the highlights of the trip. Day four was the travel home day, but they still managed to fit in another exciting activity. We did a trek through the jungle terrain, hearing and seeing loads of wild animals and nature that reminded us how authentic our trip had been. In a random jungle clearing, we were taught how to cook some Thai dishes which included cooking Thai-style pork on bamboo with fire, and extracting coconut milk from fresh coconuts. SO fun! After a full lunch, Elephant Hills transferred us to our last stop: The Sands by Katathani, for a seven day all-inclusive relaxation - just what we needed after the non-stop excitement from Elephant Hills. Boasting a large water park area and variety of different accommodation, it would be most suitable for families – we had two rooms, one of which was a unique ‘Teen Suite’ with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Situated on the beachfront, it was the perfect chill setting to watch sunsets. Our trip was perfect for all ages, and something we will all treasure forever. If you are thinking of going to Elephant Hills, DO IT! You won’t regret it, we experienced so many once in a lifetime moments which we all unanimously agreed made it our favourite holiday ever.
08 February 2020
I often get asked this question, and the answer is different depending on the kind of travel you want, who you are going with, and lots of other factors. Some people are self-confessed last minute bookers, this can be due to uncertainty with time off work, lack of funds or just because you are spontaneous and fun! Others are planners, they like to have time to carefully plan, compare, pay it off, look forward to it… shop for it… Most common among my customers is around 6 months ahead. Long enough to plan and spread the cost but close enough to feel it’s not too far on the horizon. Me personally, I moved from booking 3-4 months ahead to around 11-14 months ahead after having 3 kids. It might sound crazy, but we need that long to budget for it, and I learned that when booking for a family, booking further ahead secures you the best price, choice of rooms (families of 5 will know the struggle) and I also use it as motivation to work hard! Here are my tips for the optimum time to book certain types of holiday… Christmas Holidays Best booked right when the flights go on sale 11 months ahead. Early February is the best time, and often there are early booking discounts on hotels, cruises and villas so we can create a great package, on a low deposit, at a great price! There are exceptions, such as Lapland for next Christmas, which usually comes out on sale 14 months before, so I have been booking these since October time for next Christmas. Certain ski operators such as Club Med offer early booking discounts when they go on sale in January…but more on ski holidays later. February Half Term Again the 11 months ahead rule applies here so late March is an ideal time to book for the following year. However! Feb Half term can be a great time for a last minute bargain if you can fly a few days either side of the main week off. Looking for a cheap week of skiing? Forget about Feb half term! It’s the most expensive week of the year for snow holidays, so either book a year ahead, or think about going to a high-altitude resort in the Easter holidays instead. February is a good time for long haul, so Dubai, Mauritius, Maldives and Caribbean are very good choices, with Canaries also giving pleasant temperatures although its sometimes chilly at night. Easter Holidays I seem to book Easter Holidays in the Autumn time. Easter is a good time to plan a long haul multi-centre trip as you get more bank holidays off, meaning less annual leave taken. What a good time to head somewhere far like Australia, Hawaii or Asia. Perhaps an expedition such as the Inca Trail or Everest Base Camp! Its also a lovely time for a UK break since England seems to have a fantastic Springtime these days, sometimes less rain than in the summer. Summer Holidays – Late July and August Two answers for this one – either in September/October when early booking deals come out for places like Ikos Resorts, Mitsis Hotels and Sani resort, amongst many others. Easyjet generally releases its Summer fares around October time so packages can be created with inexpensive flights for Europe. The past 2 years we have found long haul such as Mexico, Dominican Republic and St Lucia to be just as good and sometimes better value than Europe! So if your kids can handle a longer flight you should always ask me to look into this for you…. The second optimum (and most popular) time to book your holiday is January. Remember the adverts you’d see on telly on Boxing Day for summer beaches and free child places? Its been the same for decades, it’s a proper British tradition to book your summer holiday straight after Christmas, and the reason why Travel Counsellors just had a record breaking month selling £90 million of holidays this January! Summer or Winter Sun, not in school holidays Booking fairly close to departure works really well for those in this category, whether that’s for couples, groups of friends or solo travellers. We constantly get offers in for Indian Ocean, Caribbean, Bali, Thailand, Spanish and Greek Islands - almost anywhere! When travelling outside of school holidays you have the benefit of flights not being as busy, which keeps fares low. Snow Holidays I will break this down into 2 kinds of holiday. Skiing and Snowboarding goes on sale around February/March time for the following winter season. The season runs from the week before Christmas to the second week of the Easter Holidays. Most resorts are snow-sure from mid-January to Mid-March, but for December and April ski you need to go to a high resort above 2000m or you could be disappointed with the snow conditions. We can advise you on all of this as well as which resorts are best suited to your ability level. If you can travel outside of school holidays, last minute can be a great way to book skiing to get a good deal. If travelling with kids – early booking is essential unless taking them out of school. The other side of this is are holidays in search of the Northern Lights, Santa Claus or other ice activities such as ice fishing, snowmobiles and whale watching. These can be booked at any time! They are generally bucket-list experiences that people like to book far ahead but equally we can usually find availability last minute too. City Breaks I find cities are best booked 4-6 months ahead- when you have the low-cost airlines on sale and plenty of flight times to choose from. If wanting to travel at a busy time such as Fashion week or Film festival week, or for a conference, then booking 9-10 months ahead is better. Business Travellers of course may not know they need to travel until same week or even same day, but we have the systems to check live-availability and can always accommodate a last minute traveller. Eurostar goes on sale 6 months ahead for Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, and 9 months ahead for Disneyland Paris Cruise Well, cruises can be booked up to 2 years in advance and believe me you’d be surprised how many people do know what they want to do in two years time! Usually offering cabin upgrades, on board credit or free drinks packages, it can be beneficial, but we also see plenty of bookings 6 -9 months before departure too. Its also very common for regular cruise clients to book their next cruise while on board! If you do this, your booking still gets passed back to me, your Travel Counsellor to look after, so you should never be afraid to book on board as great discounts can be given! Hope this helps! Jenny :)
13 February 2020
