Based in Kendal

Matt Hills

It's Nice To Meet You

Hello, how can I help you with your travel arrangements? With many years of travel industry experience, and access to a huge range of exciting products, I’m sure I can find you the perfect holiday.

No two holidays are the same. My goal is to find, or create, the perfect experience for you - be it a new country, a special occasion, or simply a long-standing favourite destination. I will take the time to make it seamless, memorable and stress-free, with that all-important personal touch. Getting to know you, and your individual needs, means I can tailor-make your holiday precisely to fit your budget and time-frame, and exceed all your expectations. After all, I’d love you to book with me again next year!

Travel has been a passion for me all my life. I’ve been lucky enough to visit around 65 countries, from the wild and adventurous to the exotic and relaxing, across six continents. My personal experience can help us plan your trip in detail, to make sure you get the most out of it. I’ve skied in much of Europe and North America, back-packed around Asia, relaxed in the luxurious islands of the Indian Ocean, and driven a camper-van around beautiful New Zealand (to name a few of the highlights)! Where will your next adventure be?

I’m a home-based Travel Counsellor, so I’ll always be available to take your call. If the evenings or weekends are more convenient for you, that’s fine too. It’s exactly like having your own personal travel expert! And for your peace of mind, everything booked through Travel Counsellors is 100% financially protected.

I very much look forward to hearing from you.


Contact Me

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:

Find me on social

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.

A grand way to see Italy!

02 July 2023

There’s more than one way to make a pizza, as an Italian chef once said (*probably). Likewise, there’s more than one way to discover a country… Many of you (as am I) will be big fans of the city break – a long weekend cramming in a few highlights, but heading home disappointingly soon. But suppose you want more – a longer trip giving you time to get under the skin of a country, more destinations, some countryside even! Things get complicated – co-ordinating the travel between cities, making sure everything runs smoothly, finding the right hotels in the best locations multiple times. Fear not, there’s a simple solution – have someone organise everything for you! Travelsphere have been arranging escorted tours to Italy for 60 years, so they bring an awful lot of expertise and local knowledge to the table. Their itineraries are designed to maximise your experience, learn something new in the company of like-minded fellow travellers, and create life-long memories (and friends). Take their Grand Tour of Italy – a two-week extravaganza of all things Italian, from the fabulous floating city of Venice in the north to the beautiful island of Sicily in the south, this really is the country in a nutshell. Highlights include: • Venice – St Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge • Beautiful Tuscan countryside, then the leaning tower of Pisa • Iconic Rome landmarks like the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain • Pompeii, the city buried in ash, and the stunning Amalfi Coast • Taormina, the beautiful coastal town on Sicily, with views of Mount Etna and the Bay of Naxos So, what is escorted touring really like? Is it for you? There are lots of positives! You’ll be travelling with like-minded people, with the chance to make life-long friends. Your knowledgeable Holiday Director will ensure you’re having authentic experiences with their expert local knowledge (think wine tasting in Verrazzano Castle, or finding the best street food in Palermo). Local cuisine is hugely important – whether it’s an organised dinner for everyone, or recommendations for the best spots in town. And of course knowing that everything will run smoothly – flights, transfers, accommodation, day trips all meticulously planned – means you can relax and immerse yourself in the wonders of this beautiful and fascinating country. Of course you may feel Italy top-to-bottom in two weeks is a little fast-paced for you. No problem, just pick a trip that focusses on just one (or maybe two) areas: • Puglia and Basilicata – the heel of Italy, a fascinating and less-visited area. Visit a fortified farm and gorge on cheese, olive oil and locally baked bread, discover Baroque architecture and Sassi houses (incredible cave dwelling carved into the hillside), and take an excursion to the pretty town of Ostuni with its maze of narrow streets. • Pompeii, Paestum and Herculaneum – base yourself in one beautiful hotel, and explore seven exceptional archaeological sites, with the stunning backdrop of Mount Vesuvius. • Treasures of Tuscany and Florence – another single centre option, based in the peaceful spa town of Montecatini Terme, while you explore the local highlights. Perfect for lovers of Chianti and Leonardo da Vinci. Travelsphere also have you covered on the less exciting but vitally important stuff too. Guaranteed departures, financial protection, you can even treat yourself to a home pick-up to get your dream trip off to the perfect start. So let’s start planning, your dream trip awaits…

