Based in Gloucester

Martin Ross

It's Nice To Meet You

Hi! I'm Martin, your new independent travel agent and I'm here to help you plan the perfect holiday.

So, what is a Travel Counsellor and what can I do for you?

There's nothing quite like the feeling of finally booking that perfect holiday. The anticipation of spending time in an amazing new place, experiencing different cultures and seeing some amazing sights is enough to get anyone excited. But actually planning the perfect holiday can be a bit of a nightmare. With so many different places to research and an overwhelming avalanche of guides and opinions, it can be tough to know where to start.

And that's where I come in. I'm based in Gloucestershire and have clients all over the UK, Ireland and even from Australia and the USA. My job is to take away the countless hours spent in front of your phone and computer scrolling through endless flights, hotels and reviews to do all the hard work for you. I'll work with you to find the perfect destination, using my years of experience and insider knowledge to make sure you have the holiday of a lifetime. So if you're looking for someone to take away the stress of planning your next trip, give me a call today. I'd love to chat about how I can help you turn your travel dreams into reality.

Sounds good, but who are Travel Counsellors?

We have over 25 years of experience creating amazing memories and this was recognised when we won the "Best National Travel Retailer" award from the British Travel Awards. In 2022, 96% of my customers said they would recommend me to a friend, so you can be sure that you're in good hands. And if anything goes wrong, you can relax knowing that Travel Counsellors' financial protection trust and 24 hour duty office have got you covered. So why not let me take the stress out of booking your next holiday? Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Like the sound of having all your travel sorted by someone else? Here's a little bit about me

From an early age, I’ve always had a passion for travelling. For me, nothing beats the feeling of getting away from everyday life and exploring both new places and rediscovering firm favourites. In the past few years, I’ve visited places such as Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Orlando, Japan, Greece, Cuba, Norway, Disneyland Paris, Turkey, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Gibraltar, Denmark, New York, Guernsey, Italy, Germany, Russia, Ireland, Thailand, China, France, Canada and Spain including the Balearic and Canary Islands.

Before becoming a Travel Counsellor (over 5 years ago now), I worked for some of the biggest names in leisure such as Virgin, Marriott, Captivating Cuba, Travelzest and Disney. I worked onboard the P&O Cruise ship Azura and the world-famous luxurious Queen Mary II Ocean Liner.

To discuss your next holiday, please call Martin Ross Travel on 01452 855 433 or drop me an email.

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Whatever your holiday needs I'm here to help you, so simply give me a call or send me an email with your contact details on and I can get things started for you:

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A few words from some of my customers

12/30/2023

Listen to just a few of my customers about their experience booking with me. Book with the travel agent with over 6243 5 star Trustpilot reviews

A little bit about me

3/29/2022

Hi there, my name's Martin and I help people travel to the most amazing places on the planet.

My Blog

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.

Unique Paris Tour and Holidays

07 April 2024

Ah Paris.  You're probably thinking of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and maybe Ratatouille.  But how about something a little different?  I work with some fantastic local guides who can show you a different side to Paris. Prepare yourself for a culinary adventure through the diverse and vibrant Marais neighbourhood of Paris! From the well-preserved medieval streets to the lively Jewish quarter and thriving gay scene, there's no shortage of interesting places to explore. Get ready to indulge in local delicacies and experience the city's gourmet delights while you eat, drink, and discover everything this eclectic area has to offer! Embark on a journey of discovery through the mysterious allure of Paris with a knowledgeable local guide on this fabulous city tour that combines hidden gems with delectable bites and wine - a recipe for success! Your adventure begins at the Centre Pompidou, an architectural marvel and home to Europe's largest collection of modern art. Next, we'll wander over to the Hôtel de Ville, where executions once took place, for a taste of the city's history. Meandering through the charming Marais district, we'll uncover medieval churches, charming homes, and quaint alleyways. Along the way, we'll swing by a renowned bakery for a taste of their award-winning baguette and indulge in a delectable meringue treat called a 'merveilleux.' Alright, buckle up folks, because our next stop is Rue Saint-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie, a street so old even the cobblestones have stories to tell. Nowadays, it’s the heart of the French gay scene, full of trendy boutiques and chic cafes. We’ll delve into how this once shady area transformed into a fashionista’s paradise and the epicenter of “bobo” culture. And of course, we can’t miss out on trying a scrumptious macaron from a top Parisian pastry chef. Just a stone’s throw away is Rue des Rosiers, where the Jewish community thrives in a bustling street lined with falafel joints and mouth-watering delis. Strolling past the magnificent Saint-Paul’s church (we’re just admiring from the outside), we’ll saunter over to the stunning Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris and former hangout of literary legend Victor Hugo. After that, we’ll make our way to a local wine bar for a tasting session and some heavenly cheese platters to share. Cheers to the good life! After a brief stroll, you'll reach our ultimate stop, the famous Bastille Square - once a prison, now a symbol of revolution after being stormed on July 14, 1789. Surrounding the area are numerous bars and restaurants for you to continue your night in the dazzling City of Light! Cheers to endless options for a fabulous evening! Get in touch to start planning your Parisian Adventure. 

Why do you have to open your window blind for take-off? - Airline safety rules explained

30 December 2023

Ever wondered why you are asked to open your window blind during take-off? Or why you have to turn on 'flight mode' on your electronic devices? I'll explain these and other safety requirement so next time you go, you'll know. **Why do you have to open your window blind for take-off?** Ah, the mysterious window blinds on an airplane! Have you ever wondered why you are always asked to open them during take-off? Well, my curious friend, I am here to shed some light (pun intended) on this peculiar rule. Picture this: you're sitting on an airplane, waiting for take-off. The aircraft has taxied to the runway, and you can feel the excitement in the air. As the plane starts to accelerate, you glance out the window and notice something peculiar. It could be anything from a technical malfunction to an unexpected change in weather. Opening the window blind allows you and the crew to see outside and assess the situation. Is there smoke or fire on the wings? Are there any obstructions on the runway? Having a clear view can help you make better-informed decisions in case of an emergency. As the aircraft takes off, it goes through a series of altitude and weather changes. These changes can have a significant impact on the amount of light entering the cabin. By opening the window blind, you can adjust to the changing light conditions more easily. Let's say you're flying into a beautiful sunset. By gradually opening the blind, you can bask in the magical hues of orange and pink. Or maybe you're departing in the early morning, and the cabin is gradually flooded with gentle morning light. Opening the blind allows you to savour these natural wonders and adapt to the changing light as the flight progresses. Plus, opening the window blinds allows the beautiful natural light to enter the cabin, creating a more pleasant environment for passengers. It can make the journey feel less like a cramped tin can and more like a leisurely stroll through a sunny park. Now, you might be thinking, "Can't I just keep the window blind closed if it's not my thing?" Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has some rules in place that you simply can't ignore. According to FAA regulations, window blinds must be opened during take-off and landing. This ensures that passengers are prepared and aware of their surroundings in case of an emergency. The FAA takes passenger safety very seriously, and these regulations are in place to ensure a smooth and secure journey for everyone on board. **Why do you have to turn on 'flight mode' on your electronic devices?** Ah, the familiar sound of the flight attendant's voice gently reminding us to turn on 'flight mode' on our electronic devices. It's a small inconvenience that many of us have grown used to over the years. But have you ever wondered why this precautionary measure is necessary? Let's take a closer look at the reasons behind the 'flight mode' requirement and why it's so important for the safe operation of the aircraft. The aviation industry takes safety seriously, and 'flight mode' is one of the many precautions in place to ensure smooth and secure flights. By requiring passengers to activate 'flight mode' or switch off their electronic devices during take-off and landing, airlines and aviation regulatory bodies aim to eliminate any potential risks of electromagnetic interference. Now, I know what you're thinking - "But hey, I've forgotten to turn on flight mode a couple of times, and the plane didn't fall out of the sky!" Well, you might be right. The actual likelihood of an electronic device causing significant interference is relatively low due to advances in technology and the aircraft's shielding. However, it's always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to aviation safety. **Fasten Your Seatbelt** One of the most important safety rules on an airplane is fastening your seatbelt. It may seem like common sense, but many passengers still fail to do so. Remember to fasten your seatbelt during take-off, landing, and whenever the seatbelt sign is illuminated. It's the best way to protect yourself in the event of turbulence or unexpected movements. ** Follow Instructions and Pay Attention** Listen up! The cabin crew is there for a reason, and it's not just to serve you snacks. They are highly trained professionals who know what they're doing. Follow their instructions and pay attention to the safety demonstration at the beginning of your flight. It may seem like a boring routine, but it could save your life in case of an emergency. **Secure Your Carry-On Baggage** We've all seen those passengers who struggle to jam their tiny carry-on bags into the overhead compartments. Don't be that person. Stow your carry-on baggage securely in the overhead compartments or under the seat in front of you. Loose items can become dangerous projectiles during a turbulent flight or emergency landing. Bigger pieces such as suitcases go up top, smaller things such as backpacks go under the seat in front - easy. **No Smoking, Seriously!** Smoking on an airplane is not only against the rules, but it's also a major fire hazard. Lighting up a cigarette or vaping in the lavatory may seem like a rebellious act, but it could have serious consequences. Airlines take this rule very seriously, and offenders can face legal repercussions. So, do everyone a favour and satisfy your nicotine cravings once you've landed. **Emergency Evacuation Procedures** While we hope that you'll never have to experience an emergency situation on an airplane, it's important to be prepared. In the event of an emergency, follow the evacuation procedures and listen to the instructions of the cabin crew. Stay calm, locate the nearest exit, and move quickly but safely to leave the aircraft. Your life may depend on it.