We have taken our 3 children skiing twice now, both holidays very different. My husband is already a good skier but myself and the kids were complete beginners! Our first trip was to Les Arcs in France with Club Med, an all inclusive treat - for February half term. We stayed at their brand new resort Les Arcs Panorama and this was a fabulous way to enjoy first time skiing! All tuition and kids clubs included, as well as all inclusive food and drinks. It was fun, scenic, social.... as parents we absolutely loved it, kids were a bit shell shocked at being left in ski school for 5 days without us.... which we felt guilty about. So the next time we went, we decided to book it differently, we travelled to Flaine, Grand Massif, still in France, and booked self catering apartments, with our own private instructor for the 3 kids, for mornings only. This holiday was completely different, and meant the kids were the focus. They loved the mix of skiing in the mornings with their instructor Marie-Claude, before meeting us for lunch up on the mountain, and then spending the afternoon skiing with us as a family (no better feeling!) or sledging in resort while we watched with blankets and a few beers. The evenings were chilled, hot soup or pizza in a restaurant followed by Netflix or card games in the apartment. This holiday we took for New Year, it was lovely to see in 2020 with such amazing scenery. Having done beginners skiing both ways, there are some things I have learned as a beginner that I would like to share with you! Learn young but not too young It's common to see little 2 and 3 year olds learning the basics, good luck to them.... but we first took Arthur when he was 4 and even then I found that the carrying of the skis and boots was just a bit too tiring for him! They need enough strength to push that foot into the boot and then into the ski. You can help, but there will be times at ski school when no adult will be there to do it for them, and this can be a cause of upset for the really little ones! Arthur just about coped at age 4, but at age 5 was much more able, and had that little bit more stamina, which increased his (and our) enjoyment! Have lessons If you are going away with people who can already ski or snowboard, they will probably say they can teach you and you may not bother to take lessons. This is a FAIL. You need to be taught properly in stages and with others at the same levels, otherwise I guarantee you will encounter a hairy situation up a slope and not have the skills to navigate your way out of it, ending with either an injury or a fear of ever going up there again. Over the course of a weeks holiday, taking lessons for 5 days, I am almost certain you will be able to ski or board with your experienced friends by the last few days of the holiday, and enjoy it so much more. You can still catch up with your mates for lunch and apres-ski. What to take You need a good ski suit or salopettes and jacket, and for one week, 3 – 4 sets of base layers. You need thick socks, and a few good pairs of ski gloves. Get the ones with strings for little ones which go through the sleeves of their jacket! If they lose a glove up the mountain its game over until you buy a new pair, and they are expensive in resort. You will need ski goggles but sunglasses can do the job too. A hat or ear warmers, and good snow boots. You don’t need too much else because even if you are going out at night you still need to dress for the snow! Much more fun to just stay out after your skiing in what you were wearing and stumble home later. Get up early The good news is that hangovers are easily blown away in the mountains! It didn’t matter what time we got to bed, we were always up and on the slopes for 9-9.30am. You need to be anyway if taking lessons, but even if not, the feeling of getting up the mountain and making the first tracks down is very special! The sun is just coming up and the slopes are nice and quiet. Its really magical. Become a hot chocolate connoisseur You will probably drink a LOT of hot chocolate, or coffee during your week away and its fun to rate them all until you find your fave spot and return there every day… its amazing how many little traditions you can create in a 1 week ski holiday. Get over the décor Ski hotels and chalets are all cute, cosy and wooden, I haven't seen any that are super stylish or modern, and I love it this way! I have been asked for ski accommodation which is modern, white, futuristic, I am not sure if this misses the point.... you need a cosy retreat after a day on the slopes, an open fire is a bonus, but really the time spent in the accommodation is minimal when you have the beautiful scenery outside. If interiors are important to you, I recommend the Chedi Andermatt, W Verbier, or St Regis, Aspen.
22 September 2019
Having just spent a long summer entertaining my 3 children in and around London, I thought I would share some hidden gems that we have enjoyed. If you're a Londoner you will probably be familiar with most of these, but for family coming to visit, or tourists coming to England, some of these will be delightful! Hitchin Lavender First of all, there is a place called Hitchin Lavender near Luton, just up the M1. Around a 30 minute drive away. You can go there, in July and early August, to enjoy their fields and fields of lavender. It is just stunning! With the entrance fee you get a pair of scissors and a lovely bag, and you can spend an hour or so snipping away, collecting lavender for your craft projects, or just to put in a vase. There is also an excellent playground, waffle cart, and café with amazing cakes. Plenty of parking too. My fave thing? People watching - the bloggers trying to take the perfect shot amongst the lavender... some even bringing professional photographers! Cost was approx. £6 adult £3 kids with under 5's free. Spend approx. 2 hours here on a sunny day. Free Museums I still can't believe that its free to enter most of London's museums and this summer we visited the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert. You can go in the same day as they are right beside each other. The Natural History Museum is great filled with not only dinosaurs, but great exhibitions relating to space, natural disasters and other mammals. We all loved it especially my 5 year old son! We took a packed lunch but purchased hot drinks in the cafe and donated £5 each to the fund to keep it going. Well worth it! The Victoria and Albert was interesting with costumes, fashion and artefacts from around the world and through the ages. Again its free to enter but nice to make a donation. We loved the gift shop and almost got last minute tickets to the Dior exhibition, but the aforementioned 5 year old son had had enough! Nearest Tube - South Kensington. Cost: Optional donation plus whatever you purchase. Spend approx. 2 hours plus in each museum. Primrose Hill Every summer we come to Primrose Hill to start with a long walk, take in the views of London town before rolling down to the bottom, which the kids love! We then spend a good hour in the playground which IMO is one of London's most pleasant ones with sandpit and climbing frames decent enough to keep my 9 year old interested. We then usually walk to Gloucester Avenue for the famous Primrose Bakery, known for their cupcakes and the odd celebrity tea drinker. We always have a pot of tea, milk for the kids and a cupcake each. Its not cheap but since the park is free its fine! Cost approx. £25 for 4 of us to have tea and cake. Spend 2 hours on the hill/playground and half an hour in the bakery. My fave. Granary Square On the grounds of London's former best nightclubs (RIP The Cross/Bagleys) there now stands Granary Square and Coal Drops Yard. Granary Square is one of the best days out in Central London that you can have for free. Hundreds of fountains spray water into the air and kids squeal and run in and out of them from morning to night. There is an excellent food market too, plus a bar for wine and beer, and a Waitrose to get a multi pack of ice creams. Its great! You can take a wander along the Canal, sit on the grass at Coal Drops Yard or shop in the boutiques. We loved the coffee at Caravan and decided we will go back for brunch there soon. Cost: free - plus whatever food and drinks you buy. Spend up to a whole day! Nearest Tube Kings Cross Tower Bridge Most people know that Tower Bridge is London's prettiest, looking like something from a fairy tale, but did you know that for a small entrance fee you can go up inside the bridge? You can smell the olden days, imagine what used to go on. You can walk across a glass floor high above the Thames and get an amazing view of the skyline! On the other side of the bridge there is a mirrored ceiling where people spend ages taking selfies. On the way down there is a family room where you can sit and do activities, the day we went it was Bridge Building! Couldn't pull the kids away. Finally the engine room before a little visit to the gift shop, before photos outside of us all beside this iconic landmark. We never knew it had featured in so many movies! Cost - app rox. £16 for me and 3 kids - Spend approx. 2 hours here - nearest Tubes Tower Hill or London Bridge. If you have any hidden gems in London to share, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org London, still the best city in the world :)