Andermatt – a Swiss gem, small but perfectly formed

01 April 2019

Andermatt is a relatively unknown Swiss resort, just a ninety-minute scenic drive from Zurich. Recently it’s received a fair bit of investment, in the accommodation as well as the ski infrastructure, and it’s turning into a fabulous destination for a long weekend, or even a relaxed week of skiing, chilling out, eating and pampering. So, that’s the big attraction? Firstly, ease of access. Regular daily direct flights to Zurich from all London airports, Birmingham and Manchester, operated by EasyJet, BA and Swiss. From there, hop on the extremely efficient Swiss rail service to whisk you up into the mountains (with one easy change), take a private transfer, or simply drive. When you arrive, the town is small, so getting around is easy, and there’s a decent choice of hotels. I was lucky enough to stay at the utterly fabulous Chedi (sister property of the original one in Muscat). If you arrive by train, it’s about 100 yards to the hotel entrance, if you’ve driven then simply give your keys to the nice chap who greets you at the grand front entrance. Like everything else at this hotel, details like parking your car are effortlessly taken care of. Reception is spectacular – soaring ceilings, a calm, quiet atmosphere, welcoming staff, for whom nothing is too much trouble. The rooms are luxurious – the bathroom suite (consisting of dressing area, his & hers vanity units, a free-standing bath, throne room, and massive walk-in rainfall shower) is bigger than most complete hotel rooms I’ve stayed in, and fully kitted out with posh amenities, fluffy towels and snuggly bath robes. You could get lost in the bed, the living area is comfortable and spacious, and the views up the mountain from the balcony are to die for. Not bad really… As you’d expect, the facilities match the room standards. The chaps in the ski shop were incredibly friendly and helpful. The spa centre, featuring countless pools of varying temperatures (personally, I’d avoid the cold plunge pool, but each to their own), steam rooms, saunas, and a well kitted out gym. And the actual spa had a huge range of treatments to pamper yourself, or ease aching bodies after a hard day on the slopes. Breakfast was extensive (even in the mornings it was hard to stay out of the chilled cheese room), and the dinner menu was all you’d expect from such an upmarket hotel. The chap behind the bar mixes a mean White Russian, amongst other things. The town itself has a small selection of bars and restaurants, and a nightclub if you have the energy. But this isn’t a resort for partying, and dancing on the tables in your ski boots – it’s a place to come and relax, enjoy the scenery, and indulge in a spot of my favourite sport… So, the skiing. The lift system is quick and efficient. You can ski on either side of the valley, with a fine selection of wide open, well-groomed and virtually empty red and blue runs. On the Gemsstock side, a gondola whisks you up to nearly 3000m, with a choice of route back down. If you head up to Gutsch, you can work your way further up the valley away from Andermatt, in a series of connected lifts, until you reach the village of Sedrun for a spot of lunch. Can’t be bothered to ski back? Simply get the train along the bottom of the valley – and towards the end of the day they have a specially designed après-ski train, complete with a bar. Happy days… For the powder hounds, there are loads of off-piste opportunities worth exploring, a guide is recommended. You’ll find local experts available at the extremely friendly and professional Alpine Sports, located in the centre of town. So, who’s it for? A luxurious weekend away, perfect. Or maybe you’re relatively new to skiing, not too fussed about the larger French resorts, and want a great mix of fabulous hotel, spectacular scenery, excellent skiing, and a spot of luxury? This just might be the little gem you’re looking for…

Around the World in 440 Days - Part 3 - South East Asia

24 February 2018

In the summer of 2007, with thirteen years at Trailfinders under my belt, I decided it was time to move on and explore new opportunities. Rather than find another job immediately, I followed the slightly less sensible but vastly more appealing idea of going travelling. I hadn’t done the traditional ‘gap year’ thing, so while I’d had plenty of exotic holidays over the past 13 years, I hadn’t been away for an extended period. This was my chance. Part 1 covered an amazing two months through Africa, Part 2 covered a jaunt through India and Sri Lanka. Now I headed for the glittering lights (and horrendous traffic) of Bangkok. I was travelling on my own by now, but it’s not the sort of country when you’re on your own for long. There are so many other people doing similar things, whether it’s a couple of weeks holiday, a month of back-packing, or a full-on round-the-world extravaganza, you always find someone to share experiences with. Bangkok is an amazing city, a heady mix of temples and bars, culture both old and very modern, quiet havens and noisy night-life, whatever you want really! I spent a few fun-filled days around the Khao San Road, a feisty mix of cheap bars, snazzy restaurants, awesome street food and general carnage that is something of a rite of passage for back-packers, before burning out and heading south for the famous trio of islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Ko Tao was first, the smallest and least developed of the three (though this was 10 years ago, I’m sure by now it’s well and truly caught up). I was staying at a dive centre, to further my diving education with the Advanced Open Water course. It’s not everyone’s thing, but the diving in Thailand is some of the best in the world. There’s a huge variety, anything from simple beach dives, to more exciting and challenging deep and wreck dives. The sea-life is incredible, everything from tiny sea-horses and scary moray eels, to beautiful manta rays and the occasional shark. Talking of which, there was an elusive whale shark in the area, but wherever I went, it was elsewhere. Dive course completed, it was on to Ko Pha Ngan, home of the infamous all-night full moon parties. Not much to report, other than being slightly electrocuted by a drinks’ stand, and doing a lot of really bad dancing. We also went to an evening of Thai boxing which is hugely popular if you’re brave enough. Tey even allow tourists to take on the locals. I’m pretty sure your travel insurance won’t cover that, be warned! Finally, to the most famous of them all, Ko Samui, a haven of back-packer resorts, lush hotels, beautiful beaches, great food, and a very relaxed vibe. It’s a great choice for a beach holiday, there’s something for everyone, whatever your budget. Skipping forward a couple of months (there are only so many different ways of describing all of Thailand’s beautiful beaches!), I found myself heading east out of Bangkok to the Cambodian border at Poipet. Not one for the faint-hearted, the town is a striking advert for flying this leg of any journey. A typical border town, not much to see except. Avoid! Despite this less-than-ideal introduction to Cambodia, things quickly looked up. I arrived in Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat – the largest religious monument in the world. It’s spread out over 400 acres, and well worth two full days of exploring. Try to get away from the crowds – I found a path heading off into the jungle, went for a bit of an explore, and found a temple that clearly hadn’t been visited for weeks if not months. I needed a stick to clear the cobwebs as I wandered around, felt a bit like Indiana Jones! It was quiet, peaceful, beautiful, largely ruined, but to have it to oneself felt special. Camodia was ravaged by the Pol Pot regime in the late 70’s, when between two and three million civilians were murdered or starved/worked to death by the Khmer Rouge (roughly a quarter of the population). There are many memorials in and around the capital, Phnom Penh, the most (in)famous being the torture camp S-21, and the Killing Fields. Shocking places to visit, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. North to Laos. It’s a country I knew little about, still very much off the beaten track, and if time is short you should definitely fly in – my journey took several days, and multiple uncomfortable buses. I came via the Mekong and was lucky enough to see the virtually extinct Irrawaddy fresh-water dolphins. Beautiful animals, another victim of an ever-shrinking habitat. I ended up in Vang Vieng, another must-stop place on the back-packer experience. The main attraction was tubing down the Mekong, via an endless succession of bars serving cheap spirits. It’s an awesome day out, floating from bar to bar in the peaceful sunshine. Sadly, too many people over-did the booze (and the freely available drugs), and over the years there have been so many deaths that alcohol is now completely banned. Still a beautiful day out though! The whole country is incredibly laid-back, friendly, quiet, and stunningly beautiful. Hire a bike, explore the countryside, enjoy the old colonial architecture, and just chill out. Eventually, much later, I headed south to Indonesia. I was running out of time (and here, space), so I’ll be brief. I caught a boat from the southern Thai island of Penang, to Medan in northern Sumatra. I’d run out of empty pages in my passport, but $20 smoothed my way through immigration. Indonesia is a country full of schoolkids wanting to learn English – it seemed I couldn’t go anywhere without being accompanied by a gaggle of kids asking me questions and practicing their language skills. I also squeezed in the ascent of a couple of semi-dormant volcanoes, did a little surfing, and revelled in being properly off the beaten track. Believe it or not, that all took about six months! It’s been heavily edited. It’s a beautiful and diverse part of the world, perfect for beach holidays, active adventurers, families and back-packers alike. Some other time I’ll tell you about the delights of exotic Borneo, the bright lights of Singapore, and the incredible Philippines. But for now, that’ll have to do. Happy travels!