My Top 7 Tips To Help You Have A Better 2024 Holiday

29 December 2023

Looking for the perfect holiday can feel overwhelming at first. With so many options out there, it’s hard to know where to start. But don’t worry, I’m here to make sure you find the ultimate tailor-made holiday just for you.  Before you begin your search, it’s important to carefully think about what you truly need and want from your vacation. That’s where this guide comes in handy. Here are my top 7 tips to help you find your dream 2024 holiday. Looking for the perfect holiday can be a total nightmare. With so many hotels, cruises, and activities out there, it can feel impossible to figure out what's right for you. That's where I come in - I'll create a custom holiday just for you. But before you start your search, it's important to think about what you really need and want (that’s why I’m here to help!). Here are my top 7 tips for finding your ideal holiday in 2024. #1 Work out a rough budget for your holiday Believe it or not, I don't ask for your budget just to line my pockets. I do it to make sure you get the best bang for your buck on your holiday. I need to know what you can realistically afford so I can create a perfect mix of luxury and affordability for you. Let's be real here, if you're dreaming of a holiday way out of your price range, you're just setting yourself up for disappointment. Just like you budget for a big purchase like a car or a house, figure out what you can comfortably spend on your 2024 getaway. So let's get real and work this out together.  #2 Why asking for a "cheap as possible" holiday is the worst thing you can do when searching for your 2020 trip  When you're dining out and the server swings by to take your order, you don't settle for the most budget-friendly option on the menu. You go all out and order exactly what you're craving. The same goes for your holiday. Some people may want a light, healthy salad, while others are craving a juicy steak or an exotic, spicy dish. If you end up with a sad bowl of plain rice while the folks at the next table are digging into a scrumptious meal, it's going to make your choice look pretty lackluster. Sometimes, the difference between a top-notch hotel with amazing amenities and super-friendly staff is just a tiny bit more per night compared to the "cheapest" hotel. So, are you willing to shell out a little more for a way better trip, or is your motto "the cheaper, the better"?  #3 Take reviews with a pinch of salt Have you read so many TripAdvisor reviews that you feel like you’ve already been there? And even with a plethora of fantastic reviews, do you always zero in on the one negative one? Typically, I’ve noticed that most negative reviews stem from people who didn’t do their homework before booking a hotel. I’ve come across complaints about an abundance of fresh fish on the menu at hotels in fishing ports, noisy rooms at a hotel located next to a nightclub, and even objections to other people dining in the restaurant at the same time. Let me save you the trouble of sifting through TripAdvisor reviews. The top-rated hotels may not be the fanciest, but don't let that fool you - they've got some pleasant surprises up their sleeves. Let me do the heavy lifting and find the perfect hotel for you, regardless of what others may think. #4 Never, ever say "We’re not fussed", "Anything will do" or "It just has to be cheap" Think of Travel Counsellors as the Sherlock Holmes of your travel dilemmas, but let's be real, I need some solid clues to work with here. The more insight I have into your preferences, from your favourite grub to your overall holiday vibes, the more I can elevate your experience. Your input can make or break your annual getaway, so the more details you dish out, the more fabulous your holiday will be. It's all about putting in the effort to reap the rewards. #5 The more I know about what you love, the better your holiday is going to be  When I inquire about people's past holidays (not booked with me!), the word I hear most often is "fine". Let's be real, "fine" is for your ordinary lunch break or your uneventful commute to work. But when it comes to your long-awaited two weeks of holiday after saving up for ages, "fine" just doesn't cut it. With a little extra effort in asking for a quote or chatting with me, I can turn your trip from "fine" to "amazing". Isn't that worth a little extra effort? Come on, let's make your 2024 holiday truly unforgettable. #6 Be flexible Sometimes by changing your dates by a few days or flying from another airport, you can save a fortune.  If you can only fly from a certain local airport on exact dates and times, it will severely limit your choice of holidays and destinations. #7 Make sure whatever you book, you're protected If you book your flights and accommodation separately, you have very little financial protection.  In the event that your flight gets axed or delayed, the standalone hotel you've reserved isn't required to budge an inch, change your plans, or fork over a refund. And the same goes for transfers and activities. Your airline is pretty much shackled by what the law demands of them. Sure, you could potentially get some cash back, but in most situations, only if the airline messed up. Typically, flight cancellations are due to factors like bad weather and strikes, things that are beyond the airline's control, leaving you with nothing but a pitying pat on the back in the form of a full refund. Good luck finding a last-minute replacement flight without breaking the bank, and even if you manage to, chances are your refund won't cover it. To top it all off, most travel insurance policies have minuscule limits on what they'll cover in these sticky situations.  We've been awarded an ATOL license which means if your airline was to collapse (such as with Thomas Cook or Monarch for example), you'll be repatriated back to the UK.  Every penny of your holiday is safe and secure in our Travel Trust fund independently managed by Barclays Bank. And if the worst should happen whilst you're away, isn't it nice to speak with a real human instead of a robot.  Our round-the-clock Duty Office keeps a close eye on global happenings and is always on standby in case you find yourself in a pickle while on your travels. Now you've ready my top 7 tips, get in touch to start planning your ultimate 2024 holiday.  Email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com or call 01452 855 433.

What Is Genie Plus At Walt Disney World?

18 December 2023

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be overwhelming, especially with the challenge of navigating long lines for popular attractions. Fortunately, Disney Genie Plus comes to the rescue! In this guide, we'll take you through the essentials of this time-saving paid service. Let's get started! Disney Genie Plus is a planning tool enabling users to skip standby lines and access shorter queues for select attractions. This service, available as a paid add-on on the My Disney Experience app, offers a more efficient way to enjoy the theme parks. Here's a quick rundown: 1. **Purchase Genie Plus:** Buy it within the My Disney Experience app by selecting the option to add it to your itinerary. 2. **Select Attraction:** After purchasing, pick an attraction from the available list. 3. **Join Lightning Lane:** Upon selecting an attraction, join the shorter queue by scheduling a return time, bypassing the regular standby line. 4. **Enjoy Reduced Wait Times:** With the lightning lane entrance, experience significantly shorter wait times compared to the standby line. At Disney World, every ride has a regular standby queue. Most rides also offer Lightning Lanes, shorter queues for faster access. When you make a reservation, you use this faster line. Genie Plus includes most Lightning Lanes, but a few popular rides have individual Lightning Lanes, like Rise of the Resistance. Prices for Lightning Lanes vary with surge pricing, ranging from $15 to $35 plus tax. Higher prices apply on weekends and holidays in 2023, with lower prices on slower days. Since June 2023, Disney World's pricing system allows guests to choose Genie+ for their preferred park. Animal Kingdom and EPCOT usually have more budget-friendly options than Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, known for their numerous captivating attractions. Guests can book their initial Genie reservation at 7 am daily, providing the advantage of securing preferred ride times and ensuring access to must-see attractions. On busy days, particularly at Magic Kingdom, slots can sell out quickly. It's advisable to book early to guarantee availability. With Disney Genie+, you can make only one reservation at a time, preventing immediate booking of another ride. However, you can modify your current selection for a different return time or switch to another ride without losing your 120-minute countdown. This flexibility lets you adjust plans on the go, making the most of unexpected changes or new preferences during your visit. When choosing an attraction, available time slots are visible on the app, but you can only book the next available window. Reserving a specific time later in the day is not possible if it's not the next one in line. Once you pick an attraction and the next available time window, the app automatically assigns that time slot for you, working on a first-come, first-served basis. Booking early increases your chances of getting your desired time window. Guests using Disney Genie+ can only make one selection at a time, but they have the option to hold overlapping selections. This means that while enjoying one attraction, they can still book another experience for a later time slot. This feature is a game-changer for Disney enthusiasts looking to maximize their visit. To maximise your Disney Genie+ selections, follow this step-by-step guide: 1. **Research and Prioritise Attractions:** - Before your visit, research and list the top in-demand attractions at each park. - Identify the must-see attractions you don't want to miss. 2. **Create a Park-Hopping Plan:** - If park hopping, analyse wait times and availability for each park. - Save a slot for the park with the most in-demand attractions. 3. **Book Strategically:** - When booking Lightning Lane selections, prioritise popular attractions or those with long wait times. - Bypass regular queues to experience sought-after rides efficiently. 4. **Use Standby Queue for Non-Genie+ Rides:** - Recognise that not all rides offer short queues with Lightning Lane selections. - Plan strategically for non-Genie+ rides, checking wait times and visiting during off-peak hours. 5. **Optimise Park-Hopping Transitions:** - Efficiently plan transitions between parks, considering distance and travel time. - Allow buffer time for unexpected delays to ensure you make your next selection. By following these steps, you can make the most of your Disney Genie+ selections and enhance your park-hopping experience. Remember, a combination of planning and flexibility is key to optimising your time and enjoying popular rides at Disney parks. You can read my blog about the best Genie+ rides at https://swiy.co/K8Tq

Why Choose Me as Your Travel Agent: The Simple Guide

16 May 2023

Hey there! My name’s Martin, your friendly travel agent. I'm here to clear up some misunderstandings you might have about booking your holiday with a travel agent. In this blog, I'll explain why teaming up with a travel agent, like myself, is a smart decision. Let's dive in and discover the fantastic benefits I can offer! No Extra Costs: Criticism: You may think that using a travel agent means spending more money on additional fees. Reality: Here's the good news—I don't charge you any extra fees! My goal is to find you the best deals and experiences within your budget. Plus, I often have access to exclusive discounts and special promotions that can actually save you money. So, you can relax knowing that my services won't break the bank! More Options and Availability: Criticism: Some believe that travel agents have limited choices and availability compared to what they can find online. Reality: Not true at all! I have a vast network of travel suppliers and partners. This means I can offer you a wide range of options tailored to your preferences. Whether you're looking for a cosy bed and breakfast or a luxurious resort, I've got you covered. And guess what? I have the inside scoop on hidden gems and unique experiences that you won't easily find online. Your Preferences are My Priority: Criticism: There's a concern that I won't understand or prioritise your personal preferences. Reality: Your happiness and satisfaction are my top priorities. I take the time to get to know you and understand what you're looking for in a trip. Whether you're seeking relaxation, adventure, or cultural exploration, I'll craft a personalised itinerary that perfectly matches your desires. I'm here to make sure you have an unforgettable experience that's tailor-made just for you! Open and Honest Communication: Criticism: Some worry about a lack of transparency and hidden costs when working with a travel agent. Reality: Let me assure you that I believe in open and honest communication. I provide you with all the information upfront, including pricing, terms, and conditions. I'm here to answer any questions and address any concerns you may have. Together, we'll make sure you have a clear understanding of every aspect of your trip, so there are no surprises along the way. Flexible Planning with Your Input: Criticism: You may think that working with a travel agent means sacrificing control and flexibility over your trip. Reality: Not true at all! I'm here to bring your travel dreams to life. We'll collaborate on every step of the planning process. Your input is invaluable, and I'll incorporate your preferences into the itinerary. I'm here to offer expert guidance and suggestions, while still giving you the freedom to make decisions that suit your desires. It's your trip, and I'm here to make it exactly what you want it to be. Conclusion: Working with me as your travel agent is a win-win situation. No extra costs, more options and availability, personalised service, transparent communication, and flexible planning are just a few of the benefits you'll enjoy. So, let's team up and create the perfect adventure together. Contact me today, and let's make your travel dreams a reality! Call 01452 855 433