11 June 2019
Last November I won a holiday to Cyprus at our annual conference, courtesy of Constantinou Brothers. It was a week's stay at Athena Royal Beach resort in Paphos, which is an adults only 4 star hotel. I asked my friend Phoebe if she would like to join me, and off we went for 5 nights of fun in the sun last month, which was the month of May. We flew with Jet2 who were great! Our transfer was waiting for us, and a short 15-minute drive later we pulled up at our hotel. The check in was welcoming, we were taken to a private area and given sparkling wine while the reception guy checked us in. When we were taken to our room, which was an Elite Class Sea View, we absolutely loved the balcony and the view of the pools and gardens with the sea beyond. That evening we ate dinner in the buffet restaurant and shared a bottle of wine, before having another drink in a local bar up the road. The Athena Royal Beach is seafront and has three pools. There are lots of green grassy areas and plenty of sunbeds and parasols, there was always a choice of places to sunbathe and relax. Certain room types have use of Cabanas which are day beds covered by a canopy down beside the sea. Breakfast is stunning. You can enjoy freshly cooked eggs, omelettes, pancakes as well as all the usual things like sausage and bacon, pastries and so much fresh fruit. You can have champagne if you want too and the views are amazing. If you fancy a wander you can take the coastal path to Paphos Marina, and on the way, you pass lots of wild flowers, rocks, and other hotels where you can stop for a drink and people watch. You are even likely to catch a wedding some evenings! Eventually you reach the marina where there are some beautiful yachts and traditional fishing boats. We really liked a bar down there called Sail at Castle, which makes great Mojitos and you can sit and play cards or order fresh seafood. On one of the days we went on a yacht trip. This was a highlight! We were picked up from the hotel and boarded the yacht. Loved the sea breeze, drinks were included and there was a singer on board. Our fellow shipmates were game for a party and were up dancing early on. We stopped at 2 swimming spots. One at Coral Bay where you could swim, kayak or snorkel, the water was so clear and blue. The second stop was at the Smugglers Caves where we could actually swim into the caves which was exciting. This was one of the best days I had in ages! Mostly we spent our time sunbathing, reading and having naps, which is something I don't get to do on holidays with my young family, so that was a treat. One night our hotel manager Lambros, hosted some drinks in the lobby where you could meet him along with other folks on holiday. This was a lovely evening and we had some lovely chats with people - all spoke highly of their experience with the hotel. They also had a Cypriot night with a BBQ around the pool plus live music and dancing, which was a fun night. Next door to our hotel, there was a family hotel called Athena Beach which is also run by Constantinou Brothers. Both are really pretty, and we even saw a wedding taking place. If you felt like doing some activities you could try lawn bowls, table tennis, yoga and aqua aerobics. Under the shade you could learn to cook Moussaka or make cocktails with Ouzo! Athena Royal Beach was really relaxed, calm and quiet. I only heard happy feedback during the whole holiday from anyone we chatted to. There is space, great food, and a brilliant poolside waiter service. We really loved our girls only holiday to Paphos. Thank you, Constantinou Brothers, for letting us experience your hospitality.
01 October 2019
In March, I got the chance to visit New York. My husband's Gaelic football team was playing the NYPD in the Bronx, so some of their wives and girlfriends decided to join the trip. In the end, there were 26 of us. Being the organiser, I felt a big responsibility to choose a hotel that was well located and comfortable for everyone’s taste, while sticking to a strict budget. The Moxy Times Square delivered in every way! It’s on 7th Avenue, a 7-minute walk from Times Square, 2 blocks from Fifth Avenue shopping. The rooftop bar called The Magic Hour is the largest in NYC and once up on the 18th floor you are surrounded by buildings such as the Empire State and other skyscrapers. It’s very cool. Being on holiday with an Irish football team, we were soon in the Pig & Whistle, and Irish bar a 1-minute walk away, and this became our base. The default bar to start or end the night in. The first night we all ate Sicilian style with big sharing platters of meatballs at Carmines. A bit of a tourist trap as it turned out, but it was a good feed and easy to walk to. Following dinner, we walked around Times Square area and soaked up the atmosphere. I felt like I was in the movies. We went into a karaoke bar. Full of New Yorkers with amazing voices, strong drinks, loved it. The next day, I woke up with FOMO thinking 'what am I missing?'. We got a coffee in the bakery downstairs and jumped in a yellow taxi (I imagined I was Carrie Bradshaw) up to Central Park. A gorgeous walk through the park led us to the Boathouse where some of our friends were having breakfast. You could spot movie locations from films such as Maid in Manhattan, and Stepmom. We walked back and took a little visit into Tiffany at the top of 5th Avenue. It was nice to pretend. Trump Tower was fully loaded on security guards and cars so we wondered if Trump was in? We wandered down Fifth Avenue, so many shops, so many photo opportunities. I met up with my friend Denise and she took me for my first experience at Sephora. Omg, the make up! Never seen a shop like it. I sat down and had a makeover. The lady was representing Fenty by Rihanna. She did a great job on me and I purchased the lot, but the make up lasted all night and was still on the morning after! The match between London Masters and NYPD was the reason for the trip but also the highlight. We were picked up in an old police van which caused a lot of attention in the street! So fun, the match was exciting and London won, which was the icing on the cake. The NYPD put on great hospitality afterwards in another excellent Irish bar. On the Sunday, all intentions of sightseeing went out of the window when we woke up to pouring rain. There was a bar around the corner called the Long Hall. The all-Ireland match was on and some of our group were already there. So that was great - a few hours in another Irish Bar drinking Guinness, sure why not?! Around 3pm, the rain was still lashing down but we decided we must see some sights. We got a taxi to Ground Zero, and that was sobering. We walked around the museum, which was so interesting, and harrowing at times. We paid our respects, and headed to the Meatpacking District. I'd been recommended to visit the Top of the Standard. This is a very cool hotel, with what I think must be the most stunning bar in the world, on its top floor. We got a table with a view, I could see the Statue of Liberty from here! No need to brave the rain again. Lol. This is a bar to see and be seen in. Not so easy to get into as the evening goes on.... so 70’s glam. I was left with many unticked boxes such as walking the Highline, visiting Soho and Greenwich, and going out in Brooklyn, but we were out of time. The whole weekend was a 10/10 dream and I’m dying to get back to see the rest ASAP!