Around the World in 440 Days Part 2 - India and Sri Lanka

22 February 2018

In the summer of 2007, with thirteen years at Trailfinders under my belt, I decided it was time to move on and explore new opportunities. Rather than find another job immediately, I followed the slightly less sensible but vastly more appealing idea of going travelling. I hadn’t done the traditional ‘gap year’ thing, so while I’d had plenty of exotic holidays over the past 13 years, I hadn’t been away for an extended period. This was my chance. Part one covered an amazing two months in Africa. After a brief sojourn at home, I headed for Asia with a good friend called Paul. He was on his way to a new job in Melbourne but was apparently in no great rush to get there! India was our first port of call, but it’s a big country, and hard to choose where to go. After much discussion, we agreed on Delhi as a first port of call, a quick spin round the Golden Triangle, a tour of Rajasthan, then down the coast via Mumbai to Goa for some R&R, and on towards Sri Lanka (our next country). I’d been to SE Asia before, but not India. It’s literally breath-taking, from the moment you walk out of arrivals. The heat, the sound, the smell, the colours, and the utter craziness of it all takes a lot of getting used to! You have to accept that the average Indian is poor, certainly in comparison to you. So while they’re incredibly welcoming, helpful and friendly, they are also interested in your money. This is fine, but it does mean the truth can be occasionally elusive. We jumped into a taxi to take us to the only hotel we’d pre-booked for the entire trip. On the way, we were told it had burned down, then the roads were all closed, then it was a terrible hotel, and then that we had arrived. We had indeed arrived, at his cousin’s warehouse, for some rug shopping apparently! Eventually, we were delivered to our chosen hotel, rug-free, though he did get a generous tip. Our adventure had begun. We toured the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) by bus, they’re as spectacular as you’d expect. Make sure you allow enough time to visit the Taj Mahal at both sunset and sunrise. Back in Delhi, we decided a bit of cricket was in order – almost a rite of passage in India. We jumped on a train up to Chandigarh, for a one-day international between Australia and India. The locals, assuming we were Aussies, were very surprised at our support for the home team. For the record, India won it in the final over, it was a boisterous night that followed. Back in Delhi, we set about organising a car and driver for the Rajasthan leg of our journey. It’s a great way to travel, much quicker and more comfortable than taking tourist buses, though it’s important to build a good relationship with your driver. We visited all the notable fort towns, such as Ajmer, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer. They’re all beautiful, different, and very colourful. But a real highlight was a camel-trekking jaunt into the desert – imagine sleeping under the night sky, with unbroken horizons in every direction, zero light pollution, and billions of stars to gaze at. It was incredible, you could see the majestic sweep of the Milky Way, truly spectacular. Mumbai, with a population at the time of over 10 million people, of whom 40% lived in poverty, was shocking and fascinating in equal measures. Glitzy, air-conditioned shopping malls, while outside a family live in a cardboard box on a roundabout. It’s a challenging place. On to Goa, a former Portuguese colony, with lovely beaches, a great party scene and delicious seafood. Next, we headed inland into the hills and tea plantations around Ooty. This is where, in the days of the Raj, the Brits retired to, to escape the incessant heat. It's much cooler, absolutely beautiful, with lots of trekking opportunities. Or just relax and enjoy the views! We went south to Kerala for a houseboat trip on the famous inland waterways, and then a week in the tiny village of Varkala, perched on a cliff-top overlooking the Indian Ocean. Everywhere we went we played cricket with the locals, on the beach, in the towns, waiting for our driver, everyone wanted a game. A word about the food. I’m a huge fan of curry but was eating so much I actually had to go on a diet! I ate wherever looked busy with locals, and my staple meal was the Thali – served on a huge banana leaf (with no cutlery of course), you get served an unlimited amount of chapatis, veggie curries, chutneys, rice and so on. Unfailingly delicious, and I never got ill. If you avoid unpeeled fruit, salad, and unfiltered ice you should be ok. The time had come to say goodbye to India, and we flew over to Sri Lanka to meet up with 10 friends from home to watch England get thumped in a Test Match in Galle. It didn’t matter, we had fun in the sun, including some epic tuk-tuk races. We retired to the beach, at the wonderfully named resort of Unawatuna. We were visiting about nine months after the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami, which had wiped out whole communities along the coast. Driving down, we saw endless foundations of buildings, razed to the ground with a row of graves to one side. It was very sobering, yet the locals we met were as welcoming and friendly as ever, despite their obvious sadness and loss. So that was it for these two remarkable countries. Looking at the emails I sent home at the time, I found some of the travelling pretty tough going. The incessant noise, pollution and poverty was sometimes hard to deal with. But the incredible sights and the resilient, friendly people, made it a place I’d love to visit again. But probably on a slightly higher budget! The lads went home, Paul headed for his new job in Oz, and I was off to Bangkok for the next leg of my journey.