Best Things To Do In Rome On A Cruise

16 January 2023

The city of Rome is known as the “Eternal City” for its long and storied history. It’s no surprise that this bustling, vibrant city is also one of the most popular stops on Mediterranean cruises. But it’s not just cruise ships that visit Rome for the day. There’s an endless array of cruises departing or finishing in Rome. And what better way to explore this fascinating city than with a pre- or post-cruise stay? Discovering the Eternal City’s historical landmarks, indulging in its delicious cuisine, and taking in its unique culture are all part of the journey that await you. From ancient ruins to tasty Italian cuisine, there’s something for everyone in Rome. But with so much to see and do, it can be hard to know where to start when planning your trip. Fear not! Here are some of the must-see attractions in Rome that you won’t want to miss while visiting this wonderful city on a cruise. Visit the Colosseum in Rome No cruise to Rome is complete without visiting the Colosseum. It’s perhaps one of the most iconic symbols of Roman antiquity and it’s easy to see why. This huge amphitheatre was built around 70 AD and for centuries hosted gladiatorial contests, public spectacles, and dramas. Today, the Colosseum serves as a reminder of a distant past and has become an inextricable part of the city’s culture. This incredible destination has been named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. A visit here will give you insight into ancient Roman life and culture like nothing else can. Explore Vatican City Vatican City is a sovereign state within Rome and home to many important religious sites. A visit here will take you through some amazing architecture such as St Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel, Piazza San Pietro or Castel Sant’Angelo. You’ll also find plenty of fascinating artworks by some of Italy’s greatest artists including Michelangelo’s world-famous ceiling frescoes in Sistine Chapel as well as his sculpture La Pietà inside St Peter’s Basilica. The sheer number of masterpieces contained within these walls make Vatican City an essential stop on any tour through Rome. Go Shopping in Via Condotti If you’re in Rome before or after your cruise, take in a bit of shopping. Via Condotti is Rome’s answer to Fifth Avenue in New York or Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. If you’re looking for luxury shopping then this is the place to be! From Prada and Gucci boutiques to high-end jewellery stores, there’s something here for everyone who loves a bit of retail therapy! Even if you don’t have deep pockets, it’s still worth taking a stroll along Via Condotti just for people watching. You never know who you might spot! Eat Pizza at a Pizzeria No trip to Italy would be complete without indulging in some of the country’s delicious cuisine! Rome is no exception and one of its most famous dishes is, of course, pizza. Whether you opt for classic Margherita or something more adventurous like Capricciosa, you’ll find plenty of pizzerias throughout the city serving up delicious slices. After all the food on your cruise, you might not be able to fit in a pizza. But I’d always recommend taking a break from sightseeing and enjoy some of Rome’s best pizza! I can thoroughly recommend Salvatore Di Matteo Le Gourmet Read more about what to visit in Rome at https://www.rocktheboat.travel/cruise-help/rome-best-things-to-on-a-cruise/

Disney Magic - My Disney Cruise Line Review

28 December 2022

In September 2022, I had the chance to go on the amazing Disney Magic cruise ship, and I must say that it exceeded all of my expectations. From the moment I stepped on board, I was greeted with friendly staff (Cast Members), delicious food and a magical atmosphere. The ship was extremely spacious and its amenities included everything from basketball courts to spa rooms. The entertainment options were also great, with shows and dance nights available every evening. As a former Cast Member at Disneyland Paris, I was very interested to see how the Disney Magic was compared to the theme parks. Some of our other cruise experts have already sailed with Disney and gave me lots of good tips and advice. Disney Cruise Line offers a unique and exciting way to enjoy different dining experiences on board – rotational dining. Guests can enjoy a different each night as they rotate to one of three exclusive restaurants, all featuring elegant décor and first-class service. Plus, your waiters come with you too so there was always a ginger beer waiting on the table for me. Eating at Animator’s Palate is an unforgettable experience and was my favourite place to dine. This unique restaurant immerses you in a world of animation! The menu includes something for everyone with a variety of delicious starters, mains and desserts. As you enjoy your meal, Animator’s Palate comes alive with vibrant colours sketching the walls and lively waitstaff. I won’t spoil the surprises! Going on a Disney Magic cruise ship is an unforgettable experience for kids and adults alike. A highlight of the trip is meeting your favourite Disney characters! If you’ve tried to meet Disney characters in the theme parks, you already know the queues can sometimes stretch to up to 2 hours to meet a Princess. Luckily onboard, the queues are much shorter. The kids clubs onboard the Disney Magic cruise ship are a blast for all ages. Kids of all ages can have fun playing with their favourite characters, making new friends, or getting creative in exciting activities. The Youth Clubs are divided into three age groups: younger than 3, 3-11, and 12- 17. There are also special clubs just for teens that provides them with social space to hang out and take part in teen-only activities. With movies, music, art projects, shows, and more there’s something to keep everyone entertained aboard the Disney Magic cruise ship! The Disney Magic cruise ship offers an array of exciting performances that you won’t want to miss out on. There’s something for everyone, from upbeat musicals perfect for all ages to a breath-taking retelling of the movie Tangled. Each show is carefully crafted and expertly performed, captivating audiences of all ages with its energy and enthusiasm. In addition to musical theatre productions, the ship also hosts special guest speakers, comedians and other entertainers throughout the voyage. Whilst all of the shows were high-quality, there was one which I found a bit too cheesy for me. My favourite was Disney Dreams: An Enchanted Classic. Join a young girl on her journey of self-discovery as she is visited by beloved characters such as Peter Pan, Minnie, and Mickey. This delightful show features scenes from many popular musicals with classic Disney characters like the Genie from Aladdin, Mary Poppins, and Rafiki accompanying them throughout their journey. Original songs as well as music from Peter Pan, The Lion King, and Aladdin will make this an unforgettable experience! I enjoyed my week sailing onboard the Disney Magic. In some ways, such as the character meets, it’s different to other cruise lines. In others, it’s quite similar. And in some ways, it’s not as good as others (sorry, the food is better on NCL & Virgin Voyages) Overall, the Disney Magic is a brilliant cruise ship for families and those who love a bit of Disney fun and imagination. If you’ve been to and loved the Disney theme parks, I think you’ll enjoy your time onboard the Disney Magic.

How To Find The Best Authentic French Paris Restaurants

21 November 2022

Finding a good and authentic French restaurant in Paris can be tricky. There are so many guide books and websites that recommend restaurants in Paris, but I always find it best to trust my gut feeling. With a little local knowledge added into the mix of course! As a British Travel Agent living around Paris, I’ve written this handy guide for you to hopefully have some lovely meals in the city of lights. Paris has some of the best restaurants in the world. But it also has some terrible ones too. If you’re in Paris for a long weekend, you probably only have time for a few meals and you don’t have time for a bad one. And unless you’re on some kind of very restrictive chicken nugget and cola diet, avoid going to McDonald’s. It’s pretty much the same as in the UK, but more expensive and slower. For this guide, I’m focusing on French restaurants in Paris and not Chinese, Italian or other cuisines. You wouldn’t go to Italy and not have pizza so why come to Paris for a curry? (French curries are not great too) Like when searching for a hotel, TripAdvisor is to be taken with a liberal pinch of salt. Parisians who eat regularly in a café or restaurant aren’t likely to write a review unless promoted by the owner. Also, if there are a lot of recent reviews in English, it’s probably aimed more at tourists and less at local Parisians. Here are my 8 tips to help you find the best French restaurants in Paris Firstly, is there a waiter or waitress standing outside touting for customers? That’s a sign of a bad restaurant in Paris. Good restaurants are busy and don’t need to drag people off the streets. Next tip, take a glance inside and see how many people are sitting waiting for food and how many are actually eating. A busy and full restaurant is usually a good sign, but if hardly anyone is eating, they could have terrible service and only be busy because it’s new. A tip if you’re eating at lunchtime in Paris is does the restaurant look busy with local Parisians or mainly tourists? Are the people in casual business/work attire or look like they’re just scaled the Eiffel Tower? Any area that has a large number of offices tends to have decent lunchtime cafes and restaurants. The chefs are happy to work only during the week and finish early. It’s French law to have a menu posted outside the restaurant. Is there a menu outside in several languages? If it’s a restaurant serving mainly French food, this can be a bad sign. Parisians eat in restaurants that don’t advertise mainly to tourists. And locals won’t go there if the food is bad. One of my pet hates - photos on the menu. Avoid these restaurants like the plague. If your French isn’t up to scratch, don’t worry about trying to read the menu. The Google Translate phone has a brilliant feature that will turn your camera into a multi-linguist. Just point your phone at the menu and suddenly you’re an honorary Parisian. Most French restaurants will have a plat du jour (meal/menu of the day). You’re looking for a small menu, usually handwritten or on a blackboard. A short menu means they are using the best ingredients that are fresh and in season. A long menu can mean they are trying to please everyone and usually fall short. I’m not much of a fish eater myself, but if there is mainly salmon on the menu, it usually means the chef isn’t too skilled with different types of fish. Despite being miles from the sea, Paris has a great fresh fish market where local restaurants and chefs can get their hands on the catch of the day. When entering the restaurant, use your best school French to ask for a table. You don’t really need to construct a massive sentence of course. Just say the number of people in your party and SI VOUS PLAIT at the end. It shows you’re not a typical ignorant tourist and appreciate good food and service. And finally tip number 8, your waiter will more than likely wish you Bon Appetit when serving your food. It’s a reflex almost every French person has around food. A simple Merci Beaucoup to acknowledge this goes a long way. Bonus tip - take a tour A great way to sample smaller portions of French food is on one of our walking tours. Wandering through Paris with a local guide, you’ll sample 2 different pastries, the best macaron in Paris, a platter of French cheese or charcuterie, liquor and wine tasting selected by a professional sommelière. What can be more French than a little wine, cheese and a macaron. You’ll even learn how to pronounce it correctly and avoid saying the name of the President instead. And if all of that fails and you just fancy a beer and pub grub, head to the Moose Bar in Odeon. Serving poutine, chicken wings and showing live sports, it’s a different way to enjoy Paris for those not fussed about sampling French food. As a British travel agent based here in Paris, I can help you have the best trip to the city. From local insight and tips such as how to avoid tourist traps and scams, to picking the best hotels for your stay, it’s all included as part of the service when you book with me. Get in touch for a quote including flights or Eurostar, hotel as well as one of our brilliant excursions - call 01452 855433 or email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com

A Romantic Thailand Honeymoon Itinerary: Bangkok, Phuket, and Elephant Hills

16 November 2022

If you're looking for an unforgettable Thailand honeymoon, then you'll want to check out our suggested itinerary. This 14-day trip will take you to some of the most beautiful and romantic destinations in Thailand. Start off in Bangkok, where you'll explore the city's ancient temples and bustling markets. Then head to Phuket, home to stunning beaches and luxurious resorts. Finally, end your trip with a stay at Elephant Hills, where you can enjoy safari tours and luxury accommodation in the heart of Thailand's jungle. Based in Gloucestershire, I'm a honeymoon travel expert helping newly weds start their new life together in style. Thailand is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in Asia, and it's easy to see why. With its stunning beaches, lush jungle landscapes, and vibrant cities, Thailand has something for everyone. So if you're looking for a romantic getaway that's full of adventure and luxury, then this Thailand honeymoon itinerary is perfect for you. Start your honeymoon in Bangkok, Thailand's capital city. This bustling metropolis is home to over eight million people, making it a great place to start your exploring. Spend your days wandering around the city's ancient temples, such as the Wat Arun and Wat Pho. Be sure to also check out the floating markets on Bangkok's canals, where you can purchase everything from fresh produce to souvenirs. Thailand is known for its delicious cuisine, so be sure to learn how to cook some of your favourite dishes while you're in Bangkok. We can arrange for cooking classes where you can learn how to prepare fresh Thai dishes such as pad Thai and green curry. After a few days of exploring Bangkok, it's time to head to Thailand's largest island, Phuket. This tropical paradise is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Spend your days lounging on the white sand beaches, take a dip in the azure waters of the Andaman Sea as well as visiting luxury resorts and spas. Be sure to visit Patong Beach, which is known for its lively nightlife, and Karon Beach, which offers stunning views of the Andaman Sea. There are also plenty of luxury resorts and spas to relax in after a long day of exploring. Phuket is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a busy honeymoon in Thailand. Finally, end your Thailand honeymoon with a stay at Elephant Hills, located in Thailand's Khao Sok National Park. This unique resort offers jungle tours, kayaking, visiting local villages and of course, meeting the elephants. From here you can explore Thailand's stunning natural landscapes, including waterfalls, caves, and jungle. Thailand is an amazing country with so much to offer newlyweds. From the bustling city of Bangkok to the tranquil beaches of Phuket, there's something for everyone in Thailand. And Elephant Hills is the perfect place to end your trip, offering luxury accommodations and safari tours through the jungle. So if you're looking for a romantic getaway that's full of adventure and luxury, then this Thailand honeymoon itinerary is perfect for you. If you're ready to start planning your Thailand honeymoon, then be sure to get in touch with me today. I'll help you plan the perfect trip for you and your partner. We can arrange for flights, accommodation, and even cooking classes so you can learn how to cook some of your favourite Thai dishes. So what are you waiting for? Get in touch with us today to start planning your Thailand honeymoon.