27 February 2019
For my final Orlando blog in this February series I am writing about getting around Orlando and the amazing shopping it has to offer. There are two main ways to do Orlando without hiring a car. The first is to stay in the DisneyWorld Resort and use its fantastic transport system to move around within the resort. The second is to stay in the International Drive Resort area and use the I-Ride Trolley service – a ticketed trolley bus service servicing a pre-determined route northbound and southbound on International Drive. Most hotels in and around Orlando also provide a shuttle bus service to the theme parks. However, if you want to venture further and visit activities, restaurants or shopping outside of DisneyWorld or International Drive, then you will need a rental car. In Florida the rental car market is better value for money than Europe and the standard of the cars is high. I have rented a car in Florida over 15 times and never had one quibble with the rental firm on return; it has always run smoothly. When collecting a rental from the airport most firms have a line of vehicles in the category booked and you can take your pick, so you find one that you feel comfortable with. My experience of driving in Florida is that it is much easier than in Europe. Roads tend to be wide, straight and flat. There are virtually no roundabouts. Signposting is clear. And parking spaces are huge! However, do plan time for your journeys in busy rush hours/theme park exiting times as this impacts the roads as you might expect. Fuelling stations seem to be everywhere in Orlando and they all have well-stocked shops for supplies. A tip for the first-time user – unlike the UK where you can rock up, lift the hose to add the fuel then pay in the kiosk afterwards – it’s the opposite in the US. Rock up, turn off your engine then go the kiosk to pay for the fuel you want. The cashier then releases that amount to the pump, and you fill up then leave. Simple enough yes but knowing this in advance will prevent you standing by the pump for 5 minutes thinking it must be broken! If you have a rental car then I strongly encourage you to use it to explore the huge shopping opportunities Orlando has to offer. Visit the Florida Mall for typical US high-street shopping along with department stores, some market exclusives like M&M World and Crayola, and a huge food court. Or visit the higher-end Mall at Millenia for luxury brands and the famous Bloomingdales. Orlando has its share of designer outlet shopping. I consider the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets and Orlando International Premium Outlets very similar so would recommend only visiting the one nearest to where you are staying. A third, Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, is also worth a visit. It is smaller than the others but considerably less busy and easy to park, with many of the same stores, so try to fit in a visit here. And a tip for any Costco members. If you take your UK Costco membership card with you can shop in Costco in Orlando. It is located relatively near to The Florida Mall and if you are self-catering in a villa it may be worth a visit near the start of your holiday. Finally, if you miss you your sport whilst away, I’d recommend trying to catch a game at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium in Downtown Orlando. My son and husband watched a NFL game there last year and they had an amazing time in this impressive stadium which they ranked as the best day of their whole holiday! Driving to and from the stadium was simple, parking easy, plenty of marshals around and fantastic atmosphere. This ends my 4-part Orlando blog special. I hope you have enjoyed it.
15 February 2019
This is the second blog in our special series on Florida holidays, written by Michelle Ralph. When holidaying in Florida, I have probably stayed in hotels and villas an equal number of times. I have had amazing holidays in both! I always used to book a hotel. I liked a busy reception area, restaurant or bar on the premises, and usually a fridge in the room for storing cold drinks, snacks and baby formula. I liked a large communal pool where my young children could make friends with others and have lots of fun, taking a little pressure off me to entertain. I liked that there were staff on hand to answer any queries and give insight into the local area, and other travellers to chat to. And it is a big plus that most of the hotels provide transport to the major theme parks, avoiding the self-drive and parking fees at the park. My children are now 5, 8, 16 and 20. As my family has expanded, I have chosen to stay in a villa rather than hotel for three main reasons. Firstly, it has proved to be the most financially affordable choice for a larger family. My family’s tolerance for sharing bedrooms is low and we have a smoother, happier holiday if my children get their own sleeping and chill-out space. With a kitchen we can easily prepare drinks, meals, snacks and make use of the abundance of leftover restaurant meals you can take home, so we rely on eating out less. Secondly, days tend to be busy in Florida, whether out visiting theme parks, shopping or visiting the beaches on the coast, so we invariably use a pool most in the evening on our return home. It is great having a pool on tap at any time to jump into after a hot and tiring day out. My teens have had many a late-night playing volleyball after dark in the villa pool and my husband and I enjoy a late-night swim or glass of wine poolside with the children in bed. We have also found many rental villas offer a games room complete with table football or air hockey and we have bonded over many family tournaments on these. Thirdly - and I almost don’t want to admit this one – as I’ve gotten older, I enjoy more quiet time. I like going back to a peaceful, spacious villa with no other people around. Theme parks, shopping and eating out are so much fun, but they are busy and noisy, and I appreciate returning to the contrasting peace and quiet of a family villa – or as much as it can be with four children! As our children grow up and part ways with our family holiday, perhaps my husband and I may decide a hotel would then be the way to go.
15 February 2019
This week, I thought it may be helpful to share some of my practical tips for visiting DisneyWorld. 1. Book your fast pass early A good month or two before travelling, consider which Disney attractions you want to see and do the most, then book ‘fast passes’ for these in advance using the Disney app or website. The ‘fast pass’ booking system opens 60 days in advance for Disney residents (or 30 day for non-Disney residents) and it’s worth booking straight away to secure the most desirable attractions as these slots book up quickly. Book your fast passes for early in the day. Then, once you have used your three passes, you can book more either on the Disney app or on kiosks around the parks and save more queuing time. 2. Get there early to cut out the queues Get to the parks at opening time and you’ll get on several of the rides and attractions with little waiting before the crowds. Focus first on the highly popular activities - not only the big rides, but also favoured character meet and greets. In Magic Kingdom, head first to Fantasyland to ride on the massively-popular Peter Pan and It’s A Small World classics. 3. DisneyWorld is more than just the Magic Kingdom DisneyWorld is actually made up of six parks, not just the iconic Magic Kingdom ‘where dreams come true’. As well as two water parks, there is Hollywood Studios with excellent rides, shows and is a must for Star Wars fans. Don't overlook Epcot and Animal Kingdom. Both have some excellent shows and rides – Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest is a unique white-knuckle ride like none you’d have rode before, and Epcot’s Soarin’ is our family’s favourite ride of all the parks. In my experience, Epcot is always the least busy of the Disney Parks and you can enjoy a more relaxed day out at a slower pace. World Showcase has many first-class restaurants - try La Cantina restaurant in Mexico for authentic, superb food. I recommend pre-booking tables and requesting one overlooking the Three Caballeros Boat Ride or the indoor Mexican Plaza. 4. Make sure you catch the parade A day out in the Magic Kingdom isn’t complete without watching the iconic Parade. It starts at 3pm daily and I recommend you consider your viewing spot carefully and take up your position early to get the best experience. Top tip: Choose a shady spot out of the sun, park any stroller on the pavement edge and enjoy a short wait. You’ll end up front of the crowd and your child can watch it all from their stroller seat. Disney religiously clear people from the road so no-one will end up in-front of you. I recommend watching from Main Street where you’ll have a good view of the castle as a backdrop. In the height of summer, if you watch from the bottom of Main Street, just as the shops start, on the left side as you face the castle, then you should be in a perfectly shady spot to enjoy it to the full. 5. How to meet your favourite Disney characters If your child wants to meet Disney characters, most operate on a queuing system in precise locations - they do not roam around the park. Fast passes can be used for many of the character meets and look out for some that are combined. For example, one queue or fast pass enables you to meet both Anna and Elsa; another, Cinderella and Rapunzel. Many characters can be met at more than one park so consider this when making your plans. 6. Take an autograph book I strongly recommend taking an autograph book with you. As well as the coveted photo of a character and your child, a book of personalised messages from the Disney characters has become each of my children’s more treasured possessions. Top tip - take a pack of colourful Sharpie pens with you for the characters to use. The characters don’t have their own pens! They like Sharpies as they are chunky to hold and your book will end up beautifully colourful!