Around the World in 440 Days Part 1 - Africa

21 February 2018

In the summer of 2007, with thirteen years at Trailfinders under my belt, I decided it was time to move on and explore new opportunities. Rather than find another job immediately, I followed the slightly less sensible but vastly more appealing idea of going travelling. I hadn’t done the traditional ‘gap year’ thing, so while I’d had plenty of exotic holidays over the past 13 years, I hadn’t been away for an extended period. This was my chance. I knew I wanted to be away for more than a year, and (as I’m sure you all know) the maximum validity of an airline ticket is one year. One way around that is to buy a one-way ticket down under, and a return ticket when you’re ready to come home. But at the ripe old age of 38, the Aussies wouldn’t look too favourably on me entering their lovely country without an onward ticket or a visa. Option two involved a trip to Africa (and back), before the main round-the-world ticket began. I had a plan. There are many ways of seeing Africa, but for extended journeys, especially if on something of a budget, an overland trip is the way to go. There are lots of different levels – anything from a comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle with a support team and decent lodges and homestays every night, to an unsupported camping trip, where you do everything for yourself. I went for the latter, partly for cost reasons, and partly to get as close to Africa as possible. Each to their own, but it worked for me. It was a hands-on trip where we did everything from shopping, cooking, and washing-up through to cleaning the truck and making sure the beers were kept cold! There’s no better way to meet locals than being dropped off in a small local market, with $50 from the kitty and instructions to buy 4 days’ worth of food for 22 people, with very limited cold storage facilities. We started in Cape Town, the jewel of South Africa. It’s a beautiful city, Table Mountain provides a stunning backdrop (if you’re not feeling energetic, the cable-car makes for a pretty easy route to the top), the V&A waterfront provides all the entertainment you need, and Cape Point Reserve is spectacular! From there we headed north (largely skipping the wine regions, don’t repeat my mistake) to the diverse country of Namibia. Fish River Canyon is the largest in Africa, and for visual impact rivals the more famous Grand Canyon. In the heart of the Namib desert is Sossusvlei, home to the highest sand dunes on earth. View them at sunrise, hike them, sand-board down them, or simply enjoy their grandeur. And from there to Swakopmund, on the coast, the party capital of Namibia. It’s the home to adventure sports and fun nights out, enough said. The further north you travel, the greener Namibia becomes. Passing through Damaraland (home of the rare desert elephant and black rhino), eventually we reached the wonderful Etosha National Park. Home to four of the big five (elephant, lion, leopard and rhino, no buffalo), it’s all about the game drives, the lush scenery making a pleasant change from the desert further south. Next was Botswana, home of a vast network of waterways, scrubland and animals galore. The Okavango Delta (as featured on Top Gear) is awesome, as is Chobe National Park. And so to Victoria Falls, another great spot for taking a break from travelling, and just enjoying everything on offer. The Falls themselves need no introduction (oh go on then – 108m high, 600m litres of water per minute, and known locally as Mosi oa-Tunya – the smoke that thunders), and again activities reign supreme here. White-water rafting on the Zambezi should not be missed – just avoid the hippos where possible. There are also more relaxed options - boat trips, nature tours, zip-lines, snake parks, cultural visits etc. The second half of this leg of the trip started in Zambia, worthy of a holiday all on its own, but time is short. Malawi is home to the friendliest people I met in Africa, despite being one of the poorest (and at the time I visited, with one of the highest HIV rates amongst adults, now vastly improved). I’ll never forget their smiles. Lake Malawi (as you probably know, the ninth biggest in the world, with the largest variety of fish) is suitably impressive. We also got off the beaten track, visiting villages where anyone under 10 had never seen a white face. More smiles! We whizzed across Tanzania, heading for the delights of Zanzibar. Known as the Spice Island, it’s home to luxurious resorts and beautiful beaches, and is an excellent value alternative to the other islands of the Indian Ocean. A spice tour is well worth it, as is exploring Stone Town, a World Heritage site. Back on mainland Africa, we drove via Lake Manyara to the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater. One of my favourite places in Africa, it was formed over 2 million years ago when a volcano collapsed in on itself. About 20 miles across, it’s a haven for an incredibly dense concentration of wildlife. The highlight was a pride of lionesses (not a male lion to be seen!) trapping a herd of zebra by a lake, then panicking them into stampeding past other lions waiting hidden in the bush. Truly epic game viewing! We hopped over into Kenya (another interminable border crossing, with toilets that had to be seen to be believed), and next was a quick tour through the vast open plains of the Serengeti followed by a visit to a Masai village. After showing us around the village, and having met his two wives, our Masai Warrior took us to the local school to meet the headmistress. While she chatted away, he leant his spear up against a computer, and logged in to Facebook. The world is changing! Finally, 8 weeks after we set off from Cape Town, we arrived in our final destination, Nairobi. I was thinner, browner, and with a far greater understanding of African life than when we set out. It’s an amazing continent, this wasn’t my first visit, and I’ve been back since. If you’ve yet to be tempted, I hope this helps. You won’t be disappointed.