Elephant Hills - Bucket List Must-Do

18 April 2022

At the forefront of innovative and responsible tourism in Thailand for over 20 years now is Elephant Hills. They offer interactive experiences with these majestic elephants without compromising their welfare. Taking you into the heart of rural Thailand with awards for its conservation and a hit on TripAdvisor it's no surprise that this wildlife adventure is on so many bucket lists! No riding these pachyderms at Elephant Hills; instead they can roam free through beautiful scenery. Imagine watching an elephant feed from your hand. Elephant Hills is the best way to discover wildlife in their natural habitat- without any tourists around for miles on end... Elephant Hills for families The four-day Nature Safari is perfect for those looking to get close and personal with elephants. Spend three nights in luxury tents, experience all of the activities on offer at The Elephant Camp including an interactive session where you can wash & feed one of these majestic creatures! With thrilling canoe safaris down River Sok as well as relaxing ventures aboard Burmese Junk Boats during which time there will be lunch provided - this action packed adventure has something waiting every day. Then relax under the stars by watching dance performances that will leave you feeling amazed! The kids will be so excited to explore nature at its finest with you. You could both use some time away from technology and enjoy a stress free holiday experience in Thailand where there are no worries about finding entertainment for them. This family experience is not one you’ll want to miss out on! Elephant Hills for couples The rainforest camp is the perfect getaway for you and your partner. Spend one amazing night in a cabin with private en suite bathrooms, or if budget allows opt to stay at least two nights so that both of can enjoy this magical place! You'll be able take advantage not only excellent food but also plenty time alone together without any distractions like Wi-Fi hotspots or phone signals - Rainforest Camp offers total relaxation Elephant Hills honeymoons If you're looking for that perfect and unique honeymoon, look no further than Elephant Hills. We offer an all-Inclusive holiday to complete your relaxed and unforgettable stay in paradise! This is luxury amidst nature with nothing else like it on earth. We take care of everything including transportation from Bangkok airport (or wherever), accommodation & meals while giving newly-wed couples some alone time together away from the hustle bustles tourist destinations so everyone can truly relax during this once in lifetime experience. Award winning Eco Tourism In 2014, 2015 and 2016 the Thailand Green Excellence Award for Animal Welfare was awarded to Elephant Hills ongoing efforts at an ethical jungle park experience. They were named "Highly Commendable" by the Tourism Authority of Thailand in cooperation with Wanderlust magazine as they recognize how Elephant Hills strive towards ensuring that your trip is as naturalistic as possible while still providing quality care standards within each sanctuary area's environment. Elephants are majestic animals that have been present in Thailand for centuries. They were once used by royalty to ride across the country and pull heavy loads. Elephant Hill’s soft adventure tour packages include getting up close with these huge creatures. Watch them enjoy an extensive bath before preparing one of their daily meals after which time you'll be able to see how pampered these elephants are. The weather at Elephant Hills Southern Thailand is known for its monsoon season, which can be a bit more wet and unpredictable than other parts of the country. The lush green scenery of the elephant hills is a reminder that even in one of Thailand's wettest areas, there are still pockets where nature can flourish. The park receives up 3500 mm per year and serves as an ideal spot for adventure seekers who want to explore this tropical environment with views from high atop its lofty peaks or get closer than ever before by taking our on board walks through carefully crafted trails which allow you see both forest floor below us and unusual perspectives offered only here. If you're interested in booking a trip to Thailand that includes a stay at Elephant Hills, I encourage you to get in touch with me. I'm a professional travel agent with years of experience planning customised trips, and I would be happy to put together an itinerary that's perfect for you. Elephant Hills is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand, and for good reason - it's a truly unique place where you can get up close and personal with elephants. I know that a visit to elephant hills is an experience you'll never forget, and I would be very happy to help you plan your trip. So please don't hesitate to contact me.

No Haggle Holiday Price Promise

28 December 2019

Lets face it, some people are good at haggling. Maybe it’s in their nature, part of their job or they've been trained in the souks of Marrakech? Some people will only ever book a holiday if they’re getting money off and are more obsessed with getting a deal instead of what really matters, booking the perfect holiday. In reality, if a travel agent thinks a client is going to haggle, they’ll start with a higher price knowing they’ll need to discount down to get the booking. The customer thinks they’re getting a “deal”, but really it’s the price they would normally be paying. It makes the whole booking process into a game. But if you don’t have the gift-of-the-gab or want to play games, why shouldn’t you get a great price too? That’s why I’m offering a No-Haggle Holiday Price Promise. The price you see is the price you’ll pay - simple. There’s no need to take a course on negotiation or pretend you're in an episode of the Apprentice to book your 2020 holiday at a fair price. I treat everyone equally, fairly and the same so you always know you're getting the best value without the worry that someone else would have paid less. By not worrying about price and deals, we can concentrate on what really matters - booking your perfect holiday. Isn’t that how booking a holiday should be? Along with our No-Haggle Holiday Price Promise, you’ll also have the very best financial protection available with every penny of your holiday 100% safe. Our Duty Office are there 24/7 should you need any assistance whilst you’re away. We won the Best National Travel Retailer at the 2019 British Travel Trade Awards. This is even more special to us as it was voted for by you, our fantastic customers. In fact, 96% of our customers would recommend us to their friends and family and we have a 5 star rating on Trustpilot. Ready to have a different holiday experience? Email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com or call 01452 855 433 Remember, prices are live and subject to change if flights or hotel prices change.

The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Perfect 2020 holiday

27 December 2019

Searching for your perfect holiday can seem like a complete nightmare. There are hundreds of thousands of hotels, cruises and experiences all around the world, so how do you know which one is right for you? My job is to find the very best holiday tailor-made just for you. But before you start searching, you need to make sure that you’ve covered all your bases and carefully considered what it is that you really need and want. (that’s what this guide is for!). Here are my top 7 tips to finding your perfect 2020 holiday. #1 Work out a rough budget for your holiday A massive misconception is I only ask for your budget to maximise my commission and over charge you My job is to find that sweet spot that balances everything you love from a holiday along with your budget. Without knowing what you can realistically afford, I have no way of being able to balance this for you. I also ask you to be realistic too. If you’re looking for a holiday that you ultimately can’t afford, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. The same way you would set a budget for buying a car or a house, sit down and workout what you can comfortably afford to spend on your 2020 holiday. #2 Why asking for a "cheap as possible" holiday is the worst thing you can do when searching for your 2020 trip When you're in a restaurant and the waiter comes to take your order, you don't ask for the cheapest meal on the menu. You order what you actually want to eat. It's exactly the same with your holiday. Some people will want a healthy salad, some a juicy steak and others an exotic spicy dish. If you're served a bowl of plain rice whilst the people at the table next to you are tucking into a delicious meal, it's going to make your choice seem very unwise and boring. Sometimes the difference between a fantastic hotel with brilliant facilities and friendly staff is just a few pounds more per night compared to the "cheapest" hotel. Would you rather spend that little bit more to have a much better holiday or is "the cheaper the better" what you're really looking for? #3 Take reviews with a pinch of salt Have you read so many TripAdvisor reviews you feel like you’ve already been there? And even if there are hundreds of amazing reviews, do you always focus on the one negative review? I generally find that the majority of negative reviews are from people who were unaware of the hotel they were actually booking. I’ve seen reviews of people complaining about too much fresh fish being on the menu at hotels in fishing ports, noisy rooms when they’ve booked a hotel next to a nightclub and even someone complaining that other people were in the restaurant at lunch with them. More and more people now as using TripAdvisor reviews to try and get unwarranted compensation from hotels which skews all the positive reviews. Likewise, some hotels offer an in-resort reward for leaving a good review. Even worse, rival hotels and restaurants are known to leave bad reviews for good hotels to try and persuade customers to book with them instead. How do you know which are the real reviews? Another point to remember is the best reviewed hotels on TripAdvisor tend to be middle-of-the-road chains where people have booked with low expectations, but have been pleasantly surprised. I do the research for you to find the best hotel that’s right for you, regardless of what uninformed previous guests have written. #4 Never, ever say "We’re not fussed", "Anything will do" or "It just has to be cheap" Think of Travel Counsellors as your travel problem solvers so, unfortunately, this kind of vague statement gives me almost nothing to go on. The more I know about what you like to do, the types of restaurants you love and your general expectations, the better holiday experience I can create for you. Just a little bit more information from yourself can have a massive impact on your annual holiday. The more time and effort you put in, the better your holiday will be. #5 The more I know about what you love, the better your holiday is going to be When I've asked people about their previous holidays booked elsewhere, the most common word has been "fine". Fine is good enough for your lunch break. Fine is good enough your drive to work. Fine is not good enough for your 2 weeks of holiday after saving a year or maybe more for it. By putting in a little bit of extra effort when requesting a quote or speaking with me, I can transform your holiday from "fine" to "amazing". Isn't that worth a little bit of extra effort? #6 Be flexible Sometimes by changing your dates by a few days or flying from another airport, you can save a fortune. If you can only fly from a certain local airport on exact dates and times, it will severely limit your choice of holidays and destinations. #7 Make sure whatever you book, you're protected If you book your flights and accommodation separately, you have very little financial protection. For example, if your flight is cancelled or delayed, the hotel you’ve booked separately are not obliged to move, change or even refund your booking. It's the same for transfers and experiences. Your airline is quite limited on what they have to offer by law. Compensation is available, but in most cases, only if it’s the airlines fault. The majority of the time, flights are cancelled due to weather and strikes which are both out of the control of the airline and they can simply offer you a full refund. Last minute replacement flights will cost you a fortune and generally your refund would not cover these. Many travel insurance policies have very strict and low limits on what they'll cover in these circumstances. We've been awarded an ATOL license which means if your airline was to collapse (such as with Thomas Cook or Monarch for example), you'll be repatriated back to the UK. Every penny of your holiday is safe and secure in our Travel Trust fund independently managed by Barclays Bank. Our 24/7 Duty Office monitors events world-wide and are there just in case you should need them whilst you’re away. In the past year alone, they’ve helped our clients who have been affected by strikes, hurricanes, medical emergencies, freak weather, volcanoes, drones and the collapse of Thomas Cook. Now you've ready my top 7 tips, get in touch to start planning your ulitmate 2020 holiday. Email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com or call 01452 855 433.