05 February 2019
This is a blog written by my sister Michelle, who has lost count of how many times she's been to Orlando! Maybe 15 times.... This is the first in a series of blogs about her experience with this #holidayofalifetime that so many people ask us about *************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************** I have worked out I have taken a child to Orlando at ages 4 months, 16 months and 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18 years. I can honestly say that there is appeal for all ages. I took two of my children at 4 months old (not at the same time!). I strongly recommend pre-booking a bassinet for the plane journey. Doing so will make the flight more enjoyable and you should find the baby sleeps for the majority of it. You can take your own car seat (which I have always done) or hire one from the car rental company. Make sure you book a rental car with space for your pushchair as well as the luggage! So to the parks. My biggest concern was the strong heat and sun of the Florida summer. However, I found this not a problem. So much of the parks are in air-conditioned spaces or under shade. The majority of the queueing systems cleverly cater for the heat, sun and queue boredom-busting well. I fondly recall taking my 4-month-old and 5-year-old to meet Cinderella. She gave equal attention to both and even asked if she could hold my baby, cooing at him. Magical! Taking a young child to the Disney World Parks, of say age 2 to 7, is truly magical. Yes, this sounds cliché, but you really will create memories that last forever in their lives as well as your own. They whole-heartedly believe the magic and you can’t help but feel it too. Seeing Disney World through your young child’s eyes is exceptionally special. Practically, it can be a lot of walking for young legs, but the theme parks have this covered. Whilst the pushchair may be long since unused at home, Park Strollers can be rented at all theme parks. Larger, yet lighter than pushchairs, children up to about age 8 can fit in these to rest their legs, get some shade, nap or for a sheltered place to rest and watch a parade. And you have a place to rest your bags. I had the most uncertainty in deciding to take my elder teens to Disney. Would they be too ‘cool’ for this? Definitely not! These holidays with my teens bring out their inner children. It’s my teenage children that wear the Disney ears! Far from feeling embarrassed, they wear them with pride. They still enjoy meeting the Disney characters and 100% enjoy playing along in the character magic for their younger siblings and reminiscing about their childhood favourites. Of course, the majority of their time is spent on the thrill rides, which the big parks do so well. And I absolutely love riding these thrill rides with them, creating lasting memories in shared terror and thrill. With the older children you can enjoy great restaurants and the parks late at night. Staying late in the Magic Kingdom to watch the park closing Fireworks Spectacular is the most astounding event I’ve even seen. My now 16- and 20-year olds are still asking when we can holiday in Orlando again. So when is the best age to take your child? The answer really is, any age! Your experiences will be different depending on their age, as you will spend more time on the attractions and aspects you consider will most appeal to them. But there is no doubt you will feel the magic at any and every age!
10 December 2018
We have wanted to go to Dubai for a long time, I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. To me it seems like marmite to my customers, I have clients that go every year and I have clients that outright refuse if I suggest it as a destination. When we booked our flights to Australia the best offer was with Emirates with a free stop in Dubai so here was our chance to check it out for a couple of nights. There was only one place we wanted to stay at - Atlantis. The water park and aquarium are legendary. We flew overnight and had a transfer to take us to the hotel. It’s definitely a 5-star welcome with a red carpet, and the walk into the lobby is something to make you stop and say wow. With a huge art structure in the middle made from coloured glass, and water features, with music being played in from above, you can feel you’ve arrived somewhere special. Our room wouldn’t be ready until 3pm and if I were to go again, I think I would arrange to land in the evening, so we could sleep straight away - just a little tip if travelling with small children. However, we now had 7 hours to pass with no room, so we unpacked our swimwear and left everything else in the luggage room. Once beside the swimming pool, the holiday vibes began. The kids were straight in the water and all tiredness disappeared. I dozed on my sunbed and soaked up all that vitamin D after a winter of woolly jumpers. For lunch we ate at the Mexican restaurant beside the pool. The cost of eating out in Dubai was one of the things I’d been warned about. We are a family of five. We ate one meal each at this lunch, no starter or dessert. Kids had water and we had two soft drinks. It cost £100. Great as a treat, it sure was tasty. Lucky we were only staying for two days! Of course, you could probably eat off site and save money, but I do think if you’re on a budget save Dubai for a time when you can afford it! Who wants to go searching for cheaper food in the hot midday sun? The deal I had booked meant we had free half board and this is definitely something to look out for! It meant we had breakfast and dinner included in our room rate, which is ideal. After more swimming and sun our room was ready right on time, so we went to check it out. They had upgraded us to an Ocean View and I was delighted with the bathtub which looked directly out to sea! We had a huge bed plus a sofa bed for the kids, and it was fine for us. If you had older children you may need a larger suite, or interconnecting rooms. My husband had an afternoon nap but me and the kids were too excited to sleep so we went exploring. We walked around the grounds of Atlantis which is really huge. We smelt the flowers, posed for pictures underneath the fountains and palm trees and then we went to play on the pure white sand beach. Atlantis is on the Palm, so its manmade, but who cares when it’s white sand and turquoise sea, it’s just gorgeous! In Dubai you are never far from construction, and cranes can be seen in the distance, but everything is kind of hazy. Maybe it’s the desert heat but it didn’t disappoint me at all. We got all dressed up for dinner and ate in Kaleidoscope which is one of the buffet restaurants. My kids love a buffet! This was like a buffet on steroids. There was every type of cuisine from Asian to American, you could have freshly cooked pasta or fresh sushi and seafood. It all tasted amazing and we all had seconds (and thirds). Dessert was heaven for the kids with a chocolate fountain, pick and mix, ice cream, pastries, chocolate cake whatever they could dream up, they could have! We needed to walk it off, so we wandered off and came to a brilliant playground for the kids to play. Later, we found an open-air beach club with a DJ and the kids had a dance while we coped with our food coma. What an excellent day we had. Day two was even more of a dream. A breakfast to match the first-class dinner the night before, followed by watching feeding time in the massive aquarium that Atlantis is famous for! What a sight to see a scuba diver feeding the fish, rays and even sharks down in the tank. My son Arthur absolutely loved this! A highlight of staying at Atlantis is the waterpark. In the past we have stayed away from water parks thinking it would be hard work with our kids being young and small, and not able to go on many rides. But Atlantis is designed that if you are a kid, the kids’ section is so good, and sectioned off, so that they can’t even see the big scary rides that they can’t go on! We spend a good 3-4 hours in the kids’ section, on the slides and lazy river, and had the best family bonding time that I can ever remember! Highly recommend it, and if you’re staying at Atlantis, entry is free and unlimited. That night we ate at Saffron, the other buffet which is a little more grown up. All kinds of Asian food... Thai, Korean, Japanese, Indian. Still able to get chips for kids if needed. A walk along the promenade at sunset while looking back at the huge pink palace that is Atlantis ended the trip in the most perfect way. The whole 48 hours was glamorous, fun, relaxing, and so instagrammable! I hear that’s a major criteria now for millennials! Ahhhhh Dubai you were so amazing. If you really are marmite, we were definitely on the love it side. Cannot wait to come back for longer next time.