F1 Weekend in Abu Dhabi

11 January 2017

I’ve always kept an eye on Formula 1, without claiming to be a die-hard fan. A whole race? Maybe not. Highlights? Yes please. But I have a friend who lives in Abu Dhabi, home of the final F1 race of the season, which was developing into an epic battle between the Mercedes of Messrs Hamilton and Rosberg. So it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss – a bit of winter sun (the race is in November) and tick ‘Live F1 race’ off my bucket list. First problem – flights! Apparently, everyone else thought of this before me, and direct flights to Abu Dhabi were exceedingly busy, and therefore exceedingly expensive. And there are only 4 a day, which doesn’t help. Nearby Dubai provided the solution – with up to 17 scheduled flights a day, there was still plenty of choices, and the transfer by taxi takes about 90 minutes and costs around £75. A no-brainer for a party of 3, especially as we saved about £200pp on the flights. Weekends in Abu Dhabi start (on a Friday) in a very traditional way – brunch. This isn’t an English brunch of some weird hybrid combining breakfast and lunch. This is a chance for expats and visitors to let their hair down in some style. Hosted by the best hotels in town (we were at the St Regis), this is a full-on feast of exotic local and international cuisine, on an industrial scale. To put it into context, they don’t provide a cheese board – they have a cheese room. Everything is served buffet style, and unlimited, so help yourself to endless seafood, roast meats galore, a fine selection of pasta, sushi, and curries, a very well-stocked barbeque, more veggies than you can wave a stick at, and somewhere (I’m told) a salad bar to die for… Then there were the desserts, which looked like a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the afore-mentioned cheese room. And to wash it all down? Obviously, the booze is unlimited too – champagne, cocktails, fine wines from around the world – you name it they had it… Now, on to the Grand Prix! Located on Yas Island (home to Ferrari World, Waterworld, a golf course, beautiful beaches, and live shows) the Yas Marina Circuit is impressive, huge grandstands, great facilities, and (of course) glorious sunshine. We were in the cheap seats – a large grassy area right in the centre of the circuit. Qualifying on the Saturday afternoon was a chance to get familiar with the cars, and the noise! Apparently, they’re quieter than they used to be, but when you get close to them it’s still very impressive. And the speed, which doesn’t really come across on TV, is amazing – they really do seem glued to the tarmac. It wouldn’t be an F1 weekend without some live music thrown in. We were lucky (?) enough to get Lionel Richie on the Saturday night – not my scene, but an impressive live act all the same. Sunday night was Rhianna, but utterly shambolic crowd control meant the venue was completely inaccessible (a blessing in disguise?!) The big day started with a fly-over by an Etihad A380 escorted by the UAE Airforce. The Grand Prix itself was brilliant – it’s timed to start at sunset, so it’s a pretty amazing spectacle. Hamilton did all he could to force a result, Rosberg did just enough to pip him to the title. Whatever your vantage point, make sure you can see a big screen – without it, due to the vagaries of staggered pit stops and different tyre strategies, it’s very easy to lose track of who’s actually winning! Of course, Abu Dhabi is a year-round destination (ok, maybe avoid the height of summer, it really is unbearably hot), so there’s much more going on than just the Grand Prix. Other than Yas Island, there are desert safaris (with an optional overnight Bedouin desert camp experience), impressive mosques, world-class shopping, and (on the way home via Dubai) the small matter of the world’s tallest building, the 829.8m Burj Khalifa. Lots of golf if you fancy it, world-class hotels, fine cuisine and of course glorious weather, there’s something for everyone…

South Island, New Zealand - Unmissable!

10 January 2017

I’ve been lucky enough to visit a huge number of places during my 16 years working in travel, but New Zealand holds a special place in my heart. If it were closer (say, where France is?!), I’d live there… So what’s the attraction? Firstly, the people. So friendly, so welcoming, and such a relaxed, laid-back attitude to life. Away from the major cities, the pace of life is pretty chilled, people really do have time for you, and love to showcase their country. Of course, it helps if you love rugby – it is, after all, their religion. And the country itself? I spent 3 months driving around South Island in a clapped out old VW Campervan – it really didn’t like going uphill, I was overtaken by the odd bicycle, but I still managed to traverse the Southern Alps a couple of times. The scenery is spectacular, rugged snow-capped mountains, beautiful crystal-clear (and extremely cold) lakes, and endless beaches (complete with visiting whales, if you time it right). While most people visit during their summer, I was there late Autumn. Chilly at night, but largely clear days, and the walking trails I pretty much had to myself. There was still plenty going on in the towns, nightlife was lively at times, but (like the country) everything was generally pretty low-key. Christchurch is a lovely city, small enough to walk the highlights. However, New Zealand sits on the Ring of Fire that circles most of the Pacific, and the centre was devastated by an earthquake in 2011. Rebuilding work is on-going, but like any area devastated by natural disaster, they appreciate the tourists… Heading inland, the Southern Alps form the backbone of the island, rising from gentle foothills to spectacular jagged mountain peaks. The Kiwis love their outdoors fun, so there are well-marked trails everywhere. Driving past Mt Cook, I was heading for Queenstown. This is party central for the South Island. Set on beautiful Lake Wakatipu, there are lots to do. From high-adrenaline activities like the original bungee jump from Kawarau Gorge Bridge, extreme jet-boating or white water rafting on the Shotover River, to more sedate days out visiting beautiful Milford Sound, I guarantee you won’t be bored! However, Queenstown can be a bit full-on, so when you’ve had enough, head an hour up the road to stunning Wanaka. So much more peaceful, but set on an even more beautiful lake, I loved it here. The sun sets behind mountains across the lake, and it’s a lovely place to chill out and relax, probably with a cold beer, and contemplate life… But, we must (eventually) move on. Having crossed the Alps (slow going up, crazy coming down, the brakes weren’t great) I hit the coast and headed for Fox Glacier. There are lots of organised tours to do here, the most popular being a helicopter ride up onto the glacier, and a hike around some pretty cool caves in crampons. Lots of fun, but I was at the end of my budget, so had to satisfy myself with whatever was free! Plan your budget better than I did… Onwards and upwards to the north end of the South Island, and the rather gorgeous Abel Tasman National Park. Beautiful beaches, easy walking trails, sea-kayaking, beautiful places to stay, it has it all… And then it was over to the Marlborough wine region, which sounds like (and is) a very good excuse for some wine-tasting days out. Clearly, I can’t remember much, but the wine was phenomenal, and now I drink nothing else! Head south, and you’ll reach Kaikoura, home of whale watching and dolphin swimming. Not to be missed! The dolphins are as friendly as the locals… And then it was back to Christchurch, to reluctantly sell the camper-van. I got back half what I paid for it, and had a few maintenance issues along the way – in retrospect, hiring is the way to go. In conclusion? What a country! So much to see and do, but the distances are large, so try to give it at least 3 weeks. Winters are cold, but even in late autumn I had a brilliant time, and at times it felt like I had the place to myself! I managed 3 months, and it still wasn’t enough, and I didn’t even get as far as the North Island! The people really are fantastic, the scenery is second to none, and I haven’t even mentioned LOTR. Happy days...