Top 5 reasons why you should split your Orlando holiday between Disney & Universal

16 April 2019

Universal Orlando offers some of the best theme park rides and experiences in the world including The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Volcano Bay and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s no wonder that guests visiting Disney World leave Mickey’s backyard for a few days to explore Universal’s three theme and water parks. Here’s my top 5 reasons to split your stay between Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. No unused Disney Meal Plan Credits If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan or even better, taking advantage of the amazing Free Disney Dining Offer, spending a few days at Universal cuts down the time you have to eat all that Disney food. It’s not uncommon for families to be rushing around on their last day trying to use up all their snack and meal plan credits. Although the cost of the dining is listed as free in your package, your hotel stay isn’t. Universal Hotels like-for-like are generally cheaper than staying at Disney. Less travelling – save time and money As of 2020, Disney will be charging guests to park their car at their hotels which makes hiring a car even more expensive. Plus, Universal charge $20 a day for parking at their theme parks. Alternatively, a Mears Taxi will cost around $50 one-way whilst Uber or Lyft is around $20. That adds already an extra $40 - $100 each day just getting to Universal Orlando, By staying either onsite at Universal or at selected partner hotels, you’ll have free shuttle transfers or water taxis to the parks saving time and money. Some hotels are also within walking distance to the parks too. Plus, after a long day exploring Universal, do you really want to drive back to your Disney hotel? I’d rather be able to get back to my hotel quickly and easily. Early access – beat the crowds By staying at Universal or a selected partner hotel, you’ll be able to gain entry to the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay an hour before regular guests. This means you can explore Gringotts, ride Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, reserve your sun lounger and get your morning fix of Butterbeer all before the crowds start to arrive. I love arriving at the parks before everyone else. It lets me tick off some of the biggest rides before regular guests have even had a chance to park their cars. Free Universal Express Pass at selected hotels Want to feel like a top celebrity VIP (but without the paparazzi)? Stay at either Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel or Loews Royal Pacific Resort and you’ll have Unlimited Universal Express Pass access for your entire stay! Unlike the Disney Fastpass system which is restricted and bound by times, Universal’s Express Pass lets lucky holders skip the regular lines at most popular attractions in Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. This is worth up to $129 per person per day alone. If you’re visiting during peak season, it’s worth considering a few nights staying at one of these hotels to allow you cram in as many rides as you like without worrying about long queue lines. Volcano Bay – the best Water Park in Orlando! What’s the worse bit about Water Parks? Queuing! When Universal created Volcano Bay, they reduced queuing times to a minimum with the innovative TapuTapu. When you arrive at Volcano Bay, you’ll receive a TapuTapu to wear on your wrist. It's your key to having an amazing day. You'll use it to ride most of the attractions, activate interactive surprises, open rental lockers, make cash-free payments and more. All the rides at Volcano Bay feature a Virtual Line. No more getting cold waiting in lines for you! You’re free to float, swim, splash, eat, shop or just relax until it's your time to ride. Volcano Bay is ranked as the best Water Park in Orlando and if you only have time to visit one water park on your stay, I’d always recommend Volcano Bay. As an Orlando expert, I sell lots of holidays each year splitting stays between Disney and Universal. The onsite hotels at Universal are great value for money and offer a different experience to the Disney hotels. Please contact me to find out more about how I can make your Orlando holiday even more magical with a split stay at Disney World and Universal Orlando. Email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com or call 01452 855 433.

How Travel Counsellors protects your holiday better than anyone else

31 March 2019

When you book your holiday with Martin Ross, you're covered by the best protection in the travel business. Find out how Travel Counsellors offers more than booking online or on the high street. In the past few weeks alone, the UK has seen flights grounded, Eurostar advising against travel and airlines failures all highlighting potential disruption to travel. Plus, who can forget drones, ash clouds, the Beast from the East… the list goes on. So how does Travel Counsellors look after their customers when disaster strikes? Duty Office Our 24-hour duty office is constantly monitoring worldwide events such as adverse weather, strikes, natural disasters or any other kind of disruptive activity. Each issue is handled on a case-by-case basis to find the best solution for that customer. Good to know help is just a call away. Crisis Team Our Crisis Team are alerted and prepared whenever there is a chance of being called into action. When Monarch airlines went into administration, they worked throughout Sunday and overnight, so that when the announcement was made at 4am on Monday morning, we were prepared to deal with the impact. This proactive approach to helping our customers at all costs, saw many holidaymakers waking up on Monday morning to hear their bookings had already been sorted before they’d even seen the news. Thousands of people who had booked their flights elsewhere waited for months for a full refund, plus they had to arrange alternative flights and travel themselves. Good to know we're looking after your trip better than anyone else. Supplier failure We offer 100% financial protection. Meaning in the event of supplier failure, our Financial Trust will protect the entire booking, even if only one part is affected. This is different to ATOL, which only covers package holidays including a flight. But we are also ATOL protected too. Our approach to adversity We are not in the business of abandoning customers or hitting them with avoidable costs. We’d much rather make sure they get an experience which will keep them booking with us for years to come. Responsibility for our customers extends from a moral duty of care, where we approach each incident with a sense of humanity (instead of a ‘computer says no’ response) to offering multiple levels of financial protection for our customers. Travel better with Martin Ross, Travel Counsellor Gloucester

Magical Pride at Disneyland Paris

27 November 2018

Magical Pride is a dazzling party lighting up Disneyland Paris on 1st June 2019. Dress like a dream, feel fabulous and experience Walt Disney Studios like never before! Loud, proud and alive with all the colours of the rainbow. Here's a sneak peek at some of the incredible things ready to make Magical Pride a truly unforgettable experience: - A brand new parade illuminating the streets of Walt Disney Studios Park with a vibrant Pride atmosphere - Disney Characters out and about, excited to share a special moment with you - The rare chance to ride our thrilling attractions late into the night, in Walt Disney Studios Park - A stunning dance party featuring some artists dropping some banging beats - And many more magical surprises! Tickets are limited, and I'd advise booking sooner rather than later. Hotel, theme park tickets and Magical Pride packages are now available to book. To request your quote, please call 01452 855 433 or email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com

Opera Holidays

03 September 2018

There’s nothing quite like a night at the opera. These works have stood the test of time and each new performance brings new life to these masterpieces. I work with some of Europe and the world’s leading opera venues and festivals to create unforgettable holidays with opera right at the heart of it. One of the most sought-after annual events is the Puccini Opera Festival. Taking place in Torre del Lago in the heart of Tuscany and close to the Tuscan town of Lucca, birthplace of Puccini. Under its perfectly preserved 16th century walls are pleasant gardens, and inside the medieval streets, under the shadow of its towers, stand some beautiful Romanesque churches. The most outstanding of which is San Michele in Foro, a perfect example of Pisa-Luccan architecture. Throughout the festival, some of Puccini’s most loved operas are performed in a stunning location. This is an absolute must for any opera lover. Venice is of course a firm-favourite amongst opera lovers. Venice boasts a rich history, iconic canals and a wonderful opera programme including future performances of La Traviata, Macbeth and Othello. Vienna is a city famous for its music and where better to enjoy it than in the very grand State Opera House and in the Theater an der Wien where many of Mozart’s operas were first performed. Forthcoming performances include Madama Butterfly, Don Giovanni, La Bohème and Le Nozze Di Figaro. Packages include flights, private transfers, category 1 or 2 tickets and ATOL protection. Airport parking and lounges are also available too. Please either call 01452 855 433 or email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com for more information about forthcoming operas.

Last-Minute Holiday Top Tips

20 July 2018

I’m often asked when the best time is to book a holiday. The answer does vary depending on the destination and time of the year. For example, if you must go on a certain date in August, to an exact hotel with your preference of rooms, then book this as soon as you can. For the hotels and resorts based in the hotter areas of Europe, July and August are peak seasons. If you book last-minute, it’s the equivalent of going to a supermarket 10 minutes before it closes on Christmas Eve. You may well find a bargain reduced price turkey or you could be having frozen lasagne on Christmas day. If you leave it to the last minute, you’re left with what hasn’t already sold. This is not to say there aren’t some amazing last-minute bargain holidays, but you do restrict yourself to what is left. Top tips for a last-minute bargain holiday Be flexible Flexibility is key when booking a last-minute holiday. Don’t restrict yourself to just one airport, destination or hotel. Be open to suggestions of what is available and within your budget. Be realistic Don’t expect to find a £5,000 holiday down to £1,000. Quite a lot of the most popular hotels are either full or nearly at capacity. Be realistic of what will be available Think Europe, not long-haul If you’re planning on going America, Asia or beyond, it’s best to book in advance. Europe is where you’ll find more last-minute bargains Set a sensible budget When you let me know your budget, I use this as the maximum you’re willing to pay. By having a sensible budget, you're ensuring your family will have a great and safe last-minute holiday. Be quick! If you receive a quote you like, book it. Don’t hang around and wait. If this is a great value holiday, it won’t just be you looking at it. You’re competing against thousands of other people all looking for some last-minute sun. If that hotel only has one room left, you can guarantee it’ll sell quickly. Make sure you’re covered All holidays sold by Travel Counsellors are ATOL protected. Plus, every penny of your booking is completely protected by our unique financial protection trust. We also offer a 24/7 Duty Office too. Most websites can’t offer the level of service and protection you receive from Travel Counsellors. Ready for your last-minute holiday? Call 01452 855 433. Get ready for 2019 and start booking now Why book your 2019 holiday now? More free child places Free child places go very quickly. These are snapped up by savvy parents when they’re released, and it saves them a fortune on their holidays Low deposits From just £60 per person deposit, you can secure your 2019 holiday Pay in instalments with no extra charges Once you’ve paid your deposit, the balance is due just 12 weeks before you head off. You can pay towards your holiday at any time using the myTC app or via our website Get the best seats on the plane Don't get left with the worst seats on the plane or even having your family split up. Most airlines now charge to let you select your seats. By booking early, you can make sure your family sits next to each other on the plane and aren’t separated. Get what you want, not what's left over Some of our most sought-after hotels sold out for the summer holidays months ago. Don’t be left disappointment having to take your second or third choice hotel. Start planning your dream 2019 holiday. Call 01452 855 433 or email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com