19 November 2018
I’m becoming a bit of a train lover as I get older. In May I was invited with a group of Travel Counsellors to go on the Belmond British Pullman steam train. I jumped at the chance to dress up in sequins and feathers (1920’s dress is optional) and met my friends at the platform at London Victoria. I was presented with the most beautiful ticket in a white box, a thing of beauty, which set the tone perfectly. Couples in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and even older were dressed in their absolute best, looking excited and fabulous. Larger groups of families, where grown up children were treating parents to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary, took group photos alongside the stunning train. When it was time to board, immaculately dressed staff escort you to your carriage before checking your ticket and inviting you on board. Once inside it’s a feast for the senses. Our carriage was absolutely stunning. Tables were laid out for 2 and 4, it felt like the actual 1920’s. The lighting was so pretty, everything twinkled. The table settings were laid so beautifully everything blue, white and crystal. We were served a cold glass of bubbly as we boarded and decided to continue with a bottle of Laurent Perrier! We all felt so lucky to be experiencing this amazing train. As the train pulls out of Victoria the fun just begins, so many people waving you off, for some it’s a bucket list item just to see the British Pullman let alone dine on it! Choo choo all the way out of London as we sipped our champagne and soon, we were served our first course. The meal was a 5-course fine dining delight. Tomato soup, smoked mackerel salad, lamb and potatoes, cheese and biscuits, and a fruit tart with after dinner mints. Alongside a half bottle of wine. The courses are spread out over the whole journey as you see through the window the most amazing English countryside. Our journey was called the Golden Age of Travel and passed through 170 miles of green countryside, I never knew Kent was so pretty. Our destination was Broadstairs for Oysters. How fun?! On arrival at Broadstairs the mood was definitely jolly, and we were handed another glass of ice cold bubbles, and as we stepped off the train we were greeted by a Brass Band! The older couples who we’d seen at Victoria were now dancing and jiving on the station platform, elderly men had watery eyes reminiscing about their youth via the music - so lovely to see. Oysters were served out of a huge ice box and it just felt like it would be rude not to eat them in Broadstairs! The band though - all I kept thinking was, this is England, what a fabulous country we live in, and how not scary it is to get old when you see sights like this! It didn’t matter your age, on that platform everyone danced, hugged and said cheers to anyone and everyone! Back on board the British Pullman, the journey back was relaxed, and you had time to sit back and admire the rolling fields of Kent - the farms, the cornfields and eventually the buildings of London came into view. None of us wanted it to end, the most special memories all wrapped up in a day. I bought a souvenir teacup and some toffees to take home. As we pulled into London Victoria, we all said our goodbyes and had a final photo with our favourite train. Such a treat, I’ll never forget it! Thank you, Belmond, and Broadstairs.
21 June 2018
I am a massive fan of afternoon tea. For my baby shower we had it at the Dorchester. I've had a few at spa hotels in the country, and a few trendy ones like Drink Shop & Do and a hen do at a hotel in Soho. The excitement I felt when I found out I'd been invited to the ultimate... A Royal Afternoon Tea at The Savoy. Royal, because it was the week of Harry and Meghan's wedding. A special menu was created to celebrate this special occasion at the favourite hotel of the Royal Family. In the entrance hall was a year-old painting of Queen Elizabeth, quite amazing... We met here and were taken through by our hosts to the Thames Foyer where Afternoon Tea takes place. We were given a glass of ice cold Rose Champagne from an English grower, where Princess Margaret had recently visited to give her royal seal of approval. It was very nice. We chose our tea from a menu (I went for English Breakfast - classic) and listened to the live pianist for a while. The tea was served on the most beautiful china and we enjoyed a round of savoury food including finger sandwiches of interesting fillings, plus my favourite - a mini crumpet with prawn mayonnaise, caviar and gold leaf! Next was a round of freshly baked still-warm scones. We debated whether they are called Scones or Scownes, and whether its cream first then jam (yes) or jam first then cream (no)! More tea was served as the final round came out which was the real showstopper, a 3-tier cake stand of mini works of art including cakes, tarts, Battenberg, macaroons - obviously you have to try one of everything! By now we were quite stuffed and happily tea-drunk when the grand finale was served. A slice of the wedding cake commissioned by Harry and Meghan! Lemon and Elderflower light fluffy sponge with buttercream, topped with a lilac icing. To pretty to eat - but I couldn't help it! Wow is all I can say. I sneaked a look at the price tag of this experience to see if I could send mum and dad one day. At £98 a head it does not suit all budgets. But I can honestly say that as I ate my last crumb of that wedding cake, I would have paid £98 to do it all again. Being a "work trip" we couldn't leave without a tour of the hotel. Mazilli our excellent host was kind enough to show us three rooms. One was an entry level room which costs around £300 a night. Stunning. The next was a suite. The décor was fabulous, with a living room and a view of the Thames. I didn't know that you can moor your boat directly out the back and walk in via a jetty. Starting at £1000 a night in low season. I had to leave before seeing the Royal Suite - kicking myself now - the Royal Suite comes with use of a Rolls Royce and driver for the duration of your stay. Next time! Thank you to The Savoy and Fairmont for your hospitality! I will be back.
30 April 2018
There is Lapland and then there is Lapland. You get the bright shiny twinkling Lapland with Santa's village and karaoke, and you get the remote, snowy wonderland 250km above the Arctic Circle. To be honest I would have liked to go to either of them - but the latter fitted our available dates, budget and I liked the idea of a truly authentic experience. Our kids were age 8, 7 and 3 at the time of the trip. We wanted to take our eldest Lily Rose before she got too old and wise for this magic trip - to meet the real Santa! At the same time, we had wanted to wait for our 3-year-old to be out of a buggy. When you do a daytrip to Lapland, you prepare yourself for two things: cold weather (lots of thermal layers and fleece) and a very long day! We set off in the dark, around 5am, checked in at Gatwick where we met an Elf, and after a breakfast flew just after 7am. It’s very surreal because you watch the sunrise out of the aeroplane window and then around three hours later when you're almost in Lapland, you start to see the sun set again, due to the very short days in the north pole. The excitement was reaching deafening heights on the plane as we could see a blanket of snow with pretty pine trees sticking up like decorations on a Christmas cake. The sunset turns everything pastel coloured and it’s as if you are flying into actual heaven. When we landed we were told it was minus 25 outside. I had been checking the forecast all week and seen minus 8, minus 9 but not minus 25! We didn't make a big deal out of it, as we didn't want to worry the kids, but when we stepped out onto a snowy runway and our nostril hairs immediately froze I knew it was going to be a day of endurance as well as magic. The coach journey was amazing, through forests and winding roads with deep snow. They took us to a cabin to be fitted with thermal suits and boots. Once properly dressed we continued to our magical setting for the afternoon, just on the Finnish side of the border between Finland and Sweden. It was part forest, and part frozen lake, with ice sculptures, ice bar, and fairy lights. We did sledging and went on a slow little reindeer ride, which was lovely as it got dark. It really was pretty there. There was a small log cabin you could go into for a hot drink and to thaw out your fingers and toes. Once warm we would go back out and look at the ice sculptures, and eventually it was our turn for the snow activities. This consisted of a super-fast husky ride on the back of a sleigh which all five of us could fit on. I have to say the cold hurt by this time, but it was such a thrill and a once in a lifetime experience to be taken around a frozen lake by these amazing dogs. You could also snowmobile, but our kids needed some warmth, so we hung out in a tipi next to an open fire. Finally, it was our turn to meet the big man. We wrapped up under blankets on the back of a sleigh. A man who was the closest thing I've ever seen to an Eskimo drove us by snowmobile to another clearing in the forest. This really was twinkly and special. As we warmed up by another fire, Snowflake the elf checked our children for frostbite. We were really hoping that this long freezing day would be worth it for the moments with Santa Claus. He did not disappoint! He was impeccably dressed. His cabin was really special, and the fire was roaring. He knew our kids’ names and ages, and he had lists all over the wall sent in from children. (This confirmed to Lily that he was definitely real). We were not rushed, he gave us a good 10 minutes of his time, making sure all three of our children had their special moment to ask for that one thing they really wanted. After a high five he told them he must get going - he had presents to deliver across the world, and off we went with three very happy children. After a final stint in the log cabin, to defrost, we were all ready to come home (in a nice way) and it felt like a massive box had been ticked. As a little girl I would have loved to go to Lapland to meet Santa - and I think I enjoyed it as much (maybe more) than them! On Christmas morning we just could not believe that we had been in Lapland only 12 hours before - and yet he'd been and delivered presents! What a guy. As a Travel Counsellor though, I have to tell you the truth. If you are going to go on a daytrip, you have to go with the best, most expensive option, to ensure that you will have the comfort, level of food, drinks and extra touches to ensure that you will all enjoy and not endure your daytrip. I can give you comparison quotes and advise you on the differences. If possible, try to go for at least two nights. I know its double or sometimes triple the cost, but to be able to spread out your activities, do them in daylight, and have a warm space to retreat to, would be amazing. Not to mention an increased chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis! (Northern Lights) All in all, definitely a Christmas we will never forget - and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone - Just once! Don't forget that a trip to Lapland does not have to be based around Santa. For non-believers or adult only groups, we can arrange skiing, ice fishing, snow trekking, and even staying in a glass igloo.