My customer stories

Sent by Stuart Durrett

Matt is always very supportive and responsive and to all of our company travel needs. He is my first port of all call for any travel arrangements we require.

Sent by Barry Luff

Matt from Travel Counsellors is like having your own travel guide. Very knowledgeable and if he does not know something he researches (no doubt through the TC group and elsewhere) and comes back with great feedback to help us make our own individual decision. It takes the doubt out of arranging a booking which is very relevant when in our case, planning far-flung adventure destinations. Would thoroughly recommend.

Sent by Kathryn Crawley

While everything is fresh in my mind I wanted to thank you for being so helpful and accommodating. We’re now back from an amazing holiday in Crete and you have been wonderful from the start and throughout. You listened and explored our needs and wishes and made our holiday experience so special. You never made us feel stupid for asking questions and you have been a reassuring and honest presence when we have been unsure about things. Crete was incredible. The hotel and Rethymno fitted our needs exactly. Once we’re recovered we’ll be in touch about booking NZ for next year. Plus I fancy another Mediterranean trip so I will have to twist Philip’s arm! Huge thanks again! Kathryn and Philip

Sent by Ruth Palfreyman

Matt is highly efficient, knowledgeable, accommodating, understanding of our requirements, really communicative, very thorough and totally professional.

Sent by Kerrine Alexander

Nothing is too much trouble attitude …. Never gives the impression that we are annoying him with our many questions!

Sent by Emma Simpson

Matt is so knowledgeable, friendly and helpful, and no question is too big or too small. Matt has just booked a trip for myself and my 82 year old mother in southern India, which is not straightforward (!) and has made the whole process so smooth, enjoyable and stress-free. I would thoroughly recommend Matt for all your travel needs.

Sent by Howard Eeles

Matt is extremely professional, courteous, friendly and helpful. I have no hesitation whatsoever in unreservedly recommending him and Travel Counsellors.

Sent by Alexandra Feachem

Matt was extremely helpful and efficient!

Sent by Emily Woodward

Matt is absolutely brilliant. Created an itinerary for us very quickly and was very helpful with ideas about what we should do and where we should go. And very patient with my numerous questions and changes! Highly recommend.

Sent by Bradley Barrett

Matt provides and excellent service, response times are quick and flights options are good!

Sent by Toby Pawson

Matt is outstanding at finding great breaks within budget. Plus he is a great guy to know / deal with . Highly recommend him

Sent by Barry Luff

Great service from Matt. Patient clear and attentive communication and great options given. Great advice and provided the confidence of being able to book via an experienced agent

Sent by Catherine Howard

I was given Matt's details by a friend and now always go through him. Very quick and efficient and great at working out how best to insure at VERY reasonable prices. I have already recommended him to many others.... a fantastic service, thank you!

Sent by Gordon Bull

We use Matt to organise our trips because he is knowledgeable, attentive, pro-active and, above all, interested. He is interested in our trip from our perspective and does everything he can to make it happen. I have every confidence in recommending him.

Sent by Sarah Sargent

Matt's travel experience has proved invaluable while planning the holiday that we did book with him. We hope to use him many more times.

Sent by Barry Luff

Matt made the experience of choosing the holiday of our dreams so easy. Offering choice and having his own experience and expertise we could book with confidence. Thanks Matt

Sent by Dave Cordle

Thank you very much for organising our holiday in Italy. We returned from Lake Garda yesterday having had a wonderful holiday – lovely places to see and you won’t be surprised to know we made the most of the lake and surrounding mountains, swimming, paddle-boarding, kayaking and hiking. From the moment we told you what we wanted from our holiday it was stress free, from picking out of the options you gave us, to the travel arrangements (the private taxi was a real treat), and hotel. Thanks also for keeping on top of things like making sure the hotel set one of the rooms up as twin and that our rooms adjoined. It was a great experience and once again took all the worry and stress out of organising a holiday.

Sent by Neil Henke

Matt has been excellent when organising various family holidays over the years, he has gone out of his way to help resolve queries and issues as they have arose (at all times of the day!). I have and will continue to recommend his services on a regular basis.

Sent by Stuart Durrett

Great fast, efficient and effective service, every time

Sent by John Nicholas

Matt is great. Brilliant customer service. Very knowledgeable. I would highly recommend him.

Sent by Chris Hawton

We have always valued Matt’s advice and when one trip went awry due to the pandemic Matt moved heaven and earth to help us.

Sent by Chandran Jeganathan

Matt has been more than helpful in planning our multi centre holiday. A wealth of practical advice. Our first experience with Travel Counsellors, but definitely won’t be our last.

Sent by Sandra Roberts

Speaking to Matt re my travelling plans is like talking to a friend. I have complete confidence that he will find flights, hotel etc that I will be happy with and meets my needs. It’s a pleasure to have Matt arrange these elements of my tennis holidays around the world. Thanks Matt.

Sent by Thomas Sterling

I have used Matt several times now and each time he has been brilliant, with all the travel restrictions over the last few years he has always been able to put our minds at ease and help us plan great family holidays! I have recommended Matt to family and work colleagues!

Sent by Peter Hudson

The speed, quality and depth of guidance and support is well beyond any expectation. Thanks Matt!

Sent by Jessica Bennett

Very helpful, found everything we wanted and within our budget. Would definitely recommend.

Sent by Darren Crosby

Excellent service yet again, thank you Matt

Sent by Rebecca Humble

Matt provides an excellent service and responds very quickly to any questions asked.

Sent by Mike James

Very knowledgeable and friendly to deal with. Quick responses to any queries.

Sent by James Hitchell

Matt helped in getting options for us and guiding and quickly getting our holiday confirmed. Would highly recommend.

Sent by Harvey Wilde

Great, easy service. Helpful and Friendly.

Sent by Gavin Jolliffe

Matt is very responsive and always thinking outside the box.