Introducing the Travel Counsellors Honeymoon Gift Registry Service

25 June 2018

Weddings can be tough to plan. Venues, dresses, speeches and the hardest part, the seating plan. Traditionally, the happy couple would ask their nearest and dearest to buy them items for their new home. Nowadays, most couples already have plenty of towels, a toaster and maybe even a fancy avocado peeler. Instead, let your wedding guests contribute towards an unforgettable honeymoon. I understand that no two clients are the same and thus, no two honeymoons and weddings are the same either. As your personal Travel Counsellor, I’ll tailor your experience to your specific needs, creating your own unique experience. Our network of local experts across the globe helps you to not only visit a destination but experience it too. We’ll provide you with stylish guest cards that you can send out with your invitations to let everyone know you would prefer a contribution towards your dream honeymoon. All honeymoon contributions from your family and friends will be deposited into one account. After your wedding, you can either put your guest’s generous contributions towards the cost of your honeymoon or if you’ve already paid, you can use your honeymoon fund towards excursions and upgrades. When your guests log on, they’ll be greeted by a photo of the happy couple along with a message where you can share information about your honeymoon plans should you wish. They can contribute securely using our payment portal. Whether you’re planning a honeymoon to relax on a sun-kissed Caribbean beach or a city break to Tokyo, the Travel Counsellors Honeymoon Gift Registry Service creates the perfect start to your marriage. Setting up your Honeymoon Gift Registry Service is quick and easy. Just call 01452 855 433 or email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com

Mark Warner Phokaia Beach Resort

01 June 2018

I was recently invited by Mark Warner to experience first-hand their new Turkish resort – Phokaia Beach Resort. We arrived quite late at night and were greeted by a team of people to collect our bags, show us around and most importantly, where the buffet and bar was. A few years ago, I was reasonably fit. I took part in exercise classes and was quick at running too. However, in the past few years let’s just say I haven’t been as active as maybe I should be. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Mark Warner trip, a company famous for its activities. I pleasantly surprised when I arrived that (luckily) Mark Warner caters for the absolute beginner (me) all the way up to seasoned pros. On the first morning, after taking part in the welcome meeting and beach safety briefing, we took out kayaks and paddleboards onto the water. The hotel is very lucky to have a huge water sports area. Our guide went out with our small group to give us advice on how to paddle, sit and enjoy the experience. He explained about the extra safety that takes places with a beach-based lookout and a safety boat. I felt safe knowing there was a team out there waiting for me to fall in. After a leisurely lunch, we met with Alex for a bike ride into the local town. It was a nice introduction to the great range of bikes and courses on offer. On the second morning, we took part in a group beginner windsurfing lesson. Last year, I tried surfing for the first time and was terrible. I found the instruction and help very useful and even managed to stand up for a few minutes. On a different holiday, these activities would be an extra charge which would soon start to add up. As there was no extra cost, we tried as many as we liked. Unlike some larger Turkish hotels, this never felt busy. The hotel has plenty of sun loungers and beds around the pool and down on the beach. The drinks were reasonably priced too. Food was nice with a good selection. We ate one night in the local town at Sihill which came recommended to us by the cycling manager Alex after he took us on a ride down to the town. Leah took us for a beginner tennis lesson. Back in the UK, I've tried tennis a few times, but always struggled to enjoy it. Leah made the lesson very fun and even though a lot of my first few shots resulted in the balls ending up outside of the courts, with some help I could hit the ball properly. Overall, you can do as much or as little as you like and come away feeling like you've had an amazing holiday. Start your Mark Warner adventure – call me on 01452 855 433.

Why book your Orlando holiday with Martin Ross?

27 March 2018

As an ex-Disney cast member and someone who has travelled extensively to Orlando, I have a unique service to offer my clients. Here are the top seven reasons why you should book your next Orlando holiday with me. Free Magic Maker Holiday Planning Service Take the hassle out of your holiday - let me do everything necessary to ensure that it is! As an Ex-Disney cast member (staff), I have insider knowledge, tips and hints to make your trip to Orlando even more magical. From helping you select the perfect dining reservations to an entirely customised park touring strategy and itinerary, I use my Disney & Universal Orlando expertise to craft an amazing holiday made just for you. Leave the long hours of research and hard work to me. Sit back, relax and enjoy as your perfect trip comes together in front of your eyes! I’ll help by recommending the best parks to visit and on what days to avoid the crowds, plus plan your FastPass+ and restaurant reservations. It’s all part of the service and something you won’t get by booking online or elsewhere. Turn your next Orlando holiday from good to amazing with Travel Counsellors. Nobody cares like Travel Counsellors I’ll take the time to understand what you like and what you don’t. And our unique service extends well beyond simply booking your holiday. Our 24/7 Duty Office is constantly monitoring global events, our huge portfolio of vetted accommodation and suppliers and the individual care of your Travel Counsellor, you are truly in the safest possible hands. Have a question? All you have to do is ask and I'll find out the answer for you. Travel Counsellors Unique Financial Protection Trust Nobody protects your money like Travel Counsellors – in fact, our financial protection is the best in travel. Everything that you book with your Travel Counsellor is completely protected, so all you’ll need to worry about is what you’re going to pack! We’re independent We’re not tied to any specific airlines, hotels, cruise lines or attractions providers so you can be confident that the holiday I recommend has been built to suit your exact needs and budget selected from a huge bank of over seventy thousand global travel suppliers. Travel Counsellors was founded in 1994 and we’ve grown and expanded every year since. We work directly with Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and many others to ensure you have the best possible holiday. 24/7 Duty Office Our Duty Office service utilises our global presence in seven countries and time zones to ensure that our customers are supported around the clock, whenever they need it. Booking with us doesn’t just provide you with financial protection, it’s so much more than that. You will have your own go-to person to help you deal with any crisis and problems you encounter to keep you safe and happy. ATOL Protected When you book a protected holiday, you’ll receive an ATOL certificate as soon as you pay for your trip. MyTC App Everything you need for your trip and more all at your fingertips including flight alerts, maps and all your travel documents. Email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com or call 01452 855 433 to find out more about booking your next Orlando holiday with Martin Ross - Travel Counsellor.

Free Disney Dining Offer- Maximising your snack credit

12 March 2018

As part of most Disney Dining Plans, you’ll receive two credits per day for snacks. There’s no rush to have two snacks per day. Your credits last for the duration of your stay. If you only used one on one day, you haven’t missed out. What does Disney count as a snack? It turns out, Disney count quite a lot of items as just a snack. Items that qualify as snacks for the Disney Dining Plan are denoted by a little purple and white “DDP” symbol on the restaurant menus. Some items that are considered snacks in some locations aren’t considered snacks elsewhere. Make sure to consult the menu before ordering any item you deem a “snack” as Disney may not agree! Here are some of my favourite Disney snacks: • Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar – One of the most iconic food items at Walt Disney World. No trip is complete without at least one of tasty treats. • LeFou’s Brew – This one’s great for anyone with a sweet tooth. Down a glass of LeFou’s Brew in Fantasyland before heading off to meet Belle. You may even meet LeFou’s best friend Gaston just outside. • “Homemade” Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches – Yes, you can get the premade cookie sandwich ice creams from karts around the resort, but for an even tastier treat head to Main Street Bakery in the Magic Kingdom. • Anything from the French bakery – France is known the world over for its mouth-watering baked good and Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie is known around Epcot as being the place to pick up a croissant or two. • Dole Whips or Dole Whip Float – A Disney institution. There’s usually a long queue for these, but it’s worth the wait. It’s a pineapple-flavoured soft-serve frozen dessert and a great way to cool down in the Orlando heat. • Starbucks – If you need your fix of coffee, nearly every drink at Starbucks on Main Street and in Hollywood Studios can be used for one snack credit. • Haagen Dazs – If your resort store stocks the one-pint (American sized) pots, you can use one of your snack credits. This is a great way to share an ice cream back at your hotel. • Chili Cheese Fries – Restaurantosaurus at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is great for two reasons, free salad bar and free drink refills. Grab some Chili Cheese Fries, stock up on free salad and wash it all down with free drinks refills. • Garlic Knots – Also in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is Pizzafari. A basket of fresh baked garlic knots topped with cheese and served with marinara sauce would normally set you back $7, but not for those with snack credits to spare! • French Fries with Pulled Pork and Cheese – Yet again in Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Flame Tree BBQ, this large portion is great to share. Feeling hungry yet? If you’re visiting during Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival (late September through November), this is a great place to use up some of your snack credits. Many breakfast items in your hotels count as snack credits. This is a great way to start the day before heading out to the parks. For more information about Disney Dining – email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com or call 01452 855433

Donald’s Dining Safari at Tusker House Restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom Review

04 March 2018

Before the release of the 2019 Free Disney Dining offer, I wanted to share my experience at one of my favourite Disney restaurants – Donald’s Dining Safari at Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Despite having worked for Disney parks and being a constant visitor to parks around the world, I’ve never been a massive fan of character dining. I was recommended to try Tuskers by a cast member and I’m glad I listened to them. Tusker House Restaurant offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. We took a late lunch after a busy morning around Disney’s Animal Kingdom. When we arrived, I was getting hungry and couldn’t wait to start. The décor is as you’d expect from Disney - very well themed. My mum is gluten free and when making our reservation, I made sure to inform them. When we arrived, they had this noted on our reservation and once seated, one of the chefs took her around the buffet explaining what she could eat and making recommendations based upon her tastes. There were around four characters walking around the restaurant. There’s no need to queue up to meet them, they’ll come around to your table. I would recommend timing your visits to the buffet and taking note of how far away the characters are. The character interactions were amazing with each one spending quality time with us. Each character is dressed in a safari style outfit. On to the food. Donald’s Dining Safari at Tusker House Restaurant is a buffet serving a range of food including some healthy dishes that make a nice change from chicken nuggets. We enjoyed peri peri whole salmon, Basmati rice and curried chicken, hummus and some tasty desserts. My absolute favourite thing to eat was the pork. The chef carves off some of the most gorgeous pork I’ve ever tasted. Donald’s Dining Safari at Tusker House Restaurant is part of the Disney Dining Plan and would require one table service meal credit. If you’re not on the Disney Dining Plan or have a plan which doesn’t include table service credit, the current prices for dinner are $45 for adults and $27 for under 9’s. The queues can get be long and I would recommend reserving. One of the amazing extra benefits of booking with Martin Ross – Travel Counsellor is a free holiday planning service helping you make the most of your time in Orlando. Have a question about Walt Disney World? Email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com or call 01452 855 433.