29 September 2017
We booked our holiday to Grand Palladium Palace around 10 months ahead. I had just joined Travel Counsellors and needed an incentive to work hard! Holidays for families of five who like 5-star all-inclusive in school holidays don't come cheap! We flew with Thomson, about to become Tui, which was nice after easyJet and Ryanair the last few years. Ibiza is a nice quick flight and we landed with no bother, and were very quickly on the transfer bus. Even happier when it only took 10 mins to drop us off, the holiday was off to a great start. Grand Palladium Palace is located at the far end of Playa D'en Bossa beach, next to a nature reserve with a lake, which means mosquitos can be a problem to some. You don't expect mozzies in Ibiza. If you take repellent and maybe a plug in in case you are located next to the nature reserve, you'll be fine! It's next to its sister property, the White Island, and guests of both sides can use all facilities. This means you are not short of eating and drinking options and you have a choice of four large pool areas. It's nice to have choices. We loved the style and setting of the hotel, but Playa D'en Bossa itself does not paint a true picture of Ibiza. The beach is long and wide and perfect for sunbathing, sand castle building and wave jumping! But it certainly isn't the prettiest beach on the island. If you want magical beaches and sunsets, and Instagrammable scenes you need to get out and check out the island. It is fun though to walk up the beach and hear the music coming out of the beach clubs and places like Hard Rock and Ushuaia. Even with the kids we spent an afternoon sat outside Bora Bora and while they played we could listen to the music and have the best of both worlds, the kids’ heads were bobbing along and its great people watching. Before having our children, I came to Ibiza four years in a row and stayed in San Antonio. I thought going back to it now it might seem like a run-down 18-30s town... but not at all! We were so impressed with it. It looked clean and sparkly and watching the sunset from the rocks in front of Cafe Del Mar was our holiday highlight, and the kids too! Obviously, the town gets a little wild after dark and we had an interesting walk back through the West End for our taxi but it's all part of the fun! Another amazing day out was to Es Cana for the Hippy Market which happens every Wednesday. We had friends staying there so we met up for market shopping followed by an evening on the beach. We got takeaway pizza, prosecco and beers and the sea was so warm and calm the kids played in it till after 9pm when it was dark. That is a place I can't wait to go back to! Back to the Grand Palladium there is a foam party in the pool every Tuesday which was so much fun for everyone from babies to grandparents! A sensory overload for little ones and again pumping music for us adults who miss partying! The food is fabulous but as with all all-inclusive there is some repetition if eating in the same buffet everyday so do bother to get up and make your reservations for the a la carte restaurants to break it up. You need to book at 9am for the following evening, but that bit of effort pays off. We especially loved the Mexican. The Spa – wow. I have been to lots of spas but I can 100% say that Jimena gave me the most dreamy massage I've ever had. I was so dazed for the whole day and the relaxation stayed with me for a lot longer. The evening shows were so good, the entertainers are really talented and work so hard. The rooms are quite small if you're a family but perfect size for a couple. We upgraded to a Superior with a terrace opening out to the pool which was well worth it for when someone needed a nap while the rest played. The sports bar was 24 hour which was handy for my husband who wanted to watch the McGregor/Mayweather fight halfway through the holiday! There were always cold mojitos, nachos and popcorn available any time of day or night. In summary we had a fantastic time at Grand Palladium Palace. We met couples who were on their seventh and third visit and would keep going back. For us, we will be going back to Ibiza but we would like to try a smaller town and go out and try the local restaurants, as Ibiza is a foodie paradise! But I would recommend the Grand Palladium 100% for couples and families who like everything included, with lots of space and choice. Excellent summer holiday!