Sent by Bradley Barrett

If I could pick 11 I would! Excellent service. We use Matt for work bookings and more often than not we have to change flight dates and times at the last minute and he has always dealt with this quickly, without fuss

Sent by Joe Favata

Matt was amazing! On the ball with quotes and had answers to every question. He was efficient, professional and a pleasure to deal with. Would not hesitate to book through him again!

Sent by Jonathan Collyear

Very helpful and quick to respond - would definitely use again!

Sent by Alison Waters

Matt gives a consistently fantastic service. He always responds quickly, with a good selection of options, price ranges and detailed advice. He makes booking a holiday quick and easy and saves us loads of time. We've used his services many times and I'd thoroughly recommend his friendly and professional service if you're thinking of booking any sort of holiday or even just to find a flight.

Sent by Catherine Howard

Matt was fantastic. Sorted everything out so quickly and efficiently. I have already passed on your details to several people! Thanks again.

Sent by Nick Feeney

Efficient, competitive, knowledgeable and incredibly friendly service from Matt as always.

Sent by Chris Collyer

A very prompt & knowledgeable reply to my question & I had no hesitation in purchasing.

Sent by Lisa Le Touze

Matt helped me out fairly last minute with family annual travel insurance. I had a few queries about how we would be covered if we became infected with Covid-19 abroad and he put my mind at rest. I highly recommend him.

Sent by Nick Feeney

Efficient, competitive, knowledgeable and incredibly friendly service from Matt as always.

Sent by Breezy White

Matt has been amazing from start to finish, so professional, friendly and knowledgable. He has made the whole process so easy.

Sent by Emily Woodward

Very patient with all our changing plans. Very prompt and efficient with his responses and nothing was too much trouble. And a great communicator!

Sent by Elizabeth Hibbert

Matt is really knowledgeable, organised, friendly, and helpful. We feel confident with our holiday in his hands because he is always in communication and accessible. He is a pleasure to deal with, and we would thoroughly recommend him, particularly for any special holidays.

Sent by Chris West

Matt was extremely helpful and catered for all of our needs. A friendly face and great help.

Sent by Michael Roche

I have travelled extensively over the last 30 years and Matt is the best agent I have used in all that time. I have no hesitation in recommending Matt.

Sent by Thomas Sterling

Matt has been brilliant, over the last year and a half we have had to change our booking several times due to travel restrictions, each time Matt has made sure everything has been taken care of for us, his communication is great and his willingness to go the extra mile when I ask silly questions is amazing. I have recommended him to family and friends and will continue to do so.

Sent by Wendy Sharp

Matt is really helpful, get back to me quickly with great suggestions and advice. thanks!!

Sent by Neil Henke

Excellent customer service from Matt, invaluable in the current climate and have recommended him to several people already.

Sent by Dave Cordle

I've never used a service like this before. It took all the hassle and stress out of searching for a great break and saved us hours of time looking at different websites. Highly recommended.

Sent by Elizabeth Hibbert

Matt has arranged two holidays for us now, a skiing holiday and an upcoming trip to the UAE. Both times Matt has been brilliant at quickly compiling quotes, securing good flights and providing hotel and flight options in our budget and other requirements. He has excellent knowledge of holiday regions, hotels and airlines. Matt is very quick to respond to any query or worry, always calling back with full information and reassurance. At the moment with such uncertainty around travel, I feel much more confident putting my trip in Matt's hands, knowing we'll receive excellent communication and support if we need it.

Sent by Lara Osilaja

I can highly recommend Matt for your holiday booking. He was fantastic with our bookings and we got the BEST hotels in Bangkok, Hong Kong and a fab time on a cruise to Vietnam!! It was great working with Matt. gave us that peace of mind as he handled everything so professionally!

Sent by Sebastian Elwell

Thank you Matt for helping me book my family winter holiday. Excellent advice and good knowledge. You made the process easy and pain free.

Sent by Camilla Peters

Have forwarded Matt's details to two friends so far this week. We appreciated his speedy response in getting our ski holiday sorted with sensible suggestions that fitted our budget.

Sent by Jason Richards

Brilliant advice and service from Matt. If you're planning any trip, adventure or holiday I would highly recommend speaking to Matt.

Sent by Michael Roche

Matt was very helpful, proactive and worked round the clock to help us achieve our objectives. I would have no hesitation in recommending Matt

Sent by Lakshmi Nittoor

I've never been so stress-free before going on a holiday and never so excited! Matt has not just been thoroughly professional - he has been so kind and understanding and worked with our busy schedules and countless changes of minds! :) I have already recommended him to my friends, some of whom are already looking forward to chatting with him!

Sent by Tara Kennedy

Matt is always extremely helpful. He knows his stuff and always delivers. He is great.

Sent by Mathew Evans

Matt Hills is a credit to Travel Counsellors! For our first enquiry he asked a few simple questions and was able to prepare an itinerary that was great for us. We then wanted to book a further trip but not sure where. Again, a couple of questions and he proposed a destination, hotel and itinerary that was perfect! Quick to respond and always on hand to help! Matt is now our go to advisor for all our holidays!!

Sent by Lauren McMenemy

Matt is always incredibly patient with our constant questions, but we know if we set him a challenge he'll rise to the occasion. Very much looking forward to a long week in Crete thanks to his brainstorming, and have a fantastic option for our next holiday in the back pocket, too!

Sent by John Barnes

Matt gave excellent service throughout. Initially we weren't sure as to what level of flights to book, and Matt covered all the options. When we settled on the flights, all the questions were answered quickly.

Sent by Lara Osilaja

Matt was helpful, professional and friendly. Once I gave him an idea of what I was looking for, he took it on board and came up with the ideal solution and package. Thank you Matt

Sent by Gillian Boden

Matt is a pleasure to deal with and takes care of the hard work involved in booking the kind of holidays we like, ski trips, long haul, multi destination, city and beach combos, sports related short breaks and so on. He responds quickly and comprehensively. We appreciate his personal experience of many of the places. No hesitation in recommending his services. In fact we have done already!