Amazing Amsterdam

30 January 2018

The city has some of the best museums in the world to offer, awesome shopping facilities and world-class restaurants. In addition, there's the famous flower market you should see as well as the Vondelpark if you want to take in some fresh air and view the largest green area in the city. If you are a fan of Dutch art, get ready to see the most amazing artwork in the famous museums of Amsterdam For those who are visiting Amsterdam solely for the purpose of exploring its wonderful museums, the must-see museums are the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk museum, and the Van Gogh museum. The residents as well as the tourists love the street food offered here at stalls. In fact, there's no better way to enjoy Amsterdam than to indulge in this exciting and unique endeavour. Enjoy a ride down its streets and avenues on a rented bike. If this activity thrills you, you'll be delighted to know that there are tons of rent-a-bike companies in the city from where you can rent your favourite bicycle and start a unique and mesmerizing tour of sightseeing. Or how about taking a cycling tour? Inspired by Pete Jordan’s book “In the City of Bikes”, this is an Amsterdam bike tour like no other. Get the ultimate local perspective on the city’s incredible array of canals, dykes, and culture, complimented by a healthy dose of Amsterdam’s quirkiest tales. There are a few “secret” gardens in the city, such as the Begijnhof. It’s called secret because it is far away from the sights and sounds of the city. Soon, Eurostar will be launching a direct service to Amsterdam making a trip to this amazing city even better.

Beautiful Barcelona

30 January 2018

Barcelona is best known around the world for the 1992 Olympics and Las Ramblas, but the city itself holds a magical aura about it that makes it a fantastic place to visit. Take to the city on foot to take in the beauty of its splendid architecture including of course the work of Gaudi. However, if you are an architecture fan, there are many other architects whose work you can observe while visiting this beautiful city. If you enjoy serene and quiet places, Barcelona has a majestic mountain to offer to its visitors known as Montjuic. You can get to the top of the hill on foot to get a bird eye’s view of the city and to take pleasure in the tranquillity of nature. Did you know that Picasso spent the early years of his life in Barcelona? This is yet another attraction of this magical city that makes tourists, particularly those who admire art, go crazy with excitement. You will be able to see many landmarks that are still present in almost their original shape to picture the city as seen and enjoyed by the great artist. For any football fan, the chance to watch some of the world’s greatest players at the Nou Camp is an opportunity not to be missed. Everybody loves to eat great food and taste the local cuisine of a foreign city. Visit a restaurant in Barcelona and order some specialties of this city. A traditional place is recommended for enjoying such a feast, such as Can Pineda, Petit Comite, Can Valles, and Ferrum – only to name a few. Check out their seafood, desserts, hamburgers, wines, and the traditional mouth-watering tapas. Barcelona makes a great city break for under £500. Get in touch to find out more about taking a trip to this cool and historic city.

5 things that can ruin your Disneyland Paris holiday and how to avoid them

29 January 2018

You've spent all year saving and waiting for those magical few days at Disney so don't let a few simple things ruin your holiday. I spent 3 and half years working and living next to Disneyland Paris and here's the top five things that I've found could ruin your holiday and how to avoid them. 1. The weather Disney is pretty much in the countryside and, unknown to most tourists, it's actually on top of a hill. This means the wind can sweep in with not much getting in its way. Many people don't check the weather before going. The climate in Paris is similar to London. It can change overnight. One day it's sunny and the next it's pouring with rain. Even in the summer, plan for rain and cold weather, just like the UK. Pack spare socks and waterproofs. In the winter, there's a chance it'll snow or at least be near freezing. When I worked there, a few times the waterfalls even froze (nothing to do with Elsa). Remember, when checking the weather, Disneyland isn't actually in Paris and is around 30km away. Check out the Met Office weather for Disneyland Paris for a more accurate report. Martin's Top Disney Tip: Check the weather the day before you go and make sure you've packed for all types of weather. 2. Underestimating the crowds With over 14 million visitors a year, Disneyland Paris is Europe's number one tourist destination. This means on busy days, you'll have to queue for pretty much all the attractions. Weekends will always be busy regardless of the time of year. Plan out your day and use your Disney Fastpass wisely. If your visit falls over both a weekend and a weekday outside of school holidays, consider watching the shows and meeting characters on the weekend and spend the weekdays exploring the attractions. October half term (Halloween) is one of the busiest times of the year to go. Disney has spent years building up its Halloween offering and it's now the second most popular time of the year to visit. The two weeks over Christmas are the busiest of the entire year. Christmas day is usually not too busy, but any other day will be. Top French companies hire the park in the evening after closing for their employees. Martin's Top Disney Tip: If you can visit in school term time during the week, do it! Remember, school holidays across the rest of Europe can be different to the UK's. 3. Expecting to see characters everywhere People often ask why Mickey isn't just wandering around the park. Can you imagine thousands of people all rushing to have their photo taken with the main mouse? Each main character has their own meet and greet areas which makes for better quality experience and photos. Instead of having your photo taken with Mickey next to a fence, you can meet him in his own theatre where you'll be able to spend quality time meeting him. Plus, with Disney's Photopass, you can have your pictures taken by a professional. his makes for a much better experience than just wandering around. You will find some characters roaming around both parks, but if you're looking to see any of the top ones, they'll have their own meet and greet areas. Martin's Top Disney Tip: Make sure you pick up a map and a schedule. This will tell you where and when you can meet your favourite Disney characters. Also, download the Disneyland Paris official app too for live times and queue lengths. 4. Airline, Eurostar and ferry cancellations Following the recent problems with Ryanair and Monarch, it's understandable to be worried about travelling to Disneyland Paris. Before you book, find out what protection you have if anything goes wrong. Also, check the procedures too. Do they expect you to pay out for new flights etc and reclaim the money back or will they sort this for you? On the whole, Eurostar is very reliable, rarely late and suffers from less problems than airlines and ferries. If there are problems, they're usually very good at handling them. Ferries generally are ok in the summer, but cancellations and delays are more likely in the winter months. At Travel Counsellors, your holiday is completely protected by our unique financial protection trust. Set up in 2004, it sits alongside our ATOL cover and financially protects every part of every trip, whether it be the whole holiday, a flight, hotel stay and car hire. It’s completely robust meaning no matter what happens, your money is safe. Martin's Top Disney Tip: Always make sure your holiday is fully protected against cancellations and delays. Is it worth saving a few pounds booking everything yourself? 5. People smoking and queue jumping The UK has one of the lowest rates of smokers in Europe. Even those Brits that do smoke have over 200 less per year than our French cousins. This means that there are more smokers all smoking more in Disneyland compared to the UK. In general, smokers in the UK are used to smoking bans and other measures to stop them smoking in public. Europeans on the other hand are more used to smoking in public places. This doesn't make them arrogant or disrespectful, it's normal in other cultures to smoke in public. People will smoke in areas such as waiting for the parade and Illuminations. Like in the UK, smoking is banned indoors. Disney is trying to make the park smoke-free, except in designated smoking areas. It is very hard for Disney to police this. After all, no one likes to be told they can't do something. Cast members will try where possible, but realistically they won't be able to speak to everyone. Remember, it's only illegal to smoke indoors and it's just a rule that Disney is trying to implement. They do have a similar ban in the American parks, but they've had these rules in place for years, their guests are usually regular visitors plus most people speak English so it's easier to communicate the no smoking ban. Likewise, British people like their personal space and privacy. European's generally stand closer to each other which some people find uncomfortable. Martin's Top Disney Tip: If someone is bothering you, try and ask them politely to move or at least blow the smoke away.

Why you should stay onsite at Universal Studios

29 January 2018

I love Orlando. It's the theme park capital of the world and spending quality time in each park requires more than a two week stay. Universal Studios have upped their game in the past few years opening attractions and lands based on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Transformers, The Minions and King Kong. Last year, they opened their new water park, Volcano Bay which is one of the first in the world to use a queue-less system for its slides and chutes. Sometimes just visiting these parks is not enough. To really get the full experience, you have to live it. Here's five reasons why you should stay onsite at Universal Studios for your next Orlando holiday. 1. Get in before everyone else - early theme park admission By staying onsite, you'll be able to enter all three parks before the general public. One morning you could be flying through the Forbidden Forest with Harry Potter, the next, you're splashing down one of the exciting slides in Volcano Bay before other guests have even arrived. 2. Unlimited Universal Express Pass The number one complaint about theme parks is queuing. Universal spend millions of dollars creating queues to keep us entertained, but even a two-hour wait can be a drain on your holiday time. By staying at selected Universal Orlando hotels, you'll be entitled to an Unlimited Universal Express pass worth up to $129 per person per day. The standby queue might be 90 minutes, but just flash your pass and suddenly you're in the much shorter queue. You'll be face-to-face with King Kong in no time at all. Plus, there's no limits to how many times you can skip the queue. Fancy riding Men in Black over and over? No problems! 3. You're at the gates in minutes If you're driving to Universal Orlando, it's $20 a day just to park your rental car. Then, when the park closes you have to battle through the traffic to get back to your hotel or villa. By staying onsite, you can save time and effort. Some hotels even have cool water taxis to take you to the theme park gates. In the middle of the day, get out of the Orlando sun and head back to your hotel for a nap or dip in the pool. 4. Shopping made easy Still using cash? No need with your Universal Orlando room key. Charge all your purchases back to your room. They'll even deliver your merchandise back to your hotel. 5. It's more fun There are some great hotels in Orlando and the surrounding areas, but nothing beats waking up with three world-class theme parks in your back garden. Hotels have regular visits from some of Universal's most popular characters including the Minions. Ready to start your Universal Studios adventure? Email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com or call 01452 855 433.

Cruising - Myth Busting

25 January 2018

A record 1.9 million holidaymakers from the UK and Ireland took an ocean cruise in 2016, up from 1.78 million the previous year. Yet, there are still some myths around cruising that need to be busted. I will get seasick Many people fear seasickness; however, today's cruise ships are very stable, and seasickness is a rarity. However, for those prone to seasickness, there are many remedies available to travellers to alleviate the symptoms. I have to dine at assigned times and with people I might not like Many cruise ships feature traditional seating for dinner, with assigned times and tables. However, more and more cruise lines have open seating for dinner, which means you can dine when and where you like. Since today's cruise ships also include alternative dining venues, you can vary your restaurant choices along with your table mates. Cruise ships are crowded All cruise ships have a quiet corner where you can read a book or be alone with your spouse or travel companions. Although a cruise ship with over 3000 passengers can seem crowded at times, it is no more than most hotels, restaurants, or resorts. Luxury cruise ships usually have plenty of space per passenger and many spacious common areas. Cruise ships are packed with old people Many cruisers are senior citizens, but most of these seniors are active, and all of them have amazing stories to tell about their life experiences. You will meet amazing seniors on cruise ships, and at some point, you will be one yourself! A good general rule is the longer and more expensive the cruise, the older the passenger. Sailing ships and those with water sports also usually appeal more to a younger crowd. There's nothing for kids to do. They'll get bored Most cruise ships have kid’s clubs to keep them happy whilst you're off doing more important things, like sunbathing. There are special kid’s menus to keep even the fussiest of eaters happy. Some ships have onboard water parks with slides. Plus Disney offer some amazing family cruises around the world. Cruise ships are boring Although this is a common fear of non-cruisers, no one should be bored with cruising. You can be as active (or inactive) as you like. Cruise ship activities range from working out in a high-tech gym to sitting on the deck and reading a book. Royal Caribbean even have onboard water parks and surfing. You can enjoy West End style entertainment or a classical pianist. Many cruise ships spend all day in port, so you can explore all the fascinating parts of the world. I offer a great range of cruises around the world. Get in touch for more information: Email: martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com Call: 01452 855 433

Why should I book a package holiday?