12 April 2017
I've been to Ireland lots of time to visit my husband's family and we actually got married in Cork in 2012. I already liked Ireland a lot but had never really travelled around the west of the country. When David was invited over to a Gaelic football dinner in Westport, County Mayo, we decided to make a holiday out of it and travel around on a road trip with the kids. We flew into Knock which is the tiniest airport! So quick to get through. We picked up our hire car, which was so cheap, a Nissan Qashqai less than £90 for 10 days. You pay a fee of £65 to pick up the car in one airport and drop it off to another. We arrived at the Castlecourt Hotel in Westport in the rain, which we had predicted, but we didn't know that that would be the only rain we saw in the whole holiday! The place was busy as the hotel was being used for Confirmation celebrations and a wedding, but the atmosphere was great and we were so welcome. We had a day at the spa, they have a Thermal Spa area where you can have different treatments and enjoy the outdoor hot tub, sea salt foot spa and steam/sauna. It was a treat. The breakfast was incredible. Pancakes, pastries, cereals and fruit and then whatever you wanted cooked to order from the chef from a full Irish to salmon and poached eggs. We spent a day driving to the Connemara National Park. This was an amazing drive along the Wild Atlantic Way. There were wild ponies, dark grey lakes and big brown mountains. The scenery was so beautiful we couldn't believe we had never been before. After a few days in Mayo we moved on to County Clare, to the Burren. We stayed at a free range pork farm in a converted horse truck! This is also known as 'glamping'! It sounds pretty basic but actually there was a log burner, kitchen, shower room and toilet inside and enough sleeping space for up to 6. The beds were soooo comfortable. The couple who own it let our children feed the pigs, chickens and play with their dogs. It's not often the children get to be around nature and peace and quiet. In the morning the couple cooked us the most amazing organic Irish breakfast. I later found out this place has won many awards for its gastronomy and glamping accommodation. Using it as our base, we travelled the whole of the Burren on small country lanes. We visited Michael Cusack's home, he was the founder of the GAA so my husband loved that. We stumbled on a chocolate factory which was really cool and the smell of the chocolate - wow. The best part was a visit to the Burren Perfumery where they make fragrance from the many species of wild flowers that grow here. There was a tea room and a secret garden... (basically heaven to me) We also went to the Cliffs of Moher to walk off some of the scones we had eaten and this blew the cobwebs away perfectly. How did I not know about the Cliffs of Moher?! Stunning! We moved on to Charleville where we got married and spent a couple of nights at the Charleville Park Hotel. It was great to reminisce! The leisure centre there is fab and we all swam a lot. And ate a lot (too much!) After this it was a ride through the country to visit family near Mallow, Cork. We had babysitters that night so we went out in Cork City - what a great night out! The bars were brilliant. This was followed by a visit to Roscrea, Tipperary and ending up in very Sunny Dublin for the weekend. We totally lucked out with the weather! What I will remember most about this trip, was the way the little villages are so colourful against a background of - let's be honest - quite a grey sky. All the shops and little pubs are painted pastel, greens and reds, and look so quaint and perfect. And the other thing that was really special was the Irish hospitality, which we were shown many times, every single day of the trip, and something they are very proud of. I will be buying a teapot (no more tea made in a mug) and making sure I have scones or biscuits for guests who might knock at my front door from now on... JI x
19 December 2016
Three years ago two of our best friends (godparents to our kids) moved from Harlesden, to Mallorca. It was totally brave and we were in awe because it's the kind of thing we all dream of doing. This blog is about the holidays we have enjoyed in Mallorca since their move. We have three children called Lily Rose age 7, Ivy age 6 and Arthur age 2. Our first trip to Mallorca was long before Arthur was born. The girls were age 1 and 2. We stayed in a villa in Gotmar near Puerto Pollensa. The villa was one of those architectural dreams which was carved out of the mountain and so stylish, everything white or grey concrete. Stunning views, amazing pool, death trap for toddlers. I don't remember sitting down for longer than five minutes at a time for fear of one of the girls splitting their head open on the stone steps, or tumbling down the hill and into the sea. We decided to save the sexy villa until the kids were much older and looked online for a place to move to. Cala D'or had a place available that looked family friendly, so we booked it and took a drive over to Cala Ferreira, it is a small cove in the larger resort of Cala D'or. We stayed at the Cala Ferreira Apartments and they were great for families who want an apartment but with lots going on and friends to be made around the pool. You could walk down to a few beautiful coves such as Cala Esmerelda (like a perfect postcard). The scenery around here is breathtaking. It's hilly around here but we coped fine with a double buggy. It comes to life in the evening and it's like a paradise for the under 10's. Bungy rockets, trampolines, mini golf, pedalos, night markets and so many lovely restaurants. The hardest thing is keeping the kids moving because they want to stop and do everything! The marina was pretty breathtaking though, so relaxed and pretty with some impressive boats to put on Instagram. We returned to Mallorca a few years later when we had just had Arthur Bear, who was three months old. Our friends had moved to Soller in the north of the island. They had a beautiful apartment in the old town which had a huge veranda out the back. It was surrounded by mountains either side and the silence was super dramatic. Sitting on their veranda with a cold bottle of Rose (me) and gin and tonics in huge goldfish bowls (them) was pretty dreamy, especially at sunset. You could catch a tram down to the marina, which was a great adventure for the little ones. Once at the marina, there is a stunning long sandy beach with gentle sea that we could all enjoy and feel safe in. The heat in Soller is intense, so being on the beach was nice, to be able to cool down. There are amazing restaurants along the seafront, and some very cool hotels where you can enjoy a cocktail. One day we took a drive to Deia, inland, high up in the mountains. It is home to a few stars and the properties there are just stunning! After five days in Soller, we moved on to Puerto Pollensa. We had booked into Hotel Daina. We think Hotel Daina is the best place to be in Mallorca! It is located right on the Pine Walk in Pollensa. It has a swimming pool which is built out on a jetty so you are surrounded by the sea. If you stay at the Daina, everything you want or need is within a 200 metre radius. Perfect with a baby and two youngsters. At night the town square is where it's at. Kids play football with makeshift goalposts. Small kids run about chasing each other. Bunting and fairy lights are hung overhead which makes the square feel really magical and inviting. The square is surrounded by probably a dozen restaurants. You can sit and eat tapas, steak and seafood or whatever you fancy while allowing your kids to roam free and you can see them. Amazing! There are really cool boutiques and ice cream parlours along the Pine Walk. If you walk all the way to the Ila D'or, a well-known luxury hotel, with lots of history, you can reward yourself with the best sangria in Mallorca. Since Arthur was only three months old, I would take him out early in his buggy so that the others could sleep in. Walking along the Pine Walk at 7am watching the sunrise, and waiting for the first cafe to open are some of my favourite memories of his baby days. We returned to Pollensa last year, back at the Daina and this time brought friends. They fell in love just like we did. Despite our very lengthy travel bucket list, we hope to return here every other year! It is holiday perfection for us. Other places we have stayed and a quick run-down. Hotel H10 Playas de Mallorca, Santa Ponsa. Santa Ponsa lacks the picturesque looks of Pollensa and Soller but still has a huge beach and lots of facilities for all ages and we felt it would suit a family with teenage children really well. There are lots of Irish pubs, some nightclubs, and lots of drunk people after midnight. For us, it wasn't our favourite spot, but we've also been to a lot worse! Palma itself was cool. There is a beach club in San Augustin called Zhero Beach Club. We spent a day here with the kids, to be able to use the pool in an otherwise very hot city. Zhero Beach Club is aimed at adults, but no one made us feel uncomfortable having the kids dive bombing in the pool, and the hubby and I enjoyed cava while enjoying some really good deep house and amazing views of the ocean. Highly recommended! You rent a sunbed for the day for €25 each. Not cheap but so worth it for the location and that pool. There is a lovely playground across the road which is totally shaded by pine trees. We spent a few afternoons letting the kids play there while we sat on the benches having a break from the sun. In summary, Palma was a gorgeous place but one we will save until we can have a little city break by ourselves, sans kids, so Will and Trish, book us in for next year sometime? Our friends now have the famous Pizza Van @thepizzavan_es which travels around the island making artisan pizzas in beautiful settings. We spent an evening with them at a special location in Soller last year surrounded by super yachts, mountains and beautiful people! So there are many areas of Mallorca we are yet to visit. You could go every year and stay in a different beach and never get bored. Friends can't believe we’ve never been to Alcudia and I'm sure one day our girls might ask to go to Magaluf! I would be secretly excited to be honest!
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St Albans 19/03/2021
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