Sent by Craig Copeland

Matt, thank you so much for sorting out a cracking deal for my family and friends to go to Dubai in April. I think we checked every hotel in Dubai, but It was never to much effort at any time of day that I asked. I cannot recommend you enough, it took all the stress out of booking a holiday,

Sent by Chris Ball

Only just met Matt but he has been brilliant and sorted out a complicated trip. Very impressed with the service.

Sent by Jasmine Waters

Thank you so much for putting together our trip! Such fantastic service! You really took on board our criteria and came up with several great options for us to choose from. We look forward to booking through you again!

Sent by Howard Eeles

I have no hesitation whatsoever in unreservedly recommending our travel counsellor, Matt Hills as he has provided my wife and I with absolutely exemplary service thanks to his trouble-free organisation of our forthcoming holiday to Asia and Australia. The thought of organising the booking of numerous flights and hotel reservations myself over a 7 week period and in 4 different countries filled me with dread. Matt has made the entire process completely painless and I have every confidence in him and Travel Counsellors in general. Congratulations. It is a real delight to meet such a professional person and company!

Sent by Brian Burchell

Excellent service, will definitely use again.

Sent by Neil Henke

Excellent service from you Matt, really took this time to understand what we were looking for and have found us fantastic properties which tick all the boxes! You have saved me hours of research this year and will be highly recommending your services to friends and clients alike.

Sent by Katy Tytler

Matt was nothing but helpful! We had so many amendments to our dates and itinerary to the Caribbean, and he came back promptly with options and best deals. A very valuable experience in having him and Travel Counsellors take care of our tip. Thank you Matt!

Sent by Tara Kennedy

Very prompt and professional service. Always available. Very helpful.

Sent by Colin Young

Prompt friendly service with honest advice.

Sent by Stuart Durrett

Very friendly, efficient service and took all the hassle out of booking a holiday.

Sent by Kevin Bishop

Very knowledgeable, friendly, well travelled

Sent by Gillian Boden

Matt is responsive and easy to deal with. We particularly appreciate his "real" experience of the places we are visiting.

Sent by Amanda Lord

Holidays go from a vague idea to ‘sorted ‘ so easily when Matt is involved.

Sent by Lauren McMenemy

Matt was infinitely patient with me as I went back and forth on the most minute details of what should have been a fairly straightforward booking. And even though I wasn't booking a fabulously pricey luxury holiday, he still gave the same care and attention as I'm sure he does all his clients. We'll definitely come back to him for the next trip, and encourage everyone to do the same.

Sent by Kenneth Gorman

Easy to work with, everything ideal.

Sent by Andrew Stainfield

What an incredible guide when it comes to information and advice on where we are booking. We book everything with Matt!

Sent by Adam Mehmet

Matt tried hard and was very responsive to suggestions and needs. Well done Matt and thanks for helping me out of a fix!

Sent by Clare Bury

Matt has been extremely helpful whilst booking our trip and concerned that we make the right choices for us.

Sent by Phillip Hunt

Absolutely brilliant service, will use Matt again.

Sent by Charlie Stainfield

Matt has booked three trips for us now and will be doing so for good! He is amazing at what he does and understands everything we require.

Sent by Alexandra Hunt

Thanks to Matt for all his hard work to help us to organise our wonderful holiday to Australia. I know he had a lot to juggle with our brief and some constraints but he was so accommodating and helpful and succeeded. Thank you!

Sent by Geraldine Bartlett

Matt went way beyond the call of duty in helping us sort out flights to Australia. He offered numerous alternatives which we wouldn't have considered. Matt is very personable and patient. I would not hesitate to recommend him.

Sent by Lauretta Cundy

I am writing to praise Matt at Travel Counsellors for the level of service received, he truly went above and beyond. He took on board every element we wanted to experience, and organised every aspect for us. He made the whole process convenient and straight-forward, arranging a spectacular break for us.

Sent by Chris Straker

Matt was very helpful and gave us some great suggestions. We weren’t the easiest of customers and he was very patient and understanding. I would definitely recommend Matt to my friends and family.

Sent by Michael Dobrin

Matt was excellent and great to deal with. Would highly recommend him.

Sent by David Thompson

Many thanks to Matt for organising our holiday at such short notice.

Sent by Sue Towner

Such friendly, helpful service - sorting out our difficult requirements for our dream cruise - can't wait to sail away!

Sent by Marc Piechocki

Matt is a great travel counsellor, he found the right deal quickly for us with challenging monetary constraints! His advice helped settle our indecision on where to go and what kind of hotel we needed. I would 100% recommend him now just roll on the holiday!

Sent by Alan Hiscox

I appreciated Matt's willingness to explore all the options for a requested holiday and, despite asking him to look at alternatives, his first option was clearly the best. That demonstrates his concern to listen, ask questions and effectively put himself in our shoes to find the best holiday for our wishes. I will use him again and heartily recommend him to others.

Sent by Alan Hiscox

Matt was amazing and pulled out all the stops.

Sent by Andy Knap

It was a pleasure dealing with Matt. Not only is he easy to talk to, but he took time to ensure that I was happy with all the various options in our itinerary and never made me feel rushed.

Sent by Amanda Lord

We have never done a proper summer holiday. When we decided we should give it a try, the pressure was on to find something that would work for us as a family. Matt helped us clarify our thinking and came up with a brilliant solution for us. Without him, I would have given up, and we wouldn't have a holiday to look forward to.

Sent by Dave Brittain

Matt was very helpful and patient. Also got us a very good deal. Would have no hesitation in recommending him!

Sent by Mark Saunders

It was like I have known Matt for years. His attention to my holiday request was friendly, but not overfamiliar. His communication was exemplary and we are looking forward to the resulting holiday with pleasure.

Sent by Colin Morrison

I've already recommended you to all my friends!

Sent by Gillian Boden

Matt provided a super efficient, speedy service. We were impressed with the ease of sorting out our trip. Matt took away all the hassle and at a very competitive price. We would have no hesitation about using his services again or recommending him to anyone else.

Sent by Charlie Lloyd

Matt really understood what we were looking for - I can't wait to go away now I know it's all sorted :)