07 January 2018

A simple question, and this weekend one of my colleague's customers has experienced the best possible answer first hand. To set the scene – imagine a busy man treating his wife and kids at Christmas by sending them away on a wonderful New Year break to New York. What a way for the boys to get their first taste of America – some quality time with Mum before going back to school. The first couple of days ticked all the boxes – they explored the Big Apple from top to bottom, enjoying a helicopter trip and a basketball game; they shopped, they ate, they drank. They were lucky enough to witness the Times Square festivities. What a way to bring in the New Year. Everything was going according to plan. What they didn’t know – because our team was managing their booking for them with the airline – was that I received an email to advise me their return flight the next evening was cancelled. In fact, the whole of the North Eastern USA was bracing itself for a dramatically, but accurately named “Snow Bomb”. We received the email at 7.35am UK time. Having experienced this kind of situation before, we were aware swift action was vital. Our Travel Counsellor 24-hour Duty Helpline worked through the options. They checked the airline policy, whist also contacting the husband in the UK to bring him up to speed with the developing situation. The New York airports are used to snow disruption, and have a well-practiced protocol for these storms. They cancel a large number of flights, but keep a few operational with extended time between each take-off and landing for safety. By acting quickly, we were able to rebook the family onto one of the flights for the following evening whilst seats were still available, with assurances from the airline that this flight was likely to still fly. We then received a confused call from the husband in the UK. He had called his wife – waking her up – and she had told him there was no snow at all in New York. She was unaware of the gravity of the weather system that was on its way. Had she been managing her own flight booking, she may not have accessed her emails or been aware of the cancellation until some hours later. Seats sold very quickly, and she would potentially have been looking at challenging call queues to get through to the airline and the prospect of two or three extra nights in New York. Within the first 60 minutes, we had rebooked her onto the next flight likely to leave New York, we had contacted the hotel to extend her stay without the need to leave her existing room, and we had rearranged her transport to the airport. Contrast the next 24 hours spent by this lady and her teenage sons with that of the families featured on the news channels who hadn’t been advised of the cancellations, who had checked out of their hotels, and were trying to manage the situation for themselves at chaotic airports waiting in very long queues to be served by airline staff straining to accommodate the growing masses in the very few airport hotels with rooms left. Our customers were happy in the knowledge that they had an extra day in New York, and their only serious decision was whether to ice skate or have a snowball fight in Central Park. (To keep both boys happy, they did both). Last night, we kept in touch with the lady and her husband, speaking to both as we all tracked their replacement flight and ensured that it was still operating. The hotel staff were great, and were ready to receive them back again if the flight was cancelled at the last moment. The flight was delayed by around an hour, but they final got airborne at around 4am our time. We were all tired out by the experience, but we are so proud of how the service our 24-hour duty office to gives our customers.

5 Surprisingly Family-Friendly Holidays For 2018

06 December 2017

Taking your family on holiday isn't all about all-inclusive hotels and iPads. My job is to help create amazing family holidays that you'll remember forever. I do all the hard work such as finding the best flights, hotels and excursions. Either email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com or call 01452 855 433. Here are five surprising family-friendly holidays to try out in 2018. Hong Kong Tackling an Asian super city with jet-lagged kids doesn’t sound like a great idea for a holiday, but Hong Kong is the exception. Where China meets the old British empire, Hong Kong is an amazing mix of culture and excitement. I can help create an itinerary that mixes big-city attractions—like the tram ride up to the Peak, visiting the old markets or how about a Kowloon food safari? There’s even a Disneyland theme park to help bribe your kids too. Ibiza The club kids who filled Eden and Pacha in the 1990s have grown up and had kids of their own, but they’re still returning to the White Island—and this time, they're bringing the little ones. Now you’ll find them at beach clubs like El Chiringuito on Es Cavallet beach, where there’s a supervised area for kids in addition to the sleek bar and restaurant, or in the calm shallows of Es Caná or Talamanca beaches. South African Safari Many families may be wary of planning a safari. After all, there's the logistics and expense to consider. That’s my job to worry about all the details of your holiday. A trip to South Africa has all-inclusive lodges, easy connections through Johannesburg, malaria-free reserves, and trailblazing kids’ programs for children as young as five. I work with an amazing company who organise once-in-a-lifetime safari holidays in South Africa. This is a holiday your family will never forget. Maldives Overwater bungalows and candlelit dinners on the beach may not scream kid-friendly, but the Maldives is much more than a honeymooner’s hideaway. Budding marine biologists can get up close to the islands’ rich sea life on dolphin-spotting cruises and snorkelling sessions, and kids as young as eight can try scuba diving in the calm lagoons. Real outdoor fun and not an iPad in sight. Get in touch to find out more about taking your family to the Maldives. Luxury City Hotels Ok, it’s not a destination as such, but for most parents a luxury hotel is an expensive, hushed, and polished place that may as well be on a different planet. Some of the world’s grandest hotels are also the most family-friendly. In Paris, the legendary Le Bristol hotel delights young guests with in-house treasure hunts, a kids’ club, and two resident cats. New York’s Langham Place hotel works with child-friendly art experts from Little Collector to organise private gallery tours in Chelsea. I can help to organise family friendly tours around breath-taking cities such as Paris, Rome, Venice, Prague, Chicago and Barcelona. If any of those have sparked your interest, please feel free to get in touch. Either email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com or call 01452 855 433.

Gloucestershire School Holiday 2018 Guide

06 December 2017

Starting to plan for your 2018 family holiday? I can help create the perfect, hassle-free family holiday. Email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com call 01452 855 433 or Facebook Messenger m.me/martinrosstravel Here's the official school holidays dates for 2018 from Gloucestershire County Council: Christmas 2017: Last day of school: Friday 15th December 2017 First day back: Tuesday 2nd January 2018 February 2018: Last day of school: Friday 9th February 2018 First day back: Monday 19th February 2018 Easter 2018: Last day of school: Thursday 29th March 2018 Good Friday: 30th March 2018 Easter Monday: 2nd April 2018 First day back: Monday 16th April 2018 May 2018 Early May Bank Holiday: Monday 7th May 2018 Last day of school: Friday 25th May 2018 First day back: Monday 4th June 2018 Summer 2018 Last day of school: Wednesday 25th July 2018 Summer bank holiday: 27th August 2018 First day back: Monday 3rd September 2018 October Half Term 2018 Last day of school: Friday 19th October 2018 First day back: Monday 29th October 2018 Christmas 2018 Last day of school: Friday 21st December 2018 First day back: Monday 7th January 2019 Gloucestershire's 2018 bank holidays: New Year Bank Holiday 1st January 2018 Good Friday 30th March 2018 Easter Monday 2nd April 2018 Early May Bank Holiday 7th May 2018 Spring Bank Holiday 28th May 2018 Summer Bank Holiday 27th August 2018 Christmas Day 25th December 2018 Schools also have the option of up to five in-service/teach training days so it's best to double check these with your school first. If these happen to fall on either a Friday or Monday, you can benefit from a great priced short weekend away with the kids inside term time. Lots of people have been asking me if there will be a bank holiday for the Royal Wedding in 2018. So far, nothing official has been confirmed. It's likely there will not be. The previous one was to celebrate the future King and Queen getting married. Sorry Harry and Meghan, I’m sure you’ll still have an amazing day. Start planning your 2018 family holiday today. Email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com or call 01452 855 433. - Disneyland Paris - Get up to 2 extra days for free during school holidays, plus kids under 7 stay for free - Low cost deposits for family trips to the USA - Amazing family-friendly resorts throughout Europe - With a great range to suit all budgets, there’s never been a better time for a Staycation - Tailor-made holiday just for your family Dates and offers are subject to change without notice. School holiday information was provided by Gloucestershire County Council and is correct as of 6th December 2017.

6 Jaw-Dropping European Cities For Families To Visit In 2018

15 November 2017

Here's six of Europe's most fun, cool, interesting and safe cities to take the kids for a short break. Get a personalised quote for your family - call 01452 855433 or email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com Reykjavik It is not unusual to find Icelandic babies sleeping in their prams outside of shops in Reykjavik, so safe and friendly is this city. Venture beyond the city limits for once-in-a-lifetime experiences of the wonders of the natural world: thermal hot springs, many with special children's sections, the Northern Lights, and myriad adventures with Icelandic horses, whale watching, and hiking. This is the ultimate city break for active families. Rome When travelling as a family, all roads should lead to Rome. This capital of ancient history, fantastic cuisine, and stunning beauty will please even the grumpiest travellers. Coordinate with the school curriculum, and trips to the Vatican or the Colosseum will seem like an investment in your child's academic future - with breaks for gelato and Roman pizza. Barcelona From fire-eaters on La Rambla to the ever-present Gaudi, Barcelona offers everything that is most charming about Mediterranean cities - a relaxed pace, months of endless sunshine and unbeatable food. Plus, whenever you tire of urban life, you can always collapse on the city's fine stretch of beach. Stockholm Sweden's capital is bursting at the seams with things to lure children: from the World of Pippi Longstocking amusement park or a casual stroll right by the royal palace, to the ever-present cinnamon and cardamom buns. Spend a day island hopping and the whole family will be charmed by the irresistible allure of Stockholm's island districts, which are bound together by bridges and ferries. Dubrovnik Overlooking the turquoise waters of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is one of the planet's most magnificent walled cities; it is the perfect family city break to combine history and activity. Why not climb the city walls in the morning, and take in the coastline from the comfort of your own kayak in the afternoon? Amsterdam Forget any trips you made to Amsterdam pre-children. Actually, you probably already have. Happily, there is far more to Amsterdam than coffee shops and the red-light district; in fact, it's the ideal place for kids. Start by touring the city by boat or bicycle. The Van Gogh museum is unmissable (buy tickets ahead to avoid queuing), and for children of mid-primary school age and upwards, the Anne Frank House offers unforgettable insight into the horrors of war - read this brave girl's diary as a family ahead of the trip. Dutch food will please even the fussiest eaters (who doesn't like pancakes and chips?) In fact, Amsterdam may be the most easy-going family city destination in Europe. If you've got extra time, why not squeeze in a side-trip to Efteling, the Netherland's favourite theme park. Get in touch to find out more about taking your family away - call 01452 855433 or email martin.ross@travelcounsellors.com

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